Day 157: Carpe Diem

Remember the line at the end of the opening credits to “The Jetsons”, when George is running on the treadmill and he can’t control it, and he yells, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!” That’s been my day.

Last night I put together the end-of-year teacher gifts for Alex to give his teachers. Today was the last day of school so it was now or never. (Or really, then or in the morning, and given that the bus could come anywhere in a 20 minute range, the night before was a much smarter option.) Fortunately the a/c unit cooperated when I put it in place (I call it R2D2) and worked on the first try. Nothing short of a miracle considering the outlet is touchy and won’t work for a stand lamp, so I didn’t expect the a/c to work so easily, but we were blessed. It was hotter than hell yesterday and today is expected to be worse–can you say “dreadmill”? I knew you could–so I had to cave in and put on the a/c. Really, there was no choice.

This morning Alex told me he was sad about it being the last day of school. This from the kid who’s been counting down the days since Memorial Day? I said, “Why are you sad?” He said, “I’ll miss my friends.” Sniff. But it’s only 10 days ’til ESY (extended school year); he’ll see them again soon, and next week he’ll see the kids from summer camp. Some are his Red Dawgs friends, too, but camp is always fun.

Since the dining room was cool(er), I decided it was time to kill the clutter and get through the pile of unopened mail, and organize the boys’ school stuff. Usually it all just ends up on the table for “Some Day”, and today was Some Day. Now it looks much better and if we want to eat there, we can. There’s no TV in there, though, so we usually don’t, but it’s nice to know we can. While I was at it, an old UFO caught my eye. It was going to be a 3-colored afghan but I fell out of love with the pattern, so it was sitting on the UFO pile, collecting dust. As I was sipping coffee and going through email, I saw an adorable daisy-filet afghan pattern that I really wanted to try, and seeing the UFO, it clicked. I just needed to unravel the UFO and reappropriate the yarn. Not a problem with the table all nice and spacious now. I’m one unraveled ball into it so far but it’s adorable and, as usual, I’m already wondering what other yarn/colors would look cute in that pattern. My stash, like my imagination, goes on forever.

Before Alex’s bus came in from the half day at school, the mail came. It usually comes at 5 so I was surprised. In it was a summons from the court to appear in my burglary case from last year. Tomorrow at 9 a.m. I was like, “WHAT? I don’t have time for this! This says the trial could last 2 weeks, and Alex starts camp on Monday, and this is June; I can’t call in to work.” After panicking, as well as letting my boss know I’d be in court tomorrow, I called the Witness Services clerk and found out no, don’t show up unless the DA calls. WHEW. It could turn out that they all show up in court and decide to take a plea deal. No fire here, folks; all is well.

But then the president of my writing chapter let us know one member lost her father yesterday, and another lost her 25 year old son. That one hit me in the solar plexus. Worse still when they said he was her only child. I can’t wrap my brain around it. As I was trying to process this information, I heard Alex up in his room, talking to his tapes, and it was music to my ears. You never know. I’m usually really good at empathy but for the life of me, I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s thinking and feeling right now. If I were her, I’d be pounding some kind of sedative; I don’t think I’d want to think or feel. Ever again.

As far as Alex knows, going to Rita’s for custard tonight is to celebrate the end of the school year, but it’s also Carpe Diem day. I did that after Sandy Hook, so we could get away from the everyday and make some fun memories together. (Which we did. The boys had fun goofing around together at Chickie’s & Pete’s. I loved watching them just be kids because after that day, too many parents in CT didn’t get that privilege.) I’m also going to finish this afghan, because 50 years from now I want some little kid to say, “Mom/Dad, where did we get this blanket?” and they can answer, “That was made by your Grandma Carla. She used to make TONS of these things. They were all over the house. No one ever got cold at Grandma Carla’s!”

Carpe Diem, folks. Because you never know.

