Monday, April 29, 2024

Better in 2024: April

It's been a very strange month, with much going on at work and at home and with three seasons' worth of weather. But, for a change, April has felt like it was truly a month long, and I was not terribly surprised to find it the last Monday of the month today. As per usual, it's time for my monthly One Little Word check-in, with thanks to Carolyn for hosting our monthly link-ups.

Earlier in the month, I focused on the very physical side of Better -- namely feeling like my normal self after going through cetirizine withdrawal. I knew to expect the extreme itchiness, but I wasn't truly prepared to feel just generally off or for the anxiety that feeling would cause. Once I realized what was going on, though, I felt less stressed and was able to focus on the slight improvements each day brought. And it was a huge relief to wake up last weekend, having slept enough and woken feeling like myself again.

That wasn't the only lesson I got from Better this month. I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog in any detail, but there's been a lot of upheaval at work in the last several months. Late last summer, HR completed a long project of completely reorganizing all the job classifications at the university so that there would be fewer of them overall and so that there'd be wider applicability of a given job classification across many different areas (given the size of the university, you can imagine what a huge job that is). This is a project that has been in the works for years but one that apparently didn't have enough checks and balances worked into it because when I learned my new job classification, I discovered that -- without any input from my, my supervisor, or anyone I work with directly -- I'd essentially been demoted to a job that required total supervision and only a high school diploma, which was even a step below the job description when I was originally hired 18+ years ago. On top of that, at the end of last month, the head of my unit reorganized the entire office, moving my supervisor and me to a different section of it, and issued a mandate that everyone in the office should be there in person an average of two or three days a week. The job classification issue has been top of mind for me for months, and with the full support of my supervisor, we've been working with the powers that be to have it changed. But the in-person mandate was a complete surprise to me, and not a good one. I am much more productive working at home, when I don't have the distractions of the office around and can start early or work late if I need to because I'm already at my computer and can work it in around whatever I'm doing at the house. There's also the matter of being able to pick Mo up from school in the middle of the afternoon, which I couldn't do if I were in the office. So where does Better come up in all of this? Let's just say that this whole situation has made me feel frustrated, unappreciated, and (quite frankly) used by my employer, and thus I've felt a need to be Better about speaking up for myself. Although the benefits of this job are good, the pay has always been, quite bluntly, crap, and while I generally enjoy my job (because I'm darn good at it), there are always other options out there. I know for a fact that my office would get a lot worse off if I wasn't there to catch and correct the mistakes, and there's some power in that. The future is still murky, but I am feeling better about things after having made my opinions known.

And now, speaking of work, I have a ton of it to get to. Hope your week is off to a good start and it's been a good month for your One Little Word!

Friday, April 26, 2024

Did They Sneak In an Extra Day?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like it should have already been Friday a day or two ago -- it's been a long week! In addition to the evening events at the beginning of the week, this week has also seen the final preparations for commencement (which is this weekend) at work, so I am more than ready for the weekend. We have nothing on the schedule this weekend, either, so we'll be able to sleep in and recharge.

I've mainly been focusing on one project the last couple of days, and that's my socks. Last night I finished up the first one except for the heel; I plan to do both heels at the end.

I have already cast on the second sock, too. It won't match, but I'm hoping I can at least get the stripe location to match even if the colors won't.

That's about all I've got in my for today -- if you want an indication of how long this week has been for me, I'll tell you that nearly forgot to make coffee this morning because I hadn't yet had my coffee! If you aren't already aware of it, I did want to mention that tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day, so if you have an indie store near you, you might want to drop in tomorrow and show them some love. I will be back on Monday with my One Little Word update for April. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Poetry in April: Poem in My Pocket

We have arrived at the final Thursday in April, so this is my last installment of poetry for this year's observance of National Poetry Month. The theme this week is "Poem in My Pocket" -- in other words, a poem is that is short enough to fit on a small piece of paper in your pocket, just in case you wanted to have it on you to share with someone you meet. When I think of short poems, often the first things that come to mind are haikus and limericks, but I think a free-verse poem that is short is often quite effective, saying something powerful with few words. So that's what I went for with my selection.

A Name

When Eve walked among
the animals and named them --
nightingale, red-shouldered hawk,
fiddler crab, fallow deer --
I wonder if she ever wanted
them to speak back, looked into
their wide wonderful eyes and
whispered, Name me, name me.

"A Name" from The Carrying: Poems, (c) 2018, Milkweed Editions

Thank you for sharing this annual celebration of poetry with us this month! Be sure to visit, Kym, Kat, and Bonny one last time today for their selections!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Unraveled, Week 17/2024

What a week it has been -- and we've only reached the midpoint! I'm happy to report that our Seder went well, even if it was an exhausting night. The little ones all reached their breaking point before we reached the meal portion of the evening, so we were down to a dozen people around the table fairly quickly. Because we had started so early, we had finished dessert and said goodnight by around 8, and by 9 we had finished doing all the dishes and put away the extra tables and chairs. I'm pretty sure we all fell asleep very quickly Monday night. And then last night Mo and my mother went to Seder at my brother and sister-in-law's house (they also hosted their next-door neighbors) while the Mister and I attended an event with Baratunde Thurston hosted by our local PBS station. I'd say we're all looking forward to having a normal evening tonight!

