Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

Our fourth since mid-December, as a matter of fact. We have two left before we start digging into spring break in April. Some people get all nervous about using them up; I would rather stay home on a miserable day in the winter. OK..I would rather stay home on a nice day in April too, but April is not always springy here anyway.

So the view from my back porch door looked like this earlier in the day:

Which, as lovely and peaceful and serene as it is, inspires me to knit these:

Yep. Four projects, all in varying shades of orange. Clockwise, from three o'clock, are Ann Campbell's Circle Socks in Trekking XXL (don't ask the color number, the ball band disappeared a while ago). Then, some Bluefaced Leicester in the "Monarch" colorway from Black Bunny Fibers. It's part of the fiber club Carol Sulcoski runs. Next, 'Vog On Socks from Aleta Fera in the summer 2007 Knitty. They're in Koigu PPM. And that big honkin' cake of yarny goodness in the back is Decadent Fiber's Cookie Dough. It's the beginning of a self-designed vest.

Add to that the fire-engine red mittens I'm cranking out for the second-grade classes at school and you might assume I'm starved for color. You would assume correctly. This is a hard time of year. Fresh snow is very pretty, the purity of the white contrasting with the deep evergreens and bare, dark tree trunks of oaks and maples. However, fresh snow does not last and soon, wherever there's foot or car traffic, it turns the color of light brown sugar. (It does not, I assume, taste like light brown sugar.) Then it devolves further into the color of mud as a preview to what we'll see for two months in April and May. Starved for nature's palette, knitters, weavers and spinners turn to the best replacements we know.

I'd like to do some more dyeing soon too, especially cochineal and indigo. I love intense colors, and those two give me the best fix. I fear I may drape them around my shoulders once they're finished. Or maybe a fishing pole extending from a funny hat, like a carrot for a donkey.

In non-fiber-related creativity today, there's two loaves of quick bread cooling on the counter; whole-wheat molasses, and honey bread. Yum. There's chocolate chip cookies waiting in the wings. Most of this will go to school tomorrow, as much as I'd like to eat them for all three meals. I haven't done much baking lately, and now I want to bake EVERYTHING. Fortunately, all you have to do is put a plate of goodies on the table in the staff room, and by lunch it will have quietly disappeared.

Snow days are a gift not to be wasted.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Please read my comments. :-)

The ones from the "Kids Who Make Me Proud" post: Diane Z. Shore, the author of "This is the Dream" (the book I mentioned reading to my kids) somehow found my little blog and sent me the nicest comment. I couldn't be more pleased to give her wonderful book more publicity, and I will certainly share with my 5th graders that a real live author wrote to me! They'll be just as excited as I am. Thank you, Ms. Shore. When's your next book coming out?

P.S. You may notice that it looks like two comments were deleted from that post. That would be because I somehow managed to post Ms. Shore's comment three times. I was pretty pleased, after all!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kids Who Make Me Proud.

When I refer to "my kids" here, you'll remember that I'm talking about the 300 or so I have at school. I don't have any of the "live in the same house as me" variety.

This is a story about my fifth graders. They are, in general, a delightful bunch. Kind to each other. Polite. Friendly and full of smiles. Not trying to get in each other's pants. (That was last year. I'm not kidding.) I really enjoy working with them.

Although I am a music teacher, I also tell my kids that I think it's important that I share things that are important to me. Not to make them believe the same as me, but to give them as many different perspectives on things as possible. I constantly harp on getting the information you need, and doing what you have to in order to find that information. So it's not unheard of to have a music class where we talk about the jury selection process, like we did when I got called this past fall. I needed to go into some detail about why we had to be ready to have/not have our usual morning rehearsals, and why I couldn't give them a clear answer ahead of time. So, civil education it was that day. And I didn't mind one bit.

