Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good King Wollmeise

I knew he was up to something when this gift was the first to appear under the tree.

And when this sign appeared on our door on Christmas eve, I knew he was up to something... elaborate.

Christmas morning, this is what I found...

At the door...

 And down the hall...

And in the kitchen...

Kevin (a.k.a. Love of my Life) was "perplexed" by all of this, but shrugged and got down to the business of Christmas morning.  And a lovely Christmas morning it was...

...until almost everything was opened, and then he "heard something" in the basement and went to "investigate".

After dramatic commotion downstairs and an apparently valiant struggle on the part of the "intruder", Kevin came upstairs with this:

I didn't really understand why there were hooks on his back, until the Mexican Hat Dance started to play (loudly) in the living room.


There was about 20 minutes of hysterical laughter on my part, and then the destruction of Kevin's carefully crafted paper mache Shaun the Sheep began in earnest (in fairness, I had a hunch at what kind of gifts might have been wrapped into a sheep pinata and the destruction didn't take very long at all.  There's video.  I'm not sharing it here. Suffice to say I was not at my most ladylike.)

I was right about the contents.

And it wasn't just any yarn.

Wollmeise.  Gorgeous, unattainable, precious, oft-compared-to-crack Wollmeise. There is a veritable cult around this stuff. It's made in Germany, and new stock usually sells out of the online shop within 3-4 minutes of being added.  You cannot get it.  And when I first said these things to Kevin sometime last summer... well, let's just say that Kevin loves a challenge.

Not only did he craft an elaborate 2-day build up to the unveiling of a paper-mache sheep that took him a couple of sleepless nights to build.  He joined Ravelry (to all of you who helped a myterious forum-member who called himself "Centrino", thank you thank you thank you).  He emailed Claudia. He stalked the forums and EBay. He stayed up to catch the site update.  He emailed de-stashers.  And over the past 2-3 months, he got his hands on 15 skeins.

I am so loved. (Plus, I have Wollmeise.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wee Postcard from the Cardboard Jungle

We're in.  All of our worldly possessions are here, under one roof, with us. All that's left to do now is unpack, set up, clean, plug in, dust, fold, sort, assemble, attach felt feet to, arrange, and make sense of it all.  We are exhausted, and excited, and sore in places we didn't know we had.  But we're in.

I will, I'm sure, have more profound things to say about all of this at some point. But for now, I can only think in lists, the events of the past two weeks having apparently temporarily fused my cerebral wiring this way.

Please understand: I am grateful to be where I am.  I love where I am, and who I am with, and pretty much my entire life right now.  My tongue is planted firmly in cheek.  With that caveat, I give you the lists that are currently top of mind:

Sentences I never want to hear again:

1.  Hey Jenn, which box is the ___________ in?

2.  OW!!!!  (Induced by stubbed toes, falling assorted debris, incorrect-and-therefore-over-heated-lightbulb burn, skinned knuckles and deceptively-light looking boxes that turn out not to be)

3. Where the #$&@! is the damn tape gun?

4. That will be $X. (where X = approximate GDP of small nation + 12%)

5.  "Yes, ma'am, please be there waiting: that delivery and/or installation will be promptly at Y o'clock." (where Y = an apparently "reasonable" window of time ranging anywhere from 4 hours - 3 days)

Sentences I never want to utter again:

1.  Hey Kev, where's the box with the ________ in it?

2.  OW!!!! (Induced by stubbed toes, falling assorted debris, head-cracking on shelves whose existence had not yet been fully appreciated, skinned knuckles, and deceptively-light looking boxes that turn out not to be)

3. Where the *assorted unlady-like descriptors* did I put the *more assorted unladylike adjectives* tape gun? It was RIGHT HERE.

4. $X?  Yes, certainly, let me me get my chequebook.

5.  "Yes hi, we were expecting a delivery/installation at Y o'clock?"

Places I'd rather be:

1. Absolutely nowhere.  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing for Launch

It's Saturday morning.  Not just any Saturday morning, but the Saturday before moving day.  I am sitting amid piles of boxes, files of bills, and lists of lists of Things To Do Before Moving Day.  The love of my life is at Home Depot in an early morning bid to accomplish items 67 through 82 of Supplies That Need to Be Bought For the House list, and I'm here alone, drinking coffee, and thinking about the neighborhood I am preparing to leave.

Osborne Village is a neighborhood with a personality that has changed with the times, yet managed to retain a modicum of its hippy-dippy roots.  I wasn't raised here - the two-block main drag of the Village was exclusively lined with record stores and head shops when I was a kid - but I did grow up here, in ways that have become apparent to me as I prepare to leave it once again.

I used to come here in early high school with "the girls"  - usually when someone's heart had been broken - to eat cheesecake at Baked Expectations and watch the firefighters across the street play volleyball on their parking lot.

In the summer before we went away to university (music for me, political science for her), my best friend and I used to dress up in our subversive best and come here to hang out as conspicuously as possible in the coffee shops, talking for hours aboud politics and philosophy and our grand plans to change the world through art and activism.

It wasn't until after college that I officially moved into the Village for the first time.  At 21, I lived in a tiny apartment that once housed the serving staff in a converted mansion.  I bought a piano with a co-sign from my Dad, I walked to work during the week and to the Village shops on weekends, looking at books and clothing I couldn't afford on my princely $19,000 first salary.

When I got married at 24, we moved deeper into the Village.  We were there when one of the heritage building that had been a cornerstone of the Village shopping district burned down, to be eventually replaced by a bank and a tanning salon.  I watched the community garden across the street be ripped out to make way for high-priced condos that wouldn't be built until years later.  The independent bookstore became a chain coffee shop, the second-last head shop became a high-end boutique, the independent record store became a crappy sandwich joint, and the gentle dope-smokers that once were a fixture on the corner were slowly replaced by increasingly violent drunks. After 8 years in the neighborhood, we bought a house in the French Quarter.

Three years later, my marriage ended.  Thinking back on it now, I never even momentarily considered anywhere else.  Despite the changes, the Village was a safe haven, a retreat, my home.  I came back.

The tiny apartment I am about to leave was a godsend during the two-and-a-half most transformative years of my life.  Here, I recovered from the circumstances around the end of my marriage and grew into a love I never dared to dream existed.  With that essential support, I fought the brutal, but ultimately final, battle against my anorexia.  The band that has become such an important part of my life filled this place with music, and LoML and I spent two wonderful Christmas mornings here, Christmases that were easily the most magical and beautiful ones I have ever had. 

On Friday morning, the movers will arrive, and they will carry my piano and my books and my yarn and my things to our new house, a substantial drive away from this neighborhood that has become the launching pad for new chapters of my life.  This last chapter has been a doozy, but I can't wait to turn the page, because I have a feeling that this next one is going to be the longest and most wonderful one yet.

