Of Flooding and Exploding Blow Dryers

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We’ve all heard the expression “When it rains, it pours.”  January was a monsoon for me.

It actually started mid-December with the news of my mother-in-law’s stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis.  With a six-month timeline, Elke* has opted to receive hospice care.  All her life she’s dealt with cancer.  It started in her late 20s, returned in her 40s, again in her late 60s, and with this last bit of news, she said she’s done.  Prognosis was not good to begin with, and she just didn’t want to go through the “cure” again.  Her husband, John*, has been displaying signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had to be reminded who we were, and yet, most cruel, he’s aware of it right now.  They live in Texas, three and a half states over, and timing was not good.  But it had to be done.

The journey back to Texas was odd.  Any road trip I’ve taken before has always been a good thing.  My husband and I made the most of it, since it was three days hard travel.  My sister, who lives in Bakersfield, was gracious enough to let us use her place as flop house.  We literally spent less than 15 minutes talking to her before we headed for bed, and then in the morning, we hugged one and another and moved on, both going and coming back.  The second day out, I wrote some errant thoughts.  Those long drives gives a person way too much time to think.

January 4, 2017, Wednesday

When the sun is rising, the errant contrail casts a shadow on the higher clouds

Driving east along Interstate 10 to Texas

Don’t know how to feel

Sedimentary, layered mountains Las Cruces

Texas landscape out of El Paso flat

Scrub brush

Minimal traffic

Can use cruise control – indefinitely

Occasional butte, rolling hills

Road stretches out in front of you in gentle, undulating waves

Cerulean sky, painted with high altitude stratus clouds

Harmless, no rain

When sun is setting, the color of the western sky shifts from blue to lavender, then gradually to a dusky plum, all but obscuring the horizon, then gradually, deep purple to the black of night.

Headlights

On the third morning of our visit, I was drying my hair, when my blow-dryer of at least 10 years decides to go out with a bang.  Sparks flew and I had to unplug it to stop the sparks from turning into flames.  The acrid smell of burnt electronics filled our hotel room for at least a day.  I felt it was appropriate, somehow, that it should happen at that time; however, I had spent the night before crying, so it was possible I was just upset.  Saying good bye to something else, even something as replaceable as a minor appliance, really set me off.

When driving back, we ran into the storms in Northern California that we’d been monitoring even before we left.  It was an eye-opener to see the areas around Sacramento, flooded by water that had overrun the bank of the Cosumnes River.  Sacramento has the American and the Sacramento Rivers to deal with and the levies around the city are monitored more closely.  What I photographed was the Cosumnes River gone a bit wild, just south of Elk Grove, a suburb of SacTown.  And then from Highway 99 North to I80 East, up around Applegate, the trucks were pulled over because the road over Donner Pass was closed due to snow.

I was so grateful to be home…because our garage was flooding.  We got some more sandbags (don’t ask) and cleaned up what we could.  Thanks goodness the foundation is concrete, and no real damage was done.

On a lesser, but more immediate note, my husband’s car has stopped running.  The money we would have used to fix that was spent visiting his mother.  It sits in the front of the house, ads running on Facebook, Letgo and Craigslist with no results.  I guess no one wants a mechanic’s project at this time.

There is more to the story, but I will leave it.  Sometimes it’s good not to tell so much, and this is one of those instances.

*names changed for privacy

Let’s Be Honest

Hey, everyone.  How are your holidays going?  Treating you good?  I hope so.  Although this post has landed perilously close to Christmas and, I assume, other holidays, it has nothing to do with them.  Let’s take a break from that, shall we?

I want to take a moment and talk about us liars out there.  You know what I mean.  “Knitting is easy!”  “Crochet is a breeze.”  I’m very guilty of this.  And you’re shaking your head, if not physically, then mentally.  What is she talking about?  Knitting is easy and crochet is a breeze!  Ok, smarty pants.  Maybe for you, and a very small minority, it was a breeze.  Your needles fly under your deft fingers, your hook is moving so fast that it’s a blur and every stitch is perfect.  New techniques?  No problem.

