Wednesday, December 26, 2007

File This Under Moments of Unbearable Sweetness

Today tastes like my deviled eggs, with mustard, hot sauce, garlic, and bacon. Mayonnaise is for sissies.

Earlier this week, I made tags for the Xmas gifts--photos are in the Embellished Circus blog. I've done this for a couple of years now. Last year, the Dowager Empress Odie-Bird swiped each and every tag, then recycled bits and pieces into ATC's.

But that's neither here nor there.

Rodentia, whom you may remember from this post, has taken to sleeping on our pillows at night. Gareth believes it's because she has discovered our heads are warm. I can hear her mutter about "spicy brains" sometimes late at night. Have I mentioned how she's mellowed as she's aged?

She has, though. She'll actually cuddle through the night, not getting up for anything save her own feline comforts. It used to be that when I got into bed to lay my head on my pillow she'd hop up and run away, stealing back later to lie next to my arm, the tips of her fur just b-a-r-e-l-y touching my skin.

Now she lies on the pillow, benevolently watching her monkeys pile together like a stack of overlarge kittens, curling around the warm furry heads, purring all the while.

Last night I woke with her whiskers tickling my cheek. I started to turn my head, and felt a tiny hard weight on my shoulder. Rodentia was dozing with her head on my right trapezius, wrapped around my deltoid, sleeping on my shoulder.

Every monkey in da house say "Awwwwwww."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You Say You Want a Resolution? Well, You Know . .

Today tastes like too much icing, too much roast, too much ribbon candy. Can I just sleep in till Valentine's Day?

It's that wonderful time of the year when we set down the eggnog cups and back away from the fruitcake, and make our New Year's Resolutions. Being a good little lemming, so am I. However, I decided to steal a page from David Seah and do Groundhog Resolution Days ("GRD") this year.

The theory behind GRD is that we are hungover and overloaded on January 1, so we're not really thinking clearly. We've had a three month holiday from life, and consequently believe we can do ANYTHING.

So we resolve to get back into those jeans that we wore at 14, to create a finished canvas everyday (never mind we don't paint), to become an Enlightened Being, and to bake more cookies. Low fat, sugar-free cookies chock full of fiber and nutrition. (Never mind that we hate baking.)

Instead, GRD poposes that we get back into our lives again, get back to our everday routines, and then decide what we want to do this year. On February 2, Groundhog Day.

Then, just like the movie, we check in once a month. March 3, April 4, May 5--see the pattern? All the way through December 12, we ask if we are making progress on our goals, and if not, why not? Is this a goal with measurable results? Is the goal realistic, geven that we have other things to handle? Do we really want what we're chasing, or is it something we feel we "should" want?

I'm just now stepping off the whirlwind roller-coaster of Hallowthankfestivusmaskwaanza. I'm pondering options and alternatives for what I want to do with 2008. I have a huge list--highlights being making more for me, making more for my pet charity, doing more art for me, doing more art in swaps, getting back into the Xfit groove (dropped out during the first week of December. NOT because I broke my hand, but because I've had a cold, then bronchitis, and possibly walking pneumonia. Lovely.) picking up my broken yoga practice, keeping art journals (an actual gonna be bound journal, and a little practice deco with pockets and stuff to put in the pockets), investigating intermittent fasting (to change my relationship with food), and learning how to use Photoshop.

Riiiiight, Spike. Just seeing it all laid out before me like this is a great reality check. (Oh, and I want to write a 55 word story a day, too.)

Perhaps I should resolve to set aside the part of me that is driven. Driven as in suffering because my desires to do more, be more, have more (cupcakes! I want to bake cupcakes once a month for the office!) are in conflict with some basic human needs, such as sleep. Such as play. (When can I play if I am producing? A part of play is to investigate alternatives, even when they lead to dead ends. When producing, a dead end is a waste of time and material.)

Maybe not set aside, but to embrace gently and explain that right now (RIGHT NOW) we need sleep. We are deserving of a nap, of art time without a product at the end of it all, of time to stretch and meditate, of time to move chunks of iron for the pure animal pleasure of exhausting the body, of time to appreciate hunger without satisfying it.

Is that it? Reframing resolutions in terms of deserved play? To remember that I know what is good and best for me, and that I will take those actions as I am able? That I don't need to stand over me with a whip to ensure that art gets made and words get written and to deprive myself of the things I need in the name of the things I want?

Good thing I have a month to think it over and find a way to quantify this.

Or not.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Will You Do?

Today tastes like cough drops, ginger ale, and Kleenex (TM). I've had this verdammit cold for almost two weeks. I'm ready to be done. Since you can't get better until you've passed it along, I am posting this thing on eBay under "Readymade Excuse for Time Off During the Holidays."

Back before the distractions of breaking parts of me, I was doing a systematic appraisal of a point of stuckitude. The final query: What will you do? My answers now are a little different then they would have been before physical difficulties entered the scene.

Which is good in a way. I've said before (maybe even here) that this has been a valuable lesson in asking for help, in vulnerability, in patience. The lessons will appear, one way or another, until they are learned. While this has not been the way I would have chosen to learn these lessons, at the same time, it's manageable. Perhaps I'll actually get them down this time without the forces that may be having to gear up again to hit me over the head with the inevitable stuff that happens.

Anyway, the point I was stuck on was my art. Not just getting my behind into the studio and creating and moving stuff along that had gotten bogged down, but in determining what was on my gotta list, as differentiated from my wanna list, as opposed to my someday list.

Just sorting those out has helped. I've determined some of the things I used to love have less or no relevance to me now, and so I've weeded out that which does not nourish me. I've cleared the decks of my gotta list--even going so far as to remove myself from active participation for several months while I hunkered down and cleared the decks. No one died, went to jail, or lost their kids.

I'm actually doing things on my someday list. I have limits right now, with my hand in a splint, and I will have limits after I get out and can use all my fingers all the time. (See, Universe? I get it. No more lessons needed, 'k? Thxbai.) However, I am doing them. Maybe not the way I keep thinking they ought to be done, maybe without eternal significance and awe-inspiring perfection, but doing them.

If it ain't a YES, then it's a no. And I can list all the things I've said "no" very softly to; said "no" with a weight on my heart; said "no" reluctantly to. And I can go back to that list any time I want and see if they've turned into "yes" while I wasn't looking.

I've found some new tools. Or perhaps, not new so much as buried under a pile of greasy rags and those newspapers I've been meaning to toss. I need to continue to harness the power of the lists, to keep my "To-Do" short and sweet, and to ignore the voices of guilt about the length of the "Wanna-Do" and "Someday" lists. If I keep moving the last two onto the first, and striking out desires that have fallen away, I should be able to avoid getting mired down in this particular bog again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Busted . . .

Today tastes like everclear and Band-Aids, like iodine and phisoDerm. Like aspirin and plastic.

I broke my hand.

Ok, not the whole hand, just one bone. The fifth metacarpal, proximal to the phlange. In geek terms, I failed my wisdom roll at the gym, then missed my strength roll and bliffed my save vs. dexterity.

I loaded a barbell heavy for a first attempt, could not rise up out of the squat, and didn't dump the bar in time. I fell over backwards in the cage, hit my hand on the lower rack on my way down. Then, the barbell rolling backwards hit my hand, trapping it between the vertical support and the barbell. Then I landed on the barbell, hitting it with the back of my neck on my way to the floor.

As I got up, I had a huge goose egg on the back of my hand. On the palm, I had a bruise the size (and color!!) of a grape, and a blood blister on the side of may hand that I honestly thought was a cut when I first looked.

Sometimes you don't need to go to the doctor to know you're hurt.

So we spent the rest of the evening in the ER, and when I left, I had a huge splint on my right hand. Yup. The hand I use for everything.

Did I mention that this year I'm knitting Gareth socks for his birthday? That's not unusual, but these socks are. They're gourgemous. Only the fact that I can make them refootable (and have yarn to make a pair for MEEEEEEEE) is letting me part with them for the man I love.

Uhm, except now I have about four weeks where I can't work on them at all.

I just got a new, smaller splint on my hand. Look ma, I have fingers again!! I can type, and drive, and dress myself once more. No more elastic waisted pants, I can operate a zipper now! I can put on crew-length socks again! The new splint is removable, so I can WASH MY HANDS.

This has been a real lesson in patience, vulnerability, and asking for help. Gareth joked the morning after the accident that he'd probably come home to find me gibbering in the corner, unable to write, knit, or art. I told him he might want to cut to the chase and find a sanitarium to keep me in until my hand healed.

I had just started another shawl for myself, in fine wool and silk. I've been mooning for years over this project. It's totally within my skill set, I just hadn't settled down and got going on it yet. Why? Dunno. Just hadn't is all.

So I finally wanted something simple, but not crazy-making simple, the way the current Linus binkie is crazy-making simple. And something not too complex, like Gareth's socks are very nearly too complex. I'm welded to the charts for these, and doing them both at once on two circs means a lot of fiddling to fix mistakes.

