Monday, March 31, 2008

Knitting with sense and sensibility

Last evening I enjoyed the first half of PBS' latest version of Sense & Sensibility. Sublime. I knitted and rocked, and before I knew it, the episode was over and my latest prayer shawl finished. Well, almost. I've decided it's a bit too sensible, so I'm adding a chained fringe.

It's lovely to spend time in Austen's world. Such deep passions expressed with a glance, a wicked bit of good manners, or a curtsy and bow. Modern day cursing and eye rolls just can't compare to a well timed nod of the head to communicate disdain.

I certainly don't have the gift of understatement. I do, however, empathize with those well mannered, educated women who honored tradition and upheld their standards regardless of their financial circumstances. Today, we call that "class." I am surrounded by such women today and treasure each of them for their unstinting commitment to doing the right thing.

Yesterday I visited the home of a nice woman who's de-stashing her considerable collection of yarn. Dozens of huge bins fill a room in her home and everything is in SWEATER QUANTITIES, from cashmeres and linen to fine silks and Noro. She has hand-dyed, imports from small farms in England, labels in Italian and German, all in an amazing array of colors. I purchased enough black wool to make a knee-length hooded cardigan (to replace one I've worn out), a cotton cardigan for spring, and a shawl. And I paid about $1 to $3 a skein for most! (She's in the Atlanta Craig's List. Just search "yarn" and up she pops. She's also popular in the Metro Atlanta knitters group at Ravelry.)

So are Jane Austen and knitting in mind today? Jane speaks to my inner Donna Reed. (I was named for her.) While I'm fully capable of corporateering, I'm far happier at home cooking, gardening, repairing, decorating, scrapbooking, knitting, and entertaining. Jane's world was filled with gentle women who engaged in traditional activities of the day and demonstrated a deep contentment with simple walks, gardening, and social engagements.

I long for that kind of contentment. Who doesn't?

Okay, Jane's world is fantasy. But I'll take that fantasy, any day!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I saw a fox . . .

This morning, en route to my AM life at Dunwoody Nature Center, I rounded the corner just in time to see a beautiful fox trotting across the street. She was burnt sienna in color, with a golden tail. She stopped in the middle of the street and looked back at the yard behind her. Then I saw her pup. It stumbled forward onto its nose, recovered, and danced behind its mother. As soon as it got closer, she continued across the street, checking me constantly to make sure I wasn't moving.

I could almost hear her, "No dawdling, dear. And you should never cross a street like this without me. Look both ways!"

Now, this isn't a rural community. No, indeed. Dunwoody is carefully balanced between suburban and urban, though we do have a lot of beautiful ravines, creeks, streams, and a scant few carefully preserved natural areas. But, thanks to the nearby Chattahoochee River and the sheer determination of the wildlife, we see coyotes, foxes, opposum, deer, rabbits, hawks, and even the occasional black bear. They stroll through Dunwoody, sniffing their noses at the encroachers on their dominion.

We once had foxes at the Nature Center. While they were here, our chipmunk population declined and the hawks moved on. Now we're teeming with hawks, and the foxes are denning elsewhere. That's the natural way of wildlife in an urban setting. There isn't enough prey to go around, so only one predator population can exist in the same habitat.

The fox and her pup were beautiful. They brightened my morning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brrrrr . . .

Easter was yesterday. Handel's Hallelujah chorus, pews filled to bursting from balcony to front row, and a gorgeous blue sky. Lovely ladies in snappy Spring ensembles (black and white geometric and floral prints predominated), kids in cool new duds, and flowers bedecking the cross. Oh, yes, and it was FREEZING.

That's the South for you. Just when you think you have it pegged, March comes marching in with some crazy weather. I'm wearing light khakis and a twin set and longing for my heavy black Einstein. But nooooo. Wearing winter wool after Easter is not "proper." Tomorrow morning comes with a freeze warning, but I will shiver in my spring things. I can't help it. I am bound by my Southern upbringing. Easter and Memorial Day bind our definition of proper attire as surely as cheap acrylic yarn pills.

Thank goodness I invested in that lovely knee-length khaki trench coat. I probably won't take it off all morning.

Dunwoody is innately Southern, from the monogrammed, smocked dresses on preschool girls to the personalized note cards attached to every gift. We welcome all newcomers from points north and east and throughout the world, then work quickly to help them get into the Southern mindset.

