Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dunce Caps, Preparations & the 21st Century

This is Lilliane, proving that she likes the Kitty Pi too. Incidentally, I had a perfectly wonderful lesson in putting photos into my blog (and some other useful things) by Mrs. SABLE (who is one of those lovely women who fairly exude patience, even with blogidiots); however, my notes fall short and I must throw myself on her mercy again soon. BEAR with me (which is a funny, because I always have a bear with me, about which more later.

The "preparations" referred to were the preparations for a scheduled trip I'm taking with my friend Donna - she's a ham radio operator and has signed on to assist with a very long bicycle ride along the Wisconsin River. The hams keep in touch with one another and keep an eye on the cyclists, that sort of thing. I don't do ham radio, but Donna wanted the company, she's an inexperienced camper, says she. She's never tented out. So I see it as an opportunity to have sort of an adventure, spend time with a friend, and see how this bike tour thing works. (NO! I'm NOT anticipating doing one myself some day. I'm just naturally curious.) I can hear Lovely Daughter saying "Yeppers, Mom, you are curious." As always, I've thrown a few clothes in a suitcase and am now confronted with sorting out knitting projects to take, books to read, selecting the flashlights, headlamps &c with which to do the above in the tent at night.

We're not, by the way, camping out in the wilderness of the Yukon. No, each stopping place will be a school in a small town on the route; the cyclists can sleep either in tents they've arranged for (rented) which will be set up and taken down and moved for them each day - or in the gym of the schools. But we volunteers get vouchers for breakfasts and suppers, our gas is paid for (which in this day and age is like being given a bottle of fancy perfume every day) and besides, think of all the blog fodder!

So we're leaving tomorrow morning (I'm writing this Friday night) and there's one more notable event from today. Today we made a Major Move. A Notable Event. A thing so remarkable for us that...I hardly know how to remark up on it. We bought a cell phone! A CELL PHONE! That very item I've groused about, complained about, snarled at in grocery stores, bookshops and most of all flipped birds at when seen in moving automobiles.

But you became evident to me that there would be a real advantage to a connection between me and Donna (a 21st century person) while en route, and besides I could call Mr. Dearling now and then, and he could take it with HIM when he goes on a motorcycle trip ....and the Lovely Daughter's been harping at me to get one so that I can call her when I'm going to be late meeting her (now c'mon, I'm better than I used to be, admit it!) or she could call me to say, in her voice which is so much like my own, "WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?"

We looked at the prepaid ones, which I thought would be the clear ticket - we get one months' worth of minutes and call it good. Then if we need to reactivate it in future, we can.

I hear you laughing out there. All of you, OK, OK. We wound up with a Real Cell Phone. Mr. Dearling said he'd been thinking about it for a while, and that he would feel better knowing, if I was away on a long car trip alone, that I had one with me. (I think he'd been admiring the shiny little things my sons have, which they show with great pride, boasting about all the stuff they do.) What I wanted it to do was, connect me to the outside world. No camera, no games, no videos for petessakes.

"So what did you get, Mrs. Smartypants-of-the-18th-Century?" Well, Mr. Dearling is clever, thoughtful and thrifty - and given the fact that a decision had to be made pretty lickety-quick, he did some serious online research and announced "OK, we're going to Best Buy." (I admit it, we'd been there last night, just eyeballing.) He narrowed it down to two models. One had a free phone, rollover minutes (I'd heard talking about those in commercials, never gave them any thought before) and we could get a deal because it was our land-line provider &c &c. The other one didn't have a free phone (but it wasn't much), and they could waive the activation fee. The final determinant was that the latter has much better coverage, particularly in northern Wisconsin (BINGO, that's where we're going!) AND northern Minnesota, possibly as far north as Grand Portage in the arrowhead, site of our annual revelries in the 18th century.

So we have a Razr? (Not sure if that's what it's called; in any event it's spelled wrong but I think that's a marketing thing. Saywot??) And guess what, it has a camera. And I think games and stuff. I've now spent two hours reading the book trying to figure it out - at least I know how to make calls and how to answer them if I happen to be somewhere NOT MOVING when it rings. Oh, and it DOES ring now. Something called "low chimes" - as opposed to the dirty-dancing hot latin beat it had originally. And now it's late and I have to go to bed because I still have yarn to select and patterns to pack.