Before I give an update and link up with Kat and the Unravelers, I have to share a photo from last Friday, which I forgot to do on Monday. I mentioned last week that we'd gone dress shopping, in part because Mo had a school dance on Friday, and several of you wanted to see the dress she picked. So here's a photo of the three of us:

Yes, she is wearing heels and I'm in flats, but she's quickly threatening to overtake me in height!

But back to the knitting content! This week, it's a tale of two socks:

On the top is the one using the yarn from String Theory Colorworks that I shared last week. I decided to make things a little more exciting and am doing some faux colorwork by slipping every other stitch on the round when the color changes. I'm also doing a forethought afterthought heel on these (if you look closely, you can see the white waste yarn near my needles) because I didn't want to change the width of the stripes by working a flap and gusset. On the bottom is the sock I started on Saturday for my theater knitting. We got there about an hour before showtime (we've been going early to deal with a ridiculous amount of construction downtown and to ensure we find a parking spot in the closest garage), so we sat on a bench before the house opened and I cast on. I got through a full stripe repeat over the course of the show. The yarn is Knit Picks Felici in the colorway White Russian; it was purchased back in 2022, which I know because I had the foresight to write the date it entered the stash on the ball band. I did rewind the yarn into cakes before casting on because I didn't want to risk the skein getting yanked out of my project bag in the dark in the theater.

My other active project is my design project:

I've been meaning to cast this on for a very long time, and in fact the colorwork pattern is one I've been playing around with for years. I'd originally tried it out in a sock, but stranded work in socks is always a little risky, so I decided to use it in a cowl instead. This is one of those cowls that is knit as a long tube and finished by grafting the two ends together. I've now completed a little more than one repeat of the pattern, and I'm very happy with how this is working up. I'm still deciding just how long to make this, but the beauty of this construction is that you can basically decide to make it as long or as short as you want.

I have only finished one book in the last week, but it was an excellent one!

The memoir How to Say Babylon is the next Read With Us selection, but I actually already had it on hold at the library when it was announced, and finally it was my turn last week. I decided to get the audiobook, read by the author, as I always seem to get more out of memoirs when I hear them in the author's own voice. Safiya Sinclair recounts growing up in poverty in Jamaica in a strict Rastafarian household, with a father who was occasionally abusive and whose beliefs governed what she could wear, what she could eat, and what she could do with her life. Eventually, Sinclair began to question those beliefs and to want a different life for herself, one that would allow her to not only make her own choices but also to pursue a career as a poet. Although this is a memoir and not a poetry collection, you can tell from her prose that she is a poet; even in describing things that are hard to read, her writing is beautiful. It's hard to say that I truly enjoyed all of this book; there were times when I forgot that the events she described had actually happened. But I found her skill as a writer to be astonishing, and I am hoping to find some of her poetry to read soon. I am really looking forward to the RWU discussion! I gave this book 5 stars.

On my to-do list for today is finishing Long Island Compromise (my Kindle app tells me I have about an hour of reading left), and I have about 100 pages remaining in When I Lived in Modern Times.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, April 22, 2024

Totally Different

Remember last week, when I told you I'd finished my sweater but that the weather had gotten so warm that I didn't think I'd have a chance to wear it until the fall? I think the universe must have heard me, because we had a frost advisory this weekend, and yesterday it was chilly enough that I could actually wear my sweater without overheating. I took the opportunity to have my Official Photographer take some glamour shots.

Pattern: Bereket (Ravelry link) by Ainur Berkimbayeva, size 1 (to fit 35 in. bust)
Yarn: my handspun Rambouillet, spun back in the summer of 2020! -- I used approximately 958 yards
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: March 9/April 17
Mods: lengthened the body

This sweater was unlike any I have knit before, and I'm really not sure why I was so drawn to the pattern, but once I saw it on Instagram on Ainur's feed, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And though I'd originally intended to use this yarn in something else, I quickly realized that it was perfect for this sweater. Although I spun the yarn back in 2020, it actually first came into my stash in the form of half a fleece way back in 2012. At some point I'd sent it to a mill to be processed and got it back as roving, so it became a great excuse to get better at my long draw. And it has a fuzzy, nubby texture that I think works really well with the texture of the stitch patterns.

This sweater is knit side to side, from one sleeve cuff to the other. The stockinette portions of the sleeves are knit in the round, and then once you start the textured sections, you're working back and forth. Those textured sections include garter stitch, eyelets, and what Ainur calls bobbles but what I'd call welts -- working back and forth over a small number of stitches, then creating a sort of pleat by picking up a loop on the wrong side of the work at the base of the tab of fabric and knitting it together with the stitch on the needle to join. The triangular sections in the middle use a lot of short rows; I ended up using German short rows because I didn't like the look of the traditional wrap and turn. Once the second cuff is finished, you pick up stitches for both the neckline and the hem and work twisted ribbing. 

