Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Do you ever browse for apps? I have to admit, I never had, until one day about a month ago when I ended up in the App Store for some reason and found the “best new apps” section. One small graphic caught my eye and when I read the description I was even more intrigued.
The app is called Lift. Here is a blurb from the Details section:
Lift works through positive reinforcement. If you can do something once, we can help you do it three times. If you can do it seven times, we can help you turn it into a habit. When you join Lift, choose habits that are most important to you and then set yourself the goal of making it through seven days. We’ll help you take it from there.
What the heck, I thought, I’ll give it a try. I’m not sure I’d say I need to change any habits per se, but I thought it would be interesting to use this to set goals to get certain things done. I downloaded the app and signed up.
You can set goals for yourself in Lift. You can search goals or activities that are already in the app (9,865 have the goal to “Make Bed,” 52,476 people have the goal of “Meditate” and interestingly only 18 people have the goal to “Knit every day”). Or you can add brand new goals. I made up “Write a 100 word story” and “Eat a piece of chocolate.” I added existing things like “Call my dad” and “Read the New Yorker” and also things like “Spend time outside,” “Write for 30 minutes,” “Zumba,” and “Stop and enjoy life.”
Another thing you can do is view recent accomplishments of other people in the Activity feed. You can give “Props” to people for their recent activity, and you can follow people if you have other friends on Lift or find random folks who seem interesting. (One criticism I have is that if you “follow” someone, you only see their feed and not the random public stuff anymore. I like the random stuff so I've not been able to “follow” anyone. Oh well.)
You can also see a summary of what activities you have accomplished and how many times you've accomplished them (I have been to the gym 16 times!).

Some observations about Lift:
  1. It’s actually interesting to see what people decide is important in their lives and how often they manage to accomplish it. Someone posted this 9 minutes ago: “Eat Fruit for the 33rd day in a row! (Pear).” Or this from 18 minutes ago: “Learn something about growing food for the 2nd day in a row! (“Look at them grow! And it’s only day 5. See that cress compared to yesterday!)” And this 19 minutes ago: “Sleep by midnight for the 25th time (11:59 whew)." Some entries are quite poignant – lots of people try to be grateful for something every day (I saw one earlier by someone who was grateful for his grandfather’s overcoat – so sweet!)
  2. Some entries are just TMI. I won’t point any of those out.
  3. You could argue that both points 1 and 2 are all just TMI. Is Lift just another forum for the self-obsessed culture we've become? Does anyone really give a damn how many times I sit down to knit?
  4. I'm not sure what my answer to #3 is. But I do know that when I look at my own activity, I am somewhat disappointed by the infrequency with which I accomplish things I consider important. Since I joined Lift, apparently I've only “Spent time outside” once (I don’t count going to the mailbox) and have only stopped to “Be grateful for something or someone” 7 times. At the very least this helps me see how I use my time and it does make me more aware of what I’d like to focus on. I’ll go have a piece of chocolate while I post this to TMS and then I think I can check off 3 more activities in Lift today.


Friday, October 4, 2013

get thee to a knittery!

Fall is upon us!

Leaves are turning color. Warm days give way to nippy nights. It is that time of year, when the itch to knit become irresistible – and our LYS is there to help us (but certainly not to cure us!)

This weekend, October 4, 5, and 6, East Coasters can participate in the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl 2013 (information here). Bushels of luscious colors and textures await, with some pretty nice discounts and special events at the 15 participating LYS!

My local LYS – The Island Yarn Company –  will have a prize jar, sample sale, free patterns, a teach-in (Gayle will demonstrate the Mobius cast-on and cowl), and local sourcerers:  designer Rachel Henry with A Hundred Ravens will bring out some gorgeousness on October 5, and October 6, Kate from Harrison Wheelworks will spin in-store as well as bring a stash of handspuns for the Crawl -- you'll get first dibs!  

For those of you in the Tulsa area, you absolutely must check out Loops – both Utica and South.  Rumor has it that this weekend the Utica store will debut the first skeins of Loops' own Private Label fiber.  And everyone has a standing invitation to come and pet the yarn!

While researching today's post, I scanned the back entries in The Island Yarn Company blog and ran across a moving ode to the community LYS create.  It is worth a read .  Sure, we can get cheaper stuff on-line – but when was the last time a website actually cared about your dropped stich or guided you through a sticky pattern?  LYS are the heart-blood of our craft.  They deserve our support.

So make the time this weekend and Get Thee to a Knittery, Go!

Recent Projects

Monday, September 9, 2013

who AM i???

