Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's next?

My daughter and I share the "what's next" gene. We collect experiences, grazing through crafts, volunteer work, books, travel, and ideas. Some experiences stay with us; others get checked off and tucked away in memory. Experiences are so much more engaging than things.

Yet I think there comes a point when it's easy to get overwhelmed with all the opportunities for learning. Which is better ... master a few things or a little skill in a lot of things? Our multimedia-driven culture exposes us every day to new-new-new. We worry that we won't keep up and that, by not staying on top of the next technologically-driven social media trend/workplace IT tool/graduate degree/cultural phenomenon, we'll fall behind socially, professionally, and personally.

Catalog the things you've learned to do, from the mundane to the career-mandated.  In just one generation, our expectations and experiences have taken a quantum leap from the need-to-know and want-to-know of our grandparents' era.

My personal inventory: technical writing, basic sewing, needlepoint, cooking, knitting, vegetable gardening, refinishing furniture, housebreaking a dog, how to pack up and move a household in just a week, scrapbooking, managing websites with DreamWeaver, Vacation Bible School management, copywriting, strategic message communications, volunteer recruitment, Girl Scout troop leadership, the full continuum of child rearing, PowerPoint presentations, video scripting, how to pitch a tent, Microsoft Word/Excel/Publisher, Odyssey of the Mind coaching, painting walls and trim, how furniture is made from the moment the tree hits the ground, teaching phonics to preschoolers, change a tire, speechwriting, blogging, iPhone, English instruction for high school, running a nonprofit organization, Facebook, how to document a disability for public education accommodations, rudimentary PhotoShop, how to write an annual report for nonprofits and financial industries, search engines, political campaign marketing, door hardware installation, bicycle chain repair, Constant Contact email communications, streaming movies, earthy Japanese curse words (a remnant of my teen years in Okinawa), troubleshoot internet connections, charter school development, carpet manufacturing, hospital wayfinding design, SEO, online library reservations ...

Okay, that's enough.

But it can't be. To stay competitive as a freelance writer, I have to stay connected at all times with my clients' industries, demographic research for disparate audiences, cultural trends, and what's going on both locally and internationally. We don't live or work in a bubble anymore, limited by budget and travel modes to the wider world. Instead, the internet brings the world to our desktops and laptops in a constant cacophony of information.

Mental rest comes in doing things my grandparents considered necessities: home crafts, gardening, making do.  I hope to take the Master Gardener program through the DeKalb Extension Service. The next series begins January 2012. (There are information sessions in September for anyone who's interested. See the end of this post.)

What's next? It's always something.

It’s time to start recruiting for next year’s Master Gardener classes!!

Encourage your friends, neighbors, colleagues to send in their contact information to be added to the mailing list.  Letters (or emails) will be sent out in August with details of our September information sessions, and anyone who wants to apply must come to one of those sessions.  The dates are Sept. 2, Sept. 7, and Sept.8, all from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon in the Training Kitchen at the main Extension Office.

Details of the program can be found on our website and I will be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more - Averil - 404-298-4071

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stationery card

Tassel Frame Gold Graduation Announcement
View the entire collection of cards.

Curbing the appeal

Before ...

And after ...

The moment of truth came when the tree crew reached the trunk:  a spongy center through the center limb and the beginnings of rot in the trunk. So it truly had to come down.  I miss that tree and the way it sheltered our home. And now I have an entirely different micro-climate in the front yard.  We'll install plant new perennials and shrubs along the foundation and a tree next fall and winter. The hydrangeas will move to the side yard, which is still shady.  And we'll close the wood shutters quite a bit this summer to offset the increased heat from the sun.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh, baby!

Knitting continues to happen all around Dunwoody. From the Atlanta Knitting Guild that meets monthly at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church on North Peachtree and my favorite knitting circle at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church to knit-ins at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, a sometimes surprising (to others) cross-section of knitters gathers to enjoy their craft. Some of my favorite knits come from twenty-somethings who consider knitting part and parcel of the whole self reliance/sustainable movement. (One posted on her blog that she refuses to wear anything she hasn't sewn or knitted herself. Her clothing creations are unbelievably beautiful and detailed ... fashionistas would be very, very envious.)