Today, of course, is the day we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. I wasn't sure how much kids understood about the background of this day. I mean, they can all say that MLK was a civil rights leader and he was assassinated and he was an important African American. But why did he have to do what he did? Well, that's a little less clear. And since we also study American folk music pretty intensely in my classes, we've been on a Woody Guthrie kick lately. We've talked about how Woody wrote about what he saw as he traveled the country and how his experiences influenced what he wrote. Since he did a lot of traveling during the Depression Era, there's a lot of references that the kids don't get yet, so that takes some explaining. And of course, the more you explain, the more there IS to explain, and the more there is that I CAN'T explain.

Many of Woody's songs have a theme of social justice, and let me tell you, fifth graders are all about fairness. So we expand that idea: not only is it fair for everyone to have a turn in the game, but it's fair that we all get to play in the first place. They know that you won't always win, but they also know that you can't win unless you try playing. Why is that so important outside of kickball at recess? And so the conversation goes, until we've moved into the bigger picture. It's not the experience of these kids that people were ever excluded from the game.

So last week, it was time to bring this up in terms of the civil rights movement of the 1960's, given that today is what it is. We read together an excellent book, "This is the Dream" by Diane Z. Shore. Get a copy; you won't be sorry. In short, it puts the inherent unfairness (which is what fifth graders understand) of the concept of "separate but equal" into terms that make sense. When one little guy mentions that isn't it the cool place to sit IS in the back of the bus, we can talk about how it's different if you WANT to sit there in comparison to being FORCED to sit there. When we get to the part about separate schools, and how several of our friends could not be at school with us, it hits home even more. When one little guy says, "But I'm mixed. What about that?" and I have to explain what that meant for you, it hits home. When another says, "But my skin is darker because my dad is Puerto Rican, not African American," and I have to explain that it just gave people who were looking for an excuse to exclude you one more way to exclude you, the kids are horrified for their friend. They declare they would fight for their friends, and I believe them.

They don't understand how people could have been so unfair. So unkind. So (in their words) stupid. How could people not know better? How could they make something so shallow such a big issue? Why did it have to be a big deal? I do my best to explain. I remind them that I certainly don't have all the answers. They have to live and learn it themselves. They need to understand that it wouldn't take much for it to happen all over again, because all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. (I wish I could remember who said that. I'll look for the accurate quote and source.)

I am proud of their outrage. I am proud that none of this makes any sense to them, that they just can't understand how people could behave like they did. I am proud that they sense the inherent wrongness of it all. I am proud that they don't shrug and say, oh well, that's just how things are. I am proud that they don't want to let it happen again. My kids are compassionate, thoughtful, and determined. I am proud to know them and lucky to be their teacher. They are our future and our hope, and I think we're in good hands.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


In my brain, that is, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I'm pretty sure that in every situation, there's more to it than meets the eye, and I will ferret it out.

Anyway, this situation at least does warrant a little personal conflict. I'm still trying to figure out how to post personal things here without trash-talking the participants. This one is especially tricky, as it has to do with my very own personal parents, both of whom are very much alive, and neither of whom know that I blog. I'm not worried about them stumbling across this, and it's not anything that ever was a secret, but I want to remain respectful. I also want to be honest to myself. Let me know how this comes across, OK?

My parents divorced when I was in eighth grade, after several difficult years. Shortly thereafter, my father married the woman who played no small role in the destruction of my family. Being a confused 13-year-old who was (and still is) by nature, a peace-maker, the only conclusion I could come to was to behave as if nothing at all was wrong (even though plenty was). I desperately wanted everyone to feel better, and somehow it was up to me. Instead of going through the usual difficult-teenager-angst-drama that could have happened, I slapped a smile on my face and marched forward, the perfect daughter who kept her head up high and made no trouble. I worked very hard at balancing the time I spent with my mom and the time I spent with my dad and his new ready-made family. I referred to her as my stepmom. I was a child expected to deal with this as a rational adult, and of course I rose to that expectation, because that's what I did in every aspect of my life. What I wanted and felt rarely entered into the equation; it was about how I could provide what others wanted and felt. I put up a good front, and most of my friends would be surprised to hear that I had any problems with this at all.

