Friday, November 17, 2017

This Guy

I'm just going to get right to the point.  I am about to be an empty nester.  Remember that awful sit-com in the eighties- Empty Nest?  Well, my son is going to graduate this year and seems set on moving away from home to go to college.  And I'm fine with that.  Really, I am.


(images courtesy of Kreative Kamera)

I grieved for my babies when my daughter was about to graduate from high school.  I looked through photo albums and felt constant deja vu of times I had with them as little ones.  I had vivid dreams in which they were still carry-able.  I even breathed in the smell of their little wispy baby hairs, as I held them, in those dreams.  But I dealt with my longing and was able to feel excited and happy for her, and now him.  I have also designated his bedroom as the ultimate knitting/ sewing room when he leaves.



We are about to visit a campus he is interested in.  So a lot of thoughts have been swirling around in my head about my son.  I don't have them all organized and "Chicken Soup" sounding here, I'm just writing them as they come to me.

His birthday totally got hijacked by Hurricane Harvey.  Normally we would take him out to eat, just our little family, then have relatives over for cake on the weekend.  But this year, we had spent several days just sitting around our house staring at the weather channel, staring at each other, and staring at the floorboards, wondering when/if the flood waters would start gushing through.  (We live in an older home on piers.)  Having our cats stare at the floor, under which water was rushing, was extra unnerving.  I have a permanent image of my son sitting on the edge of his bed for a day or two just waiting with a look of dread on his face.  He knew we were not in danger of drowning, just the amount of work that would go into repairs and how it would upset our lives if we did flood.  He also knew it was happening, at that moment, to many of his friend's families.



Then, as the water receded, he started working crazy overtime hours at one of three grocery stores still open in our area.  We were stocked up on food, but we stood in line for 20 minutes just to get in and see him.  We also wanted to find some kind of meal worthy of celebrating his birthday at our home.  The only meat left was filet mignon, seriously.  We got that, potatoes, and the last box of strawberry cake mix.  We made it and celebrated all he added to our lives these 18 years.  His birthday was way low key- no relatives, no present even, since the mail had been stalled in Houston due to flooding.  But he was grateful, too.




Something has shifted over the years.  He was always really helpful as a kid.  He often sat with his grandfather when my grandmother had to be away or he would help me with projects around the house without complaining too much.  But in the last couple of years he has started approaching things more as a man and less as my boy.  He sees me about to lift a heavy plant and rushes to intercede, "You'll throw your back out again."  He eats fried eggs, with asparagus and braised brussel sprouts and declares it great!  He says something impatient to his sister, in a very brotherly tone, then apologizes not too long after.  He notices when a person is treated unjustly and it doesn't sit well with him.  He prays for guidance more and more, not just health for family members.  That's a big one to me.  Another big one, he is immersed in Southeast Texas culture all day at school, but he hasn't let the baser elements, like racism, polarizing politics shape his worldview.  I'm proud of this because I don't think he can truly indulge in the relationship with God that I just mentioned and have that darkness growing in his heart.  Guys, I cannot wait to see how my children's perspective will effect the world around them.


I'm going to post about our backpacking trip later, because it was super meaningful to me, but let me say he rescued me from an anxiety attack on a high, slippery slope.  He was calm, he carried too much weight on his back, and after we reached our destination, he said he was glad he did it with us.   That's high prose from someone who already made the Philmont Trek and deemed this trip even harder.


So, these are all photos from his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  He joined scouts late, after going to some friends' court of honor a few years ago.  He was almost 15.  When it was over he said he wished he'd done scouts.  He had wanted to but was involved in too many extra curricular activities to add another without deleting something.  I said, "Why not do it now?  You don't have to make Eagle to learn and have fun camping."  I did warn him that I may not be much help to him.  This was in the middle of The Great Imbalance of 1013-17 (so named because I refer to it quite a bit).  My brain and body were being stretched to their limit with illness and care of elderly relatives.  In other words, I had very poor memory.  I said I would try to help him in any way I could, but he would probably have to keep track of his badges and stay on a tight schedule if he wanted to make Eagle Scout before he turned 18.   And he did it.  He ran with it.  He kept track of his merit badges and service projects all on his own, while participating in band (some) and soccer and making very good grades.  So this rank was truly earned.