I've been knitting for babies lately ... organic cotton frocks, richly hued hats and sweaters in all-season cotton, soft blankets, and felted jester boots. It's fun to play with color and texture in creating these gifts and custom orders. I prefer natural fibers for most of my knitting, though sometimes I have to compromise with cotton. By itself, cotton has a tendency to stretch and sag; with a little manmade fiber or wool twisted into the yarn, it can stand up to wear and tear. I've found some amazing organic cotton yarns that hold their own, so I'm busily acquiring hanks of the yarn whenever I find them.

Felted jester booties for a toddler ... when I knit these with wool yarn, they're twice as large as they are when they come out of the hot water felting bath.

Organic cotton ... I love this pattern so much I'm making several more in various combinations of natural beige, cream, and tan

Those little leaves at the waist continue around the back.

A round blanket to wrap around a darling baby. Soft cotton yarn will be easy to wash.

I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's magical Baby Surprise Jacket pattern. I'm pleasantly surprised every time I knit one and love how it fits on babies and toddlers.

I'd still like to knit a custom lace shawl for a follower ... it may take awhile, but when that 100th follower signs up, I'll choose a winner at random, let them choose a color, and knit like crazy to create a lovely shawl.

Dunwoody knitting continues ...

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I wish I had a picture from last night's Dunwoody High School Senior Blast: our son riding the mechanical bull.

We stepped back, giving our son room to go solo, driving himself at midnight to the DHS annual event and back home again at 6 am. A trial run for the parents, who probably have hovered a bit too much thanks to the never-far-from-mind challenges of Crohn's.

He's fine. And ready for college.

We couldn't be happier.

He had a great time last night, thanks to a huge cadre of parent volunteers who organized and staffed an event filled with music, casino games (strictly for fun), hypnotist, prizes, and more.

I really want a picture of him on that mechanical bull. 

Adam and Anna Grace on the lawn after the ceremony. Graduating high school senior and incoming high school freshman.
Our favorite graduation photo. This is quintessential Adam ... reserved, checking out the scene, relaxed now that the "have to" part is over.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dunwoody Stipple

What were they thinking?

Our home was built in the early 1970's, in a somewhat straightforward Williamsburg/Federal four-over-four-and-a-center-door style with lots of dark paneling, dentil moulding, slate floor entry, and shaggy carpet. We know that because it was still in that condition when we bought it ten+ years ago. We've done quite a bit of updating, but one thing remains ... the stippled ceilings. The sheetrock crews evidently loved stipples, swacking a mop-like gadget up against the ceilings, creating this floral-like textured effect.

Better than popcorn ceilings. But not nearly as nice as SMOOTH ceilings.

We had a leak in an upstairs bathroom, which flowed through to the kitchen ceiling. The plumber had to cut a hole in the ceiling to fix the problem. Which lead to another necessary repair, to the sheetrock.
Not so simple. Oh, the sheetrock and mud were pretty straightforward. The challenge? The blasted stippled ceiling.  We got estimates from a series of handy-people who said, with great honesty, they weren't sure they could match the stipple, but would try.

Our handy-dandy contractor is hard at work right now, cutting sheetrock, screwing it into place, mudding the seams, and preparing his hand-made stipple tool.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the results will look somewhat seamless. So to speak.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tree down.

That large red maple in the front yard? The beautiful, massive, overarching canopy that shades our home and accents our front yard?

The one whose shallow roots soak up moisture and prevent any kind of grass growth?

It's doomed.

Last year, I treated an emerging hole in the trunk after carpenter ants got inside.

This year, they're crunching so much that sawdust puddles around the base of the tree. And the carpenter ants now have a well-worn highway not only to that hole but a large wound in an upper branch, the remnant of the limb that fell and hit our house ten years ago.