Monday, June 18, 2007

In the name of Full Disclosure

OK - here's my Kureyon Old Shale scarf coming right along. Amazing color! I am loving it...oh oh. Wait. What's that LUMP? That unsightly BULGE, right there above the blue, where it's oh-so-obvious? Will canny blocking make it disappear? Is it just a nub of thicker yarn? (Naww, I don't think so.) Do I frog? Tink?

Alas, I do not. I figure out a way to tuck that bit in - or better yet, I write my way out of it. Let's see....That irregularity shall be worn proudly, to ever remind me of my limited Uh -- that bulge contains laughter, merriment, with which I mean to delight the wearer.....Naw. I don't think that's an off-the-top rationalization, it'll take some real thought. But I AM a better writer than knitter, I'll come up with something.
But I do see the glory of that yarn. The flow of color even survives my questionable ability, and to tell you the truth, it'll look totally smashing with my burgundy coat. In November. "Why do you knit lovely warm mufflers in June, Dale-Harriet?" "Because I'm a Process Knitter, dearie - and I'm a tad seasonally-challenged." Live with it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

OK - Cats, Sticks and Iowa!

Observe: a cat. And sticks. (Which are not, as it may seem, sticking into the cat.) This is the first kitty pi I made, out of stash leftovers in three days (!) Evangeline likes it, she really likes it! So does Lilliane in fact, and I made another so they could each be kitty-pi'd. But the second one...well, not so great. One bunch o' yarn did NOT full and it's a peculiar shape, although Evvie prefers it over this one, second only to the top shelf of their tree. (Wait a sec, going for an ice cube for the tea - summer she is arriving.)

So far, June is continuing to be the Month of Awesome Weekends (separated by decent days). First there was the Weekend of Restored Grandsons; next, last weekend, the Magical Trip to Iowa. SCOFF NOT! Mr. Dearling (formerly known as The Husband) admits to growing up with the belief that there was New York, there was Los Angeles, and they were separated by a vast wasteland known as "Flyover Land". Nothing here. Few trees, a river or three - nuttin'. Where DID he think his Oshkosh B'gosh came from?? Whereas, in truth, there's Where Normal People Live -- and the coasts.

Well - last weekend we drove to Fairfield, IA with our friends for the celebration of their 60th anniversary and to see their son's geodesic dome. NOTE: Fairfield, Iowa is the site of a beautiful, bucolic, Iowa town - AND the Maharishi University, which combination makes it friendly, easy, peaceful, artsy - and a truly interesting blend of Eastern philosophy and Americana.

Lovely ride down; Mr. Dearling is a very skillful driver and likes it, so the rest of us just lounged. Mrs. and I knitted all the way - except for the time when I lolled back and slept. Mr. Dearling declares that going somewhere with me is like travelling with a little kid: somewhere along the line I just zone out. NOTE: everyone's good at something....if they ever make Sleeping an Olympic sport stand aside, you can just engrave my name on those golds right now.

We arrived mid-afternoon allowing time to go visit the Dome (which young friend Steve, son-of-the-bride-and-groom) is building, as opposed to the "dome", which they're renting in the meantime. When I've learned to negotiate photos I'll post some. Until then - suffice it to say that this is a stunning, well-insulated, well-planned domicile being built, by hand - that's single-handed. The skills required for this feat are quite literally beyond my comprehension - not only the carpentry and construction but the geometry, mathematics, visualization, patience....and think about it. In future, forever, if anything goes amiss or awry or wonky, he will know not only where it is, but how it was constructed and therefore how to repair or replace it easily. Rather than spending a few hundreds of thousands of dollars to have it built, he's spending days and months o fhis own time, a reasonable trade-off. And besides all of THAT (!) there's an additional element, something invisible to the eye but clearly evident: with every hammer blow, with every sawblade, Love is being infused into that building. Steve could build this house and it would be remarkable, but because he's building it for himself and Marcia, the bond they share (which includes laughter, philosophy, tranquility and peace) is being infused into every single part of that Dome. And you know? all of that doesn't begin to truly indicate what I think of this place. "There are no words." (And yet, I've used a bunch and still not really got it.)