I thought I would take a moment to say how much I love him and cherish every single second I get to spend in his presence.  He thinks he is humoring us by watching an episode of This is Us with us, but really, I'm absorbing as much of him as I can before he moves.  And I am never happier than when we are all together with both him and his sister and brother-in-law.


(more on instagram)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cumberland

...And just before the deadline for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL, I finished my Cumberland.  I love it.  The end.

You wish I was that brief.  No, I have to post too many photos and lots of "loves" and "reallys".  At least I know myself well.  So, lets get on with it.




This pattern was a surprise to me.  I found it in my Rav library one morning, a gift from Jennifer, the designer.  It's hard not to indulge immediately in surprises like this, but I held out until my sweater project was finished, like a responsible adult.  In the meantime, I considered color combinations as I dug through all of the yarn I have purchased and hoarded.  I mention this to flesh out your perspective of me as responsible.

It took about 9 days to knit this.  I didn't have as much time to myself to knit as I would've thought I would have.  Guys! My son's senior year is kicking my butt ("We don't say dis.")  Between soccer mom stuff, new responsibilities in BSF, an upcoming Eagle Ceremony, settling my grandmother's estate, and working on scholarship fundraising I am spreeeeead thin.   I keep chanting November 13th to myself, as that's the arbitrary day that I've decided things will slow down... until Christmas.




Anyway, 9 days is still a pretty quick knit.  Quick is something I love.  Easy to memorize is also something I love, and this pattern proved to be that.  Add to that stripes and garter, and Baby, you got a stew goin'.

Details:  I used Gynx Yarns singles in the Lavender Tea and Charcoal colorways.  I am drinking Lavender Earl Grey at this moment, which isn't important but shows how appropriate this color is for me.  It feels good to finally find the perfect project for these skeins.


I'm thinking I used a US size 5 needle on this.  I cast on and mowed through it so quickly, I never logged the info onto it's Ravelry page.

Mods:  My only mods were to add about 4 lace rows to the last lace section and 4-6 extra rows to the last garter section.  I was hoping to compensate for any length lost because I was using a lighter weight yarn.  It wasn't necessary, as you can see.


This type of shawl is probably the best for my climate.  It rarely gets cold where I live, but it would be heavy enough on our few cold days.  If you sit by the water at that one restaurant we have by the water, it is chilly in the Spring.  So this would be really nice around my shoulders.

I didn't find using fingering weight yarn made the fabric less substantial.  The colorways weren't high contrast, but after blocking, the stripes are lovely and the lace is open without being too airy.


More Appalachian Knits shawls I want to knit are Old Rag and Allegany, which you've heard me say before.  I bought 4 skeins of Kaycee from Mountain Meadow Wool specifically for Silvermine , but I had the yardage wrong, so I might can use some Valley Yarns or something that will work instead.  I look forward to those little bobbles!

Appalachian Knits has also released some new sweater patterns that are so wearable.  However, I'm still thinking about the Roan cardigan.  It will be in my closet one day.  Now, this really is the end.

The other post on this shawl is here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Heritage

Heritage, designed by Alina Schneider, is complete!  Stitches were ripped and compromises made, but I did it and the fit is perfect.  Like the other designs I have knitted from Alina, this pattern was very well written.  And the finished sweater was intriguing enough to keep me going, even after I realized I was running out of yarn.




I love the unusual, geometric look of ribbing at the sides.  I envisioned mine as being a little more oversized than it appears to be, but I haven't blocked it for width yet.  An aggressive block could probably get it to swing out a little bit at the ribbing.  I wanted to see how I liked it "as is" first, and I really do like this fit.  Honestly, it looks better without schleppy jeans like these, but whatever, this is what you're getting.  If you want to see more, or less, fitted versions, check out the projects page on this design.  It looks great both ways, but I prefer loose.



