Sunday, June 29, 2008

Knitting with butterflies

We just wrapped up the 15th (or is it 16th? 17th? I've lost count) annual Butterfly Festival at Dunwoody Nature Center and I'm tired. I just worked a week's worth in two days and am feeling every minute of it.

More than 1,400 visitors strolled through the butterfly tent, made crafts, learned about insects, munched hotdogs and drank lemonade, had their faces painted, shopped in the Butterfly Boutique, and took tons of photos.

Thanks to the most magnificent queen of volunteers I've ever worked with, every single volunteer station was staffed, from setting up concessions and grilling hot dogs to helping with our extremely limited parking options. It was hot, busy, exhausting work, and those wonderful people pulled everything off with grace and diligence.

I'm always awed by the capacity of people to step out of their everyday lives and make memories for strangers. While the press focuses on the charming delight of our youngest visitors, I have to say that the "behind the scenes" work of scores of volunteers is the real magic of our Butterfly Festival.

Today we take a breather before tackling all the cleaning up and putting away that follows any special event. I'm reconnecting with my family (remember me?), picking up the Baby Surprise Jacket, and putting the house back in order.

It feels good to be home.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


When we were first married, T and I volunteered with many political campaigns in his hometown, Greensboro, North Carolina. We had several friends running for City Council and Mayor and, at any given time, were working on behalf of bond referendums, reelections, new candidates, and more. It was fun, exhausting, and illuminating work.

One of my least favorite jobs was placing political yard signs in voters' yards and businesses. We'd have a scribbled list of addresses and a trunk full of signs, stakes, and a mallet. Off we'd go, to plant upwards of 50 signs at a time.

All would go well, until, inevitably, we'd get to one particular yard. The address was different each campaign, but it ALWAYS HAPPENED. The residents did not agree on the candidate. We'd plant a sign, and the spouse opposing the election would run out, yell at us, and demand that we pull it up. Very unpleasant. We'd apologize "for the confusion" as gracefully as possible, but drove away with our ears ringing.

The campaign's response to complaints about yard signs was, inevitably, to blame it on "overzealous volunteer workers."

Yesterday, our DUNWOODY YES! yard sign appeared in the front yard. I was thinking about the volunteer who showed up just two days after I emailed a request. Volunteering after work, putting in the kind of sweat equity that can't be compensated, showing a commitment to self-determination that's fundamentally American: you are wonderful!

Thank you, "overzealous volunteer." Your zeal for volunteering on behalf of cityhood is much appreciated. You can count on my vote for Dunwoody!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Giving Knitter

One of the hardest things for me is to let go of something conceived, knitted, and presented to the world. The Knitternall Felted Tote is leaving home. It's going to the Silent Auction benefiting the Dunwoody Nature Center, and I am donating it with considerable angst. I want to support our mission (environmental education) and I love sharing my knitting, but . . . this is SPECIAL. It's the first design I created, patterned, and shared on my blog. Gosh.

One thing makes me feel a little better. A Master Gardener, on site to work on some of our special gardens, saw it and asked if I could change the flower to a Trillium. Of course! I love special orders, and it's always fun to create something special.

Goodby, purple Felted Tote. May you find a special place in someone's heart and win some much-needed funds for our little park and Nature Center.

Guess I'd better started working on a Trillium-inspired rendition.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Enough already.

When news writers raise alarms about biological warfare, viruses let loose accidentally by the CDC, bird flu, patches of black ice on the road, deadly strains of influenza, et al, my mom-sense goes into hyper-drive. Crohn's Disease and Remicade are a double handicap in the resistance game. While we're fighting to keep A's colon intact, Remicade is suppressing his immune system so it won't attack the colon . . . or any other disease, infection, etc. that happens to come along.

I want to stay home with my kids. Of course that's not realistic. I well understand the importance of preparing them for living with and in the world. I also understand that alarmist writing increases readership and ratings. But it doesn't stop me from enjoying snow days and stormy weather when we have no choice but to stay home.

There's an inordinate glee underlining doom-and-gloom news "reporting." Now that we're afraid of everything, narcissism rules the day. Don't tell us what to do. But SOMEONE should take care of all the bad stuff so we don't have to deal with it.

