Names

I’ve been called many names in my life. My favorite: alien. My least favorite: illegitimate.

When the kids were little and I got to tell them that their mom was an alien and had proof in the form of a government card, it made my day. Let’s hope they let me be an alien for the rest of my life.

But it’s the least favorite that left some scars. Born out of wedlock or illegitimate in a small German village left a stigma with consequences I didn’t realize at the time. Certain kids were not allowed to associate with me, perhaps they thought illegitimacy was contagious.

So when one day a classmate approached and wanted my company and advice I felt flattered. Me? Little wee me? The outcast? Yes.

Since I lived next to a kitchen and knickknack store and she was searching for a present for her mom, she enlisted me to help pick it out. I was exhilarated.

It seemed like hours we were in that store, looking at every single item. Every choice I suggested was met with a: no, not the right thing. Eventually the store closed and we had to leave empty-handed. I felt sad that I failed her.

She left for home, and within minutes the shop owner rang our doorbell. I was dumbstruck when they accused me of theft in front of my grandmother. Yes, of course I had been to the store, duh. But i certainly didn’t steal a thing. It felt so weird, I started laughing and have never forgiven myself for that response as I thought now for sure I’d made myself look guilty. Perhaps I laughed because I didn’t want to cry. Or about the absurdity of the situation.

I had nothing to hide and nowhere to hide anything. I didn’t even have my own room but had to sleep in a room with my grandmother.

I was played. And well. All out of my feelings of inferiority. And perhaps that’s where my sense of justice was born. Thanks for that.

Computers and Denver and Being Back

My first world problem this fall: my computer. Great iMac I had inherited from Stephen, huge screen, fast and shiny, but started having graphic card trouble. A known issue for this particular computer. Sigh, macs are not what they used to be, or did they just fall off my pedestal?

Repair, right?! At the tune of hundreds of dollars, something like $600, it seemed more prudent to invest into a new computer. Did I mention first world problem?

Finally the macbook pro joined our family, loves traveling with us, and has shown to be effective and efficient for me and Stephen working on the road.

So what’s been happening over here? A trip to visit daughter in Denver and my first snow experience of the year. Did it have to be a blizzard that delayed our flight for a day? But a nice walk in her Denver neighborhood (Highlands), getting some food and wine and enjoying and celebrating the extra day. There might have been boardgames involved too, or was that a crossword puzzle? I do remember Stephen ending up on the floor in their fixer upper chair:

DSC_0041

Since Liana is getting married next year they took us to their wedding venue and the restaurant that will do the catering. The restaurant was featured on one of the Man vs. Food episodes, no, this will not be the theme of the wedding.

Here are some pictures of the venue out in the country:

DSC_0032 DSC_0033

Yes, it did get a bit silly!

Back home, Daisy was not doing so well. She has slowed down in the last months, but now she was super slow, enough for us to take her to the vet. Turns out she has a collapsed disk in her spine. Pain is what slowed her. She is on meds and doing better, on today’s walk she even felt young enough to dance around a dog she wanted to play with. If you know Daisy you know how extremely rare such a reaction is.

I don’t really want her to run too much. It can’t be that good for the disk. But pain is under control apparently. She also gets to claim as much bed as she wants during the night. This actually has gotten out of hand, Stephen and I combined have less space than Daisy has.

On the knitting front, I’ve ordered some yarn, but you’ll have to wait until it arrives to get a peek at it. No yarn from Denver, not even a yarn store. There used to be one around the corner from Liana, but it moved. This made our vacation much cheaper, of course.

They do have a game store relatively close, and I got them Agricola. Though I love the game I made a fatal mistake that had me in a position with no chance in hell to get caught up. I tried to get out of the game and do something else, but pressure from the other players kept me prisoner. I did random moves with eyes closed, or tried to sabotage others’ moves. I still love the game, but that particular experience was a drag.

In the meantime while in Denver, a game arrived in the mail: Castles of Burgundy. A few weeks later and we haven’t played it yet. Thanksgiving really got in the way. And my old brain power that is not so keen on reading rules anymore, or rather understanding them. What? Turn to page 8 to see details? There is a page 8 in the rules? That used to be fun, not anymore.

