Monday, November 30, 2009

Knittin' with the Girls

Well, except for Bill, of course.

Thanksgiving with the kids was ... the usual wonderful torture. And when I say torture, I mean, of course, fingernails on chalkboard torture, Chinese water torture, toenails being pulled out at the roots torture, wearing your new heels to work torture, being held down and tickled by your big brother torture.

Needless to say, I wouldn't have missed a moment.

And of course, it wasn't really torture. It was just three days of extreme stress, and not because of the kids. It was highly stressful because I took three flipping dogs to Charlotte to celebrate Thanksgiving.  (Mr. Pug was in Utah, blissfully enjoying being pugfree, although he did have to put up with his brothers.) By the time I left, I was just thankful that there were no deaths and no one went to jail.

First, the dogs usually love going in the car ... until they figure out that the car will move and then they won't be home. Usually this takes about to the end of the driveway. Then they start pacing and nosing the windows and whining softly and barking at passing cars and people and trying to nudge open the big Tupperware container of their food and barking at passing cars and looking for their water bowls.

We're not even out of the subdivision and I want to go home myself!

Anyway, by the time we got to my younger daughter's home on Wednesday, I was at my wit's end and ready to put them up for adoption. But the kids were thrilled to be with them and they were ... well, Buddy was just as thrilled. He's really a people dog and just wants to be with lots of people who will pet him and fuss over him and if they scratch his belly, well, that's just a bonus.  But the girls ... let's just say they have my personality and they would have been quite happy to be able to go to their corners to read a book or knit a sock.

The good news is this: Lulu only bit one person and that was just a nip, and it wouldn't have been too serious anyway because she lost her two bottom incisors playing tug-of-war with Buddy. And I forgave her because the child in question was holding her by the ears and pushing her face into Lulu's face and, I ask you, wouldn't you have bitten her too? And Lucy nipped me, but only because Lulu jumped at her because she apparently was protecting her from the same child and Lucy got scared. And Buddy only took off running once, across several lawns, to see some people up the street who looked like they might pet him.

Can you say S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L?

No blood, folks! You can move along now. Nothing to see!

Oh, and did I mention noisy? OMG! These people talk all the time. I mean all the time. Yes, one of them is four and this is characteristic of four-year-olds. But what about the grownups and the over-fours? And none of them ever speak in a normal tone. Nope! They yell. 


IT'S TIME FOR BED! they say.

PICTUREKA! they say.

Shhhhhh ... my hearing was blown out by the British Invasion of the 60's and still these people are reverberating like a mudslide coming down a mountain.

By the time we left on Saturday morning, younger daughter was growling herself--apparently dogs shed. Who knew? She was muttering about the state of her baseboards and I knew it was time to go. Older daughter was out of town so she is probably just checking her baseboards out right about now, and wondering how we could have scratched her new hardwoods in the 12 hours we were at her house.

Fact is, they're not dog people. Or cat people. Or hamster, fish, or bird people. Neither of them really likes anything that sheds or poops or pees or asks to go outside to do any of those things.

So, as much as I loved being with daughters and grands, I couldn't wait to get back on the road, to spend seven (yes, I said seven--traffic on I-85 was insane) hours with three dogs doing a repeat performance of their previous pet tricks. And I was so happy to be home, in my own space, that I swore I wouldn't leave it until forced out on Monday morning to go to work. And it was so ... quiet. Blissful!

Instead, Sunday found me at Only Ewe, knitting with the girls and, of course, with Bill. Somehow the house felt really, really quiet and the car knew the way and ... there I was.

And I remembered where home is. Home is where they let you knit without asking whether you're going to make something for me, me, me, and when it's going to to be finished, and whether I could make another one, just like it, but in black and smaller and out of different yarn, and where no one wants the water bowl refilled and where no one's worrying about the state of the baseboards.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


What is it about me and pressure? Deadlines? Requirements? Commitments?

Yeah,  I know. I suck at all of them. It's embarrassing to say, but it's true.

For instance, it's wonderful to have a blog. Absolutely freeing to know I have an open place to lay it all out, write about whatever's on my mind, without any pressure to write. Just write when I feel like it, don't when I don't.

Believe me, if someone said, Woof, You Must Write 500 Words Every Thursday, I'd be running in the other direction. Because, I guess I'm commitment-phobic.

