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Appreciation

I’ve given a lot of thought in my 5 years as a knitter to the hardly insignificant issue of appreciation. As a knitter it is wonderful to have an appreciative “giftee” around who truly loves receiving knitted loveliness from you. We all have them, and they are often easy to find. However, we also all have people in our lives who put on a badly faked smile while enduring the token try-on and say “wow…this is just what I have always wanted,” while really thinking, “Really? Doesn’t he know that you can buy socks for 2 bucks at Wal-Mart?”

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My girlfriend Michelle is a knitter’s dream. She proudly wears and shows off anything that I make for her. She loves that her boyfriend knits cool stuff for her, and that in turn makes me incredibly happy. In this pic she’s wearing a lace scarf that I knit her over the summer and a pair of cabled gloves I designed for her that include conductive thread so that she can use her iPhone without getting her fingers cold. She totally geeked out over both gifts, and that fuels my knitting addiction in joyous ways.

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My younger daughter is another one who has shown her appreciation time and time again. Here she’s sporting her Christmas gauntlets that she loves dearly and wears often. She also has a sweater that she rarely is seen without…an item I had knit for her rapidly-growing big sister who outgrew it before it was finished.

I have had some knitting projects go unused by the people for whom they were knit. I still occasionally think about the co-worker who emailed the staff enough pictures to make a grandmother want to vomit, and yet I never once saw the baby blanket that I’d spent 2 months knitting for said baby. Trust me, I was looking. A lot. At every picture she sent.

Now I do understand that hand-knitted garments aren’t for everyone (though in my biased opinion they should be). I don’t stop knitting for “newbies” out of fear that they will never wear the item that I invested my time and energy in. Not all knitwear will be hits, but those that are, like the socks I knit for my friend Georgia, will make it all worthwhile. 2 months later, she’s still raving about those socks.

Snow Day To-Do List

Yesterday was a wonderful gift. The school I teach in had a day off for snow, while my offspring had to go to school. This means I had a day free and clear, with nothing already scheduled and nobody to take care of but me. This is one of the few perks of teaching an hour northwest of where I live…this isn’t the first time such wonderment has occurred.

Here’s my snow day to-do list:

1. Take a hot, relaxing bath. CHECK!

2. Watch this week’s episode of my grandest addiction, Downton Abbey. CHECK! I have such a crush on Lady Mary.

3. Shampoo the living room carpet, whose nastiness was revealed to me two weeks ago by significantly lighter spots left behind after spot-cleaning some dog yack. CHECK! Even moved the recliner and shampooed under it.

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4. Super glue the little glass cat my daughter’s friend asked her to repair. CHECK!

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5. Bake yummy deliciousness that completely counteracts my running. CHECK!

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6. complete the base layer of the awesome Bearded Viking Helmet I’m knitting. CHECK!

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Sometimes you need a day to just get shit done. For me, yesterday was that day.

 

Miserablishness

Last week there was a professional development day for teachers in my district. This means kids got a day off and teachers didn’t. I usually look at professional days with considerably less sense of “ugh” than many teachers because I view them as good knitting days. Having finished a sock last night I vowed to make some serious headway on sock #2 while meeting with all of the other visual and performing arts teachers in my district to discuss assessment, evaluation, and other such fun and exciting topics.

After greeting some colleagues the meeting was about to start so I reflexively reached for my knitting bag to pull out the yarn I’d made sure to place in there earlier this morning. My heart sank with the sudden realization that I had left my needles at home!! Nooooooo!! When I finished sock #1 I had left the needles sitting on my end table.

The day’s plans were shot. The one thing I have to keep my sanity and focus during long meetings was gone. I spent some time on my phone looking for yarn stores close by, thinking maybe I could go out and buy some needles during lunch, but the closest one was at least 15 minutes away, and we had a stupid working lunch. I had to do something!  My old pre-knitting pastime of  doodling took over.

To say that I was miserable that day is an understatement. I was experiencing terribly intense miserablishness. I’ve gotten so used to relying on my beloved yarn and needles during a meeting, but this time I couldn’t. I had just been talking to my daughter that morning about my hope of knitting half a sock during the day’s meetings, and it ended up being a day wasted.

Since that fateful day I have now gotten to the heel flap of the sock, which I can’t show pics of yet in case the friend I’m giving it to reads this blog. I have a day off today and hopefully some time this week that I can finish it and move on to another of the bajillion projects I have in the queue.

On The Run

I just got home from running. I don’t know how far I ran, or even the length of time I was running, but I know that it felt good. While running the trails of Breakheart Reservation today I had loads of time to think about running, and the wealth of advice I’ve gotten and observations I’ve made on my own about this incredibly invigorating pastime.