  • Slow down. Don't talk so fast. Savor each word and put a little song into it.
  • The most cutting thing you can say about someone is "bless his/her heart." As in, "She really has a special way with fashion, bless her heart." Or, "He's trying really hard with that lawn mower, bless his heart."
  • If someone says they're rooting for Georgia, they don't mean the state. Or Georgia Tech. It's GEORGIA - the one in Athens.
  • Biscuits are a meal unto themselves.
  • If you're in a long line of traffic anywhere in Dunwoody, it's an unwritten rule to let people in who are waiting on side streets and driveways. Slow down, flash your headlights and motion them in with your hand. The proper thank you for such courtesy is a wave of the right hand so the driver behind you can see your gratitude.
  • Impromptu cul-de-sac weekend evening parties are a summer tradition, but it's improper to enjoy that camouflaged beer or wine too much while the kids are playing nearby. (One of the preschoolers I teach assured me last year during a lesson on spelling "wide" - misunderstanding me to say "wine" - that his mom likes wine a lot, but his dad likes beer better.)
On to the knitting front.

I'm designing a new bag, finished both mukluks and felted them, and will shortly embellish them and attach the soles. It's a busy week, filled with Scouts, softball, work and a freelance writing assignment, but that's life as usual.

Stay warm. I'm going to go add wood to the fireplace now. Imagine. A roaring fire in MARCH!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good news, bad news

The good news: yesterday, the Georgia House passed the city of Dunwoody bill! Today, the Senate passed it, too! Now it's in Governor Perdue's hands, who is purportedly in favor of the bill. If all goes well, we'll actually get to vote on our own destiny some time later this year. Fran Millar and Dan Weber did an awesome job of representing us. (I loved the photo of Fran hollering down to the representatives idling in the halls with U. S. Senator Saxby Chambless. "Time to vote, people!") It wasn't easy. And it isn't a done deal. But it sure feels good.

Weird moment during the 90-minute discussion on the House floor:

"Republican Rep. Jill Chambers, who lives in Dunwoody, opposes the referendum. She said from the House podium that critics have accused her of having an affair with Jones, who also opposes the referendum. Chambers denied their accusations.

"Vernon Jones, whom I have not slept with, will tell you that I oppose many of the things he wants to do down here," Chambers said." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Ooookay, then.

The bad news: the hinky Honda Odyssey transmission continues its shenanigans. It's trying really hard to go bad - the van is just zooming along, then suddenly drops out of gear into neutral. That's really fun when you're on a highway, or in rush hour traffic. (No one can understand why I'm suddenly stopping IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD so the engine can go back to first gear. It's the only way to get going again. Let's just say that I'm not real popular.)

I've taken the blasted thing for multiple visits to Curry Honda, and they've driven it all over kingdom come. Because it DOESN'T DO IT WITH THEM. Yes, indeedy. It's the same old schtick - vehicle is bad at home, then on its best behavior at the garage. Sigh.

Now I can't drive a mile without resorting to the stop, let the engine go back to first, start again business at least once. T is taking it to Curry tomorrow for another round of "we can't duplicate that, ma'am/sir." I know Honda transmissions are bad, so I've already set up a case through Honda USA. Because I'm not paying 100% for a new transmission on a van with just 77,000 miles on it and that was SOLD on the basis that it would go on and on and on.

Or not.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How did that happen?

Wow. It's Wednesday. It was just Sunday a day ago. Or not. I'm having quite a few of those "wow" moments these days.

  • Wow, I haven't talked to Diane, Karen, Jane, Karen (that's a different Karen), Diane (different Diane), Sandy, Karen (yep, another Karen), Jan, Cathy, Jill in AGES.
  • Wow, I didn't write a note to bereaved family/neighbor in crisis/relative in distress and now the moment's passed.
  • Wow, that Clapotis started and frogged awfully fast and I haven't started it over again yet.
  • Wow, it's nearly spring and I haven't planned a family trip for the summer (it's all about the dog's kennel availability).
  • Wow, the issue of Dunwoody cityhood is looming large and I haven't sent nearly enough emails to support it.
  • Wow, those ten pounds sure crept back without my noticing them. Until I tried on those capris from last summer.
  • Wow, that leak in the basement isn't getting better and I bet the wood is heading into rot-land.
  • Wow, I'm almost out of a pretty important med and I still haven't called the doctor to admit I lost the prescription for it.
  • Wow, Easter is this Sunday and I still don't have something for A to wear.
  • Wow, that freelance deadline is tomorrow and it's time to put the creative juices into hyperdrive.
Lately, it's like every second of the day is filled with "wow" gulps. I like to keep things well organized and try to anticipate the unexpected by giving myself plenty of preparation and lead time. But running multiple jobs and two kids and a household means there's a lot more "to do" and a lot less time to do it. Yes, I thrive on a full agenda.