Enough already. There are enough real-life challenges. The stomach flu is waiting for the kids to get back to school so it can roar through families all over again. Life-changing illnesses are going to turn future plans upside down. The roof will leak and car break down when we can least afford the repairs.

And people will surprise you with kindness. 300 friends and neighbors will line the streets to welcome home a young mom recovering from months of physical rehabilitation. They'll let you in a long line of rush hour traffic and NOT bang the horn because your attention drifted for a moment when the light turned green. They'll see some broken glass in a picnic area and pick it up. They'll bring you an heirloom tomato plant just because they have extra and share the first crop of green beans from the backyard garden. They'll show up for volunteer workdays at church and the Nature Center and school and will value the results of their labors rather than the accolades.

Those kinds of stories don't sell newspapers or ad space for newscasts.

But they make living in Dunwoody all the nicer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Knitting wisdom.

My son had oral surgery Monday to remove four wisdom teeth. It seems to be a rite of passage for the teen years. On the surface, it's "oh, yeah - I had that done. Not fun." On the other hand, when a kid has Crohn's disease, no surgery is "oh, yeah." We scheduled the surgery two weeks after Remicade so his immune system had a little bounce back from complete supression. And we didn't wait until too close to the next infusion so he wasn't also suffering the usual flare-up stuff.

Nonetheless, he's running a temp and we're watching him carefully for signs of infection. He's wide open for anything, so it's always a worry.

For surgery that isn't supposed to be "a big deal," it sure does hurt. The swelling, the pain, the drooling, the sheer misery is appreciable. I remember it well. I'm sure A will remember it, too.

Why are they called "wisdom" teeth? Because they generally emerge after all the other teeth, usually in adolescence when - supposedly - there's more wisdom. They have to come out when they crowd the other teeth, ruining all that expensive orthodontia.

"Wisdom?" As if.

I realize that the Latin origins of "wisdom teeth" came at a time when people married and had children long before kids today finish high school. They grew up earlier because life expectancy wasn't as long.

So we're stuck with a term that's hardly apropos for the age of kids when they undergo this surgery. As for the rare adult who has them removed later in life, maybe so.

Through hours in the waiting room and bedside at home, I managed to knit from the yoke to completion of the Cropped Cardigan Sweater.

Hence, knitting wisdom.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cropping and cropped knitting.

When I was 14, we lived in rural North Carolina, near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. My dad had just retired from the service and he and my mom chose Goldsboro for a permanent home. (Not so permanent - we ended up moving multiple times after that, but moving gets in your blood when you do it every two years or so.)

Money was very tight, so I took a job stringing, cropping, and barning tobacco on a Wayne County farm. The pay was amazing, and amazingly helpful for the family. Boiling sun, sandy soil, sticky tobacco worms, and loooonnnng hours made each week an endurance test. There were a few compensations. The farmer's wife made delicious, hearty lunches for the summer workers, most of whom were teenagers and college kids looking for big bucks over the summer. And we were able to pick cantelopes and watermelons to take home once they ripened.

Tobacco on the stalk is a dense, variegated green. I never smoked cigarettes, despite constant exposure during my youth. Having to take cured tobacco out of the smokehouses put the kibosh on any interest I may have ever had in the habit. That smell gets EVERYWHERE.

When I was choosing the yarn for the Lion Brand Cropped Raglan Cardigan, the olive green just struck a chord. I won't say cropping tobacco was my happiest memory of childhood. But it's there.

I've had a lifetime of making do and doing what's necessary to get by. Somehow, I learned to appreciate the effort

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day knitting

Happy Father's Day, T.

You've grown into quite a father to our kids. We spent our pre-kids years with travel and fine food, then decided fairly late that it was time to start a family. God blessed us with two amazing kids, each singular in personality and outlook, each beloved.

While you were deeply distrustful of diaper and potty-training experiences, you gave both a really good try. You discovered an interest in scribbles and stuffed animals as well as a gift for resurrecting lost files in Pokemon Blue. As the kids' passions and needs have evolved, you've stayed right there with them, sitting through hours of animated movies, waiting patiently in video stores and the zoo, closing your eyes and guessing ad infinitum what your daughter has to show you, coaxing your anxious son into new experiences, and looking the other way for the occasional bed time well past midnight.

