Friday, July 31, 2009

Learning something new . . .

When I joined the Dunwoody Nature Center staff, I quickly discovered that the biggest part of my job is "and other duties as assigned." Thank goodness. No two days are the same, and there's always something new to figure out and take care of.

There's a paradox to all the "new" things I'm learning at work. Some are most definitely new - website management, blogging, print design, DreamWeaver, et al. They're quite a contrast to leisurely explorations at home, old-school skills of earlier generations: knitting, vegetable gardening, preserving, and sewing.

I like to try new things, and hope to never stop. But new-world skills seem to come with pressure and worries about deadlines and budgets and quality control and objectives and goals and meetings. Old-world skills are peaceful and meditative.

I embrace technology, but work hard to keep it at arm's length. I'm happiest cooking a meal from scratch, knitting in my workroom, checking on the progress of the cucumbers and cantelopes in the garden, and . . .

I guess I really like to learn something old.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Keeping up with appearances.

I imagine myself to be quite capable of keeping up with tweens. I can hike 10 miles, juggle at least a dozen to-do lists at a single time, lay a spread of snacks that are guaranteed to disappear, and affect invisibility while being very much present.

I hit the wall in Clinton, South Carolina.

The tween and I returned yesterday from our five day Extraordinary Adventure at Presbyterian College and I discovered that I was, after all, really, really, REALLY tired. That was thanks to a combination of walking four+ miles a day across the campus, nonstop participation in activities from 7 am to 11 at night, dancing and singing, and trying to sleep in a college dorm bed (without success).

We had a very good time.

  • Phil the Energizer Bunny has no joints. At least that's what we think after watching him lead energizers throughout the week. That's him and another minister, hamming it up during one of the morning openers.
  • Male tweens like to climb things. And throw things. And drum on things. And lose things.
  • Female tweens like to talk. A lot. Really. A lot.
  • Clinton, South Carolina (where Presbyterian College is based) is a very small town. Its downtown closes early on Saturday during the summer.
  • The dining hall staff got very creative with chicken. We had chicken every single day. Fried chicken. Baked chicken. Barbecued chicken. Chicken alfredo. Chicken in honey mustard sauce. Somehow, no one really minded because it was pretty good chicken every time.
  • Even though there were 600+ tweens on campus, the vending company still chose to fill the machines no more than twice a week. So 600+ tweens spent way too much time looking hopefully for that mythical, fully stocked soda machine . . . to no avail.
  • Thanks to careful planning by the retreat planning team, savvy understanding of the tween psyche by every adult in attendance, and a hefty dose of grace, the week was memorable, fun, and definitely worth repeating.
The tween has already planned to return next summer. I'd better start getting into shape immediately.

Friday, July 24, 2009


From: Mom
To: Teen and Tween
Re: School Mornings

Henceforth, each school morning will begin with several Energizers. We will walk like an Egyptian, do the Charlie Brown, peel bananas, go fishing, dance like penguins, and other silly stuff. You will roll your eyes, begin half-heartedly (and sometimes even rebelliously), and end up fully awake, laughing at the sight of your mother trying to keep up, and ready for the day.

Each morning of this Middle School Youth retreat begins with 20 minutes of jumping, turning, shaking, nodding, clapping, waving, twisting, yelling, and singing. The tweens LOVE this part. They roar when a favorite is repeated, try gamely to follow the new ones, and laugh at the rubbery, stretchy moves of the two adult leaders on the stage. (I've taken lots of photos, Phil. You're going to see them on the St. Luke's monitors next week.)

One interesting result of chaperoning this week: my college dreams are back. I lived in Carroll dorm at N C State, an un-airconditioned high rise right next to the railroad tracks. The first two or three weeks of school each year included nightly dreams about monsters getting closer and closer and louder and louder - until I'd awaken with heart pounding as one of the nightly freight trains roared past. After awhile, everyone stopped hearing them. The smells (mildew and sweat), the sights (worn wood cabinets and squashy beds), and the sounds (you can hear EVERYTHING) are very, very evocative. So last night I had the dream where I can't find my dorm key and I'm late to class and I really, really need to get the paper I spent all night finishing so I can turn it in on time.

For pete's sake.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greetings from an EXTRAORDINARY place.

We arrived at Presbyterian College at 3 and hit the sack at 11. Up again this morning at 7. The Middle School youth groups (more than 300 strong) have unlimited energy and enthusiasm for running, singing, dancing like penguins, eating ice cream, throwing beach balls, praying, volunteering to participate in services and a variety show, tossing lanyards in unexpected places (that was a room key dangling from a high tree last night), wearing matching shirts and silly hats, doing the Charlie Brown, and tolerating slow grown-ups who join them marching up and down the mile-long stretch from one end of campus (our dorm) to the other (Belk Auditorium).

