Monday, April 30, 2007

It Hit My Brain

My mother-in law is visiting and tonight when we sat down to dinner she told the girls (who were apparently starving since they were eating as if they'd been raised by wolves) that it takes twenty minutes for one's body to tell one's brain that the body is full. The girls paused for a moment and then continued shoveling food in. We had a small amount of mashed potatoes and the girls were competing to see who could eat the most and stiff the other one.

So, you know that I'm working on my second pair of socks, these for Ana, my nine-year-old daughter. Obviously, I am very new to sock knitting. The first pair, I knit for myself using sportwash and size 4.5 needles. The third sock I knit was just a trial thing--I didn't measure and I didn't know what I was doing and the sock ended up not fitting my oldest daughter but fit my youngest. She, of course, didn't LIKE it. I am going to frog it (rip it, rip it) at some point-- it's just sitting there reproaching me.

Right now, I am working on my first pair of socks with an actual pattern, using size 0 needles and this Regia Bamboo 1064 yarn, which is slippery and difficult to work with, and I've been doing a lot of cursing.

Except, right before dinner, I tried the socks on Ana.

It was one of those Knitter Defining Moments. I'm not sure I can describe it. It wasn't just that they looked so beautiful on her foot. It wasn't just that she liked them. It was more that something I KNIT WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS for someone I love, to warm and protect her feet, is turning out so well. I enjoyed putting that sock on her foot more than I enjoy wearing my own hand-knitted sock. If I had known what it was going to feel like to put socks that I have knit myself on the feet of my loved ones, I would have started many years ago (and their feet would have been so much smaller!)

Motherhood is a very strange gig but being a sock knitter may be even more unexpected. Who knew?

I was waxing lyrical, trying to explain the feeling I had when I tried those socks on Ana and we were discussing how many more stitches it takes on size 0 needles than it does with thicker yarn on larger needles when suddenly Jane said, "It hit my brain!"

That was that and dinner was over.

Storms and Submersive Knitting

It's storming here in Austin, Texas. It's still freakin' nearly 80 degrees but it's storming and since every day that we aren't in the high 90's at this point is a sheer gift, I am sitting with my feet up and the windows open, listening to the thunder crash around the heavens and comforting various uneasy pets.

And I am thinking Deep Thoughts.

Many of them have to do with knitting. I know that my non-knitting readers are thinking that maybe I've been Body Snatched or something because I used to have hobbies that were cooler --probably literally --than knitting. At least in the eyes of popular culture. Knitting is still seen as some sort of musty habit indulged in by people who refer to "the Old Country" where they learned to knit and who probably do other strange things like keep their teeth in jars by their beds. Well, all I have to say is that y'all need to get over it. Plenty of hip, young people (which, by the way, is also not my social strata) are knitting and while I am a slave to popular culture as much as anyone, knitting has become my favorite thing.

I was thinking about it just now, thinking Deeply, and the truth is, I can't explain it. I am not a patient person. I am not that disciplined in my creative work (although I'm working on that.) I am into immediate gratification in many, many things, especially in my free time since I get so little immediate gratification in my real job as a mother. I'm not that organized a person and I hate beyond measure to have to redo things I've done. And yet, there I was at 3:00 this morning, ripping out thirty rows on this sock I'm knitting for Ana because I forgot to do the decreases after the heel (I didn't say I was a good knitter--just that I love it) and thinking about how much I love this gorgeous sock--my fourth sock so far-- and how I was absolutely going to make myself finish the second one before I tried something new, like a sweater.

And then I had this momentous thought, which was to wonder if I could adapt the pattern to two circular needles so that I wouldn't drop so many stitches (this yarn is really hard for me to keep on the needles for some reason and the foul language I've used IN MY MIND as I've been knitting this sock has surpassed even my own personal best to date.)

There you have it --you can see exactly what kind of knitter I'll be, can't you? I'll be a Subversive Knitter --always mucking about with the pattern and never doing swatches and dropping stiches and having to go back and unpick yards of wool until I get exactly what I want. Right now I lack the expertise to do too much damage but it won't be long.

And then I had another momentous thought: I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT. Seriously, I can't wait to try a sweater --many sweaters --and to create my own patterns and to knit socks for all of my friends and/or relatives and to take small knitted items as hostess gifts instead of an almost dead geranium in a hand-painted pot. This morning I was reading the HISTORY of knitting and it was almost too exciting to bear (of course, it was written by the Yarn Harlot in her new book The Yarn Harlot Casts Off and let's face it, I'd read a telephone book if she'd write one but still.)

So, I don't know, maybe the Body Snatchers are real and blew in with this storm. At any rate, I am thinking (Deeply)about starting a new blog called The Subversive Knitter so that I can drone on and on about knitting without alienating my non-knitting readers. I don't know yet, because I really need to be doing less blogging (and knitting, sigh) and more writing for yarn money but the idea is there.

In the meanwhile, I'm listening to this storm and thinking, Deeply, about it all.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Avert Your Eyes

My foot is really coming along and I'm going to post some pictures of it at the end of this post, along with a better picture of my SIP (Sock In Progress). Actually, although I've been blogging in my head almost non-stop, now that I'm sitting here in front of my computer, I can't remember anything I wanted to say.

I wish I wasn't going senile.

I'm sure it's just coincidence that my mother-in-law is visiting.

So, I've been thinking further about why people write and read blogs and I started thinking how much I enjoy reading my friend Kathy's blog. (Her name for her blog came from finding a note that her daughter had written her that said, "Your a rel HORE" an innocent misspelling of "HERO" but hysterically funny in that way that unwitting kids' jokes often are.) Kathy lives in Toronto (so does the Yarn Harlot --do you think maybe I have a thing for Canadians?) and I haven't seen her since 2004. Still, she's one of my closest friends --a person who "gets" me and my strange sense of humor and the fact that I'm a wine snob and hopeless at math. She likes me anyway and I so, so, so love her. I want to move in right next door to her and watch her kids when she's late from work or bring her dinner because I always make too much.