Thanksgiving went well with some unpleasant surprises, but we’ll overlook those since most of my life we’ve had great Thanksgivings to look back on. The food was good, and all vegan!

 

 

 

 

 

Osteoporosis

If I can’t be a role model then let me be the bad example.

Now what? After back pain that would not go away, I finally visited a chiropractor, especially since my doctor said he couldn’t do anything and it might be my best bet. After 3 visits of manipulation and hammering and some sort of electrotherapy and whatnot, I felt no better than the moment I walked in the first time.

He recommended that I get x-rays through my health insurance and come back so he could take a closer look. I felt he had given up on me.

Next time I ended up with my doctor, I asked for those x-rays and he complied. Results? Lumbar compression fracture of the L3. Next? Bone density scan.

Results? Osteoporosis.

What if – ok, there are many what ifs –but what if my 3 chiropractor visits caused some more harm? Why did my doctor not come up with the idea to check out my back but kept sending me home with ‘getting old causes all kinds of ailments’ and he was sorry I’m going through such a hard time? What if I’d lived my life in x, y, or z different ways?

Osteoporosis is more common than I ever thought. More than half the population here in the U.S. is affected  by either osteoporosis or low bone mass. It does not correlate in any way with the awareness about the issue. Have I heard about osteoporosis before? Of course. But was I worried? Nope. Even though after menopause the risk increases astronomically and of the people affected, 80% are women.

Part of the problem might be that there is no cure for osteoporosis. No going back. And it’s a new area in research. The solution now is dubious. Fosamax is recommended, and I won’t go into detail here, but there are too many side effects and doubts about this medicine, so I won’t take it. There is hormone treatment, but that’s out for me too, due to medical issues I carry around.

Vitamin D and calcium are very important factors in not developing osteoporosis. But as it turns out, I have enough of that stuff in my body. So no need to increase these amounts in my daily diet, though I will try to. Weight bearing exercises are recommended, but let’s be honest, every step I take hurts from the compression fracture. I do try to walk as fast as I can, but believe me, it’s not the 15-minute mile.

This is the beginning of my osteoporosis journey. I’m still very much confused and frightened and devastated.

Quilting Dreams

I love dreaming, and being able to interpret dreams is a passion. I am a pretty wild dreamer, as Stephen is my witness, or anyone who has ever been in a dreaming group with me.

It all started with a 1970s Psychology of Dreaming class that left a lasting impression. I recall owning a pair of PF Flyers at the time and dreaming about flying/floating with them after the first night of class. What a marvelous feeling of pushing off with one foot and floating along for many yards, so effortlessly.

One of the books used in the class was Creative Dreaming by Patricia Garfield. In the meantime I have added Jeremy Taylor to my repertoire. These books and a fantastic teacher (whose name I don’t remember) and his stories have left me with that lifelong passion for dreams.

Who doesn’t like the limitless escapes dreams can offer? Even bad dreams are good, because all dreams offer the potential for self-revelation.

My favorite part of interpreting my dreams is the instant knowledge that I got it right. You feel it all coming together deep inside. It’s one of the few times that life makes sense to me.

Recently I woke up from a dream that dealt with quilting. I had a stack of cut fabric squares about 10 inches high, ready for a project. Beats me why I was carrying it around, but I did, and when I entered a quilt shop I had to ask to put it down so I could look at the lovely new fabrics.

Immediately I noticed they had changed. No more boring or repetitive patterns, but now the fabrics depicted huge paintings over yards and yards. I wondered about the purpose of such huge prints and contemplated that quilting itself might have changed. I could see cutting the fabric into pieces and then getting complementary fabric for between them.

Without buying anything, I was heading out and could not find my stash of cut squares. The employees were different, and no one could tell me where my fabric was. The possibility that it had been sold to someone else horrified me. I was searching for it when I woke up.

