Monday, July 12, 2010

Last night I was laying (lying?) in bed counting how many times we've moved in the last 10 years, and when I got to seven, remembered how I swore that time would be our last, except here we are at number nine, surrounded by boxes.

It really snuck up on me. There I was, just a few short weeks ago, lamenting my fate--pondering the probability that our current (rental) house would be owner-occupied by late summer, and how we'd have to relocate, etc. And lo and behold, they're probably on their way to the Dubai airport even as I speak. Okay, maybe just packing suitcases-but due to arrive by the weekend. So we gotta get the lead out in a hurry, and at least I have experience, right? With moving. That's what I keep telling myself.

Only every once in a while I think: I can't do this. Box up my life again. In particular, how to organize these random items: a really good yogurt coupon I know I'll use, papier-mache volcano the kids have not yet painted, bag of mismatched socks, fledgling marble collection? I keep moving it from one spot to another on my kitchen counter, thinking there will eventually be enough of each type of thing to merit a corresponding box.

But, then again, my pile of Auspicious Plastic Figurines From The Vending Machine never got any bigger than this:

I mean, really. Your brother puts his quarter in and gets a miniature Dora the Explorer figurine with a removable dolphin costume that also doubles as a Christmas ornament, and you get a plastic Pope? That's really funny, Universe. But, still-I can't throw something like that away, because the look on her face when she pulled it out of the machine was to die for. Complete confusion. It might have been a teachable moment wherein I explained how these are naughty machines that take your money, and wouldn't we have been much smarter/happier/well-off if we'd just saved our coins for a more sure thing....but, alas, I must've lost my June Cleaver brain somewhere along the way. Maybe in move number three, or was it five? Because what I told my daughter is this: you know, sometimes you think you're getting a press-on tattoo, and you end up with a weird old guy in a dress. It's not what you expected, but still--be happy. You might end up liking it.

That night, when I went in to check on her, I found the Pope, in his plastic dome, resting quietly next to her cheek-- like the boy in the bubble. I bent down to kiss her like I always do, and thought how she'd really taken to heart what I'd said earlier. She had, literally, placed her disappointment on her pillow. It was her closest companion. I wondered, if like me, she was waiting for more to be revealed? If, as the sky turned purple and the first stars came out, she lay awake imagining the ways this almost-treasure, this sort-of-letdown...could manifest as something truly wonderful?

Then, the next day, I found the Pope in the dolphin suit. Apparently, he works at Sea World and is very happy there, enjoying a comprehensive and competitive health care package as well as discounted admission to many other parks in the Anheuser-Busch family entertainment subsidiary.

But really...this is not what we expected. And yet, we're learning to adapt-and apparently, so are the children. Who knew? Still, my hope (prayer) is this: that wherever we end up, I like it. Should something in Elsewhere cause me discontent, however, could I please just grow in patience? I'd like to think I'm the kind of girl who'd share a bed with restlessness, but in truth, I'm more the type who, at the first trace of mental upset, hightails it to the Quik Trip for a pound of peanut butter M&M's. Perhaps the Sitting-With-Anxiety level of maturity manifests in Move # 11 or 12? If it comes with a bombshell bikini body, I guess I'm willing to wait.

But-- please don't ask me to move after that.


p.s. Dora sends a silent scream from inside the bubble. She's absolutely beside herself without that talking monkey.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And then what happened: Knitting Edition

Okay, so as I was saying yesterday, after about two hours with my yarn sensei Kyle, I was nearly knitting, albeit aerobically and, I'll add, with a certain sense of slapdash. It's not that my stitches were  reckless, they just had a....largesse. They were generous, and loopy. They were benevolent, though at times, entrapment seemed more than a remote possibility. As long as I stayed knuckled-down, nose to the needles, I was okay. But seated next to my sister, I was-you know, checking out her work. We'd compare notes, I'd lose my place, she'd pick up where she left off, I'd tear out my entire project and start over, and so it went. By the end of class, though, I did feel confident enough to accept a homework assignment, and I was happy to have finally "got it." In the picture below, I was kind of having a Sally Field moment with knitting. You like me! You really like me!

As part of the class, in addition to being taught the craft, we were scheduled to complete a mini-project- which to my extreme pleasure, was not just one, but THREE BARNYARD animals! Color me happy, I love stuffed animal families. We left class with supplies galore and went home to our lakehouse, rushed through dinner, and spent the rest of the night hunched over our needles like two crazy old ladies with no communication skills. I actually fell asleep knitting.