So, for me, reading her blog and seeing what she's thinking and doing and "hearing" her voice as she writes brings me closer to her. It's the same with my friend Tiffany, although I don't want to live next to Tiffany. I love her madly but ours is a relationship of words --she edited my book-- and if we lived next door, it wouldn't make any difference, we'd still be sitting in our houses side by side, e-mailing each other. I like reading her blog because it makes me really think. Like, she just posted this piece which questioned whether the immediacy of blogging made writers less likely to play the publishing game. My answer is that it does and I need to get back to work! (Dang.)

But first, some updated pictures. (Don't look at the last two if you're squeamish.)






Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Bulldog Returns

You'll never believe it. Just now, we had a visitation from the bulldog. I know it's silly, but it did cross my mind that some disaster was about to befall us.

So far, though, the only bad thing was that I spoke with my mother and she managed to insult me in this very subtle, polite way. We were chatting and I mentioned that I was still blogging and had even put up some pictures of Sydney's new haircut on the blog and she said, "Well, good. That way if anyone CARES what Sydney's haircut looks like, now they'll be able to see." I said, "That's what a blog IS--it's a peek into our everyday lives. I presume the people who read my blog are interested and if they aren't, they won't read it."

Which got me thinking about blogs in general and why they are so fun to write but also to read. I visit just a few blogs regularly. The Yarn Harlot --about which I've written quite a bit. But WHY do I go there--what's so interesting about a Canadian vegetarian mother of three who is a maniacal knitter? Well, she's FUNNY, for one thing. And she's a really good writer, for another. And a fantastic knitter. I'm new to knitting but I think I would read her even if I didn't knit. Her style is somewhat like my own... well, except she can spell better and obviously, she doesn't write near as often as I do about having to rip out large amounts of errant knitting... I don't know-- why do we ever get interested in the things we are interested in? And if you're reading my blog and you find Sydney's reaction to her haircut funny and/or interesting, does that make me banal and boring for writing about it and you banal and boring for reading about it?

I mean, sure, it's not freakin' War and Peace. But how much of War and Peace can you take on a daily basis? How many people have actually ever READ War and Peace? (Besides my mother, I mean.) I like Hemingway as much as the next person --well, okay that's a big lie. I can appreciate Hemingway but I find him tedious. I once tried to write a short story in his style and I ended up with a manuscript that contained no adjectives. I LIVE for adjectives.

Anyway, maybe it's narcissistic and maybe it's banal but maybe, just maybe, anything that shows us how similar we are to one another and breaks down barriers between people is a worthy endeavor. And I feel pretty safe saying this because I know she's not reading this unworthy drivel, but Mom? Bite me.

(But, um, just in case you ARE reading, Mom, that was just a joke, okay? AND, I'm too old to be grounded.)

For the rest of you, if you are interested, here's a photo of the Bamboo Walking Sock I'm currently knitting. This is my first effort with patterns and it's knit on these itty bitty needles and so far, I've had to start over four times. But that's why handmade socks are such a deep expression of love. Because you kill yourself making them and then you give them to your loved one and that person promptly wears them outside with no shoes to get the mail and puts a hole in one of them. And so you start again.

See? I can be all deep and stuff.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Haircuts and Failures

Every year, we have our old dog Sydney partially shaved for the summer. Every year, we are amazed at how thin she really is. And every year, she gets a bit embarrassed by the hair cut and she mopes about for a day or so.



I think it's the pink bow that gets to her.

I discovered several failures on my part today. One is that I forgot to submit some important paperwork for Jane and she didn't get tested for the GT program. I was hoping that if she made it in, it might be the thing that lit her academic fire, so to speak. She's very into the social side of things at school and NOT very interested in, say, following directions and applying herself. I'm sure I'm to blame for THAT, too.

My other really large failure today was one of self control. I went to Hill Country Weavers... and just lost all ability to add in my head. It's amazing that I've only made one pair (Well, one and a half pairs) of socks and already I have to put myself on a stash diet.

And then, too, I failed to ask the nice lady to wind my sock yarn into balls --I didn't want to bother her. Because I'm a idiot. Because I would rather spend my afternoon detangling THIS.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Production Week

I am the Editor of a local magazine called Austin Family. It's sort of a part-time job, or it would be if I were less obsessive and worked smarter and had the good sense to say "no" once in a while.

For three weeks out of the month, I write or solicit editorial content and the rest of the team sells advertising and builds ads. (Austin Family is supported solely by advertising--it's free to readers!) We meet weekly to talk about editorial, design and sales and then once a month, we go through this amazing hell called "Production Week" where we pull it all together, lay it all out, and proof it to get it all ready to go to the printer. This requires a lot of very fine detail work and proofreading and I am always chagrined when I miss something really obvious. (Today, for example, after I'd gone through the magazine for the first time, the Publisher found a few pages where the month was wrong. This would fall into the category of Things That Would Require Me to Commit Hari Kiri if Published. Once, early on in my career as Editor, I missed a word in a headline that was misspelled. "Marrige." I tried to resign but my boss wouldn't let me.) So, anyway, this is Production Week and I have a headache and I seem to have used up all of my nouns, which is a big bummer since I have Things to tell you.

After a long day doing insanely detailed proofing --I find that if I stare very HARD at the magazine, it makes me feel like I'm catching everything -- I got home about 5:30. Coming up the front stair to get to the front door, one of my crutches hit a leaf or something slippery and slid out in front of me and I landed full force on my healing foot. (Only *I* could manage to fall UP a single stair.) It was more weight than even a normal walking step would have put on the foot. It's seven o'clock and my foot is still numb and very swollen. If I can tap into tomorrow's store of nouns, I'm going to e-mail my doctor to ask if I should be completely freaking out or just having a tiny nervous breakdown.

And then I had to frog (rip it) three pretty-far along socks because I had neglected to, um, measure the intended victim's feet and then knit a swatch so I could determine the gauge. (Okay, so I had nouns for that sentence but not enough to explain it to you if you are not a knitter. But just trust me, it's a maddening, rookie mistake. The Yarn Harlot ALWAYS knits a swatch and if she ever neglects to do so, she thinks the Knitting Gods curse her project.)