The shawl was coming along splendidly, a nice marriage of yarn and pattern. And yup, something else that will have to wait until I get my hand back.

I followed up with the doctor today. He's satisfied that the bone isn't going anywhere, and believes that I'll have good healing. He's approved of the little PT I do each morning and evening in the shower so I won't have a long recuperating process (knocks wood with the good hand). The more you sweat in peace, and all that good stuff.

I'm going to be patient, I keep telling myself. I can knit continental, I can play with retensioning the yarn in my right hand, I can make this work. I can do part of the warm-up, I can modify the workouts so that they're possible. Some of them, the onew where you run and run and run don't even need modification.

I can write. I can art. I can knit. It could be worse.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Temporary Hiatus

Today tastes like sand. You really don't want to know what last week tastes like.

Just dropping a line to let you Tonstant Weaders know I haven't gotten trampled in an Xcessmas rush for the newest sparkliest Furbyformer Patch Tickle Me Doll.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Do You Know?

Today tastes like tart tatin, like truffled honey, like fois gras. What a nice day! Lush and sweet and earthy all at the same time.

Looking forward to the four day weekend. Planning to spend all the available time in my paper studio, winding up projects. When I cleaned this last time, I boxed most everything up and then labelled the boxes so I could make my to-do list simpler. I have a box for collabarative art projects ("Other People's Art AKA the Guilt Box"), a box for my personal stuff ("My Next Big Thing"), and a box of collabarative ATC backgrounds ("Jam Stock").

So far, I have nearly emptied the Guilt Box. I did decos last weekend, which cleared an enormous logjam for me. I stopped doing decos this summer. The game just wasn't worth the candle. But, of course, there were some projects I'd agreed to take, and there they were, glaring up at me everytime I walked past my workbench.

And now, they fly free.

So--what do I know?

In this context, I have learned that my listmaking tendencies slow me down. See, I start a list of stuff to do, and before I know it, I have scheduled every single minute of my weekend with stuff to do. Which is fine when everything goes as expected.


So I wind up with no more than half my list done, and then there's stuff that pops us that needs to get done, and oh, there's the things I wannado . . . and, and, and.

So one of the best tips I've found is to write no more than three things on your to-do list. And then do those three, pause for a modest celebration of your accomplishments, then write three more. Or take the day off and do what you wannaddo, because, after all, you DID the things on your to-do list.

Example--last weekend, I had three things I wanted to have done before Monday morning rolled around. I wanted to have completed the knitting on one Linus binkie (two looooooong garter stitch borders to be picked up and done), I wanted to have the decos in the Guilt Box ready to fly, and I wanted to finish a set of ATC's and charms for swappage. I put them on my list, posted the list on the calendar (what DID we do before Post-It notes?) and went to town.

It doesn't sound like much. Three things in a sea of thousands, right? But I got all three done in plenty of time to read and go out for brunch and loll around. And now I have a list of three more that I'm chewing through. (The ATC's in the guilt box need to be finished, the Linus binkie needs to be made ready to present, and I have a book form I want to experiment with. Do you have any idea HOW LONG I've been putting these off? Three things at a time may be small progress--but it IS progress.)

So--I know that lists are a valuable tool for me. I know that I can get a lot done in small bites. I know that I need to keep my focus on those small bites, because otherwise, I get overwhelmed easily.

And I know that when I'm overwhelmed, I wind up spinning like a Sufi dancer. And nothing gets done.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What's Possible?

Today tastes like liverwurst and truffles . . . oh wait, that was this morning's breakfast and last night's dinner. But at the same time, metaphorically apt--meaty, earthy, organic and satisfying.

One of our favorite restaurants held a paired tasting menu last night, featuring truffles. It was almost like finally eating with the Chairman on Iron Chef--two well-known chefs about town each presenting their vision of an item with common ingredients, centered around truffles because it's truffle season. White Alba truffles, that is. I was really looking forward to last night because I could finally decide which I preferred--black or white? Decisions, decisions, I know. (And the answer is . . . black. The flavor's more intense.)

But it was a glorious meal, nontheless. Even though we did not get to bed until almost midnight (on a SCHOOL NIGHT!!) and I packed breakfast to take to work with me, it was a wonderful evening. We swapped foodie stories and restaurant reviews with a couple at our table, and wound up exchanging e-dresses and a vague promise of dinner together someplace after the confetti settles from the new year.

And I think of our conversation, just Gareth and I, out on the patio in the balmy November air. Where we talked about priorities and Christmas lists, and I realized that more and more, I want experiences rather than stuff. I want stuff to make stuff with; I want the experience of having made the thing. I don't necessarily want the thing itself.

And I think about that, and I think about the fabulous dinner we had (and we're going back for New Year's Eve, to that same restaurant. I made reservations last night, just to be sure we'd have a seat.)

And I re-read the query of today's post above, and the only answer I find is: just about anything. In the immortal words of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, "You just gotta decide, girl, and then you let me know."

Cue the riff.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Where are you stuck?

Today tastes like essence of celery seed, wormwood, and cinnamon oil, served on a bed of raw garlic. Total meltdown.

It's been an era in and of itself (Meltdown Man??? Carrying a cellphone, an iPod, and a quadruple shot espresso?) this past weekend. Got done with a roller coaster week at work (busy. Getting demand packages out and out and out, telling stories, kicking ass, and chewing gum. And they make me spit out the gum when I walk through the doors, so that only leaves two things to do . . .) and looking forward to dinner with friends on Friday night. Unwind. Relax. Watch some movies, do some knitting and think about cleaning the paper studio so I can do some work this winter while it's nice and cool.

Then we pop by the house to put some wine for dinner in the fridge (hurrah for restaurants without liquor licenses and no corkage fees!!!) and there's a message on our answering machine. Or rather, half a message. The first half of a collect call.

Gareth and I look at each other. If it was an emergency, wouldn't they call our cell phones? Even if they had to call collect for some unknown reason, most anyone who knows us has our cell digits, and knows that's the fastest way to get hold of us . . . say, the jails out here only let you call collect. And right about then, the phone rang again.

Crisis number one: a friend of ours had been arrested for something we thought was over. Note bene: check all the statutes before running a business, and get at least three opinions from legal experts. Loopholes can turn into hangman's nooses.

So . . . her husband currently does not have a land line, and you cannot call a cell phone number from inside the jails. Ours was the only land line number she knew cold, because of course, she doesn't have access to her cell phone. Or a charger, even if she did. We spent a bunch of our weekend playing operator so she and husband could communicate (long story short, he's not able to visit her as he's a co-defendant in the matter we thought was more or less settled and waiting for grand jury.)

Crisis number two: We got to dinner Friday, and another friend had a sudden death in her close-knit family. She needed a shoulder to cry on, so we spent a large part of the remainder of Friday holding her hand and patting her head.

Crisis number three: Remember when the truck broke down twenty miles outside of Globe? Well, the garage was able to fix the truck, but had no one available to drive it any closer to town. So we got up at o'work thirty on a Saturday, and drove over to Globe (ninety minutes one way) to fetch our errant vehicle back. Not so much of a crisis, but that is one boring drive. And it eats up most of the morning, even when you get up early and hit the road right away.

Where am I feeling stuck after this weekend? I'm feeling stuck because every time I walk through the paper studio where I park my car, I'm reminded that I need to get the place in order for me to work there. I'm not avoiding making art by wanting to clean, I'm wanting to make some flat clear physical space the size of my glueboard in order to have a place to make art. I'm feeling stuck because I think of it on my way to and from work, and while I'm at work. In other words, I contemplate this activity when I'm safely time- or space-bound from actually STARTING this project.

Clever me.

No more. Starting tonight, I'm going to FlyLady my studio. Fifteen minutes a night, finding places for all the ephemera and stuff I've collected over the summer, sorting through things that have been sitting ragged and fallow for months uhm, years, tossing dried paints and glues and re-arranging whatever needs to be looked after. I have deadlines at the end of the month for charms and ATC's, I have jam ATC's that have been held up for far far too long, I have communal projects I said I'd do that need to be moved NOW.

So--stuck point identified (for now) and plan of action prepared. Off to implement!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What DO you want?

Today tastes like Tootsie Pops and gumdrops and those awful peanut butter taffy things that come wrapped in orange and black waxed paper. How can they be so greasy and so sweet at the same time? You'd think one would eliminate the other.

As threatened discussed earlier, we're back to the introspective thing before Excessmas kicks in and the Adverbial Celebration is swiftly upon us. I think of the turn between Samhain and Yule as a gathering in, lying fallow, winding up time. A time to see what you have reaped, and decide what you will sow in order to get more of what you want the next time 'round.


What DO you want?

Once the easy answers are out (a million dollars, a Barbie body, a dream life) and the answers your mother would want to hear are out (peace on earth, to heal the sick and injured, to be a stellar yet humble example of all that is best in humanity) then what's left? What do you want?

