September 19, 2012

Who Can Be Found Knitworthy?

My latest project/design. Now that I like the design, who
do I make it for?
Many years ago, I became pregnant with my fourth child. Of course, no matter how many children you may have, they are all special; I was excited. At that time, I was doing a lot of cross stitch, so I promptly went to the craft store to play out my excitement.

I selected for my baby an adorable cross stitch kit in sex-indiscriminate colors that pictured of a toy shelf complete with several adorable, old-fashioned toys, lined up in a purposefully tousled row. It had a place on the scrolled shelf for a name, birthdate, baby's weight... some of the more fun things you dream about during pregnancy.

I promptly brought it home and began to work voraciously on it. It was complex and large, and I knew that I would normally spend about a year and a half working on a project like that, but this time I wanted to finish it in less than 9 months in order to have it stretched, framed, hanging and ready in the baby's room.

Back then, I had this friend. We'll call her "Jane," since I call all the disguised people in these stories "Jane."

Shortly into my own pregnancy, Jane called. She was pregnant too, she announced, and our babies were due only a couple of weeks apart. This of course added to the excitement. I had never been able to share pregnancy alongside a friend. I was elated.

As I hung up the phone with Jane, I began to think. She and her husband had expected to have no children at all. They had been married for 17 years. They had tried many things--and had failed--to have a child. Just when she had given up, she became pregnant.

I looked at my cross stitch, which was laying on the couch near the phone. Sure, it was special to me, but oh how much more special it would be to my friend! I became giddy with the thought of such a surprise and got to work even harder on the project.

Driven by friendship and excitement, I completed the project with time to spare. I headed to the local frame shop and had the piece professionally stretched. I selected an exquisite birch frame that would match my friend's baby room, with a pale matte to match. It was beautiful.

I admired it at home for only a short time as I lived 3,000 miles from Jane at the time. Because I wanted it to arrive in time for her baby, time was of the essence. I packed it carefully to be sure it was safe in the mail, and I sent it.

I hadn't heard anything from Jane by the time our babies were born. They were both girls, born 3 weeks apart. I assumed of course, that she was busy--maybe too busy for thank you cards. I was busy, too, and in the excitement of a new baby in my own house, I forgot about the gift. For a time.

When the girls were nearly one, I hopped on a plane with my daughter (the other 3 kids stayed home with their dad for ease of travel, and, I thought, to emphasize the meaningful nature of the visit) and headed to Jane's house. Several times during my trip, I imagined the toy shelf cross stitch hanging on her baby's wall in tasteful arrangement.  I had also purchased another kit for myself, so the girls could have matching wall hangings and I imagined how special it would be to have them hanging 3,000 miles apart in different homes.

Once we arrived at Jane's house, she showed me the baby's room right away. No lovely cross stitched picture. There was another one, done by a woman at her husband's office, a small, lovely angel, but not mine. There was a quilt on the wall, too, on a wooden bar, that a mutual friend had made. I thought my gift was of higher quality. Tossing that last, catty, thought aside, we moved on.

She showed me gifts and toys, bedding and cards, but not once time did she mention my gift. I knew she had received it as I sent it through UPS and had a signature for it. It was certain after several days together: she was not going to even mention it.

In fact, she never did. Now, several years later, our daughters are still friends, but Jane and I have become distant and I never did quite finish my own daughter's wall hanging. Perhaps I misread the friendship. Perhaps a lot of things were misunderstood, but one thing stands out to this day: how do you know who you can trust with your handmade treasures?

In this season of gift making, it is hard to know. Most of us crafters have stories of gifts given and never seen again--hats never worn, scarves given away to third parties (or even fourth parties), even perhaps cookies never even tried, let alone eaten.

What is the best course of action?

There are of course, a few rules for these dilemmas, such as: never knit a man socks till you have a ring, lest he walk away from you while wearing them. Same goes for the more complex "boyfriend sweater." (I would even say that last one requires an actual wedding.) Some say never give knitted to anyone but knitters. Maybe you have developed a few rules of your own. But no matter how many rules we come up with, it still can end in disappointment that feels like disaster.  Unless...

Do we knit for the praise, or do we knit for others because we love them? Do we give gifts to get back or out of the goodness of our hearts and the sheer joy of making the item? I do still have the memories of all those good feelings I experienced while making Jane the cross stitch, after all.

Part of me wants to say that we should give freely because we want to, because we live knowing we are inserting art into the world, because we are really saying "I love you," to someone when we hand them that pair of lace anklets. That same part of me wants to rally around the obscure aunts living in distant lands, saying, "Obscure Auntie, you make Ralphie that giant bunny suit!! And if he doesn't like it, make him another one!" Maybe this is what the world needs!

The other--jaded--part of me says, "Yeah, right, and maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt."

Where is the balance? I say craft carefully. Craftily, if you like. Do it with joy, do it in the spirit of giving while trying to discover who in your life is truly "knitworthy," keeping in mind the receiver. Do it with love, plus a grain of truth and through reality-colored glasses. But do it.

Make no mistake, knitters, sewers and purveyors of shell art, you truly are adding to the joy and beauty in the world, big picture-wise, no matter what. I truly believe that and I will be thinking of how much I personally appreciate all of you during this approaching holiday season.

And I still say: happy knitting. Because you want to.

September 9, 2012

Christmas in July, August and September: the Plight of the Crafter

There is hope for us yet, ye fellow late gift makers

I am late.

Christmas is only a few (a couple?) months away and here I am, so far, with NO completed handcrafted gifts. Nothing sewn, cooked or knitted. This happens every year and, while I will never get "used to it," I usually accept this unfortunate truth is as part of my life right now, along with a full time job, several kids, and one of those being 3 years old, and a very active non-napper.

While I will be likely struggling through this personal problem again this year (last year I made 6 pairs of felted clog slippers, a couple of hats and slippers, and several dozen Christmas cookies over only a few weeks containing many, many sleep deprived seems like the Christmas season also provides the chance to remember that same sleepless feeling one gets from having a newborn baby in the house), I will forever admire those folks who work away--more happily than I--and all year long at making their gifts.

When I worked at a local "variety" store here in town several years ago (Fred Meyer's, for you folks "in the know"), I ran the Domestics department, and that included Crafts. (I capitalize the words "Domestics" and "Crafts" because they were proper nouns at the time of my employment, and I can't shake the nagging fear of getting into trouble with management lest they see my blog) I used to marvel and muse at the Christmas Crafts and the huge amounts of "value" yarn, sewing items and stitchery kits that would come in the store freight around July. We'd put them out on the shelves--as strange as it seemed to me at the time--and people would come and buy them. Right away.