And then there's Jane. Jane has been having a rough week. Look:



She got in trouble at school, her dad took away her Crocs, she fell down and skinned her knee AND this is what is left of her Bee Blankie, which I have taken to calling, "The Thread." (I stole this from my friend Linda.)

The last bad thing that happened today (I can't remember now what it was) she was sobbing in frustration. "I think I need to go sit in the hot tub!"

No DNA test necessary.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sock Remorse and Gifts

So, last night, when we didn't get to go to the Austin Family Magazine Fifteenth Birthday Celebration (the less said about why the better) and when we were watching the six hundredth viewing of The Return of the Jedi, I finished Ana's sock.



Unfortunately, it didn't fit her. Jane put it on and it fit HER but she didn't like it.

I did NOT say the F-word. In fact, I wasn't even tempted because in all honesty, it's not that great of a sock. I did a short ribbed cuff and then I did this striping thing but I didn't actually know what I was doing so this is what it looks like on the side where the color switches happened.


I was sort of hoping that when I washed it, it would magically disappear and the uneven stitches would sort of smooth out. Plus, since I was modifying the sock to fit a child's foot, I got off on my numbers of stitches and the heel turned out kind of funky. I don't really want to make the other one (actually, I'm not sure I can since I sort of made this one up as I went and didn't take notes and it turns out that knitting is not like cooking--at least knitting socks --because at some point, you HAVE to replicate the recipe--er--sock. I'm sure this is an important lesson to have learned NOW, before I try to make a sweater or something.) so maybe I'll just put this into a pile (which I'm sure will grow much bigger) of Bad Knitting Ideas I've Had.

Did I mention I'm still on crutches? And that I still have The Itch? I'm a little bummed out and I didn't even mention Recent Experiences With Vomit. I think maybe I have a classic case of Sock Remorse.

HOWEVER, even I cannot sink into the Sock Doldrums because my friend/knitting mentor Kit sent me a package. She actually sent it twice because the first one arrived EMPTY. Would you look at THIS?? I know she spent a fortune, twice no less, but aside from that, how did she know exactly what would be helpful and how did she know that the bamboo yarn would make me completely enter gimbal lock and begin to drool?



I always get so embarrassed whenever anyone gives me anything and a really overwhelmingly generous present like this makes feel really... squishy and panicked or something inside. Like, I want to give it back and say, "There is no way I am worthy of this." It's funny, I don't feel that way when I GIVE presents at all but I always feel unworthy of being given something. And like I need to give away my... car in return. When I just squished all over myself saying thank you, Kit just said, "well, pay it forward." Kit is... well, the person we all want to be when we grow up.

Anyway, I'm going to be paying it forward. Right now I only have a somewhat defective single sock to give away but just you wait.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Itch

Dear Dr. Thomajan,


I am so sorry. I am really, really, really sorry.

But I took my bandages off a little early. I know you said to wait until Saturday and although I did take them off early, since I saw you on Thursday, it's not like I violated your orders by whole weeks or anything. Just by twelve hours or so. I apologize.

The thing is that I was really prepared for there to be discomfort after you took all those stitches out. You can't have miles of twine removed from your skin without having some sort of residual discomfort, right? I just thought the discomfort would be PAIN. I was not prepared for The Itch.

It almost defies description. Take the worst poison ivy itch you've ever had and then throw about six million mosquitoes into it. Add the chicken pox. Add hives and measles. That might get you somewhere in the neighborhood of what that Itch felt like. I've never felt anything like it. It made me rethink my views on torture. I now know that the worst torture I can imagine -- what I picture hell to be like-- is not being trapped in an elevator with endless loops of Peter Cetera singing "The Next Time I Fall" over and over and over again but is really having The Itch and not being able to scratch it.

So, I took off my bandages and I had the best scratch fest of my entire life. Whole pieces of skin were flying around. I avoided the actual wounds, except for once when I get closer than I realized. (I'm trying to be honest here.)

I know you are disappointed. I have been trying SO HARD to follow all of your directions because I figure the more I do, the faster I'll heal and get to be off of these crutches (another instrument of torture) and back to laying tile and tilling up my yard.

But I was just powerless against The Itch. I'm sure it has felled stronger women than I.

Yours in need of exfoliation,
Barb Cooper

Friday, April 20, 2007

Early Mother's Day

I got a little sad yesterday, what with having to come back to reality and stay on crutches for two more weeks. Not to mention that I got my stitches out and a much smaller bandage and so now can see the disgusting peeling skin that's been under the bigger bandage all this time. If I go missing and anyone wants to try to find me, you all can come sweep my house because I am flaking off big ole pieces of DNA everywhere I go. Plus, did I mention the itching?

(As an aside to the above aside, may I just have a moment of awe for the fact that I had 80 to 100 stitches in my foot? I didn't have that many with both of my c-sections combined! I'm so impressed with myself, too, because I did NOT cry while my doctor was taking them out. Okay, it didn't actually hurt because that's how good my doctor is but still.)

Anyway, I was bummed. My husband, in a move totally uncharacteristic of him, gave me my Mother's Day present early. He NEVER gives me my presents early! I can remember only one other time and that's when I went back to work and he gave me a 22 inch flat screen monitor so I could start my editing job with the right tools. Nothing says 'I love you' like a 22 inch flat screen.

Well, until now. Now there is something else that says 'I love you' in a mind-bogglingly HUGE freaking way.

I. Was. Stunned.

As evidenced by this photo and several others, none of which shows my mouth closed.

In case you can't tell, it's a new bike. I tried to find a picture where you could actually SEE the bike but I'll just have to take a picture later --mostly this one just shows the mess in our living room. It has PINK clipless pedals!

It's a Fuji Roubaix Pro and it is tricked out like only a real gear head who loves his wife could trick a bike out. He worked with Missy Ruthven from Austin Tri-Cyclist, whose daughter is in Jane's class. (If I looked like Missy, I'd just walk around naked all day.)