I want to get clear with my desires. I want to know that what I want is truly what I want--not what I should want or what someone else wants me to want, but an intrinsic desire. I want to know what I want, and how much it will cost, and to be okay with that cost. The cost of losing weight is exercising and skipping dessert more often than not, is changing what I eat and how much I eat and watching how I plate the healthy "good food." It's a cost measured in time spent and conscious, thoughtful choices made, rather than grabbing the fun stuff right now.

The hard part for me has always been being okay with the costs. It costs X dollars, Y hours, Z effort to achieve the desired result. I'll spend it, and get the result, but then spend time fretting about the time/money/effort expended. I'll eat the cream puff, and then castigate myself for the excess sugar and fat consumed.

Right now, I'm thinking about a fiber festival in Washington this spring. I'll have the time off, no problem, I can certainly ask for this as my big Excessmas gift from Gareth (assuming I can get the classes I want to take) and if I get my choices when registration opens, this will expand my repetiore and feed what I do. Soul food, as it were. Experiences don't require dusting.

And yet and yet and yet . . . there's airfare, and hotel room, and food, and the costs of the classes. And there's other things that need to get done that will take money, and there's other things that we want to get done that will take time.

I want to be rid of this ambivalence. To be rid of second-guessing myself. I want to own my decisions wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What I Did With My Weekend . . .

Today tastes like raw chocolate-covered garlic. With bean sprouts. Crunchy, but ultimately disappointing and harsh.

Sheesh. It should have been a good weekend--Friday off work, a trip up to Aspendell in Greer, prepare the place for the semiannual Christmas party. Two of the tasks: Check the heating systems in the large and small cabin. No more arriving two days early in order to get the temp inside up above freezing! No more carrying water in 20 gallon jugs for drinking and washing dishes!! No more HOISTING 20 gallon jugs to flush the toilets twice a day whether they need it or not!!! Just flip a switch and start the fire for atmosphere. Ahhhh . . .

But no. Friday around lunch, my cell phone rang. My boss Hopalong was on the line, frantic. Where the hell was I?

Uhm . . . about four hours out of the city. Why?

Why didn't I TELL him I was gonna be gone?

But I did. Like two weeks ago, I told him I'd be out today. In fact, two weeks ago LAST MONDAY.

Nope, never happened. We'll talk about this Monday morning. Click.

Well, shit. I know I spoke to him, and my other two bosses (Atticus and Boo) and I could swear I talked to the other folks in the office because one of our buddies who was along to help prep the cabin had left his car in our parking lot. This should be no big deal--we're not big enough to be fussy about a car taking up a space, and he'd be taking up the same space my car would, so no problem, right?

So now, I'm concerned about the crucial conversation Hopalong and I are going to have come Monday, and I'm worried that no one else remembers my saying Shadowstalker is going to borrow my space for the weekend and thus, they'll have his car towed. So when he gets back to town on Sunday, he'll have no ride waiting for him, and no way to get to work Monday, and WTF???

Ick. Ick ick ick. Good thing there were plenty of seasoned rounds waiting outside to be split. I should take a photo of Hopalong some day, print out wallet-sized copies, and bring them to Aspendell for when I need a little more incentive to get out the axe and get going.

But it was lovely up in Greer, albeit somewhat breezy. The people we were for sure expecting all showed up in good time, and we got everything on the list done except for sharpening the kitchen knives. (Maybe an 8.5 x 11 headshot of Hopalong? Perhaps a picture of his shoulderblades?)

Then some folks we weren't expecting showed up. Gareth's cousin once removed and her husband showed up late Friday night. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily--they're easy to get along with, and hard workers to boot. The husband immediately set to work re-finishing the decks, and when we left on Sunday, he was replacing the downstairs toilet.

But I know a few of you will understand exactly what I mean when I say that it was just too many people. Neither Gareth nor I could unwind at all in the cabin.

So I took a walk.

This shrine is the place where we scattered Howard and David's ashes, and I understand there's a few other people memorialized here. I love this stump with its fan of roots around the saint. I think it's a perfect blend of pagan and Christian; an excellent marker for this family.

Sunday morning was uneventful; we were all leaving early save for Gareth's cousin and her family. And I'm glad they had some cabin time for themselves, since we had all of Friday. However, it has now become very clear that we need to shift the responsibility for the cabin calendar out of Most Excellent's hands; this is not the first time she's double-booked the cabin. It's a problem only because we call and check to see if there'll be company up there before making plans. It's a bit awkward to arrive and find others there, or be walked in on when you weren't expecting people.

So Sunday morning, we paked up and went off down through Whiteriver as we often do. It shaves about half an hour off the trip and doesn't send us through Phoenix and all the traffic to get to our home. Besides, the Salt River Canyon is really pretty as you wind your way down and down then back up and up.

And then it happened. 20 miles north of Globe, the engine revs went through the ceiling-vreeeeEEEEEE! Like when you have it in neutral and unthinkingly step on the gas. Except the truck was in gear. Uh-oh.

Took it out of gear, put it back in gear, step on the gas. VrrrrreeeeeeEEEEEEEE! Crap. At least we're headed downhill, let's milk this for a few more miles. So we coasted down the hill tapping the brakes, watching for a place to pull off the road before we start back up the hill on the way to Globe.

We were lucky, we found a pull-out that we could safely get to on the northbound side of the road, out of traffic. We were able to put the truck on a lovely level patch of utterly clear caliche to make life simpler for the tow truck driver. We had all our AAA info with us, no problem. Gareth's cell had just been pulled off the charger before we left the cabin, so he had power to spare.

Except we had no signal. None at all. Poot. Well, we're young and healthy, and it isn't summer, so we're not likely to die of dehydration before we can either walk 20 miles or get a ride. Off we go. (Yes, I could have claimed to be the frailer sex, and sat in the truck to wait for Gareth, but frankly, if it took him more then twenty minutes he would have returned to a bloody and frantic quivering heap of worry. Much simpler to walk and be there for whatever happened than to wait and imagine.)

So down the road we went, checking about every half-mile for signal, and high-fiving each other at every mile marker. Might as well celebrate, right? A little more than two miles along, a guy pulls off the road and asks if we'd like a ride to Globe.

Yes, please! we reply, and hop in. He explains he was visiting his brother on the San Carlos Rez, just east of Globe, and he lives up on the White Mountain Rez, which is up by Show Low. He was heading home, he saw us walking and thought we were taking pictures, but then he saw our truck. That's an awful long walk to take pictures, he thought, and turned around to see if we needed a hand. He told us the other week, he was making this drive and came across a fella walking with two kids, one 8 and one 12. The fella'd had two flat tires--one on the car AND the spare, so he'd given the guy a lift to get the spare fixed in Globe.

So once we'd been dropped off in Globe, we had signal, so we called AAA. We were thinking about getting a rental so we could take our stuff home, but the company we were connected to wasn't in the mood to try harder, despite their advertising. We were offered a car at the Phoenix airport. Gareth has more patience than I; he politely explained that if we could get to the airport, we would be able to get to our other car, and hence, would not need their services. The representative tried again, and offered us a car in Mesa. Gareth explained that this location was still about 120 miles from our current location. We needed someplace in Globe. Where we were. When she came back from putting him on hold for another fifteen minutes, he explained gently that we'd figure something else out, thank you, buh-bye.

This left us with some mighty unappealing options. We could call a friend to come and get us--120 miles out of town, one-way. We could call Gareth's mother and never hear the end of it. We could spend at least one night in Globe and call our respective employers to explain we were stuck and would be in as soon as possible, given that the truck was being worked on. Ewwww.

So we called one of the folks who had been with us on the trip and explained what was going on. We set up a provisional meeting place--the one McDonald's in Globe, which was just down the road from where the tow truck was supposed to be meeting us. Hey, it was gonna take her at least an hour and a half to get to Globe, might as well have a place to meet established. If she arrived and we weren't there, she was to call us. If we didn't answer, assume we were with the tow and would call as soon as we had signal to let her know where to go. Otherwise, we'd call when we returned with the truck and guide her to us.

Well, we got back to town with the truck before she arrived. We called, and sent her directions to the saloon nearest the Ford dealership because that was the nearest place where we could sit and wait. The dealership closes at 1:00 on Sundays; it was now almost 2:00.

So we went to have a beer. If the blue laws say we may, then who are we to argue? It was like being a kid again and tagging along to the pool halls with my father and grandfather. Check it out:

A pressed tin ceiling wayyyy up there, pool tables on the floor, and paintings of nekkid and semi-nekkid ladies on the walls. Too much fun. Established in 1902 and the only real changes have been the additions of two television sets.

So Mischief came and fetched us home again, and now we're dealing with the aftermath. Calling the towing company to get our keys over to the garage so they can get into the truck to fix the problem, and then next weekend we'll be back on the road for three hours fetching the truck back home from Globe (siiiiiigh). I have a blanket bee on Saturday that I've been anticipating since February, so that's not negotiable. That means Sunday will be eaten getting up and fetching the truck, so Saturday night's party will either be a quick show up, walk around once, then go home and to bed--or a no-go entirely.