As far as level of difficulty goes, I think most of it lies in the unusual construction. But the pattern is great for leading you through. In addition to having line-by-line instructions, Ainur has schematics all through the pattern that show you exactly what part you're working on that look like this:

This shows you that you're working on the textured front section (what's in the darker brown), and the lighter brown shading shows you've what you've completed. This is the first time I've seen something like this in a pattern, and I think it's a brilliant way to make things extremely clear for the knitter, even when the construction is more conventional.

My only modification to this pattern was to add more ribbing to the body. Ainur calls for about an inch of twisted ribbing on the lower hem before the bind off, but that was just too cropped for me. I think this is likely because I was working a size smaller than what was recommended, so my sweater ended up smaller overall. She intended it to be an oversized cropped pullover, and each size in the pattern is specified for a range of bust sizes. For my full bust, I should have knit the second size, but I didn't want this to be that big on me, so I knit the smallest size. This was partially because I thought I was going to be cutting it close on my yarn, but I ended up using much, much less than specified, so I had plenty to add some length. I've got about 4.5 inches of twisted ribbing on the bottom, and it hits me right at my hip (the t-shirt I'm wearing underneath in the photos is a bit big on me). This sizing choice is also why the sleeves end a lot higher on me than on others you'll see if you look at projects on Ravelry. But I'm totally happy with how this fits, and it's actually just right for a cool (but not cold) early spring day. All the same, I'll be happy to not wear this again until fall!

* * * * *

This week is going to be a busy one, especially the first couple of days. Passover starts tonight, and we are hosting Seder for 19 (including the baby nephews). I'm going to do my best to keep up with my usual blog schedule, including Thursday's poetry post, but please bear with me if my posts are shorter than usual and/or if it takes me a bit longer than usual to reply to comments!

Friday, April 19, 2024

Looking for Normal

Happy Friday, friends. It's been a very long week. All week I've been feeling off -- slightly spacey, more tired than usual -- and then feeling more anxious because of it. First I thought it was just because I haven't been sleeping well (because of snoring, then noise from having the windows open, then an unexpected iPad alarm in the middle of the night), and that's certainly adding to it, but I think part of it is also allergies. I mentioned earlier in the week that I've been getting off of allergy medication; I had been taking cetirizine (Zyrtec) for a long time and had tried to get off it twice before, but each time I failed because I suffered from intense, full-body itching. It was so bad that I ended up with bruises all over my body just from scratching. So for months now I've been tapering off my dose, and after taking a quarter of a pill (just 2.5 mg!), I went off entirely last week. I had the itching again this time around, and the bruising, but I've made it through this time. It's now been more than a week since I had any of this drug in my system, and while I'm still a little itchy from time to time, it's much more manageable. But -- not taking an allergy pill daily, after taking it for several years, means that the allergies have come back in full force, on top of which it seems to be a particularly bad year of pollen. So I suppose it's not surprising that I'm feeling weird! I think getting a bit caught up on sleep will help, and I hope that will happen this weekend.

Sorry if all that is TMI! I am happy to report that my sweater is done and has been blocked, but you'll have to wait until Monday to see it modeled. In the meantime, I've started two new projects -- a pair of socks and a colorwork cowl that's a new design -- and have made a bit of progress on both.

I didn't intentionally choose yarns that had some colors in common, but it's always a happy coincidence when that happens. I may need to cast on something else because Mo and I have tickets to see Company tomorrow and neither of these projects can be worked on without looking (I'm slipping every other stitch on the first round of the color change on the socks for a little fun, but that requires being able to see the color change).

Before I can get to any of that, though, I've got to get through a day of work and a pile of laundry. Here's hoping everyone has a restful weekend!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Poetry in April: About Color

Today is the third Thursday of the National Poetry Month, and this week we're sharing poems about color. When I think about color right now, I think about all the spring flowers that are blooming and the trees and shrubs pushing out new growth. The colors of spring are always the treat that makes getting through the gray months of winter worth it. So I found this poem, which made me think of what I have seen growing in my neighborhood and also about how Mother Nature is the most talented artist of all.

by Sujata Bhatt

Her hand sweeps over the rough grained paper,
then, with a wet sponge, again.
A drop of black is washed grey,
cloudy as warm breath fogging cool glass.
She feels she must make the best of it,
She must get the colour of the stone wall,
of the mist settling around twisted birch trees.
Her eye doesn't miss the rabbit crouched,
a tuft of fog in the tall grass.
Nothing to stop the grey sky from merging into stones,
or the stone walls from tailing off into sky.
But closer, a single iris stands fully opened:
dark wrinkled petals, rain-moist,
the tall slender stalk sways, her hand follows.
Today, even the green is tinged with grey,
the stone's shadow lies heavy over the curling petals
but there's time enough, she'll wait,
study the lopsided shape.
The outer green sepals once enclosing the bud
lie shrivelled: empty shells spiralling
right beneath the petals.
As she stares the sun comes out.
And the largest petal flushes
deep deep violet.
A violet so intense it's almost black.
The other tremble indigo, reveal
paler blue undersides.
Thin red veins running into yellow orange rills,
yellow flows down the green stem.
Her hand moves swiftly from palette to paper,
paper to palette, the delicate brush
swoops down, sweeps up,
move the way a bird builds its nest.
An instant and the sun is gone.