Back that truck up, boys.  It's time to go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Echo Full of Instruments, Pt. I

Last weekend, the band and I went to Thunder Bay, Ontario to headline an event called Celtic Bash 12.  Put on by The Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay, it's a fundraiser for the pipe band and a celebration of all things Celtic, with highland dancers, three different pipe bands, a more traditional Celtic group, lots of beer, and us.

Thunder Bay is an eight-hour drive east of home, but with the show on a Saturday and people willing to pay for two nights' hotel for us, we had the rare luxury of a whole day just to travel. We packed up the vehicles on Friday morning and hit the road an entirely civilized hour.

We are five people in the band, and we travel in two vehicles: Kevin (a.k.a. LoML) and I and our instruments in my car, Mike, Kyle and Nic and all of their instruments in a borrowed SUV.  Sounds like Kevin and I would have more room, right?  Anyone who has ever packed a drum kit knows the answer.  Getting a drum kit into a car is a challenge at the best of times. Getting Kevin's drum kit into my car is a Jenga-like feat of epic proportions.

For this is my car, a wee 2000 Toyota Echo:

And this is an Echo with one drum kit, one sampler, one accordion, two knitting projects, one suitcase, two pedal cases, and one wireless rig in it (two musicians to come):

Pretty impressive, non?

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast then headed to the venue, to find the stage looking like this:

i.e.: not quite ready for us.  However, the sound tech gave us the happy news that the local music store was having a 50% off EVERYTHING sale.

Now the rest of the band, regularly having to buy strings, rosin, drum heads and the like, gets very excited about this sort of news.  I don't mind music stores, but quite frankly they don't usually cater to musicians of my ilk (i.e. non-male, non-guitar-playing, non-string-buying).  I go along but usually - due mostly to my choice of instrument - don't have the bordering-on-religious experience I've witnessed in my bandmates when they discover a beautiful-sounding thing on sale.  That was about to change.

Two minutes into the outing, I spied this:

Excelsior Accordiana, 120-bass, "women's model" (i.e. smaller and lighter but every bit as beer-swillingly-powerful as her larger polka-king cousin) thing of utter gorgeousness.  I played one chord, and the rest of the band appeared out of the woodwork, like moths to a flame.  (I believe Mike's exact words were "What the $@%# was THAT?") The sound was huge.  HUGE.  Monster.  In that moment, I, for the first time, understood why people turn their amps up to 11, why the guys get that look on their faces when they plug a beautiful instrument into a beautiful system and make a big, beautiful, badass noise.  For the first time, I understood, in a visceral sort of way, why they're called "power chords".

The price tag said $300. That's $150 on sale.  Online, I have seen these babies for $995 and up.  It wasn't even a conversation.

We would make room in the Echo for one more case.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Things I CAN Share...

It's officially full on pre-Christmas knitting season, which rules in that I have a ton of stuff on the needles and a ton of ideas for more things to put on the needles (and a quickly dwindling supply of empty needles), but sucks in that I can't tell you about any of it in any sort of detail.

However, I am getting a bit of relief from all of this surprise keeping, due to the fact that my wonderful brother Michael had the consideration to be born in November, 34 years ago today.  (Happy birthday Mike, I love you tons and I'm glad you're my brother.)

And so, we'll kick off a list of things I can tell you about with:

1. I knit Michael some birthday socks, and he wore them today in a rainforest in Tofino, B.C.

Skyp Socks, in Blue Moon Fiber Arts River Rocked (Rockin' Sock Club September shipment)

STR Mediumweight may be my favourite sock yarn ever.  (Though, in fairness, the Wollmeise is still in its skein...)

2.  We bought a house.  I know I told you that already, but I'm just a tad excited about it.

3. I had a small falling down at the Blue Moon online store.  (I had a discount code that was going to expire.  It would have gone to waste.  That's my story, I'm sticking to it.)  It came today.

4. My friend Miss K and I picked out, queued, and cast on the exact same project on the exact same day.  I cannot stop knitting it.  Seriously.  I'd love to tell you more, but that will have to wait until after Christmas. Suffice to say that I briefly considered calling in sick so I could finish another chart repeat.

5.  My new house (which is not a new house, by any stretch, but is new to me... or I guess I'm new to it...) has 97 year old oak that has never been painted, and it's every-freaking-where.  I get a little jello-in-the-knees just thinking about it.

6.  I have discovered something about my knitting self: I hate working with laceweight.  I like lace, I like laceweight yarn, I do not like making lace out of laceweight yarn.  I am happy about this because it means that I can stop knitting a project I was not enjoying, and because I got my 4.5mm circular back, at least temporarily.  Temporarily being the operative word.

7.  Coloured washers and dryers are about $150 more each than white ones. 

8.  At my Safeway, there is, right now, at the SAME TIME, Halloween candy in the aisle and Egg Nog in the dairy case.  (Don't even get me started on the fact that they've got the freakin' mincemeat and candied cherries and fruitcake out on a special display.)  I have very, very strong feelings about this. They are not good feelings.  Some things do not belong in the same store at the same time.  I have spoken.

9.  We take possession November 16.  Got any boxes?

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Sense of Place

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Not 72 hours after I wondered here what I was going to blog about in the pre-Christmas knitted gift frenzy, we got an unbelievable surprise that makes a relatively non-knitting post not only possible, but very easy.

Having sold LoML's house, we had just started house shopping.  The housing market here has been much more on the "Seller's Market" side in the last year or so, and we had heard numerous stories of people taking six months to a year or more to find a house, so we had been a bit lackadaisical about minor details like getting a pre-approved mortgage were being patient.

We did not take into consideration that the universe has not only a sense of irony, but a sense of humour.

Last Saturday, we went to see just the sixth house that our agent had shown us.  Like the others before it, it wasn't right, but we were near the house where I took piano lessons as a teenager, so we decided to go for a drive through the neighborhood the scenic way so that I could show LoML this little part of my history.

We turned a corner, and there it was.  Huge, built in 1912, solid, straight and for sale. We called our agent on the spot and arranged to see the house Monday night at 7:00.

On Monday night at 7:02, we fell in love. Hard.  I froze to the spot the minute I walked in the door and laid eyes on the untouched, original oak bannister.

LoML told me later he looked around the corner and immediately had a vision of our Christmas tree beside the fireplace in the living room.

At 7:45, after thorough inspection (him), much gasping (me), bouncing (me) and giggling (also me), pacing (him) and the occasional squeak (me), we sat down at the dining room table to write the offer, then went home to spend the next excruciating hour waiting for the phone call.

