About Me:

About Me: I've been knitting since I got bored one summer in college and made a raglan sleeved rag-wool sweater that still almost fits. My favorite things to knit are Scandanavian colorwork and lace. I don't like to knit socks or sleeves. Some years ago, I completed the Level 1 Master Course with The Knitting Guild of America. That's as far as I got, but I did learn a lot and I recommend it highly.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Balls

Ha ha ha. I entertain myself just writing that. I may not be able to find my way out of a paper bag, but I can write myself out of a bad humour.

In knitting, all your past failures and screw-ups "melt, thaw, and resolve into a dew" when you walk into a knitting store. Or even, as I sit here not dressed but warmed by my overheating laptop and a down comforter, thinking about the Patternworks catalog or any imaginary, uber-expensive yarn. Some new balls, some new life. Not made of brass or rocks but of silk or flax or lambswool. Hand-painted, imported, spun with confetti.

Hopeful New Year.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Snarled Mess

One of those Tuesdays when I'm glad to be back at the office.  A nice safe place where other people have problems and I solve them.  Work does not involve holiday drama, or emotional trauma, usually, and that's why so many bars have clever names like "The Office" and "Work" and "An Important Meeting."  So you can hide out here and forget that as soon as you walk out the door you're a fairly incompetent human being, family member, friend.

In 2009 I spent eight months writing a law review article only to have it roundly rejected by the editorial board.  Criticism was angry and hostile.  Not only were my errors the most egregious anyone had ever seen, they were collectively offended that I insisted on making them consider publishing it.  I was angry and hostile in return.  How dare they smear my work with their reactive complaints?  After all I've done for you, and this is the thanks I get, I could hear myself saying.  [In my head.  Thanks Eddie Izzard, for all you do.]

And so I blogged about it.  About how, at least when you are knitting, you can make a complete mess of a project, turn a ball of expensive wool into a rat's nest tangle, or break a valuable pair of needles -- any of which can make you scream with grief and curse the heavens, and feel completely justified with throwing it in a bin and walking away.  Preferably to a bar called "The Office," "Work," or "An Important Meeting."  But no, not so in life.  In life you get to just stare at the expensive, waste-of-time mess you have made out of a job, a relationship, a conversation.  No amount of picking or unraveling will give back to you a do-over.  You have to live with it.

That's where I am today as well.  A rough holiday weekend where everyone suffered.  There was not enough joy to go around and more than enough resentment.  There was no quick fix to the problem, and we'd all remember the harsh words and hurt feelings for a long time.  And now I just have to live with it.  Am I not saying enough?  Too much?  If you know what I'm talking about there's really no need to explain any further.

With the paper, I sobbed my way through enough edits to get the thing approved and I was able to save my academic credits.  Ultimately, it was published not by my own school's law review but by the ABA, and was quite nicely praised, so I felt vindicated.  I hope that my current experience will ultimately be vindicated in the same way.  For now, though, it is a snarled mess.  It doesn't feel as if I have made any of the right choices or am even on the right path.

But perspective, perspective.  I would have this mess if not for my recent choice to go to law school and make my life and Purl's life better.  Our disappointment this weekend I think is primarily over our lack of a fairy godmother who waves a magic wand now that we've completed all the trials of school, the bar exam, and a cross-country move and give us back everything that we gave away and that was taken away.  Being angry over that prevents us from looking at what we did do -- reminding us that we could have chosen not to do anything at all, not to try at all.  We have got feel richer for the experience.  Grateful.  We have got to be critical of the experience in order to learn from it and turn to the next step.

So for now, that's what I'll try to keep doing.  Knitting, lawyering, blogging, and making messes.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Atheism not for me if I have to give up my go-to expletives

Even though it's the time of year to say J.F.C. over and over again, it has a greatly different meaning when attached to an expression of disbelief or furrowed brow.  So far today I've used it both of these ways, the second with an emphatic upward inflection that implies use of an explanation point, and also the first, with a flat affect that rises only slightly above the sound of simple exhalation.  This is made with a certain limp sadness.

