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Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Belated Fibre Friday

I missed my normal Fibre Friday post last night for a very good reason...my internet was done. But now its back! Yay!

Sooo....in a Christmas knitting update, I've finished one of my projects! This should mean that I only have two things left to knit, but my brother, contemplating the completed Finished Object (which shall not be identified until after it has been given to the intended recipient), said "You know, you knit a lot better than when you made me that awful hat".

"Yeah, that was pretty bad," I agreed. C.'s hat had been one of my earliest projects. It was round, which is about the only way it resembled a hat.

C. continued to contemplate the FO. "I better you could make a better one now."

"Probably."

"You're knitting gifts for a lot of people in the family, aren't you?"

"Yep." And than I got it. C. wants me to knit him a hat for Christmas. So now I have three remaining projects. I don't mind the chance to redeem my last hat.

As for the FO that I knitted, it was really fun, and really fast (You can find the patter on my Ravelry page, under "Christmas Project 2"). The design was ingenious, though it took me almost until the end to realize how it worked (I'm still learning how to mentally translate the pattern into an image of the finished object).

The only problem was that I knitted it with slightly thicker yarn than that pattern called and I had some trouble getting gauge. The pattern said 15 stitches should equal four inches on size 10 needles. So I cast on 20 stitches onto size 8 needles (you should always cast on more stitches than you need so you can measure the middle ones), and proceeded to knit a small sample swatch. I could immediately see that it was too bit, so even though I'd thought I might have to go up, not down, a needle sized, I dropped to a 7. Still too big. Throughly confused, I casted onto a size 6, deciding that since on this pattern it was better to be to big than too small, I wouldn't go down another size even if gauge wasn't perfect. I casted on 20 stitches...and it hit me. 20 stitches. I had been stupidly measuring all 20 stitches, instead of just the middle 15. *sigh*. I pulled out my size 9 needles, casted on 20, knit a swatch, measure the inner 15 stitches and...perfect.  And way more work than it should have been.

Well, I'm now behind at least one post, on running the Turkey Trot, which I'll try to put up tomorrow. I also have three more Christmas projects to get done. But tomorrow is Sunday, and on Sunday,  I spin :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today I'm Thankful for...(Part 4)

The Little Things
A List in no particular order

1. My family and friends
2. My health
3. Being able to knit
4. Being able to run
5. My family's health
6. Having a place to live
7. Having a job
8. Being able to work with children at school
9. My rats (Purl passed away, for those of you don't know. I have new rat named Spindle)
10. My yarn stash
11. My fibre stash
12. Having a running buddy
13. Getting to see the sunrise on my morning run
14. The way everything smells after it rains
15. The orchid that bloomed yesterday
16. That the sky is blue (I don't think any other colour would have worked)
17. How babies smell (My Dad calls it the "new person" scent)
18. Good climbing trees
19. Music and art
20. Love

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today I'm Thankful For.... (Part 3)

Knitting and Running
I know these sound like strange things to be thankful for, but bear with me dear readers, and you will understand why I chose to write about them (I hope).


Knitting


I mentioned in my last post that this past summer was hard for me, but I didn't really go into the details. While struggling to adjust to my new life as not-a-college-student, I stopped doing two of my favourite things...reading and writing. Instead, all I did was watch TV on Hulu. I've never been one to watch much TV, but I found myself easily watching a whole season of Stargate SG-1 in a week. I was searching for distractions, and I found it in TV, when I had previously found it in books.

My brain should have turned into mush from watching all those TV shows, but for one thing. While I was watching TV, I was knitting. And it was knitting that eventually got me away from my computer screen and out spending time with other people. Ann, the owner of The Black Sheep suggested I join Ravelry (think Facebook for knitters and crocheters), and through that site I found the knitting group that helped me find my feet again and start pursuing the things I enjoyed.

Running

Besides knitting, running was the one other thing I did besides watching TV. And like knitting, running helped me to start socializing with others. Most important, running led to me making a friend, my running buddy V.