After this weekend, I'm thinking the latter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blogiversary--Three Years and Counting

Today tastes like roasted garlic on crusty bread, like milk chocolate covered raspberry jelly sticks, like Pigma Micron pens, pencils, and heavy luscious watercolor paper. Like things that are simply meant to come together, like auspicious confluences.

Three years. 250 posts. Awareness of the moment. All together now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Passionfruit Fall

Today tastes of chile verde, pork, fresh pumpkin, and woodsmoke. We're back to the wonderful paradisical sheerly amazing weather we get in fall and spring. Both seasons are bittersweet--spring because you know that the valley will soon become Ye Anvil of Ghod, fall because the light is fading and dying.

Enjoy it while you can.

Soon enough you'll be getting up in the dark, working under fluorescent lights that make everyone look half-dead, and going home in the dark with only the memories of summer to hold on to until fickle spring returns once more.

So seize the now to take pictures of pretty FO's during the magic hours, because so very very soon you won't see the sun again for days at a time.

I never before really appreciated/apprehended just how hard it is to get good pictures of lace. You can get the colors and the general shape of the piece and some of its surround pretty well--

. . . or you can get a great shot of its structure. I love the light on the shawl, this one ray peeking through the vegetation to linger on the lace, caress its cheek before receeding into the west with its fellows.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nothing of Substance

Today tastes like goat cheese and honey, like strawberry-flavored cotton candy, like verjus. Subtle and fleeting, here and gone.

And gone.

It's a delightful relief from the grandma's sawdust meatloaf and mashed potatoes you could use for caulking; from the food you could live on for weeks. Like a loaf of Tolkien's lembas bread (how many did you eat, Pip?); like the Challenge Sundae at the ice cream parlor where if you can eat the whole thing, you don't have to pay for it.

Perhaps this is the amuse-bouche post, the spoonful of sherbet to cleanse your mental palate and give you renewed appitite for the heavy mentation that is coming after Samhain this year.

I'm not breaking my routines for Hallowthankmas this year. None of 'em. I'm laying plans for goals I want to meet next year, and I intend to hit them running at the break of the new year, not pick my bloated psyche up off the couch and start shuffling off to the closet to stare mournfully into the depths and try to remember what my goal-meeting clothes look like.

But right now, there's not much to share. So here:

And gone.

And gone.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Had a Dream

Today tastes like marigolds, poppies, and tears. Green, bitter, salty. October is going to be especially long this year. I think perhaps I should make that crown of marigolds, and wear it with black ribbons in my hair.

Last night I dreamed about my honored dead, family and friends alike.

In the first series, my family was holding a reunion. And that, boys and girls, should tell you right off that this was a dream, since my family doing the big reunification group grope is as likely as jumping off a cliff and having your parachute turn into a scoop of strawberry ice cream. With jimmies.

But no, there we were--grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. From both mother's and father's sides of the family. We were in an enormous house in the high desert mountains--I get the impression it was Taos or Santa Fe. Wood floors, rugs on the walls, lots of exposed beams and windows, so we had light, light, light everywhere.

It was good seeing my grandmothers again. We talked about needlework-- knitting, crochet, embroidery. The grandfather I knew told stories of his time in the war, and compared it to the PBS documentary mini-series. The grandfather who died before I was born (so he was in black and white, grainy and a little off-focus) told about watching the southwest grow, what he'd seen of the towns. I told him about Phoenix, and showed him pictures on my cell phone.

And this time I kept my big mouth shut and didn't commit the faux pas of announcing, "But you're dead!" The first time I dreamed of a dead friend, I dreamed we were riding our bicycles down to the university campus, as we did often during the summers in middle school. Twenty miles as the bike path rides will take a lot of pre-teen starch out of you, and the long lazy warm summer days were just right to fit the trip in between dawn and dusk.

We wove in and out of the tunnels that surround many of the buildings on the main campus, laughing in the lengthening dusk. She turned back to look at me, hands off the handlebars, mouth open and laughing, and then I said it. The unforgivable words.

Her face fell, and she melted away. The dream ended. I woke up missing her all over again.

But not last night. I woke up feeling as though I had visted one last time as an adult with those who had moved on before. I'm the next to last of my generation in the family, born to the youngest daughter on my mother's side, born to the middle child (who was the issue of a second, later marriage) on my father's side. The youngest of the grandchildren is my younger brother.

So most of what I knew of my grandparents were the older, frailer people whose health was beginning to splinter. We did things together, but they were quieter things, not games of tag or ball. And most of my memories are those of a child relating to adults, not as an adult relating to elders. I have a handful of recollections of talking with my father's mother as one needlewoman to another, like pressed pansies--faded and brittle. I handle them carefully, scarcely breathing.

The second dream was of fallen friends. I saw them as I often do, at a science fiction convention, which was taking place at a hotel that doesn't exist any more. This time, we were hanging out on the grass of the hotel near the pool, swilling various concoctions of alcohol potent enough to light ablaze, but sweet enough to cover the taste. Until you stand up, that is. Then you dishcover that shomeone shtole your kneesh while you were shitting--I mean, SITTING there. Minding your own bushinesh. Shomebody shtop him!!! Thief! Thief!!

Larry Lard, and Ozymandius, and Roderick the Sly . . . the whole crew. Capitan Benito Gato dropped in, and said he couldn't stay long, but he wanted to say hello. Which is interesting. Cap'n Gato is not well, I know. I may see him at Dead Man's Party in a couple of weeks--and I may not.

I woke up thinking of a story I've been meaning to write for years, now.

I think perhaps I shouldn't put it off any longer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rodentia Is Seventeen

Today tastes of sentiment. Of candied violets, of wine left in the bottle till it turns to syrup, of Halloween candy the day before Thanksgiving. Dry, dusty, bittersweet.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

Rodentia is the elder of the two cats who share my life. She was a kitten when I moved to Phoenix. She was a hand-me-down cat--a friend of one of my roommates had acquired her from a shelter with an eye to looks rather than personality. She was beautiful--a fine-boned, long-haired, green-eyed tortoiseshell.

However, she was antisocial. She was very nearly feral when I met her first, unwilling to be touched at all. So Rodentia was dropped on the roommates with a request to "take care of kitty" for a week or two. So far as I know, her original owner has never asked after her.

I found her a charming and independent cat. A fierce little thing, seven pounds of cattitude. I talked to her, moved slow and easy, and gradually taught her to trust, a little. As a kitten, she'd play fetch with a jingle ball--I'd toss it over the couch that we used to divide the great room, and she'd leap and leap and leap to get it, then come trotting back to lay it at my feet for another go.

But that was years ago.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

When I found the man who would be my husband, and we finally decided to get our own place so he could walk around naked, I was packing my stuff. My bed and dresser and bookshelf had been moved, I had most of my non-work clothes packed away, and I was stuffing the last T-shirt in a box when one of my roomies, Captain Vectril, knocked for entry and asked if we could chat.

"Sure," I said, "so long as you sit on this box so I can close it."

"Are you taking Rodentia with you?" he asked.

"Wasn't planning to . . ."

"But she's your cat. Or rather, you're her human." I looked at him skeptically. Rodentia would turn into six pounds of hissing flying feline fury if anyone tried to pick her up, and she would rather have her tail braided than sit next to a human.

I said as much.

Vectril answered, "When you're gone for the weekend, she sits outside your door and cries. When we let her into your room, she wanders around for a bit, then comes back out and wanders through the house yowling because she can't find you."

So, Rodentia was the last thing I packed out of that house to take with me to the new place. She was three then, just all the way out of kittenhood and turning the corner to full-fledged adult cat.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

It wasn't hard to move from a house to a condo. So far as Rodentia was concerned she was trading one interior for another. We made sure she had balls with bells inside them, especially the fragile caged kind she was fondest of. Even though we stepped on them in the middle of the night and they splintered under our feet.

Rodentia began warming up to the idea of being owned by humans. She would sit in the same room, just sit and watch until she fell asleep. She was friendliest when we were lying down, because then she was bigger than we were. She would climb up on the headboard of the waterbed, look down like a little fuzzy tin god, and purr, and purr. She'd get up on the back of the couch against the western wall, where it was warm and secure, and read over your shoulder. She'd rub up against the soles of your feet when you lay on your back, sharp canines digging softly into your big toes.

She'd jump up onto bookshelves and nap. She'd lay her chin on a book on the floor and go to sleep. We'd ask if she wanted a Japanese wooden pillow for Christmas, and she'd look back, cooly, inscrutably.

She's mellowed quite a bit since those days. She's watching from the other desk as I type this, which is surprising because she doesn't climb very much any more.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

She hated trips to the vet. She hated to go outside at all, so it got so I'd only take her for a rabies shot to pacify the groomers. Once every three years, we'd go and get the one stick. She'd hear me getting the box out, and run hide quick. Once there, she was well-behaved but terrified. There'd be times when we were finally done with the exams, and I'd let go, and Rodentia would hop back into the H-E-L-L box because at least nothing too bad would happen while you were inside.

This last trip to the groomers was hard. We've used the same person for four years now. He's a cat in a human suit, so I thought they'd be okay together--she's familiar with him and with the procedure. Usually I stay with her the whole way and act as a spare pair of hands.