I am checking a state employment website.  It's slow to load.  It's slow to load the long, long list of applications I have submitted.  Somewhere in the state employment office there is someone who no doubt receives each application from me and laughs.  Public defender, museum curator, law clerk, law clerk's assistant.  Dozens of these applications, submitted back to this time last year and pretty much on a monthly basis throughout 2010.  I am looking for better pay, lower risk, a larger town, a clearer career path.  As many of the factors as I can get at once, or at least one benefit that makes up for not having any of the others.  I know I am not alone.  I hope so.  It would be so greatly pathetic and insulting for only me out of everyone else to have their application rejected time after time.  Or to have them decline to fill the position at all rather than give me a call and ask am I really interested, do I really think I'm qualified.  Yes, yes, yes.  Atheism is all about no, no, no.  You can't prove it, so it doesn't exist.  It's not necessary, therefore its existence is decorative if anything at all, and certainly not controlling.  And it's been abused, therefore it has abrogated its authority to govern me, on this planet, on this day.  And I do agree on that last point.  In Draussen vor der Tor by Wolfgang Borchert, God explains to the man, Beckmann, that he has no power to help end end his suffering because no one believes in him anymore.  This is the essential tragic and true result of atheism.  Of course, it can be a jumping-off place for rationalism and utilitarianism, and many good things can result from this, if you can accept the inevitable uncertainty of the result -- people letting you down, not acting out of their better selves.  I think of atheism not as evil, but mostly a sad construct for life.

I just re-read Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, and had to stop and write down the following passages when I came to them.  First:  "We are all subject to the fates.  But we must all act as if we are not or die of despair."  And second, as to a "belief" in the reality of religious stories instead of discounting them as children's fairy tales:  "Think of Adam and Eve [or God, generally] like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one:  you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn't be imagined without it."

These two passages sum up why I continue to believe even when all the evidence suggests that I should stop and accept reality, failure, tragedy, suffering.  Of course, I don't comply with any institutional rules, because the dogma and spiritual errors of organized religions have pissed me off beyond repair.  God must exist, because as the cartoon boy of Calvin and Hobbes says, "someone's out to get me."  If God or god exists, he's got a lot of explaining to do.  Like why won't you help me make faster progress in this job search, or at least make it a whole hell of a lot easier.  It is unbelievably unfair and unkind to force a conclusion that I am responsible for my own meager successes and phenomenal failures.  It is more just to give me a bare authority to rail against, and be able to curse it for causing the harms that continue to befall me. 

I believe in order to swear.  Happy Christmas, and glad tidings in the New Year.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mittens, Kittens

Two of the ladies I knitted with tonight were making mittens.  They had the thumb hole stitches caught off on holders and were measuring each round on a hand to see when it was long enough.  I love objects that you can fit to fit as you make them.  I was just knitting on my boring old Chinese cashmere scarf or whatever it is, just keeps me from jabbing the needles into the latest person who annoys me on a particular day.  And we talked about spinning and milk and knitting and edged toward the things we were uncomfortable talking about, and maybe we'll get to those the next time.  It was a good day over all.

I was particularly taken with the thumb holes that you just hold off onto little holders, those wires that are safety pins without the loop.  One style of life says you bind off those damn stitches when you are done with them.  When you decide to go back and finish the thumb you have to cast it all back on.  The other style says, no, keep them options open, you never know when you'll want to pick them off and keep going just like you never stopped.  Put down roots, stay on your toes.  Be solid.  No, be flexible.  It's all so, so, dualistic.

Today was also the day I almost decided to shell out $9.99 for a set of SNOT SPOT devices for my ski gloves.  These are a great invention for those of us for whom sniffling is so much a part of life we no longer notice it.  The company makes versions that fit over mittens and gloves, as well as special fit models to fit over bare hands for runners and biking gloves for cyclists.  Washable even when your mitts or gloves are not, and much softer to the schnozz.  It is genius.  I want some. . . but being crafty I want to try and make my own -- not to violate their copyright, just to have fun with my sewing machine this winter.  I think the product is fabulous and will be far superior to any replica I could duct tape together.  And I'm thinking of it because of the design, and how the thumbless mittens made me think of it.  So anyway some fabric playtime is in my future.

Do you remember the book The Color Kittens?  The three little kittens, they lost their mittens, and they began to cry.  The children's book is a little psychedelic if you ask me.  I think there is a purpley kitten melting in the clouds.  I will get more information for you and a copy of the cover when I get a chance, but for now it's just free association. 