OK. I like the Dome.

Later we went to dinner at Vivo, an Italian restaurant I daresay is the equal or superior to any five-star establishment in North America. Glasses were raised to toast 60 years of marriage. These people, our friends, are world-class artists (she in embroidery, pottery, knitting, beadwork - &c &c; he in photography, as in - a retrospective of Madison unequalled). Am I coming across here is the Queen of Hyperbole? The truth is, it's the truth. I'm just privileged to have encountered this unparalleled family and the good fortune to have them call us "friend". Whew. Good dinner.

Other events of the weekend: while standing outside the dome, Steve said "Look at the field over there (across the street)....there's the fox!" This was followed by about half-an-hour of our watching not one but three little foxes, playing and disporting right across the road. They chased, they ran, they leapt, as if to entertain us, which of course they did! How often can one say "We watched foxes"?

The next day, Saturday, included a trip to the Farmers' Market for we three ladies. The Bride of 60 Years and I took our knitting, found a comfortable picnic table, and boldly, unashamedly, forthrightly Publicly Knitted! Right there in front of God and Everybody. Later we ambled downtown (a matter of a few blocks) and I was pointed in the direction of the LYS. It's called "At Home", and in the front there is a lot of wonderful kitchen stuff - and snuggled in the back, a yarn shop! They had lots of Kureyon, some terrific Lantern Moon baskets (oh I loves me some baskets). There was a table and some chairs and a little sofa, and a class going on. I asked if I could join them (to knit) being as it was all public and knitty and so on, and they said "Oh yeah! WWKIP Day!" and "Pull up a couch!" The lady teaching the class introduced herself and all the other ladies....NOTE: my children could use t-shirts with their names on, because I'm just that bad. Faces? Never forget 'em. Names? Uhhmm...err....terrible. So I enjoyed a couple hours' delightful conversation, watching the class, publicly knitting (even if it was in a yarn shop). They even gave me a cup of delicious lapsang souchang and no one laughed at my gawky big clumsy knitting over the top of their wondrous baby sweaters. Afterward I walked back to the dome, an enjoyable walk of about a mile past yards exploding with juniper and hostas and roses.

Sunday we plunked back into the car and came home. The weather all weekend was perfect, the company incomparable, the food exquisite (that was some fine spanokopita, Marcia) and the celebration of 60 years of a marriage...merry. Honestly? A weekend of very different events from the previous, and equal wonder. This is being a capital month. Capital!

This weekend? I'm going to turn my interesting knitted scarf-oid into a bag and felt it (yes yes, Mr. Dearling, I'm actually going to "full" it - I do know the difference) and finish my Old Shale scarf from Kureyon (there are pictures {sigh} of these days). I'll finish my cabled baby wrap (I'm just mattress-stitching it together) and it's Peculiar so probably no pictures. Then - wait, can it be? Nothing on the needles??? WHOOAH NELLIE!

Let's see - I have a new pattern with seven lace scarves to try, there's the hand towels in the Mason-Dixon book, I've heard whimpering coming from the sock yarn under the futon and there are those four skeins of delicious hand-dyed that I got at the Yarnery in St. Paul. Oh wait - I do have a granny shawl on the needles but that almost doesn't count.

On the other hand, I am reading four books and there are five tapping the corners of their covers impatiently and there are gladiola bulbs on my kitchen counter that are learning to walk on their little roots. I'd best plant them, I fear for the cats.

On my Must-Do list: learn how to put pictures in here (I put them all in a new file in my MS Office photo thing and can't find the new file); learn how to put links here to my favorite blogs I read every day; and try some of those sticky strips to hold in the dentures to see if they really ARE better than "those oozing pastes you used to use". Hope you all have as much fun as I will!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Contrasts - and Joy

First - my hollyhocks, from two years ago (full disclosure). They actually grow taller than the housetop, although this year they seem to be coming up on the other side of the steps. Watch this space....