But, wow, this is getting ridiculous!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, AG

Today is AG's 11th birthday. She's chosen the Happy Sumo restaurant here in Dunwoody for her celebration dinner. The guys are sighing deeply (not a meat-and-potatoes kind of place), but going along with it because it's her special day. The big party was Friday night, during the crazy tornado time, and she already received her "big" gift from us. But there are cards to open from family and friends as well as big brother A's gift . . . and cake!

Today is also Palm Sunday. I'm always struck by the celebratory entrance Jesus made. Enthusiastic crowds waving palms, certain that he'd use his God-hood to strike down the oppressive regime and lead them to paradise on earth. But Jesus certainly had other plans. The following days proved that his ways were not their ways . . . that power comes in many forms. Sad thing is, we still don't understand him. We want God to strike down our oppressors - poverty, illness, evil, random tragedy. But His ways are not our ways.

So we enter Holy Week with hindsight. We know how everything ends. We also know the amazing triumph after the end. I keep that in mind as I think about the tragedies, small and large, in our own community . . that triumph can come even after an ending.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

OMG - It's a tornado, Dorothy!

AG's birthday party was a sleepover. Last night, eight tweens gathered for dinner out at El Azteca, a Lindsay Lohan movie in the family room, more sugar than their bodies knew how to process, and sleeping bags in the basement. They finally fell asleep after midnight.

Meanwhile . . .

A tornado hit downtown Atlanta. Really bad damage. Lightning, thunder, and hail kept things roiling here in Dunwoody, just a scant 25 minutes away. Every time the girls would settle down, the thunder would boom. I stayed up all night because one storm trailed after another from Alabama. This morning, yet another one hit just after 5:00 am.

Now things are momentarily calm. AG's softball game has been cancelled at Murphy Candler and the Little League opening day has been postponed until tomorrow afternoon. More storms are expected this afternoon.

The big 11 has been a success. Dance Dance Revolution for the Wii was the big gift from us - the girls broke it in last night. They also decorated the basement with streamers and glow-in-the-dark bracelets, drank a ton of Propel and bottled water, munched about six bags of popcorn, screamed happily at every lightning flash, chatted about all things tween, and generally enjoyed being girls.

Now they're enjoying strawberries and cinnamon toast strips while watching VH1.


I'm still in my jammies and am thinking longingly about catching a nap later this morning. Or not. We'll see how bad the storms are. But with games cancelled and nothing else on the calendar, we can all sit back and enjoy being at home.

Yes, knitting will be involved. I could make some serious progress on Mukluk #2.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Feeling Mellow

Last evening, A's Mock Trial team gathered at the Dunwoody Mellow Mushroom to celebrate the end of a really terrific season. Several of their parents joined the group as well as the two attorney coaches, Kurt and Heather, and the teacher adviser, Mr. Vincent. Nearly everyone plans to participate again next year.

I am very impressed by this group of intelligent, competitive, kind, fun-loving, committed teens. They support each other, enjoy each other, and reach out to each other. I loved watching them in action and can't wait to see what they accomplish next year. The parents agreed to work out a meal rotation for the weekly evening practices and the regional competition next fall and winter.

Way, way back in the day, I was a high school English teacher. I didn't last more than two years because the pay back then - $13,000 a year - just wasn't enough to pay bills and have a little left over for fun. So I shifted careers, took a job as a copywriter in an advertising agency, doubled my income in one year.

I'm still teaching - Preschool Phonics keeps me in the 4- and 5-year old world quite happily. But now that A is in high school, that siren song is calling once again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mukluks, baby

Bunad Mukluk #1 is on the needles! I'm past the heel and working the instep. I'm following the pattern by Robin Melanson in Mags Kandis' latest book, Folk Style.

They're going amazingly fast. Patons Classic Merino worsted weight wool on #8 needles may be one reason. After knitting Jaywalker (on #1's, no less), progress is really gratifying. I can't wait to work on the embroidered embellishments. Since I'm knitting them for my daughter and it's late in the season, I've gone up a size for her to an Adult with a 9" foot in hopes she can wear them next winter. If her foot keeps growing at the pace the rest of her is these days, I may "inherit" them and have to make another set. That's fine!

Pix to come . . .