Fast forward several years. My stepsister was about to graduate from high school. (She's eleven years younger than me.) Almost to the day of her graduation, my dad's wife left him. Just like that. Ka-boom. No warning. Already had an apartment. Gone. Now, having known him for about 39 years, I realize that my dad is not the easiest person to live with. But this was a really low blow, particularly when he found out that she had set herself up with some *cough* outside comfort several months earlier. The irony of the situation was not lost on me.

It rang my chimes pretty good. My sister (almost three years older than me) had always maintained that as soon as our stepsister was taken care of (you know, got through school and braces and all the legal stuff), that she would bolt. Turned out my sister was pretty much right. She tried to maintain some positive contact with me, and I tried to stay neutral at first-mainly for the sake of my stepsister. Then my dad shared some information with me which knocked me out of neutrality, and for the first time in a long time, I chose a side. I chose my dad, and severed ties with her. I don't regret it. I have missed my stepsister, as she had grown up before my eyes, and then disappeared.

I'm from a small town with a healthy grapevine, so I got regular infusions of gossip...I mean, news from my dad and friends that live there still. So one day the news trickled down that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. While I would not wish such a thing on anyone, even someone who had a hand in turning my life upside-down, I was pretty nonplussed by the news. I almost felt like, "Of COURSE she did." This was a person who liked attention, and frankly, what a way to get it. I know that's unreasonable, but I also took it as a delayed reaction-the child-like anger I hadn't been able to feel almost twenty years earlier. I had reached the point where I couldn't fake it anymore. The cancer went into remission, things looked fairly positive. Then, about two years ago, my dad found out that it had metastasized, and invaded her brain. Again, I didn't give it much thought. They were able to beat it back until this fall. Her decline was swift, and on Friday, she passed away.

I cried briefly, feeling the confusion and hurt from so many years well up again, but it wasn't sadness. It's not grief over a loss. Yet the conflict: she was good to me. If you could block out the fact that she helped to destroy my family, she was good to me. She referred to me as her daughter, but didn't expect me to call her anything but her first name. Her parents welcomed me into their home, and were unfailingly kind. She drove me to some rehearsals, I tried out conversations I needed to have with my mom on her, and overall things could have been worse. So do I continue to let those things outweigh everything else that happened? It wasn't personal, after all...she didn't do anything to ME....right?

I decide no. She did do something to me. She wrecked my family and pretended it was OK. Things weren't worse because I sacrificed my true feelings to make this all work for everyone else. Dammit, I made it a lot easier for everyone at my own expense. With her death, many of the feelings that I squashed for so long have re-risen. I believe that the universe always gives us a choice: deal with it now, or deal with it later. I could not have dealt with this earlier. But now I have better tools, more options, and less of a need to please everyone who crosses my path. I am more likely to take care of myself first. I am much less likely to put up with charades for the sake of appearances. And now I can feel what I didn't before, acknowledge it, see how it has affected my life since, and heal it. I'm about to turn 39, and it's time to give the frightened 13-year-old some long-awaited consolation.

Do I still have things to work out with my parents? Absolutely. It's not all her fault. I see this less as a loss (for me...not for my stepsister) than as a balancing event. I gave up a hefty chunk of my childhood for her attempted happiness. It didn't work, and it wasn't fair of her to use my family like stepping stones on her path. It seems she had a hefty chunk of her adulthood taken away in return. My happiness is still my own responsibility, but the release of these emotions is part of the process. If something else could have happened to be the catalyst, I would have accepted that too. This is not a happy event. I'm sorry that my stepsister has lost her mother before she turned 30, before she could get married with her mother present. But if it had to happen this way, I will take the good that I can find in it. Otherwise, the whole situation is meaningless, and in my mind, having meaning leads to having hope. I can't live without either one.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh wait!