Well done. And keep up the good work.

Love, D.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sideways Cardigan is finished.

Vogue Knitting's Sideways Cardigan is finished. Great lacework, horrible directions. My neckline ended up all wrong because the yoke decreases didn't correlate to the schematic, and I was second-guessing the instructions. Then I got to that painful part where I was just ready to be FINISHED already. So rather than rip out the three yoke sections, I made a few crocheted adjustments. Now it fits me very nicely. The neckline is more like a boatneck, but that's actually flattering. I'm happy with the color and the drape. I'll block it today and give it a trial wear during the weekend.

Now I'm casting on a short sleeve cropped raglan sweater in a vivid green wool blend. It's a Lion Brand Yarn pattern, and I've liked the variations I found on Ravelry. Swatching shortly!

At this rate, I'll have some nice things to wear when the Fall weather starts running hot and cold well past Halloween.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Knitting with Bleach.

Last evening, I took A and his friend to one of the limited showings of Bleach, an anime movie from the Shonen Jump line-up that I most definitely did NOT want to see. A is all about manga and anime and graphic novels and animated shows with obviously dubbed American voices and stuff like that. I'm not turning my nose up, no way. At his age, I was in a world my parents couldn't follow. It's only natural.

Anyway, we headed for the Regal Hollywood 24 on an I-85 access road in Chamblee, cutting through rush hour traffic to get there in time for the guys to play in the arcade before the show. I was delighted to see benches in the lobby and main hall outside the theater.

Guess what I did instead of watching a movie called Bleach that wasn't about laundry.

I worked on the Sideways Cardigan. I finished the main body and seamed the sides and shoulders. I finished the neck edge and now I'm ready to cast on the button band. Yippee!

By the way . . . I had some preconceptions about the Bleach crowd: I assumed there would be lots and lots of teen-aged and twenty-something guys from the geek side of the aisle. Not. I watched couples, Goths, cute teenage girls, families, and more stroll into the theater. It was fascinating to see how wide a swatch anime is reaching in this country.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tending to my knitting.

When I'm writing, carpooling, volunteering, doing chores, running errands, and keeping appointments, I'm tending to my knitting.

No, I'm not knitting while I do all that. I confine knitting to waiting rooms, theaters, home, and circle meetings.

"Tending to one's knitting" does not mean following a complicated pattern accurately or finishing a WIP in a seemly amount of time.

No, indeed.

It also means to pay attention to one's responsibilities.

A writer for the Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel, covering a Bush administration official's come-uppance, notes:

"It was long since clear to many in Washington that, had George Tenet stayed home long enough to tend to his knitting – his management responsibilities – instead of eternally hobnobbing abroad with kings and other potentates, 9/11 might well have been avoided, even with an indolent president."

No comment on the content. I'm focused on the cliche.

So, tending to my knitting also means meeting a deadline, taking care of chores, starting and finishing a project on time, and sundy other obligations.

If I say I'm tending to my knitting, don't assume I have needles in hand. I may be working on something else entirely.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


  • If "recess" means to take a break, does that mean a "recession" is a break from economic strength?
  • If someone who knits is a knitter and a person who manages things is a manager, why isn't someone who cooks called a cooker?
  • If stranded means to be cut off or left behind, why do we call yarn carried together with other yarns "stranding"?
  • Why does the drive-through menu at a local fast-food restaurant include Braille?
  • If internet mail is "e-mail" and telephone messages are "voice mail," should class notes be called "know-mail"?
  • Why does Alaska have interstate highways?
  • If a salad is by definition a mix of ingredients, is a package labeled "salad mix" redundant?
  • What is the synonym for "thesaurus"?
  • If a man gets dog-tired, why can't a dog get man-tired?
  • How many standardized tests does it take to prove tests don't improve achievement?
  • Why is water free out of the tap, but costs as soon as it's bottled?
  • Why do people ask, "Can I ask you a question?"

Just asking.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Making do in "it's-not-a-recession"

Good gracious, but grocery shopping has gotten more expensive. Just a couple of years ago, I could feed our family of four on an average $85 a week budget, and that included quite a few splurges. Now my grocery bill is doubled, just purchasing the basics. Unbelievable.