But more than that, running and knitting are reminders. I can knit because I have the luxury of extra time and money to spend on my hobby. And I can run because my body is healthy and strong. And those things are both worth being thankful for.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today I'm Thankful For.... (Part 2)

Having a Job




Those of you who know me well know I’ve had a tough summer. For a long time now I’d planned to go straight into graduate school after college, and when I wasn’t accepted to any of the schools I applied to (except one, but with no funding), it was very difficult for me to come to terms with my situation.

I felt, besides being hurt, angry. It seemed to me that I had suffered a great injustice. I had worked hard. I had gotten good grades. I had taken the classes I needed to take. I deserved to be in graduate school.

Deserved. What a funny word. Who ever said anyone deserved anything? Who are we to judge that? Even in what I perceived as my misfortune, I was blessed.  I had a place to live, even if it did mean moving back in with my parents. And even though I hadn’t been able to find a full-time teaching job, I was able to get a part-time job as a tutor, and another part-time job doing social media and marketing. I was aware of this, and yet my hurt at not having gotten into graduate school left me unable to acknowledge my blessings.

But now I can. It’s still hard, but I’ve finally gotten out of the mindset that I’ve suffered an injustice.  I can be hurt and disappointed, yes, but I have no right to angry. Not when I hear every day about another person losing their job, or struggling to make ends meet. I’m blessed. Very, very blessed. And for that, I am thankful. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today I'm Thankful For.... (Part 1)

I've decided that from now until Thanksgiving I'm going to write a post each day about something I'm thankful for. So today I'm thankful for....


The Lesson I Learned from Steve
In Two Parts


Part One: The Shawl


I first met Steve in my knitting group. He was, at the time (and still is) working with two giant skeins of yarn that had been given to him. One skein was pink, the other green, both in shades that don't actually exist in nature but can be found on kitchen appliances of a certain past decade. The colours were, in short, complimentary only in the sense that they could both be found sharing a kitchen in the '70's.

But Steve, for a couple of weeks, worked on knitting a shawl out of these skeins in alternating squares of pink in green. Curious about who he could be making such a shawl for, I asked him.

"I'm making it as a prayer shawl", he said. "I'll probably give it to a church to give to someone who needs it."Which, I thought, was very nice, but, to be honest, I wondered about what the future recipient would think about the colour scheme.

About a week after this, I was in my church parking lot heading into the building when I caught a flash of green and pink out if the corner of my eye. I turned to look and there, unmistakably, was Steve's shawl getting out of a car. I started to greet him, when I realized it wasn't Steve wearing the shawl, it was C.. C. was a woman in my church who had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

I went over to greet C., but it was really the shawl I focusing on. It matched C. perfectly. In fact, if Steve had known C. his whole life, he could not have made a shawl that suited her better. It reminded that everything has a place and everything has a purpose.

Part two: The Diagnosis


This part concerns a young woman, whom I know very, very well, and shall call, for the sake of this story, "Emily" (Think about it. This isn't a hard one.).

Emily had had a rough weekend. A rough week, actually. She had made some decisions that were hard to make, and was looking for comfort, and maybe advice from her knitting the group. But if she was honest with herself, what she really wanted was attention. She wanted people to agree that she had had a rough week, and to feel bad on her behalf. In short, she felt selfish, and worse, she felt she was entitled to feel that way.

Shortly after she arrived at her knitting group, Steve commented that he'd had a bad week, and for no one to be offended he got up and left early. Emily took that comment as her cue.

"I bet I had the worse week," she announced, and then proceeded to enumerate they ways in which her week had been bad. After she had finished, and basked in what she felt was her deserved sympathy, someone (Emily would like to think it had been her, but couldn't remember) asked Steve what happened during his week.

Steve paused before answering. "I was diagnosed with cancer in my hip."

And that moment, Emily realized that she'd been so caught up in her own problems, that she had failed to notice those of the people around her.