You can learn more about this poet here. Be sure to visit Kym, Bonny, and Kat today to read their selections!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Unraveled, Week 16/2024

Phew, what a week it has been already! We have had two gorgeous days of above-normal temperatures and sunshine, but today the rain has returned. We're having the wettest April on record here, and I am thankful that we don't have any flooding issues where we live (that is one perk of having a ravine at the end of your street!). Yesterday I went for my normal walk and then had to walk in to campus to pick up my new ID (my old one expired two years ago, oops) and to meet a coworker for coffee, so I certainly got my dose of vitamin D. But I'm currently "detoxing" from long-term use of my allergy medication, so with the nicer weather there has also been a lot of sneezing and itchy eyes, so at least the rain will wash away some of the pollen.

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to join up with Kat and the Unravelers. I'd hoped to have an FO to share today, but all that walking yesterday meant less knitting time. I'm getting very close, though!

Please excuse the mess behind me, including the chicken.

If I were following the pattern exactly, my Bereket would already be done; it calls for seven rounds of twisted ribbing at the bottom hem before binding off. But that would also result in a very cropped sweater and an awkward length, and as I had (and still have) plenty of yarn remaining, I decided to just keep going with it. I've just joined another skein of yarn, my smallest one of the bunch, and plan to keep knitting until I've basically used it all up. I think that should get me to a length that's much more comfortable for me. Looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead, it's unlikely that I'll be really comfortable wearing a wool sweater of any length in the near future. I can't help but think that I've brought on the warm weather by nearly finishing it, though!

This is my only project of any kind at the moment -- I know! -- but I've got a board meeting tonight which requires some mindless knitting to help me stay engaged, so I will likely be starting a new pair of socks. I've pulled out this skein of self-striping from my SSK goodies from last year to wind up. It's a Targhee/nylon blend, which makes delightfully squishy socks.

Reading has been good but not as plentiful lately, and that's mainly because Mo has wanted to watch Downton Abbey every chance we get, so there's more TV than reading in the evenings. But I've finished two good books in the last week.

First, I listened to From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, which is read by the author (something I always enjoy when listening to a memoir). Tembi Locke tells how she met her husband, a Sicilian chef, while studying abroad; their struggles to have a child and, later, with his battle with a rare cancer; their complicated relationship with his family due to their interracial marriage; and, finally, her husband's death and how she, their daughter, and his mother created a new family for themselves. There is a lot of grief and sadness in this book, but there's also an immense amount of love and of personal growth -- not to mention a lot of food! I haven't yet watched it, but there's also now a Netflix series inspired by the book. I gave this one 4 stars.

Martyr! is a relatively new release that's fairly hard to classify. Its main character, Cyrus Shams, came to the United States with his father from Iran as a child after his mother was killed when a U.S. Navy ship mistook a commercial airliner for a fighter plane. After battling addiction and dealing with the loss of his father while in college, he is now sober and struggling to find some meaning in his life. So he turns to the stories of martyrs, those whose deaths have meaning or significance. And then he hears about an artist who has turned her terminal cancer diagnosis into an art exhibit in New York, and meeting her turns his world upside down. I can't help but think that this novel is probably quite a bit autobiographical; it's certainly informed by the author's background and experience (he, like Cyrus, is a poet, and that's readily apparent in how he writes). It's at turns sad, funny, and poignant. It's not a book that will appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed it and found it to be really fresh and original. I gave it 4 stars.

Right now I've got a trio of books in progress: Long Island Compromise on Kindle, How to Say Babylon on audio, and When I Lived in Modern Times on paper.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, April 15, 2024

For the Bird(s)

Somehow Monday mornings are harder when you've had a long weekend -- or maybe it's just because a certain someone woke me up with his snoring at about 4:30 this morning. In any case, I'm dragging a bit, but I'm enjoying my second big cup of coffee (to which I added a splash of hazelnut syrup just because), and I'm sure I'll get moving soon enough.

It was very nice to have the extra day over the weekend. Friday was indeed a washout, so we put off our shopping trip and instead I got my usual Saturday chores done a day early. We also spent some time watching Downton Abbey; Mo recently discovered that she now enjoys watching period dramas after she got hooked on The Gilded Age with me, so she requested that we watch Downton next. She was way too young for it when it was originally on, and I haven't watched it in years, so we are enjoying starting from the beginning. We're already into Season 2 -- I'd forgotten how few episodes were in each season!