And knitting.  I got what, a few rows finished.  The greatest part was how I could walk into this knitting group more than two hours late, with only about twenty minutes to go, and felt totally welcome to just sit down, provided I pulled some wool and sticks out of my bag.  All was well in the world because we could relate on the subjects of knitting, purling, mothering, and anything else that came up.  I will see them again next week or as soon as I can.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Gathering Wool

Did I use this lame title yet?  Well welcome to it.  Studies say that we should make time on our to-do lists for doing nothing.  It gives our psyche time to catch up with the racing mind.  Our culture is confused on how it is possible to have a body that is lean and mean, a budget that is slim and trim, and at the same time a creativity and intellect that is broad and expansive.  And often we approach our creativity as if it is just one more thing to do on a to-do list:  ready set go!  Do nothing. . . now!  Relax and let go. . . now(! - and only for the next fifteen minutes).

So I am waiting for the laundry to dry so I can pack the car with clean socks, following which I will face icy roads between the valley I live in and the one I will be skiing in this weekend.  Last night before I went to sleep I went over the itinerary, having argued with Purl about how many things we were going to do when I got there.  She seemed to think we'd be picking up holiday-sale grapefruit at the high school and then dropping her off to see a friend's play, and was not concerned that we had to get to the flu shot clinic before 6 and that I was invited to have drinks with friends at 5.  Oh yeah, I thought, I'm supposed to be having fun; when should I book that part of the weekend?  It didn't seem like there was room for it.

The thought process was the opposite of wool gathering, expanding the mind and letting the dust settle slowly.  I was working hard to cram things into the center and realized that the universe is going to do that anyway whenever it stops expanding.  Things will rush in and there will be a huge implosion as a natural course of events.

So I stopped, and put on a 20-minute yoga podcast.  Not a cardio sequence; no more killing two birds with one stone (relaxation and firmer glutes).  One of the sessions that reminds you that when you start feeling uncomfortable with the stillness and feel like you should be doing something, that's when the work begins.  And another thing that was great about this session -- an important twist on the trite concept of "letting go."  Don't you get tired of people telling you that?  Let it go, what a load of crap.  I lot of people who talk about letting things go seem to me to be pushing something away that they don't want to deal with.  They reactively discard anything in their lives that make them uncomfortable, that make them remember how human they are.  For them, letting something go means they don't have to think about it anymore, but to me it looks like they use the concept of letting go to put up a wall they can hide behind:  see, I let it go!  It's over there and now it can't touch me.

My yoga podcast said something slightly different:  when you feel something coming up, let it in, and then let it go.  Ahhhh.  An important first step.  Or two steps.  First, you recognize that something is uncomfortable for you:  a doubt, a fear, an insecurity, a slight, a hurt, an indignancy.  But instead of pushing it away without looking at it, a reactive way of "letting go," you don't resist.  You let it in to your mind, like a fly that comes in the window even though it's so annoying.  Without jumping up to wave it away.  You know that if you just let it in for a moment, it will fly right back out the window without having to do anything about it.  Like stepping aside from a hard-hit ball coming in your direction and letting it fall, instead of trying to catch it in your bare hands.  Like just cleaning out the lint tray in the dryer after it is done (still going, when is that thing going to be done?  I have to get going), instead of trying to grab each little fiber out of the air.  Let it in, and then let it go.  See what it brings.

Have a great weekend, doing a little bit of nothing if you can.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Provisional Cast-on

Way back in 2008 when I was in between the first and second years of law school, I started a really cool pair of gloves, designed by Joan Goldstein of Woods Bay, Montana.  I wrote a post on the subject when I was in between gloves:
July 21, 2008 -- Great accomplishment of the weekend, finishing one of the garter-stitch gloves.  They're tricky, using a provisional cast-on, a piece of string to hold loops on your needle until you're ready to knit them.  Doesn't feel logical, looks weird, hard to hang on to.  Then about 3 days later when you work your way BACK, suddenly it makes sense and you're so glad you did.