My two most influential sources of running inspiration of late are from very different ends of the spectrum. I recently read “Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness” by Scott Jurek. Jurek has been running crazyass races for around 20 years, most of this time eating a vegan diet. He’s one of the best, the top tier of ultrarunners.

Megan crossing the finish line at her league cross country meet

The other source of running advice has been my 14-year-old daughter Megan. She has been running for a grand total of less than 3 months, since the start of her school’s cross country season, but throughout the course of that season has improved drastically, going from a 39:08 finish on a 2.9 mile course in her first race to a 31:54 finish at her 3.2  mile league meet. Most importantly, though, she fell in love with running, much as I did almost 2 1/2 years ago.

Based on the influences of these two wonderful runners, with bits of my own observations, I present a list of tips to all who may run, want to run, or like to laugh at those of us who run while sitting at their computers reading about such things.

  1. Time doesn’t matter. Speed doesn’t matter. Distance doesn’t matter. If you find enjoyment in the running, the rest will come.
  2. Run often. As crazy as life can get, find time to run. It improves your energy level, gives you time to think, and brings positive vibes into your life.
  3. Running on flat, paved, small loops is boring, unless your fabulous 11-year-old daughter is riding her bike alongside you the whole way…then it becomes much-treasured bonding time that you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
  4. Hills break up the monotony and add interest to any run, as well as challenging the runner. Just be careful on the downhill stretches, particularly on trails covered with slippery fallen oak and maple leaves.
  5. Dirt trails are awesome. They’re easier on the knees than pavement, infinitely more interesting, and usually more secluded and peaceful.
  6. Leave the iPod at home and spend time being tuned in to your body, your surroundings, your thoughts, and if you’re running with others, the people you’re with.
  7. Getting lost is sometimes okay. Usually when one runs he is never too terribly far from familiar areas, and getting slightly lost can provide extra exercise value and otherwise overlooked scenery possibilities.
  8. Drink lots of water! Bring a bottle of water with you so that you can hydrate throughout the run.
  9. Baby steps! Keep your stride short in order to lessen the impact on your joints and reduce the risk of injury and muscle strain.
  10. Moms and coaches always tell us to “walk it off” when you roll an ankle and they’re so right. Does a rolled ankle hurt? Of course. But within 2-4 minutes of starting to run on one today, the pain was gone.

Birth of a Sweater Baby

Sweater Baby, as it will always be known by me, began its life as a women’s turtleneck pullover. It was lovely and thick and warm. Its original name was Urban Aran and it hung out  in the now out of print Patons Street Smart pattern booklet.

Then along came a guy named Jared Flood. Jared lived in Brooklyn and LOVED to knit. He especially loved cardigans and anything with an interesting design. When Jared found the Urban Aran (as it is still known by most people) he had one simple question for it: “Why aren’t you a cardigan?”

So Jared set off on a journey to convert this lovely women’s pullover into a non-gender-specific zippered cardigan. Because Jared has knitting skills (and possibly OCD tendencies) beyond those of mere mortals, 20 days later he had a beautiful, finished cardigan for himself. Thankfully he was kind enough to share information on his modifications on his blog.

Here’s where I come in, 6 years later. I was hunting on Ravelry for photos of a different Jared Flood-designed cardigan, hoping to show my girlfriend Michelle what I was planning to knit soon. When, in the search, we stumbled across the Urban Aran Cardigan, I stopped the scrolly-thingy (yes, that IS the technical term) and we both instantly said, “Whoa! That’s it!” Though it wasn’t the one I had set out to find, it became immediately evident that this was the sweater I was looking for! I wanted, no, I NEEDED to knit and wear this amazing sweater!! After a little internet searching and a few bucks sent to a 3rd party Amazon seller I got the original pattern and was ready to apply Jared’s modifications to it.

I wish I could say it took me 20 days but it was more like 5 months. 5 months of fabulous cables and seemingly endless k2p2 ribbing. 5 months of Michelle plotting devious schemes to get her hands on this amazing sweater…we’re both in love with it. She refers to it as our sweater baby and she very much wants to be a loving mommy to it. Now that sweater baby is complete I am so happy with the result. It’s a bit heavy, which will work GREAT in the chilly months of New England. I did have to make one modification: I reinforced the shoulders and the back of the neck. Sweater baby is so heavy that it pulls on the neck ribbing a little too much, leading to the dreaded DSS: Droopy Shoulder Syndrome. I’ve gotten many compliments on the sweater, and am really proud of my first completed sweater for myself.


