Monday, December 07, 2009

To Wish For a Christmas Miracle

" . . . he was allowed to wish for a Christmas miracle." The teacher closed the book and surveyed the silent classrom with satisfaction. Reading Christmas stories to the kids for the last hour of the day before the Winter Holiday Break had been one of her better ideas. She could sneak in some vocabulary and grammar under the sugar coat of holiday lore; it was the top subject on every kid's mind; and the ptomise functioned as a bribe to keep them on task the rest of the day. We won't be able to have story time unless you quiet down and pay attention, she'd say, and the whole class would settle down. More like snowflakes in a snow globe--a drifting, dreamy, rustling quieting; but she'd take what she could get.

"So, who can tell me what it is to wish for something?" Rhubarb ensued, but consensus was arrived at. You wished when you hoped really, really, really hard for something, hoped with everything you had.

"And a miracle?" After some discussion, they all agreed that a miracle was something that you wanted badly, but was not likely to happen. Like living at Disneyland, or getting a pony.

"So what would a Christmas miracle be like?" Well, that would have to be an extra-special miracle, wouldn't it? Like getting to walk on the moon, or being able to fly like Superman.

Morgan sat rapt in the back of the room. A Christmas miracle, he thought. A really special miracle, as opposed to the everyday, run of the mill miracles, like walking on water. He knew exactly what he'd wish for.

When the bell rang, signalling the end of the day and the semester all at the same time, Morgan put on his coat and mittens, and began the walk home in the late afternoon gloom. It would be dark barely an hour after he got home from school. Normally he loved the winter--seeing the warm lights coming on as he walked home, some of the Christmas lights lit up, the chill in the air. But now it all seemed dead and dry like the last leaves of October. Dust under his feet.

That July, two men in uniform had come to his house to talk to his mother. Morgan had been fascinated by the array of coloful ribbons on thier right breast, and wanted to ask about them, but Mother had turned pale and sent him outside to play while the grownups talked. When he came back in, sweaty and grass-stained, Aunt Christina had been sitting at the table. She told him Mother had gone to lie down for a nap, and he was going to come with her for a week--wouldn't that be fun?

And it was, in an odd way. Aunt Christine let him stay uop watching television after his bedtime came and went, let him have seconds of dessert (even wnen he didn't finish his vegetables), and never ever declined a game of Hearts, Morgan's favorite card game ever.

But sometimes he'd look up, and Aunt Christine would be looking at him thoughtfully. Once he saw her wipe her cheek quickly. like she'd been crying and didn't want to be caught. He'd asked what the matter was, and she said, "You look so much like your father when he was your age, that's all." And then she'd told about catching frogs in the creek behind the house where she and her younger brother had grown up, and then about how proud he'd been when he joined the Army, and then about when he'd married Morgan's mom.

When he went home form Aunt Christine's, his mother looked like she needed another nap. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she moved slowly. She sighed a lot. She'd packed up and put away some of the family pictures, and his father's things weren't hanging in the closet any more. He asked what happened, and she sat down with him at the kitchen table. He knew it was serious then. That was the place they had their serious talks, when Daddy had been sent overseas, or when Morgan had gotten in trouble at school.

"Daddy . . . daddy can't . . . well, he won't be coming home again. He loved you very much, and you should remember that, but he won't be with us any more." Tears filled her eyes, and she hugged him tight. Morgan wanted to ask why, but he didn't want to make his mother cry any more than she was already crying. "Go play in your room, okay?" Her voice stretched high and thin, breaking on the last word. So Morgan did as he was told, and tried not to think about it too much, even thought it hurt that Daddy didn't at least call on his birthday, or the first day of school.

But now school was coming to a close, and Christmas was just around the corner, close enough to taste. Morgan thought about the story, and wishes, and miracles. He thought about things to wish on.

When he helped hang the wreath on the door, he closed his eyes and let his wish bubble up inside him until his ears rang with wishing. "What are you doing?" his mother asked. "Wishing," he said. "Oh. Well, don't tell me, because then it won't come true."

When Aunt Katherine took him shopping for presents and they stopped for pie and coffee, Morgan noticed how she turned her pie around to start at the crust and not the tip. "Why are you doing that?" he asked.

She smiled. "Making a wish," she said. "Save the best bite for last, and make a wish on it." Morgan immediately spun his plate around, even though he often left the crust uneaten. "Pie bones," his father would say, laughing his rough laugh. "Bury it in the yard, son, and grow a pie tree!" Morgan ate every last bite of the crust even though it tasted like dry crumbly salted flour, and as he ate the last bite of the pointed tip, he closed his eyes and wished as hard as he could.

And the days fell away as he opened the tiny drawers on the Advent calendar to reveal tiny candy canes, tin soldiers, miniature cars and somewhere between astonishingly sudden and heartbreaking never, it was Christmas Eve. Morgan put his boots and coat on after dinner and went outside into the cold dark, looking for the first star so he could cast one last extra-hard wish at it.

The chiming of the clock striking midnight woke Morgan up, but what sent him flying out of his warm nest of covers and down the stairs was the crunching squeak of footsteps in the snow. His mother heard something too, as she joined him in the hallway, and they bumped into each other at the head of the stairs.

Mother frowned. "Who on earth could be calling at this hour?" she grumbled, re-tying her bathrobe sash. There was a hollow knocking at the door, clods of dirt falling on an empty coffin.

Morgan grinned gleefully. "I know, I know!" he announced. "It's --" Mother stopped with her hand on the doorknob, flipping the porch light on.

"Honey," she said, "Maybe you should go back to bed . . ."

"No, it's okay. Santa's for babies, but this is real." He pulled on her hand, turning the knob, and the door creaked open. He saw once-shiny shoes, now scuffed and caked with mud and ice there on the mat. His father's shoes. As the chill wind blew the scent of earth and Old Spice over his mother's white face, into the house, Morgan announced, "Daddy's come home. Just like I wished."

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Been a Year Already . . .

Today tastes like calcium and breadsticks, like Bradbury ice cream, like chronic illness flambe. With cherries, whipped cream, and sprinkles.

It was one year ago today that I was diagnosed with diabetes. What kind of cake is appropriate for that anniversary? Black frosting drizzled with thinned raspberry filling, with candles set on lancets and tester strips strewn like confetti? It would have to have Mexican sugar skulls posted at the corners with floral eyes and numbers on their foreheads--105, 236, 724, 42--or to make them more personal: 60, 425, 175, 1161.

Happy anniversary, Spike.

Okay, diabetes is not the death sentence it was a century ago. (Three to five years was the life expectancy following diagnosis. The link between the illness and insulin wasn't made till World War II.) The only treatment was to eat as little as possible--like the supermodel diet of distilled water for breakfast, a lettuce leaf for lunch, and half a Tic Tac for dinner. (Except, of course, being diabetic, you don't get the half a Tic Tac. Too much sugar.)

Diabetes is not the horrorshow ball of suck it was even thirty years ago, when you had to pee in a cup and drop a tablet in to see how your sugars were running. Of course, since urine gets produced over time, you'd get the broadest sketch possible. "Okay" or "Oh, shit". Nothing in between. And well, okay could mean okay . . . or it could mean you're about to pass out from hypoglycemia.2

I remember when my father was diagnosed some twenty-odd years ago. The in situ testers were new--you had to calibrate the machine, then the sample size was huge, and the test results were color-coded. That was marginally less awful, I suppose, although I remember cold days where he had to prick his finger several times to get enough blood (and let's not mention trying to get the drop on the right spot on the strip. It was like threading a needle. With your lips and tongue.) And the color-coding! "Is this a rusty greenish orange (borderline high) or an orangish rusty green (definitely too high) or a greenish orangey rust (okay, but just barely)? Spike, you're the artist, come and look at this."

However, I can't say that it's been a picnic. (Hah, hah. I'm here all week; tip your waitress.)

Those of you who've read my previous dialectic manifesto wild-eyed frothing rant on this subject will recall the emotional issues that pop up around this disease for me. It should be no surprise that it took me six months to be able to share this with the dozen or so Tonstant Weaders. And it should be no less amazing that I've only told one skinterface friend what's going on.

Oh, look, prezzies! (rips through paper, scattering shreds and ribbons everywhere) Blame, shame, and guilt! Oh boy!!!

I was going to talk about the hardest part here, but really, it's a revolving calliope of hardest parts. Do you want to sit on the Black Dog of "I have to eat to live, so it's not like an alcoholic where 'all'3 I have to do is give up what's killing me"? Or would you prefer the Swan Chariot of "I can never eat anything that tastes good again"? Why not the Pale Horse of "I've been fasting for 24 hours, and my sugars are still out of target range but not high enough to go to the Emergency Room"? How about the Sea Monster of "Everyone wishes me luck but nobody can help me figure out what to do"?