We got it.  They accepted the offer.  The house was ours.

The next 48 hours was an agonizing flurry of activity, arranging financing and a home inspection between bouts of giggles, anxious phone calls, and sleepless nights.  The financing came through swimmingly, and the home inspector passed it with colours as flying as one can expect for a century-old structure.  (The nice thing about buying a house that has been standing for almost a hundred years is that, generally speaking, they've done all the moving they are going to do (if any), and are quite happy to just sit there the way they've been quite comfortable all this time, thank you very much.  Ours is no exception.)

November 16, we're going home.  Sweet, sweet home.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pre-Christmas Cast On(s)

I learned how to knit on a tour bus full of dancers somewhere on the TransCanada Highway, when I was working as a pianist for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.  My friend Kevin, who worked in the wardrobe department, taught me how, and it was a wonderful place and time to learn, because being on the road means that you have long hours of uninterrupted knitting time as you travel from one tiny town to another or relax in hotel rooms after the show.  I did three tours as a knitter, and, being that the tour happened in late November/early December, got into the habit of doing my Christmas knitting on the road.

It's been quite a few years now since I left the RWB, but the habit of starting many, many Christmas presents hasn't gone away.  And while I love knitting gifts, it appears that my knitting schedule instincts haven't quite caught up with the fact that I no longer have 2-3 weeks of dedicated knitting time in which to actually make the damn things. I try to back up the start date, but the last few Christmases have seen me sacrificing sleep and sanity to get things done in time.  Add to this the fact that I have a brother with a November birthday, and you've got a recipe for a holiday season somewhat lacking in Heavenly Peace.

I don't like it when my knitting is panicked. This year I'm better - I've already got one gift done, and several on the go, but I'm getting nervous because that inner knitting schedule is kicking in hardcore. 

I'm currently in the throes of a wicked case of startitis (symptoms of which include a credit card straining under the weight of Blue Moon Fiber Arts and KnitPicks shopping sprees, no available 2.75mm dpns despite the fact that I own 4 sets, a project in every purse and pocket, a Ravelry queue onto its second page and an apartment strewn with sock books).  I would love to tell you about all of the things that I have cast on this past week, but their recipients read this blog and posting pictures of their Christmas morning surprises sort of defeats the  purpose.

So what's a knit blogger to do?

This too will require a bit of creativity.  Maybe directing some creativity into another medium will stop me before I cast on again.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Last night was Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's, and we were the smallest group we've ever been.  My three siblings and their partners don't live here anymore, so it was just mom, dad, Love of My Life and me.  Because we were such a small group, mom eschewed the traditional meal for something a little more practical, leftover-wise: cedar planked salmon (done on the barbecue despite sub-zero temperatures, for we are Winnipeggers), squash and green beans, and garlic mashed potatoes.  LoML built a fire.  It was wonderful.

My mom was in good spirits but definitely wistful at times, and I could tell that she was missing the larger gatherings of years gone by.  I am one of four children, so the smallest group she (and me, and dad) cooked for for years was six, and she comes from an enormous French-Canadian family where Sunday dinners were typically extended family gatherings ranged from anywhere from 10 to 40+. (Last time we had a reunion of that side of the family, we rented a hotel ballroom.)

Things have changed.

It was a lovely evening, and somehow having the traditional gathering in a non-traditional way somehow made me appreciate the spirit of the holiday in a way that I don't think I have in a number of years.  So in that renewed spirit, I am thinking about the things I am grateful for this morning. 

1.  The country I live in.  My job, though fascinating and rewarding, has the occupational hazard that I have become a bit of a news junkie, and therefore almost always aware of the circumstances that so many people have to face every day just because of where they happen to have been born.  I have never known war or famine.  I do not have to risk my life to be able to vote.  I can travel freely.  I can say whatever I want about my elected leaders.  I can have a job, ride a bike, play in a band, love who I love and wear what I want despite the fact that I am a woman. 

2. The internet.  Ravelry, Audible and the blogosphere connect me to ideas and people which I've come to treasure as part of my daily life. The podcasts of Brenda Dayne, Lime & Violet, Stuart MacLean and David Reidy keep me company, open my eyes to different parts of the world, and make me laugh (sometimes with stare-provoking consequences) on my daily commute.  I am so grateful to these people for sharing their lives with me.

3.  My friend Kevin, who taught me how to knit on a tour bus full of ballet dancers.  He thought that he was just giving me something to distract me on that one seemingly-endless tour in 2001.  He ended up changing my daily life in a way that - hopefully - will be with me until my dying day.

4. My teacher.  Mr. Melnyk was my piano teacher through 10 of my formative years.  I was during these years geeky, chubby, bookish, awkward and deeply insecure.  Despite that, through the incredible power of music, he instilled in me a sense that I had beauty of the highest order inside of me, and that I had the capability and therefore the responsibility to share that beauty with the world.  He changed me, fundamentally and forever. He had a profound impact on not just the musician I am but the sort of person I turned out to be.

Most importantly, I am grateful for the people in my life today.

My sister Ann, living in Ottawa, who sees the world with a constant air of wonder, and who has the incredible gift of being able to share that vision in words and music and her very presence.

My brother Chris, currently playing music on a ship somewhere in the Meditterannean, who has the oldest soul of anyone I've ever met and a diabolical, twisted sense of humour, meted out at just the right time and in just the right way.  He is a constant source of fascination.

My brother Michael, a lighting designer living in Stratford, whose thoughtful approach to his life and extraordinary openness to the lives of others has made him a safe harbour for me on more than one occasion, and has more than anyone else in my life made me laugh until I feared some sort of permanent physical damage.

My mom and dad, who committed before we were even born that we would be exposed to and allowed to participate in whatever we were passionate about, and stuck to this commitment when the things that we were passionate about turned out to be noisy, expensive and ultimately unprofitable (i.e. read 4 kids and 14 or 15 musical instruments, and in the case of the lighting designer, an impressive collection of high-end flashlights).  When my dad and a colleague were catching up at a conference years ago and my dad told him about all of us working in the performing arts, his friend said "Couldn't even save one of them, eh, John?"  Mom and Dad never saw it this way. Never, when we wanted to go off to music school or theatre school or record an album or *ahem* switch to the accordion, asked us what we were going to fall back on.  They truly believed in us and in our dreams, and we are all better people - and, incidentally, successful artists - for it.

And for the Love of My Life.  We found each other late in life by traditional standards, yet at exactly the right time. As difficult as the road was at times, I wouldn't trade my life for anyone's: it led me to him, and the destination was worth the journey, every single step of it. And now that our paths finally converged, I can't wait to see what's next.