Well… this summer didn’t go at ALL as I had planned. My initial thought is: Darnit!
I didn’t get to go to Belize. My Southern California vacation got cut short. And the worst part of all – I have had to stop knitting and crocheting!!
Oh this is just so frustrating y’all. I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s not like I have a lot of time to knit these days but a girl always likes to have the option, you know? And now…nothing.
I have tendonitis in my right thumb. I did it to myself by making a series of pen drawings and holding the pen too tightly. And then I made it worse by not stopping the repetitive motion of knitting/crochet before really messing it up.
I think there’s still hope that someday I might get it back to “normal” – but for now I can’t bend it and I’ve been banned from some of my favorite hobbies. 
I've visited the doctor and the acupuncturist. And like I said, I’m still a bit hopeful that someday I’ll be able to get back to normal stuff. But in the meantime, it’s caused me to reevaluate things, at least on a short-term basis.
I have defined myself as a knitter for a very long time. I am a knitter. A Yarn-Bomber. A Fiber Enthusiast. But now all I can do is look at my stash longingly and then glare at my immobilized thumb menacingly.

Who am I if not a knitter?

Being forced to ask myself this question over the summer has actually been beneficial. I have had to look at things a little differently – due to my injury, and due to the various family circumstances that interfered with my vacations. And here’s what happened.
1.  The Boyfriend and I have decided to move in together. This is fabulous news! Life is short and why not shack up with the most awesome guy ever. I am going to rent out my house, and move in with him, and then we’ll do some remodeling. I’m really looking forward to making a home with this person. The process has begun.
2. I recently remembered that I have a Cricket Loom in my closet. I bought it a few years ago and my Dad kind of showed me how to use it once, but I got frustrated quickly and it was at a time when my mom was sick and my attention span wasn't the greatest. However, I’m very interested in weaving some art pieces with all the weird scrap yarn I have (and Aunt DXZ gave me some fun things to weave with too – thanks Aunt!)
3.  I also remembered that I sort of liked sewing. Not clothes or anything – that stuff is too complicated for me. It’s like you need to know Geometry to sew clothing. I’m out. BUT – I’m interested in making some other practical things, like cloth napkins, or table runners and also I’m interested in the technique of quilting. I don’t want to make any granny-type traditional quilts – but rather more free-form things, or more modern designs with big blocks of color or something.
4.  Last weekend I bought a beginner’s Cross-Stitch kit. I kind of stink at cross-stitch to begin with, and the fact that my eyes are getting weird (read: OLD) and my “multi-focal contacts” still can’t get close-up focusing right – these things are not in my favor so cross-stitch might not stick, but I was desperate. Desperate for something yarn-ish.
5. I thought I had given away my mom's knitting machine, but I didn't! I did, however, accidentally throw away part of it... so I'll have to see if it's something I can order separately otherwise I'm still out of luck. But maybe a knitting machine can be manipulated even while wearing a thumb brace...!?

The amount of planning and coordination and time involved in Point #1 means I haven’t had time or space to really investigate Points 2, 3 or 5. But they’re on the radar! And Point #4 – well, we’ll see how that goes…
So, I have lots of things to look forward to and lots and LOTS of things to do. I’ll be careful not to make my thumb worse as I try to get all this stuff done.
It’s nice to know that even though things don’t always turn out the way I want them to, things can still be OK. Plus, I might just discover some more things that I really enjoy doing, But I’d still like to be able to bend my thumb.

And I may not have gotten to spend as much time as I’d have liked on the beach this summer. But that’s OK. Maybe I’ll take this Friday off and go to the Mall.


Thursday, August 8, 2013


It is easy to admire the great knitters of the past. They made all the warm clothing for their families, kept creative fires burning, invented all the great decorative stitches, and passed on the love from parent to child.
But some knitters just take the cake.  I was reading Social Life in Old New England and this story just lept off the page:
“Sammy Samples and Elizabeth Allen of Manchester, Massachusetts, were aided in their wooing by a dream, which came to him in Scotland and to her in her New England home.  She . . . was in “meeting” when her lover first clapped his eye upon her . . . . she made no difficulties. Later, when left a widow, Elizabeth married Colonel Crafts of Revolutionary fame and kept a thriving inn. 
"Even then hers was an adventurous and colorful life.  Once, when sailing on a packet to Boston for her supplies, and improving her time by knitting, the sail of her craft veered suddenly and she was plunged into the sea.  Tradition says she still kept on knitting and took seven stitches under water before being rescued.”
(Mary Caroline Crawford; Boston, Little Brown, and Company, 1914. Library of Congress http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001261680

Elizabeth Craft, no question: you win the Intrepid Knitter Award for all time!
Ms. Craft's story is an object lesson in focus, centeredness in adversity, and the fully female trait of having to get things done regardless of cost to self.  A word to the wise, Elizabeth: It is ok to call for help.
Willingly will I “improve” my time with knitting; but don’t count on me to do it underwater. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

my summer knitting projects, part III

I was supposed to go to Belize for a week. To a nice resort. Paid for. This was supposed to be last week. But, due to family illness, we’ve had to postpone the trip. I am sad about this – partly for the illness of the family member, of course, and partly because I was really really really looking forward to going.
I’m not a big traveler, but the thought of sitting here for a week sounded simply sublime!