I was not much of a crafty chick then, and didn't really see the reason for the urgency in these folks' shopping. Oh, I had the underpinnings; I knew my way around a sewing machine and some DMC floss, and I was learning to cook, but I wasn't applying any of those budding skills to my life.

All these years (and several more hobbies) later I finally "get it." I may not apply the time management principles I witnessed all those years ago, but I get it.

For those of you who are procrastinators (and masters of your own justification) like me, I have discovered something: There is still hope for us. Not just because it is only the beginning of September and we have about 15 weeks (give or take) to go before Christmas is upon us, which means about 105 days and 2,520 hours to go (if you don't count sleeping) but because there are others like us. And many of those others are supporting each other in a pretty cool way this year.

I came upon a group discussion on Ravelry the other day that let me dare to dream. There is a group of folks who have created a discussion thread specifically dedicated to completing holiday gifts on time: The Holiday Stash Down Challenge.

Even if you do not knit or crochet, the discussion thread is still a fun and challenging read. (Who knows? You may turn from reading and decide to participate, silently or not!) As the title implies, part of the challenge is to use up your existing yarn and other supplies to create and finish your holiday gifts in time.

There is another facet: if you are a blogger, you are encouraged to blog about your progress. There are prompts for weekly blog post ideas if you like more structure. If you are not a blogger, it is still fun to read what others are doing and feel encouraged.

Let's see: encouragement from others, a structured approach to gift completion and the accountability (even if only perceived) of writing about your progress? Sounds like Weight Watchers for Christmas gift makers!

I encourage you to check it out! Not a member of Ravelry? If you are a knitter or crocheter, you may find this to be your #1 resource for just about everything fiber-ey.

Let's see what we can do! And don't feel badly right off the bat when you see that the Stash Down Challenge was started in May.

Happy knitting, happy everything.

Janelle of The Knitting Muse

Notice there are no Christmas pics in this post? As excited as I can get about certain things, well, there are limits. : )

September 7, 2012

Leaving the Sidelines and Riding into the Red Hood

I don't really like T.V. all that much. I mean, I like it fine, but I usually would rather be doing something else. That is why, if my husband would like to relax in front of the television on any given evening, I can usually be found knitting madly next to him on the couch (or eating a really huge peanut butter chocolate ice cream sundae); I get really itchy sometimes if I am trying to sit still and watch a show. Unless the show is good. Really good. Grimm good.

There is no question: I am a fantasy lover. Any other story genre offered to me gets left behind when given a choice (except for those fabulous British dramas...if they are in the mix, I may have to flip a the death) I love the romance of fantasy. The creative characters (from childhood I have wished I was an elf), the often gothic, life and death love stories, the "old-fashioned" battles (swords and arrows are sexy...let's face it), and the excitement of imagining other-worldly abstracts--what could be. What may be.

Grimm fits this bill.


Not only does Grimm fit my need for television fantasy shows that don't suck (this need has been largely looked over in the past by T.V. producers), it is just a great show. It is filmed here in Oregon--and mostly in Portland--but enjoying seeing familiar places and names (most of the time...there is no Portland Harbor, and that scene was filmed under the Astoria bridge in Astoria...) is not all there is to love.

A few of you may remember me talking about my fairy tale escapades, during which I checked out the "real" fairy tale stories from the local library as though I were Sandy Duncan eating them like Wheat Thins "right out of the box, one after the other!" I just had to know what really happened in those stories; after all many of them were written during some very dark times in history. This turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. In fact, I loved some of the stories so much that I purchased several books for my own library, including Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, and a large volume of the complete works of Grimm.

The fairy tale aspect of the television show of the same name might be even more icing on the cake for me, but there is more to love than the icing on the gingerbread house.

Even if you don't love the imaginary the way I do, Grimm is still a great show. For me, the series started out as simply a clever, novel idea. But the feeling of the show changes as it goes along, until it becomes a rich, multi-layered story with great character development and many foreseeable opportunities to open new, smaller storylines and subplots. There are also many secrets and hints to a greater, overarching plot that I believe could culminate in an ultimate, great ending someday (not too soon I hope).

Grimm brings suspense, uncertainty, a little dose of reality (after all, what would you do if you could suddenly see "monsters" and you were forced to continue living as if things were normal while you came to grips with it, and able to tell no one?) and great intrigue--especially those of us who get into the peculiarly fantastic.

While at the height of the enthralling throes of joy brought on by catching up on this fabulous show, my daughter came to me and requested a red poncho to wear to school for the fall weather. Something not too long and loose enough to move around in to be able to hold her school bag.

This was the opportunity I could not pass up. I happily knitted Annie a Red Riding Hood Poncho while watching my newest fav series, using as a base a pattern from The Knitters Bible: Knitted Accessories  by Claire Crompton. She has a lovely poncho which I added a garter stitch trim to, and a braided detail at the shoulder. I also did not shape the hat, so it would slouch in the back. After all, W.W.L.R.R.H. do? She'd slouch it--adds drama.

So, while enjoying the truth about the "big bad wolf" on T.V., I was knitting a protective article of outerwear for my small 12-year-old girl.

Now I feel like I am part of it. Cast of Grimm, I'm right there with you guys. Of course I promise not to become one of those weird fans who sees you in town and walks up to you like I know you. At least I think I won't.

One thing is for sure: You can count on me for Friday nights at 9p.m. Of course, I will always have my yarn and needles in hand. After all, old habits--er, addictions--die hard. But the only thing I will be itching for is the sound of the clock striking 9.

August 29, 2012

Knitta Hata!

Picture: my Blue Bird embroidery project from
1st and 2nd grade, and one of two matching
cutie sheep wall hangings done much later.
Some time ago, I was at a party at a friend's house. I was actually separated from this friend by one more degree: it was really a friend of a friend's house. I didn't know most of the guests at this party and of the guests I was acquainted with, I was not really very acquainted.

Great start, I know.

The party was in a very up and coming, very hip, part of southeast Portland. There were increasing numbers of tidy Tudors and Portland foursquares coming back to life in a massive--and beautiful--rejuvenating effort.

The neighbors (and consequently, many of the guests) were hip to match. Many educated, socially aware and, let's face it: too cool for school people were at this party. Of course, this also means that many of them were clever--be it contrived cleverness or not--and that made for great conversation and usually lots of laughs.