Here's my sweater story:  I used US size 2.5 needles to get a slightly wider gauge and Madelinetosh 80/10/10 sport in non-superwash.  It is the Heron's Wing colorway, a nice tonal grey  I got sick of looking at it after I had to re-knit the body, but now that it is finished, I magically love it again.


Originally, I was knitting the medium size and it would have produced a very oversized version of this sweater.  However, once I was almost finished with the body, I realized I wouldn't have enough yarn for sleeves- not even three-quarter sleeves.  I debated for a day or so, then ripped it all back and started over, knitting a size small.  Since my gauge often loosens, as I work on a project, I let it loosen and figured it would give me enough ease.  It did.  This is comfortable and loose, with the ability to be blocked even looser.


Modifications:  My only modifications were to use one less stitch than was required for the I-Cord bind offs and I knit three-quarter length sleeves.  I might could have eeked out full sleeves, then stretched them with blocking, but it didn't seem worth the bother.  Also, that grey was wearing on me.


Here's my photo story:  I got to visit my daughter and son-in-law last weekend.  We were all so wiped out from our various school, work, volunteer activities that we just hung out and ate a lot of good food together.  No trails and such this time, but that's alright with me.  I miss them so much that good conversation was just what I needed.


If you haven't knit any of Alina's designs from her shop, The Gift of Knitting, you gotta get on that.   She just released a collection with Junko Okamoto for Moeke Yarns that is fantastic.  This sweater is part of that collection, as is Wheat.  I want to knit Wheat pretty bad, but am holding out for some of that rustic Moeke yarn to do it right.



This is my third finished knit for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL, which is about to end.  I actually think I'm going to finish four projects for that one KAL, but two were just quickie hats.

Other posts on this knit: like mythology and a giant sigh of relief.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Redeemed

This all started about a year ago.  Things were calming down in my life after a long spell of crisis.   My daily schedule was starting to look like a normal mom's and I was getting a decent amount of sleep each night.  We had also successfully integrated a found kitten into our family, which already included a dog and another semi-feral cat.  So, why I felt overcome with the need to answer a red alert at the animal shelter is beyond me.




You know those posts they put on Facebook with the faces of all the animals that will be put down that week if they aren't adopted?  It was one of those that my daughter would share.

I feel for those animals, but I can't respond because I have a responsibility to my own family and current pets.  I mean, we need to be able to care for ourselves adequately before we take on more.  We also already cover most of our furniture, dorm room style, and I rarely sleep through the night without a cat waking me for something.  We didn't really need more strange routines to counteract pet hair/ claws/ behavior.  We also wanted to be free to travel more, as our lives allowed, without too many needy beings left behind.  But there they were, the doofiest looking eyes stared at me out of a slightly mangey coat.  I knew I was supposed to get her.



I'm not someone who says "I feel like God wants me to do this" about acquiring things.  I don't see my whims as that important in the scheme of things.  Maybe I'd think that about acts of service or difficult tasks, but not when it comes to just getting stuff.  I could easily see myself thinking, "God does not want me to do this."  I usually hold my own desires at arm's length for a long time, considering and testing my motives for wanting to fulfill them.  But it is as clear to me today as it was then.  I was supposed to do it.


Some perspective on how odd this is: I do love animals, but saving them wasn't high on my list of priorities.  I had just seen the end of my grandfather's life after a long battle with the overwhelming symptoms of dementia.  I was still caring for my grandmother and straining under the responsibility.  I didn't know it then, but she would be joining him soon.  People, people who are part of my soul, were on my mind at this time.  Whether or not I had the fortitude to walk alongside another loved one until the end, was what haunted my thoughts.  Hashing out why meds weren't being delivered on time, talking at great length with her about why this or that treatment was necessary, going to doctors, wondering how I could possibly get supper on the table before 9:00 at night, or just finding myself wasting my free moments of the day staring straight ahead in a stupor- these were a normal day's activities.   Dogs and cats were comic relief, that's all.


But, within a week, Ella (I think they give every other female this name) was in our house as a foster, with a chance of adoption.  When I say in our house, I mean only barely.  She was bouncing off the walls of our house.  It groaned at the studs to contain her.  Good grief, she was 2 and had had a litter of puppies.  How could she be this high energy?  Apparently our old lab, Mo, was unusually chill.  The two relatives whom he constantly tried to mount might beg to differ, though.