We're having a terrific time. Our little group is the smallest . . . some of the youth groups have traveled in chartered buses from Pennsylvania and Kentucky and there are many church vans parked hither and yon. We're taking lots of pictures and tucking away memories to savor and discuss in days and months to come.

I'm glad I'm in this happy place. We had some very sad news last evening, when our town decided it was okay to overlook procedure and code to make an expeditious decision about our neighborhood zoning issue. We'll now have to appeal to Superior Court in light of the significant errors made by the City staff (thank goodness we hired a court reporter), an added expense none of us can afford. But with a prospective 20% loss in value to our homes, as assessed by area realtors, we can't afford not to.

The fundamental lesson of this year's Middle School Retreat is that ordinary people make extraordinary differences in this world. Moses didn't speak very well. Jonah doubted the value of some people he was supposed to help. Abraham was old and tired when his life really took a left turn. Heroes are people who try to do something without a guarantee of success. It's a big idea for very young people . . . and for adults.

The kids are nearly finished with their first small group session. It's time to take out the knitting, start a prayer shawl, and focus on someone else.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The Knitternall gals are retreating this week with St. Luke's and a gaggle of tweens from across the South to Presbyterian College for a Middle School Youth Group Retreat. The tween is thrilled at the prospect of sleeping in a college dorm, college food, and activities that go on late into the evening. I'm the "back home" parent for our little group, there for meals and after the program ends in the evening, with devotional and discussion about the day's events. The schedule of events is filled with fun and spiritual explorations. Small group gatherings! Choir! Communion! Variety show! Movie! Music! Silly games on the lawn! Lights out at 11:30!

We'll be back on Sunday . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday morning

I'm whisking eggs for french toast, the teen and tween are slowly stirring, and Sunday services are around the corner. It's Sunday morning in the Knitternall house.

A Southern Sunday Morning

There is a sweet softness to a Southern Sunday morn.

A softness which fills the senses, and brings a peace to hearts forlorn.

And then there is the smell of home fried chicken…

with radio sermons which drift aimlessly in the air.

Even the dogs and cats up and down the street

nap lazily this day without an iota of care.

It is a day when one can see young children all bright and clean....

Standing on the street corner, dressed in their Sunday best,

waiting patiently and uncomplainingly as children can be,

for the church bus to take them to the Lords house to be blessed.

Yes, it’s a summer's Sunday morning in the Bible belt, deep down south.

It is a place where the “blue laws” still exist on the books

And all the businesses around town are silent

As the hustle of the bygone week is for this one day forsook.

Oh yes, there is a special softness to a Southern Sunday morn,

It is a softness that fills the suffering soul and renews the spirits torn.

It is a taste of life as sweet as the peach pie mama cooked last night…

Oh sweet Southern Sunday Morn.

J. Allen Wilson © SEVEN 2006

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pool party.

I'm practicing one of my special parent powers this evening: invisibility. The tween has invited eight friends to a pool party at Wynterhall, and my job is to cater food, watch possessions, and PLEASE, MOM, DON'T EMBARRASS ME. I am not to chat with her friends beyond civil pleasantries, offer opinions about anything they're discussing, or make any facial expressions that may be interpreted as humor, disagreement, or surprise. I should just knit and read as unobstrusively as possible.

So we've loaded the cooler full of sodas, sweets, and snacks (big-time treats in the Knitternall house) as well as fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Pizza will come from Papa John's, and I've packed my knitting bag with the Moonlight Sonata Shawl I cast on this week. I also have Hello, I Must Be Going by Christie Hodgen and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld for poolside reading.

The tween understands the family rules. She knows that there is no pool party without a parent. While she worries about any potential faux pas I might make, she also wants me there, just in case she gets over her head in this blossoming boy-girl world. Her guests include kids she's known since Kindergarten as well as friends she met during her first year at Peachtree Charter Middle School. I know all of them, and am delighted that she has such excellent judgment when it comes to friends, both boy and girl. Her friends are generous, warm-hearted, supportive of each other, and open to each new person who enters their growing circle.

So, here we go. I'll be the parent sitting in the shade, strolling around chatting with friends, reading and knitting, and watching carefully without making it too obvious.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Take a Guide.

Terry and I honeymooned in London, back in the go-go-eighties when European jaunts were reasonably priced. I loved everything about England, (the Orient Express! Windsor Castle! Bangers and mash! Starlight Express! Pimm's Cup!) but one of my favorite days was spent with a personal guide. The Take-A-Guide agency assigned a guide and car to create a custom tour of the city. We were dropped off at the front door of the Tower of London and Harrod's, had lunch in a pub far off the beaten tourist track, visited our guide's neighborhood, chatted about everyday life in the city, strolled from curbside to the front entrance of several museums, and generally had a wonderful time.