And yes, I did decide to let Michelle try it out. She said it’s like wearing a blanket.

Mr. Clark’s Day Off

Today could have been long and arduous, but was instead a hidden gem.

No, I didn’t do this:

I would have loved to, but my day was a more peaceful one.

It stared with a 6:51 train (we call that TDE: Too Damn Early) into the big, badass city of Boston, and a green-line train to the Family and Probate Court in Cambridge for my divorce hearing. Now, before you get the sad eyes like somebody just died (I’ve seen quite enough of those, thank you!) you must know that we haven’t lived together for almost two years, and for both of us the marriage was over a long time ago. This mainly signaled the end of the mountainous mass of paperwork. We showed up well before the prescribed time of 8:30 and waited for things to get going. When showing up for divorce court, it’s important to take the whole day off, as you don’t know if you’ll be first 3rd, or 15th with a major battle in front of you. For us it was quick, easy, painless, and I was out of there before 10:00.

Hmmm…free day in Boston. What to do with such a gift? Well, here’s what I did:

I enjoyed a lunch of some spicy Thai fast food chicken thingy on the Boston Common while watching the people walk by.

I heard a dude in the Public Garden playing a hurdy-gurdy. Coolest instrument ever!

I browsed some of the insanely expensive shops on Newbury Street and thought, “Shit, even if I had a lot of money, I don’t think I’d pay $450 for that jacket!”

I sat at a table in front of Ben and Jerry’s, knitting a luscious alpaca cabled scarf and enjoying some incredible ice cream.

I was mobbed by a small group of senior citizens at Oak Grove station asking me questions about the aforementioned scarf project. An old lady…that’s right, an OLD LADY was amazed by my complex patterning (she’d have peed herself if she’d seen these!). Yes, my friends, I have arrived!

I saw a real live midget on the bus and…I PROMISE I’m not even joking…laughed my ass off internally as I watched him get off the bus at the Short Street stop in Melrose. I swear I’m not making this up!!!

Having come home earlier than normal, I spent some good daddy time laughing and doing stuff with my younger daughter while the other one was at a friend’s house.

It could have been a hard day. It could’ve totally sucked. Many people’s divorce court days are, I’m sure, quite awful. For me it was simply a chance to finish a process and enjoy a gorgeous autumn day.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Call it a half-year hiatus. I posted a farewell to my blog readers on April 5th, and am glad I did. Life was busy (still is) and I felt I was drying up on ideas for blog posts. I was going through the motions, and needed a breather. But lately a lot of stories have been coming across my path, and I feel the itch to write again.

Where to start? How about with a random, incomplete list, in no particular order, of things I’ve been up to since April.

Good friends at the Dave Matthews Band concert. Amazing show!!

1. I got to see my favoritest (yes, favoritest is a word, or should be) band in the world, the Dave Matthews Band at the Comcast Arena in Hartford, CT in May. Fantastic show, and some fans even made a high quality dvd of it so I can relive the whole show!

2. Began a 3-summer-long quest to earn my Master of Music Education degree at Gordon College in Wenham. Great program. Intense workload for the summer. Lots of knitting in class. Somehow, one professor never noticed the knitting until 3 weeks in.

3. Tried and failed once again to train for a half marathon. Grad school workload sucked the time and energy away from any plans for a regular running schedule.

4. I began my second year at Crocker Elementary School while my daughters, Emily and Megan, have begun middle school and high school, respectively.  I’m almost used to the idea of having a kid in high school. All three of us love our schools!

Megan finishing her first home meet

5. My love for running has been passed to Megan, who has joined the cross country team at her vocational high school and is having a blast with it.

6. My love for music and knitting has been passed down to Emily, as she has taken on the alto sax in school band and has become obsessed with knitting little critters, mainly owls. In all fairness, Megan played in band and knows how to knit too, just hasn’t done so recently.

7. Traded in my car for a new (to me) car…lower payments, still very efficient, and I love it!

Lace…yummy!!

8. In knitting, I have completed 4 pairs of socks (one of which I was working on when I quit blogging), begun and completed a lace scarf (not for me), and begun and almost completed a bigass ribbed/cabled sweater. More on that later.

9. I have extended my career of working with little kiddos into my Unitarian Universalist church, and am teaching a PreK and K Montessori-based “Spirit Play” class. So fun!!

…and lots of other things, some of which you’ll hear about later, some of which stay with me. Most importantly, life has eased into a nice rhythm that makes me happy to be alive each and every day. I have incredible family, friends, and colleagues, and a generally positive flow to life that is FABULOUS! Time to kick it back into gear, folks. Let the stories begin again!