We did end up doing our shopping trip on Saturday and were very successful. The main objective was finding a dress for Mo for a school dance that's this coming Friday night, but we also have a family bat mitzvah next month. Mo found three dresses -- two party dresses and one that she's planning to wear for her middle school graduation -- and I found three as well. Two of them were on the clearance rack and on sale for amazing prices! I wasn't necessarily planning to shop for me, but what I found all fit perfectly and was too good of a deal to pass up (plus I probably needed some new dresses!).

When I wasn't cleaning or shopping this weekend, I was working on a chicken. (Yes, you read that correctly.) And it's done!

This is the ubiquitous Emotional Support Chicken that everyone seems to be knitting right now. When I bought the pattern, I originally intended to knit one for myself, and I still do, but this first one is for my nephew for his upcoming first birthday.

I know some of you were interested in some feedback on the pattern, and having now knit it, I can understand why there was some concern. Although I didn't have any trouble following it, I can think of many ways I would improve how the pattern is written. There isn't a ton of consistency; sometimes it says "Step 1, Step 2," and sometimes it says "Row 1, Row 2," so there's that. It's also not always indicated which side is the right and and which is the wrong side. And to add to all of this, there are a lot of short rows, which I know not everyone is comfortable with. But I have enough experience that I could see what needed to be done and how it was shaped, so I didn't have any issues. I do have in mind some adjustments for my next chicken, though, and I'll certainly detail my modifications when I make my own. For this initial chicken, the only change I made was to leave off the wattle. I did make it, but Mo and I both agreed that it looked awkward and was likely to get pulled off by a toddler who doesn't know his own strength.

As far as the specs go, I used all Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton Worsted that was leftover from an earlier project. I used a total of 234 yards, and I believe the colors I used are Bone, Dandelion, and Mediterranean (the tags are long gone). I used a US 7/4.5 mm needle and worked at a slightly tighter-than-specified gauge; I think I will likely use an even smaller needle for my next chicken to ensure that the fabric is tight enough. This yarn is rather robust for a worsted, plus with a cotton I didn't want to make the fabric too tight, so the called-for needle size worked well to make sure the stuffing didn't show through. And speaking of stuffing, I can see that I need to work on my stuffing technique a bit because this chicken is looking a little lumpy! One thing I did do that's not in the pattern is add some poly pellets for some weight; they're sewn up in some fabric so they don't escape and cause a potential choking hazard.

Now that the chicken is out of the way, I've turned back to my Bereket sweater, and I hope to have another FO to share with you later this week. But for now, I've got to get my work day started. Have a good start to your week!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Gone Afoul

Happy Friday from a very wet Pittsburgh! I am technically "on vacation" today, both because I was bumping up against my accrual limit and because Mo is off from school today and we wanted to have a girls' day. We had planned to go to a mall and do some shopping, but we had a lot of rain move through yesterday, resulting in a lot of flash flooding around the area, so I think we will put that off until the weekend and instead have a quiet day indoors. Frankly, that's just fine with me, as I am a bit obsessed with my current project:

Does it look like a chicken yet? I started this on Wednesday and got both tail sections done that evening, and I did most of the body yesterday. I'm now partway through the head and have only the rest of that, the comb and wattle, and the belly panel left to do, all of which I'm pretty sure I can do today. I'm planning to add some poly pellets inside the stuffing, and I'm going to sew them up inside some fabric to make sure they stay safely inside, so I'll have to get the sewing machine out as well. And yes, I'm aware that blue is not a traditional color for chickens, but I wanted a little variety and I had it. I highly doubt a 1-year-old is going to complain.

We have nothing planned for the weekend, so I hope to catch up on some sleep and get outside when it dries out. I hope it's a good one for you!

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Poetry in April: Ross Gay

It's Thursday again, and that means it's time for another installment of poetry! This week we are all sharing poems by Ross Gay. I've chosen to share the one I haven't stopped thinking about since I read it two weeks ago. It's a long one, but I hope you'll read it all and enjoy it as much as I did.


You're right, you're right,
the fertilizer's good--
it wasn't a gang of dullards
came up with chucking
a fish in the planting hole
or some midwife got lucky
with the placenta--
oh, I'll plant a tree here!--