What is really cool about this pattern is that it is knit from wrist to tip - sideways.  Using your piece of string or waste yarn, you hold onto the stitches for each finger, starting with the thumb.  When you're done with that finger, you put the stitches on a short double pointed needle and use the string to cast on the next number or provisional stitches for the next finger, and so on.  It looks like a big tangle of needles and string for a long time, until you reach the little finger and, get this, knit back the other way on the back side of the hand.  You graft each finger together as you go, as well as sewing up the gaps between the fingers as you complete each one.  There's practically no finishing, because when you graft the thumb you can just put it on your hand and walk away.
And that brings me back to law school.  A 3-year provisional period in my life that's not over yet.  Doesn't feel right all the time, but every once in a while you get a glimpse of the finished project and you think - cool, yes that is right.  I just have to keep going until I get there.  Right now I kind of just want to toss the whole thing, but why would you do that when, metaphorically speaking, you've already finished the first glove?
The provisional cast-on isn't the only cool thing about these gloves.  First, there's the neat fit you get from the sideways knitting.  You can custom design the length of each finger, so you don't have empty space at the tip, or a squished feeling in between.  It looks like a glove as you knit it, so you don't get silly questions from your fellow commuters.  And you get to use Brittany birch double-points, which are so cool.  Brittany makes special glove needles, that are not only in great small sizes like 2 and 3, but they are only a few inches long.  This is so when you are working on a row of only about 12 stitches your needles don't get in the way.
But I don't wonder why the provisional cast-on was so hard to get used to and why I wanted to quit.  Now that I'm starting out in a new profession in a new town, a lot of what I do at work or meeting people doesn't feel right, and I want to bail very, very badly.  I think it's human to want things to be easy, to have a short learning curve, to be able to read a novel of 300 pages in a weekend.  We're stymied when we're faced with something that takes several tries to get right, requires some failure, or has the narrative arc of "What's Bred in the Bone."  We want to punch the person who says "Just Breathe."  But once I got the hang of it, I was able to use two colors, and make the palm of the glove one color and the back of the glove the other color.  I eventually finished both gloves, and went on to make several more pair.  I started to have fun, but it came only after I continued knitting despite having pretty much given up.
I hope that you get the hang of whatever you are doing, provisionally or otherwise, and are able to have fun in your work and your knitting.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pins and Needles

See?  I told you there would be lots of lame metaphors and bad puns.  First I just want to talk about Brittany birch needles, or pins if you are feeling British and like saying "knitting pins."  Brittany Birch needles are smooth and fast and warm and feel great.  I have several pair in a number of sizes.  Whoever makes them puts this great looking finial on the end of single points.  And whenever I think of a project I want to do I ask myself if I have a pair of these needles that will work, and sometimes I think of projects that will allow me to buy a pair that I don't have yet.

The other pair of sticks that I love to talk about are my cross-country skis.  I am not a fast skier, but around here in the winter if you don't do something outside you will miss out on all the fun.  So today I went out on some groomed trails nearby.  It went great.  The sun was shining, the snow was sparkling, and I got warmed up quickly and did three loops of the course.  There was groomed track for classic cross-country skis and a big wide area for skate skiing so I will go back with that gear next time.  Skate skiing is faster and more aerobic, and women think it's good for toning their hips.  Whatever. 

My hands, which hate the cold, stayed warm the whole time.  It was only afterward that they freaked out.  This is where the pins and needles metaphor is relevant on a personal level.  I have this thing called Reynaud's syndrome.  Normally if you go somewhere cold your body's thermostat reacts by pulling back the circulation in your extremities so it can keep your core organs warm.  That's why people get frostbite in their fingers, nose, ears, and toes and never in parts that are more centrally located, like the belly button.  Lynne Cox's book Swimming to Antarctica does a good job of explaining the general thermal principle. 

When you go back inside things are supposed to go back to normal.  Sometimes you get a little tingling in your fingers until everything is back on track.  But my thermostat has a short circuit in it somewhere.  My fingers will be warm, even sweaty from skiing, skating, or running outdoors.  But if I don't watch it they will get a whiff of cold air, usually when I am done and getting back into the car, or the house.  All of a sudden, I lose sensation in the tips and they feel numb.  They're not asleep -- they still function.  It's just that I can't feel them.

It is the most annoying condition I can think of to have in the winter.  There you are, inside for pete's sake, and the color is draining out of your fingers before your eyes.  You could say the skin turns white, except with my skin tone it's really more of a pale yellow.  Shaking them and rubbing them, like I did for ten minutes in the bookstore, doesn't help.  And people look at you.  No, I don't have some kind of a tic.  I'm just trying to get some circulation going, ok?  I usually end up in the restroom running warm water over my hands until they pink up.  That's the only thing that reverses it.

It stings a lot until you get a handle on it, and there's really no way to prevent it.  Basically I have to wear gloves all the time whenever I'm outside, and keep them on for about five or ten minutes after I go indoors.  Stress is supposed to be a contributing factor, which is funny, because the whole time I was in lawschool in the midwest I had just one minor attack.

Gosh I can't figure out a way to close out this post.  Here is a picture of the blue cashmere project I am working on this week.  Sort of a scarf-like thing.  No pattern, just playing around with shape and feel.  My goal for the week is to go to at least one of the local stitch n'bitch sessions around town.  I can hardly wait!  I'm on. . . no, I won't say it.