Archive | February 2012

The Love of Knitting

Nothing could be simpler than knitting, unless it is breathing. One begins with two sticks and a string and after a varying investment of time, ends with a useful finished object. It is a skill that takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. There are only two maneuvers, the knit and the purl. The left hand holds one stick and the yarn, and remains mostly stationary. The right hand executes small, precise twists, flitting the other stick into and out of the existing stitches to make new ones. To make a knit stitch, one enters from the front and to make a purl stitch, one enters from the back. From these two stitches every knitted thing you have ever seen is composed. I made my first knit stitch in 2002, and in the intervening decade, I have made hundreds of pieces. I have covered heads and I have covered feet and I have covered everything in between with wooly warmth. I have knit for money, I have knit for the joy of it, and I have knit because I had nothing else to do at the time. I have knit while laughing, while crying, while mourning, and while praying. When I don’t know what else to do, I knit.

The Clapotis is a fairly simple thing to make. One knits across, increasing on the ends, and purls back. Every few stitches, you twist a stitch. Every few rows, you drop a stitch. After about twenty hours, you have a parallelogram that you can wear around your head or around your shoulders, depending on size. I have made three of them in the past three years. Two I have given away, and one I kept for myself. This is the piece I make now when I am loving someone and mourning with them or praying for them. It is a healing piece. I’m fairly certain it is the hours of prayer and not the yarn that makes that happen.

Hats are even simpler—cast on, rib for 2 inches, knit for-what-seems-like-ever, decrease consistently and methodically, cover your head. I have made more hats than I can remember. About ten for my best friend who wears some sort of hat all the time, a few each for my children, a handful for family babies, and towering stacks for infants I will never know. I knit them when I want someone to know I love them just because they exist, with joy in my heart and laughter on my lips. I think it must be the happy and not the wool that makes them so warm.

Socks are not so easy to make. They require custom fitting. I’ve probably knit 18 pair of those—one pair each for my eight children, three pairs for my grandmother, one pair for a sock exchange and the rest for myself. Socks say, “I love you enough to spend twenty-five hours of my life making something for you to walk all over.” Socks say, “Here is my heart for you.” Socks are very talkative, even though they are highly functional and usually hidden. They are a huge investment because they are made from such thin yarn. You can knit an entire sweater out of bulky yarn in the amount of time it takes to knit a pair of footies in fingering weight. I once started a pair of over-the-calf socks for my ex-husband. I knit the leg, turned the heel, and knit most of the foot. I ripped it out after our divorce. He had been too uninvolved to try it on so I could close the toe. I will use that yarn to make a pair for myself instead.

My current project is one I have been working on, off and on, for six years. I have started and finished many other things while I work on this blanket I call “Hocks.” It is probably four feet by four feet square now, unstretched. Eventually, it will fit my double bed. It is composed of mitered squares, each one built on the two below and beside it. It’s plain garter stitch with centered decreases. I knit across the row, taking out two stitches in the middle, and then I knit back. The small squares are about two inches diagonally, require 12 yards of yarn, and take 45 minutes to knit. The larger squares yield four square inches and require 45 yards and 120 minutes.

The blanket is being knit with what basically amounts to scraps. Some are my own leftovers, some have come from friends, and I have even received some from strangers. I have many, many hours invested in this blanket. Knitting on it reminds me of how I live. One thing builds on the thing before. People, like the yarn scraps, come and go. Sometimes I get only one square from a scrap and sometimes several. Sometimes a set of squares clash as I am working up close and personal on a particular area, but when I spread it all out and step back, it is beautiful, all crazy colors and mixed up randomness. The only thing that stays consistent in this blanket is the stitcher. No one else has touched it.

The blanket is called “Hocks” because when I started it, my then-baby could not yet pronounce the letter “s”—she called socks, hocks. It stuck. The blanket is made of sock yarn. It is thin, warm, and nearly weightless given its size. It takes years to make a bed-sized blanket from sock yarn. It looks very messy while you are doing it. It requires persistence and determination. Sometimes, I have to grit my teeth and force myself to work on it. Maybe I should have just called it “Life.”

TwoFer SPS 2/19/2012

All dolled up with somewhere to go!

Had a great time last night listening (and dancing to) Blackwater. But I seriously need to figure out how to cut the flash glare on my pale, pale face!

I’m so very glad that my hair does not get heavier as it gets bigger. I’ve since seen pics of myself later in the evening. My hair got huge– herniated disc surgery coulda been an option there.