But he was busy and it was going to be a good hour before he could get going, so I left. About 75 minutes later, I got the call that Rodentia had turned into a little psycho hose beast from hell, and could I come down and help?

So I came down to the shop and Rodentia was huddled in the very back of the kennel, blood on her muzzle from where she had hit the mirror in a mad dash to get the hell out of Dodge.

I stood at the door of the kennel and talked to her. Told her I'd been planning to revoke her driving privileges, but was now reconsidering. Told her how disappointed I was, that she'd told me I didn't need to stand there and hold her while the groomer did his work. How she'd said she was a big cat now.

And slowly, slowly, she crept to the front of the cage and let me touch her. And after a while, I picked her up, and this fierce little animal curled into my chest and clung to me.

She never does that.

I walked her to the table, which would normally be the time for fussing to be put down right now, but she wasn't budging. I stood there and held her for minutes while the groomer finished checking in another animal, and then we finished the job. She's fine as long as I'm there. She'll vocalize, but she doesn't struggle.

And that was when I realized we'd turned a corner. Turned away from late middle age with the occasional bad day, and turned towards old age with the occasional good day.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

And because I am of the species with the big brain (and the thumbs, yes, and the thumbs) I can see where this is going. I've read Kipling, I know The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, I understand that it is truly Margaret I mourn for.

On the one hand, I grieve. I grieve for the inevitable day when I will bundle her into the carrying box for the last time (promise) and take her to the vet to do the last thing I can for her. To take away the pain forever.

And yet and yet and yet--I do not want to throw away our todays for fear of what will come tomorrow. We've had our ten plus four, plus a little. We'll have whatever we have, until it's all gone and I'm planting marigolds.

Rehearsing, through a little cat, the end we all face.

Rodentia is seventeen this year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meet Eufamia

One of the online groups I play in is having a sock critters swap at the end of October. It's been sooooo hot and muggy here that it's been hard for me to get inspired (fingers keep wanting to type "insipid"--Freudian slip??) so before I signed up, I decided I needed to have the critter in hand before adding my name to the list.

Eufamia only eats foods that begin with the letter "A"--apples, artichokes, asparagus, arsenic. She likes long hops on the beach, and holding flippers at high noon. As you can see, she's into extreme body piercings and tribal tattoos, but smokers are a turn-off.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

But the Benefits Are Good

Today tastes like cotton candy--right put of the vat. It's still hot and sticky and very much one note here. No matter where you are, there's one season that is less enjoyable than the others.

I don't mind the haboob that sandblasts your car, your glasses, and your skin--the lovely drenching monsoon follows. I don't mind the hazy days--I get really good photos during the magic hours (and I'm even at home for them both!!)

I really HATE the humidity that blends with the heat to make taking a walk like a slog through a swamp of spoiled milk. It gets so bad I can't even remember the titles of my short stories--which REALLY is bad.

Here's the one I threatened you with a few weeks back. I called it "A Thankless Task." Close, but no ceegar. Here goes.1

His was one of those thankless tasks that is simultaneously vital to good function, utterly invisible, and loathsome to contemplate. Like the guy whose job it is to clean the vats in a sewage treatment plant. Or the cleanup crew after Mardi Gras, cleaning up the spilled booze, blood and vomit from the streets. The job gets done somehow, by someone, and nobody ever thinks about who does it and when.

He'd worked his beat for years, in all kinds of weather. He'd traveled rainy roads, through blowing snowstorms where the flakes fell in curtains, watching funnel clouds touch down from green black summer skies. He'd tapped on canvas tent flaps, knocked on doors of clapboard and brick houses, walked in through the front gates of palaces. Getting the word out.

Some people, old people, lonely people, were glad to see him. Others were angry at being interrupted, and clearly wanted to get back to their lives. A few were resigned, patiently listening to the tidings he brought. He'd been at this job a long, long time.

Right now, the sun was hot on his bald head as he walked the dusty road into Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. October 31, All Hallows' Eve, and tomorrow would be the Day of the Dead. He grinned. Marigolds on the graves, and paper money, and sugar skulls to eat. His parchment skin wrinkled back exposing his gums, and burying his already small and deep set eyes back further in their sockets. Every day, so far as he was concerned, was the day of the dead. All flesh was grass, ashes, and dust.

He carried a battered leather case, wore a straw cowboy hat on his head, stained with sweat, the edges patiently rolled and re-rolled into permanent curls like pork rinds. His shirt was white, and although wrinkled, bone dry. He had small silver pesatas for cufflinks, sparking shards of sunlight. His pants were black, starting to go rusty on the knees and in the seat. The heels on his boots were worn at the backs, so he leaned backward a little when he stood still, but he seldom stopped and stood. Always and forever on the go, world without end, amen.

He stopped in at a burger joint, ordered only a glass of water. When the waitress looked him over slowly, taking in the cufflinks, his bolo tie with a silver mouse skull, and the white linen shirt, then contrasting it with the fact that he had walked in, walked on a road where anyone with a lick of sense would have driven, hitched a ride, or rode the bus; he smiled gently, keeping his teeth covered by his thin lips. He knew he'd see her again, thirty years from now, in the hospital with ovarian cancer. She 'd finally have lost those twenty-five pounds she blamed her loveless days on; those twenty-five pounds and more to keep them company. Oh, she'd be just as thin as the fashion models she pictured her face on in those magazines she read, easily a size 0, maybe even 00. Not that she'd enjoy it. Not that she'd be in a big city, seeing and being seen, dancing all night. So why give her a rough day now?

"Add on a patty melt, hon," he said, in his voice like rustling leaves. "But don't make it up just yet. Give it to . . . what's his name, the man who knocks on the door just about closing. The one you give the lunchmeat and bread that's just expired that day or the day before. Ask him in, let him sit down, and give him a hot fresh meal." Because I'll be seeing him tonight, out on the train tracks, just after the 11:05 from Santa Fe comes rolling by, he thought, but didn't say. Albert, Albert Manolo, that was the man's name. Albert who would find a five dollar bill, no, would be given a five dollar bill by a family of three on the way to Tucson, who would then purchase a bottle of sweet fortified wine, and go to sleep it off in his lean-to just outside town. But he'd fall, and lie there looking at the stars, finishing the last sticky dregs in the bottle, too rubber-limbed and swoony to get back up. And he'd pillow his head on the rail, and close his eyes, lulled by the thrumming heartbeat under his cheek, the faraway song of steel growing slowly closer.

The waitress, Gaye, if her name tag was to be believed, turned pale, paler at his casual mention of the man who'd come begging every few nights for the last two-three months. Acne stood out like paint flecks on her cheeks gone white. She'd feared having to throw this guy out, this bum with the good jewelry, maybe just starting on his way down, ordering only a glass of water, but how did he know about Albert? Albert with his liquid brown eyes, his heartbroken smile, the closest thing she'd had to a long-term relationship. How could he know? Her boss didn't know.

He finished his water, tipped her a dollar for her trouble, put his hat back on his head. He'd removed it when sitting down, placing it on the empty stool next to him. As he stood to leave, the background chatter of the kid in the booth with his parents stopped as he took a big bite of his burger, mumbled something through a mouthful of bun and beef, started to cough--and then stopped.

The kid spit out most of the bite, fumbled at his mouth and throat. His father patted him on the back, gently at first then harder as the kid's face purpled and his tongue thrust out. The woman with them stood up, looking for--what exactly? A god in a flowered chair to drop from the sky? A poster with the Heimlich Maneuver with easy to follow directions? Someone to read her mind?

It seems someone did, because the man with the hat dropped his case on the floor by his seat, and hurried over, sweeping the kid up in his arms in a bear hug, with his fist in the pit of the kid's stomach. Two hard squeezes, and the remains of the too big bite came out. The kid coughed scratchily, then began to bawl as he was handed back over to his relieved parents.

They thanked him effusively, and he shucked and grinned it all off. Just doing what anyone would, ma'am. Paying it forward, you could say. Acts of charity are what make the world go 'round, we're all in it here together until the great and final end. He ruffled the kid's hair, praised him for being a tough little soldier. Told the kid to take care, and turned to pick up his case, thinking that he'd be a little sorry to see this one in ten years, on prom night, behind the wheel with breath you could light on fire from the spiked punch. But he had a job to do.

Through the Rockwellian downtown, then back into the suburbs. The sub-sub-suburbs, he thought, and grinned again. Out to a tiny two room cabin with an outhouse and a clapboard porch to sit on when the summer heat was too great for sleeping.

The little house sat on much too much land, the way it had when the one who lived there had raised cattle on his ranch, driving them to Santa Fe to be loaded onto trains and driven to the slaughterhouses of Chicago to feed the nation on flesh. Slowly, as he'd grown older, the rancher had trimmed back his operations, stopped renting lands for grazing first, then sold the ranch an acre at a time as the city unfolded. "Why let them have it all at once," he'd said, without bitterness. He knew that the world turned, and that his way was ending. "Why let them have it in a great big gulp, when I can sell it to them a bit at a time, and ranch coin from the land?"