Monday, March 10, 2008

Here we go again

The Georgia Legislature is teasing Dunwoody once again with the prospect of letting us vote whether or not to form a city. Not too long ago, the motion died in committee. Now the motion is back, this time in a larger arena (way to go, Dan Weber and Fran Millar!).

I've listened to varying opinions among friends and neighbors, responding with a noncommittal "mmm-hmmm." I've followed the news coverage and letters to the editor of the AJC and the Dunwoody Crier. (This particular letter- - just makes me sigh.)

I respect the diverse viewpoints. No one knows if cityhood would prevail with a majority vote, but it would sure be nice to have the opportunity to choose.

My vote? Yes! Let's call ourselves a city and have a greater voice in the quality of life and future of our community.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Waiting in line

Maybe the entire world is impatient. Here in Dunwoody, waiting your turn is a bad thing. Lines form for preschool and camp registration, popular restaurants pack 'em into their miniscule entries while tables free up, commuters inch aggressively into merged lanes during rush hour, and the grocery store doesn't open up new lanes fast enough to suit us. Toe tapping, eye-rolling, gusty sighs . . . we're too Southern to fuss verbally, but we sure know how to communicate our displeasure with well-versed body language cues.

"It's outrageous. My time is valuable and all these other people are just in my way. I need to get my child to school/go to work/start my tennis match/make my next appointment. I cannot believe I'M having to wait. Let's move, people!"

I'm one of those impatient people.

I HATE waiting.

Which is why I almost always have a bag of knitting with me. I'm much more patient when I have something to do. Doctor running an hour late? Okay - planned for it. Carpool delayed because some mom decided to park in the lane while she ran in for "just a second"? Fine. A few more rows and we'll get going. Table not ready despite reservation made weeks ago? Al-righty. I can knit standing up (and have done so many times). I'm out of luck in stores, though. That's when I resort to the toe tapping and sighing.

Sure, knitting in such places makes me look obsessed. Or possessed. But at least I stay fairly calm. And remind myself that the person or institution causing me to wait is not necessarily doing it to make me crazy.

They, too, have to wait. For something.

Friday, March 7, 2008

You know you're in Dunwoody . . .

I'm sure every overachiever community like Dunwoody has its share of quirks. But since this is my habitat, Dunwoody's special flavor is an everyday experience.

Dunwoody is officially an unincorporated part of DeKalb County, an urban metro Atlanta landscape that is really too big to attend to its distinctive communities. I equate our set-up to the area around Boston. Instead of one government body trying to run the entire show, there are a multitude of small towns and villages, each taking care of their own business.

That's what we want for Dunwoody. Only problem is, we're the majority tax base for the rest of the county. They love our money. Hate dealing with us.

Right now, we're trying to become a town. If only the Legislature agrees we should make that choice for ourselves. (They're bogged down in "they don't really know what's good for them - we know ever so much better" discussions at the moment.)

What, in addition to a desire to self-govern, makes Dunwoody special?

  • You can't eat ice cream, have a cup of coffee, buy groceries, or pick up a prescription without running into people you know.
  • Our town hall is a farmhouse.
  • Even though rush hour traffic snails its way down two-laned Mt. Vernon Road and Roberts Drive, we are in no hurry to widen the roads. We LIKE slowing people down. Many neighborhoods even have "traffic calming" devices such as speed bumps and road islands to make sure everyone is driving a decorous Southern 25.
  • If you're stuck on a side street trying to enter Mt. Vernon Road, you can rest assured that someone will slow down and let you into traffic.
  • One of the busiest places at dinner time is the local Fresh Market, where harried commuters grab gourmet bites and a cup of funky coffee before heading home.
  • The Dunwoody Publix has the best outdoor grill around on weekends, stationed right beside the entrance - you can buy tasty hot dogs, hamburgers, and slabs of ribs as you exit the grocery store. The prices are amazing and the food is delicious.
  • If you have small children, you can fill their entire week without leaving a five-mile area: preschool, soccer, t-ball, swimming, music lessons, karate, art, playgrounds, doughnut holes, ice cream, Sunday School, and more are right here. As they get older, you can add Cotillion, movies, Youth Group, Scouts, fencing lessons, ALTA tennis, swim team, and more to your daily rounds.
  • Social calendars have a distinctive Southern twang: Dunwoody Woman's Club, Rotary, Dunwoody Homeowner's Association, Friends of the Dunwoody Library, Dunwoody Preservation Trust, Dunwoody High School Boosters, Dunwoody Country Club, Dunwoody Nature Center, and more are opportunities for civic participation. Depending on your neighborhood, you can add Book Club, Garden Club, Bunko, and Progressive Dinner to your agenda.
  • We have our own newspaper. The Dunwoody Crier covers our town with a charming mix of small town news bites (who made the dean's list? who just earned an Eagle?), political discussion, columns by elected representatives, investment advice, historical tidbits, and letters to the editor that are downright entertaining.
  • We're close enough to Buckhead, midtown, and downtown Atlanta to ease the commute but perched just outside the perimeter to keep a sense of separate identity.
There are also some rather quirky aspects of Dunwoody that make me wonder why the county wouldn't WANT us to take care of ourselves.

