Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blogstalking Assignment #7 - The Earliest Picture of Me

I am guessing this is December, 1959. Weren't my parents a lovely couple? And that baby -- how cute. And what a lot of hair.

(And for the knitters, look --my daddy has on argyle socks!)


Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.
Marshall McLuhan

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blogstalking Assignment #6 - A Day in the Life

I am skipping this one, and will take my lashes like a woman.

Just a lot of things going on around here -- I promise Halloween knitting pictures to be posted next week.


Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings. Jane Austen

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Great Pumpkin

is Anno! What a great box filled with treats:
(I even ironed my fall tablecloth for a good backdrop)

Will and I already finished off the chocolate (even the dark stuff, which was surprisingly delicious), I'm going to make some of the coffee tonight and pamper myself with the Burt's Bees!
The card came with a sock monkey pin -- his eyes light up! I can hardly wait to wear that next week.
And look at this yarn -- how beautiful and soft. (The colors are much prettier than my picture shows)I want to make something very beautiful with it -- I am thinking a nice scarf, because I would wear it all the time and remember this Halloween fun and kindness. Thanks again, Anno.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Last Saturday around noon, I was sitting knitting in my nightgown when my doorbell rang. (Actually, it is broken, so it buzzes; I like to think of it as a cool New York apartment, where I have to buzz in my guests.)

It wasn't a guest, but a man looking for work. He looked harmless; more accurately, he looked like the stereotypical dork from every high school movie --thin build, thick glasses, and a little uneasy in his own skin. He asked if he could mow my grass for a little money.

Since I was in my nightgown, didn't know this man and didn't really want to talk about my lawn, I asked him to come back on Monday. I didn't expect him to be back.

On Sunday, I came home from the Methodist church with a terrible headache. I was home alone, so I took some Advil, laid on the couch under a big quilt (one my grandma had made from scraps from the shirt factory) and found a good movie on TV -- The Holiday. I had also taken my pants off; don't ask me why -- I think the terrible headache was causing me to do crazy man things.

At a very important part of the movie, the doorbell buzzed. I threw on my pants and went to the door -- the man was back, asking again to mow the grass.

Again, I really didn't want this guy to mow my grass. So, I told him we didn't do things like that on Sundays. (Actually, this is mostly true -- I really am trying to reduce the amount of work we do on Sundays).

The poor many actually gasped. And started to stammer. "Oh, ma'am," he said, "I'm a Christian, too." (Yikes!) And he apologized and apologized and told me how he was thinking of joining the Nazarene church and then he apologized some more. Finally, I was able to break in and tell him it was fine, just come back tomorrow. We agreed that he would start at noon on Monday, and I would give him $50 for mowing our acre of grass and trimming. This time, I was fairly sure he would be back.

Back to the couch and the movie. Not twenty minutes later, the doorbell buzzed once again. There he was. And this time, he asked for an advance on the mowing. He said his wife "was after him to get some money for groceries for the kids." So I gave him $20. He tried to give me his driver's license and Social Security card as a good faith measure, which of course, I didn't want. (But now I knew his name -- Shannon.) I told him I would be gone Monday for a funeral, but I would leave the other $30 taped to my door. After he left, I realized he would probably come to my house, take the $30 and run.

After the funeral, I had to run home and print some things off from the computer. There he was, mowing away. I heard the mower stop and the doorbell buzz. "Thanks for the money," he said. "Would it be possible for you to loan me another $20 to mow your grass next week?" I told him that next week, my husband would be home from Australia and enjoyed mowing the grass himself (again, sort of mostly true). Shannon told me how he had made $65,000 a year driving a semi until his eyes "went bad" and he was fired. I felt very sorry for him. So, I gave him another $20, which he took while falling over himself with thanks.

As he was finishing up the trimming, a truck pulled in to our driveway and an older gentleman dressed in overalls and smoking a pipe got out. I watched from inside as he talked to Shannon for a few minutes. The doorbell buzzed yet again. "Ma'am, that's my son out there; he's gonna be moving out pretty soon. But I'd be glad to come mow your grass next week for the same money you gave him."

No kidding.

I'm supposed to "give him a call" when I need him.
I hope he's not sitting by the phone.

The grass did get mowed, and it looks pretty good. But I am out $70 for something Will and I could have done ourselves.

And I thought I was doing a good deed, helping out my fellow man, "entertaining angels unaware".
Or did I just get taken?

I think perhaps it is better to err on the side of charity, and let God figure it out later. In my case, He's going to have a lot of figuring to do.