My Files Are Corrupted

So, here I am sitting in class, Introduction to Creative Nonfiction, otherwise known as CRW 209. My professor has decided that we will use class time each Wednesday to write. This is great for me, because even though I write in my journal daily, you have probably noticed that I still have trouble finding time to blog. She gives us a prompt, and today the other students are writing about a time long ago when they were slighted. That’s not working for me, so I am going to write about something else.

It’s not that I have never been slighted, because I do live as a human, with other humans, and that’s what we do to one another whether we mean to or not. It’s just that I don’t remember it. I don’t remember much at all. I remember fearing for my mother’s life. I remember fearing for my own physical safety. And I remember what other people tell me. I also remember people, either their name or their face, but rarely both, and never what we did together. And that’s pretty much it, up until a couple of years ago.

More times than I care to recount, I have re-met someone I used to know, and had to try to ferret out information on just how familiar I am supposed to be with this person. How much do they know about me, and more importantly, what do they remember that I do not?

For example:

I don’t remember hanging out with my cousins as children, I just know that I did, and I know I love them. Until one of them says some little thing that becomes a trigger. And then, I have some of my life back. Yesterday, as part of another discussion, Sarah mentioned Barbie clothes. Back in the day, Grandmother made three matching sets of Barbie clothes: one for me, one for Sarah, and one for my unsister. And now, by virtue of that passing reference, those Barbie clothes that my grandmother made for us are not just relics in my childhood closet, but tangible items related to the playing of Barbies with my cousin. No, I still don’t remember playing Barbies with her. But I know I played with Barbies, because I still have them. And she remembers playing Barbies with me, so I must have played them with her. Therefore, her memory of playing Barbies with me becomes a fact that I can store and call a “memory”.

Whatever, it’s what I’ve got, and I manage to work with it. What else am I going to do? I’m 44 years old, and I must have gotten here somehow. Clearly, I have a past….I just don’t know where I filed it.

Day Late SPS and What Kind of Snake is That?

Sorry, Tina, I forgot. Here I am on Saturday evening, ready to go. I had an amazing time.

Sorry for the glare, the flash was fierce, and I was needing to get out the door!

So, I am enjoying the creative non-fiction class I am taking. But I am writing about a lot of the stuff I used to blog about. I reckon this lastest piece can do double duty, just like the Crazy Shit piece. In this exercise, we had to think of something we were optimistic or hopeful about and something we were pessimistic or fearful about. Then we had to use fear to transition between the two. I used the opportunity to expand on a recent facebook status.


What kind of Snake is That?

I’ve been living alone now for 3 years, just me and six of my children. I have been trying to spend time with them and encourage them. I have been trying to go to school and make good grades. I have had my head down and my hands on the plow— so to speak. I have been busy doing what needs to be done and thinking really hard about all the things that happened to get me here. I’ve got that part pretty much figured out, so the next burning question is where do I want to go from here.

I’d like to have a pulled together house, a pulled together me, and just enough romance in my life to keep a smile on my face, but not enough to distract me from current goals of being a good student and mother. I’d like to feel competent and capable and get up each morning ready to go after the day, chase it down and make it mine.

But here I sit, not quite so fresh as a daisy, wondering how that’s all going to work. So far, it’s not going exactly well. I get up and start running, but it feels like I just fall further behind. The laundry and the bills and the responsibilities keep piling up, while my resource supply stays constant. I still have just 24 hours a day, and my budget is nowhere near balanced. The kids always seem to need a new thus-and-such, or extra help with their homework. My professors keep assigning papers and giving exams, and I am beginning to feel like the sword juggler at the circus. I dare not drop one, because I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way before it impaled me, but my arms are getting really tired. Really, really tired.

As for the romance part, that’s even more doubtful. The competition is stiff. There are lots of prettier girls, richer girls, girls with fewer responsibilities and less baggage. Fewer responsibilities and less baggage translate directly into more time. How do you find time to whisper sweet nothings when it’s hard to wipe your own ass without a constant barrage of knocks on the bathroom door? More importantly, how do you relax with and enjoy a man when you are constantly watching him to see if he’s too much like the ones that messed you up so bad you ended up single with six kids at home in the first place? How do you laugh with and invest in someone when you are trying to figure out if the snake in their pants is also the snake in the grass?

Sitting here being afraid isn’t changing anything, and if I don’t start moving in the direction I want to end up, I will stay right here. My children will grow up and leave home, and I will finish school. Then I will have crazy amounts of time on my hands, and I don’t want to spend all that time alone. After I shovel out the house and file my last term paper, I’ll be wishing I had someone to whisper to in the dark.