For the most part, I am one of those semi-chameleonic folks who really has no bones to pick with anyone and I can have a great time anywhere. I enjoy meeting all sorts of people and always love to hear what new acquaintances might have to say; after all, what's wrong with learning new things?

The flip side of my "love to learn" coin, is that I also love to share. I love to tell others about new things that I have learned so much, that I have made an art (and a personality flaw) out of turning any conversation into one about myself or my own learnings. I don't mean to do it, but it is hard to contain my excitement about awesome new information. I am very aware of this annoying feature of my character repertoire and try pretty hard to keep it at bay, though I am not always successful.

Back at the time of this party, I had not been an official knitter for long. In fact, it was a New Year's Eve party, which means that I had only been knitting for about 7 weeks--since the second week of that November. This was very exciting to me and I wanted to share my newly found, magical fiber discovery with anyone who would listen.

As we drove down the street to the gathering, I tried to remember that, even though knitting may be almost cult-like to many of us, declaring you are a knitter to certain others may conjure up visions of the Amish or the 50's. And unless those latter people enjoy Mad Men or Pennsylvania, well, they may just not be interested in what you have to say. My social faux pas radar was up--or so I thought--and I was ready to dive into conversation as my husband and I stepped into the soiree that icy December night.

As we passed through the solid wood, hand-carved front door with its tiny square peephole complete with tiny, scrolled, wrought iron bars, I began to have a look around. There was laughter, conversation and food. Someone put a glass of Merlot in my hand. There were folks standing around the now-hip-but-formerly-antiquated old fireplace, with it's graceful Art Deco arch. Some people were standing in the kitchen near the vast wine selection, while others were seated on the trendy, sparsely stuffed, wood framed furniture. And they were all wearing sweaters.

I gripped the slender stem of my delicate wine glass, remembering the ones that were on my wedding registry--that cost $12 a piece. These were much nicer than those. I loosened my grip and instead put my energy into controlling my Chatty Cathy nature. Purposefully, I strode to the food table to stuff my mouth so it could make less noise.

After several minutes, I believed that I was okay. My husband and I had meshed into the larger group. To the onlooker, I had no undue excitement in me; no one would even have known that I was a knitter. Since I was really new to the art of knitting, I didn't even have a headband to signify my status. I was in stealth mode.

An hour passed, we had more wine, relaxed further and were all just having a great time. I was getting to know some of my acquaintances a bit better and we were all laughing and eating...everything was fine.  I had almost forgotten my earlier concerns. Then a group of three women came my way. Most people there were new and emerging friends of mine, but these ladies were strangers.

Two of them were very friendly and introduced themselves as a friend of yet another friend who was also in attendance (don't worry, I couldn't follow it, either). They were pleasant and we jumped right into a conversation about their hometowns and how they used to live in Portland, but no longer do, etc. It was normal, tangential conversation that happens when people meet as they search for ways to connect.

I kept looking at the third woman in the group. She was distracting. She just stood there, too quietly, with her drink in her hand. She looked sullen. She stared out from under a shock of short, frosted hair (Yes, I went there. To 1975.) with starkly contrasting browns and blondes, at others, at me. She didn't speak. Maybe she was trying to shoot lasers at us with her eyes.

She reminded me of one of those women (or men) who, upon reaching 45, had never quite achieved the life she had hoped that enough time would simply bring. And, after many years had actually passed, she had realized that time alone would not change her life. Men in these scenarios stereotypically might buy a sportscar, but women in these scenarios sometimes just become bitter toward other women.

The bitter looking, fortysomething woman had a sweater on, like so many others in the room. It was a store bought, short sleeved, oversized knitted lace top. For some reason, there was something about it that just said, "I couldn't find anything else that fit me tonight and I wore this because it was the loosest thing I had."

In spite of these peculiar warning signs, I couldn't stand her silence anymore. It was too uncomfortable and she was making me really nervous. I had to act. I shot out my hand at a sort of inappropriate moment during someone else's sentence.

"Hi, I'm Janelle." I smiled the most genuine, friendly smile I could muster. Maybe I was wrong about her. After all, people have bad days. Or years.

She smiled back. It was hollow, void. Thin. "Hi, I'm Jane." Her hand was clammy. And limp.

Her two friends jumped right in for her. "Jane still lives here in Portland. We have been friends for, oh, about 30 years!" The two friends laughed heartily, as though all their memories from childhood had flooded back anew with the statement. They looked knowingly at each other, the way old friends do. Jane forced a chuckle, dry and unconvinced.

I took this as a challenge. Here we were at a fun party, it was New Year's Even and this woman had just been reunited with her old girlfriends. What was up? Did one of them steal a high school boyfriend of hers and now she was still mad? Or mad afresh?

I launched into several questions. Where did she live? Go to high school? I told her where I went and that my parents still lived nearby in my childhood home. Did she have kids? No? A cat? A boyfriend? I got a little information about her divorce several years ago, no kids, thank you, just a job.

"Where do you work?" I asked innocently.

"At this shop in Beaverton. We sell cross-stitch supplies exclusively."

I could feel my excitement suppression lifting--like when your Advil wears off and you feel your headache returning because you forgot to take your ibuprofen on time. When was the last time I stuffed food in my mouth? 

I thought this briefly, but I couldn't stand the enthusiasm rising in my body. I had been a sewer, cross-stitcher and embroiderer for all of my life. Not seriously, but I enjoyed those activities. I had not met someone else who knew about cross-stitch for a long time, let alone someone who worked in a whole store of it! Who even knew that existed?!

"You are kidding!" I said, "What is the store? Where is it? I must check it out!"

She told me briefly--only the necessary information, it seemed--what I wanted to know, gave me brief directions and went back to staring. Was she even drinking that drink in her hand?

I dismissed the last thought and went on. After all, maybe my good feelings were enough for the both of us. Maybe I could bring her up a little. I was starting to feel a kind of sorry for her.

I ranted on. "You know, I never meet people who know about cross-stitch. I used to do a lot more of it, but lately I have been doing a lot of knitting! I love it!" That was it. The flood gate had opened. On the worst possible person in the room.

My favorite one. This admittedly took over a year to do, but it
has a nice mat and mahogany frame and will forever hang in
my kitchen!
I went on and on. And on. About how neat all the yarns were and the patterns and all the great stuff on Ravelry and the internet. I told her what I was making for my baby girl and how much fun all the learning had been.