I was going to bring a book, a notepad/pencil, a swimsuit, and a knitting project. Well – maybe it will still happen…

Until then, I’ve had to get on with my summer. Last week I stayed home for 3 days instead of going to Belize. A staycation can be nice too, but you often get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, even if you’re not at work. Like dishes, laundry, doctor appointments, grocery shopping… you know how it goes. So I did all that. But, I also did find a little time for some stitching!

About a month ago, I sat down and taught myself how to crochet a granny square. I’ve never been good at crochet but I was tired of looking at those cool granny squares and letting everyone else have all the fun. So now – I’m a granny square crochet MACHINE!

With the help of my good friend Sherri, I picked out some yarn and started to crochet squares for a throw for my couch. OMG these little things are addictive. I don’t get to work on it quite as much as I’d like, but I’m making some progress:

From granny squares it wasn’t long before I Googled “log cabin crochet” and found my next blanket project! I like symmetry and linear designs so the Log Cabin thing really appeals to me. I ordered the yarn last weekend but have promised myself I won’t start on it till I finish the granny square project…
And then Sherri showed me a little poncho she was working on, crochet of course, and I thought hmmm, wouldn’t that be a nice present for my friend in Japan who just had a baby… so I ordered yarn for that too…
The projects are stacking up! But that’s OK. Sometimes it’s a nice feeling to have lots of things you’re excited about making. You may not get all the ironing done, but that’s OK!

And it’s OK that I didn’t make it to Belize. Yet.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

moving a mountain with a teaspoon

O.K., so here is the problem: the desire to finish many projects right away, and the compulsion to knit round the clock – or not at all, because I’m just overwhelmed, guilty, and late. Perhaps I bite off more than I can chew; perhaps it is a matter of perspective.

Whatever it is, I detest the feeling of a knitting deadline hanging over my project. I detest kicking myself or pulling all-nighters to finish something up. I detest the procrastination that pools around patterns I must adjust before knitting the next section (it always feels like swimming in mud).

Yet: I love knitting. I love mastering that new turn or corner. I love it when the pattern adaption works out. I love wrapping a new pair of socks in tissue, and the anticipation of smiles when unwrapped again.

Talking with Ace, I threw out the idea of goal-less knitting. “What do you mean?” she asked. I couldn’t quite tell her; after all, the finished project is always the goal. A better description of what I mean is stress-free knitting, or non-deadline knitting. Then the project seems to stay fresh, and fun.

Recently I promised my husband to knit some socks for his friend’s birthday. I have knit enough socks to know this will take me about 16 hours on US1 needles. The socks must be done by September 2. Plenty of time – or not?! The first week saw the cast on and the deliberation over frogging it all or living with a tiny imperfection (live with it). Then panic sets in!  The weather is too hot, I’m busy, life happens, good-grief-am-I-going-to-finish-in-time! I knit faster, longer, harder – to the point of straining my hand. Then I have to rest, and feel guilty. The sock project goes into stall.

Project management is a component, to be sure, but who wants factory hours for something that is supposed to be fun?  I’ve made a mountain out of a mole-hill, and now have to move the mountain!  Time to step back and breathe.

We all remember that ant and the rubber tree plant. Persistence and patience. Twelve hours of knitting left and 8 weeks to do it in works out to about seven minutes of knitting a day! I am starting to relax already.

Seven minutes a day I can do. Picking up some good books-on-CD at the library, I can do more than seven minutes a day (but only if I want to). The socks again take on an organic rhythm. I might even get them done “early” and have time to finish the self-indulgence sweater. Not fast. Not in a superhuman burst of frenzy. Just quietly, a little bit more each day. Now the color comes back into the picture; yarndorphins kick in; we can certinaly move this mountain – a teaspoon at a time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

my summer knitting projects, part II

June is a busy month for the avid stitcher! I’m occasionally avid, so I was somewhat busy…

First came my TV appearance on June 4th, on a local news station’s morning show. You can view it here – watch me teach a TV personality how to yarn bomb!
It was a lot of fun to film and honestly, it made me wish I could do more things like this. I’m not sure that a mid-life career change to tv/radio personality is in the cards for me, but I’d do more if I could!
June 8th was International Yarn Bombing Day! I worked for several weeks trying to knit straight pieces on a small circular knitting machine to prepare for the event.  I say “trying to knit” on the circular machine – it looked more like I was fighting with it and if you had heard me cursing while trying to learn how to use it, you would agree…

I know it would be nice to say everything had been hand-knit, but this time around I opted for quantity over quality. And I’m glad I did, because even with all my fervent wrestling with that thing, we still didn’t end up with as much material as I would have liked.
We decorated at Guthrie Green, in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa. We had gotten their permission to do it – I think they were pretty excited to have us do it. We put up some round tube-like pieces on some steel posts, and stitched some flat pieces to a bunch of white poles. The result was awesome! Sadly, someone stole the tube pieces, but the rest was intact, at least for a few days…

And, as you read in DXZ’s previous post, June 8-16 was World Wide Knit in Public Day. Yarn Bomb Tulsa hosted a Knit in Public Day event at Guthrie Green. We had quite a few people turn out – it was a lot of fun! The weather wasn’t too hot, especially if you found a tree to sit under, like I did. Sadly, I STILL got sunburned! It was a lot of fun and I’m sure we’ll try to make it an even bigger event next year.