Ah, that last bit. It would have been so very helpful if one--any-- of the medical professionals had sat me down and said, "Look. Metabolism, especially individual metabolism, is wonky. You will have to figure out what effects your sugars. Some foods will surprise you by giving you a high read, some will surprise you by giving you a low read, and some will utterly confound you by swinging back and forth depending on what else you ate that day. Keep a food and blood sugar journal, and track everything." I figured out the last part on my own, discovering that my sugars are highest when I fast, and slowly climb down through the day to hit a pre-dinner lowest point. (Assuming, of course, that I don't get into cookies and crackers and candy during the day.) So really, if I'm out of target range, my best bet is to have a small mixed salad or a bowl of greens for my next meal, rather than trying to get my sugars down with fasting and exercise.

I'm more than slightly tempted to implement a late-night snack, say around 1:00 a.m., so I'd be eating roughly every six hours around the clock, and see if that made my morning read better. A quarter of an apple and a handful of walnuts, or a devilled egg with a bit of pickled herring. "Research, Gareth--it's RESEARCH!!!"

There's also that whole ball of suck that comes from being different. (Do we ever leave grade school? Really truly leave it, in our hearts and minds?) No one is going to scream "Ewwwwww!!! Spike has sugar cooties!!!" and run out of the room when I'm taking my pills or checking my sugars, but for the first eight months or so, I'd lock the office door to take my lunchtime stick, or juggle my meter, lancet, and strips in the bathroom in order to get my reading. I very nearly had a wet meter several times.4

So I decided it was a big deal if I made it a big deal. Attitude, baby! I started taking my lunchtime read with the door open--it's not like I have to bare inappropriate parts of my body to do this. And no one batted an eyelash. Hopalong walked in one day as I was setting meter to blood droplet, and began to apologize for disturbing me--as if I had been on the phone--and I told him no, I was interruptible (as the meter beeped and I set it on my desk to calculate).

And then there was the time a hypoglycemic friend and I went out to lunch. We were both just about to dig in when she said, "Shoot, I need to take a reading," and I said, "Me too." We whipped out our meters, stuck ourselves, and applied droplets in synchronicity. I said, "We should make this a game for support. Whoever's closest to 100 wins--but FIRST you have to guess if you'll be too high or too low. It's Blood Sugar Liar's Poker!!!"

Anyone up for Blood Sugar Hold 'Em??

Maybe next year.

1. My lowest low so far, the number I was at when I was diagnosed, the average for post-diagnosis 2008, my average for the past thirty days.

2. Cue ironic music--the things we need the most (sugar, water, and oxygen) are things where too much kills slowly and too little kills quickly. Elevated glucose in the blood will tear up your internal organs, burn out your nerves, and collapse your circulation--over time. Over months and years.

Not enough sugar in your blood will knock you out and kill you dead in a matter of hours as your brain burns up what's there and shuts down.

3. Not to dismiss alcoholism, or any other true physical addiction where the struggle is to give up the addictive substance. Which is much like saying all you have to do is flap your arms and fly to the moon.

4. And THEN there was the time when my sugars were at a personal record low (in the dead flat normal range, perfectly in the middle of the bell curve). I had gone into the ladies' room at the restaurant to take my predinner reading, and was elated to get a 92. That was so much better that I'd ever done before--heck, that was my very first normal range reading. I was so excited and happy. I put everything away and went to leave . . .

. . . and got lost in the bathroom.

It was the most basic bathroom you get--a door that locked, and a stall. The sinks were in the foyer. I was in the toilet cubicle, and I could. Not. Get. The door. OPEN. I pushed and pushed and pushed . . . nope.

So I sat down on the toilet and thought for a minute. I figured if I could get someone to open the door for me, I'd be fine. I tried to call Gareth on his cell phone--no signal. Too many pipes.

I pushed again. I could see the door pop away from the jamb, so it wasn't locked, but I couldn't get it open. I would up hammering on the wall adjoining the kitchen until someone came and opeed the door.

Notice I didn't have one functioning brain cell to PULL on the door? Granted--there was no handle or sign, but still. Having been raised with doors and having learned that they open one of two ways, if way one doesn't work, you try the other.

Except when your sugar is too low for you to think, that is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wordcloud of October 22, 2009

Wordle: Madwoman's Lunchbox

Not Dead, But Dreaming . . .

Today tastes like mossy crumbling idols, like burning resins from other worlds, like musty velvet robes.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Spike R'honah'klor wgah'nagl fhtaghn!

I have such sights to show you . . . another time.

I dreamed of Rodentia the other night. It seems my dreams are the only things inspiring me to put fingers to keyboard right now. And this too, shall pass, I know. Meanwhile, we keep the muscles limber.

I dreamed I was a superheroine of the Batman variety. No superpowers per se, just a very very fit body, with the commensurate mens sana and a gozillion teensy-weensy gadgets. And an obsession with law and order.

So there I was, working away at Hopalong's office, earning the daily bread, when the phone rang and it was the Commissioner calling to report an alert. Archnemesis was plotting a crime and had phoned in the details, but no one could stop him except me. Well, not me, but Superheroine. I seemed to have her in my Rolodex, could I get a hold of her and get this worked out?

But of course.

I hung up the phone, made some lame excuse to Hopalong (early lunch! Meeting afterwards! back soon!) and dashed out of the office, tearing off my work clothes to reveal the obligatory spandex unitard and slapping on the domino mask.

Boom! Into the car! Zoom! Out of the parking lot! Whisk! Into the warehouse to confront Archnemesis. Alone. In the gloom. With nothing but my soft animal body, my quick wits, and my messenger bag full of toys.

One out of three ain't bad.

So there I am, crouched in the shadows by the one entrance/exit to the gargantuan warehouse, waiting for Archnemesis to come by with his dozens of henchmen carrying their ill-gotten goods so I can take them all out. Barehanded.

When . . . in strolls Rodentia, tail held high. She looks up at me. Whatcha doin', monkey? she asks.

"Fighting crime," I whisper back.

Oh. That's good. She tumbles bonelessly to the floor, easy as a rubber band. Rub belly? She wriggles there to make her point, waving her legs.

"I can't really . . ."

Rub belly! She peers at me over her breastbone, eyes narrowing.

"But you see . . ."

RUB. BELLY. NOW. Her tail begins to switch.

I kneel beside her, remove one glove, and rub her belly. Her eyes close, her head tips back, and she begins to purr. Just then, a slightly darker shadow falls over us . . . it's Archnemesis! He's going to get away!

I look up at him, and shrug. He looks down at us . . . and shrugs, leaning against the wall to wait until Rodentia's done with her belly rub.

That's just how it is when you're owned by a cat.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dreaming of You, Beloved

Today tastes like the perfect meatloaf, rapini in olive oil with garlic, and truffled creme brulee. A little bittersweet, but satisfying.

I dreamed of Rodentia last night.

We were at the house she'd spent just over half her life in, but she was a kitten again. We were playing a wrestling petting game in the doorway of the master bedroom. I would gently sweep her off her feet and rub her belly and ears while she made horribly fierce faces and batted at my hand with velvet paws, nuzzled my fingers with bared teeth. Complete trust on both sides.

Every so often I would stop to check in with her. I'd put my hand in my lap, to geve her a chance to end the game by walking away. She'd sit up, blink, and put a paw on my knee to let me know to go on.

One of the last things we said to her was to come back and visit whenever she could. It's good to see her again, even for just a little while in the still quiet of the night.

Sleep you sound, little cat, little cat.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tour de France Knitalong 2009

Today tastes like brie, foie gras, and sweaty chamois. But I made it, I made it, I made it!!!

I rode in the Tour de France Knitalong for the first time this year, and I actually finished my project in time!!!

What is the TdF KAL? Well, every year during the Tour, a Ravelry group forms up to watch the race and knit a project. The projects and knitters and teams vary from year to year--sometimes the moderators ask that there be a French/bicycle racing connection, other times it's a free-for-all. Knitters choose thier own projects (i.e., we're not all working the same thing at the same time) and then cast on on the first day of the Tour (July 4 this year), dance on the needles, and try to complete their chosen task by the end of the Tour (July 26 this year).

There are traditionally categories to play in--a yellow jersey for a full challenging project, a polka-dotted jersey for multiple small projects, a white jersey for a new participant or someone providing moral support.

I went for the yellow with a lace stole knitted in an accent foreign to me--the Faux Russian stole from Gathering of Lace.