Like the title of this post says, let’s be honest.  Think back to when you first picked up those knitting needles, felt their heft, or gazed wonderingly upon that crochet hook, marveling at the sleek lines and how they turned into…well, the hook.  Some of you may have to really dig in the vault of memories for this, but do it.  Did it feel natural?  Remember that first chain, and how proud you were of yourself.  And then, when you got tired of that, discovering how to turn and create stitches.  Let’s not forget that first successful cast on row.  My tongue worked as hard as my fingers!  Speaking of tongues, we also have our own language.  You think k2tog then yo or dbl through fp means anything to anyone else?

….but, think of the beginner.  How many will give up because it’s just too hard?  For whatever reason, they are done after that initial foray. Their skeins of yarn will either gather dust in some forgotten drawer or be thrown away (gasp! oh, no!) because they’re taking up space. And yes, there are a great many people, who, literally, simply don’t care.  Of course, they will enjoy the fruits of our labors, and marvel at the overall beauty of the gift, but that’s as far as it will go.  However, for us, we wanted to do it.  Whatever our motivation was at the time, we wanted to do it; and we did.  Look at us now –  champions of the crusade!  Not only is it easy, there are multiple benefits to knowing these crafts.

And I for one, think we should respect our hobbies for the honed crafts they truly are.  Will I stop saying it’s easy?  Probably not.  Should I?  Yes, most definitely.  Is all this work worth it?  That, I’ll leave for you to decide…

Natural Knitter or Crocheter

Now this is something I could use some help with!

Now this is something I could use some help with!

While perusing the abysmally small selection of knit and crochet books at Barnes and Noble, I realized something about myself.  I was focused solely on the knitting books.  I thought to myself, Hang on.  Why no crochet?  I did a double take on the crochet offerings and noticed titles about cowls and scarves.  I smiled to myself.  Yea.  Don’t need instruction on that.  I revisited the knitting titles.  There were a lot of subjects that I felt didn’t need further instruction, but conversely, there were so many more that I felt totally lacking.

I have had an on again, off again romance with stranding, and in this most recent flare, Scandinavian designs.  I have made a few stranded items, and I’m still not happy with the results.  I’ve read books, I’ve watched instructional videos and I’ve even asked advice.  Still not happy.  But I’ll follow my own advice, and persevere.  Sooner or later, I’ll get it!

Now let’s talk gloves.  I’m not talking mittens or fingerless mittens.  I’m talking gloves with four fingers and a thumb.  Haven’t made them.  Scared.  Yes, I said it.  Scared of spending a lot of time and effort and getting a sub-par result (reference the above stranding).

Again, I thought about crocheting.  I don’t know all there is to know, and I’m happy with my current level of expertise (advanced beginner to intermediate), but I’m not afraid of anything!

So does thus mean I’m a natural crocheter, which is way easy for me, or does this mean that knitting is actually more difficult?  You wouldn’t know that to look at some people whipping out impossible knit designs who claim they just can’t do crochet.

What are you?  Does one craft come easier to you than the other, or are you fortunate enough to have an innate feel for both?

 

Knitting – machine or not?

Doesn't look like knitting

Doesn’t look like knitting

I made the mistake of signing up for a machine knitting group, thinking it was a regular knitting group.  I have just unregistered, but it got me thinking.  Again.  Am I knit purist or snob?  I don’t think using a knitting machine can be rightly considered knitting.  Is it even a craft?  I’m not dinging the people out there who love to do this.  I know it’s a lot faster to finish a project than hand knitting, but I also know it’s limiting.  I had purchased a machine about three years back because I thought for a minute that I wanted to crank out my own sweaters.  Then I went on YouTube and looked at some how-to videos.  It doesn’t appear to require a whole bunch of…technique.  Is that what a makes a craft?  Practice?  Discipline?  Does it take any of these things to use a knitting machine?  I have no idea, as my foray into the world of semi-automated knitting was short lived.  I didn’t even open the box; I returned it immediately.

Ah. There it is.

Ah. There it is.

I think it depends on why you’re using the machine.  My idea of making my own designs and then making the garment was valid enough; however, while waiting for the machine (I ordered it online), I realized that my passion was not for cranking out mass amounts of sweaters, but the act of knitting itself.  Feeling the needles in my hand, the yarn that seems to automatically wrap around my right hand fingers for tension, holding my mouth a certain way as I fight with a particularly difficult cable, the whole throwing vs. picking technique, continental vs. English, the mobility of it while you tote around your latest pair of socks, sitting around a table with other knitters while talking about knitting! – that’s knitting.