I just remembered, I WILL be able to blog before May, if I blog from the main bedroom of Apartmentia. Warmth is not an issue in this room. (Well, it IS an issue, but in the opposite direction.)

So now I just need to have an idea to write about, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

P.S. Teaching five private lessons after school is a really bad idea. Live vicariously through me on this, and JUST SAY NO.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can't blog.

Too cold.

See you in May. (Hey, I live in the northeast, spring does not come early.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gems from the music room, part one.

Me: "Student, no wonder your sax won't play. This key is all bent up. Did you drop it?"
Student: "Only a little."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Notes to Self:

1. Facebook. Uh-oh. This will be a huge time-sink if you aren't careful. It's wonderful, though, isn't it?

2. The attic: good for you. Get some more stuff out of there and get RID of it. Mitzie won't touch the scratching post, right? Give it away already. The boys across the hall at school will like the cars, too. No one has touched them since you moved almost two years ago. No need to keep them.

3. Grandma's sewing machine: yes, it still works, but it sounds like...well, it doesn't sound happy to be working. It may be just cold from being in the attic, but if you want to get rid of it, it's OK. Grandma never liked it, and that's why she gave it to you. She wouldn't want you to keep something that doesn't work just because it was hers for about two weeks before she got one she preferred. It is in no way, shape, or form, an heirloom.

4. Backing into your parking spot: al-RIGHT! You can do it, and it might help keep the driver's side door from freezing shut. (My spot is right next to the house.) It might also help keep you from backing into someone else coming down the alley when you leave in the morning. This is a good thing.

5. Re-read your header. It says, "If it's not fun, why do it?" Your blog posts have not exactly been reflective of this. You sound a little like you're on a forced march. Find the fun again. LOOK for it and you will find it. If you need to do what you need to do right now, at least make the best of it. Look at it as self-preservation. And then writing about it will be fun, too. You're on the right track. Pay a little more attention and you'll be there.

Friday, January 9, 2009

And we're back.

(Lesson just learnt: pushing the "return" key in the the title box publishes your entry. It may have been more amusing to read a blank post following that title than what's to follow..maybe I should have left it that way.)

Alrighty. Fun stuff first: we have a contest winner! Thank you to everyone who posted a comment. I have vowed not to become a total hit-whore, but...well...let's just say I'll probably have another contest like this one of these days. But anyway, imagine yourself a nice crisp drum roll.....

Jessica K.! Send me your snail mail and your new Falk shall be sent to you posthaste.

An update to the payment mixup on Tuesday: Mom had come into the shop earlier in the day and left a check for me. The guy at the counter forgot that she did so, and that led to forgetting to give it to me until the next day. (After she called and asked why her ex-husband called her, asking why she hadn't made arrangements to pay me, when she had in fact made said arrangements. Remember what i said about not wanting to be in the middle? I'm glad she wants to pay me monthly.)

Topamax update: not this time. My appointment was interesting, as I have been feeling pretty good (other than the usual cranky about going to work). As a bit of background, I've been taking Lamictal for about three months now. Google it if you really want to read about it, but the long and short of it for me is that I use it for anxiety and migraine prevention. Except I haven't been taking enough to prevent migraines. I didn't know that, so I asked about Topamax. In the end, we decided to try upping the Lamictal first, as we at least know how I react to a higher dose (even though I take very little right now). Topamax has its own weird set of side effects, so we'll hold off on that for now.

OK, that part's not so interesting, but hopefully my following thoughts are. The week before Christmas, as faithful readers will remember, was hard. Very hard. A mix of grief and anxiety and lack of sunshine and all that. I woke up on Boxing Day, and felt like something else had let go. Literally, just like that. Whoosh. And whereas I had seriously considered calling the office to ask if I should up the dose immediately when I was most anxious, I felt as normal and together as I have in almost a year. Kind of weird, but a welcome relief.