I'd never worked a stole this way before--you cast on for the edging at the bottom, knit ten repeats, then pick up and knit the stitches at the head and sides, working the edging as you go. I'm familiar with an edging knit on after the body is complete, but turning the corners bumfuzzled me each time I read the directions. Plus the chart is huge and complex--81 stitches and 96 rows per repeat. And did I mention that Gathering is infamous for its errors?

But really, I should have tried this ages ago. Except for a couple of occasions where I misread the chart and had to tink back (and back and back--ten rows at one point) it was smooth knitting.

This was the shawl that inspired this story and post. Its final destination will be over the shoulders of the Lady of Lyhr 2010.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Death Takes a Bride

Today tastes like stale wedding cake, flat champagne, and dust.

The project currently on the needles has begun to whisper to me as I knit in the long hot dusk of summer, and so I've dropped all my stitches to run over here and write it all down.

Death Takes a Bride

It had been a long time since that night, that night he had used his hands on her mother and pushed her to the floor, had blackened both her eyes and the blood had come from her mouth. How long? She didn’t know, days at least, months at most. He was gone. That’s what mattered. He was gone but her mother was going.

Mother took to her bed right after the door slammed shut, took to her bed with her face to the wall, breathing. Just breathing. She wiped the blood off her mother’s face, kept the stained handkerchief in her dresser drawer, as her mother breathed softly. In, hesitate, out. She checked sometimes in the night or the afternoon, afraid her mother had stopped. Breathing slowly.

The girl would make soup–soup was easy, water and whatever was in the refrigerator, then the cupboard, then what she could “borrow” from a neighbor. Or a store. Good thing it was winter and she could wear her mother’s long coat, the one three sizes too large on her slender frame. She could fit more under it that way.

Potatoes were cheap. She could buy two bags and some bizarre vegetable–kohlrabi, rapini, mustard greens and still get change from a ten dollar bill. She would stand right there in line with the other customers, waiting impatiently while the clerk pulled up the code (tapping her feet, rolling her eyes) and rung up her purchase. She’d figured out the rules. If you were careful and didn’t go to the same store all the time and didn’t get greedy (put back the bacon and steak, get chicken legs and pork chops) you didn’t get caught.

Still, she knew this couldn’t go on forever. So it was no surprise when the knock came at her door one night.

He was tall and thin under his top hat and long black overcoat. His eyes glittered in deep-set sockets. He grinned. He always grinned. Big white teeth, straight and perfect–and somehow, too many for his mouth.

She’d never seen him, but she knew him. “Mr. Death,” she said, from behind the door chain. “Go ‘way now, please. You have no business here.”

Still grinning, he took off his hat. “I’m afraid I do,” and he flicked his chin in a gesture that sped through the shotgun apartment to the one back bedroom where her mother lay, breathing slowly in and out. His voice was whisper-soft and iron hard, the edge of a knife in the night.

She went to slam the door in his grinning face, but he laid one finger softly just under the peephole. The hinges squealed and froze. She threw herself against the door, but it would not budge.

Then he pushed, hardly more than a breath of air, and the door swung wide, taking her with it.

He drifted in, a chilling breeze, and was halfway down the hall before she could speak. "Wait!" He turned, his eyes the thinnest slice of the moon in the night sky, and regarded her as she opened her mouth, not knowing what she would say until she heard it.

"Mother . . . she always said she wanted to see me married before she died. It was her dream to see me settled with a good husband."

Death shrugged, as if to say her mother's taste in men was . . . suspect at best. And what were dreams and desires to him, anyway?

"It would make her so happy," she continued. "To know that I was okay. And . . . it must be pretty lonely. Doing what you do." Death cocked his head, frowning. "You meet people for only a brief time, and then . . . " she opened her hand, a flower's petals drifting away on the wind. "No old friends, just vague acquaintances. No one really knows you. No one's there to hold the thread of your story together." He was nodding, slowly. "I could--that is, we could . . ."

"Marry." His voice was the sirocco through dried weeds in August.

"Yes. And if you could wait just a little while, say, until after the wedding day? Then she'd have what she always wanted, and you'd have what you want, and I'd get a few more days to make preparations and well . . . to be with her. Just a little longer."

He thought this over, forefinger and thumb wrapping his jaw. Finally he nodded. "Until then," he said, and took his leave. She locked the door behind him, heart pounding wildly. She had bought a few more days, at least. She would think about the price later.

She had a dress from long ago, a black lace dress that had pooled around her feet as a little girl, and would come to her knees now. That would do. But a wedding veil--she needed a wedding veil.

She opened her dresser drawer, thinking she might have a sweater laid by to rip and re-knit, and she saw the handkerchief stained with her mother's blood. She knew then what she needed to do.

Out of the blood she spun a thread, fine as the hair on her head, long enough to reach the moon. Red as cherries at midnight, red as the dreams of the unborn, red as the secret heart of the rose. And as she spun, the drops hummed and sang about loss, about betrayal, about release, but she paid them no heed. She had a plan.

She cast on with needles fashioned from broom straws, and began to knit. And that night, Death returned to the apartment.

He did not knock this time, nor open the door, but simply stepped through the barrier. She stood up and curtsied, careful not to drop a stitch in the complex lace she was working, fine and airy as foam on the sea.

"Are you ready?"

"Gracious, no! I have a dress, but, well, this is my wedding day. I want it to be perfect. So I'm knitting my veil." She held it up on spread fingers. "Once it's done, as soon as it's done, I'll be ready." Death frowned at this, but nodded. And again, he left.

As soon as he was gone, she sat down and ripped out half the knitting she had accomplished that day. She went and lay next to her mother, listening to the woman breathe in and out. In, hold, and out. Slow and steady.

And so it went for weeks. She would meet Death every night, sitting on her narrow daybed, knitting away. She would offer excuses for her slow progress each evening: "It's such complex work. There's so much here that's new to me." "I've never tried anything like this before, and I want it to be perfect." "It's such fine thread. It's hard to see, so I can't go very fast." Each morning, she would rip back half of what she had knitted the night before, and hold her mother, listening to her breathe, listening to her heart beat. Feeding her the thin broth which was all she could swallow.

Knitting a web of love from her mother's blood, and their days together.

It took months, of course, of knitting and ripping and knitting again, but the night came when she was down to the last row, and the last stitch, and the final binding off, which she saved for her bridegroom's visit. "Tomorrow night," she said, smiling. "Tomorrow night, I will meet you at the foot of Mother's bed and we will marry."

"Until tomorrow," he said, and touched her cheek with ivory fingers.

The next night, she waited for him at the foot of her mother’s bed, carrying a bouquet of lilies she had picked in the public gardens and orange blossoms plucked from the trees that dotted the city. Sweet and pale and free. She wore the black lace dress, much tighter in the shoulders and hips than it had been on the stick-straight child playing dress-up in a grown woman's cast-offs. And over it all, the sheer red lace veil.

Death smiled to see her so, in clothes that were between present and absent, in the same way he himself was between here and gone. To see his bride one step out of the world, and one step into his. It would be a good match. They clasped hands and swore their vows, and Death went to lift the veil from his wife's face, for their first kiss.

And he found himself ensnared for the first time in all eternity.

Death knows nothing of love, knows nothing of the bonds between beloveds, knows nothing of joining, but only sundering. The web of blood and love tangled in his hands, wrapped around his feet, muffled his jaws, tripped and trapped him. He snarled and writhed and thrashed, and only became deeper and deeper ensnared.

"Let me go!" His voice was the silence after the earthquake, the bubbles in the undertow, the embers of the forest fire.

"Promise me," his false bride demanded, "Promise me that you'll leave and never come back. You have no business here, Mr. Death."

He stopped, and looked up at her from where he lay on the floor. "Is that all you want?" he asked, hollow as a tornado, eerily quiet where there is no wind or air to carry sound. "For me to go, and never return?"

She felt the hook in his question, but ignored it. She had bested Death himself! What had she to fear from her conquered foe? "Yes. Leave me, and my mother, and never come back."

"Done." And with that, the fragile web tore, falling from tangled strands into three drops of blood on the floor, which turned into dust and blew away as Death turned on his heel and fled.

Death kept his word just as he keeps all things. She never saw him again. And to this day, the mother lies in the back room of the shotgun apartment, long and narrow like a tomb, breathing in and out, slowly, deeply, with the girl there as her eternal handmaiden. Perhaps they are happy. Perhaps.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wedding Gift, Nine Years Later

Today tastes like honeysuckle, asphalt, and monsoons.