Second - NOTICE * NOTICE * NOTICE! I've learned from other bloggers that next Saturday, June 9, 2007 is:


For some of us, every day is KIP Day, but apparently this is a Movement, a Happening, a Statement. I encourage any and all to go forth, needles akimbo, and find a very public spot to ply those needles.

However, barring that, take whatever you have on the needles at the moment and hang around outside a drugstore or sit in the window at your local coffee shop; choose a bookstore or bus shelter, somewhere on campus if you have one -- be creative! I myself will be with dear friends in the enchanted village of Fairfield, Iowa celebrating the 60th Wedding Anniversary of two of them. If that's not a Magical Festivity nothing is, and as the bride is the best knitter I know, I'm sure I will be able to convince her to join me in a little public knitting. I can hardly believe it : June 2007 must be my Month of Extraordinary Weekends.

So, how magical was it, Grandma Dale? Ooooh, my dears, it was wonder wrapped in delight balanced on laughter surrounded by poignancy.

Saturday....started out rainy, but cleared up as we made our way to the home of my second grandson, C, which is near Lake Koshkonong (we Wisconsinites can pronounce words like that in a very musical way -- ask me how to say "Oconomowoc"). I was very excited, but managed to work on the Old Shale scarf on the way. The Husband, Mr. Navigator, was armed with a little map he made up from on-line directions. (Let it be known, I'm dismal with navigating - I once got hopelessly lost with a block-by-block Triptik.) We found ourselves in an area of very nice houses, some used as summer residences by folks from ... south of here.

When we arrived C himself met us at the door; his folks had run to the store, to return imminently. After a somewhat awkward greeting, I asked him if he'd be interested in seeing some pictures of himself as a baby. Can you imagine how embarrassing that might be for a 17-year-old? But he was good-natured and interested. I pointed out especially the pictures taken in my living room (sixteen and seventeen years ago) and special favorites like the one where I had him in the backpack carrier. He rolled his eyes and groaned - I've had teenagers, I know that's teenspeak for "Man, is that every cool, Grandma!" I don't know what he'll call me - I readily answered to "Hey" as in "Hey, you want something to drink?" but we'll figure that out at some point in the future.

When the folks came home we turned on the oven and popped in the rumaki. NOTE: when I'd asked the Mom if we could bring anything she said "Oh man, yeah, you used to make those water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, remember? Could you bring those, I've never been able to make them as good as you did." The Husband had made up a LOT of them, put them on two broiler pans and we took them along to cook there. Those things are much better right out of the oven. NOTE again: I marinate the water chestnuts in soy sauce with brown sugar stirred in for an hour or more before wrapping the bacon around. NOTE the third: I know, what's a nice Jewish girl using bacon for? Well....I'm more of an ethnic Jew, and I love bacon, so I call it "zebra" like an Israeli friend used to. I love me those ZLT sandwiches. Just sayin'.

Shortly thereafter DIL #1 came with her two boys, who are, in fact, C's half-brothers. They're five and three years old and didn't have any idea of C; C knew he had two little half-brothers. I'd hoped Number One Son would come along but he had to work (and may have had some anxieties about it -- ).

The weather cleared up and the afternoon was spent in pleasant conversation, and watching the little boys run through the sprinkler and sliding on a long piece of plastic on the hill on the side yard. There was a moment where C was chasing the little boys (his little brothers!) with a water-shooter and all three were laughing and running and I have to tell you, it was the sort of scene that brought tears of joy to my eyes. We left at the end of the afternoon, and all three of the boys hugged and kissed me before we went. (Sunday we saw the DIL briefly at the other grandson's graduation; she had taken pictures which she showed me, including one of the three boys sitting together on the step. Can you imagine what that picture means to me? I'll pay for copies....) To be reconnected with that child is a rare pleasure and I look forward to being available to him, to answer questions, to relate his heritage on my side, to provide support and friendship to him. I whispered to him on the phone last week that I will be a confidante for him, that gripes, brags, fears, angers - told to me - will stop with me. I reminded him of the Native American wisdom: The Creator gave me two ears and one mouth. I will hear much and speak little. I hope I can gain his trust as I am most earnest in that.