and a sudden flush of quince
and jam enough for months--yes,
the magic dust our bodies become
casts spells on the roots
about which someone else
could tell you the chemical processes,
but it's just magic to me,
which is why a couple springs ago
when first putting in my two bare root plum trees
out back I took the jar which has become
my father's house,
and lonely for him and hoping to coax him back
for my mother as much as me,
poured some of him in the planting holes
and he dove in glad for the robust air,
saddling a slight gust
into my nose and mouth,
chuckling as I coughed,
but mostly he disappeared
into the minor yawns in the earth
into which I placed the trees,
splaying wide their roots,
casting the gray dust of my old man
evenly throughout the hole,
replacing then the clods
of dense Indiana soil until the roots
and my father were buried,
watering it in all with one hand
while holding the tree
with the other straight as the flag
to the nation of simple joy
of which my father is now a naturalized citizen,
waving the flag
from his subterranean lair,
the roots curled around him
like shawls or jungle gyms, like
hookahs or the arms of ancestors,
before breast-stroking into the xylem,
riding the elevator up
through the cambium and into the leaves where,
when you put your ear close enough,
you can hear him whisper
good morning, where, if you close your eyes
and push your face you can feel
his stubbly jowls and good lord
this year he was giddy at the first
real fruit set and nestled into the 30 or 40 plums
in the two trees, peering out from the sweet meat
with his hands pressed against the purple skin
like cathedral glass,
and imagine his joy as the sun
wizarded forth those abundant sugars
and I plodded barefoot
and prayerful at the first ripe plum's swell and blush,
almost weepy conjuring
some surely ponderous verse
to convey this bottomless grace,
you know, oh father oh father kind of stuff,
hundreds of hot air balloons
filling the sky in my chest, replacing his intubated body
listing like a boat keel side up, replacing
the steady stream of water from the one eye
which his brother wiped before removing the tube,
keeping his hand on the forehead
until the last wind in his body wandered off,
while my brother wailed like an animal,
and my mother said, weeping,
it's ok, it's ok, you can go honey,
at all of which my father
guffawed by kicking from the first bite
buckets of juice down my chin,
staining one of my two button-down shirts,
the salmon-colored silk one, hollering
there's more of that!
almost dancing now in the plum,
in the tree, the way he did as a person,
bent over and biting his lip
and chucking the one hip out
then the other with his elbows cocked
and fists loosely made
and eyes closed and mouth made trumpet
when he knew he could make you happy
just by being a little silly
and sweet.

"burial" from catalog of unabashed gratitude, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015

You can learn more about Ross Gay here. Be sure to visit Kat, Kym, and Bonny to read their selections!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Unraveled, Week 15/2024

It's Wednesday again, so it's time to join up with Kat and the Unravelers! I'll give you one guess as to what's on my needles this week.

The exciting news is that I'm ready to bind off the second sleeve! So all that stands between me and a finished sweater is the neck ribbing and the ribbing at the bottom of the body. But I have quite a lot of yarn remaining, so I think I am going to add some more length to the body because the sweater is quite cropped as written.

I will likely be starting a chicken soon, if only because I'm craving some color other than brown. Also, you all know what I'm not typically a monogamous knitter, and as much as I'm enjoying working on this sweater, I need a little variety.

Despite feeling like I've been doing a lot of reading this past week, I've only finished one book, but at least it was a good one!

You may remember that I started reading There Are Rivers in the Sky, Elif Shafak's forthcoming novel, back when Mo and I were in Florida, but I paused when a library hold came in. Once I could get back to it, though, I was hooked. This novel follows three characters in three different timelines: Arthur, born into poverty in Dickens's London; Narin, a Yazidi girl living in Turkey with her father and grandmother in 2014; and Zaleekhah, a water scientist recently separated from her husband in London in 2018. These three seem entirely unrelated, but their lives all find a connection in water and in the culture of ancient Mesopotamia. Arthur finds success in being able to read cuneiform tablets unearthed by archaeologists and finds his life's passion in translating the epic poem of Gilgamesh. Narin, whose mother died and whose father travels for work, suffers from an illness that is rapidly taking her hearing, and as the Turkish government is planning construction that threatens to flood the village where she lives, her grandmother is determined to take her to an ancient holy city in Iraq to be baptized. Zaleekhah is trying to make a home on a rented houseboat and reflecting on the work of her late mentor, whose theory that water could retain memory destroyed his professional reputation, and of the rivers that have been buried over the centuries. Connecting these three storylines are the themes of memory, of hatred that arises from misunderstanding, and of the many important roles that water plays in life as well as the dual nature of all humans -- that even those who create beauty or knowledge are still capable of cruelty. I really enjoyed this book, though I found the characters to be a little flat and underdeveloped and would have liked to have gotten to know them better. I gave it 4 stars.

I received a digital ARC of this book from Knopf and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This book will be published August 20, 2024.

I am still reading Martyr! and also have started an audiobook from my TBR, From Scratch, as well as another ARC, Long Island Compromise.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, April 08, 2024

Rested and Eclipse Ready

Happy Eclipse Day! We are not in the path of totality here, but we'll see something like 97% coverage here (assuming the clouds don't roll in). The timing coincides perfectly with school pick-up, so Mo and I have a plan to meet on a side street near her school to watch it from there.

The weekend was relaxing, which I needed. I did have to get up to an alarm on Saturday because I had to go get some routine bloodwork done and needed to be fasting, but I had nothing else on the schedule and was able to get in a couple of good walks and lots of knitting time. Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. It started off a little cold, but the sky was clear and the sun was warm. We had the blinds up on the sliding glass doors in our family room all afternoon so we could get all of that beautiful sunshine in the house. Mo and I watched the women's NCAA championship game in the afternoon, and I got a ton of work done on my sweater:

I'm in the home stretch now! I'm working decreases on every round of the sleeve for a while, so the stitch count is going to go down rapidly. Once the sleeve is done, all that's left to do is the neckline and the bottom hem. I still have plenty of yarn, and I may make the body a little longer than called for because of it.