***

Steve will have radiation seeds placed on his hip tomorrow with the hope of killing the cancer. They will, fittingly enough, be remove on Thanksgiving. And in the meantime, Emily...I mean I, have learned what it means to think about others. To serve others with my gifts, and to stop and be thankful for especially the little things in life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas Knitting Continues

Um...yeah. That's pretty much it in the fibre world for me at the moment. I might have a post Sunday, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Ahead, I *Dare* You


Yesterday, I ran my second 10k at the Celebration Health Founders' Day 10k (6.2 mi) and 5k (3.1 mi). (My first was the Disney Race for the Taste, which I wrote about here). My first 10k had been run on a whim, when, 2 weeks away from the race, my running partner, V., suggested we run it. At that point, we had only run 4 miles, and really had to push our training to make the distance. But this 10k we were ready for.

The weather beautiful, and from the moment V. and I lined up, we knew it was going to be a good run. We ran 5-1 intervals, meaning we ran for 5 minutes, then walked for a minute. For our first 10k, we averaged about 13 minute mile pace, so I was excited to see us finish the first mile in 12 minutes. And even more excited to pass mile 2 at 24 minutes, and mile three at 36 (I have somehow become the official time/interval keeper on our runs).

By the time we passed mile 4 at 48 minutes, I knew, short of a disaster, V. and I were going to PR (Personal Record), possibly by as much as 6 minutes.

Unfortunately, halfway through mile four, I found myself struggling to maintain my pace. I was running with a cold, and it was starting to take a toll on me. V. saw I was struggling, and tried her best to encourage me. Right in front of us was a man wearing a Navy shirt, and V., who was in the Army, turned to me and said "Now, see that man? You know I can't let him beat me." I managed to push up my pace to pass him, but found that my legs just physically couldn't move faster. "Go on ahead", I told V. "I'll meet you at the finish" (which was important in more ways than one).

V. took off, and I walked for a little while. Then, just before mile 5, I got a second wind, and picked my pace back up. I continued to push myself through the last mile, though not too much (you'll know why I was saving my energy soon). As I cam up on mile 6, with just .2 miles to go, I saw the Navy guy again and grinned. I knew I could beat him. I picked up my pace, and passed him just before crossing the finish line with a PR of 1:15:42, 5 minutes off my last 10k! I was thrilled, but the day wasn't over.

You see, the day after Race for the Taste, V. texted me to say "I have a crazy idea- Celebration Health Distance Dare". And while I don't remember ever actually agreeing to do the Distance Dare, both V. and I had the hot pink stickers on our race numbers that designated DD participants. What is the Distance Dare? It's a new feature of the Track Shack Grand Prix Series that allows people to run both distances. Yep. Both. Hence me saving my energy on the 10k. Because after I finished and met up with V., we headed over to the start of the 5k.

I don't have much to say about the 5k. V. and I both ran our own pace, at 5-1 intervals, and almost finished at the same time. I took it easy, but felt really good during it. If I hadn't been saving my energy for the 5k, I could have probably knocked another minute or two off my 10k. I also made the rather interesting discovery that a 5k is a very short race...at least after running a 10k. My total time for the full 15k came out to 1:53:45. Not bad, considering the farthest V. and I had run before the race was 6.5 miles.

Shout-outs to fellow bloggers and Celebration Health runners Morgan and Robin.

And now, to bed. I'm still tired, and my legs are still very angry at me.

P.S. Sorry about any typos. I'm too sleepy to go back and fix them right now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Start of Christmas Knitting

My Birthday yesterday resulted in a set of Knit Picks Harmony Options interchangeable needles, and the first ever gift card to be sold at the Black Sheep, which was promptly redeemed for a yarn swift (thingy that holds your hanks of yarn so you can wind it into a ball). I no longer have any excuse to avoid my Christmas knitting.

I have several projects on the needles, including a sock (one is done), a scarf, a bag, and some things that can't be mentioned here becuase their intended recipients read my blog.

Well, thats it. A short post tonight, as its late, and I'm tired. May you all be as warm as my rats in their pile of alpaca fibre.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Concerning Birthdays

A Somewhat Disconnected Rambling

I remember a time in my life when my parents used to allow me to have as many people over at my birthday party as I was years. So, when I was 7, I had seven friends over, and so on. With childhood naivete, I looked forward to when I was older. Just think how many friends I could invite when I was older! 16! 18! 20!