Nine years ago this March (the 4th, to be exact) two dear friends of ours got married in our backyard. The yard was turned into a small medieval faire for a weekend, with folks in costume and folks in mundanery milling about. The neighbors still mention this when they see us on the street.

The bride plays in the Society for Creative Anachronism, with a relatively late period persona. Think "encrusted" with lace and frippery dripping from every seam. With this in mind, I pledged her a wedding gift of ten yards of lace edgings, either knitted or crocheted. I explained that she could make up the dress (or what have you) then I could work up the edging to fit and tack it on. The lace could then be removed and sewn to another garment at a later date. A gift that could keep on giving--ten yards is a LOT of collars and cuffs, or one amazing court garb hem trim.

And so, eight years and nine months later, at the New Year's Not a Party, Caladasia wandered over to admire the lace shawl I was draped in. This one, to be exact.

She kept wandering over throughout the evening, petting my arm or shoulder, pulling the wing away from my body for a closer look, asking questions. And finally, at the end of the night, she said softly, from just behind me, "I don't suppose . . . you would do soemthing like that for me?" I turned to face her, and she hurriedly added, "Oh, nothing that big, or even that intricate maybe, but . . . I'd really like a shawl." In the smallest meekest voice.

Honey, you only have to ask.

I had a pattern kicking around for a while that I'd wanted to play with: Liz Lovick's "Orkney Pi" pattern. I loved the swirling diamonds and the border, so decided to modify these old Orkney motifs into a modern Shetland square. Does this then make the shawl Orkney Cornbread?1

I had some amber beads I wanted to add for flash and sparkle. I intended to go much further with the edging, but by the time I reached the last round of cat's paws, I had hit five and one-half feet across. Much bigger, and I'd have another seven-foot monstrosity on my hands.

It's next to impossible to get good shots of beads--they're more visible as flashes of color and sparkle in motion. I keep trying.

Thorax, at least, is a much more forgiving subject. For certain values of forgiving. She wanted to go travelling for this shot, again. I told her we were not going to Santa Fe just to shoot this finished object. She pouted, whined, and dragged her feet.

She very nearly won. Until i reminded her of how long a drive it is, and then she was happy with this choice of location much closer to home.

And after all, bougainvillas don't grow in the Cit Dif.

1. Because, as Churchy reminds us, "Cornbread are square. Pie are round."

The pi shawl gets its name from the shaping ratio. You double the number of stitches when you double the number of rows. Cast on 8, knit one round, double. Knit 16 rounds, double. Knit 32 rounds, double. This lets you insert lace patterns into the round between your doubling rounds without having to fiddle with half-patterns.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

O Wad the Gift the Giftie Gie Us . . .

Today tastes like melted gum, fried eggs, and concrete. It's summer, and the humid is rolling back in.

So, in the immortal words of the bard, it's always interesting to see how we really appear, to see ourselves as others see us. I love wordclouds, where the net does an impersonal search of your blog according to varied and arcane criteria and shows you what you really talk about. Not the genius posts in your head, not the tastes and textures of the words betwen the words, but what's in black and white there on the page. What did you really say?

Wordle: Madwoman's Lunchbox

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ten Things to Remember

1. You were able to spend a whole day saying goodbye.

2. You were there when she died, petting her and talking to her.

3. She waited for you.

4. You did everything you could for her. Nothing prevents old age.

5. You were able to take her home, clean her up, and bury her with her favorite toys.

6. She lived a long life with safe places to sleep, plenty of food to eat, and the monkey of her choosing.

7. The curse is: they die before we do. We remain to mourn.

8. The blessing is: they die before we do. We get to hold thier whole lives in ours.

9. Of course you miss her. That's because you loved her.

10. Where doesn't matter. She's as much with you now as ever she was.

Dreams of My Dead (Rodentia)

Today tastes like white linen, caliche, and pine.

I dreamed of Rodentia last night.

I’m afraid I broke the cardinal rule—never tell your visitor they’re dead, or recall their death while dreaming. It’s unutterably rude. They broke the rules to come back and see you while your waking, rational mind is out of their way. The least you can do is meet them halfway and respect their efforts.

We were first in the vet’s office, and the vet was asking if she’d bitten anyone in the last two weeks. I found this funny in the dream for some reason, and thought, “Wait till I tell the Dinch about this one.” And then I remembered, and looked down at the table, and she looked back up at me with stricken eyes, and I woke up.

Woke up angry at myself for opening my big mouth, with a fleeting impression of Rodentia—all her fur grown back, at her healthy adult weight. Realizing that this was a dream, one of those precious dreams of the fallen. I apologized to her, whispering in the night that I meant it when I said she was welcome anytime, that I was willing to try again if she’d forgive me for taking that steaming dump on the dinner table.

So I slept again, and she was back.

We went places a cat would find interesting—to my folk’s house in Albuquerque with a wild front lawn that went on for acres, full of plants and birds. It smelled wonderful to my nose, green and wild and blooming. She sat on the front porch glider with me, and I stroked her fur.

Her fur was silky, like human hair, and I could run my fingers through it like my own, all the way from skin to tip without tangle or mat. She twisted about to groom herself, limber as a rubber band. It was clear grooming was about the pleasure of bending more than about arranging her fur. It gleamed with health.

She sat beside me in a way she never had in life, half on her side with her hips on the ground, half sitting up on her forelegs. “Hips,” she said, with gloating satisfaction, and I could see she was no longer in any pain from the arthritis that crabbed her walk up on tiptoe. She flowed like water again.

She held up a front paw, showing me her claws were back, needle-sharp and translucent white. Pearly like the moon in crescent. She caught a sparrow easily, plucking it from a plant like an ear of corn. Her teeth were strong and white. She offered me half, which I declined, and she shrugged and ate the whole thing herself, leaving a pair of angel wings on the path.

Then we were in Greer, sitting on the back deck of the cabin, watching the birds and squirrels and rabbits. Just sitting in the sun, with soft breezes blowing. She rolled on her back on the deck, showing me her belly fur—creamy off-white and shiny. No growth, no tumor, just healthy muscle and a small layer of fat. I stroked her ribs and belly the way she liked when she was in heat.

At the crest of the La Luz trail, there was a stone bench overlooking the city where we sat and watched the sun set. She hopped up next to me with a silver comb in her mouth. “Brush monkey,” she said, and I took the comb to her fur. No tangles, no mats, no bits of stuff to pull. Just strands parting easily under the teeth. We sat there, she and I, as I brushed her and brushed her and brushed her while the moon rose.

I woke with the most amazing sense of peace in my heart. Thank you, little cat. Come again anytime; you are always welcome.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rodentia Rides the Burro (1990-2009)

And so it comes to pass.

Sleep you sound, little cat.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Perfect Storm of Meh

Today tastes like dry cleaning bags, glass, and sand.

Not every knitting project is successful. Sometimes the lessons learned are useful but not necessarily the ones I wanted to learn.

F'r instance, lessons learned from the following project: always have your batteries charged so you aren't stuck with a cell phone camera, and you'll generally do better to scatter colors in a scrapghan.

I was liking this project a lot until I seamed it all together. The idea was great--pastel colors and a simple lace, with a variegated earthy color at the changes to break it up some and define the chevrons.

Spike, darlin', you would have done better to alternate colors more frequently. Make stripes of 10-15 repeats (even a Fibonnaci sequence if you didn't want a perfectly even striping sequence) rather than pulling one ball and going till the yarn ran out.

Yup. Scrambled, not fried. This binkie is most definitely fried--yolk HERE, white THERE. Blap blap blap, no blending at all. Ah, well, it will keep someone warm and give someone something soft to hang on to during a hard time.

Trying something new with the next big binkie--using the knit 1 in the row below technique in variegated pink/gray/green with shades of deep purple offsetting bias lace text. I like it so far, but again, the proof will be in the final article post-seaming.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Traditional Lyhr Celebration

Today tastes like green glass beads, saltwater mud, and Harold Monro. It must be the solstice, and time for the Festival of Lyhr. This year, it's a tradition1.

I talked about Lyhr the first year we celebrated, where we all came together in masks to rejoice at the birth of the Holly King and mourn the passing of the glory of the Oak King. I confessed to my CDO (a true compulsive knows the only proper order is alphabetical, after all) and my slightly competitive edge (an edge much like a chainsaw, it's true).

And I skipped Lyhr 2008 as I was merely judging and could not compete (tho' the winners of 2008, well, they deserved it. Amazing isn't the word for their work.)

So this year, I decided to play to my strengths, and instead of sculpting, I knitted.

I was thinking about making a beaded shawl, and wanted to see about the technique--did it really work? Would I be able to stand it? Considering beaded goodies have been dripping from my needles ever since, I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes. But then, I needed a small piece to play with and see. A mask looked like just the right thing.

Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret like that for two years???

And then it hit me last year that I needed a shawl to go with it. What separates us from the animals, after all, is our ability to accessorize. And there's a beautiful beaded shawl from PinkLemonTwist and a great story that goes with it, and well, I had my whole outfit together. The mask took an evening, the accessory took weeks. But it was worth it.

I wasn't really feeling competitive--I had the nifty tiara from the first year (which I have worn each succeeding year thereafter) and so, well, what could top that? I thought it would be a funny little joke--Spike the lace knitter, draped in a lace shawl, wearing a knitted lace mask. Tee hee.

Then I saw this year's prize for the Lady of Lyhr.

If there had been mud, I would have lain there and howled for it. Howled for it in a deep lagoon. Covet. Covet covet covet covet covet.

Last year's Lady of Lyhr had made this mask as a prize for 2009's Lady.

Well. And am I going to leave you wondering just who got to take this piece of awesomeness home with her?

Of course not.

So, for next year, I plan to knit up a mantle for the Lady and a Dracoclava for the Fool. ("What kind of idiot wears a full-face wool balaclava to a party in Arizona in June?" "Not just any idiot--the Fool!")

Part of the fun of watching these more intimate gatherings form is watching people begin pushing their envelopes and trying just a little harder. Learning from their mistakes (and others') and seeing just how far they can go.

Pretty damn far indeed.

1. The first time is the thing itself. The second time is the way we've always done it. The third time it's traditional.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Sitting on the mat with Rodentia the other night, I came to realize that the being I missed was not Rodentia as she was just now, but the Rodentia of four-five years ago.

I miss the Minister of Funny Noises 1, I miss Il Dulce2, I miss the cat who slept around my head for a winter 3. I miss the animal who would rub her head on my feet, who would follow me out onto the back porch, the cat who took such unabashed pleasure in catnip.

That cat’s been gone for a long time. I miss the cat who helped midwife me from old kitten to young cat, who showed me that I could take a broken spirit and help mend it, that I was not somehow destined to ruin everything I touched. It’s very much the reason I knit and wear lace.

Gareth asked me if I wanted to go to the pound or ask around for a kitten. This year’s crop should be weaned and ready to be adopted out. For a minute I was severely tempted. A bright bundle of fluff would certainly ease the pain of the protracted farewell, balm for a bruised heart.

But then, but then, but then. Vishnu is twelve (or thirteen? I’m pretty sure she’s thirteen, six years younger than Rodentia) and bringing in a kitten to a home with a well-established older cat is an unkindness. On top of that, Vishnu has wanted to be an only cat forever. If I had known and seen then what became so very clear a few years later, I would have turned down the offer of this particular kitten and sought another beta cat. Vishnu should have her time as a solo animal with all the treats and all the attention.

And one layer down: I would do nothing but put off the inevitable. Remember, a cat’s average span is fourteen years. I hope for another six-seven years with Vishnu, I really do. But I’m not going to have her forever. And maybe I’ll keep that in mind for the next little while, and take more photos of typical Vishnu and write a post or three about my flobbity goofball of puddy fat. I begin to see why my parents and relatives can’t let a moment go by without grabbing the camera and taking photos. I begin to understand the scrapbooking craze, the desire to have many pictures of our child, our pets, and put them together attractively with some notes about what was so significant about this shot.

But yes, even as I pick up and cuddle that sweet little fluffball and play with names (Barong? Gault? Walker??) right now I know that in fourteen years, give or take, I’ll be writing memoriam posts with a tissue wadded up in one hand. I don’t want to handle the double-think right now, where you delight in the frisky young animal and ignore the skeleton in the corner. Sometimes one can ignore it so well that one doesn’t see the scythe until it’s already in motion.

That may change. I hadn’t lost an animal to old age in . . . I don’t know how long. Since middle school, maybe. The other pets who died of just plain organic shuttin’ down did so very quickly–practically between one step and the next, like a Garfield nap attack. I had moved out of my folks’ house long before the family cat died, so I didn’t see her last days of hiding under the table in her cool dark quiet place. This has been a bitter new experience for me, keeping a deathwatch for a beloved animal.

1. Rodentia was always amazed that humans mate out of season. Just as we lit metaphorical cigarettes, she would hop up on the bed, wondering what was up with the funny noises. Of course, she was happy to stick around and have her head and ears rubbed for a minute or two. In a homage to John Cleese, we began to refer to her as the Minister of Funny Noises, and petting her at that time became “bribing the Minister.”

2. When Rodentia began playing with her toys by carrying them around like kittens and meowing at them, we were struck by her resemblance to a furry little dictator issuing orders to her ‘nip minions. “Go out and bring back the cat food! And thumbs! I need thumbs!!!” When you have a mind like a steel sieve, “Il Duce” quickly transmutes into “Il Dulce.” The leader becomes the sweet.

3. Go here and read this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turning Another Corner

Todays tastes like sackcloth and ashes, of charred pork and wormwood, of the bitter cold of a snowless high desert winter.

We've turned another corner in Rodentia's journey.

Two years ago, we turned that first corner when I realized she was no longer late middle aged, but affirmatively old.

Cats have a funny-shaped life. After one year, they're teenagers--sexually mature and raising Hell. After three years, they're cats--furry little Republicans (can take care of themselves just fine, thanks, appreciate the perks they have [food, warm house, company] and pay for them [with companionship in return], and don't care much for change for the sake of change).

And then they stay cats for years and years and years, in a slow glide of easy middle age. Not bouncy kittens chasing anything that moves, not yet sleeping round the clock except for creaking over to the food bowl and litter box. Just living the blessed long middle age of a cat, as one vet I used to treat with referred to it.

Then the next corner is turned, and wham! The cat ages like a vampire in sunlight, all the years collapsing in at once.

Two years ago, I noticed we were in the middle of the end. Rodentia was less active, less likely to seek a high perch, less likely to hop up and run at the sound of a can opener. (Treats?? eyes wide and ears up, tail high and crooked at the tip)

But she still played with her toys, picking them up and carrying them about, setting them down and instructing them loudly, a fur-suited Il Duce on the balcony. She was interested in and engaged with the world, lying by the living room window or the back arcadia door, watching other cats on her lawn or porch.

In the last few weeks, that's changed.

She started hanging out in the vestibule of the master bathroom, the place where we groom her and keep the cat treats. One of her problems has always been her cotton candy fur, so fine and prone to clumping into mats. She has a lion's mane, including a ruff under her chin, so it was always hard for her to reach her back and sides--the ruff got in the way. So she'd give up in disgust, and the mats would grow worse and worse until we shaved off her fur.

Then the place where we took her stopped having cat grooming hours on the weekends, so I bought a beard trimmer and did it myself. I started brushing her out, and to make the job easier, started giving treats as I did so. One clump off, one treat. One limb done, three treats. Right at the limit of your patience--four treats, and one more if you don't run away as soon as I put you on the floor.

So I figured that she was hinting she'd like a treat. Or three. And it made it easier this last time, as she was already right there and willing. (We even washed her feet--she's gotten stiff enough that she can't wash them comfortably, and the long hair between her toes was picking up the clumping litter and scattering bits everywhere. Little clay booties on the pads of her feet, poor cat.)

Then she moved into the bathroom proper. Into a dark, enclosed space, where it's quiet most of the time. Where she could lie between the toilet and the wall, where there's just enough room for an old, skinny cat.

I noticed she'd still come and lie on the bathmat while Gareth and I showered. For years, we've put the mats away after we were done, as the cats would sometimes mistake the mat for an alternate litter box. You only have to step into a warm puddle on the mat once to realize something needs to be done about that.

But this weekend, Gareth was going to shower right after me, so I left the mat down, and Rodentia was sleeping the sleep of the just on the mat. I went to move the mat, and she didn't wake up. She didn't wake up until I picked her up to move the mat, and looked at me slowly, not sure where she was or how she got there.

Can a cat have Alzheimer's?

So I've left the mat down. If she misses the litter box on the mat, then I'll wash it. I am of the species with the big brain and opposable thumbs, after all. When the mat wears out from being washed twice a day, I'll get a new one. This one is ten years old; with the money we've saved from using this one, I think we can afford it.

Right now, that's all I can do. Make her corner of the world a little more comfortable while we wait for her last steps to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I is for . . .

Today tastes like illusion, illutation1, icicles, and ichor.

Thorax says I is for Illustration. Who am I to argue with such a learned and worthy sage? For that, I give you a picture of Nuala's Wings.