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The Impossible

Somewhere I had a horoscope that said Wednesdays are my lucky days, but so far, I’ve had my best days on Thursdays.  I could sure use one today, since it’s accrual day at work (which is actually two days) and our processors were on duty ’til 10:00 eastern, trying to get last-minute stuff done.  (For the record, I want to slap their manager when he gets on conference calls and says stuff like, “We’re looking good here.  I have no concerns for month-end.”  Obviously the man isn’t a baseball fan, or he’d know, you don’t tempt fate like that.  You never say a pitcher has a no-hitter going–unless he’s on the opposing team–you never talk about the streak, and you never say, “Everything’s fine.”  That’s exactly when things stop being fine.)
 
That aside, last night I did the impossible.  I’ve had a barghello afghan pattern on my to-do list for over 10 years.  I found the pattern back when I first started to crochet, and the colors were SO pretty, I wanted to make one.  The design is HUGE; you could fit two kids under one of these things and neither one would catch a draft.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to make sense of it.  I tried it a few times, frogged, tried again, and finally gave up.  Over the years I’d try it again with no success…until last night.  I found a reprint of the pattern on Facebook, so I saved it to my flash drive and printed it.  When I brought it home, I dug out some purple Red Heart and gave it a shot, and wouldn’t you know, NOW I get it.  I’m on the 3rd repeat (two stripes, then change colors; I’m doing it at random, based on what falls out of my stash first) and I’m madly in love with it, to the point where I’d gladly stay home and spend the day on it, both because it’s just so gorgeous and because today’s perfect afghan-making weather, which we won’t have on Sunday.  (And yeah, there’s that month-end crap at work going on that I’d love to avoid.)  I should be writing-slash-reading through the Donald Maass workbook, but tonight, after I get home from work, get off the 4:00 conference call–which I suspect is going to wrap up around 5:30, because some people love to hear themselves talk–and go to the gym, I’m going to make the boys their dinner and watch the Phillies game while adding to this afghan.  Then the trick will be, deciding who to give it to, because now that the pattern makes sense, I’ll be making more of these.  Once my yarn embargo is over, I think I’m even going to treat myself to the colors the pattern calls for.  🙂
 
And on top of that, this morning I was digging in my purse for money to give to Alex for the camp bake sale today—he’s all excited; I think they let him help bake—so I told him, “Get me something.  Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite.”  (He knows I’ll share.)  I pulled out my walllet and voila!  Just beneath it was the size 3 DPN I thought I lost on the first day of camp.  I was working on a sock when I was surprised to see the counselor waiting for us, and I shoved everything back in my sewing bag, but couldn’t find the needle. I thought I dropped it in the grass—and could only imagine the havoc it would cause when the lawnmower found the needle—but no, somehow it fell into my purse.  Yay! 
 
On the other hand, I’m a little nervous that this is as good as my day’s going to get.  🙂 

The Challenge

Considering I didn’t write more than 2K words for NaNoWriMo, this could be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but as of Friday I’m taking on the Knit Olympics.  (Look for the post on 2/10/10.)  I’m challenging myself to make this sweater:

Of course, I’m not this thin so I’m making a larger size, but still, this sweater represents something.  It’s a chance for me to make something for myself.  Most times the things I make go to someone else, be it a baby gift, an afghan or socks for the boys or John, or a baby blanket for Project Linus.  I don’t remember the last time I made something just for me.  (I’ve tried, and I have a 2nd sock waiting for a heel.)  Even the scrap worsted weight socks I made for myelf wound up going to Alex because his feet were cold and his room was cold and I wasn’t about to let that happen. 

So this is going to be MY sweater.  Given that I’m using Red Heart–the bane of the purist knitter because (gasp!) it’s acrylic–I suspect the finished product will be nothing short of bulletproof, but I chose Buff Fleck for the color so there’ll be a little color in it from the flecks, and the lighter shades will make the cables more noticeable.  Also, using wool for this sweater would entail very specific washing instructions (unless I want a Barbie sweater) and a whole lot more money.  Not that I’m not worth it, but I’m not that high maintenance.  🙂

This does NOT mean I’m putting writing on the back burner.  It just means when the Muse decides to take some time off, I’ll go pick up my needles and work on the sweater.  We plan on watching lots of the Winter Olympics anyway, and the challenge is to start it during the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night, and get it done in 17 days when the Closing Ceremonies take place. 