No fences from the road, just the end of the road itself, and the nearest neighbor still a quarter-mile off. The travelling man squinted in the setting sun, listened carefully. Smiled as he heard the creak of the boards, and the joints of the rocking chair. Smelled the oil on the rancher's knife and the sap of the cottonwood limb he was whittling on. "I'm an excellent sculptor," the rancher would say in his rusted baritone, cracked from dust and yelling orders over lowing cattle and the perpetual wind on the plains. "I can see a toothpick in any hunk of wood. All that it takes is carving away the excess."

He pulled up even with the house, watched for a moment as the old man's palsied hands picked away at the cottonwood branch, the knife so deft even as he trembled. "Hello, the house," he called. Waited as the man in the rocking chair looked up, turtle-like behind his trifocals that still weren't enough to bring back the unclouded sight that had once been his.

"Well, hello," the rancher replied, using the momentum of the rocking chair to lever himself up, with care for his arthritic back and knees. He folded the pocketknife's blade back deliberately, slipped the knife into his pocket, peered at the stranger in the straw hat. "Take a wrong turn, mister? Don't get much company out this way."

The other smiled. "Not a wrong turn at all, unless you aren't Jean-Paul Verley." He walked slowly forward, hand extended.

The rancher smiled, though his brows drew together in puzzlement. "I'm him," he said, meeting the stranger at the top of the stairs to the porch. He shook hands with the man, then said "But you still took a wrong turn if you're the Fuller Brush man." He indicated the outhouse around the side. They both had a laugh at that.

Verley settled back in his rocking chair, offered his guest the cane-seat chair next to it. Remarks were exchanged about the weather (too damn hot for this time of year), the current state of the world's affairs (going to hell in a handbasket) and the past baseball season (the wrong team won). Verley opined that it was good to talk to a man who saw things the same way he did. It was getting lonely for a lifelong batchelor, whose remaining family was scattered to the four winds. "But here I've gone and jawed your ear off, and kept you from your rightful business. Which is?"

"Well, it isn't Fuller Brushes, nor is it inquiring about your personal relationship with Jesus. I'm not in the business of selling at all, really." Here came the moment, the moment all this had lead up to. "I'm more in the business of taking." He looked at Verley, long and slow in the growing darkness. Verley looked back, measuring the skull beneath the skin, and his eyes dropped first.

"Oh," he said softly, sadly, and sighed.

"I'm sorry," the other said, and for a wonder, he was. It happened occasionally, when he had the time to sit down for a moment with someone who wasn't surprised to see him, with someone who didn't whine and plead for just a few more months, weeks, days. Gotta have one last Christmas, see the kid graduate, see the baby born. Just one more hour to say goodbye to everyone and everything. A pure pleasure to just stop for a minute and have a civilized conversation before rolling on down the road to the next appointment.

"Well. Much obliged." said Verley, as he opened the door to the house and went in for his jacket. The other followed him in.

"Obliged?" he asked Verley. "Obliged to die?"

"Yessir," replied Verley as he wound his watch and tucked it into his pocket. "It's been a good life--though of course, not near long enough." He lay down on the bed. "Bet you hear that all the time, though."

"Not quite like that," replied Death.

"And, well, I'd like to say 'thankee too much' for holding off so I could have the days I did. For not taking me when that bull spooked my horse and he crushed my leg up against the boards of the chute. For waiting out that case of pneumonia when I was sixty-five. For making the rattlesnake that crawled into my boot that night on the last drive rattle before I stuck my foot in, so I could shake him out without getting bit. Thankee, sir, and muchly obliged." He looked around. "Going to miss this, though. Anything particular I need to do?"

Death trembled. "Yes," he whispered. "Yes. You need to take the battered leather case you'll find on the porch, and you'll need to meet a man named Albert Manolo out by the train tracks at 11:08 this evening."

"Beg pardon?"

"Get up. Get up. There's work to be done. It's a hard and thankless task, but the benefits are good." Death took off his hat and placed it on the dresser, lay down on Verley's bed.

Verley smiled, and his eyes sank deeper into his head, the edges of his teeth glittering. "So that's how it goes, is it? A thankless task, yes sir. Thankless indeed."

"Yes," said Death. "But the benefits are good." And he closed his eyes for the first time ever.

1. You can find the other short in the August archives, under "I Stole This From Artella." The two stories link because the above story was written in response to a challenge where you had to include the phrase "obliged to die."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fleeting Progress Post

Not quite too busy to take a quiz, but still . . . How is it that whenever you get three-four days where you don't have to report to work that LESS gets done than when you squeeze it in around a ten-hour chunk devoted to someone else's agenda?

We are in the big finishing stretch here, completing things that have been trudging along for months. Gareth's Big Gray Binkie is done. Six feet by seven feet of charcoal goodness--which is why there's no photo. It was impossible for me with my limited studio to make the project exciting through sheer volume (c'mon, SIX feet wide by SEVEN feet long, all handknit? Whoof. Put that in your patience pipe and smoke it.)

Adenydd--Wings-- is complete, and one of the things I wanted to do was to post the pithy directions and charts. Of course, that means I need to find out how, read the directions, and perform the operation. I know where the cursed how is, just haven't rolled up the sleeves and gotten to it. But look:

Yum. Again, I'd love to have two lovely assistants to help out here and stretch this shawl out to take an artsy shot of the article and its shadows. It's nearly seven feet square, and I could probably get it to seven and a half if I blocked a little more severely. I didn't intend for it to get this big, but swatches LIE.

The castle blanket for Project Linus is nearly through. Due to the edges being temporarily held on string, there's no way to get a nice photo that doesn't look like a pile of yarn barf. (Ok, some would argue that my color sensibilities and choices make ALL my PL binkies look like piles of yarn barf. Those People of Beige Persuasion know who they are, and where they may go. Posthaste.)

So what's new on the needles??? I've started a Kiri in the Knittery's silk-merino yarn in their passionfruit colorway. Oh my YUM.

The yarn is a sensual delight, so soft and delicious in the hands. It's like really good chocolate, the kind you get from a friend overseas, or at a chocolatier, that you experience once and then can never find quite the same stuff again. And the colors. Mostly plum purple with shots of grey and hints of funny jelly green and some pinky-brown.

The shape of the shawl will show more than the stitches of the shawl, I think, though the proof is in the blocking. That's okay, though--the knitting is dead simple. Simple enough to keep me awake and knitting, unlike garter stitch, but not teeth-gnashingly complicated. It's a good balance.

Socks for me, of course. I think I bought just about every variation of self-striping sock yarn over the last few years. Each time I added to the stash, I castigated myself for investing in one-trick ponies. SSS yarn comes in pretty colors, but the only thing it does well is knit small tubes in the round. And not too small tubes--the stripes get awfully wide in glove fingers. Tubes about the size of your ankle or wrist.

There's no simple way to manipulate the order of the stripes, or change colors at strategic locations--that's why you bought yarn that would do this for you, after all. You didn't want the work involved in stranded color patterns. One trick ponies, just like eyelash yarn.

But they had so many pretty colors . . . And I love socks for brainless knitting. I have two blue box patterns, one for plain yarns, one for self-striping yarns. I have two big bags FULL of SSS yarn, and a shoeholder full of various kinds of sock yarn.

My stashing self has been vindicated--the faux Fair Isle SSS yarn has gone away. You can still find the usual suspects (cough Opal cough Regia cough) but the heyday of every stockist/manufacturer putting out SSS yarn has passed by, and the FFI SSS yarn has slid away almost entirely. Glad I grabbed when I could. I have brainless socks for a long time to come.

It's not that I don't like patterned socks. I'm a huge fan of
Cookie A and have even laid out buckage for some of her designs. I just like to have options--to knit two at once on two circs is a joy, just as following a chart and doing one sock at a time on DPN is pleasing. But hey, they're just socks. We've seen them before, so don't expect photos unless there's something intrinsically cool about the sock--shaping choices, or pattern choices, or handdyed yarn.

I'm doing some knitted felted bowls (yes, Mildred, the technical term for an object that is knitted, crocheted, or woven that is then agitated in water to make the cloth firmer and ravel-proof is "Fulling." They all knew what I meant by felting though, so shoo!) for a friend who wants to sell "stuff and things" at Ren Faire and such. Those are easy and like potato chips. I hope to have the whole series done next week during commute time.

I'm actually in compliance with my "no more than four" rule. Pretty amazing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Coming Up For Air

Today tastes like a root beer float in the hundred and ten degree weather. You have a fleeting impression of sweetness and cold, and than it's gone and all you have in your hands is a soggy wax cup.

I'm stealing minutes here and there to try and give some balance to my life. I thought I should find a photo of a Chinese juggler with his plates, Photoshop it up with the words, "I don't even have time for a stupid QUIZ!" and post him here.

Imagine that for me, would you??? Thanks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Masks and the Like

Today tastes like pot roast with onions, carrots, and potatoes. Like pink Zinfandel and cloves. Like french onion soup with three kinds of cheese.