If it were possible, she stiffened even more. Her body had been rising during my rant. Had I been paying attention to her body language, she might have seemed like a 10 foot tall and angry troll by now. Dark storm clouds could have been imagined gathering around her frosty hair, casting shadows and light like white and black clouds mixing up in an impending storm.

I was oblivious.

It was like she was waiting for me to be done. On purpose. Like she was using all my energy to gather her own, looking for a reason to be angrier than she clearly already was.

Upon my taking a pause mid story while talking about a new knitting shop in Portland called Twisted (new to me at the time), she struck.

"We HATE knitters!!"

I stopped, surprised. "WE?" Why would trolls hate knitters?

She went on, "At work, we are always, always talking about knitters and how they are always stealing away all the cross-stitchers! Then, once they get a taste of knitting, they always leave us!! They all say that knitting is faster!" She punctuated that last word with a bitter, drippy tone of slimy sarcasm. Then decided she would put the final touch on it all, repeating, "We HATE knitters!"

Stunned, I stared. She stared back. Her friends had abandoned her during the curious tirade. She and I were left. Standing in a tunnel. A tunnel of blackness. I thought I heard Deatheaters screaming in the distance.

She now towered over me. She was only about an inch taller, but somehow she was glaring down at me over her straight, pointy nose, and the hate was sliding off of it rapidly and onto me.

Hate. Strong word, I thought. Isn't hate one of those words reserved for only very special persons? I mean, for those enemies who you have known for years. Those people who you have fostered an extreme distaste for, slowly convincing yourself that they never have your best interest in mind, that their every deed is a misdeed, intended to slight you. That sort of animosity is very rare and can only come with the very careful crafting of those evil feelings, then linking them together bit by bit, and yard by yard until they become a tangled chain; such a complex entity in their own right that they are alive and begin to control the builder.

Apparently this woman had thought that all out. Carefully.

Knitters, as a group, were thieves, kidnappers even, perhaps even stealing away cross-stitchers in the night! Maybe even from the comfort of their own beds, only to leave their samplers behind them. Knitters were then outfitting these abductees with weapons, needles of a different sort. Needles, medieval and made of wood and steel--in her eyes to resist the existing and dying regime.

Yes, knitters were heading a resistance and committing guerrilla warfare to do so.  In her view, knitters thought of themselves as freedom fighters, deceiving the innocent cross-stitchers into thinking that they could have a better time--and a faster one--creating items not only for show but to wear and to keep their grandchildren warm in the winter.

And I had apparently converted to be a part of this evil group.

Of course, this is all silly. Perhaps in this woman's own little world, she really felt this way. I am not sure if her business was struggling, if her living was in danger or if she was just displacing her anger onto me from another source.

I do know this: I still love cross-stitch. It is a beautiful art and I have several pieces in my mental queue, alongside my knitting and sewing projects. And I love it on Antiques Roadshow when you see things like embroidery samplers from 8-year-old school girls from many, many years ago that are beyond the pale in intricacy and perfect detail. It strikes awe into one's soul to think what people can accomplish when they turn off the computer and television (after checking out Youtube for instructions, of course!). I wish I could have told this woman those things and that just because I had started knitting did not mean I would forsake my stitchery forever.

Alas, in those situations, one cannot say much of anything. We have to let it go. As for the angry woman, no skin off my nose. I have never seen her again. And though I would still like to go to her shop, I have been afraid to encounter her.

One thing is for sure: we are all crafters, no matter what our art. And I know that almost all of us admire one another and really enjoy learning from each other, even oftentimes crossing over our skills or learning new ones.

As my teenage boys say, "Don't be a hater!" And really, almost all of us are not. Aren't you glad? Like my friend Robyn has said when adults behave this way, "How old are we again?"

Happy cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting, embroidering, sewing....even shell art-ing to all of you! Keep our world creative--in every possible way!

Done for my daughter, Jo. I have a matching one for one of my boys.

August 25, 2012

Addiction, Aliens and a Knitting Frenzy

My new project: the one I thought
I could never do
I have a knitting pattern addiction. There. I said it.

I, like Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame, love knitting patterns. At last count on my Ravelry page, there were a total of 1,707 patterns in my library. And that doesn't include the books I have yet to add there, the hard copy patterns I have printed from sites other than Ravelry, or the pattern leaflets I have picked up at local yarn shops, yarn labels, or my mother's old stash.

Patterns. I love to read them, download them, print them (and buy ink at at Costco to do so), buy books filled with them (I recently had to dedicate a bookcase to them) and read them, read them, read them.

Since knitting itself as an activity is slower than all this collecting and reading (I just did a bit of math and realized that is an arguable statement--I may have to change my ways. But for this blog post, let's just go with it.), it stands to reason that I have a lot more patterns than completed knitted pieces.

I did not follow the pattern's pick up
instructions for underneath the cabled yoke.
Instead, I picked up only
what was there and did my own M1 increases.
For details, see my ravelry project.
I was contemplating this the other day and I realized something: most of my patterns, no matter their source, were collected early on in my knitting life. Those of you who read the blog may remember some of my accounts of maniacal yarn buying, most of which occured 2-3 years ago when I was a new knitter. Those same stories apply to patterns. Oh, I still collect them, but not nearly as voraciously as in the past. Why?

I don't believe I was preparing for some sort of yarn-a-geddon, where a Y2K-like event would occur such as this: aliens would suddenly appear on earth and steal all the sheep, goats, musk ox, cotton plants and tencel in the world because their world is depleted and they are sucking our resources to continue knitting their own selfish, cozy socks, leaving us with none.

In this scenario, yarn would become a scarce commodity that people would be killing each other for, just to make one more lace twin set before knitting became extinct. Unlikely. And boy, howdy, would those aliens rue the day. Want to see a woman scorned? Take away her fiber. And I don't mean her Activia.

No, alien fiber abduction was just not it. The same goes for a pattern disappearance scenario: giant termites/purple paper eaters from space are probably not coming to eat all the books, leaflets and trees--unless you ask Giorgio A. Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens, but let's not get off track too far.

The original design was a little to wide for me at the top,
so I added more picked up
stitches around the top of the yoke to create a ribbed crew neck.
Why did I buy patterns and yarn like they were going out of style? They certainly have not.

I pondered this at length recently, sitting looking through a few of my books.

I browsed the sweaters, the cowels, the socks. I do this all the time--often times to learn something about how a particular type of pattern works, or to find out how a fiber behaves and if I should use it, cross referencing different patterns. But that isn't the reason I formerly browsed my books.