I've consulted with two arborists and six tree companies. All say the same: it's going to fall down, and it can't be saved. (Only one told us want we wanted to hear, that they could TRY, that they might, possibly, perhaps save the main part of the tree - but couldn't promise that it would work and that I'd probably end up having to spend the same amount of money again to take it down.)

The bids on removing that tree are spectacularly wide-ranging, and all are big-gulp expensive.

I'll have to transplant all the recently planted hellebores and rethink the foundation plants chosen for their shade-loving traits. Pressure wash the house (now nicely screened by the canopy). And wait six months to a year before we can plant another tree.

Darn it. The house is going to look naked without our beautiful maple tree.

A small hole with a huge rotted area in the trunk. We treated it last year, killing the carpenter ants and filling the hole with expanding foam, to no avail.

The original culprit: when the massive limb fell and hit our house, it caused an ugly wound in the center limb. Now it's twice as large and filled with rot and insects.

The evidence: I washed away the sawdust a week ago and another pile is quickly forming.

An American Town

May in Dunwoody comes with a flurry of endings and beginnings, each tinged with an old-fashioned red-white-and-blue aura of small town life. Final exams, awards and honors programs, neighborhood block parties, festivals, season-ending games, Mother's Day, planting vegetables, yearbooks, spring cleaning, college acceptances, vacation planning, fundraisers, school dances, Scout crossover ceremonies, high school graduation, concerts .... May is the busiest month of the year.

It's exhilarating. And exhausting.

Of all the celebrations, perhaps one of the most heartwarming was our neighborhood block party, held to celebrate the end of a long and hard fought battle against a detrimental rezoning decision. Our wonderful neighbors surprised Terry with warm words and a gift, neither of which he expected. We lingered late into the evening, enjoying catching up, sharing news, and sampling an amazing array of foods. 

The stressful, stunningly expensive effort - more than $20,000 shared by neighbors and community supporters to fight a large daycare playground behind our homes - has become a template for other groups and communities facing similar decisions. We learned much about our city and legal system as well as just how complex our relationships can be.

Life lessons:

  • Friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow volunteers will sometimes find themselves on opposing sides of critical issues. How we deal with each other has far-reaching consequences. I choose civility, setting aside disagreements for the sake of congeniality and progress in other arenas. 
  • NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is a term used with scorn by folks who are not directly impacted by eminent domain, rezoning decisions, and misdirected development. Take care. You may need those same neighbors someday when it's your NIMBY concern.
  • The City's code of ordinance should not force citizens to expensive court actions rather than an intermediary Council veto.  I don't know how much our City had to spend on the legal action, but it was wholly unnecessary.  Even if the Council was aware that its rezoning committee's decision was deeply flawed, its own code of ordinances prevented it from taking action or intervening.
  • Placing volunteers in powerful and influential committees such as Rezoning and Community Development without training and oversight is disingenuous and dangerous.

There are life lessons to be gained in every experience, particularly the hard ones. Mine is that you can love a town and want to help it thrive even when sometimes it lets you down.  I value the gadflies, those people who stand at the public speaker microphone, write letters to the editor, blog, and send emails because they are active, engaged, and concerned enough to speak up.  I am grateful for volunteers who are willing to take on overwhelming and sometimes thankless roles in policy-making. And I appreciate community leaders like John Heneghan, who listen to diatribes and disagreements with courtesy and respect.

It isn't easy, but it's quintessentially American to be a community of individuals, not head-nodding sheep.

And now, a few highlights from the Knitternall family album as May builds to a crescendo of activities before it bows to more leisurely summer pace.

Going to the Renaissance Faire means pulling an ensemble together from the family costume stash.

The PCMS Band's Spring Concert drew a huge crowd; it included a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in memory of beloved teacher Keith Davis, who passed away this Spring. Both of our kids had Mr. Davis for 7th Grade Language Arts.

Dunwoody High School recognizes its college-bound students ... so many, they circled the gym nearly twice.

Peachtree Charter Middle School recognized its top students in academics, music, character, drama, and more.