This present means so much to me, because one of the casualties of my Foot Fiasco is that I can't be a runner anymore. Actually I haven't been a serious runner since I started having serious trouble with my foot, which has led to some weight gain and some loss of self esteem on my part. (Isn't it amazing how we women can totally kick hiney in any number of areas but as soon as we gain a little weight, nothing seems to matter but that? I wish I wasn't so shallow, but in truth, well, I am. I want to kick butt and be thin at the same time.)

Anyway, my husband is a serious hobby cyclist--he loves it. I'm so hopeful that after we figure out the shoe thing (because my foot will be shorter after all the healing is finished, and the motion will be different so I have to move my cleats up to the ball of my foot--isn't that just such a lovely coda to this whole experience?) that I can become as impassioned as he is about cycling and that it will be something we can do together. Or, if not actually together, because sometimes those kinds of things bring out the worst in us (me), maybe we can at least TALK about it together.

Thanks, Coop, for breaking your own rule about giving presents early, and for making my day, and for believing in our future as a fit and active couple. I like you SO MUCH that I might even let you take my new bike for a spin.

PS: About Jane's outfit: well, her class had a pajama day yesterday and then a friend's dad brought her a hat from China... Just wanted you to know that.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crutches of all kinds

I saw my doctor today and got my stitches out. My foot looks more like a foot again, and not a huge slab of Velveeta with blue toes. Dr. Thomajan said I was really healing well, ahead of schedule. But I still have to stay on crutches for two more weeks.

Somehow I had convinced myself that I was going to get a walking boot today, a mere 3.5 weeks after surgery. I mean, just because he sawed off some bone, inserted three screws into my foot and took a couple of extra little bones out --not to mention building up one bone that had eroded to the shape of a crescent moon and filling in the areas where I no longer have cartilage with some...thing that I don't understand... I guess maybe I got a little impatient.

But, Dude, we are talking about my LIFE here.

I called my husband from the parking lot (where I did NOT fall on my bum even once, thank you) and it was hard to tell which of us was more glum. My poor guy --he's doing EVERYTHING. He feeds us all, gets the kids up and ready for school, packs lunches and snacks, picks out their clothes (the less said about this the better) and then walks them to school. Then he runs the dogs, goes to work and works all day, coming home in time to make dinner, feed us all, give the kids baths, oversee homework, pay bills, clean the kitchen, brush teeth, read bedtime stories, admire whatever I've knitted that day and/or dash to the store depending on what we're out of... He's TIRED. I feel so bad that he's having to take care of everything and I hate waiting around for people to be available to carry things for me and I hate that I can't just clean up when I want to. Y'all might not know this about me, but inactivity is not my strongest skill. Nor, for that matter, is patience. I'm FRUSTRATED.

And to add insult to injury, while I was in Dr. Thomajan's office doing my normal eavesdropping/knitting thing, I heard this guy making a move on one of the nice nurses, she of the audible blonde roots. (Okay,I don't really think blondes are dumb. My mom is a blonde. Both of my walking partners are blonde and they both have more ed-u-CA-tion than I do. It's just an expression so don't be writing me calling me a blonde-ist. It's a JOKE, for goodness sake.) Both of them, it turned out were 29 and were planning on celebrating their birthdays in Vegas. After they went on and on about how hard it was to turn 30 and how they couldn't think of anything better than to go to Vegas and drink a lot and FORGET that they were turning 30, the guy said -- I swear he said this,-- "But you don't look anywhere NEAR 29, even."

She giggled. "Oh, gosh, thank you."

And he said --I swear he said this, --"I truly believe that you're only as old as you feel, anyway. Plus, you know they say that 40 is the new 30."

If it wouldn't have taken me an hour to get to him, I'd have beaten him senseless with my crutches.

Humor Writer?

It occurred to me this week that I've been branded a humor writer. I mean, I've known that and frankly, I've been a bit shocked by that because if you knew me, you wouldn't think I was all that funny. But regardless, that's what everyone says and I'm just grateful that people are laughing instead of crying. This week, I was actually feeling lucky because, as a humor writer, I'm not expected to write about the very serious and horrible things that happen in the news — like the Virginia Tech mass murder of this week. I planned to just ignore it and move on, you know, because I'm a HUMOR writer and there isn't anything remotely funny about it.

But the thing is that aside from being a humor writer, I'm also a sensitive human being who is raising kids who will one day go fearlessly off to college. And I'm a human being who occasionally feels too much grief for this world --I get depressed when I think too long and too hard about the sheer waste all those senseless deaths. Above all, I am a mother and I've already had many doubts about bringing even more sensitive human beings into a world that makes less and less sense to me.

Also, I'm a woman who tends to live too much in my head, which makes me obsess over details like the fact that this was only a week before school was out and you just know so many of those kids had spent their last hours on this earth cramming for final exams. And why, if there were all those bomb threats, couldn't one have happened just before the shooter got to campus with his loaded Glock? And speaking of his gun, how come it never works like it does with hand vacuums and shoes –you know, where you have the machine but can't buy the filters for it or you have the shoes but can't find matching shoelaces – why did the store where he bought the gun just happen to have cartons and cartons of live ammunition for that gun? And did anyone think to question what a 23-year-old college student needed that much ammunition for? It's not like a Glock is a weapon used in HUNTING --it's sole purpose is the kill people, right?

And then the shooter himself. Clearly he was mentally ill. Wouldn't you think that I would have more compassion for him somehow? I don't though --I have no compassion for him AT ALL. I have not one kind impulse in his direction. I wish he'd never been born. This makes me a bit ashamed of myself, because am I so perfect that I can sit in judgment? I don't know --it seems like this kind of reactive response brings me closer to his level than I am comfortable with.

It reminds me of a story my Deep Friend Heather told me –which I will now tell badly and leaving out many details but you'll get the general point. A reporter (or the Dalai Lama –I honestly cannot remember and with My Deep Friend Heather, both sources show up frequently in conversation) was interviewing some Tibetan monks. These monks had been beaten and tortured under a corrupt government and many had served decades in prison. One of them said, "Yes, I was in great danger." The reporter or the Dalai Lama--oh hell-- the PERSON nodded in agreement. "Well, YES, I mean, you almost were killed."