I suppose one more thing to be grateful for is that this list is by no means exhaustive.  I am privileged beyond measure in so many areas of my life that to list them all would mean being here still typing long after tonight's turkey dinner with LoML's family had been relegated to the margarine tubs for tomorrow's leftovers.

I am a lucky woman indeed, and I am deeply grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Canadian Prairie Brush with Fame

Last weekend was Alexander Keith's birthday, and Venus Murphy (the celtic rock band of which I am one fifth) had two shows in Saskatoon, an 8 hour drive west of home.  We play there fairly regularly, and have a great following, the venue is awesome and everyone is always really nice to us. It's kinda funny, because they treat us like we're famous.  (We're not. But for a weekend, it's fun to play like we are.)

I love going on the road to make music - it has a way of removing us from our real lives in a way that is somehow different and deeper than just a vacation is - it's like a complete immersion in our alter-egos...  for two or three days, we're not just Kyle, Mike, Nic, Kevin and Jenn, we're Venus Murphy.  We're a Band, a unit. There to entertain, to make people dance, or sing along... hopefully to lead them out of their everyday lives a bit, too.  I'm so happy when I'm on stage. Everything else disappears, half the time I'm not even really aware of the crowd in any way more than this wonderful source of energy.  The only people in the world are these four amazing men I get to make music with.  I live for this, and when we're on, there's nothing like it.  There's no stress, no effort, just us and the music.  It's magic.

But before that... well, before that, there is the work.  We get up early Friday morning, we buy the largest coffees we can find and we hit the highway.  Going on the road as a musician sounds like fun - and it is - but there is definitely a whole bunch of unglamourous heavy lifting involved.  Our instruments, mics, wireless systems, amps and various other necessities (drum hardware, rosin, cables, batteries, extra strings, flashlights and electrical tape) fill two cars, weigh a lot (without exaggeration I figure we're about 1000lbs in gear), are valuable and in some cases delicate, and need to be attentively loaded in, loaded out and set up by the five of us.  There's a reason bands have roadies.  'Nuff said.

I love the prairie with every fibre of my being, but the drive from Winnipeg to Saskatoon is... well, basically this:

... and a little of this....

All... the... way... there.  It's beautiful, but not really eight hours worth of beautiful.

Luckily, I'm a knitter.  I think I spent more time planning and packing knitting supplies than I did on my stage wardrobe.

The project for the trip was Ruba'iyat Mittens.  Here they are as we left home...

and at Brandon, 200km down the road (don't judge my slowness, this was way early in the morning)...

They took a time out while I drove the last bit from Regina to Saskatoon and while we loaded in all the gear and did our sound check.


I knit a few rows in the hotel room before the first set just to take the edge off the nerves.  As many times as I've gotten up in front of an audience - and I have been priveleged to be able to do so many many times in my life - I still get hyped before a show.  Knitting somehow does wonders to help me settle my stomach and focus my mind on the work ahead, for as much fun as it is, making music, particularly with other people (and, if I may say so, especially when one is playing an 18-pound instrument in 3-inch heels) requires a certain amount of concentration. 

The mitten had to stay in the hotel room while the accordion and I went downstairs to do the show...

Though some of my knitting did get to come on stage:

(Yes, those are the kilt hose, finally finished and in their natural habitat.  I took this shot standing off to the side with Love of My Life played a pretty smokin' drum solo.)

The shows went great, the audience was great, but one very enthusiastic fan stood out.  He was there for both sets, both nights, and beers after the show Saturday.

Yes, fellow Canadians, that's two of my bandmates with Lorne Cardinal, "Davis" from Corner Gas. He made our fiddler (Nic, left) play on his chair. (Nic has a habit of running all over the pub while soloing.  Since he went wireless, we can't keep him on the stage for very long.).  Nic fiddled.  And Davis danced his butt off.

Now that's famous.  I love Saskatoon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Snapshots from the Sector

My entire adult life, with one short-lived exception, I have worked for not-for-profit organizations.  For fifteen years, I have gone to work in places that struggle to make ends meet financially, depending on the kindness of strangers through donations and volunteerism.  I have worked in places where we joked (in a laugh to keep from crying sort of way) that we would make more money working for the donut shop across the street, places where we brought office supplies from home, where people (myself included) have lost their jobs because the Canada Council for the Arts cut an operating grant, or a sponsor decided to go another direction, or not enough lottery tickets sold, or because it rained on the day of the outdoor event.

I knew getting into the sector that I was never going to make a lot of money, and made my peace with that a long time ago.  Never having made a big salary, I guess never got used to the perks that that may bring, and so I guess, most of the time, I don't miss them.  I have definitely had times when I wished I had more money, but by and large, I have comforted myself with the mantra that I go to work every day in a place that has a "higher ideal" than swelling the numbers on the bottom line, and that in my own way, I am working towards leaving the world a little bit better than I found it.

Lately, though, I've been questioning this a little bit, as Love of My Life and I have started to shop for a house.  I know that I'd have made much more money by this time in my life if I had chosen another path, and that it might be a bit easier. That it might be nice to have a job that I didn't care about as much, where I could just put in my 9 to 5 and forget about it at the end of the day.

But I had an experience today that reminded me that there are other benefits to working in the sorts of places that I do, and that is the extraordinary, weird, lovely little moments that happen in our sector that I'm pretty sure don't happen - at least on a regular basis - in a standard office environment. It got me thinking about the experiences that I have had may just rival things like dental plans and pensions and paid overtime. Like:

I have stood beside the stage of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, exhausted and covered in mud, as thousands of music lovers ran onto the site that we built, eager to get the best spot in front of the stage.

When a two-time breast cancer survivor crossed the finish line of a two-day, 60km fundraising walk, alternately limping and skipping, I got to be her first hug. "Thank you for making me do this", she said.

I have been in the room when the following conversation took place, every bit as serious as any boardroom exchange I've ever witnessed:
Wardrobe Mistress: I brought the fairies' wands to show you - what do you think?
Ballet Mistress (in thick Bulgarian accent): These two, good. Ya. This one for boss fairy. Need be more MAGICAL.
Wardrobe Mistress: More magical.  How do you mean? Bigger? More sparkles?
Ballet Mistress: No! No more bigger, no more sparkles, more MAGIC!

After accompanying a ballet performance at an inner-city school, I was approached by a girl who could have been no more than 7 years old.  She was rumpled, but smiling hugely.  When I asked if she enjoyed the show, she didn't say a word.  She just threw her arms around me.

I have looked into the eyes of an otherwise typical thirteen-year-old girl and seen nothing but complete sincerity as she said, "But Miss Jennifer, when you leave, who's going to take us to the opera?"