I'm baking more, cooking simpler meals, and deleting splurges left and right. Every time I scrub vegetables I picked up at the farmer's market or get out my Grandma Lois' bread bowl to mix up some biscuits, I feel connected to my childhood. Grilled molasses-coated chicken thighs and rice, homemade buttermilk biscuits and crispy turkey bacon, tomato-basil soup and grilled provolone sandwiches, homemade chess bars and fruit cocktail cake, cold iced tea and tart lemonade: I can just feel the SOUTHERN flowing through my veins. Yes, it's all yummy. No, it isn't trendy or vetted by Cooking Light. But it's amazingly cost-efficient, plus the recipes suit my mood and fill the kids' tummies quite satisfactorily. (And since the number of kids in my house multiples dramatically during the summer with the constant flow of friends, feeding the masses on a budget is even more important!)

One of my "secret" pleasures is treasure hunting at consignment and thrift stores. During our Savannah trip, I discovered that many of the other moms are in on the game. When I complimented MK on her classic shift (hello, Lilly P!), she said, "Oh, I found this at my favorite boutique, GW." At the blank looks of the other moms, she finally 'fessed up. Goodwill! Her favorite is in Alpharetta. "But I almost didn't tell you, because I don't want you hitting the racks before I get to the good stuff!"

You go, girl.

In the past month of rack-roving at GW, I've landed a mint condition Abercrombie & Fitch top for AG, a bag filled with 12 skeins of sock yarn that became the Sox Shawl, several Chico's and Coldwater Creek items for myself, REI and LLBean shorts for A, and a huge television for the kids' basement game area. Who cares it isn't digital? With the feed from Comcast, that $40 TV is more than satisfactory for the Wii games.

On the making do front, I just picked up six skeins of wool in a lovely chartreuse for a fall sweater . . . for just $2.50 a skein! I get the pleasure of knitting and the enjoyment of a warm, stylish sweater, all for $18. I'm sure I scored the yarn because the color is so unusual, but it's perfect for me, and it'll look beautiful with a hand-dyed skirt I love to wear in the fall.

Making do is FUN.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Road trip to Savannah to see Miss Daisy

My daughter's Girl Scout troop is disbanding, but not without a last "hurrah." We trooped en masse to Savannah to visit the home of grande dame of Girl Scouting, Juliette Gordon Low. I wish AG's Girl Scout life were continuing, but she does not wish to merge with the other troop from her school that is staying intact.

We had a very good time, AG and I. She is a wonderful traveler, happy to try new things, mindful of her manners, and genuinely grateful for the experiences she enjoyed. Favorites: trying embroidery and making paper dolls in the Rainy Day experience at the Juliette Gordon Low museum, exploring Savannah after dark during a Haunted House tour, passing Paula Deen's Lady and Sons Restaurant during the trolley tour, and seining at Tybee Island with the Maritime Science Center staff. Our fearless troop leaders planned a fun-filled and well organized trip. As AG said, "there was nothing BAD about this entire trip!"

While the girls toured a candy shop, I slipped away for a LYS visit. Wild Fibre on Liberty Street had earned some good reviews when I Googled it, so I was full of anticipation. Oh, dear. Not a good experience. Three genteel knitters chatted away in one area of the shop while I visited. I found a very meager stock of yarn and patterns, and lovely samples without yarns available for purchase. As I explored, the discussion among the knitters zigged from "should we order lunch?" to a general agreement that tourists and visitors are just exasperating, especially those "military" women. I have no idea what the latter means, but I took thorough exception to their disdain.

Note to LYS inhabitants: the touristy-looking visitor spending some time in your shop can hear, may have been ready to purchase LOTS of yarn for a project she wants to start, and is very, very patriotic. Shame on you.

In case you aren't a Girl Scout, the "Miss Daisy" reference in the title isn't from "Driving Miss Daisy," a marvelous movie filmed in Atlanta's Druid Hills neighborhood. "Daisy" was Juliette Gordon Low's childhood nickname.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Knitting sideways

So, I'm knitting the Sideways Cardigan from Vogue Knitting's Spring/Summer 2008 issue. Ahem. The pattern is a WONDERFUL lesson in writing directions.