Today I have a special guest keeping me company:

My brother was concerned that the dog walker might come to take him out during the eclipse (yes, he's a little overprotective), so he's staying with me while he and my sister-in-law are at work. We also have some workmen coming today to fix an issue with our sliding glass doors, so there will be lots of excitement around the house. The only real difference this will make for me is that I'll move my "office" downstairs for the day.

Hope your week is off to a good start and, if you're near the path of totality, you're able to see the eclipse today!

Friday, April 05, 2024

A Soggy End to the Week

TGIF! It's been a long, wet week. We've had some pretty extensive flooding in the area, including at the Point (the tip of the triangle where the Allegheny and the Monongahela converge to form the Ohio River). This video from one of our local stations shows how the water is covering the entirety of the fountain. Yesterday we had a brief break in the rain and even a bit of sun, allowing me to get out for a walk, but the rain soon returned and we even had some hail/graupel in the afternoon! It's been cold again and I'm back to wearing sweaters and hand-knit socks. It's not unusual for us to have multiple "false springs" in this part of the world, but after having several days in the 70s in February, it feels rather cruel.

I am making the best of the situation. I haven't been able to get outside to work out other than my walk yesterday, but given that I just donated blood on Tuesday, any run I would have taken likely would have been extra hard. And being stuck in the house means I'm getting things done in between work tasks -- and getting a fair amount of knitting done. My Bereket is moving along at a good clip; I think being more familiar with the stitch pattern and the decreases are combining to make the second pattern section go a lot faster than the first.

I'm really trying to stay focused on this project, but I've already pulled out some yarns for my next cast-on. Do these colors say chicken to you?

What about these?

By chicken, I'm of course referring to the hot knitting pattern of the moment, the Emotional Support Chicken. I had already bought the pattern for myself as a birthday present but then learned that my youngest nephew is currently obsessed with chickens. His first birthday is coming up on May 1 and I wasn't sure what to make him as a gift, but now I know exactly what to make. I'm going to be using the yarns in the first photo, all of them Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton leftover from the doll I made for Mo many years ago. I figured cotton was a good choice for a baby gift, and it always makes me happy to use up leftovers, particularly leftovers that have been in my stash for a decade. The yarns I've selected for mine are a skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy OOAK that I recently won and some HipStrings Buoy DK leftover from a sweater. Apparently knitting one of these chickens often leads to knitting many of them, but I'll start with these two.

This weekend should be a quieter/calmer one than last. We're having dinner with my parents tonight; they came home from Florida earlier in the week and are babysitting my nephew this weekend while my brother and sister-in-law are taking a quick trip. I'm planning on a trip to Costco and will have the usual cleaning to do but otherwise hope to catch up on sleep and reading. I'll leave you with a photo of my permanent veneer, which was installed (is that the right term for it?) on Tuesday morning and looks so much more like my actual tooth that I ever expected!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Poetry on Thursday, 2024 Edition

As I mentioned yesterday, April is National Poetry Month, and to commemorate it, Bonny, Kat, Kym, and I are once again going to be sharing poems with you every Thursday this month. Each week has a theme or featured poet, and for this first Thursday, we are sharing poems about peace and/or humanity. This is a very timely theme, in my opinion, because the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is never far from my mind. Though I don't claim to have any expertise in diplomacy, I firmly believe that a very key step toward ending conflict is seeing the humanity of those we might view as our adversaries. With that in mind, I picked a poem to share this week that beautifully illustrates how much more we have in common one another than we might realize.

Perhaps the World Ends Here
by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will
    go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us as our
    poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
    the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last
    sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1994)

If you'd like to hear the poet read this poem, you can listen here. And you can learn more about Joy Harjo, former poet laureate of the United States, here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Unraveled, Week 14/2024

Is it really already Wednesday? Yesterday was so busy that it passed in a blink, so I feel like I'm a bit behind. But I'm here in time to join Kat and the Unravelers for our weekly update on making and reading.

Now that the socks are finished, I find myself a monogamous knitter (don't worry friends; I don't anticipate the situation to stay this way for long). Coming back home to cooler temperatures has made me want to finish my Bereket in time to wear it once or twice before it's packed away for the summer, so I've been giving it a fair amount of attention. I can officially say now that I've passed the halfway mark because I have completed the front and back short-rowed section and have just joined the two pieces again to begin working on the textured portion for the left side.

The short rows are really quite clever in shaping this triangular middle section of the sweater, and even though I goofed up somewhere and ended up with an extra stitch on the front, I made it work by skipping one increase called for in the joining row. I hope that now that I'm repeating the stitches I've already done and also will be decreasing that this side of the sweater will go a bit faster. And I'm still only on my second ball of yarn, so I'm pretty confident there will be no game of yarn chicken at the end of this project.