Anyway, she came to us having recovered from the parvo that killed all of her litter of pups, but one.  After the shelter got her, that little one soon died and she slowly recovered.  She'd been there for over three months with no prospects of adoption.  She still wasn't spayed, might have hip damage from being hit by a car, and had heart worms to boot.  That was a whole uneccessary ordeal with a vet I don't normally use who didn't explain low cost heart worm treatment very well and didn't inform me that the shelter would handle her spaying.  Needless to say, I cried thinking my husband wouldn't want a shelter dog that was $1000 out of the box.  Why had I felt so sure I was supposed to do this?


We got it sorted out, though.  Heart worm treatment wasn't prohibitive.  The hip, though once hurt, was probably only acting up because she kept jumping in and out of the old claw-foot tub if the bathroom door was left open.  If my husband still had concerns, they were dispelled after a few nights of her curling up in his lap, if a 50 pound dog can do that.

She was actually a very pretty dog, now that her coat was filling in.  She looked, and acted, all chocolate lab, except for a head that revealed she was a German Shepherd mix.  She was also better at communicating than the average dog.  She could distinctly whine, "I'm bored" better than any idle  child.  She continues to crack us up, daily.


But those were difficult months for me.  I devoted all of my free time to getting her used to our cats and disciplining any tendency to race towards them.  She spent a lot of time in a giant cage we set up in our living room.  It was the focal point of our decor for many months.  It's okay, I didn't have time to entertain guests and, like I said, we have mismatched covers over everything anyway.


Walks became a dragging down the Iditarod.  It was exactly like you could expect walking an unsocialized lab to be.  I had to walk each of my dogs separately because their combined pulling force was just too much for me, but exercise was important to get her crazies out for better behavior in the home.  This took up many evenings when I would have been trying to catch up on my rest.  The whole process just took time, to the dismay of visiting relatives.  Pieces of furniture were seen as springboards for her never-ending game of parkour.  I remember a period of a few weeks where the only thing that seemed to calm her constant restlessness was the sound of the t.v.  Every night became a Netflix marathon night.


During the day I kept rolled up newspapers, affectionately called boppers, in every room for swatting if she lunged toward the cats or got too wild.  Every day, we put her on lead and let the cats loose to integrate them for a time.  Instead of focusing on restoring my own physical and mental well-being for the next crisis, I was spending lots of quality time with animals, all of which we had saved from some poor fate.  God really does know what He is doing.


Redemption became the theme.  It was in the background of all of my thoughts, all of my personal doubts and hopes.  Through that whole period of training that wild beast, I was considering the cost of my freedom.  I was watching her grow, but I was growing beneath the surface too.  To quote my sister: Ella was completely comfortable with herself at all times- more than any animal or person I have ever seen.  She was redeemed, and she was owning it.


Our real breakthrough came after she was spayed.  She was doped up for a couple of days, too drugged to scooby-doo all over the place.  Finally, our cats could come and thoroughly inspect her.  From that point forward, everything became easier.  She's not jumping on people, has no desire to bolt through any opened door, and doesn't require a cage at all.  Once she got out of our yard and came right back because we are her people.  She is a true companion animal, the only one of our pets who always loves affection.  She also tested heart worm free a couple of weeks ago.


The icing, in all of this, was last Monday when she graduated from Novice Obedience class and won second place in the "trial."  Yes, this was after a tie for first, in a group of only four dogs, but she did really well.  (Actually, I made a mistake that may have cost her first place.)



I don't now if anyone will even read this far in this post.  It's very pet-centric, but I wanted to have this here for me to remember this redemption-as-therapy that helped me during a difficult time.  I like thinking that I, too, have been redeemed from a poor fate.  And that redemption cost God something.  How will I live my life to own it?


Tonight I will be taking both of my dogs, at the same time, for a peaceful stroll.  No more pulling my shoulder out of place.  No need for The Bopper in my back pocket.  We are now a team, a family.

(on instagram and flickr)