Now I’m just doing some relaxing and working on a few other projects and planning for a few vacations… so stay tuned for more Summer Knitting  updates!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

World Wide Knit in Public Day: June 8-16, 2013

Sometimes a day feels like a week - and sometimes it IS a week.  World Wide Knit in Public Day begins today (June 8) and lasts until June 16, 2013.

A quick look at the Massachusetts listings on the  World Wide Knit In Public Day website place all the celebrations outside MetroWest in the exurbs, so I decided to do a little local sleuthing, poking around my LYS trying to find out how each will celebrate.  

The Island Yarn Company returns to Waltham’s roots, leaving their snug shop at 85 River Street in Waltham, MA, for historic Moody Street, home of the Industrial Revolution and some significant advances in textile production (read about mechanical genius Moody here: Wikipedia - Paul Moody, Inventor).  

Knitters after my own heart, The Islanders are heading to Margaritas Restaurant about 6 p.m. tonight (June 8) to sip beverages on the outdoor patio and knit in public.  There may be a repeat on June 15; drop on by Margaritas to see.  If the Islanders are absent, well, start your own event! 

Elissa’s Creative Warehouse (220 Reservoir Street, Needham Heights, MA) hasn’t posted an event, but welcomes fiber artists of all levels and stripes at their many classes.  There was even talk of letting knitters KIP in their sale tent, so keep an eye on their website.  Better yet, drop in and prepare to be overwhelmed by their stock (and the knitting skeleton badges -- super cute!)

Gather Here (370 Broadway, Cambridge, MA) is another favorite store that hasn’t posted a specific KIP event -- but do they have to?  This knit, stitch, and crochet shop is well stocked, provides workshop space and sewing machines, has super helpful and friendly staff, and hosts a full calendar of community drop-ins, paid classes, and special “artist-in-residence” events.  They cater to all crafts, ages, and levels, and have a mission to be one of the beating hearts of the community.  Well worth the trip to Cambridge -- I love this store.

Wild & Woolly Studio (7A Meriam Street, Lexington, MA) is having a celebration of sorts, but not the kind we really want to see -- our local Lexington yarn store is closing its doors after 34 years.  Through the end of June, they are holding a liquidation sale.  According to their press release, “The entire contents of the store will be for sale, from the thousands of yarns, needles, patterns, books and hand-knit garments to the furniture and store fixtures.”  It is like a death in the family when a fiber source goes dark.  But the stash-hound is already waking up -- what an opportunity for new knitters to find quality fibers, and old hands to further stuff their closets!

This isn’t an exhaustive list -- but I’m exhausted.  TIme to grab the knitting bag and an adult beverage.  

Happy Knit in Public Day,  everyone - and Celebrate for a week!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

my summer knitting projects - part I

Spring has definitely sprung.
This is Oklahoma though – which means Spring actually sprung for about 10 minutes last Tuesday, and then skipped straight to summer. And so what is one to knit over the summer months? It’s hard to get motivated to work on a nice warm scarf when you are sweating through your undergarments, know what I mean?
So here is what’s on my knitting calendar right now.

June 8th is International Yarn Bombing Day!
As you may recall, yarn bombing is basically street art, with yarn. Yarn bombing has been growing in popularity since about 2004 and the very first IYBD was held in 2011 (if you’d like to learn more you can search for their FaceBook page or check out Wikipedia). The event is intended to bring more attention to this type of art form.

June 8th through June 16th is World Wide Knit in Public Day!
Why does one day last a week? So that everyone around the world can fully participate! According to the WWKIP web site (www.wwwkipday.com) there were over 700 events in 2009. I don’t know how many are scheduled for this year, but you can search their web site to see if there’s one near you. Tulsa is going to have one! (you can check it out here).

Our local yarn bombing group, Yarn Bomb Tulsa, is planning an event that will celebrate both of these events. On Sunday June 9th, there will be a WWKIP event at Guthrie Green, a wonderful new public space just north of Downtown, in the Brady District. It will be from 12-2 and everyone can come out and stitch while enjoying the festivities at GG. There’s a Sunday Market, live music (courtesy of Horton Records that afternoon at 2:00) and food trucks! Loads of fun, I say.
Sometime before Sunday’s WWKIP event, word has it that Yarn Bomb Tulsa will be “decorating” the Guthrie Green area. So, you never know what you might see…

How does all this translate into actual knitting for me, you may wonder… well, I’ve been busy trying to knit pieces to put up for IYBD. While enthusiasm runs high in the group regarding the scope of our projects, the interest in donating supplies and / or time does not. So I find myself with a pile of cheap yarn and a borrowed Addi Express circular knitting machine.
It took about 127 tries before I finally got the hang of knitting a straight piece… now I just need to crank them out and stitch them together.
Let’s see, we want to cover at least 8 posts, each one 36 inches tall, 20 inches around… that’s at least 40 pieces. Then we want to cover some hand railing, maybe 6 pieces at 30 inches long…

At least I can watch stuff on my computer while I go!