I wondered why I was dreaming about quilting, an activity I hadn’t done in a while. I fell back asleep into another dream, where I had a baby. Suddenly I panicked, realizing I had ignored it for days, and could babies survive without any nourishment? When I discovered the baby it was white as snow and, I presumed, dead. I tried moving its limbs, afraid to touch it and somewhat repulsed by the idea I would touch death. But then I noticed tiny movement. I had to feed it quickly, did I still have breast milk after all this time? Yes, and I nursed the baby back to health, not to full rosiness, but to survival.

To connect the two dreams was easy. The baby is my quilting hobby that I have neglected for a long time, but apparently I can revive it. So I have plans for this summer.

I am not your regular quilter, if there is even such a thing. I’m not a precise person, I like eyeballing and guessing. That’s not a trait you want to have for quilting, where precision is highly rated. A good thing there is quilting for the rest of us.

Here is a piece from long ago that likes to be precise and where I somewhat succeeded. It is waiting for completion. Like so many things in my well-lived gemini life. If this quilt looks familiar, let it be known that I stole the idea from a quilting book cover. Sometimes I see things and just need to get them out of my system before I can go on.

DSC_0007

 

And here is a piece more to my liking and style. I did not invent this process, but Gwen Marston did with her idea of liberated quilt making.

DSC_0006

Here is my 15 minutes of quilting fame. An old article, and two pictures:

jbDcp00697

 

Troubles

I was going to tell y’all about an experience I had as a 5 year old, but in doing research for it I came across all kinds of scandals and possibilities of what happened to me then. Before I can write about it I need to digest it and do some further research.

Instead, here is Yowza (take a look at Rocky Ridge colorway!) my favorite new yarn despite my project mishap, an attempt at moebius knitting. My latest Yowza came from Stitches West, here’s a picture of it all wound up.

DSC_0003

This is a sad story. Zooming along to the end of the cowl, no, let me get back to the beginning. With moebius knitting after casting on, there comes the moment of doing one twist, at least in my project. You know, take a strip of paper, twist one end once and tape together, voila, the moebius. Of course you could twist that strip of paper several times, and though it wouldn’t be pretty, it still can be done. Take a look at Cat Bordhi doing the knitting moebius so well.

After casting on hundreds of stitches, it becomes difficult to tell how many times you twisted your cast-on stitches. But with my usual bravado, not a good thing, I promise, I showed faith and knit on.

This is my usual m.o. with knitting: faith. I can’t imagine where it comes from. Sometimes it’s my dislike of the swatch. Other times it’s pure denial. I can’t be the only one who has this voice practically screaming into her ear that there’s a mistake and to measure or take a second look, or read the pattern again. Do I ever listen? Only when the voice shouts lies.

This is one of those times when it shouted a lie. At first the calm voice said to double check, make sure I didn’t do two twists. I ignored that voice because it would have meant starting over and I didn’t want to do that. At these points I’m not sure what my expectations are. Do I believe in magic? And not only do I believe in magic, but that I can make it happen?

As I was coming to the end, I had to face the parade, or is it face the music? Or face my knitting. Well, here it came, the loud voice: you screwed up, you should have checked, this is not working out!!! I so badly wanted the voice to stop screaming at me, I did the only thing I knew to stop it: pulled out the needles and started unraveling.

DSC_0002

Yes, I fell for it. As row after row was being undone a horrible realization washed over me, I had made no mistake at all. Now what? There was no going back or rather, no forward, all I could do was keep on unraveling and holding back tears.

And if this would have involved any other part of my life you could have committed me. Somehow with knitting I grow strong. Two days lost with knitting and nothing to show for it? No problem. The psychology of the situation is beyond me, perhaps someone should study it.

Me, I went to another skein and started another pair of socks. One sock done, another on the needles already. That didn’t go without sweat either. I’m using new yarn, for me. It has a very tight twist that might be a bit uncomfortable for a princess who feels the pea under 20 mattresses, but for the rest of us we like the twist and the sturdiness it produces in a sock. This yarn is from knitpicks and comes at a good price.