So I went to my appointment and as we talked about the migraines, I felt that anxiety rising harder and faster than it has in a while as well. I didn't have a problem trying Topamax, and I didn't have a problem upping the Lamictal instead. When my CNP suggested NOT taking the medication(s) I do to stop a migraine, it sent me into nearly a full-blown anxiety attack. Crying, tight chest, feeling like running away, feeling like yelling at her, the whole bit. And it came on like a Mack truck. I finally was able to tell her that I am AFRAID to not take them. I have found, over many unfortunate years of trial and error, that if I don't stop a migraine as soon as I can, it spirals down into a day of moaning and nausea and pain. Pure pain. And since I'm already getting them at least twice a week, and there is that little "job" thing to consider, I am terrified to let a headache begin to run its course to "find out" if it's a migraine or muscle tension.

Is it possible that some of the headaches are truly muscular instead? Sure. I can agree with that. But unless I can take a month or two off in the name of science, I don't feel like I have a choice but to take what I know works. My CNP suggested that instead of immediately taking an Axert or Imitrex, that first I take two Aleves and lie down with a hot corn bag under my neck, and a cold pack on my forehead. I had to restrain myself from snorting. The only days when I could actually do that (Saturday and Sunday) are the two days that I am not likely to get a migraine. When I get one after lunch as the kindergarteners walk in the door? Right.

OK then, so is it possible that being in a job that I'm not so sure I want to do anymore is bringing on these headaches? Well, yeah. I had a similar reaction when I knew my marriage was in its death throes. But right now, there isn't another option. Do I need to consider other options? Of course. Fling myself out of my job Right Now? I don't see how. No one in their right mind is giving up a good-paying job with health insurance (hush, we just negotiated a contract that ups our contributions by 40%, it ain't free) right now. I don't have another income source to rely on. I don't have enough savings. I have a couple of sources I could borrow from. But even that is something I'd rather save for a bit longer. So what is bringing home the bacon may also have a poison pill wrapped in it. I feel like I have to keep swallowing it, even if it hurts me every time. And until I can rectify this situation and the poverty thinking that goes with it, I will continue to turn to artificial means to keep me going. Hopefully it won't be for much longer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Better already.

So much better, that I think I will have my first blog contest! And what a contest it is: post a comment. Any comment. Whoever has commented before I post again will have her or his name put them in a hat. I'll draw, and you win two skeins of Dale Falk in a nice cream color (0017, I believe). Falk is perfect for Thuja socks, by the way.

School's closed due to a nice layer of ice and sleet, with more predicted through the day. We started off with a two-hour delay, which would have been just fine too. So even though my friend called at 5:30 with the news, I was able to doze back off and get up at my preferred time. (Really, I'm not a late late late sleeper. I was awake by 7:15 and out of bed by 7:30.) This means I won't have chorus at 8:00, which was eleven minutes ago, and that is a wee bit disappointing. This particular group is probably the strongest one I've had in several years, and that makes it a lot of fun, for me and the kids. But the materials I ordered for our next production (a musical play called A Tree in Tappen Wood, by John Jacobson and Emily Crocker) haven't arrived, so we'll call it even and get a fresh start next week.

Putting on these plays is one of my favorite things to do, because it's not like anything else we do in school. (Yeah. It's not testing, or test prep. *cough*) I wish there was more time to rehearse, of course. But somehow, every year, we manage to pull it off, and as soon as we finish one, the kids ask if we're going to do another next year. I try to keep it as kid-produced as possible, with the kids building the sets (hooray for cardboard refrigerator boxes) and making props and such. My art teacher buddy is an amazing help, and my librarian buddy is too. I would love to find a way to get my phys ed teacher buddy involved, but I haven't gotten that far.