The sad thing is that I started this sweater already, before I knew of the Knitting Olympics.  I was 17 inches into the back panel, and thrilled with my progress, when I realized the color I’d chosen was discontinued years ago.  <BIG sigh here>  Now I get to frog all that yarn–I love my yarn ball winder–and put it into something else.  What, I know not, but I’ll do my best not to cry when I frog it. 

Knitting Olympics, here I come.  It’d be really nice if I get to wear this sweater in the spring…some time when all this blankety-blank snow melts!

What to do while waiting

Here I am, waiting on responses from a few queries and submissions.  I’m not in the right frame of mind to edit anything I’ve finished lately—with the mood I’ve been in lately, everything I wrote sounds like crap—and I don’t have a new story in mind to work on.  It’s frustrating, being stuck here in the middle.  I want to do something, but I can’t. 

Yesterday I brainstormed with a friend who needed help with her plot.  It was a lot of fun, much like going shopping with a friend to buy a stereo.  In the end, it’s not my money being spent, but it’s also not my stereo going home.  I can make all the suggestions I want, but ultimately, the job is all hers.  Besides, what matters most is what feels right to the other person.  I could recommend a story about vampires, but if she’d rather work on a story about talking kittens, a story about talking vampire kittens probably isn’t going to work.  (Give me enough vodka and I’ll see what I can make happen.) 

So in the mean time, I’ve been knitting.  In addition to the pair of socks I made John for Father’s Day, I’ve finished 2 socks but unfortunately, they’re not a matched set.  One is for Ryan, and the other is for me.  The one that’s for me actually has a story to go with it. 

I found a cute little sweater pattern that I wanted to make for my niece, and it requires a brand of yarn I happen to have on hand.  One skein was available, the other was part of a sock.  I figured I’d use up the full skein, then unravel (aka, frog) the sock and use that on the sweater.  (Once again, I’m putting aside my own wants for someone else, even if my niece definitely didn’t ask for a sweater from Auntie Carla.)  The only problem was, when I went to check out how much sock needed frogging, I realized I was well past the point of no return.  I’d made the cuff, turned the heel and finished the gusset, and I was halfway through the foot.  A few dedicated hours and I’d have a completed sock.  This was no time to unravel something that was so close to fruition.

So I spent most of Sunday finishing the sock.  It’s now finished, but now I need 2 more skeins of that yarn; one to make the 2nd sock, and the rest to work on the baby sweater.  Too bad I didn’t consider making baby socks with the same yarn, so they’d match with the sweater.

Sock knitting is addictive.  I never thought I’d be able to work with DPNs, but really, there’s something about knitting in the round, over and over and over again, and surprisingly, it’s not monotonous.  When you’re knitting with two needles (as I’m often knitting with just one needle), you can always say, “Let me finish this row before I…” but with DPNs, you can go on forever or until you reach the desired length.  It’s seamless, and it’s magical.  When you use self-striping yarn, you look forward to seeing what color row comes up next and how big it will be.  This morning I worked on the gray wool socks again and even though the color never changed, it was just as much fun to watch the sock growing in my hands.  Seriously, it’s magic!

Sock knitting will never overtake writing as my favorite hobby, but it’s definitely running a close second.  The problem is that since writing isn’t bringing in any money, and sock-knitting will cost me money when I start running out of yarn (somewhere in the year 2015), not to mention the time I spend knitting could be spent writing, eventually we’re going to run into a logjam here.  But in the mean time, I’m going to enjoy myself.  🙂

Still Here

Today I seem to be at even keel again.  I suppose that’s a good thing; I’m neither so far down in the dumps that I’d need a backhoe to see daylight again, nor so high that I would show up on NORAD radar.  It’s kinda boring but I’ll take it.