For non-knitters, it might come as a shock that I don’t blink at making socks where the yarn alone is $30. This money-friendly $11 skein has a drawback. It has only 357 yards. I’m more used to a 400-yard range and know I can comfortably knit any pattern and not worry about the length of the cuff or leg.

So what did I do? I knit a longer leg to test out the yarn. See how far it can go. What I had going for me is that the sock was for Liana who has the smallest foot size in the family, 7 1/2. The sweat pouring from me as I came to the toe of the sock could have alleviated the California drought. After having frogged the cowl, I would not be able to handle doing the same to the sock.

I’m not sure if the sock will fit her, but the yarn did last. Perhaps I should be looking around for someone with size 6 feet. It’s one of the rare times I used size 0 needles. Here’s a look at my experience with Hawthorne from knitpicks.

DSC_0001

Next time I’ll tell y’all about the real troubles in our lives right now.

Postpartum

Often I work on several knitting projects at a time. This year I’ve been focused on socks only. OK, yesterday I started a baby hat, but even that makes just 2 projects on the needles.

So now that the socks were done today, I get this feeling of loss, feeling disoriented, not knowing where to turn. I pace around the house without a purpose. Every yarn I try to swatch with is wrong, wrong, wrong. At the same time I have no head for a complicated pattern.

Sleeping on it might help. But for now I am a rebel without a cause.

Ahead of Resolution

Remember the New Year? Remember all the good intentions and resolutions? How many have you broken 3 months into the year?

Guess what? I win! Broke none of my resolutions, ok, I admit, there was only one.

But don’t worry, I have lost in many other ways. Including family so pissed off at me that I am told of “rifts” that “will never be bridged.”

Some of you might know about the Bassya Bibel website I have created, mostly featuring Bassya’s love letters I’ve found. Bassya was Stephen’s grandmother. With Passover and the seder coming up, I was trying to think of something nice to bring along for the family.

Last year I brought all the photo albums and slides no one was interested in at the time of the grandfather’s death. The great grandkids seemed to have their fun with the old photos. This year I contemplated bringing everyone a piece of furniture or another trinket I have from the grandparents.

But then it hit me. A web site! I had already posted some of the letters on facebook and the responses were tremendous. This way everyone could get to know Bassya a little better, especially at an age none of us knew her, most of us not having been born yet.

I could not have been more wrong. I think in all my life I have never been shat upon with such huge, stinky piles.

So you see, no reason to be jealous about meeting my resolutions. I failed big in other ways.

One pair of socks a months and I am ahead of the game. I’ve already posted the very colorful pair I made for January. February was a sock variation. A huge sock that will be felted into slippers. That counts, right? Right? I know it takes a lot less knitting, but come on, February is a short month after all.

DSC_0003

Along came March and without meaning to match that month, the socks were green. This is the very basic sock pattern I use when uninspired and there is no need for a pattern.

DSC_0001

Rushing into April with a pair of Nutkin pattern socks. One sock done, one still on the needles. I love this pattern. It’s not very stretchy and the only difficulty is at the top when the knitting gets folded over and you have to knit together the stitch on the needle and one from the cast-on. If you’re even off by one stitch here, things become a bit twisty.

DSC_0002

If I wouldn’t have my knitting, I don’t know how I could master and survive this post-heart-attack-and-bypass life. The stress the family controversy puts on my heart is immense, and I can feel it. A tightness in the chest, heart beating fast and hard. Having already lost part of the heart, I worry how much more is going down the drain. But then I pick up the knitting and slowly, slowly my muscles start relaxing and I am flowing along with the stitches. 

 

 

 

Stitches West

Days, weeks, even months I had been looking forward to Stitches West. A huge yarn extravaganza in Santa Clara with about 350 vendors, classes, people, parties, joy, happiness, and what have you. And did I say YARN?

Stitches West can be many things, depending on the experience you seek. Will it be a wild party? A shopping trip? A learning experience? Meeting up with old friends? Making new friends?

To be honest, I did not feel too well during the weeks prior, but I thought being there would take care of all that and put me in a good mood. After all, it’s YARN! What’s not to like about it, and how could it not put me into a good mood?