"Ah, all the things I could do/ if I had a little money/ it's a rich man's world." ABBA

At the other end of the money spectrum:
A boy I knew 30 years ago has just been listed in the Forbes 400 Richest People in America.
He is worth $2.8 billion, with a B.

Wonder if he needs his grass mowed?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blogstalking Assignment #5 -- Statues

This is Indiana, and yes, we do live in the middle of cornfields (although this year, there is a soybean field to the south of our house). But 30 minutes north of our little town is a little city, Columbus, which is home to some of the most interesting architecture in the country. Columbus had its own version of the Medici family, headed by J. Irwin Miller, retired chairman of Cummins Engine Company (Clay's employer for the past 19 years). Starting in the 1940's, Miller brought world famous architects -- Ero Saaranen, I. M. Pei, Robert A.M. Stern, Cesar Pelli -- to Columbus, and the results are brilliant and beautiful. In fact, when Lady Bird Johnson visited, she called Columbus "The Athens of the Prairie."

Along with the architecture, there is some pretty amazing art, both indoors and out. Although I have a weird aversion to oddly textured things, one of my favorites is a Dale Chihuly's Yellow Neon Chandelier in the Columbus Visitors' Center.

As for statues, I love this one:Crack the Whip by Oklahoma artist Jo Saylors

And this sculpture is a favorite:

Chaos 1 by Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely.

Made of scrap metal Tinguely scavenged from local junkyards, it is like a big game of Mousetrap. When running, it is loud and fun, and sits just yards away from an indoor playground.

And in honor of the Dalai Lama's visit to Indiana this week, here is our happy Buddha. Clay brought this little statue home from his first trip to China. The kids all loved it so; he had to bring back several more on his next trip. I'm sure these statues are equivalent to the shot glasses and souvenir spoons you pick up in American tourist traps, but I love him anyway.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pink Passion, Green Guilt

Since my mom died of breast cancer, I'll do almost anything and buy almost anything to support research for a cure. I drink my coffee from a pink mug, walk in my New Balance shoes embroidered with the little pink ribbon and mix pink M&M's into cookie dough with my pink KitchenAid mixer.

Around this time every year, Yoplait puts those cute little pink lids on their yogurt. Yoplait gives 10 cents for every lid sent in to Susan B. Komen, up to $1.5 million. So I eat my yogurt, rinse off the lids and send them in.

And throw my yogurt cups in the trash.

I have been trying to limit the amount of trash our family pitches out each week to 1 bag. I try to compost vegetable scraps, recycle every bit of cardboard and paper (along with cans, bottles, jars and milk jugs) and avoid buying products in non-recyclable containers.

But, the apple juice in the #2 bottle (recyclable) is $3.49, and the juice in the #5 bottle (non-recyclable) is $2.49.

Diet cherry limeade at Sonic is half price between 1 and 5 every day. In a styrofoam cup.

And Yoplait, which this month is 10 containers for $5.00, which supports breast cancer research and which is creamy and delicious, comes in a #5 container.

So now not only do I have Catholic guilt and mother guilt, I have a whole new category: green guilt.
Next up: fair trade guilt.

In more coincidental saintly news, Wednesday was the Feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. The name of the dog at the center of the Ellen controversy? Iggy.

As the Romans sent St. Ignatius to the wild lions, he said, “I am a kernel of wheat for Christ. I must be ground by the teeth of beasts to be found bread wholly pure”. I am fairly sure, in the same situation, I would have said, "I wish I wasn't being eaten by these lions." Which is why Ignatius is a saint, and I am not.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Newsy Items

1) They have captured Chester Stiles, the man who videotaped himself having sex with a three-year-old. This man really messes with my views on capital punishment.

2) In California, it is now illegal to smoke with children in your car. It is careless (and a little dumb) to smoke with children in the car, but should it be illegal? Doesn't this just open to door for the smoking police to begin going door-to-door, ferreting out smokers with children in their homes? Would they be fined? Have their children taken away? Arrested? Can you still smoke in jail?
It just all seems a little self-righteous.
Dear Arnold, hate the smoke, love the smoker.

3) Ellen Degeneres adopted a dog from a rescue agency. The dog didn't get along well with her cats. She gave the dog to her hairdresser. The hairdresser's children loved the dog. The agency found out that Ellen had given away the dog without notifying them. They took the dog away from the hairdresser and her kids, saying Ellen didn't abide by the terms of the adoption agreement. Ellen cried. I cried.
Dear Arnold, I am glad I don't live in California.

4) So maybe it's a good thing that Purdue isn't going to the Rose Bowl. This year.
Dear Arnold, Be kind to the Buckeyes when they're in Pasadena.