 I used to do it to dream, to think of what I could make in the future once I was no longer feeling so intimidated by the patterns. As I looked through my books on this sunny afternoon by my favorite window, I slowly began to realize how many of the items I actually had the skills to knit now--and the yarn to do it with.

Then, one of the sweaters in a booklet, Bernat's Cold Front, caught my attention.  I had just been dying to make it a few years back. It was the Cable Yoke Sweater on page 11(the link is above). I had even saved several JoAnn's Fabric's and Michael's coupons over several weeks' time in order to buy the yarn on sale, then had stashed it away for that sweater--for that sweater in the future.  Back then, it had looked so complicated that I dared not try to knit it because I was sure I would ruin all the lovely yarn or have a wonky, unwearable sweater.

I read the pattern over and over. I saw that the pattern was nothing more than ribbing, a lot of picked up stitches and some great cables. By this time in my tiny place in knitting history, I had completed several socks. In fact, a lot of socks. How many times had I picked up stitches from a heel flap? More than I can count.

Energized, I got down to the business of trying out the sweater pattern.

I got out the needles--and one more 40% off coupon as I needed just one more circular pair--the previously purchased yarn from its Rubbermaid home, and got to work. I read other people's notes on Ravelry to check for errata, tips or tricks and found a few alterations that may have been needed.

Once I got going, the knitting really was pretty fast. The yarn was bulky and the pattern was pretty straight forward. I was able to make necessary fit alterations (if anyone is interested, they are here) and completed the project in about a week of knitting. Granted, it was a lot of knitting--I couldn't stop as I was too excited to finish--but it was still pretty quick.

Now I am planning to look at more of my patterns, and with new eyes. Not only are patterns great for learning new things going forward, but they are good for learning about where you have been, and where you are now, too.

Happy knitting and happy learning--alien free.

August 22, 2012

"ME!" ~Reese Witherspoon

My own design: Beadboard Beach Socks
"I never win anything." We all say that.

Yet, most of us also don't purchase lottery tickets, enter random contests (like the sketchy ones at the county fair...where strangers are asking for your name, address and the times of day you are not at home). Most of us also don't think much about entering legitimate contests, either.

For example, at the same county fair, absolutely anyone can submit their artistic works including photography, cross stitch, knitting, crochet, quilting...even food items or spun and dyed yarn. If we do these things, not only do we contribute to our communities and support the arts, we can also win something.

I have personally let these and other opportunities go by time after time, always saying, "Next year I'll do it," or "next time." Next time never comes. Until now.

Last March something possessed me. I was on Ravelry (oooohhhh...big shock....) reading along in some of the forums, and noticed something about a Martha Stewart/Lion Brand Yarn contest. I thought, hmmm...that might be fun. And for some alien reason, I actually clicked the link and read the information.

There was a contest for creating something from Martha Stewart's new line of yarn. The Grand Prize was 125 skeins of yarn plus a weaving loom, and the first prize winners--of which there would be 10, likely the finalists who would compete for the Grand Prize, I assumed--would receive a weaving loom. The final winners, the second place folks, 20 of them, would get a subscription to the Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

My first try with Debbie Stoller's 100% wool,
worsted weight yarn
In spite of my first thought that this contest was most certainly a marketing tactic to get people to try out the new yarn, and in spite of my next thought that it would be a lot of work to create something for a contest that I likely would not win, and in spite of my final thought that I make it a general policy to not throw my hat in such rings since I don't have much extra time, I decided to enter.

Those of you who follow the blog know what happened next.

Not only was I late to the party--er, contest--and I was also a newbie. (A newb, for those of you with gaming teenage boys. Is that mixing metaphors? Gaming/knitting? Both have grids, right? Oh, wait...that's Dungeons and Dragons. Mixing again...I digress...) I learned quickly that I had to hurry up and find a design to knit, purchase some yarn for it, actually knit the design and take photos of it, put in in the Lion Brand web site, etc.

Upon my first reading of the rules, I thought the design had to be original. Meanwhile, while I was completely wrong, I became engrossed in quickly coming up with a design that I though represented my home, would appeal to a Martha Stewart-esque audience and, most importantly of all, that I could do quickly.

I didn't see a lot of socks in the sample patterns for the new yarn line, so I decided on socks. After all, there was a merino yarn. There was, but not in the local stores here in Vancouver, Washington. After ordering the yarn I needed online (with a rush to boot), writing the pattern, practicing it with some "Stitch N Bitch" yarn (worsted wool), I was ready. The minute the real yarn came, I hit it hard.

Several sleepless nights later, it was done. A pair of socks. Photos shot, put on the site. Contest entered.

For about 5 months I waited. No contact about being a finalist. I thought, "ok, so I won't get 125 skeins of yarn. And probably not first place. Maybe there is a spot left for me in second place, probably not, but I do like the magazine." At least, if nothing else, I had two pairs of socks that I really liked.

During this time, I semi-obsessively checked the Lion Brand web site and after a while, I didn't know why I was doing it. I had gotten into a habit--like brushing your teeth before bed. 8 times. I couldn't stop. Every day, a few times at least--really like 15--I was looking for contest announcements. Then one day there was an announcement: winners would be announced on August 20, 2012.

On August 20th, I checked. Nothing. Next morning, I checked again. Nothing new. Then on August 21st at 4:05pm, I looked again.

There was the grand prize winner at the top! She had created a very cute baby set in crochet with chrysanthemums as the theme. I thought maybe that would be the only winner pictured. Then I saw some projects below the grand prize winner, the first prize winners.

I quickly did the math before moving on: 15 finalists-1 grand prize winner. 14-10 first prize winners. That left 4 that would fall into the second place category. 6 additional people would still be able to win second place.

I had hope. I scrolled down.

As I was speeding through the first prize winners, I did a double take. There was mine. My name was on the list of first prize winners. MINE. MINE!!

No way. My name was on the list.

I looked at the list again. I was at work. I squashed a squeak that tried to leave my lips. I wasn't really supposed to be surfing the internet. I coudn't stand it. I ran, silently waving my hands to my friends at the front desk. I began shout-whispering to them, pounding--quietly--on their collective desk. "I won! I won first place!! There are others, too, but I won!!!" My throat was dry. Who wins anything?! 

"What? What are you talking about?" My friend Linda was confused. I was still trying, and failing, to not cause a disturbance. I was whisper-squealing now, too many words were spilling out of my mouth at once and then all over the floor, out of order like in an impromptu game of 52 card pickup. Linda probably thought I was having a seizure.