Birthdays are very odd things. A celebration of the individual, a holiday of the self, a recognition that you have been alive one more year. And as my next birthday approaches, I wonder what it is that is really being celebrated.

At their root, there is a serious reason for all holidays and festivals. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ,  Easter His resurrection. Many countries have Independence Days, to commemorate the birth of their nations. Even Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, and before that, it was the harvest festival of Samhain.

But birthdays...birthdays are something different. Only rarely do they celebrate someone great, someone who has done something worthwhile. And yet they are celebrated with the same traditions we celebrate our significant holidays with. We celebrate with feasting, with gifts, with the gathering of friend and families. But why? Are birthdays just a selfish way of declaring oneself to be important? Or worse, are they merely a celebration mediocrity? Or are they something else entirely?

Perhaps birthdays are simply (and yet, how wonderful simple can be sometimes!) a celebration of life. A recognition that however little, or much, you have done, your life is worth something. You have a value. And that worth, that value, is worth celebrating.

For the first time I can remember, I've not been looking forward to my birthday this year. There seems so little to celebrate, so little I have done that is worth recognizing, so little to make me worth my own holiday. But if birthdays are something more than a celebration of the individual, if they are a celebration of life, of purpose, then I need to change my attitude to that of the Mad Hatter, and not just celebrate once a year, but celebrate every day.

Happy Un-Birthday, everyone!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update

So, I have to confess, I haven't been knitting as much as usual. I've been spinning.

I finished spinning the alpaca fibre I was working on for a friend (no pics...I want it to be a surprise), and it came out really well. Not perfect, but very good. Besides, if you want perfect, by your yarn at a store.

I also ordered a new spindle and some milk protein silk from Silver Sun Alpacas. While I waited for my new fibre to come in, I got a little artistic with my drop spindle.



I now have my new spindle, a soprano Spindolyn, and it is amazing. Even before my fibre came in I enjoyed spinning it and watching it rotate in it's base. Spinning on it is addictive. Add to it that the fibre I'm working with gorgeous and incredibly soft, and its no surprise my knitting has been neglected.




See? Who could walk away from that? But I'm going to have to, or else my Christmas knitting will never get done.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: http://cmp.ly/0

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Track Shack Blog Nominated!

The Track Shack Blog has been nominated for the Orlando Sentinel's Orbbies Awards. You can vote for it once a day, every day until Nov. 20 for Best Sports Blog and Best Overall Blog. Vote at http://www.orlandosentinel2.com/data/orbbies/voting/?vote_for=172#172 or at the link on my sidebar, and spread the word. For those of you who don't know, I help run the Track Shack Blog. 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: http://cmp.ly/4

Monday, November 2, 2009

On Reading the Iliad in the Laundry Room

Written 4-5-2009

Can words have a smell? A feel? A temperature? Because these words do to me. They smell like laundry detergent and fabric softener, with a faint hint of bleach, vinegar, and mildew. They feel warm, like the bathroom after a long shower. And though the meter of the Greek is lost in the translation, to me the words sing with the rhythmic thumping of dryers.


Or perhaps I have it backwards. Perhaps it is the smells and sounds of the laundry room that makes recollect the words. But whichever way it is, both bring the same image to mind.


It’s a freshman girl. She uncertain about how to deal with the tension of sharing a dorm room, and untrusting of leaving her laundry unattended. So she seeks refuge in the laundry room, searching for escape in the words of the book she has been assigned to read.


“Sing of rage”. The room is warm and comforting. Its atmosphere covers her like a blanket. “Of Peleus’ son, Achilles”.  The sickly sweet scent of detergent is familiar. It reminds her of her Grandma’s house. “And the will of Zeus be done” The thumping of the dryers seems loud at first, but soon becomes mesmerizing, drawing her deeper and deeper into the words she is reading. “You visionary of hell, never have I had fair play in your forecasts”.


Her laundry is finished, but she doesn’t leave. This room is safe. Even though other students pass through it to get their own laundry, it feels more private than her dorm-room. And so she stays.


And now, whenever that freshman, now a senior, walks into a laundry room, the words of that miraculous poem come back to her. The words that would help to shape the path she took on her journey through college. The words read in the laundry room.