And today, I saw a boy of about 7 or 8 in - I kid you not - a full Batman costume walking down the hall of the hospital, reaching for his little brother saying "Adam, come on, hold my hand. I have to protect you!"

I'm not vain enough to think that I caused any of these things with my small part in working in the not-for-profits I have, far from it.  I love and am humbled by these moments as I reflect back on them, because they make me realize how privileged I am to work in the environments that I do.  Places where things like these happen every day, moments of utter strangeness, and honesty, and beauty, and humanity.

It may not be financially rewarding, but it suits me just fine. I'll take superheroes in the halls over a company car any day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Want to Like A Good Yarn Store

A fellow musician and I years ago were talking about a colleague who was a truly gifted pianist; great technique, beautiful tone, tremendous sensitivity.  Great player, no question about it.  He was also - not to put too fine a point on it - a jerk of truly epic proportions.  After philosophizing for a while on how these two seemingly contradictory states of being could co-exist in the same human, my friend hit the nail on the head when she said, "The real problem is, you want to LIKE a good pianist."

That was exactly the dichotomy we faced as musicians: we recognized talents that we admired in him, and spent years of our lives devoted to cultivating in ourselves.  We did this in large part to become better artists, but a small part of us also believed that this made us better people, too, I think.  To see these precious abilities resident in someone to us seemed so dispicable rankled because, frankly, we took it sort of personally. He was letting down the side.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to tell you this, but friends, I'm feeling the same way about the older, larger of my two LYSs (Local Yarn Store, to the unknitterly reader *cough Dad cough*).

It's a good LYS (which shall remain unnamed), and I've been going there since the day I bought my first giant needles and bulky acrylic for my first project almost ten years ago.  I took my first and only knitting class there (where my first-lace-project induced profanity was tolerated with relatively good humour, considering), I learned how to do a long-tail cast-on standing at the checkout counter, I was on a first name basis with several of the staff after the many hours spent there on fairly regular Saturday visits.  The store has survived the slings and arrows of the big box stores that wiped out pretty much every other little place in town.  They have responded to my polite requests (a.k.a. regular begging and offering of theoretical first-borns) for more sock yarn, bringing in a wider variety of fibres and even the work of some indie dyers.  They stock a good variety of the standard workhorses, and have gradually phased out the novelty yarn.  Best of all, they've recently become a co-op run entirely by women, some of whom are even of the new-generation-of-tattooed-young-knitter variety, and moved into a storefront right downtown.  I love and respect all of these things, and have really, really done my best to support them.  I want them to succeed for all of these reasons, I sincerely do.

But here's the thing.

I was there a couple of weeks ago with my knitting friend Miss K.  They were having a lovely, brazen sidewalk sale - freaking out the muggles with baskets of yarn on the sidewalks, pierced attendants, balloons, and public displays of knitting and crochet on the patio.  Miss K and I planned our whole day around the sale, going for a leisurely breakfast before and planning a run to the farmer's market after.

While the baskets outside were not my favourites, we headed inside undaunted, credit cards at the ready.

I hadn't yet found anything that called to me, but this is not unusual: a yarn store trip for me usually falls either at the "Actually, I have some really good stuff in my stash" or the "credit card melting through my wallet" end of the continuum, rarely anywhere in between.

The problem came because of that leisurely breakfast. Having just consumed in the neighborhood of 17 cups of coffee and being the owner of a newt-sized bladder, I approached one of the staff (the one who taught that knitting class), addressed her by name, and asked her where the washrooms were in the new store.

She barely even bothered to turn around to address at the likes of me when she said "There isn't a public one.  Maybe try Dairy Queen next door, I dunno."

"Public one"?! "try the Dairy Queen"?!

I didn't realize that up until that moment, that very moment, I had never felt like "the public" in that store.  I felt welcomed, I felt at home, I felt like a member, like one of the Company of Knitters.  It was my LYS, a place where I sent many friends and newbie knitters, a place I planned my Saturdays around, a place where they knew who I was and cared about what I wanted (the fact that I'm fairly sure my sock habit and referrals put someone's child through dentistry school notwithstanding).  I wasn't "a customer", I was... well, just another knitter, I guess, one like them, that we were all part of the same team.  Until that moment, I felt like a friend.

I get that it's a business, I get that this was one incident in a long customer-service relationship, I totally get that I'm being over-sensitive, that she might have been having a bad day.  But it's amazing how that one moment of impersonal treatment from someone I've known for so long changed how I feel about my relationship with this store. 

I'll get over it, but this year, I'm pretty sure I'll be buying my Christmas knitting yarn down the street.  Where I don't just have to want to like them because of their beautiful yarns, but because of who they are. I like them too, I'm just sad about the other.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Missed it by That Much

Recently, I finished these for my youngest brother.

Sam by Cookie A., Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight in the Shadow colourway.

I put a lot of thought into this project, both about my brother and the socks themselves.  The yarn is by an indie dyer from Montreal, where he just finished his music degree.  The cables, to me, invoke the mountain peaks and icy waves that he would have seen out his window every day as he played jazz on a cruise ship doing the Vancouver-Alaska run.  LoML made me sock blockers in the larger size so that I could block them for his ski feet. (Okay, in fairness he doesn't have ski feet, but when the love of your life wears a 7 1/2 and he's the one you knit socks for, an 11 is ski feet).

They were made with love, and a lot of thought.  They were perfect.
Except for one teensy detail.

They don't fit.  Not too short, but too small all over, so it's back to the drawing board.

I've already found a pattern equally suited to his current gig on a cruise ship doing the Mediteranean route.  I'm pretty sure what yarn I'm going to use, just waiting on his colour preference.  And this time?  They'll be ribbed.

I'm so lucky that he thinks that it's the thought that counts, because the thought - and the love - was big enough. If only the socks had been. (Sorry Bud, I still love you and your ski-feet.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

L'Homage a L'Harlot, L'Histoire & L'Homecoming

I love the Yarn Harlot. (Go read her blog if you haven't before. She's a goddess. I have all her books. She, as my sister would say, makes me happy in my heart. Go read. I'll be here when you get back.)

Friday night, the month-of-traveling-goofily came to an end, and, tidily enough, the socks that I cast on as travel knitting as the airplane took off for trip #1 (Vegas, June 28), were in my bag, finished, grafted, waiting for blocking. These socks were knit in six different cities (Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Boston, Toronto, Ottawa & Stratford). Most of the stitches were knit on airplanes, and - oddly - were only commented on once, by six rowdy civil servants on their way home from Churchill in a lame attempt to chat me up. (This flummoxed me so much that I screwed up the last few rows of the foot chart and had to rip back...but made me doubly grateful to the genius who invented the iPod, so we'll call it a draw. A hint, guys? If you're loudly discussing the relative "hotness" of the various flight attendants, and comparing your various "clever" methods of picking up the various locals in the various places you've been on this trip, it's pretty obvious you're not actually interested in my knitting, which is why I put in my headphones at the earliest opportunity. Just sayin', sound travels.)