Someday I’ll want to knit something for myself made out of something other than leftover blechy acrylic yarn. But for now – Art takes precedence. Let’s knit this town.

Shameless plug: Also, word has it that Yarn Bomb Tulsa will be featured in June’s Tulsa People magazine, and it’s also possible that I will be going on the local news in the next few weeks – I’ll be demonstrating a short DIY craft project and also promoting our WWKIP and IYBD projects. I'll keep you posted, so you can tune in and learn how to yarn bomb a light post…


Sunday, April 28, 2013

spring shearing

Spring comes, and we all shed our pelts to bask in the sweet air and warming sun. Sheep too, with a little help, as we saw at the 26th Annual Gore Place Sheep Shearing Festival.

Gore Place, built 1806
Fair Day for a Fair
Using hand-forged manual shears, this veteran of sheepshearing contests shows us how it is done:

Ewe gives up her winter coat

Fipped to her back, the ewe went entirely limp, relaxed, and a I swear, smiled!  The Mindful Sheep took note that this might be a sustainable survival response to life's backflips -- and that the result might be to feel lighter, cooler, more comfortable in our skin!  Certainly a good thought after last week's surreal stressfulness.

Relieved of her fleece, the ewe happily rejoined the rest of the sheep, who were stylin' in their new crewcuts.

Spring Lambs

Being a festival of sheep and wool, there were herding demonstrations, spinning wheels, sheep products, and all manner of fiber crafts, as well as re-enactors of scenes from the American Revolution, Morris Dancers, local bluegrass and string bands, gardening demonstrations, assorted hand crafts from fudge to beeswax to wooden toys, and lots and lots of food! A grand time was had by all.    ~DXZ

Herding with border collies 

Put on the brakes!

hand spun, dyed, and knit!

Fleece, roving, wristlets

Hat, gloves .......

and felted sheep!

Friday, April 19, 2013

knitting for peace

The juxtaposition is mind-boggling.  City in complete lockdown.  No traffic on the high street.  There is complete silence, save for birdsong and the sound of the river. Then police sirens split the air, streaming east, towards Watertown, toward Boston.

Pretty much the whole world has heard about Monday’s horrific Boston Marathon Finish Line bombings(April 15).  By Thursday evening (April 18), photos of Suspect 1 and Suspect 2 had been released by the FBI.  A few hours later, police were chasing them.  Early this morning, Suspect 1 is dead, and Suspect 2 is on the run.  

We got the word about 6:30 a.m.: Stay home; stay inside; all business closed, all transportation halted. The latest report: as the suspects fled from robbing a convenience store, they may have dropped pipe bombs in the street.  There are an estimated 10,000 police, FBI, and military personnel on the ground.  Twenty blocks of Watertown - two miles from here - are under house-to-house search.

Cautiously, taxis have been allowed to start moving about Boston proper.  Hopefully they are taking stranded commuters home. Conditions can change at any time.  

It seems appropriate that this manhunt is taking place today, the actual anniversary of the Shot Heard Around the World, what we in Massachusetts celebrated Monday as Patriots Day (and the running of the Boston Marathon).  What surprised the British at the battles of Lexington and Concord was that the farmers fought back; that what should have been an easy display of superior force was routed and chased back to barracks in Boston.  

The British of the day had underestimated the determination and unity of the people of New England, a determination and a unity that lead to the American Revolution and the formation of a new country.

These two brothers have also underestimated New England and America. There is no doubt that the remaining brother will eventually be found; that fear will not rule the day; that speculation will not demonize the innocent.

The Mindful Sheep has been silent for a while as we slogged through the last weeks of Winter and waited impatiently for Spring.  Part of that time was spent watching the PBS documentary on the life of founding father John Adams . I had not known that Adams defended -- and exonerated -- the British soldiers accused of firing on civilians during the Boston Massacre. What a precedent!  Bostonians not  only having the “audacity” to act as an independent civil court against “the Crown” -- but also seeing that truth came out, justice was done. The rule of law (rather than the rule of kings) was a sea-change of profound consequence in the 18th Century.

So I think about the American Revolution, and John Adams, and two young men, lost and confused, and pray for the rule of law to prevail.  I have to break away from the news from time to time. The chaos, the waiting, the lack of information becomes overwhelming. I breathe deeply, pick up some knitting.