I’m tempted to “borrow” more bad jokes, but I’m afraid one of these days I’m going to tick someone off.  I do give credit where credit is due, but not everyone likes to have their info posted on a stranger’s blog.  Or sometimes even a friend’s.  ‘Nuf said.

So rather than risk offending someone, I thought I’d share my latest UFO (unfinished object, a phrase usually used in reference to crafts, as opposed to WIP, which means “work in progress”, a phrase that refers to unfinished writing projects;  procrastinators unite!…one of these days).  I love that this works up so fast, but more than that, I love that I can use this on my overflowing yarn stash to try to put some of it to use.  I unraveled (frogged) two started-but-never-finished afghans to incorporate the yarn into this project, and I love how it’s coming out.  It’s in purple, brown, and a variegated that has purple and brown in it.  I made it a few stitches wider than the pattern says by adding multiples of 3 to the 67 chain stitches it starts with.  It stinks when you roll over and find parts exposed to the cool air when you’re trying to get warm.   I have about 3 feet of it done already and I curled up under it last night while watching a movie, and let me tell you, it is COZY.

Pattern courtesy of LionBrand.com:

5 1/2 hour Afghan
5 1/2 hour Afghan

5 1/2 Hour Throw

Lion Brand® Vanna’s Choice®

GAUGE:

3 V-sts + 4 rows = 6 in. (15 cm) in pattern with 3 strands of yarn held together. BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE. When you match the gauge in a pattern, your project will be the size specified in the pattern and the materials specified in the pattern will be sufficient. If it takes you fewer stitches and rows to make a 4 in. [10 cm] square, try using a smaller size hook or needles; if more stitches and rows, try a larger size hook or needles.

NOTES:

Throw is worked with 1 strand of each color yarn held together.

THROW
With 1 strand each of A, B and C held together, ch 67.
Row 1: Dc in 5th ch from hook, ch 1, dc in same ch (V-st made), *sk 2 ch, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next ch (V-st made); repeat from * to last 2 ch, sk 1 ch, dc in last ch.
Rows 2–39: Ch 3, turn, (dc, ch 1, dc) in each ch-1 space across, dc in 3rd ch of turning ch.
Fasten off.

FINISHING
Side Edging
From Right Side, work 1 row of single crochet evenly spaced on side edge of Throw. Repeat on opposite side edge.
Weave in ends.

Fringe
Wrap yarn around cardboard. Cut strands at one end. For each Fringe, hold 3 strands of each yarn (9 strands total) together and fold in half. Use crochet hook to draw fold through edge of piece, forming a loop. Pull ends of Fringe through this loop and tighten. Make Fringe along both ends of Throw. Trim fringe evenly.

 

5 Favorite Things

I’ve often wondered what if.  It’s what makes me write, when I ask myself a question like, “What if a ghost were following me around?”  I can then take it a step further:  “What if the ghost following me around was my ‘soul mate’ and we never connected in life?”  From that premise and April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week course,  “Worlds Apart” was born.  (Excerpt on the tab above, in case you’re curious.)

Another What If has to do with real life, and I’ve talked to people about this one (whereas I don’t usually talk to people about my WIPs).  What If–God forbid–the house were on fire?  Assuming John and the boys and the cats were already safe outside, and I had a minute to run back and grab something(s), what would I reach for?  Which made me think about my 5 Favorite Things:

1.  My laptop.  It contains all the music on my iTunes and all my manuscripts (and a whole lot of knitting/crocheting patterns on OneNote).  In the “For Better or For Worse” cartoon a few years ago, Mike Patterson’s apartment was on fire not long after he finished his first manuscript, and he ran back into the fire to get it.  I understand completely.