Hey, nobody's perfect!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Clapotis croaked and I had to rip it, rip it, rip it

Clapotis is forcing me to learn some new techniques. It's a tricky design, to say the least. I'm adept with kfb (knit front and back), but pfb (purl front and back) is awkward. Then there's the dropped stitch/knit into the bar technique that had me flummoxed. I lost count, cursed, and ripped back to the beginning. I really like the SWTC bamboo and its colorway. Clapotis is worth the effort. I'm just too distracted at the moment.

So in a fit of frustration I decided to put together a few WIPs. I have an assort of totes and cylindrical wine gift boxes (the kind you can find at Michael's for a buck if you hit the sales right).

WIPs on deck:

  • Ice Queen - using a Rowan Kid Silk Mohair in deep, rich purple. I won't add beads because they aren't "me." The subtle glints in the yarn will add just the right dressy note. Yarn + pattern + needles placed in wine box.
  • Mukluks - using Patons Classic Merino Wool in turquoise (main color) with purple, pink, chartreuse and brown for embellishments. Yarn + size 8 double point needles + book fit perfectly in a huge Anne Klein straw bag lined with a fun beachy print - brand new, found at Goodwill for $2!
  • Clapotis - not giving up on this one. SWTC Bamboo in Parrot + needles + pattern placed in wine box.
  • Design-as-I-go felted tote using remnants of Patons Classic Merino Wool. Balls + size 10 needles + notepaper and pen to write instructions as I work now staged in basket.
That feels better. I'm all organized and can grab a project as I head out the door. The projects range in complexity from mindless knitting to better-think-about-what-you're-doing, so I can fit them to the destination.

Tonight is softball practice at Murphy Candler, so the Mukluks are on deck.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Knitting on a prayer

This has been one fretful winter. I've been so busy I feel breathless, but the busy-ness has helped to numb the worries cascading through our daily lives.

I like to pretend I'm in charge of stuff. That if I just plan things right and keep things organized I can prevent the unexpected.

I have a really good imagination. And a high degree of denial.

Tim the Tutor will arrive shortly to help A with his geometry proofs and I'll indulge in an hour of Clapotis. I can't do chores while they're working, so it's as good an excuse as any to knit. While I'm knitting, I'll be praying for a young mom in our midst who's suffered the 1918 pandemic Type H influenza, sepsis, dialysis, damage to organs, and potential loss of limbs. Disbelief is putting it mildly.

God, this is bad. Really bad. This woman, this mother, this wife, this daughter, this sister, this friend needs you. Surround her and her family with your love and grace. Help them. Then help me understand WHY. Amen.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Must be a guy thing

I'm feeling the love. The 2008 Pine Straw Fundraiser by Troop 764 is today. It's exhausting, dusty, time-consumer work. The Scouts all pitch in, from the greenest newbie 6th grader to seasoned Eagle Scouts who share tips and tricks with impressionable up-and-comers.

They start Friday night, unloading two semi-tractor loads of pine straw into smaller delivery trucks. This shift is a "privilege" for 1st Class Scouts and higher ranks, who work late into the evening, then enjoy pizza and junk food before (supposedly) sleeping at the church overnight.

I don't think there's a lot of sleeping.

Today, the Scouts and volunteer parents delivered thousands of bales of pine straw all over Dunwoody.

For the third year in a row, our pine straw delivery somehow went astray. I'm just so puzzled how a simple thing like piling pine straw in one tidy row isn't so simple after all. A's fellow Scouts outdid themselves this year.

Case in point:

Basketstraw anyone?

Pining for home?

I know who you are. Each year, I document the evidence of your shenanigans. I confess I'm impressed by your inventiveness. The pine straw stuffed into my mailbox and the bale on the roof were particularly special.

There will be payback.

Heh, heh, heh. (That's an evil laugh, but it somehow doesn't come off quite as scary as I planned.)