Sometime that night, my mother took the time to remark on how the differences between my knitting and my sister's did not surprise her in the least.  Her observation (I'm paraphrasing): my knitting was all over the place, my sister's...orderly; tight. She also wanted to know why I was working on such big needles, not to mention two colors of thread at once?

"Well, that's easy", I said. "Molly is completing her animals in alphabetical order, or, if you prefer, ascending levels of size and/or difficulty. Chick, hen, rooster. I'm doing my rooster first because I want to. It's fabulous and huge and Kyle said I could".

After packing up my high school-esque vocal intonations, I asked my mom for a fruit roll-up. And knitted. Over the next few days, I worked on my rooster and my sister completed her smaller projects, stopping periodically to untangle me. The rooster, just like its smaller relatives, would be fashioned from your basic knitted square, which would then be folded into a triangle, stuffed, and decorated. Well, friends, there are moments in knitting, as in life, when your yarn gets away from you. It became clear that I had surpassed the land of square, and what I had was a rectangle. I thought for about 24 hours that if I just kept working on my rectangle, adding rows and such, that it would eventually come back around to squaresville. Um. No. I think there is a mathematical equation for this. What I ended up with was a REALLY BIG rectangle.  I even ran out of yarn and had to switch mid-bird. It was huge, and imperfect, and when I took it to the open-knit on Friday, my teacher burst out laughing, and people came from miles around (okay, really just the sidewalk) to look at the spectacle I call:

Sometimes the knitter, much like the writer, can't be sure of who her characters really are until they show themselves to her. Sometimes a rooster wants a pop-bead necklace and false eyelashes, and there isn't a darn thing you can do about it. You may have wanted him to start a family, get a job at the bank, and stop wearing makeup. But he has other plans, so you find some wool roving, grab your felting needle, and just make it happen. I love it. And you know, I can't imagine a better first experience in textiles. Aside from being super-patient, Kyle taught me all about working with natural materials, showed me how to embellish with sculpted wool fiber....the whole shebang. I left REALLY inspired, full of plans for handmade playthings, oven mitts, scarves galore...not to mention a complete wardrobe for my rooster. I've decided Al is going to be like one of those cement geese people keep on their porches and dress according to the season. I can see it now--a felted feather headdress for Mardi Gras,  a basil brooch for National More Herbs Less Salt Day (August 29th). And you know there's a kitschy Christmas rooster vest in the works. Al is, if nothing else, a really good sport.

Al with his cousin, my sister's rooster,who requested his name be withheld.
Just kidding.
My sister doesn't name her roosters,
but you can call him Slim.

Knitting, Part One

I guess you could say I'm a crafty person, though I have no formal training in the way of macrame owls, seashell tissue-box covers, or the always-popular Trio of Wisemen fashioned entirely from pantyhose, which my mother owns and proudly displays atop the piano each Christmas.  I like duct tape, though, and glueguns, and I think I'm pretty good at, say, gift-wrapping a birthday present with the following items: paper grocery bag, tin foil, stray buttons, peanut butter. So, okay, maybe I'm more of a crow than a crafter, collecting little bits of glimmer for my nest. I like ninth-hour bursts of genius and have always eschewed conventional classes because, quite simply, I don't have the attention span to make it through craft class without a mega-dose of amphetamines, or nailing my rear end to the chair, both of which things are frowned upon at Amish quilting bees. 

One time, a few years back, my sewing-instructor friend invited me to fill out one of her intro courses, which was being photographed by a major paper for a weekend feature. This was before she was poised to take over the world with her own brand of textile genius, and she wanted to "stack the class" for the picture, an everybody's-doing-it sort of maneuver. I'm sure there's a business-major word for that style of marketing. Consensus? Scarcity? Whatever. It was brilliant, but my point is, I thought I was going to claw my eyes out during the class I was so distracted. We all had sewing machines, and I didn't know what/wear my bobbin was, and all we had to do was make ONE SINGLE NAPKIN, and I was so busy looking at my neighbor's work that I had like this horrible railroad track of stitches on my square of fabric, like a drunk person had been operating the sewing machine via remote control from China. It was really bad, and for a long time after that I went all anti-crafting establishment on everybody's a's until my friend brought up casually that perhaps I was more of a one-on-one learner. She even made me a little card promising to be my own private sewing tutor. Yeah, okay, some people might call it a gift certificate, to me it was a promise ring. I would, someday, be someone who sews.