It's funny--we celebrate the longest night of the year in a ginormous way, here in the Judeo-Christian community. We have Hannukka and Christmas (Saturnalia, December 17-22; Larentalia, December 23; and Brumalia, December 25). Lots of fun in the winter, when the days are short and the nights are long, and the holly king bestrides this hemisphere.

However, there's nothing so large and well-known connected with the summer solstice. (Yes, yes, it IS the feast day of John the Baptist. Show me the "Merry John Day" cards, the wrapping paper and traditional gifts, recipies for John the Baptist cookies and candy. Head-shaped cake on a platter, anyone??)

(Oh, come on, it's better than the traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and brains, isn't it?)

So some friends of ours (Antipathy and Amity) have commenced celebrating the polar opposite of Yule--Lhyr. During Lhyr, one of the traditional activites involves masks. And revlery. And foolishment. (Funny, all of our holidays seem to include foolishment, to some degree.)

Lyhr was planned as a sit-down dinner with a handful of pals, a hidden festival. The highlight of the evening would be a mask contest, at which point the winners would be crowned the Fool of Lyhr and the Queen of Lyhr, to rule until Lyhr 2008.

Heh. Yes, that would be my "Competitive Perfectionist" button, right there in the middle of my forehead. (And you thought that was a bindhi!)

So . . . nothing would do but I win the competition. Hadda hadda hadda. I don't play often, but when I do, it's important to me to win. Yes, yes, I AM three, why do you ask?

So I made a mask out of paper mache.

Like many things, that sentence says nothing about the work that took place unless you know the kind of elbow grease that paper mache entails. There's a reason that the masks from Venice cost between $40 for a simple domino and $100 for something full-face. It's not the paint, it's not the trim, it's the sanding.

The sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding. You build a base of strips two-three layers deep and let that get good and dry. You add a layer of fine-grained pulp (we found cheap white toilet paper works wonders here) and let THAT get good and dry. You paint a layer of gesso on, and once THAT'S finally dry, you take out the pebbly sandpaper and start smoothing.

Gesso again, dry again, go down in grit, and sand. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get a good smooth finish without the lumpy-bumpy ick that is inherent to paper mache.

Then one last coat of gesso, and you're ready to paint.

And yes, I did indeed win the Lhyr Queen's tiara.

I've been told I do NOT need to relinquish the tiara to the next year's Queen (mumbles "Cold dead hands . . ") nor do I need to provide a tiara next year--just be available to judge. I can do that. I'm very judgemental. (That probably didn't come out right . . .)

Ah, but I want to make a tiara for next year's Queen. I think that would be a cool thing to (1) do, (2) incorporate into the festivities. And well, if once is the thing itself, and twice is the way we've always done it, and three times is tradition--I need to get off the stick and inspire a couple of followers so we can keep Lhyr 2010 the traditional way, with last Lhyr's couple presenting the Fool's Cap and the Queen's Tiara that they themselves created.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another Finished Object!!!

Today tastes like a really well-balanced mojito (with NOTHING canned about it. Bacardi is making a "mojito" pre-bottled, but I'd rather drink lite beer than this. Bleh.) a blue-rare ribeye with feta, and maybe some dilled green beans.

I have finished one object a month for the past two months, and am thisclose
< holding fingers about six inches apart > to finishing the red shawl. Since I've been hauling it back and forth to work, working on it at lunch, and dumping weekends that SHOULD be devoted to re-reading Harry Potter into this shawl, it better show its appreciation by making progress.

However, the spotlight right now goes to the Scarf of the Apocalypse.

Done, done, done, done, done!!! And with time to spare, yet. It's headed off in the mail to its final destination, and brush with fifteen minutes of fame.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I Stole This From Artella . . .

Artella is a most excellent website/newsletter/purveyor of goodies/provider of classes/subject of inspiration/tool not to be without. Go here then come back.

And I just thieved a prompt from their newsletter. Bad Spike.

"First, you must use the phrase "I never saw it coming" somewhere in the piece.
"Second, you must include something about a meal.
"Third, you must incorporate the following words:
"Automobile, Coupon, Display, Identity, Knee, Jaguar."

Right. Here we go:

If I had known what Monday had in store for me that day, I would have gone back to bed and hidden with my head beneath the pillow. Seriously, I never saw it coming.

I should have known when the alarm went off, and I groped around for the snooze button, only to manage to turn the whole darn thing OFF. And then I slept in, like the proverbial log, until about T minus ten minutes from "Oh shit."

I thought about calling in sick that morning, hopping around the bedroom with one leg in my pants and juggling the tasks of drinking some coffee, combing my hair, and getting lunch put together. Breakfast? Who has time for that?? If I called in, I thought, I'd have time to make bacon and eggs, pancakes and juice. I could read the paper, I thought, clenching my teeth around my coffee cup's rim as I pulled on my socks, tipping my head back for a swig. I could do that, clip coupons for tonight's shopping (no, I didn't get to the store this weekend, why do you ask??) and then go in to work around lunch. I could miss all the rush-hour traffic, have a nice easy morning, and still be a hero! I could skip the makeup to look authentically washed-out, moan a little, run for the bathroom at varying intervals, and weakly clutch my forehead, murmuring no, no, I simply HAD to come in and finish this presentation--my responsibilities wouldn't let me rest.

But no, here I was in the garage, turning the key in the Jaguar (what my ex always referred to as my "identity display." There was some truth in that--I'd wanted a look-at-me car all the way through high school and college, and when I could finally afford an automobile worthy of the full title (as opposed to just "a car." A car is what you drive to a job. An automobile takes you to your career.) then I'd gone ahead and acquired it. What else was I working for?)

He never could make up his mind whether he was yuppie or boho. He wanted a sugar shack to boogie-woogie in--as long as the investment would appreciate; came with a hot tub, golf-course perfect lawn (maintained by someone else, please); living room filled with the latest styles in decor (ditto); sumptuous master bath (ditto); and children who were both perfectly mannered while free and uninhibited. (Oh, and ditto to that last part, too.)

At the same time, I was to be liberated (but not to make more than he did), a full and equal partner (who deferred to his decisions over anything more important than the color of the polish on my nails), and to have a fulfilling career so long as I could be home in time to cook a hot nourishing dinner for all of us just like his mother would. With the kids freshly scrubbed and dressed for dinner. And me, polished, poised, and hanging on his every word.

Do I need to explain what happened next? Sheesh. Thank heaven I got out of that BEFORE we had the progeny running around. I wasn't that hepped on being a mommy with a partner (though how MUCH of a partner I would really have had is debatable); going it alone would have been infinitely worse.

So, here I was, going it alone. It would have been nice to have a partner to carpool with, I thought, sitting and seething in the parking lot that is rush-hour traffic in this corner of the world. Watching mothers zip by in their SUV's, using the carpool lane because they had a baby on board, and a child in the front passenger seat. Wasn't the point of carpooling to take additional cars off the road?? Were they issuing licenses to kids who hadn't mastered sippy cups yet? Would it be ethical to borrow children from the neighbors and deliver them to daycare services by my office, I wondered.

Inch. Stop. Inch. Stop. Into the tunnel where you can't see what lies ahead, can't anticipate what the flow of the traffic will look like and change lanes to avoid the jam until you're in the thick of it all.

And that's when it all stopped dead. That is, deader than usual. I sat there for a whole song and commercial cycle, and we weren't budging. People around me honked for a bit, and then I saw the folks a little further up getting out of their cars. Clearly we weren't going anywhere for a while. Good--now I had a readymade excuse for being late. Too bad I hadn't had any way of knowing--I could have had that Sunday morning breakfast I'd fantasized about.

I shut off the engine, started walking up the lane. Suddenly, the ground shivered, and the light at the end winked out. I heard screams, and a wave of people began running from the dark end back towards the light. I kicked off my shoes, and spun to keep ahead of the wave of panic.

I was able to slip over to the side and avoid the crush in the middle. I saw people trapped by cars, unable to get back into the stream, scrabbling over hoods to avoid falling and being trampled by the stampede.

Once I was out of the tunnel, I turned to look back, like Lot's wife. A very human flaw, curiousity. I could see over and behind the tunnel, to the blocked side.

A foot. A foot the size of a Volkwagen bus tipped up on its end; toes, arch and heel. Callus on the heel. An ankle, presumably leading to a calf. The knee was hidden by the mouth of the tunnel, but the thigh dwarfed the puny skyscrapers that make up the Phoenix skyline, such as it is.

The first of the giants had fallen.

Okay, not fantastic--you know what I mean, plenty fantastic, but not Litrachure For the Ages. Not every forced fiction (i.e., fiction with a mandatory set of words included) is gonna be great.

Hmmm. Now I'll have to post "A Thankless Task" next week so y'all can compare and contrast.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Salt River Summertime

Today tastes like hot wet flannel.

99 degrees Farenheit. The dew point is 69 degrees Farenheit.

55 percent humidity.