I dragged her to my computer screen. I couldn't stand it. Linda had known about the contest, so my wild gesturing and scrolling around the screen said everything she needed to know. She understood. Her eyes grew wide. As she proclaimed her congratulations, words would still not come to me. I couldn't even figure out how I felt. I thought about my inhaler and wondered where it was.

Then I remembered Reese Witherspoon.

I thought of her character, Elle, in Legally Blonde standing in front of the newly posted list of candidates who had been accepted to a competitive internship at Harvard Law. She, the unlikely candidate, was on the list. She herself could not believe her eyes. She stood silently in a crowd of other students that were high-fiving each other, and talking loudly and excitedly about the list. Overwhelmed with feelings unknown to her (except for a bit of revenge that does not apply here) all she could say was one word: "ME!"

Knitting may not be Harvard Law, but Elle, I get it. I get the feeling.


Congrats to everyone who won and to everyone who entered!! In all seriousness, way to support art and creativity! We can't live successfully on this planet without it! Here is the link to the site where everyone's artistic endeavors can be found.

Happy, happy knitting, my friends,

Janelle of The Knitting Muse

August 8, 2012

The rest of the pattern....

The original sample sock
Hello, all! Well, the pattern is done and hopefully error free!!

I am linking to the new pattern here. It is a free pdf download on Ravelry.

Please direct all questions/errata to me in email at

This is improved heel flap. It was a bit off center
before, but is right on.
Happy knitting!

August 5, 2012

Fountains of Portland: Now Knittable!

I was looking over the "pattern" I wrote about a year ago called The Fountains of Portland. I was trying to convey the way I built a pair of anklet socks for myself for the practical use of others.

Since writing that pattern, I have been knitting several more new items--including several socks--and generally adding one more year to my now 3.5 years of total knitting time.

Well, it turn out that the Fountains of Portland pattern is well, un-knittable. Really un-knittable. It seems I fell into the pitfalls of not saying what I meant/not knowing how to convey the information needed/not knowing what the crap I was doing.

Do I now? Well, it's better than before. It's like I told a friend who recently asked me for help with her photography, "I'll try to help you out, but all I really know are the camera buttons."

I still feel new, but I am learning. I hope you all can forgive me if you tried to knit the sock pattern. The only consolation for me is that I know you would not have gotten past the ruffle, thus, hopefully limiting your irritation.

I have been working feverishly on the pattern. It is still an untested pattern, as it is free, but if you will all be so kind as to give me another chance, I will give you what I have. Please indicate any errors you find.

I have included 3 sizes this time, and I think it is a little better.

Here is part I:

The Fountains of Portland

I wrote this pattern for myself last summer when I became really sick and had to stay home from work for a while. It was right around the time before Sock Summit and I thought the pattern was an appropriate way to welcome fellow sock knitters to my hometown, Portland, Oregon.

It is a ruffly ankle-height sock, fashioned to resemble a lesser known Portland fountain called “The Carwash,” and my object was to give the effect of water flowing down the foot. The bobbles are a nod to our “Benson Bubblers” here, which are lovely, historical drinking fountains found dotted around the downtown area.

Size: Small (Medium, Large) women’s. Corresponding approximate measurements: 8” (9”, 10”) foot circumference.
Gauge: 8 stitches to 1 inch in stockinette and in fan pattern on size 1 needles, unblocked.
Yarn: 1 (2, 2) skeins Patons Stretch Sock Yarn. If substituting yarn, use a stretchy sock yarn containing elastic, approximately 239 (478, 478) yards.
Needles: Two 24” circular needles, size 1. DPN’s or one long circular (magic loop method) could be substituted if desired.
Construction: Top down.


The ruffle is worked in groups of 10, for every 10 stitches cast on, you will have 4 remaining after the decreases in the first round.

CO 150 (150, 170).

Carefully join work in the round, so as not to twist (this is a little tricky with so many stitches, but it gets much better once the ruffle gets started) Mark the beginning of the round.

Work ruffle as follows:

K10, then pass the 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th and 4th stitches over the 10th stitch. This creates little mock crochet shells. Do this 15 times. You will end with 60 (60, 68)stitches.

Next 2 rounds: Knit

Next round: Knit, decreasing evenly by 6 (0, 2) stitches. End with 54 (60, 66) stitches.

Eyelet Rounds

You may use the chart on page 3, or the written directions below.

Round 1: *K2, P1, K2, P1; repeat from * to end of round
Round 2: Repeat round 1
Round 3: *K2, P1, K2Tog, YO, P1; repeat from * to end of round
Round 4: Repeat round 1

There will be a total of 9 (10, 11) eyelets in the round. Repeat rounds 1-4, 2 times more, then knit round 1 one additional time. You will have 3 vertical “stacks” of eyelets. See photo above.

Next 2 rounds: Knit.

Bobble Rounds

Round 1: *Knit 2; MB, repeat from * to end, 18 (20, 22) bobbles made.
Round 2: Knit.
Round 3: Knit.

MB: Make Bobble Knit into the front, the back, and again into the front of the next stitch. Turn work to wrong side, K3, turn work to right side, P3. Holding the yarn to the back of the work, and using the stitches on the right needle, pass the second and third purl stitches over the first purl stitch. Bobble made.

Right now, your ruffle will seem a little loose compared to the rest of the stitches.  This is to be expected: that’s what keeps it ruffly!

Much more to come!

thanks for your patience!!

August 4, 2012

Dances with Wools

We spun a bunch of yarn. We thought it looked pretty cool. We took photos.
What do you do when your knitterly adult daughter comes to stay for two weeks while she is working in Portland? You squeeze in all the fiber your diet can hold. (In spite of all the eating out you may plan to do...after all, we do live in the land of food carts and coffee)

Jo, my grown daughter, stays with us periodically for various events, life stuff, etc. Whenever she comes to Portland, we have a great time eeking out ways to spend time knitting together, pouring over knitting book and patterns, shopping at knitting stores, or otherwise enjoying a wooly good time.

Sometimes it gets tough when we are all working, and this last visit from Jo was no exception. She was here working at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts as a dance teacher for a kids' arts camp. Regardless of the sparsity of our time while Jo was teaching modern dance during the day, we made time for a few dances with wools, no matter how few they were.

Pattern from The Joy of Sox book
This visit, we spent a bit of time in Portland and a few nights and mornings knitting on my little front porch on some cushy chairs. Jo brought a few projects and some tiny bits of yarn. The projects included a cabled scarf from Lily Chin's Power Cables, and one from The Joy of Sox.