(I'm pretty sure that Mr. Pug would agree with this. And, okay, anyone who's viewed all my projects-in-progress could have told you this as well--it's not exactly a secret after all!)

So, why, why, why did I think that this year, unlike 2007 and 2008, I would be able to handle Nanowrimo? What? You haven't heard of Nanowrimo?

Simple enough. All over the world, professional and pre-published writers (I hate the word "amateur" in this context--it makes me think of being the last child called for the team in school) commit to try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

Thought I'd do it in 2007--failed. Thought I'd do it in 2008--failed. As for 2009--no chance at this point.

Let's do the math. 50,000 words divided by 30 days (remember 30 days hath September, April, June and November?) is 1,667 words a day. How difficult could that be?

And they don't even have to be the right words--the idea is to produce a first draft that you'll finalize later. The idea here is to get your novel down on paper in some form or another, or at least 50,000 words of it.

So, following the math example above, my word count for 11/20  should be about 66.67% complete, or 33,333 words.  Reality: 3,088, 5.52%. Not even 10% of the partial goal. (Can you tell that I'm a data cruncher in my other life? Would you like to see the Excel graphs demonstrating my failure? Nah, I didn't think so.)

Want to hear my excuses? Again, I didn't think so.

I think I'm going to declare a new individual, personal challenge, to try to get something in written form by the spring. Then I'm going to try to get to Malice Domestic the last week of April. (This could be a stretch given that Stitches South will be here the week before--I'm going to have to save some serious moolah but at least I have a place to stay at MD--someone in my old neighborhood would put me up, I'm sure.)

But it would be put me in the DC area at Maryland Sheep and Wool time. Hmmmmm.

Okay, so work, family, holidays--those damned holidays!--pugs, work, knitting, work -- no problem!

Notice how I'm already making excuses for why I can't make the new challenge?

Friday, November 20, 2009

OMG ... Did They Say "Nether Regions"?

From Eat This, Not That, under "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day":


It may be green and leafy, but spinach is no nutritional wallflower. This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the nether regions, helping to protect you against age-related sexual issues. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights macular degeneration. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day.

Okay, what are the odds on finding this term in my email a day after I use it in a blog? Incalculable.

Darn you, Debra.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reader, Writer, and Knitter, of course

If I had to describe myself in a few words--not so easy for someone as wordy as me, as you know!--three of those words would be reader, writer, knitter. And, of course, parent, grandmother, dog lover, semi-spouse. Yadda, yadda. The list goes on and on.

We're all complex creatures, of course, and that's what has always fascinated me about people. When I was appraising real estate, I loved to go into someone's house and try to identify what the owner was passionate about. Most of us are passionate about something, whether it's a craft, reading, or collecting some arcane object.

(Frankly, if you're not passionate about something ... well, shame on you.)

Anyway, I'd wander through someone's personal space, all in the name of business, of course, and while I was taking notes on square footage and condition of the appliances and carpeting, I'd be checking out the shelf space. I would see the most amazing things--at least they amazed me.

Sometimes the things people collected were pretty run-of-the-mill. Pottery or a particular kind of glassware or cow creamers--yes, I do remember someone who had hundreds of cow creamers. Very Bertie Wooster, that. I saw more doll collections than you can imagine, which only tells me that someone's spending way too much time with the shopping channels. It's only my opinion, but there's something just a little creepy about all those Marie Osmond dolls staring blankly out from behind the glass cabinetry.

One time I went into a very ordinary house in the F... M ... subdivision of Herndon. House was ordinary, owner was ordinary, nothing special one way or another. Then I got to the master bedroom. Over the bed was a huge, and I mean VERY LARGE, oil painting of Fabio on horseback riding through the woods, that long shiny hair flying in the wind, teeth glistening, and a sensuous look on his face. He looked like he was coming right toward me so he could ... well, let's just say that I got a twitch in a few unbusinesslike parts.  What I once heard a romance writer call "the nether regions," although I'd have to look up "nether" to see if that's an accurate use of the word.*

Once I recovered my equilibrium, I asked the owner, "uh, not to be too personal, but ... uh ... what's the deal with Fabio?" Because let's face it. I'd seen a bunch of stuff, but Fabio hanging over the bed? I don't know what I thought the explanation would be (it was before the days when we were used to hearing about erections that last more than four hours and personal lubricants), but I was unprepared for it.