"No," said the monk. "I was in danger of losing my compassion for my oppressors."

And so, in losing my compassion, and in the horror and shock I feel that something like this could happen at an Institute of Higher Learning (remember that I am the daughter of two college professors and I’ve always thought that the worst thing that could happen on a college campus was that the dean could turn out to be a political asshole whose agenda was in direct conflict with that of my parents') and in the very deep despair I feel on behalf of those parents and students, I could feel my glass leaking into the red “almost empty” zone.

So, I did this: I cast on some socks.
The striped ones are for Ana and the others are for my husband. I spent a lot of time researching toe-up socks and circular needles and how to make stripes… There’s something very comforting about clothing the people you love in something you’ve made by hand with all the love and protection and care you can muster.

I wish I could make them suits of armor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just in case you were wondering.

It's been raining all day.

It's completely impossible to carry an umbrella while on crutches.

Nothing looks more stupid than a woman on crutches in the pouring rain wearing the huge plastic boot she has to wear in the shower.

Unless it's that woman, on crutches in the pouring rain with that huge honkin' plastic boot, carrying a pink Princess backpack.

And her knitting.

Recycling Day

It's trash day. Tuesday.

I am sitting on the front sofa where I can see out the window (and get better wireless connectivity for some reason) and I am typing like mad because I don't want to look up and catch the eye of any of the Recycling Pick Up Guys.

I am always a bit embarrassed as how much we put out on Tuesdays. Yes, I know it's RECYCLING and therefore not as bad as if we threw it all away. (As an aside, recycling is so easy, I am always stunned when I find out that one of my friends doesn't do it. I mean, what's the worst part? That you have recycling lying about all over? Surely that's better than trash??) But there is always so MUCH at our house. I don't remember drinking that much wine or water or juice or opening those cans of soup and veggies (maybe I drank too much wine to remember.) (I do remember using that much laundry detergent, thank you very much.) When did that much paper come INTO the house, much less go OUT and if that much has gone out, why doesn't my house look neater?

There, whew, they're gone. I can type at a normal speed now. On this, my paperless blog, which doesn't do much except clutter the cyberwaves.

I do have to say that now that I'm so into blogging, and knitting, it's a bit shocking to me how many blogs are out there. When we were at the beach, my dad was trying to understand the whole blogging phenomena. He was amazed and stunned and slightly horrified to find out that people spent time writing about their lives and interests and pets and that other people SPENT TIME READING THEM. "Who has time to read about other people's lives in blogs?" he wondered.

Um.

Well.

That would be me.

One funny thing about the Knitting Culture (KC) is that virtually every knitter out there has a blog. I guess you need one to talk about your knitting because GOD KNOWS your husband not only not going to listen when you start talking about knitting but he's going to look slightly alarmed. My own husband keeps making suggestions about other things I could do with this down time while my foot is healing. "You know, I was thinking that if you wnated to learn to play the guitar, this might be a good time." I put his inability to understand the power of knitting down to the fact that he hasn't received a hand-knit pair of socks yet. Once he does and actually wears them, he'll see the error of his thinking. (He is right--I've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but you can't do that for hours while watching HGTV, now can you?)

Plus, only other knitters can understand how knitting can be exciting. Honestly, it really is! This morning I was looking at some yarn on-line (my friend Rebecca is clearing out all of her knitting supplies) and I was searching out ways to cast on a toe-up sock (which seems to be my nemesis) and I suddenly became aware that my heart rate was slightly elevated! I know, I know --trust me, I'm not telling my husband THAT. But other knitters --the whole KC? They get that.

I'm still running behind on my work so I'm not knitting very much right now anyway. I did just wash the pair of socks I knitted. Washed them by hand, which I normally refuse to do, especially WOOL by hand because it smells like a wet sheep but if anything happened to my first, and thus far only, pair of hand-knitted socks, I would have to cry. I did manage to splash water all down the front of my pants. Good thing the Recycling Pick Up Guys can't see THAT.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Socks and Violence


I finished the other sock so now I have a PAIR. I can only wear one at a time, but that might change as soon as Thursday. Life is good.

My husband has a race (the Cactus Tri) this morning and he got up early. Since it was my first time sleeping upstairs since my surgery, and only my second time up the stairs at all, I was really nervous about coming down by myself. I thought if I tried it while he was there spotting me, it would be safer.

I didn't factor in the lack of coffee/brain function at that time of morning and on the very first step, I fell. Luckily I didn't fall forward (although that's where my horrified spouse was standing) but unfortunately, I caught myself right on my injured foot. I managed not to scream (the kids were still asleep) but I dropped my crutch and lowered myself onto my rear and ended up coming down the steps that way, one step at a time on my butt, like babies do.

The foot is very tender. I iced it for a while, sitting on the couch, while my husband got his stuff together for the race and brought me coffee and hovered over me. (As if I hadn't caused him enough worry--I know he doesn't feel near as prepared as he'd like to be going into this race.) It was quite the adrenaline rush to start the day. (I may need a nap soon.)

But anyway, while I was sitting there and the sun was just barely climbing into the sky, I finished my second sock. It's infinitely better than the first one--for one thing, I finally "get" the Kitchener's stitch so the toes look a lot more like toes and less like a square ziploc zipper.

I don't know why I am getting such a kick out of this knitting thing--it is just so much fun. My husband jokes that I am putting some small child laborer out of business but I think he's impressed. Last night, we took the kids out to eat at Central Market and while I was waiting for my food, I knitted. I was sort of glammed up-- I had huge curly hair and make-up on and a big pair of sunglasses because we were sitting outside. Beloved Spouse was checking on the kids at the playground and came walking back up and stopped short. "It's like seeing Jackie O knitting," he said.

I really love that kind of hyperbole in a man. I just BEAMED. (I guess I'm a cheap date but maybe the "Twice a Week" rule has ancillary benefits.)