As an English teacher, I liked to give my high school students a "simple" assignment. Explain to someone, in writing with no pictures, how to tie a shoelace. "Aha!" they'd think. "Easy!"

Or not.

Writing a knitting pattern is exactly the same thing. You either include every single step of the process, or you lose your audience along the way.

I am NOT a novice knitter. But I find gaping holes in the Sideways Cardigan instructions. I can figure things out because I have a basic understanding of the end result as well as a bag of tricks for fixing anything that doesn't fit together as it should. But REALLY. The corrections page at Vogue Knitting has a marvelous diagram of the recommended shaping for the neck and shoulders.

(Sarcasm alert.)

Note to self. Stay humble when writing knitting instructions and include even the supposedly "understood" steps!!

The good news? I'm working on the front and am on schedule to finish everything tomorrow evening.

I think.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Remicade day.

Today is A's seven-week Remicade treatment, so I've taken a day off from the Nature Center. We'll get to the infusion lab at GI Care for Kids by 915 and he'll be hooked up to the IV for three hours. While he's passing the time with DVDs and Nintendo, I'll sit in the parents' micro-waiting room and work on a freelance assignment. Hurray for laptops!

This particular assignment is a "boomerang," a re-direction in style and format that has gone through second thoughts and now needs a fresh start. The client has a tight deadline, so I do, too. The three hours will pass quickly . . . my goal is to have most of it reworked by the time A's infusion is complete.

I've worked on hundreds of collections through the years, for high end designers and mid-range brands you'll find in the pages of Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens. The furniture collection I'm profiling today is one that I would love to have in my own home. Ssshhh . . . can't say anything about the design or name because it's a big intro for my client. Even the name is cool.

Once I've finished the writing assignment, I'll dive back into the Vogue Sideways Cardigan project. I finished the back and am now getting ready to start one of the front pieces. Fun thing about the pattern (note: sarcasm) . . . the directions for the back didn't include ANY binding off point. They just stopped, as if there were about four stitches left on the needles for the shoulder area. As if. I had 24 on the needles and just bound off. I figure once I get to seaming, anything that doesn't fit can be adjusted at that stage. I want to finish it by this weekend because AG and I are heading to Savannah with her Girl Scout troop for a mother-daughter trip. It'll be a great piece to wear in the evenings.

On to Remicade. And writing. And knitting. Oh, yeah, and baking - I need to make a batch of goodies for the fab teachers and junior counsellors working summer camp this week at Dunwoody Nature Center.

Day off? I think not!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The busy-ness of a Martha

I've often said that I am a Martha at heart, and that isn't "a good thing." I don't mean the self-promotion queen. I'm referring to the Martha who was too busy in the kitchen to stop and listen to Jesus when he visited her home. He chided her self-importance, and provided a gentle lesson that resounds through the generations since.

I like to be busy. That busy-ness is a comfort when I'm wrestling with self-consciousness or uncertainty. Rather than sit at the table and eat with the family, I prefer to stand at the counter, nibbling and reading. I like to organize events, bustling from set-up to clean-up and working happily on the sidelines as the church crowd or school parent group or charity gathering chatter and catch up with each other. Small rooms filled to the brim with things and people are particularly challenging, so knitting stills my hands and keeps me from bolting.

Jesus understood the distraction of work and the way it can take our attention away from what should be more important: the care and feeding of our souls.

That said, my previous blog entry, "What if we had to stay home . . . " catalyzed quite a bit of discussion among readers, family, and friends. While some lamented the losses (social, professional, educational, cultural, culinary, etc.), many admitted a longing for a little more isolation. I fall into the latter camp. I am happiest at home, taking care of my family, welcoming friends of all ages, and nesting.

I've been surprised by how many people would like events to take away the need to hold on to so many intricate, intertwined strands of daily living. Without the opportunity to go, go, go, they'd have an excuse to enjoy the peace of simplicity.

At home, I can be as Martha as I like. Or have the time finally to be Mary, who chose to sit at Jesus' feet and just listen. If I had to stay home, I'd be content. At long last.