5) Also on the sporty page, Cleveland is up 2-1 on Boston. For fear of jinxing the Indians (like I did the Boilermakers), that's all I'm going to say about that.


Monday, October 15, 2007

A Poem for Today

We have subscribed to Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac for several years. Every morning in our e-mail, there is a poem and interesting bits about authors born that day and important historical events. Sunday's poem was especially timely for me, so I thought I would share it.

I carry your heart with me (i carry it in . . . )
e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(I carry it in my heart)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Sad Day

Clay leaves for Australia in a few hours, and will miss the funeral of my cousin, Danny. He had a heart attack Wednesday, and his wife found him on the floor in their kitchen when she got home from work. He was only 64.

Danny was a really great guy; I know it is cliche, but he really did love life. He loved the outdoors, he loved to cook, garden and can his vegetables. He would do anything for anyone and was always so happy just to see you -- you just felt happy to be around him. Nineteen years ago, he helped open the door for Clay at Cummins; Danny had so many friends at work, pulled a few strings and made sure Clay talked to the right people. We will always be thankful for that, as it allowed us to move back to Indiana.

Danny was actually my 2nd or 3rd cousin (I have never really known how that works) but "cousin" works just fine for me. Our families have always had an extra close bond; his grandpa and my grandpa were brothers, and his grandma and my grandma were sisters. Family reunions when I was little were highly competitive affairs between the sisters: whose noodles were thinnest, whose angel food cake stood the highest, whose jell-o mold was the most colorful?
I'm playing for the funeral this afternoon. Another cousin, Julie (of Martha Stewart kitchen makeover fame) is singing. Sandy, Danny's wife, said he always joked about having Mozart's Requiem played at his funeral, and asked me if I knew that. I remembered the melodies from Amadeus, but have never played it. I found the music to the Lacrimosa section and have been working on it this weekend. Luckily, it is a slow piece, because so many of the notes are way outside of the ledger lines -- I am fudging a bit and wrote in the note names. I just want to do a good job for him. The piano and organ at the Methodist church are both magnificent instruments; I think I sound a little better when I play there.

I always get a little sad when Clay leaves on a long trip, but this has put things in a little better perspective for me. He'll be coming back in two weeks.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Some Finished Things, Some Unfinished Things, Some Other Things

This week, at Knit Night, I talked about Christmas stockings. Here was my example:

I knit the stocking using this pattern. Instead of bulky-weight yarn, I held two strands of worsted weight together. Also, I didn't have size 10 1/2 dpns; they don't carry dpn's at Wal-Mart, so I bought a dowel rod the same diameter as a 10 1/2, cut it into 4 pieces, sharpened the ends in the pencil sharpener, sanded them smooth and rubbed them down with wax paper. (I guess that's how the pioneer women would have done it!) Because this stocking is for my Irish-loving son-in-law, Adam, I added the Saxon braid to this one; I'm working on another stocking, and I am going to add three 6-stitch cables to one side of the stocking.

I started a new blog, just for Knit Night, which can be found here, so from now on, I will post all our projects and patterns there. All knitting, all the time there; knitting, opinions and general blather here. I'm not sure what we will do next time, but I am thankful for all the great free patterns on the Internet -- you can always find something interesting.

I also finished 4 Hats for Alex, and will send them off this week:

The yellow is the Pea Pod beanie by Kate Gilbert, the pink and red/white are the umbilical cord hat from Stitch and Bitch, and the Christmas tree is a free charity pattern.
I bought some 100% wool sweaters at the Goodwill this week, and attempted to felt them to make Christmas stockings for the St. Vincent de Paul craft show. Sweaters before:

Only felted sweater after: The other three didn't draw up at all. Bummer. Back to the Goodwill they go. But I did get several stockings cut out of the red sweater:
I'm going to blanket stitch around them and add a loop for hanging -- the smallest ones would make cute ornaments, I think.