When she first saw the finished shawl, Thorax hugged it to her bosom and proclaimed that we simply had to fly to England right now so she could be photographed twirling through a field of wildflowers. "it would be so, so Rowan, so very Heathcliffe and Catherine," she sighed.

We compromised.

I love this shawl for the details. Check the center neckline:

and the transition from the body to the border:

and the edging:

By way of Illustration, I would add that I is also for Inspiration. This shawl has been in my head for years, ever since I saw a picture of Anne Hanson's glorious Wings o' the Moth.

I loved the way the diamonds gave way to the leaves, and the way the undulating leaves led to the eyespots of the Corona. However, I wanted a Faroese shape . . . but with a different texture down the back panel.

I convinced myself that it would be "too hard" to follow all those patterns at once. And how to reconcile the leaves with the eyespots? There's no easy lowest common denominator between the stitch patterns. The leaves simply had to line up with the eyespots--so there's another stitch pattern to work with.

Do you see the capering gremlin, Ikant? Of course you don't. Now.

I gave her swatches and an abacus and told her to prove to me that this was impossible. That there was no way at all to make this complex thing work itself out. That we couldn't bend string and make it go the way we wanted.

Yes, it helped a lot when I flipped the Spade Lace pattern. Like taking a deep breath and walking across a child's wading pool before taking on the Sea of Galilee.

About a third of the way through the knitting, I took a long look at the color, and realized it wasn't so much insectile as fey, and the name dropped into place. Nuala's Wings.

Neil Gaiman is an author I admire very much, and not because our short story voices sound very similar. (I was reading a collection of his shorts, Fragile Things and found a section that delighted me so much I began reading it aloud to DH Gareth, who was in the kitchen. When I finished the pages, Gareth poked his head around the door, frowning quizzically, and asked, "Which of your stories was that from? Is that a new one?")

Long and long ago, Gaiman was writing for a comic book, Sandman. There was a minor character, Nuala, a fairy. Of course she was drawn long and lean and lovely because you can do things on the page that would be grotesque in real life. Well, Nuala and her brother were forced to give up their glamour. (Why? Don't recall in full, and what there is would take forever to line up. This was back in the day where comics were actively working to be serialized graphic novels, rather than a quick self-contained story each month.) Her brother didn't change at all, but Nuala became a drab, brown, skinny little thing with tiny eyes and big pointed ears.

I like to thnk, in my own Jasper Fford way, that perhaps off-page Nuala was able to get at least a little of her former self back. Her wings, perhaps, and a chance to fly in the gardens.


1. Mud bath

Monday, May 18, 2009


Litigation work–
A cruise on a garbage scow
Without any stops.

Work is eating my words now. Just realized how long it’s been since I posted. (Nom, nom, nom, says the office.)

I need to take some real photos and download others (of a frankly disappointing project) and pick out what I will do differently next time. Note to self: lunchbox style blankets look better scrambled than fried. Just sayin’, ya know?

Going on vacation Memorial Day, so will have plenty and them some to spill, and may even find some language with which to do so.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

O is for . . . Openness

Today tastes like olives and okra, oysters and oatmeal, Oreos and opopanax.

Well. Where to begin?

Tonstant Weaders will no doubt recall (because every word here is a pearl without price, ha-ha) that I've written about how fall tends to be the sucky depressing time in my life, filled with the smell of loss and frost even as the days shorten and the few leaves turn.

Fall 2008 was the maggot-ridden cherry on the pus-covered excrement sundae of Worst Fall Ever.

I went to the doctor's office for my semiannual urinary tract infection. I came out with Type II diabetes. (Rather like the Englishman who went up a hill and came down a felon. That was NOT what I had in mind!!!)

And here's the thing. I am an intensely private person in so many areas of my life. I share odds and sods, and sometimes surprise people with what I'm willing to say out loud, but this . . . well, this was different.

Honestly, if DH Gareth hadn't been with me at the hospital, I wouldn't have told him for a while.

As it was, I held onto to my secret for weeks, smoldering like wet leaves on fire, wrapped up in my judgment and perception of how others would judge me. If I hear one more person pontificate on how diabetes is TOTALLY avoidable, I will rip their living heart from their chest and eat it in front of them, saying to their glazing eyes, "THAT was totally avoidable, dumb-ass."

Hey, it's just protein, salts, and water. Shouldn't screw with my sugars too badly. (Thanks for your concern.)

And yeah, that's a lot of where my head was at. Three times a day for the rest of my life I get to stick a lancet in my skin and be reminded that I am TOOO STOOOOOPID to TAKE DECENT CARE of myself; can't even manage to FEED MYSELF RIGHT, F'R GODSAKES; and probably shouldn't be out among the ADULTS WITHOUT A LEASH. Anger and shame flambe with a sidecar of fury and humiliation.

Is this like pregnancy? Never having experienced the latter condition, all I know are the anecdotes that get told about how random strangers walk up and put their hands on your belly, how everyone has at least one horror story about how they were in labor for eighteen weeks and couldn't have any pain medication at all, and how their friend/sibling/third cousin twice removed tragically lost their child due to some ham-handed fuckup by the medical profession that left Little Turtle Dumpling dying in momma's arms, whispering, "Why did you fail me, o mother mine? How could you have brought me here like this? I loved you . . ." with their last gasping breath.

And it's kind of the same way. Others in my circle of friends have come up snake eyes on the sugar cube dice, and when they speak up, everyone has a story about an uncle or a friend or a friend's uncle who had the condition and either lived a long and happy life or had multiple amputations, starting with the toes and working inwards until he went blind, had a stroke, and finally died of a heart attack after being reduced to a drooling torso in a wheelchair. At fifty. And it's too bad, because diabetes is so easily avoided. *slowly I turn, fingers flexing, step by step, inch by inch*1

So. Not counting on much support from that end of things.

I don't intend to turn this into Spike's Sainted Blog, where it's all Chronic Disease all the time. However, it is a part of my life now.2 It won't get better. There is no cure at this time; just management. Kind of like addiction, only I can't take a vow of abstinence and stop drinking.

Although not eating would cure the condition, as much as it can be cured. Three weeks or so, and I wouldn't have diabetes any more. The side effects though, the side effects of that cure are a bitch. And permanent, to boot.

Back to openness, and secrets, and spilling your guts. (Not literally. I haven't heard you say the "A" word yet. Which "A" word? "Avoida--" *slowly I turn, fingers flexing, step by step, inch by inch*)

I've been telling the people it directly affects--the people I (used to) break bread with first, so we can plan around grains and carbs and meals when I may or may not be allowed to eat. The folks at the office, so they understand when I suddenly turn white and clutch the wall at about 3:35 p.m. when my sugars crash with an audible thud.

Ah, but the 'rents.

The damned disease makes frequent appearances runs gallops up and down both sides of the family tree. And yup, there's a genetic component. According to the American Diabetes Association, there's a certain amount of risk simply due to the way humans are constructed--it's a design flaw. Raise that to 1 in 13 if you have a diabetic parent who developed the disease after age fifty. 1 in 7 if you have a diabetic parent who devloped the disease before 50.

Anyone want to guess what happens if you have two diabetic parents? Anyone? Bueller?

Your risk is one in two. Flip a coin; tails you lose.

Can someone gimme "avoidable"? *slowly I turn, fingers flexing, step by step, inch by inch*

Yeah, choose your parents carefully.

And speaking of parents, how does one break the news that you have the family disease? "O hi, Mom, how's the weather? Uh-huh, and Dad? Uh-huh, and by the way Ihavediabetes. Isthatthedoorbell? Nicetalkingtoyoubye." Mmmm. Not so much. And I surely don't want them to read it on the blog. (Reason number 493 not to let your folks know where you keep your diary . . . Hi, Mom!)

It's not going to be easy. That much I know. So I'm tying up a shoe of Damocles here with this post, written ahead of time. (And even writing this has been tough. I keep running away and circling back. I've spent over five hours on this.)

I need to have broken the news before this publishes. If I don't, and I get a Rowling-style Howler from the 'rents, then it's my own damn fault for being too much of a chickenshit to put on my big girl panties and pick up the phone.

There. I've set up an auto-publish, and *gulp* the date's a lot sooner than I thought it'd be.

Well, I've said it before. I don't need inspiration. What I need is a deadline. And now I have one.

1. Hmmm. A human head is often compared to a cabbage in terms of consistency. I wonder if SKIN is much different? I'd think not; there's a lot of bone in a head. And you can avoid the rib cage handily . . .

2. Hence the tag, "Too Sweet For My Own Good." Read 'em or dodge 'em, but that'll be the thrust of these posts. I can feel several rants coming on . . .

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I is for . . .