Once there, I fell into the category of efficient consumer. In and out!

Entering, the ticket lines were really short, the line for getting into the most hallowed of halls a bit long but moving at good speed. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I was overcome by the immensity and the crowds, feeling like I could actually pass out.

market

Nice people, not the crazy Black Friday crowd where one has to fear for one’s life as seen on TV. All very polite, just a lot of them.

With a handy map and Stephen’s helpful legend personalized for me the night before, I ignored my surroundings. Goal-oriented, I headed to the first booth, then the next, and the next, and the next. But what was going on, no one was where we had marked them to be? Had I entered the Twilight Zone? I started feeling woozy and disoriented, and overcome with it all.

I had to get my bearings if I was to make it through and actually buy some yarn. From last year I remembered Dragonfly Fibers and headed in that general direction. Eureka! I left their booths with the first two gorgeous skeins.

Big Apple AKA My Bloody Valentine, Dragon Sock
Big Apple AKA My Bloody Valentine, Dragon Sock
Damsel, color Riptide, a sport weight
Damsel, color Riptide, a sport weight

There was a problem that kept on repeating. Many of the various colorways of the indie dyers were already in my stash at home. My taste had not changed all that much from last year, so I kept on picking up the same color and putting it back because I knew exactly where on the shelf I would find it at home.

I tried the map again. And this time I figured it out. When I’d googled the Stitches West map I made unfortunate assumptions. So what I was holding in my hands was a map from 2013.

After a trip to the information booth and a new, updated booklet with map and all, I was on my way again. In no time I found The Verdant Gryphon and, with my next purchase complete, headed to Western Sky Knits and then on to Miss Babs, as usual the most crowded booth at the whole affair.

Traveler
From The Verdant Gryphon Booth

 

Western Sky Knits, Aspen Sock, color: wyldstyle
Western Sky Knits, Aspen Sock, color: wyldstyle
Magnolia Sock yarn: merino, cashmere, nylon
Magnolia Sock yarn: merino, cashmere, nylon

The above yarn is more squeezable than charmin toilet paper. And below see another sock yarn, it was a red kind of day.

Western Sky Knits Aspen Sock Yarn
Western Sky Knits Aspen Sock Yarn

After that, I took it easy. Went to the beginning and headed up and down the aisles just like I do at the grocery store. Then ate a snack I’d brought along and tried another up and down aisles. I felt like a personal shopper because I had promised a friend I’d look for a good black and purple, heavier than fingering yarn, with a tight twist.

Armed only with reading glasses for close-up yarn inspection, the world was a blur around me.

My Miss Babs loot: very, very modest.

Miss Babs Yowza, colorway: next to godliness
Miss Babs Yowza, colorway: next to godliness

And continuing with the red theme:

I fell for the yarn name: scarlet letter
I fell for the yarn name: scarlet letter

Without being facetious, it was basically the same shit as last year. No new yarn discoveries. I learned that indie dyers have a hard time getting a true black or a lovely purple.

My favorite yarn purchase is a color called Big Apple that I am renaming Bloody Valentine. These will make socks for me.

DSC_0010
Big Apple AKA My Bloody Valentine

There are not enough ways to look at these colors, but I try.

DSC_0014

DSC_0016
OK, so this is not an apple tree but an apricot tree. Good enough?

 

 

Am I Back?

This has been the toughest New Year yet. On day three I started what I thought was a cold, but who really knows, and it is still haunting me. Now my bet is on allergies. After the big rain we’ve had here it should get better, right?

There was nothing to do for me as I was sniffling through the day, but knit and listen to Serial the podcast and stream Netflix. If you’re one of the 5 people who have not listened to the podcast, well, do as you like, I’m not going to recommend it, though I’m glad to be in the know.

Netflix just streamed by or through me or past me, I remember nothing. Probably a good thing.