I recognized in him the mannerisms and movements of his-father-my-son; I recognize in HIM the mannerisms and movements of HIS father, my husband. My Willie of blessed memory would be proud of this boy, proud of his decisions. I told him so.

And when I got up - it was Sunday, the day for Grandson #1's graduation. This is my grandson N. The last time I'd seen him was a year ago, on the day of his junior prom. He'd asked his mother if he could come over to see me before going to the dance...and that was the first time I'd seen him since he was three years old. We wrapped up two books we'd gotten for him last August, books about New France, about the Fur Trade, which he'd expressed some interest in. We wrapped them in old maps, which we thought very appropriate as he was heading out on a new life path. (Oh - we always wrap presents in old maps, since the Husband had worked for AAA and got buckets of discontinued maps - why throw them away, they make verrah verrah nice wrapping paper!) We also wrote a nice Graduation Card and put some money in it, after I read in the newspaper that money is always a welcome and appropriate gift for the Graduate. And I wrote him a mushy note from a Proud and Loving's my prerogative, deal with it.

The graduation ceremony was indoors as rain had threatened; we met the Lovely Daughter there and found seats after talking to N's mother - she invited us to go back to her mother's house after for a light luncheon - "N does NOT want a party!" There were 8,657, no. Just seemed like it as they filed in. There were in fact something like 300, though. I stood on tiptoe trying to see him as he filed past, and JUST at the right moment, Mr. Giganto Person standing in front of me raised his arm and rested his hand on his head, effectively blocking my view of the graduates, including N. Who does that???

Well, ok, so we sat down and watched the ceremony. It was an excellent one, I must say, with clever speeches by the Honors students, a nice musical interlude, and the reading of names as diplomas were handed out. There was a list of all the names on our programs so we could see where we were, and honestly? It didn't seem to take as long as it might have. After all, every single person in that room was just bursting with love and pride for one of the kiddos, and it just made for very good Vibes in that packed gymnasium.

Afterward the graduates went outside, stood in a semicircle and did the ritual Tossing Up of the Mortarboards, which they all scrambled to recover since they'd had to pay for them (!) Then there was some standing around and milling and picture-taking, and then we went over to the Other Grandma's house.

It's one of those very nice large new houses, with high ceilings, skylights, open floor plans - big deck, double garage - we think of them as mcmansions. The OG (other grandma) had a perfect spread for the occasion: coldcuts, little buns, potato salad and some of that three-bean salad stuff which I LOVE. She had the usual mustard and mayonnaise and (oh THANK YOU!) horseradish sauce! Very yummy - we're unpretentious here in Wisconsin. I loved seeing N's mother and some of her old friends, her mother and stepdad, the "old crowd". I did so enjoy watching my grandson with his family, his other siblings - and us, his grandmother, stepgranddad and the aunt he hasn't seen since he was a baby.

He fell into conversation with his Aunt Lovely Daughter and they found a mutual interest (PASSION) for all things Japanese so far as manga, anime and sushi. They talked non-stop - interrupted briefly while N opened some graduation presents, including a lovely laptop {o goody I'll be able to e-mail him!}. Then he sought out Auntie Lovely again, and we were finally able to draw her away only after they exchanged all possible connections and assurances of meeting soon, perhaps over sushi, to discuss the various qualities of various anime.

He has a summer job and is starting college at an excellent state school - far enough from home to be "away" and close enough to bring his dirty underlinens home to Mom now and then.

And the OG told me that he's mentioned me through the years, and is now very earnest in keeping in touch, in getting answers to questions he's harbored and connections for which he's yearned. (He was very pleased to learn that his Auntie Lovely hates green beans too......)