I've done quite a lot of reading in the last week, thanks in large part to travel. I have finished three books, one of them the length of at least two!

We had a little delay on our flight home, and frankly there's not much to do at the Ft. Myers airport, so Mo and I parked ourselves at the gate, where she played around on her phone and I read. I had maybe 50 pages left in Iron Flame by the time we got on the plane, so I made quick work of finishing it up. Although the second book in the series was compelling, I didn't like it as well as the first one, probably mostly because it was just too darn long and felt like it needed some judicious editing. I reached a point in the middle where I was pretty much done with it, but I'd gotten far enough that I was committed to finishing. Fortunately, even though it's long, it's not the kind of book that requires deep thought or slow reading. I really couldn't keep track of the military organization or even all of the characters, and I found that I didn't really care. It was an okay diversion; I gave it 3 stars.

Once I finished the first book, I still had about an hour and a half of the flight left, so I got out one of the physical books I'd brought with me on the trip. I have slowly been working on growing my poetry library, and I treated myself to Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude as a birthday present. I read the entire collection in one sitting -- something that's very easy to do with poetry! I am sure I'm going to need to go back and reread to more fully appreciate this collection, but there was one poem that particularly touched me in which Gay is planting a plum tree and pours some of his late father's ashes in among the roots. The imagery of the tree and the fruit it bears becoming a way for his father to live on is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I gave this collection 3 stars.

Finally, I read a much-anticipated new release. The Libby app has a feature that allows you to add books the library does not have to a list and it will notify you when a title becomes available. I'd done that a couple of weeks ago with James, Percival Everett's take on Huck Finn, and I put it on hold about five seconds after I saw the notification pop up. I was fourth in line and it's a relatively quick read (only about 300 pages, with short chapters), so I only had to wait a few days. Friends, if you don't already have this book on hold, put it on hold now -- it's a fabulous read! Everett is known for his satire and for flipping the script, and he does some really amazing things here with both Jim (or James, as he prefers to be called) and enslaved people in general. He tweaks the story just enough to give an entirely different perspective on the story. You do not have to have read (or reread) Mark Twain's original to appreciate this book; I hadn't read it since high school and only remembered the basic plot line, but I didn't feel I even needed that. I think this book should either replace or be taught alongside Huck Finn in high schools (though I have a feeling some people would immediately try to ban it). I gave it 4 stars.

I'm now back to reading an ARC from NetGalley that I am very much enjoying, and I just started Martyr! on Monday night. I expect there will be more poetry soon, too, as April is National Poetry Month!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, April 01, 2024

Showers, Right On Schedule

There will be no April Fool's jokes from me today (but I will share that in French, the term is "poisson d'avril," or "April fish"). However, Mother Nature seems to be taking the old saying "April showers bring May flowers" to heart this year, because it's raining and will continue raining for most of this week, with a possibility of some mixed-in snow showers at the end of the week. In the words of toddler Mo, "No like it!"

We did have a nice, but busy weekend. Services on Friday night were really lovely, but it ended up being a late night because we decided to go out to dinner afterwards and of course had a wait. Thankfully we all slept in Saturday morning. Mo and I thoroughly enjoyed Mamma Mia on Saturday afternoon -- apparently this national tour is celebrating the show's 25th anniversary, which means when I saw it the first time in Toronto, before it went to Broadway, it was part of the very first season of shows. I got a lot of sock knitting done, too, and though I needed a little more time yesterday, I did indeed finish the socks. I'll block them today and then take them to my sister-in-law sometime this week.

I used my usual top-down heel flap/gusset recipe for these, worked over 80 stitches using US 0/2.0 mm needles. The yarn is Knit Picks Felici in the colorway Lassi (as in mango lassi). Felici is pretty generous on yardage -- 436 yards per 100 g -- but my sister-in-law's feel are so big that even knitting her shortie socks used 65 g! Despite starting the socks in the same place in the stripe sequence, they don't quite match, but honestly I think they're close enough, and she may not even notice.

Last night we had some friends over for dinner, as as we were sitting and talking, I looked down at my feet and noticed I had a big hole in one of my own shortie socks (this was a pair that was "missing" for a while in the mess that was my closet, so I suspect some critter may have nibbled on them and weakened a strand that broke). After I finished grafting and weaving in ends on my SIL's socks, I did a repair job on mine:

Before       |       After

I didn't have any of the yarn left (the socks were themselves made from leftovers), so I pulled out some that had sort of similar colors and stitched it all back together. It's not a perfect fix, but I mainly wear these socks around the house, so it doesn't much matter anyway.

This week is shaping up to be another busy one. Tomorrow at 8 I go back to the dentist for my permanent veneer, and then at 11 I've got an appointment to donate blood. Plus there are the usual work meetings, school pickups, and chores around the house. I don't know if I'll be able to get outside to exercise at all this week, other than walking to and from my appointments. At least being inside all day means I'm closer to my knitting, which I hope to do more of this week!