So instead, today will be a little bit of cleaning up in Apartmentia, finishing a pair of glittens (one needs an index finger, one needs a thumb), doing a little design work on a vest (which may turn into a sweater if I have enough yarn, we'll see), and if the roads clear up this afternoon, I'll run over to school and warp the loom. I don't have a long enough table to do it here, but the art room does, and it won't take long for a scarf. Need to go to the post office too, but that's just two and a half blocks away. I may or may not have my private students after school, depending on what happens with the roads. So it's a good day to play by ear. I like it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Two days back into work and I'm bushed. I'm sure no one else gets to ease back into things either, but man, wouldn't it be nice?

Yesterday was long because I went to my beloved chiropractor after school, and that means about two hours of driving for a 20-minute adjustment. (But what a 20 minutes it is.....) You will probably hear about my adventures with chronic migraines from time to time here, and my attempts to get them under control. Along with a battalion of migraine-specific prescriptions, a mood stabilizer, semi-regular massages, and some dietary changes, chiropractic care has been pretty helpful. And since I had one within half an hour of waking up yesterday morning, having an adjustment in the afternoon was a good thing indeed. Actually, I hope to convince my PNP to let me try Topamax (Topomax? Not sure of the spelling, too lazy to look it up) at my appointment on Friday. She wanted to hold off on it to give my current medication a chance, but it seems to be marginally useful in the migraine department. It's doing its job otherwise, but something has to give on the headaches. I average two or three a week. I get fewer when I'm on vacation, of course, and I can run on my own schedule, but that doesn't go over so well when my contractual school day starts right about when I prefer to be stretching and yawning from under the covers. And until I find someone else willing to buy the Little Friskies, I have to get up and go to work. So yeah, give me another prescription. I have to function in the meantime.

Today was long because private lessons got going again today as well. One return kiddo, who is just a delight, a first-grader on piano, with all the signs of being a very talented musician. And he really is plain old delightful. I'll hopefully have his brother, who is equally a joy, before too long as well. Then two new kids, also brothers, and also showing signs of being a lot of fun to work with. Now if we can just get their divorced parents on the same page. I guess it's Mom who will be paying for the lessons, but Dad who brought them today. Mom had mentioned paying me by the month, which is fine...except she didn't mention starting to pay me when SHE brings the kids on her week. And of course, Dad didn't mention he wasn't planning on shelling out until after all the lessons were done. *sigh* I ended up putting the piano-playing brother's new books on my store account too. So they're in hock to me, and I would rather not be in the middle of their little power struggle. I would rather the kids weren't either, because if you're willing to drag an unknowing stranger into your drama, what are you willing to drag your kids into?

I hope I'm wrong about that, and I hope this was just a miscommunication. The kids are nice; they were both smiling by the end of their respective lessons, and I'd like to keep it that way. Because really? That's the payoff.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Other Neato Day

Today is Sunday, right? I've been off by a day for about two weeks now. When I'm at work, I run by a daily schedule of 45- or 30-minute blocks. If it's Monday, it must be beginning instrument lessons. If it's Friday, I must be at Carder. Oh yeah, you don't know what or who "Carder" is. There's eight elementary schools in my district, mostly named after area luminaries. My home school is Calvin U. Smith, former district superintendent who consolidated many little one-room schoolhouses in the area into our current district configuration. My other school is Frederick Carder, of Carder Steuben art glass fame. That might give you a hint as to my specific location, instead of the generic Finger Lakes in the sidebar. So when I'm not at work, I quickly lose track of the wide-open swaths of time that I fantasize everyone else has.

On Friday, I traveled up to visit some friends on their farm/shop. Bob and Patrick own and operate Winderwood Farms, and once I figure out how to, I will post a link to their eBay and etsy shops. For now, you can go to those sites and punch in the above. They sell beautiful fibery goodness, some of it produced by their own beasties, and some not; some if it naturally colored, and a lot of it dyed by Bob in the kitchen. Bob has also been getting into glasswork lately too, so you can also find dichroic glass buttons and dizzes too. He has an eye for color, that Bob does, and a wicked sense of humor. Patrick is equally sharp and takes care of their beasties. I often meet a mutual friend who lives outside of Rochester there, too, and Friday was no exception. (She's Fiberfollies in the blog list, and shared a hysterical picture of her new granddaughter.)