2.  My Knit Picks Options needles that John gave me for Christmas.  I love these things.  Some day I’m going to work them into a manuscript and then let the Knit Picks people know, so maybe they’ll pay for my book tour (or at least, send me some free samples).  They’re smooth as glass and the tips are perfectly pointed so I can pick up stitches easily.  I used to think Addi Turbo needles would be The Thing, but I was SO wrong.  Thank you, Laura, for letting me test-knit on yours, and thank you, John, for my favorite Christmas present! 

3.  Photographs.  As many as possible.  There’s the picture of John and me in Cozumel, kissing Titan the dolphin, or the black and white photo of my great-grandparents, or the nice pic of my parents that’s in Ryan’s room.  The boys’ baby pictures on the dresser in our room.  The box with all the boys’ school portraits (that I need to hang up one of these days).  So many memories.  I could live without them, but if I don’t have to, I don’t want to.

4.  Yarn.  Sure, it can be replaced, but I’d probably try to throw as much of it out the window as I can.  Yarn is the embryo of something beautiful and useful.  (If you don’t think I’m obsessed with yarn, you missed that picture at the top of this page.) 

5.  My teddy bears.  They’re on the closet shelf right now, only because the guilt was eating at me every time I saw them stuffed in a trash bag on the shelf.  At least now they’re stacked neatly, and even though they sit in the dark most of the day, they still smile down welcomingly when I open the closet door every morning and afternoon.  I just love ’em.  Soft and warm and comforting, always ready to love and be loved.  The world needs more people like that.

Come to think of it, I’d have to grab Ryan’s white bear with the green sweater (with the heart on it), too.  There are more memories wrapped up in that one bear than in any of the cuties I own.  It’s the bear that my friend Barbara in Washington (NanaBear97; bless her sweet heart, she passed away in 2001) sent to comfort us before Ryan had his last major surgery at Shriners.  That bear went everywhere with him the entire time he was in the hospital, pre-, post-op and therapy.  He wouldn’t go anywhere without it, ’til he was known as “the boy with the bear”.  He rarely let go of it for almost 10 years.  It still has a place of honor in Ryan’s room.  I’m not sure who’s more sentimental about that bear, Ryan or me.  Probably me.  But I’m sentimental about the silliest of things.

5 Best Things about Yarn

It’s Thankful Thursday, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  I don’t even remember where I read that.  Maybe it should be Forgetful Thursday.  Then again, that’s me everyday.

I’m at work but I’d rather be home knitting, so here’s my 5 Favorite Things about Yarn.

1.  It makes such nice stuff.  Even crappy yarn can be made into something pretty if you find the right pattern.

2.  Yarn (and accordingly, pattern collection) is a semi-healthy addiction.  You don’t see a Betty Ford Clinic for addicted knitters.  Why try to cure us?  We revel in our addiction.  From it comes some wonderful things.

3.  Other than the occasional knot, yarn cooperates with my plans, as opposed to some teenagers I know (and it doesn’t claim it’s sick when it has a math test it’s not prepared for). 

4.  It comes in such pretty colors and softnesses.  Laura and I spent an hour in FrouFrou last month, petting all the pretty skeins.  I haven’t heard so much delighted “ooh”ing and “aah”ing since the last time I stood outside the nursery observation window. 

5.  It makes such wonderful things.  Though I was dead tired, I very nearly stayed up late last night to finish my K1P1 gray and blue scarf.  (The infamous Noro Silk Garden scarf, adapted for Simply Soft Shadows.)  I’m only a few yards from finished but I couldn’t see straight anymore, and I’ve come too far to screw it up now.  It’s going to be long and soft and gorgeous, and the way the color changes gradually…it’s just so cool.  I’ll post pictures when I’m done, but I’m not sure when that will be.  (Got things to do tonight.)  But when it’s done I can wear it with pride (or give it away with pride) knowing that before I picked up those skeins, that yarn was just an amorphous bunch of string.  With my hard work and dedication, it’s become something that will last.  Unless, of course, the boys take it.  Then I can probably kiss it goodbye. 