Well, today it's for interruption. I had another post written, but did not have time to take pictures, without which the post makes absolutely no sense at all (as opposed to the usual word salad rambling sense rife with digression you've come to expect here).

So. Today tastes like irritation, idiopathy, interference, and iodine.

My natal anniversary was this past Saturday, and it feels like this one was a corner-turning one.

I've had them before, some at the usual and expected points (eighteen, when childhood ended) and some not (twenty-four, when adulthood began; or thirty-six, when I started to feel like I could art).

This one . . . this one I feel Lord Shiva dancing in my heart. I is for immolation.

I feel that some significant chapters need to be closed. I'm not going to slam the book shut, tempting though that is, easy though that would be, but some of the principals and semi-laid plans I had are not going to come through the way I initially thought they would. If think is the correct word. I is for intuition.

I love my paper arts, I love my fiber arts, I love my charity knitting, but my studios are in chaos. I can find what I seek, but the finding means moving everything in an N-puzzle algorithm. Move the duffle bag so I can move the couch so I can get to the coffee table, open the door, and then spread the contents out until I find that ball of yarn/piece of cloth/bit of ribbon--then reverse the steps to put it all back.

The time has come 'round to pick the next layer of low-lying fruit and kiss the things I no longer find motivating goodbye. To decide on the ground-level goals, to plan out the 500 foot-level goals, and to see the big picture from space. I am weighed down with shoulds and promises I have made to no one except myself, even though the products may go to others.

Lord Shiva says to open your hands, to clear the path, to sweep the land clean for Brahma.

I is for inspiration.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

H is for . . .

Today tastes like habaneros and halva, heliotrope and hippocras1.

A lot of things start with "H" apparently. Let's start with hoo-doggies2.

So . . . I caught my annual turn of the season cold, which has developed into bronchitis (as it usually does) but I learned my lesson in 2006-07 and STAYED PUT for the run of the sickness. That meant not going to the gym till this week.

Which doesn't sound like a hardship, but I've worked very hard at developing that pattern until it's become as automatic as putting on clothing before I leave the house. Wouldn't think of doing it any other way . . . until I knew I'd better not.

So I went back this week, and the workout, she has kicked my butt.

Not to mention that I've added on a cash-out to the routine for core and shoulder strengthening. Raising the resistance on the pull-ups taught me right where the weak spots in my shoulders were. So now, as DH Gareth bemoaned, we do the workout before the workout (the warm-up), the workout, then the workout after the workout (the cash-out). Getting old is not for wussies.

Let me add that H is for Havi Brooks. From her, I learned about dialoging with your negative emotions--your fear, your pain, your whatever--which always makes me think of throwing a little tea party in your head. (Hey, better than throwing a tantrum in your physical body, and less disturbing to those around you.)

I played with it, a little, and love the results. Goofy and twee, sure, but it allowed me to actually process the emotions rather than wadding them up in a little bitty ball and cramming them into the closet. O, that closet. The one in the corner . . . breathing. Someday maybe I'll be ready to open the doors and process what's in there, rather than pretending I don't see the eyes in the night.

But along those lines, H is also for hair. Yes, indeed, my vanity is showing.

I have worn my hair very long for most of my life. I cut in once when I was about ten to fit in (regretted it madly about three days later, when the novelty had worn off and my classmates returned to making my life a living hell their usual behavior), then when I was seventeen (into a lion's mane to celebrate passing a milestone as I was a senior and graduating soon, then my best friend died, and I cut it all off from grief)and four years ago, as I was getting a convertible.

I enjoyed the last four years, don't get me wrong. This was where I was, with my hair blowing in the breeze but too short to tangle. (I mean, SHORT.)

But now . . . I miss it.

So I’m hanging on to my patience by my stubby li’l fingernails, taking my vitamins, sleeping on satin pillowcases, using a horn comb, and most importantly NOT CUTTING IT while I wait for it to grow.

And it is growing. Bless digital cameras, since pixels are free. I can take back of the head shots and prove that the hemline is slowly slowly creeping down to my shoulders, slowly slowly inching its way along. When I compare March to January I see the progress I’ve made, and having the photo history of the growing out period may be useful/amusing at some later date.

Meanwhile, I am at the awful stage where I can’t even put it all up in a ponytail. And thanks to the wonders of the intarwebs, I have found beaucoup styles that all require long hair to perform . . . including one doozy where you mold giant pincurls into a stylized rose wreath. Le sigh.

So–an open letter to my hair.

Dear Topper:

I recognize that we have had a long and tulmultuous relationship. I grew you out and gnawed your ends, I left you to tangle in the wind, dry in the sun, and basted you in chlorine. I changed your shape; I changed your color. You hung with me through it all. This last time . . . well, I cut you off and swore I would never never change until you went completely white.

And now here I am, asking that you come back one last time.

I have nothing to give you but promises. Promises of oil and honey, of patience and protection, of care and loving treatment. Why should you trust me this time? Why, after the purple and henna and high tight cuts should you believe I'll let you go your way this time?

Because, dear Topper, I've learned my lesson this time. I've found that I feel more like me when the two of us are together. I've learned the pleasure of long lazy time, time where everything else can be set aside, where I can demand that the world turn without me for an hour or so.

I will treat you like the vintage textile you are, with no harsh chemicals, no demands on your shape, and with care for your delicate ends. If you will only come back this last time.


She Who Lives Beneath

1. A medieval spiced wine, served hot.

2. A doleful ejaculation particular to my family. "The stock market just lost another 347 points!!!" "Hoo-doggies! Did you go short, I hope?"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

G is for . . . Gnosis

Today tastes like gorganzola, greens, granola, and gasoline.

Well, where does one start to talk about the Infinite and one's finite and limited relationship to It?

I found Asana Bear some years ago when I started toying around with yoga. While our politics are nearly opposite, our dietary choices are complementary. I'm a gleeful omnivore, while he is strictly vegan BUT he has some of the best recipies for "food that food eats" that I've come across. Conversion by stomach, as it were.

So I read his blog. And post in his comments. And sometimes engage in a debate via e-mail, where we shake hands, salute the spark of the Divine in one another, and agree to disagree. I'm not seeking to gain his approval by making him agree with me, and I think the same is reciprocated. I am looking to enlarge my viewpoint by reading his words, digesting them, and refining my views by defending them. Sometimes it's hard to know what we think until we hear or see the words.

And that's why this is here, o Tonstant Weader.

So, getting 'round to the title subject at long last. Asana Bear has found God (under the couch with the cat toys, as I've been telling him for ages. That's where everything that is lost is eventually discovered). A little more seriously, Asana Bear relates that he had the bog standard church experience of lectures on Sunday where the preacher told you what your relationship with the Infinite Should Be (and presumably, how you were fucking everything up. Why is it always about ME???)

And see, I can relate in some ways to this, having had the Mystery Conversation with friends about their upbringing (one specific that comes to mind is Lynchpyn, actually, where after a nasty misunderstanding we sat and talked again (almost a year later, granted) and she explained that she had the Arranged Marriage relationship with the Great I Am, where the man stands up in the pulpit and tells you that anything that is remotely fun is Wrong and will lead to Eternal Damnnation and you should Quit That Immediately.)

And I mean . . . wow.

Just like an arranged marriage, where people who presumably have your best interests at heart hand you over to a demanding incomprehensible rule-bound Being whose sole interest seems to be putting up arbitrary rules for you to follow, and then insisting that you must love this Being, that you're going to be together forever and you shouldn't try to understand, just OBEY.

Here's the thing though, my experience was different. I was raised by wolves by a lapsed Baptist who found faith in Science of Mind teachings (as opposed to the Scientologists *spits through forked fingers* (yes, I have unresolved stuff around them, sigh)) and a Rosicrucian. So I had a more metaphysical/mystical upbringing than most, where questioning one's place in the world and one's relationship with the Great I Am was, if not expected, then certainly acceptable1.

Yes, this was a Pustulent Ball of Suck in a community full of Catholics and Lutherans, with clearly labeled religions and icons of faith to point to and thump. But as I became older, I see that this actually provided me with tools to grope after understanding, limited though it may be, and gave me a spiritual life NOT predicated simply on proximity. (God as Work Buddy, anyone? What happens when you change employers, and can't make plans around the water cooler any more? When you have to put actual effort into the relationship?)

Given the demands for submission to rules and regulations that seem like no more than buzzkill whimsy at the time (and given no explanation for the same), and the increasing demands for limited time as we get older and our choices expand exponentially, is it any surprise that some people run for the exit as soon as they can walk??? And aren't particularly interested when you talk about your buddy, the Divine who loves to dance, and finds joy in the color purple, and who won't give you everything you ask for, but can help you find what you need?