Nearly two years ago, when I was a total beginning spinner, I got all excited and bought half of a Shetland fleece with visions of a sheep-to-shawl kind of thing. Well, then I moved, and then I found other things to spin, and then I finally swapped for a pair of handcards, and then I finally learned how to use them, and that got me to this summer. I also finally had a space to spread out wet fleece while it dries, also known as my back porch. So finally I decided it was time to light this candle and get the fleece ready.

To make a long story short, if you ever decide to wash a fleece in your bath tub, it's do-able, really it is. Just don't toss the whole dang thing in the tub all at once. And if you have to toss it in the tub all at once, at least sort out the really filthy parts first. But if you have to throw it in the tub all at once without sorting out the filthy bits, at least sort out the unusable parts. And if you really have to do all of the above, take into consideration the state of your house or apartment's plumbing, and consider all that sheep grease (aka lanolin) and crap going down the drain. It might be OK, or you might clog the pipes.


So I thought I had it nice and clean, and then realized I would rather eat live crickets than hand-card this thing. Not because there's a fair amount of fleece, but because I don't really like carding, and I prefer to spin combed top. Oh well. Put it back in the bag and let it sit in time-out while I figured out what to do, throwing it out not being an option.

And then on Friday, as I decided what to take with me to work on (when visiting Bob and Patrick, it's ALWAYS OK to bring knitting, spinning, or whatever), it occurred to me...Bob processes fleece. Bob has a picker. Bob has a drumcarder and batt-making thingy. Maybe Bob will show me how to fix this mess. So along with my Circle Socks

and some bread

(if you want to know what it looks like baked, imagine it darker brown...I don't know why I didn't take a final-product shot)

I packed up the Shetland, plus some other loose fiber I had from a spinning class last year, some of it already carded into rolags. I also packed my puppy-dog eyes. I need not have worried, because Bob of course agreed to not only wash this mess for real, but to make it into a batt for me. It probably helps that there's less than two pounds of raw fiber there, and it's not a complete disaster (just too greasy still to go through the machines), and that Bob is made of teh awesome.

So that being settled, we sat down to have tea and bread and chat, and Bob admired my sock wistfully. Of all the things that Bob does, and does so well, knitting is not so easy anymore. Bob is missing his left arm from just above the elbow down, and size 1 DPNs just aren't going to cut it. So when he left the room to take a business phone call, I quietly asked Patrick what shoe size Bob wears (and in telling me that, Patrick told me what shoe size HE wears, too), and the next time I visit there will be a pair of Thujas for each of my friends.

Clean fleece. Hand-knit socks. Wonderful friends. Neato.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Neato Day.

I actually will post about today's truly neato day tomorrow. Hah. Foreshadowing. Love it.

Today's post title, in reality, comes from me misreading the title of a professional union magazine I receive. Until recently, the teachers' unions in NY (New York State United Teachers, or NYSUT) were affiliated solely with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and not with the National Education Association (NEA). You can tell I'm in education by the collection of acronyms-I could do a dissertation about the quantity and scope of them.

Ahem., by some miracle of modern...something...we are affiliated with both. So I get journals from NYSUT (very labor-issue oriented), AFT (one specifically labor-related, and one professional research-related called American Educator, which is quite good), and now I also get one from the NEA (which is a little of each) entitled neatoday. The first time I ever received this little 'zine I 1) had no idea we would be getting it, and 2) as the title is printed in all lower-case letters, immediately misinterpreted it. It is, of course, NEA Today. But it will be forever Neato Day to me.