My next project to finish is the Moda Dea Dream scarf.  It’s in raspberry and it’s fuzzy-soft so I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only one wearing it.  Then there’s the multicolor baby afghan (I’m 7 repeats away from finished), the red and white afghan for Melanie, and then the scrapghan I started some time last year.  Somewhere in between there’s the gigantic Irresistible Afghan in day-glo orange.  None of this would be possible without yarn.  My addiction, my passion, my friend.

Yarn Pig

That would be me.  (I set up a category for Crafts but haven’t used it yet.  No time like the present.)  I’d be tempted to say I own more yarn than AC Moore (or Hobby Lobby, for those south of PA) but they’ve got an incredible selection these days.  There’s SO much more to choose from than there was when I only got my yarn from K-Mart.  On the other hand, I still miss Dazzleaire.  <sniff>

I went to AC Moore yesterday to get a collector’s football case for an autographed football John owns.  It was my day off and I had nothing but time, so I browsed the yarn department too.  Mind you, unless I have a specific project in mind, I do my yarn browsing in the mill-ends section.  Prices go from $4.49 to $5.99 per 16 oz. bag.  At first I saw a nice soft cream-colored yarn, but it was $6 per bag.  Since I didn’t have a use for it in mind, I couldn’t justify buying it and I put it back.  Three steps away I found a beautiful variegated pastel yarn hiding under a pile of white.  I mean, literally hiding; one corner of the bag poked out from under a few dozen bags of white.  I pulled it out and it was a full 16 ounces of gorgeous.  Of course,  I had to have it, but when I pulled that bag out, I found another behind it, and after doing some digging, I found two more stashed away on other shelves.  It occured to me that someone must’ve hidden the yarn so they could come back and get it later…and she’s going to be REALLY mad when she comes back and discovers I took it all.  Life lesson, folks:  you snooze, you lose.

Of course, I have no intended use for this yarn either, but it’s SO soft and the colors are just beautiful; not quite pale, but definitely not screaming primary colors either.  The fibers are smooth, like a high thread count brushed cotton.  I bet it’s going to be so much fun to work with!  I’m sitting on 64 ounces of pure crocheting/knitting bliss.  Fortunately, a month ago I invested in a fantastic book of baby outfits and afghans, and I’m pretty sure if I look through those, I’ll find a good use for it. 

Last night I started a new project:  an oversized afghan with the brilliant orange I picked up a few months ago.  It’s been sitting in the closet, taunting me to find just the right project.  Since I had a day off, I decided there was no better time than right then to start something.  Only problem was, I started something and didn’t like it, so I ripped it out and started something else I didn’t like too much either.  Three rip-outs later, I finally settled on a simple ripple pattern, only all that orange would’ve looked plain that way.  Then I spied my stuffed Otto, the Syracuse Orange mascot, and an idea was born.  Unfortunately I also noticed that if I did 6 rows of orange followed by one row of blue (and then 3 more rows of white), it almost resembles Mets colors.  We definitely can’t have that in OUR house.  😉  I’m hoping the white offsets the Mets resemblance; otherwise we’ll be frogging it again.  (For the unitiated, “frogging” is a craft term.  If your project isn’t working out, you frog it, ie., rip it.  Ha ha ha.) 

This says nothing of the pounds and pounds of yarn in varying shapes, colors, sizes and styles cluttering up our house.  I have a screaming pink yarn that wanted to be an afghan but may just wind up being a ton of scarves instead, perhaps given as a breast cancer fundraiser.  (I swear, sometimes the yarn talks to me; it chooses what it wants and doesn’t want to be.)  There’s also a box of scraps in the living room that I was dipping into—in hopes of cleaning out my closet shelf—but stalled out on when I got bored with it.  I used the half-finished afghan to keep my legs warm last night while we watched TV.  My theory is that if I can’t die ’til I use up my yarn stash, even if I quit my job right now and started crocheting full time , I’d still live forever.  And now that I have that lovely 64 ounces of variegated pastels, I just bought myself a little more longevity.