The sock was my traveling companion through all of these trips, and functioned at various times as representative of excitement, passer of time, weirdness-magnet/slimeball repellant (see above), safe harbour from omnipresent newness-related anxiety, and, inspired by the Yarn Harlot, star of my touristy photos (I hope she doesn't mind the homage).

The sock visited Meech Lake, and enjoyed the beach, the sun, the history and the people watching.
It thought the Rideau Canal was pretty cool...
And, while it couldn't have its picture taken inside, still enjoyed the National Gallery quite a bit, even if the spider kind of gave it the willies. (At least it wasn't a moth.)
The sock surprised itself by how unbelievably patriotic it felt at Parliament... ...and wondered how a place so dignified could be the workplace of people who regularly exhibit behaviour that is decidedly not.

The sock supervised my sister and I as we had lunch at a pretty spectacular vegetarian restaurant...
...then boarded a train for Stratford, the Festival and my brother.

It saw the bluest water it's ever seen at Lake Huron:
...before having its toe grafted as a fish freshly caught from this very lake was on the barbecue.

The trips were wonderful. Seeing my siblings was food for my soul, learning what I did in Boston was a double espresso for my brain, and Las Vegas was a much-deserved, sequined, neon technicolor birthday cake of a celebration for the Love of my Life. The memories of the six weeks - airport lounges, slot machines, 112 degrees Farenheit, lobster, health care debates, more airport lounges, three books, patriotism, art, Shakespeare, Canadian history and family - are knit into this pair and, while I told myself all along that I was getting an early jump on Christmas knitting, I think they're going to stay here with me. Because these socks and I had many adventures together. And we are very, very glad to be home.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Progress Update

Back from Boston. Heading out to the lake and will blog properly when we're back. But in the meantime, here's a quick update: Highlight: Check out the dinner menu. I had lively conversation with intelligent, funny company (three counterparts from other Canadian hospital foundations) and ordered the Lobster Scampi (I say ordered, didn't come close to finishing, but got every bit of lobstery-goodness I could out of it. Man was it good). Treat beyond treat for a seafood-loving prairie girl.

Kevin's Kilt Hose went from this:
to this: and Pomatomus went from this:

to this:
So all in all, pretty productive, I'd say. See you in a couple of days...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From the Road

July 29, 2009 4:20 am - Alarm goes off. Having packed last night and owning a coffee maker with a timer, all I have to do is put clothes on and drink coffee. Praise the day the coffee maker with timer was invented.

5:20 am - Best Man In the World (aka Love of My Life) drives me to airport. If a 5am ride to the airport isn't love, I don't know what is.

6:00am - 7:10 am - Drink coffee. Conveniently, I am at the last few rows of the heel flap of Pomatomus, which is exactly the right level of skill requirement at this point in the caffeination process.

7:15 am - board airplane number 1. Window seat, behind woman with two small and well-behaved children and in front of apparently completely indifferent woman with loudly crying toddler. When flight attendant asks her if she can get her anything, woman replies that "he'll go to sleep eventually". Praise the day the iPod was invented. Commence turning heel, now being caffeinated enough to count to 19, ssk, k1, and turn.

7:40 am - take-off. Note with some degree of joy that flight is announced as expected to be 2 hours, 12 minutes, and that the latest episode of Limenviolet is 2:06:34. Giggle intermittently and begin gusset.

10:53 am (EDT): Arrive in Toronto. Set what must be some sort of International Record that will Stand For Decades when I find my way to U.S. Connections, retrieve my suitcase, go through customs, drop my suitcase, and clear security in EIGHT MINUTES.

11:40 am: After wandering the airport shops for a while, begin search for food. Go to kiosk number one, stand there, alone, 2 feet away from three staff members having a conversation. One finally pauses for breath, and acknowledges my existence. "What kind of soup do you have today?" I ask. I swear to you she looked at me as if I had asked her if peach trees grew on Jupiter. "What?" I repeat what I thought was a fairly straightforward question, she shakes her head, points to a sign. "Um, I dunno, Vegetable I think." I move on.

11:50 am: After searching for a while for food that isn't burgers or fries or pre-packaged egg salad, I locate a Tim Hortons. "What kind of soup do you have today?" I ask, after making sure I have scanned every surface in the area for signs and find none. Again, the peach tree look. I swear to you. (Anyone from Toronto, is there some Hogtown-centric way one is supposed to phrase this question?) I repeat what is now becoming a bit of a scary question to ask. "Oh,", says she, "Hearty Vegetable and um, cream of, um, mushroom." I order the Soup and Bagel Combo, multi-grain bagel toasted, vegetable soup. (Aside mini-rant: there was a DINNER ROLL in the bag with my soup and bagel combo. Every other combo that comes with said dinner roll stipulates that on the menu board. I've got a soup and BAGEL combo. What the frikkenfrakkenrazenmaPHRICK do I need a damn dinner roll for?!?! I'm sorry I know this has nothing to do with anything and doesn't really matter but this has now happened to me on several occasions at several different Timmies and I think I'm a relatively intelligent human being and I just don't get it.)

12:35 pm: Arrive at gate as instructed by my boarding pass for my 1:10pm departure time.

1:30 pm: Dear Air Canada staff: When a flight is delayed, even by as relatively little as this, you'll probably have less irritated people on your hands (this knitter not included - I was almost done a repeat and for the first time understood the t-shirt that says "I knit so I don't kill people") if you maybe tell people that there's going to be a delay instead of alternately looking at us blankly and reading your book. When passengers board said delayed flight, you might want to put down your yogurt, stop bitching about how much stuff you have to lug around on this little plane, and maybe say hi or look at boarding cards or something. I dunno, just a thought.

1:32 pm: Find my seat, take out sock in progress.

1:33 pm: Seat mate moves to another seat. (Yes, seriously.) I am amused by this.

 1:35 pm: Take-off. Conclude that I must be in the process of being rewarded by the knitting gods for patiently saving podcasts for travel when the flight time is predicted to be 1:06, and the latest episode of Cast On is 1:05.

1:36 pm: Hear my first Boston accent. Any and all travel-related stress disappears. He looks just like Charles Emerson Winchester III from M*A*S*H*, which makes it even better.

2:00ish: Think about how fun it might be to write a book. Finally figure out what the mirror of a k2tog tbl would be, too late for consistency through the whole sock but early enough for consistency through the foot. (Oh well, better late than never.) Drink diet coke. Learn about Corgi socks via podcast.