In the latest issue of Neato Day, as in all their issues, they pose a question to teachers and print a selection of responses. This one was, predictably, about New Year's resolutions. OK, fine, could there possibly be a publication that doesn't broach this hottest of topics? But once something is in front of me, I must read it, even if just to mock it gently (or not so gently, as need be) later on. One response actually struck me.

One woman said that she had decided that instead of making long, detailed resolutions that were nearly impossible to keep, she would focus on a single word: a quality she wished to nurture within herself. For her first go at this, she chose "patience," and applied to it as many situations as she could recognize needed it. (Which, especially if she's like me, would be numerous.)

Resolutions have never quite worked out for me, either. Perhaps that means I have no willpower, or perhaps I resolved to do things that were simply out of my reach with the skills I had at that point in my life. Either way, I don't like to leave things dangling, so incomplete resolutions don't feel good. This different approach, however, feels like it could work. It's specific enough to have discreet behaviors that could be attached (as in, counting to ten before blowing up at someone, that sort of thing), yet broad enough to be applied in a variety of situations. Flexible, yet purposeful.

So, to that end (and because I am a chronic over-achiever), I have selected four qualities (is that the word I want? you know what I mean, don't you?) I wish to be mindful of this year:


I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year Isn't Even 24 Hours Old...

...and I'm already kind of tired.

To tag onto what I was saying about being well-rested the other day, when I DO get enough rest, the instant I DON'T get enough is so noticeable it's almost laughable. I get cranky, and angsty, and restless without having the energy to do much about any of it. It's really not too bad today, but as we close in on the evening, I can tell it's happening.

And what, pray tell, would cause poor sleep here in Apartmentia? Why, it would be the radiators. No, not the radiators. Except for the one in my bedroom, which is too big for the room, it really isn't the fault of the radiators, even though it is they who crank out the heat that wakes me two or three times in the night. Nay, they are merely the slaves of the Evil Prince Thermostat.

Now come on, I hear you say, that's an easy fix. Thwart Evil Prince Thermostat and turn him down. Turn back the temperature, even though the outside temperature is in the single digits. Isn't that plain old common sense?

Well, yeah, it is, and it would be my first choice if Apartmentia wasn't merely an archipelago in the larger chain of domiciles that is this house. The house is heated by one steam boiler in the basement, which goes to all of our apartments. It is controlled by that cruel dictator, Evil Prince Thermostat. His rule is not democratic. One thermostat controls all four units. And Evil Prince Thermostat resides in his own lock-and-key controlled kingdom. I may have a master key for the whole house, but I do not have a key for that particular little cottage. (We shall blame this on Laughing Boy, in the next unit over. He had a way of turning the heat up to about 80 last winter, when he thought no one was looking.)

Still shouldn't be such drama though, don't you think? I mean, set the thermostat for something relatively comfortable and put on a sweater if you need to, right? Wrong. Evil Prince Thermostat's fiefdom is IN THE HALLWAY. The WIDE-OPEN HALLWAY. The too-damn-close-to-the-FRONT-DOOR-HALLWAY. Which means, the hallway is always colder than any of our apartments. And when it is particularly cold, as it has been the last few days, the hallway is more like a cold storage unit. Which means Evil Prince Thermostat tells the boiler to stay on...and on...and on...despite the fact that our actual apartments are verging on the tropical. When you can SMELL the radiators, you know there's a problem.

My only solution so far is to open my front door (which is three feet away from Evil Prince Thermostat) and let the cold air from the hallway flow into Apartmentia, and the Santa Anna Winds blow out onto the Prince and warm his little fanny. It's just enough to get the boiler to kick off for a little while. Not a bad plan during the day. A horrible, terrible, nasty plan at 2:00 in the morning when I wake up with a bloody nose because it's so hot in my bedroom. And again at 3:00. And maybe again at 4:30.

Pray for temperatures in the mid-twenties and up, please, friends. A girl needs her beauty sleep, after all.