I'm casting on a pair of socks for him as soon as I finish this post. Race hard, Coop. I love you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Twice a Week

A good friend brought me lunch yesterday. This friend, who shall remain nameless for reasons that will soon be apparent, has frequently given me good parenting advice and actually, now that I think about it, really good LIFE advice.

Anyway, she and I were talking about communication between the sexes and I offered my opinion that we don't really speak the same language as the males of our species. We use the same WORDS but we mean completely different things by them. Honestly, it's a wonder we ever get along long enough to procreate. Marriage is hard. Keeping the channels of communication open is hard, I said.

She leaned forward. "I have to tell you what my sister told me."

I was intrigued.

"My sister is the one in our family who offers good advice and she told me early on that if you want to keep the lines of communication open, it's got to be 'twice a week, without fail.'"

Wow.

"Really? TWICE a week? Really?"

"Really. Twice a week. And I'll be honest, I don't have to work very hard at this. I don't have to put on a negligee or some other sort of outfit. Sometimes, I just say, "okay, let's go." He's pretty much always ready."

Wow. And this is not from some unliberated, stuck in the fifties, vacuum in the high heels and pearls, stay-at-home mom. This is a beautiful, intelligent woman who has a really strong, great marriage to a loving, involved family man.

Who looks remarkably Happy, now that I think about it.

So. Twice a week. Rain or shine.

Can't hurt.

I bet my husband sends her flowers!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen

I present to you THE SOCK.

It is deeply flawed and slightly too big and I could not be prouder. There were the days when I held my children for the first time, there was the day when I opened the box and saw my book,(The Mermaid's Purse) with my name on it and everything, and then there is The Sock.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crutches and Knitting

Reasons why I like Knitting:

1. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish something. This is sadly lacking in the rest of my life, especially since I can no longer mow the lawn.

2. The wool and possibilities for a new thing to collect.

3. The idea that you can do something with your hands to capitalize on "unavoidable delay."

4. Having a skill that you're good at (well, someday I will be) that results in these beautiful, handmade objects so that when you give them away as gifts, you give a bit of what is precious to you away--i.e. your time, you creativity, your industry, your positive thoughts for that person.

5. Knitters. Knitters are just unbelievably nice to other knitters, especially ones who are just starting out. The on-line community of knitters is the biggest group of People Who Get Along that I've ever seen. The people at my local yarn store, Hill Country Weavers, where I went on my first outing with crutches post surgery, were so incredibly helpful that first I thought maybe I looked really bad. Then I realized they didn't care about the foot--they were more interested in steering me to the proper sock wool and needles. I quite love them. It's a way of life, I think.

6. When in a pinch, you can use the needles to put your hair up.

Reasons I hate crutches:

1. They are slow and loud. My husband has taken to saying, "I hear the Captain coming" when he hears me thumping down the hall. I'd make him walk the plank but I can't carry a firearm.

2. When you finally get to where you are going on them, you have to do a Ryan Leech impersonation to sit down. (Watch the whole video, this guy is amazing.) Only, you know, it's more impressive when HE does it because he's balancing on a BIKE and you're just balancing on one leg, and not always successfully at that.

3. There are these stupid little suction circles all over my tile kitchen floor.

4. I can actually see the atrophy of muscles in my recovering leg. Okay, so I can't blame this on the crutches but I hate them so much, I just want to. My hip hurts from resting on it once I get to where I'm going --I'm blaming that on the crutches, too.

5. You can't carry anything. I've finally started putting my coffee in a travel cup and sticking it down the front of my pants until I get to where I'm going. (Did anyone here see "Spinal Tap?")

6. Using the method above, it is really, really inadvisable to carry your knitting while on crutches.

Easter

Over Easter, we went to the beach with my parents and my sister and her two-year-old grandson. The weather was terrible but we’ve had a good time playing inside and it's not like I could actually go to the beach since I was on crutches from my foot surgery anyway. Of course, I checked the weather before we headed down there and nowhere did it say that we would have near-freezing weather. Because if it had, I might have packed some warm clothes for the girls and then maybe we wouldn't all have colds now. But I digress.

There were several hilarious moments because of the name situation. My girls have always called my mother, "Mutti." In fact, ALL of my mom's grandchildren have called her, "Mutti." But when my SISTER became a grandmother (rather unexpectedly,) SHE wanted HER grandchildren to call her, "Mutti."

This is very confusing for everyone, especially when the two are in the same room together. But then add in the fact that my sister and I are calling my mother, "mom" and each other by our given names AND that my husband, who is "Dad" was there, too, and sometimes, when he's talking about me to the children, he calls me, "Mom," you can exactly see why this had all the makings of a Gilbert and Sullivan farce.

My sister got crabby, though. She wanted to be called "Mutti," ostensibly in homage to my mother and she thinks we should all stop laughing at her right about now. But I'm sorry, it’s funny. She should think about joining in the laughter because it takes a lot more energy to stay defensive all the time. (Just ask my therapist who has worked on this particular issue with ME for...well, forever.)

I think a lot of unhappiness could be mitigated if we all didn't take ourselves so seriously. It's like a disease in my family.

Which makes it even funnier that I am a humor writer.

Here are some pictures from the beach.

Oh, and look, here's another picture of the gray and cold beach.

Only the grackles could bear it. (As an aside, if we can kill rats, why can't we kill grackles? They are twice as disgusting.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Now I know, too.

You Are a Chocolate Bunny

A traditionalist, you secretly want to dress up like a bunny. And not just on Easter.


My friend Kathy had this on her blog and if I may just say so, she's a chocolate bunny, too.

I lost my mind and frogged the sock back to knitting the heel flap. It had to be done after I realized that I had begun knitting on the wrong side.

Still haven't done much work. Beginning to panic, especially as I am feeling really cold-ish and scratchy throated, etc.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I Inactive (Spam subject line)



April 9, 2007

I finished Lisa's scarf while at the beach. I only need to go back to Hill Country Weavers to pick out yarn for her fringe. I'm thinking that maybe I'll do some sort of metallic green --you know, something with bling. Lisa is all about hip happening, trendy and super-cool. She's an artist and a graphic designer and did the cover for my book, the Mermaid's Purse.