Knitting.  On a day like this.  What am I knitting for?  Well, what do we knit for?  Generally, for others.  To make them happy.  To give them comfort. Each stitch becomes that prayer, for the injured, the caretakers, the police; and yes, for these tragic young men.

Today: I’m Knitting for Peace.

Update at 6:25 p.m.
Safe at home, 3 miles from the “action.”  Sun is setting, lockdown is lifting.  Nothing yet resolved. Suspect 2 still on the run. Has he slipped the loop?

Update at 7:59 p.m.
“Fresh gunshots” and here it goes again.  Pops and bangs, sirens on the street.  Local news having a heyday.  This is about people, people.  Not some James Bond movie.  Peace.

Update at 9:28 p.m. 
Over.  Raining now.  Even the heavens weep exhaustion, relief, sorrow for this whole long week.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

two years...

Wednesday March 13th is the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death. In some ways it seems like just yesterday, but if I really stop to think about it, I’ve come so far since then…
In December of 2010, my mom, my dad, my aunt and uncle and I began a pilgrimage. This journey brought us all together and has bound us to each other in a way that can’t really be described.
My mom started a new pilgrimage on 3/13/11 – the four of us still travel together on this one.
Two years down the road, things look so different. Somehow, things are much more peaceful. And we have the feeling we are on the verge of something new. Like the coming spring, we can feel something in the air. Who knows what that could be...
But for today, we look back for a moment.  Here are some words that we put together – each of us reflecting on this two year anniversary. Thank you Jan, Deepti, Michael, Monika. I love you all so very much.


In memory she can be many persons, so who I write about today may say more about me than about her. Who am I remembering just now? Over the past several days as I thought about what I might write on this second anniversary of her death, distinctly different women came to mind.
First, her name, Monika is a right and proper name for a Saxon girl, but she preferred Monique, a name she was given while working in Switzerland. I always preferred Monika as being more ‘authentic’, though Monique having one less syllable is easier to pronounce.
As I am feeling today, the most significant gift Monika offered in our relationship was her joy in and commitment to ceremony, something that was quite ‘foreign’ to my Sunset Beach loner upbringing.
For me, the most meaningful example of her joy and commitment to ceremony was her celebration of Advent. Early in our marriage she asked to make a little table stand for an Adventskranz. The stand had a star shaped base with a 16 inch mast. I painted it a warm off red. Monika would then suspend, by four red ribbons, the Krantz made of fir branches. It hung as a wreath, parallel to the table just above the base. On the Krantz she would secure four white styrene candles, and at the top of the mast she placed a little painted angel, a German folk art angel made of turned wood.
On the first Sunday of Advent Monika would set the table with a folk table cloth, the Adventskranz in the center with the Adventskalender nearby, set out two coffee cups on saucers (not Meisen though)and brew a pot of coffee. When the coffee was ready, the first of the four candles would be lit and we would sit down and enjoy the atmosphere. She would have stories to tell of other Advents, and at some point we would punch open the first day of the Adventskanender and share the chocolate that had been hidden inside.
The ceremony/ritual was repeated on the remaining three Sundays of Advent with successively more candles being lit. (The Kalender chocolate was a daily ritual in itself.)
Before meeting and marrying Monika, I had never realized that one might actually pause, and take the time to sit down to consider and enjoy a fundamentally religious celebration with another person. And since our divorce, I believe the only occasion in which I have sat with others to consider something fundamentally human was with her daughter, brother and sister-in-law as we celebrated her death.

A Tribute to my Sister
When I entered the world, it had already been discovered—by my sister. She was born a year before me. The adults were not really present. My father had his knee-caps shot off in Russia, and my mother did her best to survive in a dying country. 
My sister didn't really have to take care of me, but she protected me. She knew everything. She knew the terror and panic of British, American and Russian bombs, while I was quite happy to spend a night in the cellar; that was way better than having to go to bed. And the fires, afterwards—what a sight! I tell you, you have been deprived of some exciting experiences. Never in a thousand years did it occur to me that these explosive educational instruments were aimed at me. But Monika knew it. 
We were small then. Later on we were poor—which I thought was normal. But Monika knew how humiliating poverty is. For her the world was real. For me it is a dream from which I am trying to wake. 
When she was dying I was trying to tell her that death is not a disease. After all, I also know something. It is a transformation. She understood it. But I don't think she could believe me. All men are liars. I know that. 
She experienced it.