3:00 pm: Arrive in Boston, starting second repeat of foot pattern (gusset done). Find transport, gawk at city en route to...

4:00 pm: COOLEST HOTEL EVER. Not swanky, by no means fancy, but old, and brick and oak and just lovely. I have a kitchen and a double bay window (yay for being upgraded!) and a lovely view of more brick and oak and...sigh. I love old cities, I really do. The website doesn't do it justice. I'm unpacked, I'm settled in, I'm off to have dinner with the 11 others at this conference (of 650 or so) who are also Canadian. Tomorrow I'm going to put my work brain in and go soak up as much information and knowledge and wisdom and insight as I can. But today? Today was good too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For the Road

I have an inordinate amount of travel coming up. July 29-August 1 I'm going to Boston for a day-job-related conference, then August 7th I fly to Ottawa for three days visiting my sister, take the train from there to Stratford, ON to visit my brother, then fly home out of Toronto on the 14th. I am really, really looking forward to all of these trips for the destination portion of them, but, as I'm sure you may have guessed, I have some preparations to do beyond the normal human amount of packing for the traveling bits. For I am a knitter.

By my (admittedly notoriously unreliable) math, I will, in the next 2.5 weeks, be spending a total of 19 hours and 12 minutes in airplanes, trains, airports and train stations. If you add in the 1-2 hours I have to be at the airport before these flights (two international, two domestic), it comes out to a total of around 26 hours. That's a lot of knitting. Even for me.

I have a set of travel-knitting guidelines that I tend to pack by.

1. I keep the projects small, like gloves or socks, so that I minimize any seatmate-related elbowing risks. (These people, usually non-knitters, are usually disturbed enough cognitively by my knitting I like to mitigate it as best I can by at least not bothering them physically.)

2. I knit said project(s) on bamboo dpns, so that I minimize the risk of an over-________ (zealous? enthusiastic? paranoid? acrylic-clad?) security guard thinking I'm a risk to an airplane or a country or anything except my own sanity.

3. I choose a pattern that is easily memorized or has an itty-bitty chart (see #1).

4. If travel time exceeds single-project limits (and this set of jaunts certainly meets that criteria), I bring a couple of back up projects in my checked luggage... usually one for evenings/early mornings in the hotel so I'm occupied, one for an alternative to the carry-on project in case I get tired of the primary project. Alternative project must meet all criteria above.

5. Um, also, I like to have another back-up in case I end up stuck in an airport because of some freak mid-July snowstorm or sudden airline strike or other delaying calamity. I know that this just might border on paranoia, but lets just say that previous travel misadventures* have left me a bit... well, over-__________ (see above). My options are pretty good, I think: I have these:

Kevin's Kilt Hose, Wooly West Happy Trails, Anne Gilmour's amazing pattern "He' Mo Leanan"

And these: Pomatomus, Socks that Rock Rockin' Sock Club's May Shipment (Pepe la Plume)

And these: Sam, Tanis Fiber Arts, sock the second that has been sadly languishing

But there's also all of this: WIPs that I can't bring myself to describe, lest I perish under the crushing weight of the guilt that only comes of a perfectionist leaning and a Catholic upbringing.

AND the ever-present pile of SHINY!!!!!.... A pox on the houses of KnitPicks and their sales, Limenviolet and their enabling, and the Rockin' Sock Club for leading a weak, weak knitter like me into temptation...

And of course the lure of POTENTIAL SHINY.... Newbury Yarns, a mere 0.34 miles from my hotel according to MapQuest. (eternal gratitude to the Yarn Harlot for making the rule that vacation yarn doesn't count at stash).

Suggestions? Words of encouragement? "Get-a-hold-of-yourself, woman!"-type face slaps? Oh, right, and the clothes and toothbrush and stuff. I'll figure it out. Hopefully before the plane leaves.

*(Someday I'll tell you about my 30-hour journey home from New York the day before a gig and you will understand why I'm a tad cautious).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fast and Slow

As you may have been able to tell from the blog-silence, the last three or four weeks have been ones of unparalleled busy-ness... Love of My Life's (LoML) business took off during the same week we got his house packed up and on the market during the week before the annual general meeting and three other major events of my responsibility the week before a birthday (his) trip to Las Vegas for four days. (Granted, this last was not at all trying, but still...Vegas is a very stimulating, very FAST place, a place of excess in every sense of the word. Totally suited to this birthday, which was one of those Capital "B" Birthdays, so so so much fun, but not exactly a vacation of the "kick back and relax" variety. But man oh man was it fun.)

We're back to relatively normal schedule now, and though that feels relatively sloth-like compared to the obscene pace of the last month, I think we're still recovering a bit. He had a bad cold while we were away, I have it now. Not enough to stay home, but too much to be, well, up to much.

So last night, not feeling like actually cooking, we picked up one of those pre-roasted chickens from Safeway that are all in their little domes and hot and ready to go. We mashed some potatoes and steamed some broccoli. We drank Coke Zero from cans. It was one of those kinds of dinners. LoML planned to cut the remaining meat off the bird "later" to make chicken salad. Then "later", he got a better idea. He went into the kitchen to grab a drink, and then, out of nowhere, I hear: "Chicken Soup!"

Before I knew it, he was rifling through the crisper for carrots and celery and hauling out the slow cooker. He spent a good half hour in there while I knit. Worked his magic. Plugged in the slow cooker to do its thing.

Today, when I got home from work, home smelled like... well... home. Why chicken soup smells like love and comfort and retreat and safety I have no idea, but there's no questioning its effects. And its effects have been permeating the apartment for a good 18 hours. He's working late tonight, building decks while the sun shines, and I'm now waiting for bread to rise. It'll be another hour and 23 minutes until it comes out of the oven, and until then, I'll knit, or play piano or accordion for a bit, and just... wait. Slowly.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ask Me How I Know

What I learned this weekend:

Drummers not only have a lot of stuff, they have a lot of heavy stuff.

Carpenters not only have a lot of stuff, they have a lot of heavy stuff.

Both of these kinds of stuff, in addition to being heavy, are also of extremely high quality and have price tags attached to prove it. They also must be treated with care, stored with care, and - in the case of the drummer/carpenter in question, packed with care. For the drummer/carpenter who owns these heavy, expensive things also has the talent, skill and experience to transform these raw materials into more than the sum of their parts. And these things therefore deserve respect, both for what they are, and for the beautiful things that they will become through the work of his brain, his heart and his hands.