Disappointment Cracker -- another Spam headline. I just find them fascinating, which keeps me for banging my head against a brick wall when I have to download 1,000 messages from my work e-mail like last night, and 900 of them are Spam. And I'm really frustrated with the Spam filter because it keeps eating messages I actually really and truly WANT--like people subscribing to my column, So the thing is.... I've lost at least three this month (if you subscribed and didn't get a note from me, please write me again.) Anyway, the reason I feel like I've been handed a Disappointment Cracker is that my sock is not going so well. In fact, one of the Yarn Harlot's nice commentator's wrote me offering knitting advice and I was forced to write back that the giant sucking sound coming from the south that everyone associates with NAFTA is really coming from Austin Texas and my knitting. Here it is, along with Thomas the Big Fat Kitty (which you MUST say in a Louis Armstrong/Cookie Monster kind of voice if you are saying it. You just have to. I don't make the rules.) I tried to get one with the foot, too but you can't see the truly huge holes in the sock in those.

(Well, I couldn't get the picture to post in the proper place. Another Disappointment Cracker.)

I am dying to sit here and drink a cup of coffee and tell you all about our beach trip and the freakishly cold weather but it will have to wait until later because I MUST get some work done on my actual real job. I might not have mentioned it but I am the Editor of Austin Family Magazine and all of our editorial content is due today to the graphic designer. Guess I better start it, then, huh?

Her bedimmed,
Barb

Good News

Friday, April 6, 2007

Saw my podiatrist, Dr. Thomajan, yesterday.

I had really had some caffeine so I did my best Robin Williams impersonation and spoke with all the manic energy I had. I met Dr. Thomajan's lovely wife Wendy, whom I'd actually already met in a previous office visit and somehow failed to take in the fact that she is seven months pregnant. (And this was BEFORE pain killers.) At any rate, we probably would have to hate her because she's seven months pregnant and really, really cute (that pisses me off so much) AND she's smart and down-to-Earth, but it turns out that she's also funny. I am such a sucker for funny.

While in Thomajan's office, waiting and knitting, I heard a patient in the room next to me trying to explain to the good doctor why his (the patient's) cast was wet and stinky. I heard Dr. Thomajan very good-naturedly try to get to the bottom of the story, which the guy just didn't want to divulge. "Dude," said he. "It would NOT stay out of the lake."

(I might have added the, "Dude." But trust me, if it wasn't said, it was implied and totally in character.)

And then I heard the doctor take a phone call from someone calling to badger him because his primary physician hadn't authorized the referral to Dr. Thomajanand therefore the phone person didn't want to have to pay but DID want to bring his son back. (Lest you think that I was standing there with a glass to the wall, remember that I am on crutches. But I am incurable nosy--er--interested in the conversations that go on around me, having been closed up in my house for ten freaking days after the surgery, and plus, it's an occupational hazard. I could just hear everything in the office for some reason, and I was quite capable of filling in the gaps. I don't remember that from my other visits, but then again, I wasn't knitting. Knitting imparts some superpowers, I think.) Anyway, after three million examples of patience and diplomacy, finally, I heard, "If your primary care physician will not authorize a referral to me, then I will take a loss on our first appointment. But the most important thing here is the health of your son. So, regardless of if your son comes back to me or sees another specialist, he just needs to be seen."

I love my doctor.

I love him even more after he showed me the latest x-rays and I saw what looks like a normal foot. AND, when he told me that there is a possibility that I might be in a walking boot in two weeks! It was supposed to take six-to-nine weeks.

If I thought I had to be on crutches for another four to seven weeks, I might just end it all now. The thing about crutches is that you can't CARRY ANYTHING. So, if, say, a person wanted to pour herself a beverage, say a beverage made of fermented grape juice, she would have to pour it into a plastic cup and grip it in her teeth as she used her crutches to get to a chair, hoping fervently that she hadn't poured so much that it sloshed up her nose. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

In celebration of this great news, I promptly fell down in the good doctor's parking lot. I didn't hurt my bandaged foot but fell on my well-padded rear and my hands. (I so wanted to write "ass-over-teakettle" because this is my BLOG and I can use the occasional curse word that I would never use in my regular column (So, the thing is...) but it just isn't accurate. I really just fell "ass-on-concrete" which just isn't nearly so picturesque.)

It was indicative of the glamour of being on crutches and how off-balance I am at any given time, though. More about all that later. We're going to the beach!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Socks

Okay, I finished the table runner, f-word fringe and all. And I made some progress on Lisa's scarf so I thought that maybe I had bought myself enough decent Karma to cast on some socks.

Because I'm such a novice, the pattern I bought didn't really explain much to me. To wit: Work in the r Ribbing: K1P1 or K2 P2 for 1". Then st st for 9" or con ribbing for 10" (Slouch Variation: 1 n sport weight after K1P1 for 1"; place marker & do 6 rows of P, 6 rows of K etc.)

Ah.

I went on-line and found a pretend sock to knit. Well, not pretend but a practice sock. It was only supposed to be 3 inches high or something and the directions said to use scrap since it was just practice but I really, really, really wanted to use my new sock wool. (It's blue. I'm in a (black and) blue period.) I cast on with those double pointy needles. I divided the stitches. And then I had no freaking idea what to do. I don't even know why the needles are double pointy.

I did, however, learn to do hyperlinks today. And put my husband on a plane to Seattle, leaving only my mother and me to cope. Let's say we missed him and leave it at that.

Book Club

I hobbled to my book club last night. Originally we called it the "Never Leave Your Lawn Chair Book Club" because we started it one summer and then vowed to STOP. Three months was plenty enough commitment --just my speed. Obviously, when the time came to stop, we were sucked right in and had to make it keep going.