Today, I was Take-A-Guide for the teen and tween. We talked about several options, then I took them on a Magical Mystery Tour of the surreal and ordinary.

  • Little Five Points continues to be a jaw-dropping experience for our suburban sensibilities. The tatooed dudes strolling into the package store and manning the cash register at A Capella Books were fascinating and intimidatingly strange at the same time.
  • Junkman's Daughter, with all its highly inappropriate stock, had the tween rolling her eyes and the teen begging me to leave because it was too darned embarrassing to even be near that stuff with mom nearby.
  • Savananda is a delightful cooperative grocery in Little Five Points. We got Scooter the Wonder Dog a bone (we don't really believe it's organic) and a few snacks for later.
  • Morningside is where old Greensboro friends lived in their young-marrieds-before-kids days. We like to envision them as urbanites because they are staunchly Old Greensboro today.
  • We stopped at Manuel's Tavern to talk about city politics and the way people like to work things out over food and drink. That segued to a discussion about how television portrays bars - "That's where people go to get drunk, Mom. Why would you go to someplace like that?" So we talked about stereotypes and exaggeration for effect. I also added "and not until you're 21."
  • Oxford Comics is a treasured resource for Free Comic Book Day (which was today) and an ever-growing selection of anime and manga. The teen ran into another DHS Anime Club member, an unexpected bonus.
  • I looked longingly at Knitch as we passed. Didn't go in. Really wanted to.
  • We explored our favorite used book store, the Book Nook at Clairmont and North Druid Hills, and left with a stack of books to enjoy. Required reading is right around the corner, but at least there are still a few weeks left to savor pleasure reading.
  • Zesto's! Usually, we visit the Ponce location, but today we were closer to Buckhead, so we called T and he met us for burgers, nachos and shakes. I had the turkey burger (gotta act like a grown-up), which I chose all martyr-like, then enjoyed tremendously.
  • When we drive through Buckhead, we always point to the two buildings where T has worked. We much prefer the current location, right across from Lenox Mall.
  • The DeKalb Airport still fascinates us. Small, nearly toy like airplanes leap into the sky. Such freedom. Such no-way-you'd-ever-get-me-in-one-of-those shakes of the heads as we watch.
  • Last stop, the Dunwoody library, because the tween had another book on hold.

We took our time, talked nonstop, shared memories, and had a very special day together.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Read it and reap.

The newly renovated Dunwoody library opened this week and the tween and teen and I have visited three times already. We transferred our holds from the Chamblee branch (thanks for your hospitality!), explored the changes, and checked out even more books. We love to read and each of us regularly roars through more than a dozen books each month. (Which is why we aren't terribly fond of required reading over the summer - school assignments interrupt hours and hours of leisurely exploration.)


  • Newly separated children's area, with a visual entry and sense of enclosure.
  • New circulation desk, an island in the middle of the entry area.
  • Relocation of self-check out kiosks to the circulation desk.
  • Expanded computer research area, with more carrels and stations.
  • Relocation of reserved books, large print, audio books, and CDs.
  • Centralized reference section, including more foreign language materials.
  • New paint, carpet, and decorative accents.
The result is open and appealing, plus the shift of reserved and new books to the side means less congestion around the circulation desk.

The Knitternall family "likes this" very much.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tilted Duster

I've progressed to the "skirt" portion of my Tilted Duster. (You can order the pattern here.) I love the heathered green wool, the juxtaposition of bias and linear stockinette, and how easy this pattern is to follow. Great job, Norah Gaughan!

As usual, I made some modifications to the pattern to fit my proportions. In the original design, the diagonal, empire seam spans the chest. I prefer a longer profile, so added 2 inches to the upper body sections. I also want a slightly longer lower section, so I'll add 2 inches to that section as well.

At the rate I'm going, I should finish the lower skirt and neckline by next week. I can't wait for fall . . . I have some lovely new designs to wear.

The next knitting will be for gift-giving. It's time to start building a collection of custom knits for Christmas gifts. Hmmm . . . felted handbags? Socks? Some unusual scarves? So many choices in the queue!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A glass of wine, a loaf of bread, and wow.

I've been rising early, to be at work by 7 and home by 1. Today, I slept in and stopped by the Dunwoody Farmer's Market when it opened at 8 am.


Purple hulled beans, alligator beans, fresh chevre packed with herbes de provence, a crusty loaf of French sourdough studded with olives . . . yum. Allison and Janna (two of my very favorite people) were there, glowing from their run and restraining Janna's giant dog from nuzzling the Garmons' duck and kitten.