For one whose life-path was so solitary, this was Monique’s great gift to us all:  Her suffering drew us together on a journey that has bonded us, and given new meaning to the concept “family.”
Two years ago: it is winter, overcast, semi-lit, a perpetual candle shining in the darkness.  It is the time we each brought our deepest part to a pilgrimage that began in shock and evolved into unity.  It was a time when we came together, celebrated, loved one another.  For us on the Camino, our continual sharing helped steady the family vessel even as one prepared for departure.
Here are some really remarkable things about Monique. 
She moved often – and yet had the astonishing capacity for putting everything in place, making her environment beautiful, and appearing entirely at home within a day of a move.
Her possessions were never chipped, frayed, or in disrepair.  Now read that again, and think about your own household.  See how amazing?
She was a singular repository of folk culture, both theoretical (her library was a wonder) and practical, with her paper cuts, fiber crafts, and special cuisine.  I shall always see the careful, masterful movements of her hands over that last Christmas dinner – the cooking lesson of a lifetime.
These qualities speak of great mindfulness, presence, and respect --  for herself, for her environment, and for those entering her sphere. At core, this is who she was. Anything else was simply static.
This is Monique’s legacy:  family, quality of life, and a living connection with the arts that nourish us daily.  Thank you, Monique, my dear sister.  We are grateful.  We are grateful.  We are grateful.


Merriam-Webster defines a hero as – “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability”…
Two years ago, my Uncle Jan told me I was a hero. I’d never been called a hero before. I’m not sure it’s an accurate statement, but I’m glad he thinks I am one.
On December 7, 2010 I took my mom to the ER and they told us she had cancer. The world as I knew it completely fell away. I remember a lot from that time, but I also don’t remember any of it. I just showed up and did what needed to be done. I can’t believe I did that. My sole purpose, I felt, was to make sure that she had everything she needed as she made her transition.
My Mom always used to tell me that one of the meanings of the name “Andrea” was “lion-hearted woman.” She always seemed confident that this was a good choice of names for me, although I could never see it. That didn’t seem to accurately define me at all. But in March 2011, I finally realized that she had gotten it right.
My Dad is a hero too. I called him that December night from the ER and told him my mom had cancer and that I didn’t know how we were going get through it. Before the sun had come up, he had made the decision to come from California to Tulsa to help me. He stayed 3 months, to the very end. He was a constant calm presence – providing chocolate, tools, soup, and a steady hand. He doesn’t like it when I say I couldn’t have done it without him so I’ll just say, I’m really really glad I didn’t have to. Thanks Dad, you are the best.
My Mom’s brother Jan is also a hero. He and my Aunt Deepti came to Tulsa for 2 weeks over Christmas 2010. He saw things in a way that I just didn’t, and he gave my mom the comfort of family. He propped her up, and had a way of calming her that no one else had. I remember their last phone call, the last time they talked to each other. He was so good to her – most definitely a hero.
And Deepti – also a true hero. She is a master of diffusing any tense situation (of which there were a few); she is patient, and incredibly compassionate. When she and Jan left Tulsa on New Year’s Day 2011, I remember thinking, “what am I going to do now??” Well for the following months, and really, for these last two years, she has been a constant companion via text message. Little bits of wisdom and compassion imparted via iMessage have helped me so much! Our friendship has grown and new creative collaborations are in the works. The beginning of something good.
 Needless to say, I miss my Mom. She was always there for me. I think of her often and only after she’s gone do I realize what an impact she has on my life. Not only the shaping of my character (Discipline! Independence! Intellect!) but also the traditions I choose to follow and how I create the space around me. Every time I eat a soft-boiled egg, I think of her. Every time I hear the word “tasty.” And so often I wish I could call her to tell her something, or invite her for Sunday breakfast.
She loved color. She loved music, and books. She believed in making ordinary experiences special. She loved hand-made things and she loved cooking. However, she could never really get out of survival-mode very often. She lived under stress.
I hope that wherever she is now, she is happy, and at peace. She deserves it.
She is the biggest hero of all. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

dandelion wine

The self-indulgence sweater is coming along; was freaked out that I had several dozen stitches too many per row, until I studied my knitting log and realized I was looking at the stitch count for the back. Mindfulness, Your Sheepness!

Another foot of snow this week.  Winter still owns the stage. In the warm and friendly pub, the conversation turned to lagering, yeast strains, and the best bottles for home brew (rubber gaskets and wire bails).  I think of my family history, which includes a Dutch brewer, a Canadian tavern keeper, and a family recipe for dandelion wine.

As if these memories came alive, wire-bail bottles jumped into my market basket the next day, along with the vague thought of eventually making the family wine recipe. Later the same morning, I found huge bunches of fresh dandelion greens at the farmer’s market.  Whoo boy, this is fate.

Sunday last: I’m cleaning the kitchen, sterilizing pans, and spending hours washing greens.  My great-aunt’s handwritten cookbook lies open; the traces of her handwriting (youth, marriage, old age) tell me a piece of her life story.  The wine recipe appears three times -- obviously it was important, a legacy.  

It’s frustrating that as a small child I didn’t get to know this great-aunt better.  I have one photo of her: she is in her nursing uniform, probably right after graduation. Her parents look serious and proud.  My great-aunt leans towards the camera, a twinkle in her eye; she’s sticking out her tongue, laughing at us all.