I would like to hear from both sides!  For those of you who use machines, do you use them exclusively or do you mix it up with hand knitting?  For those of you who hand knit, why did you start?  Was it a yarn thing, the finished product thing, a family thing…?  Let me know.

Of Miracles and Ponchos

A few days ago, a miracle happened to my friend.

Sister checking out her baby brother

Sister checking out her baby brother

Well, when you think about it, in depth and medically, objectively, and statistically, it is a miracle.  The fact that it happens about 353,000 times a day around the world does not diminish the joy, the awe and profound sense of wonder for the new parents when it happens to them.

I was privileged to hold the little gift.

I was privileged to hold the little gift.  I was trying not to breathe on him!

What was so quirky about this baby’s path is that a month before he was conceived, my friend, Wendy, had decided to have a tubal ligation.  I remember asking her if she was sure.  Once these procedures are done, there’s usually no going back.  It’s done.  She said, yes.  She didn’t want anymore babies, didn’t want to be pregnant and in her thirties.

The day before her procedure is scheduled, she cancels.  Doesn’t want to do it.  When I saw her again, I hugged her and then asked again, Are you sure?  She was sure; said it didn’t feel right.  I guess she knew, because here he is, 10 months later, her intuition.  The labor was all of one hour and 30 minutes long and relatively easy.  I say relatively, since the uterus really didn’t have any time to adjust, like in longer labors, and she was having the worst cramps when I took that picture.  She was near tears.  Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.  I know when I’m in pain, I don’t want to maintain friendly conversation!

I was just so happy for her, I had to write about it!

Fall colors

Fall colors

Now for the poncho.  (If you know of a better segue, please let me know!  The miracle of birth and life is a tough act to follow.)   The way I’m putting it together feels more like a vest…poncho?  Anyway – no sleeves!  Yay! It’s a gift for my postal carrier, so I thought of how she works and what she does.  I didn’t want the standard poncho design, because it would get in her way. I’ve been seeing pictures of ponchos that have buttons on the side and look sensible and relatively easy to make, especially when you’re lifting boxes and moving all day long.  It wouldn’t get in the way.  So, with a gleam in my eye, I decided to create my own design.  I did ask her favorite color, and she likes green also!  I didn’t want to overwhelm her with a monochromatic palette, so I added in some festive yarn.

Now I have a bit of a dilemma.  I have decided to drop it off at her work when it’s finished, which should be within a week.  My great fear is that she won’t like it.  You know how it is when you’re making someone a handcrafted gift.  Should I leave it anonymously and let her figure it out?  Or, should I let her know, so she knows whom she should be disappointed with?  (I know…bad sentence structure!)  Or is there another way I’m not thinking of?  I’m making a poll, so please let me know!

Departures

I have an adult daughter who lives with us.

She is my only child.

Yes, I’m sure she’s spoiled and she knows it.

For the last five years she’s been saving money from her work to go to Europe.  I’ve never known a person to work so hard and be so dedicated to her craft.  Really.  Every bit of extra money has been squirreled away at the expense of the small luxuries most of us in America appreciate.  Only recently, with her tickets purchased, has she allowed herself to deviate from her strict budget and spend a weekend with friends at the beach, throw a really big party in honor of her aunt, and eat out at a restaurant or two.

Rachel’s original plan had been to stay where she could work for her lodgings and some meals with the intent of spending her hard-earned Rachel 09-04-2016cash on being a tourist during her time off.  There are many places that offer that arrangement.  She would probably have been there for months, if not a year or more.  But things change.  Several months ago, she was offered a position at a local business that she felt she couldn’t refuse.  Well, let’s modify that.  She did refuse the position, but was pursued until she accepted.  *proud mother*  So, from a wandering vagabond freestyle kind of plan, she goes to a tightly scheduled and regimented tour of a month.  She’s still excited though.  She leaves tomorrow.  And I look at her from across our rusty outdoor mesh tabletop and see how she’s just waiting…and I’m trying my damnedest not to think of hydraulic failure, terrorism, theft, military coups, getting stranded – even bad restaurant service.

*sigh*