I gave up on my socks for Sockin' it to Maggie -- they were just bleh. So, I took the yarn and made this little cell phone/Ipod cozy for her, using the Ron Weasley sweater pattern I have had in my folder for about a year. I didn't quite understand the instructions for the sleeves, so I fudged them a bit. I hope she likes this -- at least I know she will like this more than the bleh socks.
I'm making a little progress on the MQW -- up to square 20. I love the pattern, but I'm not sure I love how I am doing it -- I think my work looks sloppy, and I'm afraid the colors I chose are a little reminiscent of the granny square afghans that we made in the the '70's (yes, I'll admit it -- I crochet, and I like it!) I am thinking of doing the MQW again, in a different fiber, in different colors; I've seen some beautiful variations on the Internet.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Blogstalking Assignment #4 - A Love/Hate Relationship

When I was growing up, there were some words that we just weren't allowed to say: curse words or anything that sounded like a curse word (ie: jeeze, gaw, dang), shut up, stupid and hate. If one of us said, "I just hate that kid," mom would get very upset and remind us to "hate the sin, love the sinner." (Easy for her to say -- that kid wasn't stepping on the back of her shoes or making fun of her name.)
When we whined about now much we hated doing laundry, pulling weeds or shoveling manure (one of our daily chores), she would always bring up the pioneer women --"Just think of the pioneer women," she would chirp as she pulled grass from between the strawberry plants. "They didn't have washing machines (or cars or sanitary napkins -- whatever worked best with the topic) and they survived; so will you -- be thankful for what you've got." (The more I studied American history, however, the more I wanted to point out that many pioneer women did not survive. But correcting adults wasn't allowed either -- I once got my mouth washed out with Lava soap for correcting my grandma, and I didn't want to risk that again.)

So this is a tricky topic. I realize that I say, "Oh, I hate that" a lot, like when my underwear isn't properly aligned, something explodes in the microwave or the last bowl of pudding I thought I had hidden in the fridge goes missing. But those really are just annoyances.

I really hate:
1. Injustice

2. Intolerance

3. Pedophiles (or anyone who hurts children, for that matter). I am intolerant of them and really don't care if their punishment is unjust. So there.

Now that I am on a roll, I also hate all forms of dental work and kale. And I absolutely hate it when male athletes use female terms to denigrate other male athletes -- "You play like a girl," "Hey, woman" (very popular with the HS wrestlers last season) and any slang term for vagina used as a synonym for "sissy". (For something they are so fond of, men carelessly use that term to describe someone they regard as weak or unworthy. Go figure.)

It's so much easier to name what I love, but so much more difficult to narrow down. There are, of course, the obvious : God, my family, friends, knitting.

More specifically, I love:

1. Musicals (which occupy most of the space on my Ipod, from South Pacific and The Sound of Music to Avenue Q and Wicked)

2. Books. Novels, cookbooks, picture books, biographies, songbooks. Just books.

3. Cookies. I am the Will Rogers of cookies -- I have yet to meet one I didn't like (of the homemade variety). I am especially fond of macaroons, biscotti, snickerdoodles and springerle, followed closely by no-bakes from our school kitchen and chocolate chip with walnuts right out of the oven.

I also love Scrabble, pink roses and gin and tonics.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Little Catch Up from Small Town, USA

We've had a busy week, but I have been knitting. Here is the progress on the Modern Quilt Wrap:

I've been knitting in the ends, but not trimming them off -- I think I will wait until it is all blocked out to do that. I've made a few mistakes and ripped out a lot of stitches -- I am on block #14 out of 72 --this is going to take me a lot longer than I anticipated.

Just like Tommy's Notre Dame sweater. I have been keeping this in the car with me -- it's my waiting-for-Will or talking-with-friends knitting. It's slow going --the back is 10" of 4x4 ribbing on #4 needles. But I really love knitting with the Swish Superwash. Done by Christmas? A big maybe.

Clay finished the Akron Marathon in 5 hours, 23 minutes, and came home with a new pair of shoes, a shirt, a medal, a tote bag and a sack full of Malley's chocolates (one of the finest things about Cleveland).