The recipe is frustrating as well.  Even with three recipes to compare, some details are sketchy.  How much is 4 quarts of dandelions - a bushel or a peck?  What part of the dandelion? Greens? Or Flowers? How much is a gallon?   Are we talking American (128 ounces) or Canadian Imperial (160 ounces)? “Dip a piece of toast in yeast and float it on top ....” What kind of bread? What kind of yeast? Wine yeast? Bread yeast?  Dry, cake or liquid?  And again -- does it really matter?

Over the next several days, I “pour on a gallon of boiling water,” (Imperial), let the greens ferment, strain out the solids, add the sugar and lemon and orange and ginger, dip whole-grain toast in reconstituted culinary yeast and float it on top.

Now, a week later, there is a scent of alcohol.  This afternoon, further straining - and the wine is settled for a two-month sleep in a tightly sealed “jar.”  Shortly after May Day, I’ll bottle it.

Who knows what the product is supposed to be like, will be like? Probably terribly sweet, perhaps a bit medicinal.  Maybe it is a folk remedy, some sort of tonic.  This is not made clear, because it was already clear to the scribe.  Like some knitting patterns, these notes are a compass, rather than a map. 

Even traditional societies are being fractured by mobile phones, email, and the Internet. Aunts and grannies are not often there to pass on the finer points, the unspoken clarity behind the notes.

I could research the recipe on a dozen Internet forums, find scientifically precise brewing instructions, even a ton of specialized gear; but there is something about adapting the commonplace, deciphering the handwriting, feeling the traces of ancient flour between the cookbook pages that no amount of accuracy can replace.

I’m glad we embrace the chaos, Ace, and use media efficiently and often, sharing  our days, our recipes, our lives; and I’m even happier when we get together -- perhaps over a glass of dandelion wine.




 Orange, Lemon, Ginger

Boil with sugar 20 min

With toast laid on


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

what, no fiber?!?!? just relax!

Let’s take a moment to talk about… fiber.
You’re all like, but Ace, haven’t we BEEN talking about fiber? Well yeah, it’s true, we have. But so far mostly we’ve been talking about the fiber you knit with. Now it’s time to talk about – the other kind of fiber.
To make a long story short – for your sake and for mine – my stomach started really bothering me last year. I was pretty much miserable all the time from April to November. Conventional Western Medicine offered me a diagnosis, a prescription, and a life-long diet devoid of coffee, meat, sugar, high-fiber foods, etc (basically, anything that tastes good or that you thought was actually healthy). That wasn’t really acceptable to me, so I found a Chinese Herbalist / Acupuncturist who was confident that I can get back to some semblance of Normal. And well, I’m able to drink a little coffee every day, so I know I’m headed in the right direction!
I’d never had any experience with Chinese Medicine before this. It’s quite different – they really have a different approach to heath, healing, and diet. I can’t speak on the topic with any sort of authority – I can only give you an account of what I’ve experienced so far.
The Chinese seem to look at a lot of things from the perspective of the elements, the seasons – the interplay between hot and cold, summer and winter… Like, I can eat some fruits in the summer, others in the winter. Ginger for the stomach in the summer, radish for the stomach in the winter. It makes sense when you think about it – certain things are in season only at certain times, and with our instant-gratification, year-round, 24/7/365 mentality, it’s possible we have moved away from the natural order of how things work and what we would normally eat.
So, the Chinese doctor, who goes by “Anna,” makes me baggies full of what looks like dried swamp plants to brew into teas, powders to mix with honey and eat 30 minutes before a meal, pastes that taste like poppy seeds and petrol to eat before bedtime. The Neighbor probably thinks I’m nuts (“what’s in that stuff??” he asks. “I have no idea,” I reply. “Wow, you’re brave,” he says half with awe and half with suspicion…)
It’s all been helping. And now that I’m feeling a little better I’m now strong enough for actual acupuncture. I’ve been going every week for 3 weeks. Slow, slow progress…
Apparently everyone else just needs a tea or two, a few acupuncture treatments and they are good to go. So why is it taking so long for ME to get better?
Because I am my own worst enemy.
Here is a sample of a conversation between Anna and me that has occurred more than once (I’m paraphrasing of course, because her English is actually a lot harder to understand than what I’m writing here, bless her cute little heart)
Anna: You think too much.
Andrea: What does that mean?
Anna: You have too many things going through your head. You’re too romantic. You are never happy and you always get bored.
Andrea: …
Anna:  Your life is actually pretty easy. You didn’t have to emigrate from another country and no one thinks you’re not smart because you can’t speak the language.
Andrea: You’re right. I have a pretty easy life.

So what’s my problem? I think too much? Oh, and everyone tells me to relax.
Well how the heck do I fix that? If I have to think about it too much, I end up right back where I started and my stomach still hurts.
It’s so easy for everyone to say “You think too much. Stop thinking so much. Relax.”
If only it were as easy to just stop thinking too much and relaxing more.
I’m not really sure what to do at this point. Except go knit something.