So! Two grandsons. One is brown, adorable, bright, and headed for the Marine Corps. One is white, adorable, bright, and headed for college. And here, nestled happily in the warm arms of Wisconsin, is an ecstatic, delighted, little short Bubbeh who couldn't be more proud of them both.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Baby Boys

I ran into a little problem with the Old Shale scarf I'm making out of the Noro. So I tinked. Then I tinked a little more, knit a row, checked it out...and froggy went a-courtin'. By then I had knit enough that I learned the pattern, so having started over it seems to be going much better. Honest and true? I have no need for another scarf; the yarn seems a bit scratchy; it's a little narrow for my taste...but I'm just dying to see how the color works out. I've read that the Noro softens up nicely with gentle washing so I'll give it a try, and there's always someone can use a beautiful hand-knit scarf come winter. Oh, it's warm now, everything's growing (don't you love my lovely Columbine?) but I have no delusions. This is Wisconsin. "If you don't like the weather....wait a minute." You know how some people put away their winter clothing in plastic bags and garment bags in May? Not in Wisconsin. We move them to the bottom of the drawer. "July" you say? "Could never snow in July". We take no chances. Just because it hasn't in recorded memory does NOT mean it can't. And if we put the winter clothes away out of reach you can bet it will.

This is my weekend of Reunions with the Baby Boys. Tomorrow (Saturday) we're going out to have a picnic with my second grandson, C. He's 17 years old; last time I saw him he was 11 (and it was at his birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, which I will bring up lest he doubt my affection). He's a man now, contemplating a military career....I mean to fight the temptation to sit him down and go through my Horrors of War speech. I won't meander through the history of women weeping into the shoulders of horses, of women sobbing into their handkerchiefs in the creosote-scented steam of the trains, of the women waving damp kleenexes on the tarmack....nope. I won't mention any of that. Probably.

What I will mention (and he was forewarned) what a sweet infant he was, what an adorable baby. And I'm armed with quite a lot of photographs of his angelic infantile self, in my arms, in the Husband's arms, in a variety of spots in our house. I have a school picture of him that must be a couple of years old, sent to me by a dear friend who had photocopied it from the yearbook. When I look at that wonderful contraband photo, I see in his face that of his father-my-son at that age, and though I cannot prove it -- the face of his grandfather, my first husband. I think I have one or two pictures of him, too, and I'm going to try to find them. Somewhere I have one of those little photo books in which I somehow salvaged one picture of our wedding and one other picture of him - as well as the program from his funeral which has a picture of his very young self on it.

I've been thinking about it a lot, this meeting. I can't get C.'s little-boyness back, but I find myself very earnest about his heritage, his legacy, from "our side". I want to tell him about his grandfather and what I know of his family, and I want to instill in him pride in his heritage from my side too. My father was a newspaperman and I credit him for what I pride myself on: an appreciation for English, for literature, for the Written Word - and for an ease and skill with the language. I write children's stories (no idea how to get published - I'll work on that some day) and I love public speaking. Give me a lectern and an audience. And an hour. I'll talk. Don't know anything about the subject? Never slowed me up before. I improvise.

His great-grandfather on my side (that selfsame newspaperman) was in Who's Who in American Journalism and was given high praise by colleagues (including George Gallup) all his life. C. won't know any of that.

His great-great-grandfather on my first husband's side (or maybe just great-grandfather; I'll have to check) was a slave. "Carter's man Tom" - who became Tom Carter after the Civil War. He has cooking ability in his genes from that side too....and my conversations with him over these last few days reveal him to be well-spoken, erudite and elegant of speech. He shares that characteristic with his-father-my-son, who got it from his father (although I'd like to take full credit for it, but fair's fair).

I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the picnic. I'll report back - and Sunday is the high school graduation of grandson number one (whom I've seen once a year ago and before that not since he was about 3). All that heritage stuff? Applies to him too.

By the way, I am uncommon blessed in the Husband. All the positive stuff there is to say about a spouse? That's it and then some...with that in mind:

Final Thought for the Day (circa 1853) Definition of the Perfect Husband--
"A man what is careful of his clothes, don't drink spirits, can read the Bible without spelling out the words, and can eat a cold dinner on wash day." To which I add "and hasn't ever yelled upon seeing the receipts from my LYS." Like I said, *Blessed*.