Turned out, she was a romance writer. She showed me a bookcase of her books published by Harlequin Books and the oil painting was the original art for one of her book covers. She said she wasn't sure which was the greater thrill--knowing her books were being read by thousands of horny women throughout the world, or knowing that Fabio was on the cover. Well, that was in Fabio's heyday--I'm assuming that by now he's just another long-haired wrinkly old dude, but I got her meaning.

I'm digressing again, aren't I? Well, not surprising. That's what I do.

Anyway, I've been a reader since I was very young. I was an only child until I was nine, and life in those days was ... let's just say, I spent an awful lot of time alone, and I read, all the time. And reading is still a huge part of my life ... everything from the daily paper to The New Yorker to knitting magazines to novels to histories to ... well, you get the idea. I'm one of those people who reads billboards and cereal boxes and yarn ballbands and other people's blogs.

And I also write, mostly for myself, but that's okay. I'm my own best fan, so why not? And of course, I knit. Well, we knew that, didn't we?

So, who cares? What's this all about? Glad you asked!

First of all, you all know that Wednesday is Noble Knitters night, right? Yup. That's the once-a-week knitalong that makes Hump Day bearable for me. Our group has been meeting at the Barnes & Noble at the Avenue in Norcross for a couple of years now and has grown from a few people to a pretty steady 10-20 folks. It's become an oasis of knitting camaraderie in what is often a fairly stressful workweek for me, and it's pretty much what held me together when I was ... between jobs. (And, believe me, there's NOTHING more stressful than that!)

So I wasn't all that excited about having it disrupted by a book signing, even if the book was knitting-related. Because here's the ugly truth: I'm not all that crazy about knit lit. I've enjoyed the Monica Ferris stories but have been pretty disappointed by some of the others, especially that one lady who keeps claiming that, soon, very soon, any minute now, just wait, Julia Roberts is going to star in her new movie and the one who keeps telling me to find Jesus in the stitches. Frankly, I'd rather see a vampire movie.

But, it should be interesting to meet someone who's probably not too unlike the rest of us around the table, except that she's found a way to make a living doing what we do for free. (Free? Who am I kidding? We're paying for this stuff!)

And Bill and Elyse from Only Ewe and Cotton Too were doing door prizes! You just can't improve on that!

Terri Dulong was so delightful! Turns out she's a transplant from the blustery northeast to Florida, which, even if it really isn't The South in the way that Gawga is, is still southernish. She's a former RN who's written several books that most of us haven't heard of, but hit the big time with her novel about Cedar Key, FL and a series of knitting heroines. 

And, needless to say, she's a Reader, a Writer, a Knitter. Yeah, yeah ... I know her book has "spinning" in the title, which is why I walked past it when I saw it on the table at B&N the other day. I mean, I'm as much of a fiberista as the next person, and I do have several spindles hanging out at home in a mug waiting to spin up something wonderful, but, nah, I'll wait for it to turn into yarn, thank you very much.

But she did show us her knitting, and unless she picked it up in a dark alley from a half-completed-knitting dealer, I assume she actually knit it. Actually, I sort of like that concept--the darkly beautiful knitter of a certain age--a redhead, of course, because they're ALL redheads--who hangs out at Michaels to get knitting wannabes hooked on that famous gateway drug, merino wool. She sells them a partially complete sock on double points so they can flash it when they go into a real yarn store and gain acceptance. Now there's a character you could build a novel around! Can she gain redemption taking acrylic to the homeless?

Back to Terri. She had some great stories, both about her life and her writing. (It was worth the price of admission just to see our own Scarlett O'Haras giggle over the way Terri said "scawf." Wow! Don't you just think it's hysterically funny when people have regional accents? Amazing!)

So, hang on to your hats for a review, coming soon, of Spinning Forward. My hopes are high--I enjoyed the parts she read to us and hearing about the book and the ones to come. And she inspired me--I swear, next year I'm going back to Malice Domestic with a manuscript to show around.

And, did I say? I met another reader, writer, knitter who's got a writing group! Woo hoo! (Hi, Cheryl!) I was floating, all the way home.

*neth⋅er  /ˈnɛðər/ 
1. lying or believed to lie beneath the earth's surface; infernal: the nether regions.

2. lower or under: his nether lip.


bef. 900; ME nethere, OE neothera, nithera, deriv. of nither down (c. G nieder), lit., further down, equiv. to ni- down + -ther comp. suffix