This was Oktoberfest weekend in our town -- three days of food, beer and crowds to honor our German founding fathers. Most of the service organizations and churches in town have a booth; my sorority sells Reuben sandwiches and the Knights of Columbus (Clay's group) sell brats, German potato salad and run the beer garden.
You just never know about Oktoberfest weather -- you wish for bright sunny days and crisp evenings, but we often get rain and cold. This year, it was blazing hot -- Friday afternoon from the Reuben booth we watched the bank clock across the street as it crept up over 100 degrees. The weather kept most people at home in the AC, but not the beer drinkers; they went through 175 kegs in the beer garden.
Saturday afternoon was the big parade. In past years, our family participated in the parade: the girls danced or marched in the HS band, our school had a float, Will marched with the Cub Scouts, I drove the Bookmobile, and one year, Clay even wore a fuzzy blue Bunny Bread costume. But this year, we took the boys and just watched. (They were happy for about half of the 100+ parade entries, but then ended up wrestling with Clay until the horses arrived and signaled the end.) Here is my pal (and personal eye care professional) Maggie. Her nephew is running for mayor, so the whole family donned orange t-shirts and walked the parade. When he wins, I hope he names Maggie Queen of Seymour-- she already has the wave down:
Our friend and city councilman, Andy, and his boys:Oktoberfest is a homecoming in our small town, and you often see people you haven't seen for years. When it was slow Friday afternoon, I walked across the street to talk to a friend in the radio station booth. A man came up to the booth, looked me in the eye and called me by my maiden name. It took a few seconds, but I finally recognized him as a friend from school (in 6th grade, he and I had always competed to see who was the farthest in the SRA Reading program -- remember SRA? See, I am old!) When I called him by name, I think he was pleasantly surprised; he gave me the biggest hug EVER (really, it sort of hurt!) and then picked me up (I am not a twiggy woman) and held me there in this tight hug for what seemed like an eternity. And then, on the way down, he gave my boob a squeeze. Really. Now, if he had done that in high school, I probably would have followed him to the ends of the earth (said the girl who wasn't invited to the prom). But 30 years later, it just wasn't that exciting, I am almost sorry to admit. We talked for a bit, and he gave me the synopsis of his life -- he had been in the service, lived in all the states and had come back home to work and settle down.
And after all the hugging, lifting, squeezing and talking, I thought that this really is what living in a small town is all about -- being with people who remember you, know your history, listen to your story and are glad to see you again (except for the squeezing part).
Peace, or im Deutsch, Friede.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Blogstalking Assignment #3 - How I Get Around

Last Thursday, I cleaned out my car, because I was taking two of the cleanest, neatest people I have ever met along on a Meals on Wheels route. So, when I saw the assignment for this week, I knew it wouldn't be quite as embarrassing as last week's.

Here is my ride:

I have pimped it out to also be my office, travelling toy box and catering truck. But the only interesting thing in the car the day I took these pictures was the box from Knit Picks, which I had taken out of my mailbox on the way to town -- I was so excited to see the contents that I found a nail file in my purse and opened at the first red light I came to.

We chose this van because of the color -- Purdue gold, which doesn't show road dust too badly(well, I chose the van because of the color; Clay probably was looking at the engine or something). An added benefit is that the carpet is the exact shade of my coffee after I add the cream. I know -- I really shouldn't be allowed to drive, especially with an open cup of coffee, or a cell phone, or a nail file.

In other news, today is the Feast day of St. Francis. Yesterday's blessing of the pets on the school playground was amazingly snarl/hiss/dogfight free.

In honor of St. Francis, patron saint of animals, the environment and recyclers everywhere, here is a picture of my sweet cat, Lucky, who turns 15 this month:

We're not sure of her exact birthday, as she was rescued from the Wal-Mart parking lot where she had been dumped with her litter mates. (I feel like a real knitting blogger now that I have a picture of my cat!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The First Feast Day of St. Theodora Guerin

Monday evening, a friend called me. We talked for about an hour about all sorts of things, but eventually the conversation got around to another friend of ours, H, who is going through a very rough patch.

I was at a loss for what to do, or what to say when I see her next. All I could think to do was to say a prayer for her.
So last night, in the middle of my prayers, I remembered that H had been raised Catholic, and had gone to St. Mary of the Woods College. I decided that today I would read up on St. Theodora Guerin, the first canonized saint from Indiana, and the founder of Saint Mary of the Woods. Maybe I could say a novena or something to St. Theodora for H. (To be honest, I am really not sure how to do that, but I was certain I could find out.)

This morning, as on all Wednesday mornings, I went in to church to play for our weekly school mass. I knew we were celebrating St. Francis of Assisi (the kids are bringing in their pets this afternoon --should be quite interesting). But in the sacistry, Father said, "You know, I don't know why Sister wanted to move St. Francis to today; his feast day is tomorrow. Today is really the first feast day of St. Theodora Guerin."

Now that was a little eerie (or maybe I should say mystical).
(On Monday, I was going to write about how much I love St. Therese of Lisieux, and how I have made so many connections with her -- mothers who died of breast cancer, a lifelong wish to be a missionary, a love of all things French. I didn't get that done, but here is an interesting fact -- Therese's mother's maiden name was Guerin. Hummm ... coincidence? Or maybe just God reminding me that in the huge complex history of the world, He has carefully placed simple clues to help us understand the enormity of His grace.)
There is a lot more I could say about H, and there is a lot more I learned about St. Theodora from the Internet this morning. But her words sum it up best:
“What strength the soul draws from prayer! In the midst of a storm, how sweet is the calm it finds in the heart of Jesus.”

Peace. It is possible.