I know this because the drummer/carpenter in question is also The Love of My Life, and the house that he has owned for almost twenty years is going on the market the day after tomorrow. It's a beautiful, exciting new beginning for him, and for us. And it was a metric shiteload of work to get it all packed. But the new beginning is more than worth every hour we worked, and every bruise, scrape and sore muscle I have (which at last count was all of them).

And you know what else? I know longer feel the least bit guilty about my stash. It has the same potential, and deserves the same respect. And dudes? Yarn is a whole lot lighter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Perfection and Pink Socks

I just this morning finished listening to Tal Ben-Shahar's excellent book, The Pursuit of Perfect, and have been thinking a lot about it over the past week, listening or not. Partly because it's a great book, partly because I definitely fit Ben-Shahar's definition of "perfectionist" in many areas of my life, and partly because of my friend at work.

My friend is an extraordinary woman, and the very best part of my day job. She is whip-smart, a great writer, funny, thoughtful and compassionate to a fault. We share a love of language, a history of nerd-hood, a bit of hyper-sensitivity and a tendency to get distracted. She is my sounding board, my email editor, my giggle-time-out when I can't possibly stare at my computer for one...more...second. I miss her when she's on holidays or when we're both on deadline and unable to see each other.

My friend also functions as the office psychiatrist: hers is the office people flee to to cry, to vent, to bitch about their teenagers, to seek advice on office politics, to look for chocolate. And whenever these little dramas surface (large or small), whether she has the time or not, she stops what she's doing and gives the crisis of the moment her full attention, her advice, her kleenex, her macaroons.

Her day doesn't end there either: she's also wife to a busy man who adores her, and a mom to two of the most well-behaved and well-spoken children I have ever had the privilege of meeting - at 3 and 5, they call me "Miss", give me hugs when I look sad, and ask nicely before playing with the polka-dot bird/pen on my desk that they both love. She keeps a garden, owns a home, and feeds a family. Like I said. Extraordinary.

But my friend doesn't see it this way, and that's why I've been thinking about her, as well as myself, as I listened to Ben-Shahar's book. She's been sad lately, because with all the balls she has in the air, her focus is on those that occasionally fall - or perhaps more accurately, don't arc quite as beautifully when they fly through the air - rather than all of the ones that are zipping along quite nicely, thank you. "Good enough" is the same as "bare minimum" in her mind, and she's beating herself up because - even though all are full-time jobs - she is struggling with the fact that it may be beyond the reasonable limits of time and energy to deliver at work (at an exceptional standard and three days early), keep an immaculate house, be the full-time mom who volunteers at the school, have a Martha-Stewart-quality garden, and have dinner on the table on time.
I understand this, because I too struggle with this idea of the "good enough" life being anything short of the "perfect" life.

I recently finished some socks, and I look at them differently because of all of this. They're Rick from Cookie A.'s book Sock Innovation, made from two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Tuscany colourway.

The second sock took me too long to get started, the gauge was off because I didn't swatch, there are a couple of times where I missed a yarn-over and had to fudge in the next round, or knit through the front of the stitch instead of the back. My ribbing is a bit sloppy in places, and probably should have made the heel flap a bit longer. In total, being generous, I would say there are about 25 mistakes in these socks.

Breaking with well-established practice, I gave these socks to my friend at work in spite of all of these little disasters, because a knitterly instinct is to wrap those hurting in the work of our hands. She was a wonderful recipient, proclaiming them to be comfortable and squishy, and even going so far as to bring them back to work the next day to wear while she wrote and show off to those who visited.

Usually, I keep socks that aren't "good enough" to give away, only gifting those that I deem 100% successful and keeping the lumpy ones for "just me". But this time, thanks in part to the book, I allowed the love I have for my friend to make the decision, rather than my perfectionist ideals. There are many mistakes in these socks, but, as hard as it is to concede, there are also literally tens of thousands of stitches that are right. The colours are still breath-taking, the pattern is a brilliant design of form and function, they fit like only hand-knit socks do, they are a tangible representation of hours of my time, my love, and my good intentions.

They are beautiful. And they are good enough. Just like her.

Friday, June 5, 2009

15 minutes, On the Horizon

Oh. My. Gawd. What a day.

I am a weird combination of morning-person and not-morning person, in that I wake up early, but am completely useless for the first hour I am awake. My usual routine is to pour myself the first of many cups of coffee and read my email while I wait for the caffeine to kick in. So this morning I was doing just that... poured coffee, stumbled to computer, opened inbox. Four emails, one birthday-present-shopping related, one from Brenda Dayne, one ebay reminder, one junk.

Rewind. Re-read. One shopping, one ebay reminder, one junk and ... Whaaaaaa. . .

A couple of weeks ago after I posted my Stitches in Time blog, I realized that I had inadvertently titled it the same as a recent episode of one of my two* favourite podcasts, Cast On. It then dawned on me that the piece might actually be a good fit for the current series and, in a brief and rare moment of courage, I submitted it. I didn't even dare hope that I would get a response: Cast On is arguably the godmother of all knitting podcasts, it's long-running, wildly popular, and really, really wonderful. It is my Saturday morning ritual, the hour a week I really do set aside for myself to just knit, and listen, and drink coffee, and be quiet. The essays are almost always my favourite segment, though Brenda has a voice and manner that I would listen to even if what she was reading was the phone book. That she talks about knitting makes it wonderful beyond measure.

I almost regretted having the audacity to submit my little piece, and promptly forgot about it. And today, one shopping, one ebay, one junk, one Brenda Dayne.

I opened it, fully expecting what a fundraising colleague of mine used to call "KFO letters", Kindly... well, you get it. A polite form email thanking me for listening, and taking the time to write, and... thanks but no thanks. She liked it. She read it. And she likes it. I had to read the email about 4 times (this was after all only coffee number one) before it sank in. Brenda Dayne liked my essay. And is going to use it. On the podcast. For real. I'm still reeling.

*other favourite: Limenviolet.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Penance Rewarded

I was good this week - despite temptation and continued Raging Startitis, I finished these: Very loosely based on Toddler Socks from Vogue Knitting Ultimate Sock Book, in Sandnes Garn Lannett. These are socks for Ryan, my friends Darcy & Lyle's new arrival. The scroll pattern around the top is a detail from the flag of Kazahkstan, the country where Ryan was born. I also am well on the way with sock #2 of Rick from Cookie A.'s Sock Innovation and have even done a few more rows on Catriona. The Knitting Gods have rewarded my penance, though they did remind me (through Canada Customs being JERKS and holding up the packages of we Canadian Rockin' Sock Club members for daaaays.... it's FREAKING YARN, people!!!!) that their power is absolute and that my leash is short.

But look what I got on Thursday (eep eep eep): Joy. Joy. Joy. I haven't even taken the label off yet. Don't wanna push my luck.