It was for this book club that I self-published my book --I wanted to give it to my fellow readers for Christmas. Of course, there was a terrible mess made by the company that printed my book (which is why I still have about 300 copies of it that are missing the last two chapter and the AUTHOR'S BIO, not that I'm bitter) which led to one of the most magical nights of my whole life.

I had the proof (which contained ALL of the chapters, thank you) and I gave a reading from it in lieu of giving out the actual books.

That sounds really simple but for me it was huge thing to do. I'm always so nervous about what I perceive as FORCING my work on people. Most of the book club aren't even on my subscriber list because I haven't, um, actually told them about it.

So, anyway, I read the one called "Finding the Christmas Spirit," and as I read it out loud -- which I never do, you know-- my eyes filled with tears and all around me, my lovely book club began to cry.

I guess that doesn't sound so magical when I put it like that. But it was just that we all connected on this very basic emotional level -mothers and non-mothers and grandmothers --we could see and smell and nuzzle the Baby Ana, who was really my symbol for the Baby Jesus. I am not a rabid Bible thumper --I know you're getting nervous --but it wasn't about that. It was about babies.

And it my first experience seeing that my own words had the power to move people. I'll never forget it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Losing the Will to Blog

I'm trying to link my blog to my website and having a really hard time. Then I'm trying to create some links to other sites from my blog and I'm having a very hard time.

Even a shower and some gummy bears have not restored my will to live after battling with this stupid computer stuff.

It scares me that my husband deals with this kind of carp (yes, I know it says, "Carp." I was reading something and someone had misspelled "crap" and I decided that carp was much more descriptive anyway so that's what I'm using from now on. But I digress.) all day long and is still the very model of patience.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Is This Going to be a Knitting Blog?


I am not setting out to write a knitting blog, although it seems to have been pretty successful for the Yarn Harlot. Of course, she's a KNITTER, so maybe that's something of a distinction there. I'm not sure what I am and what I'm doing with all of this (unbelievably cool, lush colored) wool I have but it's probably not considered knitting.

I am, however --deep breath -- going to undertake knitting some socks. I bought the wool and needles today. A friend on a list I'm on assures me that after about three weeks, I will stop poking myself in the wrists with those dang double pointy needles and I will learn to love them.

On the foot front, over the weekend, my toes turned blue. I am convinced that God thinks it's enough of a joke that I SOUND like a Smurf and that I'm not destined to actually LOOK like one. So, I took some pictures and sent them to my doctor who called and asked if there was clear blood flow to the toes. "Well, I THINK so." (You know, given that the toes haven't actually FALLEN OFF or anything.)

Apparently, if there is blood flow to the toes, it's perfectly normal. So there you have it. Blue toes. And I also have all these other technicolor bruises that are popping up. I wonder what the kids think I'm doing when they can't see me. Maybe they think my husband is beating me. Jane came down this morning and announced that her father had SPANKED her. She was very offended when I laughed and suggested that she had misinterpreted something.

Anyway, I did get out yesterday to go to Hill Country Weavers. Let's all bow our heads in a moment of silence in honor of my soon to be departed check book. I got Spam yesterday with a subject line, "Molten Frugality." Exactly.

I bought wool for the --deep breath-- socks and then bought some new yarn for Lisa's scarf. If I can get the picture to upload, I'll show you the work in progress. In honor of the Yarn Harlot (who is my new hero) I photographed it with my bandaged foot. (Granted, her photography with her socks in progress are much more attractive but if you look closely, you can see my blue toes. Can the Harlot say THAT? I think not.

Noun Gloominess

Well, actually, I'm not experiencing noun gloominess but that was the subject line of some Spam I got and it stuck with me. I have felt it before--this noun gloominess. I totally credit The Yarn Harlot with getting me out of any noun gloominess and into the noun light--it was after I started reading her archives that I started writing again. And I'm not even a knitter!

Well, not yet. Today, my mother is taking my crutches and me to the Hill Country Weavers yarn store, after which I am sure an obsession will be born. I'm taking my camera, sure that I need to document my first trip there. Maybe I'll riff off of the Harlot and take a picture of my toes. (I just wrote "take a picture of my nouns." Need coffee. Much, much more coffee.)

So far today, I would like to note here (as opposed to issuing a press release,) I have showered, washed my hair AND shaved my leg. Well, two knees but only one leg. At any rate, it's a first since the surgery, which was, exactly one week ago today.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Regression

I hate to admit this but my mother told on me.

I was sitting here tonight, after the whole foot turning blue incident, and I was fairly miserable and so I decided to unwrap my foot and allow a little flow of blood to the poor deprived sausage-like toes that are dangling out there. As soon as I started, my mother scurried out of the room to get my husband.

This pissed me off.

But then he came in, asking if I'd ever seen the movie The Black Stallion. Well, yes, I had. In fact, I saw it 46,000 times as a child. It's one of my all time favorite movies.

"The one directed by Francis Ford Coppola."

"Yeah, I know."

"He directed the Godfather and all those movies and then he made The Black Stallion."

"The one about the horse. Right. We HAVE that movie. I BOUGHT that movie for the girls when I joined that damn lame DVD club."

"Not Black Beauty. The Black Stallion."

"It WASN'T Black Beauty. It was the Black Stallion."

At this point, I've rewrapped my damn foot and am on my crutches, headed for the shelf where we keep the DVDs so that I can prove I not only KNOW the movie but I BOUGHT the movie.

"You bought Black Beauty."

I give a look of intense irritation. "No, I did not buy Black Beauty. I bought the Black Stallion."

I start looking. He says, "Why did you just give me that look?"

"Because you are incredibly irritating. I know the difference between Black Beauty and the Black Stallion."

"But that look. Why not save that look for when you are RIGHT? Why give me that look? Why was that necessary."

At this point, I didn't want to say that I had a whole arsenal of OTHER looks I could give him when I am proven right. Like Smugness. Like in-your-face, football touchdown dance, you are so lame, how do you like THEM apples, I told you so, VICTORY kinds of looks.

And of course, I could not find the DVD so I didn't get to give any of those looks, either.

But I still know I'm right.

In seventh grade, maybe. But right.