With that sensory experience to start the day, work at Dunwoody Nature Center was even more pleasurable than usual. I was on the scent of basil, the bountiful harvest bursting from the raised vegetable beds in the park. I clipped several bunches, shared them with camp teachers and staff, and brought a handful of variegated home to dry. The classroom and hall filled with rich, herby goodness as parents arrived to pick up our smallest campers. "Natural air freshener," I called it as they exclaimed over the wonderful smell.

Supper will be particularly delectable this evening: a glass of the amazing (and inexpensive) Bohemian Highway chardonnay introduced by Kim K, slabs of olive sourdough slathered in fresh chevre, and purple hulled beans cooked with fresh basil.

Hungry yet?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh, grow up.

I rarely go to the doctor. Usually, a visit is the result of something I just can't will away, such as a bronchial infection lasting three weeks straight, a broken ankle (not the same day I broke it, mind you - a couple of days later because I was busy), or a kidney stone. Yeah, that one hurt.

So visiting a doctor proactively, just to chat about the state of my things, is an act of maturity, of accepting the fact that I am, indeed, just a tad older than my mind thinks I am.

I had to choose a new doctor because the last one decided she wanted to go concierge - as in, pay a lump sum up front and get lots of her personal attention. Can't afford that one.

I met Dr. Norman and found her to be a kindred spirit. She's brisk and kind, adept and insightful. Both of her kids (now grown) have Crohn's Disease, so we shared war stories. And she has me signed up for all kinds of grown-up adventures. Let's just say that parts of me inside and out will soon emerge in living color.

It's time to stop my reign as the Queen of Denial and start facing reality. My husband and kids deserve no less.

Have you scheduled your physical this year?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bits and pieces

I was not at peace with my technology last week. Mozilla Firefox decided to block my blog with some unfortunate processing delays. I tried Chrome and Maxthon, both of which worked fine, so I concluded it was time for a Firefox update. Voila. Access retrieved.

It's been an interesting week in Dunwoody as well as in my little knitting corner.

  • The 4th of July Parade winnowed its way down Mt. Vernon Road. Since it's an off-election year, the usual cavalcade of candidates was minimal. Instead, we were treated by drive-bys from Dr. Lewis and Dr. Harris, superintendent of DeKalb County Schools and principal of Dunwoody High School, respectively. My favorite entries? Kingsley's hula-hula swim team float and those fab Eagle Scouts who grand-marshalled the parade!
  • The tween walked behind the Dunwoody Nature Center entry, good-naturedly running after the frog pond-themed SUV when it roared ahead to keep up with the parade pace. She and her fellow Junior Counselors waved happily at the crowds while small campers in the back blew bubbles.
  • Fireworks rock! Especially those at Keswick Park in Chamblee. A loooooonnnnnngggg sequence of booming, ripping, strobing fireworks kept us well entertained. Someone turned on the field lights a bit prematurely, kind of dousing the finale. But it was all fun, well thronged, and an absolutely perfect conclusion to a special day. Thank you, Chamblee!
  • Of course, I'd love to see fireworks here in Dunwoody. Maybe the county would let us set up at Dunwoody Park. Imagine the baseball bleachers and infields filled with spectators and fireworks roaring overhead from the outfield. Why not?
  • I cast on Norah Gaughan's Tilted Duster in a heathered dark green and am very, very happy with the work in process. The weekend was leisurely enough for me to finish the sleeves and begin the skirt. It won't be long until I have another cool design to add to my winter wardrobe.
  • Our little neighborhood is still fighting City Hall over the proposed development in our backyards. If a fifth daycare does indeed take root in the village, maybe we should change the name from Dunwoody Village to Daycare Village!
  • One of the tween's long-lasting friends has been volunteering at Dunwoody Nature Center. Well known for his keen sense of fun, he's proven to be one of our most engaging and responsible Junior Counselors. Kids do the darnedest things as they grow up.
  • The teen is heading to the DMV to get his driver's license in the next couple of weeks. Sigh. T ordered one of those "new driver" magnets to put on the car. Does that come with a few thousand pounds of padding?
  • The cantalope and watermelon I planted in the square foot garden are slowly creeping up the trellis and across the open sections of the box. Whoo-hoo!
  • I think I'll add the neighborhood stream to the Riverkeepers' list of clean-up sights. It could sure use some TLC. If we all pitch in, maybe we can take care of all those twisted vines and 30 years of erosion and debris.
  • I met the new principal for Peachtree Charter Middle School today for some one-on-one planning. Scott Heptinstall strikes me as very savvy, quite interested in both teachers' and parents' input, and definitely engaged in the middle school student.
  • I just added a Preschool Phonics class for the fall. A dozen little minds to introduce to the wonders of reading . . . I can't wait!
A busy week, a busy summer, and, soon, a very busy year.