I am obsessed with Asaf Avidan. Sure to get tired of him pretty soon as his songs all seem to derive from the same place, I still recommend a listen. Don’t be frightened by his voice, it can grow on you and he sure knows how to use it. And here it is, I have a weakness for male high voices, and he plays on that. A youtube where you can see and listen to him, a click away.

And if you want more of him, check out the NPR tiny desk concert. If you really want to indulge, do so here.

The knitting has not brought much joy. No excitement, but comfort. A few hats, fingerless mittens, socks, and finishing started projects.

DSC_0001

A photo from a niece in Germany inspired this little cowl. I bet it also could be used by a dog instead of a bandana that some people think makes their dog look super-cool. The pattern called Scallo-Pie is free and from one of my favorite designers: Martina Behm.

DSC_0005

The photos below finally show the finished products. Took me long enough to finish. Some projects have that effect on me. And after a certain amount of time working on such items it should be enough and it should finish itself. Somehow I get no special pleasure or gratification in completion. That gets me into trouble around the house. Every room has a project started and not finished. Don’t ask why but around 10 years ago I thought I could put in my own floors and did. But did I finish the baseboard or the last few boards? Noooooooooo. Yes, there are excuses. I had no saw to cut the boards to size. Now that I do, I’m used to the look and doubt I could master this finishing anyway.

DSC_0008 DSC_0010

 

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings (or not)

The arbitrary saying goodbye to a whole year last night had me wondering about a lot of stuff. But that’s the idea, right? Reflection?

First reflection: why a year? we could celebrate the end of every month, the end of every week, the end of every day, the end of every hour, the end of every minute, the end of every second, the end of every moment.

Second reflection: Perhaps it makes more sense to celebrate the beginning of every year, the beginning of every month, the beginning of every day, the beginning of every hour, the beginning of every minute, the beginning of every second, the beginning of every moment.

Third reflection: Perhaps we should just celebrate life! I guess I’m not that original.

Yes I do have resolutions, which is kind of stupid because I can decide at any moment to change to a better me. That’s what it’s about, right? To be a better person? Or are there people out there whose resolutions are: this year I’ll flip off every driver that takes my right-of-way; this year I’ll hurt at least one person a week; this year I’ll be greedier….

The shininess of the new year wears off pretty quickly. Just like, despite a new notebook at the beginning of the semester, we may lose our excitement and best intentions and all within days.

So any resolution needs to be supported by higher motives. To stand a chance, resolutions have to be unrelated to time. They can be made at any time of year; they’re their own beginnings.

I’m looking back and feel like the guy at the christmas market who said: same shit as last year. Was last year any different from all the others? There were good and bad times. New friends and losing old ones. You know, same shit….

I expect nothing else from this year. Except for 12 pairs of socks by the December holidays. One a month? I don’t care as long as there will be 12, or enough for presents.

Stitches West is coming up in February. I’m hoping to live long enough to indulge at the marketplace there. And then live long enough to use it all up. But that is fantasy as I’ve achieved sable (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy). But a girl can hope. At least I would like to knit more, if that is even possible.

 

Fourth reflection: I’ve already lost at being who I would like to be in the new year. Go back to bed Marianna, really, or start knitting those socks. I made pancakes this morning, long story, we don’t usually eat those. But I had all the fixings and never made them while visitors were here. So we ate them all. ALL! I feel like it’s Thanksgiving.

Let me share a recipe. Not very original because it started out in a cookbook and then got refined. Take some ricotta cheese and then add some citrus zest; I used oranges. Prepare your favorite pancake recipe or mix and then gently add the ricotta mixture. Fry ’em up. I happened to notice the Kahlua bottle out from truffle-making and added a bit to the mix. A little maple syrup on top, and your new year’s resolution will be totally ruined. And you can go forth and eat whatever you want for the rest of the year, because anything has to be better than that.

Here is what’s important for knitting socks: nice colorful yarn in winter, the signature needles, remote and sound to knit to, a candle or more in winter.

DSC_0001

We’ve had a wonderful holiday season this year. A constant go-go-go. I’ll leave you with the photos.

DSC_0007 DSC_0008

DSC_0001 DSC_0002