But then I got kind of busy. And so did she. 
And all along the way, I'd see handmade treasures I'd wish I could make but hadn't the first clue.
But each time I'd wax poetic at the thought of hand-crafted lovelies, 
my sweet (and smart) friend would remind me of her offer. 
Meanwhile, her business blossomed.
She hosted a screening of Handmade Nation, a documentary about the rise of DIY and Craft. 
The film introduced me to guerilla knitters, and I thought, now that's something I can get behind. Groups of salty knitters outfitting unsuspecting bike racks with snuggly sweaters...I mean, how weirdly fabulous is that? Knitting Vandals?! 
After all this time adrift, I'd landed on the island of misfit crafters. 
Knitting.  Who knew?

Image courtesy of  grrl+ dog.

The only catch: I can't knit to save my life. I can barely tie a decent bow, and hair-braiding is difficult. Basically, anything with multiple strands...and I'm done. Enter my knitting hero, Kyle. During the last week of our vacation, our entire family stayed in a lakeside community that featured a fantastic art center where one could take a variety of classes for dirt cheap. There was wheel-thrown pottery, jewelry-making, needle-felting, stained glass, and...knitting. I signed myself up, along with my sister. Four hours with an instructor (that's Kyle), plus my sister's steel-trap memory for reinforcement, and a knitter I would be. And with any luck, knitting might lead to sewing. A gateway drug. Next stop, knitter's prison.

Casting on. That girl in the background left to go to the bathroom and never came back. I think I intimidated her.

At first, it was rough. Real rough. I wasn't feelin' the yarn. And the needles were too skinny. I think I was probably Kyle's most needy student ever, but I wanted to get it right. I didn't even mind when she made me rip everything out and start all over again when I messed up. She was kind of like the Mr. Miyagi of knitting, especially when she moved me to what I like to refer to as the aerobic needles, the needles that weighed 14 pounds and I had to hold with my elbows out by my ears. I was really glad at that point that I'd switched from natural deodorant back to the hard stuff.

I found that there were two things that really helped me succeed in knitting:
1. Kyle sitting right next to me. I would have shared the chair with her, even. If she wanted.
2. Sticking my tongue out. I am a first grader at heart, I guess.

This is where I really started cooking with gas.

Another great thing about Kyle was that she didn't try to make conversation with me while I was knitting. She knew I couldn't talk and knit, probably because I told her, flat out, that I couldn't even think and knit. That in my mind, all I could hear was static, and that I liked it. Also, she didn't mind when I screamed intermittently. There were different screams, each with its own corresponding emotion. Anguish, regret, frustration, discovery. Kyle was, basically, my knitting midwife. It was a long labor.

Tomorrow: What I made!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A kind-of wedding post

I was going to try for a post-a-palooza in chronological order-like, where I've been and what I've been up to these last several days, but a couple things got in my way. First, my memories are completely disheveled, but even more of an issue is the fact that the kickoff post was going to be one in which I revealed to you just how much I love Kenny Loggins, how the song Footloose is like, basically the anthem of my entire summer, as evidenced by the insane dance moves I pulled out at my cousin's wedding reception. I was going to describe in detail the new channels that open up in my brain when I Kick Off My Sunday shoes, but for some reason it doesn't feel right without an action shot.

So, this post is going to be about knitting.

But first, here's a photo of my cousins, who sang at the wedding and were, I have to say it, Stone Cold Steve Awesome.

I was pretty jeal. I can admit that, internet. Maybe that's why I needed to dance so much, to prove that I, too, was awesome. In my own, frenetic, hairpins-flying-into-the-atmosphere, slipping-the-DJ-a-$20-to-play-Love Shack sort of way.  And yes, I know this picture is really small, but I'm not smart enough to make it bigger and not super-grainy, so stop making fun of me. I'm an excellent dancer, if you don't mind getting hit with one of my shoes every now and then. My dad actually found my earrings the next morning in the driveway of their house. How did that happen? I know I was popping stuff left and right, but the funny thing is, I couldn't recreate those moves if I tried. Those moves were born that night, and they died when the DJ turned the lights back on. Killjoy.

Oh, and I'd show you a picture of the beautiful bride, and the pink peonies she carried, and the birds in the trees singing all around making me cry, but I can't find any pictures anywhere. Ridiculous! I've facebook-stalked some other people from the wedding, some friends-of-friends who've alluded to having taken some photos, but none of them will accept my friend request. I hope it wasn't my dancing. So, for now, just pretend that Ariel and Ren are the newly married couple-don't they look so happy? And I'm not in the shot because Hurts So Good just came on. Nice, right?

p.s. knitting rescheduled for tomorrow