The bits of yarn were things she did not know what to do with and included 3 colors of yarn she had used for various projects including some socks. She gave them to me. I thought I could save them with other sock yarn to eventually make socks or gloves in whatever stripes strike my fancy as I knit. But then I thought it might be cool to see if we could come up with something that would completely use up just one of the tiny balls.
Bits of magic

I thought a headband just the ticket.

So we took out the Walker stitch dictionaries, among several others and layed them all over the floor. We decided on one that is called Sea Foam in Vogue's stitchionary, but has other names depending on the writer.

It has a 2 pattern repeat over 10 stitches, but I wanted a triangle sort of shape with the pattern. So, I did a row with only one pattern and one with 2. In between those rows are 3 knit rows. The result is pretty promising, really stretchy. Good, since my head is huge. (No, huge. Like the kid in Mike Meyer's movie, So I Married an Ax Murderer.)

Stretchy is goooooooood
Jo and I fiddled with the headband a bit, but honestly, the time was too short. It is still not done, though it has been weeks. If I finish it, I will share the recipe.

As it is, the fun was over too soon. She is returning this week, however, for her 24th birthday and my dad's 81st birthday picnic. We may have to sneak away to some nearby trees and see if we can secretly spin some moss into gold. Or at least into yarn.

June 26, 2012

Monica: Help for a Heart Problem

....knitting help, that is. 

A while back I walked into a LYS here in Washington State with a couple of bucks just burning in my pocket. In order to keep them from catching my jeans on fire, I felt it was best to be rid of them, hence the yarn shopping. 

Upon entering the shop, my eyes were immediately drawn to a purple mohair stole in the window, positively glowing with morning sunlight passing through it. While I was tempted to begin humming to myself, "How much is that stole-y in the window?" I gathered my grown-up wits to the fore of my mind instead, and touched the angel like fabric. It was soft and very long. I very much like very long stoles, though at the time I had never made one myself.

It was exquisite. The pale, gossamer stole was lighter than air, it seemed, and it had delicate edges of eyelets surrounding dramatic Valentine style hearts that passed through the stole, like a heart-highway from end to glowing end. They were large. They were delicate. They looked complicated. 

Dismissing that last thought, I went on falling in love with the stole. It stole my heart. (Yes, I went there.) I had been shot through with Cupid's arrow. (Yes, I went there, too. ) 

I looked to the left of the window and saw a pattern. It was short. Really short. Like only a few directions, not even completely filling up 2 whole pages. Maybe it wouldn't be so complicated...

I asked a nearby employee if they had any of the yarn that was used for the heart stole project in the window still in stock. The abrupt sales woman, wearing thick eyeglasses--and an attitude to match--announced in a clipped manner that the project in the window was a meant for a class. I apparently would not be able to understand the stitches and methodology unless instructed in classroom fashion. 

Politely, I requested the yarn again, saying that it was okay if I didn't understand it, I wanted to try it. 

The first woman walked away, pushing her glasses back up on their nose-perch, which was becoming a bit slippery with...uh... frustration. Maybe Cupid should poke her. (I went there, too.) I turned my attention as another, more helpful woman came up from my other side, offering the yarn I had requested. 

"It only takes two skeins!" She said, proud to show that such a long stole could come from only two hanks of lovely, lovely, mohair and linen yarn.

I purchased the yarn, the forbidden class-pattern and headed home. 

As it turned out, the pattern for the heart motif was not intuitive. The instructions were a bit odd on first glance, and I didn't know what a cable cast-on was. Feeling stubborn towards the thick-glassed shop woman, I forged ahead. First time stole? Intermediate lace? So what? I snorted these things to myself unfounded independence. I looked up cable cast-on online, check. Then, time after time I followed the heart instructions until, at the most literal following, I got it. (Back then I didn't know about charts yet!)

I shared my "findings" on Ravelry, but I would like to share them here with you today, as some people might be feeling a summer stole coming on. 

The name of the pattern is Monica, and this link takes you to its home on Ravelry. 

How about a little information on the stitch pattern itself? The heart pattern is seen in Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting PatternsBook Three. Walker calls it a “variation” of the “honeybee pattern” in book two. The Variation Honeybee is on page 254 of book three, and the original can be found on page 273 of book two in the lace section.

Let's get on with a tutorial! It begins on row 6 of the Monica pattern. The set up to begin the heart is complete here.


 Upon entering the heart pattern section of row 6, you have your 5 strings all hanging down before you.  
 -That is, you have turned your work after dropping the final (5th) 4x’s YO 

-This means the right side of the work is now facing you and your working yarn is on the left side. 

-Cable CO 4 stitches on that left side, bringing the yarn back toward you before placing the last cable CO stitch onto the left needle. 

-Now, you are going to point your right needle down behind the dangling yarns, catch the working yarn and pull it back through away 
from you. 

-Place this yarn onto the left needle. 

-Between the yarn you just placed on the left needle and the last one of the prev cable CO, begin ANOTHER set of 4 cable cast on stitches, again bringing the yarn toward you before placing the last one onto the left needle. 

-Total stitches made: 9. 4CCO, 1 under the 5 dangling yarns, 4 more CCO. 

-Finally, you will turn you work back to the wrong side where you started these shenanigans and P1, K1. Heart done! 

May 21, 2012

And now, for something completely different...

After school today, my 12-year-old daughter, Annie was fooling around with the idea of a resume, or as she spells it, "reseme." At 12, this is not a very important concept, and a grand opportunity to make fun of the sometimes-too-serious grown-ups. 

I thought her effort was clever, though it will probably never get her that summer babysitting job she wants in order to earn money to put books on her Kindle Fire...

For your amusement, I bring you Annie's 

Warning: In our house, it is a rite of passage to view at least 3 episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in its entirety by age 5.  As I read Annie's reseme, I couldn't help but thinking of the opening credits to the latter. You know, the part with the fiesta music and some mention of Llamas? There. Knitting reference accomplished. Let's move on...