I'm going to run the tub full of lukewarm water (about as cold as it gets in summer) and curl up with lemonade and Harry Potter. All of them. By the time I turn the last page on Deathly Hallows, I should be cool enough to sleep for a few minutes before the heat and light wake me up again.

Still, it's better than shoveling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Canonization of St. Ishida

Today tastes like . . . chicken. Chicken chicken chicken, chicken chicken. Chicken? Chicken, chicken chicken, chicken chicken. With black truffle salt. And black truffles. And portobello mushrooms. With Pinot Noir. (All right, a 1996 Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache, if you must be specific.)

Li'l Bra, who blogs under his real name at Noir Chicken Studios occasionally anoints saints to his personal canon. Until recently, I didn't have anyone I'd want to spend eternity with . . . until now. (Hence the foregoing tribute. Now commences the real post.)

Tatsuya Ishida is the author, artist, and driving force behind
Sinfest, a webcomic that swings between male/female communication issues, cute animals being cute, and philosphical study. With a side of frat-boy humor. I've read and loved his work for years. The Hand of God, Slick and 'Nique, Squigly, the Devil, Zen Dragon, and Bhudda. And Percy and Pooch. Good times.

But it wasn't until I read this, his essay about the nature of temptation, desire, detachment, and compassion, that I realized I needed him in my personal pantheon.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Stochastic Generator Pr0n

And while we wait for inspiration to drop out of the sky and hit me on the head, we present the latest quiz results:

I am a d8

No use trying to fight it, you're an eight-sided die, a d8. A fine example of simple elegance, the d8 is one of the least appreciated types of dice, and is often neglected. You are known to be quiet and shy, outward traits that conceal viscous sarcasm and mean wit. You are very smart, yet wise enough to hide your intelligence --the quicker they find out how smart you are, the sooner they'll put you to work-- which is something you can do without. People call you dark and pessimistic, or moody and cynical. You find little point in arguing.

Take the quiz at

Who knew??

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Filching From the Masters Series: The Next Installment

Today tastes like diet peach-flavored green tea. Flat. Chemical. Harsh.

Although I have been hard at work on the red shawl (my fingers may be permanently tattooed with dye on the index and middle finger of my right hand, like a nineteenth century clerk's mark) completion continues to be elusive. I knit on the thing going to work. I knit on it on the way home from work. I knit on it at lunch. I get about six rows per day, which is half a repeat (more or less) and at this rate it will take . . . twenty days to get to the edging. ( whacks head on the keyboard in hkj.fcdahdhewkhd; DESPAIR.)

And, of course, the Project Fairies have not taken pity on me and worked on some of the objects which have been quasi-abandoned in my quests to complete the projects that fill me with passion right now. Gareth's binkie is a forlorn charcoal heap. The Castle binkie languishes in a clashing swoon. The bowls remain unfelted and un-knit. (I refuse to discuss the books that await covers, pages that need polishing, and the unbound signatures stacked in the garage. Nope. Not gonna talk about the ATC's and decos that just need glue and postage. NOPE. NOT GONNA.)

Thus, everything is pretty much the same as it was when I posted pics last week. I'm not sure why I feel like there ought to be a whole lot more. Perhaps that will change--I have the Fourth off, so plan to be up burning the midnight oil on the red shawl and the Scarf of the Apocalypse. And then burning daylight in front of the DVD player clicking away on both projects. If the internal alarm clock (or the cats) get me up at the usual time, I may just give up and haul my carcass onto the couch to play podcasts and knit and knit and knit until Gareth gets up and we can work on the Netflix backlog.

Meanwhile, I'm going to follow my rule regarding what to do when you have nothing new to show--steal a dead poet's work and filk it into knitting. Y'all know this one:

Choosing the Next Project From the Growing Stash

Whose list is this? It’s mine, I know–
Scribbles and arrows to and fro
Footprints of a rambling mind
Potentialities all aglow.

To knit for charity would be kind,
Each stitch with a prayer entwined.
Or to wrap a friend with loving arms
Of lace. Or socks. But they wouldn’t mind

If I yielded to the charms
Of a shawl for me. Ah, but the harm
Is that it’s very late. I should keep
To the schedule set by the tyrannical alarm.

My bed looks warm, my pillow deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And yards to knit before I sleep,
And yards to knit before I sleep.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Progress At Last!!!

Today tastes like blue rare steak, cut into a shell and filled with blue cheese, roasted garlic, and carmelized onions, topped with mushrooms cooked in butter. Rapini on the side for more garlic. Yum.

When last we saw the red shawl, it looked like this. Three lonely little balls, a totem of abandonment.

Now it looks like this.
Woooohoooolabooola! The center square is lined out nicely with faux faggoting, the wings all fly long, and it's looking good so far. I may make this the Knitting Tour de France project, where I will commit to FINISH this thing by July 29. I'll need to line up my paper projects and get'r done by July 1, but that may be the kick in the pants I need.

Or I may do Kiri, a simple lace shawl, in this yummy yummy yarn from the Knittery. I don't normally do yarn porn, but I'm breaking my rule for this.

The problem with variegated yarns is that often the colors pool. This is a feature, and can be used to enhance the object. However, sometimes the colors are so distinct and separate that they do this. I don't think this will happen with the Knittery's yarn. I mean, look at the wonderful blendiness of the colors they used < wipes drool off the keyboard>. And the yarn's texture is blissful, too. Silk merino . . . ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. (Did I mention that they will custom dye any of their yarns in any of their colorways? And that the US dollar is still strong against the Australian dollar? Do I need to list MY favorite colorways here??? HINT HINT HINT)

Tyger is done, I just need to finish in the ends. That will probably take almost as long as knitting the thing to begin with. IT'S DONE!!! IT'S DONE!!! OMGBBQ!!1!!

As soon as I get the HTML sussed out, I'll have a link to the graph and the basic working instructions up.

And the Scarf of the Apocalypse has grown from this

to this

to this.

I think it knits itself when I'm not looking. This has been a hoot to play with. I'm really looking forward to the rabbit yarn . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Monster in the Mirror

Thinking about personality tests and quizzes and monsters and wondering if the type of monsters that resonate with a person reveal some piece of their core identity, like a shaman’s totems. Only these would be shadow totems, emblems and enablers of our dark side.

Yeah, yeah, we all know about the Goths and Vampire–pardon me–Vampyre Chic. And really, what more could you ask from your late teens/early twenties life? Sleep all day, play all night, gorgeous threads and never having to pay your way? Parasites in predator’s clothing, totally dependant upon the blood supply even as they eschew the boring little limited humans. Sound like juvenile disdain for the parents who provide food, shelter, clothing, tuition?? “I’m never going to be like them! Never going to let myself be tied down to a limiting little box for money . . . oh yeah, I need to write home and ask for some cash."

Nameless, my dear pal who reads this blog (and now I am so gonna get a thousand calls asking “Am I Nameless???") is all about communication, and ghost stories. And what is a ghost, except someone who desperately has something to say–but can’t get it across? Ghosts moan and rattle, appearing and vanishing around a fixed point, and the only way to get rid of them is to figure out what the problem is and FIX IT.

Lumpkin is into zombies. When I think of zombies, the first thing that comes to mind is drive. Zombies are the ultimate in drive. Their whole focus is getting from point A (hunger) to point B (satiety–usually on living flesh). That’s it. No quandries about what should be done, no distractions about what could be done right now (“While I’m devouring Bush, I might as well eat Souter, Cheney’s already one of us. Oooohhh–Ginsberg’s looking toothsome!”) Nope. Point A to point B in as few shambling steps as possible. Water, fire, walls--not a problem. Just stuff to pass through.

Me? I'm into devils and demons. Take what you want, do as you please, and pay for it. Ultimately powerful beings that are bound by rules of their own devising. The ultimate in OCD monsters, always checking the details, details, details. Why do you think I post once a week??? It's in the rules, just like the pentagram on the office floor that keeps me here at my desk.

And don't get me started on the angel-lovers out there. We're talking manifestations of the Divine Will. Notice that when God needs a heavy, S/He sends out an angel? The angel with the flaming sword guarding the Tree of Knowledge, the angel driving Adam and Eve out of the garden, the angel of death visiting the firstborn of Egypt? See a pattern here? Devils can be tricked; there's a whole genre of deal with the devil stories where the summoner wiggles out of the contract and avoids damnation. How many "Deal With an Angel" stories have you seen, where someone summons an angel, makes a deal, and then avoids the consequences? The negative consequences, of course--the ones where the protagonist gets gobsmacked for hijacking a henchman of the divine.

And no, I haven't touched shapeshifters--the werebeasts, the changelings. No one so far has admitted their love for the id buried within. (I can relate, I have a psyche like an M & M. Big chocolaty id, covered with a crunchy ego shell and sprayed with a glossy bright superego. Probably where I get the obsession tihe rules and such--the superego is very very thin, and washes away easily. If it gets scratched, that's it--here comes the chocolate.)

Next time, pictures. Promise. No more psychology for a while, it's too hot outside.