Accordingly, I’ve written myself a new version of the serenity prayer, at least in regards to men:
“Dear God, please grant me the serenity to know my own mind, the courage to be curious instead of scared, and the wisdom to appreciate beauty wherever I find it.”

This is my choice. I’m ready. Bring it.

SPS 2.5.2012

So, two weeks in a row, woohoo! I like this picture on artistic merit. It’s a great image of how I usually feel: partly shadowed, partly over-exposed. There’s a whole freaking essay in that statement, but I am not going to write it today. Instead, I am cleaning my house and doing homework. Yay for busy.

Crazy Shit I (Used To) Do

Recently my freezer went on the fritz. I had a use it or lose it day and I made hamburgers and salmon patties and about ten pounds of fried chicken, three kinds of fancy frozen white potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, green bean fries, cheese balls, and four pounds of little green butter beans. Oh, and a chicken bog, let’s not forget that. I used lemon pepper to season it, and it was delicious.

Tonight, I pulled from the storage ottoman beside my bed some stuff I had stuffed in there. I had one mascara, one eyeliner, and nine (Yes, NINE, I counted them, and I also have pictorial proof!) brand new eye shadow palettes. Some of them were about six months old, and some of them, I confess, had been in that ottoman for over a year. I’d bought those new shadows because I was tired of my old colors, which are now several years old, and no longer even vaguely fashionable. But for some reason, I felt like I had to use up all the old stuff first. All the old stuff. Every bit of every color in every palette I already had. People, it’s all frosted. It’s that old and that unfashionable. And no, I am not mistaking the word “frosted” for the word “glittery”. Today, frosted is foolish, but glittery is glam. My current mascara starts the morning on my lashes, but finishes the evening on my cheeks. So attractive. The new is waterproof! It was a shake my head moment. Tomorrow, I am wearing new. I’m going to own that stuff I bought.

Just so you know, I also keep my slinky nighties in that ottoman, but I won’t be wearing those any time soon. I share my room with my two youngest girls, and I have three young sons. Besides, I sleep alone. Well, I start out alone, but I usually have a girl child or two in the bed by morning. Negligees are not quite what I need to be wearing to bed these days, but I keep them close by because it makes me feel good to have them there. Miracles might still happen, after all. The kids *might* be visiting their dad the night Prince Charming leaps out of the picture in the storybook.

Now, like most women, I also have clothes in my closet with the tags still on. Nice things. Things I bought because I loved them, and they looked fabulous on me and I had to have them. And I hung them up and I looked at them every day, but I never wore them. And shoes. Oh my goodness, the shoes. I love shoes. I have three pairs of flip-flops, five pairs of sneakers, four pairs of clogs, four pairs of flats, eleven pairs of medium heels, thirteen pairs of how-do-you-even-walks and two pairs of house shoes. Unless I miscounted, and this is a distinct possibility. That’s a lot of shoes! But every day, I dress for school in jeans and sensible shoes for walking across campus really fast. But I have those shoes and clothes! They are “for special”, you see. I can’t risk getting them messed up. So, I leave the good stuff, even if it came from Goodwill, in the closet as if I, alone by myself doing the normal things that I do, am not special. They are mine, even if I don’t really own them. Well, from now on, it’s all going to come from Goodwill unless I have to have something very specific right now, and I am going to wear whatever I want, whenever I want (except the nighties, right?). I’m going to own my shoes and my clothes, and if I do spill on it or rip it or whatever, so what? It only cost five bucks or less, and someone will donate another one soon. It will be there when I need it or want it, just like all these other great pieces were.

But I started with the freezer, so let’s get on back to that. In the bottom of the freezer were two bags of boiled peanuts, one of which my grandmother had “put up” for me in 1987. Boiled peanuts do not last for twenty-five years in the freezer, not even if your Grandmother put them up. I heated them the next day, and we tried to eat them, and ended up throwing them away. Oh, I cried. If I had just eaten them when she gave them to me, I could have enjoyed them. I love boiled peanuts, and Grandmother knew that. She gave me a gift of her time and labor and I saved it until it spoiled. What a waste!

In the top of that freezer was a double chocolate cake that I had been saving for “special”, too. The kids and I ate it up tonight. In fact, I took a break from this writing so we could. It was good. They were happy. So was I. We owned that cake. Yes, it’s gone now, but we owned it, because how do you own what you never touch or wear or eat? That’s possession, and there is a difference.