Because all they can see, when your great friend the Divine comes through the door, is that he has the same face as their Awful Being, and so they scoot to the opposite end of the couch, make stiff small talk, and bolt for the door as soon as it's polite to do so.

And so my heart is delighted for Asana Bear, my other virtual friend, as he takes the next steps on his Mystery Walk and comes round to where he had left off before.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti. For each and every one of you.

1. In high school, one of Li'l Brah's classmates played a particularly sophisticated joke on him--they sent the Mormons to our house to discuss Li'l Brah's relationship with Jesus. And so they wound up with Li'l Brah on the sofa for--no kidding--an HOUR talking his ear off about their beliefs.

And the 'rents and I? The Dowager Empress and I bumped into each other in the hall, and essentially agreed that, well, if this was the path that called Li'l Brah, then who were WE to argue? *shrug*

Thursday, February 12, 2009

F Sub 1 is for . . . Footnote, Fotos, Finally, & Finished

Today tastes like frittatas, flan, and farandine.1

In re: the previous "F is for . . ." post, one Tonstant Weader weighed in with a real life comment that she was going to post a note that my plan sounded, in the words of her esteemed father, "Fine as froghair!" but she doubted anyone would get the reference. Would the rest of you please weigh in on the comments if you do indeed "get it?" Thank you.2

With all that clarified, on to the current blog post:

Thorax has been sitting in the corner, sighing loudly and clearing her throat to let me know She Is Not Amused. Or Pleased. (Divas! Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.)

It seems that I have not one, not three, but FOUR finished objects, and no pictures of the Divine Ms. T showing them off. This, according to Thorax, is simply unforgivable.

So a picture-heavy post today. Here's the shoot:

Swan Lake from Pink Lemon Twist Patterns. Beads and assymmetry, what's not to love? This goes with a knitted mask to this year's Lyhr Masked Ball. Pictures of that to come much later.

Thorax wanted a strutting-down the runway shot, so I obliged her. Unfortunately, the color of the shawl rather matches her complexion (like the eastern socialite with the beige dress, beige hair, beige skin, and beige teeth) so some of the detail is lost.

Here's a better picture:

The beads do not show up well, in part because they ultimately rely on movement by the wearer and shifting light to twinkle and catch the eye. Thorax is a wonderful model, very patient even as one fiddle with lighting and position. Unfortunately, she is . . . lacking in animation, to a certain extent. She'll need to work on that if she wants to make it in the big leagues.

Next up is Wabenschal from Knitting Delight. I added the beads when the lace looked a little plain. This is destined to be a Christmas gift to a dear friend; I believe in getting gift knitting done early.

Thorax found it amusing that it was a camel blend and camel colored. I don't get her sense of humor sometimes. It was hard to get her to stop giggling and making faces for this shot. I almost made her stand in the fountain. Almost.

Another scarf, the Triinu from Nancy Bush's latest, Knitted Lace of Estonia. Another goodie for another friend. I was busting stash when I made this, I had no idea how much of this yarn I had.

Honestly, I thought I'd kill most of it in this scarf, but I had a bunch left, so I made this for me:

Bad Cat Designs's Autumn In New York shawl. I even had enough yarn to make it a generous, expanded size. In fact, I had to order MORE beads a little less than halfway through. Simple lace, lots of beads . . . siiiiiiigh. Is there anything better? I think not.

And now Thorax has had another installment of her fifteen minutes of fame, so she'll probably let me finish knitting a pair of *whispers* fingerless gloves *returnes to normal volume* for a friend who plans a long chilly hike up the Inca Trail. I'll try to sneak pics past Thorax.

Jealous models, and all that.

1. Silk and wool cloth.

2. Yes, I suspect this is whoring for comments. Feel free to weigh in on that aspect as well, if you like.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

F is for . . . Foiled.

Today tastes like fennel and frumenty, falafel and feathers.

As the poet says, the best laid plans of mice and men . . .

I had a post ready to go, but it needed some pictures. Lovely late winter in Arizona day, several finished objects, model champing at the bit . . . and not a single battery in the house.

So I'll be on the back porch taking in the sun with a glass of wine, an audiobook, and a lace knitting project. Pictures shortly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

E is for Ecbatic(1)

Today tastes like escargot, endive, eisel2, and erasers.

Two lines and two footnotes. A record, even for this blog.

Some months ago, when I had That Conversation with my doctor ("You need to change your evil ways, Spike." "Or what, doc?" "Well . . . let's just say I wouldn't start any long books or all-day suckers if I were you.") I found a recipe for cauliflower soup that didn't taste like punishment, but was still actually low-fat and all that good stuff. I began carrying that for lunch each day, playing with the ingredients for variety.

DH Gareth came into the kitchen one day, and asked, "What is that heavenly smell?" I told him, and he poked his head into the kettle to see for himself. He smacked his lips and said, "I think we need to throw a dinner party, and feature this as one of the courses."

So we started planning. We'd wanted to throw a paired tasting dinner for our extreme foodie friends for some time; had discussed ways to do it--a travelling dinner where we'd have appetizers at one home, soup at the next, and so on; or possibly just getting together for dinner once a month and rotating the hosting duties. But nothing came together.

Until this last Saturday, when we whipped up a batch of soup, begged an insane foodie buddy to make us some pasta (fresh, from-scratch pasta with seafood sauce! So not on the cardiologist's diet, "If it tastes good, spit it out.") roasted a fabulous leg of lamb, and I made a Boca Negra-- a deadly flourless chocolate cake flavored with bourbon. The cake is a deep black souffle, and yes, you will have a black mouth upon consumption of the same.

Dinner was a hit, but Gareth needs to refine his pour a little. It's easier to serve some more wine to come out even with the course, not so easy to remove some excess wine from one's bloodstream! We almost had a house full of guests who came to dinner and couldn't leave!

This brough up a round of "we have to do this more often," and "we'd love to host the next one," and Mischief's Lad volunteered that he had some elk in the frezzer that he didn't want to go bad, so we told him that if he'd set the date, we'd be there.

Hoping something grows from this. I think once a quarter'd be nice, as well as dividing up among the participants well.

1. Ecbatic: a grammatical construction indicating result without intention. Like Topsy, it just growed.

2. Eisel: a sour wine, resembling vinegar

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barnum Statements

Today tastes like black coffee and illicit doughnuts snuck out of the kitchen. Shhhhh . . . don't tell my diet.

Barnum statements are good clean fun, so long as you don't take them to heart, but sometimes they cut a little closer than is exactly comfortable.

And so sometimes I'm actually moved to post a result. Witness below:

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Bette!


You are a Bette -- "I must be strong"

Bettes are direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Stand up for yourself... and me.

  • * Be confident, strong, and direct.

  • * Don't gossip about me or betray my trust.

  • * Be vulnerable and share your feelings. See and acknowledge my tender, vulnerable side.

  • * Give me space to be alone.

  • * Acknowledge the contributions I make, but don't flatter me.

  • * I often speak in an assertive way. Don't automatically assume it's a personal attack.

  • * When I scream, curse, and stomp around, try to remember that's just the way I am.

What I Like About Being a Bette

  • * being independent and self-reliant

  • * being able to take charge and meet challenges head on

  • * being courageous, straightforward, and honest

  • * getting all the enjoyment I can out of life

  • * supporting, empowering, and protecting those close to me

  • * upholding just causes

What's Hard About Being a Bette

  • * overwhelming people with my bluntness; scaring them away when I don't intend to

  • * being restless and impatient with others' incompetence

  • * sticking my neck out for people and receiving no appreciation for it

  • * never forgetting injuries or injustices

  • * putting too much pressure on myself

  • * getting high blood pressure when people don't obey the rules or when things don't go right

Bettes as Children Often

  • * are independent; have an inner strength and a fighting spirit

  • * are sometimes loners

  • * seize control so they won't be controlled

  • * figure out others' weaknesses

  • * attack verbally or physically when provoked

  • * take charge in the family because they perceive themselves as the strongest, or grow up in difficult or abusive surroundings

Bettes as Parents

  • * are often loyal, caring, involved, and devoted

  • * are sometimes overprotective

  • * can be demanding, controlling, and rigid

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz
at HelloQuizzy

Don't know so much about the childhood bit--any of my First Life peeps who knew me when want to weigh in on the comments?--and will probably never know about the parent bit; but all of section 2 is spot on; and statements 1,3,5,6,7, and 8 of section one are correct; as are statements 2,3,4, and 5 of section 3.

Yes, sometimes we are "are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved" to snitch a bit from Forer's paper.