“I’m all out of love,
So lost without you,
I knew you were right believing for
So long”

Name: Anne E. S. Winner
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Favorite number: 11

Past jobs: Professional Asassinator, The terminator, Mc Donalds, Wolverine, Spiderman, the Hulk, Reporter, detective, and Darth Vader

SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Master of all Tarot cards, Professional assassin, Black belt in all martial arts, backwards walking champion, best person in the world, writer of many famous books, met William Shakespeare, became an overnight sensation, also a one hit wonder, killed a bear with own 2 hands, most attractive person in the world, also the most humble person in the world, Skilled hemp bracelet maker, rode a unicorn, hardcore camper, brought sexy back, attractive, Artist, fashion designer, back up lead singer  for Aero Smith, master chef in culinary arts, attractive, sweet genius winner, held breath longer than anyone in the Guinness book of world records, champion of  Chopped all-stars, attractive,  preformed heart surgery, Won the tour de France bicycle race, starred in Harry Potter as girl # 2, invincible, attractive, cross breaded a llama and unicorn creating a llama corn, #1 Adventure Time fan, survived without water for 6 months, attractive, created the revolution  against math being taught as a required class in school, created the acronym for F.A.C.E. (Filthy apes cause evolution), Won the super bowl as the quarter back for the Broncos, Confirmed the existence of cryptids(Big foot, Loch ness monster, Yeti,Chuba Cabra, Trained in CPR, attractive, ate 900 warheads in under a minute, caught a fly with chopsticks, burned asparagus out of hatred of asparagus, sang national anthem at a Phillies baseball game, traveled back to dinosaur times, voted scariest girl out of my peeps, tamed a tiger, eaten a live shark, attractive, swallowed a whole cactus, killed a man with a spoon, won a wrestling match, attractive, attractive, attractive, attractive……, and so on…….attractive, and attractive, makes the best bacon ever!, created a robot, signed the declaration of independence, and there’s a whole lot more that I just can’t type or my printer would explode in a fiery passion, but one more thing, attractiveJ

Education: Attended Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry

Why I want this job: What job am I applying for again?

Additional information: Help run the Maniac club, Work for the government spies, and defeated Voldemort (J.K. Rowling loosely based the Harry Potter series on my life when I was at Hogwarts)

Last comments: Did I mention I was attractive?

May 17, 2012

Two Slouches and a Pair of Thigh Highs

Jolene's legs in her stockings
While the title implies a promise for some very racy reading, you may rest easy and read on if you planned on momentarily being offended. If you stop reading now in disappointment, I promise that I, on the other hand, will not be offended.

You may wonder, if you read my last post, if I have been knitting through all this chaos in my house.

Yes, yes I have. In fact, when things are tough, I knit. When stress comes, I knit. When I am hungry, I head straight to the pantry, bypass the healthier foods and devour two pounds of Ruffle's potato chips.

But I digress...

I love knitting. In spring and summer I especially love it, even when it's hot. There is something about being able to be outside that makes me imagine those kept Victorian (or Regency Era, for you Jane fans, of which I am one) ladies who were well schooled--and skilled--in language, art and fiber arts.

A "hive hat," pattern courtesy of The Knitting Bee in Hillsboro, Oregon
I would love to make myself a Regency Era dress (and I swear I will do it one day) and sit under a tree like Alice in Wonderland (pardon the cross-referencing) on a sunny day. Instead of chasing rabbits, however, I want to knit all day, picnic, knit, have tea, knit get the gist of the fantasy.

I love outdoor knitting so much that my husband created a sitting area for me on the east-facing front porch where I could sit in comfort to my heart's (and schedule's) content and while away the hours knitting.

Annie showing her brother's hat. I guess I should make her one.
This spring so far, I have completed a baby sweater for a friend, a slouchy hat for my son's 21st birthday and a pair of 100% baby alpaca thigh high toe-less and heel-less stockings for my dancer daughter. I had leftover alpaca, so I made a hive-style slouchy to match.

What fun it is so far, and I hope to make so much more!! I still have my mind set on some more sock patterns. I am re-reading the Hobbit in anticipation of the first film, coming out in December. Let's see what happens next!

A Mother's Day to Remember

A spring Oriental Poppy in our yard. Change can be beautiful
We've been busy. Really busy. When you have a house filled with 6 children (not usually all at once, but I always think of the number alone as impacting. I like to say it: six.) you cannot avoid it, but this year it is especially so for us.

We have a toddler who is about to become a preschooler, a child finishing her first year of middle school, a child finishing his first year of high school, a child graduating high school, a child turning 21 and a child graduating college.

I like to joke that if you want to feel young forever, just keep having babies. It's not that simple. You need energy to stay young, too, and alas, there does not seem to be a limitless supply, no matter how much vitamin D and Gingko Biloba you take. When the subject comes up, I also like to joke that when we decided to have a child when I was 39 and my husband was 43, God looked down upon us and said something like, "You want a child at 40? Here, try this one." Even God must have had trouble holding back laughter at this joke. And He must have certainly snickered to Himself as he sent us little Amy Rose. Amy Rose. Who keeps us up night after sleepless night and then runs, giggling, away from us non-stop all day as she tears apart everything in her path. Amy Rose: A tiny, impish, adorable tornado of cute desolation.

Energy or not, time marches on. While that seems to be a favorite theme of my mid-life epiphanies, it simply is true.

Last week, as I checked out two potential preschools for Amy, and was simultaneously planning a trip to Seattle to see my oldest daughter graduate from college on Mother's Day, I contemplated this year of change. It is quite a doozy.

I marvel at it all. Amy talks in great, adult sentences at just 3. Alex is leaving home soon; Ben will be a senior in 3 short years. And Jolene, my 23 year old, graduated from Cornish College for the Arts on Mother's Day with a BFA in dance, cum laude and on 4 scholarships. (I'm not proud or anything...ahem!)

The good and the bad of it all; the ugly and the drama that comes with teens, or the precocious mischief that comes with toddlers, all ends (usually...hopefully not the mischief...if I have my way...) in adulthood. And while there are, of course, even more rites of passage through adulthood, this last year feels especially meaningful to me, like there is a crossing of all the paths at once. Sort of like the planets aligning.

It's a great time to see. To really see in our house. See the stages of life all at once, it seems. Even my parents come to mind. My dad turn 81 next month and it just increases the wonder. It feels like I have been given a map, unfolded it, and spread it out on a very large table. Between my three year old and older kids, my middle-aged husband, me, and my parents, we have at least one representative from every age group.

I plan to take it all in, enjoy it, hopefully receive insights and hindsights. Inspiration and direction.

As my daughter walked down the aisle after receiving her diploma to the beat of live African drum music, complete with costumed dancers (what do you expect from an arts college? It sure beat Pomp and Circumstance), I beamed.

I wept.

I am overjoyed even in difficulty.

I am glad to be alive.
Left to right: My mom, dad, Annie, me, husband Luigi behind me, Jolene to my left, Alex, then Amy Rose
in front. Geoffrey and Ben are not in the picture this time.