Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm whispering here.....

...because it's not always popular to say "BOY do I love all this snow!" But that's the truth, I'm afraid. Since I last wrote we had another spate of snow - I think about 9" or so, and it's all sparkly and quiet and muffled, and wintry and beautiful. This is what Winter was like when I was a girl, and -- well, it might be that I'm about 2/3 Mukwah , "bear", and I do love hibernating. Nesting.

We've been down to one car since Friday - Mr Dearling has these a-MAY-zing ears, and heard something "off" as we were driving home from the Museum, so he dropped me at home and took the car to the shop; sure enough, beloved Deerslayer* needs new brake pads, and you don't be fooling around with that, particularly not in Wisconsin Winter! Truth is, the second car is a luxury, NOT a necessity; it's a convenience, one we're used to and enjoy, though. Actually we don't often use the second car, as Mr Dearling walks. Walks uptown to the Museum (some nine miles)(and sometimes home too). Takes a daily constitutional through the Arboretum (averaging 8-10 miles). And I know it's really Winter because he's taken to wearing LONG PANTS. When it gets down to single digits he grumblingly puts away his shorts.

But you know, if he's going to the Archaelogical Society meeting and I have a Knit Night.......or, conversely, if I am going to the Archaelogical Society meeting and he's going to Knit...uhn...mmmm...well, you get the picture. Wonderful convenience.

* Deerslayer: our wonderful 1992 Toyota Camry Wagon, over 260,000 miles - and she's killed two deer and a 25-lb. turkey. Because Mr Dearling is the Wisest of Automobile Purchasers, he got her at the end of the model year for a very good price, and she has six (count 'em, 6 !) speakers, nice rear-window defroster, outside mirrors you can wiggle around with a knob - and get this: there's a little ring that illuminates for a moment when you get into the car, so if you're quick you can plug that ol' key right in, even in the dark.


(A propos of absolutely nothing - have I mentioned I digress?) In the meantime, we haven't had to go out much - other than one trip to the bookstore for the "books" part of the grandkids' Christmas presents.

What else is new, Dale-Harriet? Well - other than NOT having achieved Finished status on the scarf or the toque yet and having missed Late-Night Knit (on account of the Winter Storm, (yes, if you could see me, I am blushing) or making much progress on the mittens, I have a couple of things to report.

First, I have a new pet! The kitties seem to get along fine with him -- he never tries to get onto their kitty tree or eat their food, although I did have to rescue him from their drinking fountain one day when Evangeline wanted to get a drink.

He didn't have a name for a couple of days - but you know how it is - they sort of tell you what they want to be called? This is Ralph! He was keeping me company in the bathroom before bed and I think he was pretty tired, because it's really hard to get a picture of him when he's not racing around playing with his toys. Mr Dearling says I can keep him unless he starts eating more than the cats do. I have to look up to see how long they live, because I don't want to get caught off-guard and wind up with big vet bills or anything. I don't know how old he is, but he looks pretty healthy. I keep his toys separate from the cats' because I don't want any jealousy.

Second, I did my "Manners, Mending and Morals" program at one of our favorite senior centers last week. I added a few pictures to the Power Point, but I have to see if I can figure out how to add some text to the new pictures in the same font, &c. I need to find a class - maybe at the Technical College - because I'd like to learn some real skill in preparing Power Points.

It is NOT lost on me - the weirdness of appearing as a mid-19th century woman....with a Power Point slide clicker in my hand. But it is an enhancement, having a "slide show", because it makes the whole thing more visually interesting. This is one of my favorite shows - I prefer the ones Mr Dearling and I do together, but it doesn't take much for me to play dress-up and get up to talk. I can hardly wait until we've worked up our program where I can wear this dress and he can wear his 1857 suit. I think we're going to try to write a program about Madison just before and during the early Civil War - something like "Civilians on the Home Front, 1860".

All in all, I'd have to say these are nice times, this season - this year - is winding up rather nicely. Great winter....and we're coming up on the Inauguration. How's that go?

Happy Days?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Have the Code!

Yes, I have the code. It's id by dose. And I can't breathe. I feel like I have a big HORN on by dose.

And I'm feeling under the weather...interesting expression, that. I'm not so much under the weather as under two quilts; under the influence of Vicks vapors; under three cups o' tea - and about to be under the influence of a nice steamy cup of hot lemonade and honey, which is my Solution to the symptoms.

What that means is, two days at home (Mr Dearling's gone to do my tours at the Museum, bless 'm, and I'm glad there aren't so many tours as to leave the Museum short-handed.

But I DO have goals for the week: I'm going to finish the fringe on the scarf, finish the Homespun shawl - and make good progress (hopefully finish ) the first of the mittens I'm making for #1 Son's lady. I haven't made mittens for a while, and I'm going Basic. But she's asked for them, and a cap as well..."without a cuff to turn up". I'm going to do that one top-down and I'll just end with ribbing.

But here's the deal: she said she wanted "hot pink and black". HOT PINK! Let me state for the record, it's a sign of my affection for this girl that I've bought Caron "Simply Soft" in black and in ... are you ready? WATERMELON! I'm not going to take a picture of it because a) I'm not sure the picture would do the glaring ...uhm... garish - that is BRIGHT color; and b) I'd hate to damage my cherished camera. It's designated "BRITES", if that helps your mental image.

You're being spared a Rant here, because I feel punk - suffice it to say that the word is BRIGHT, not BRITE , and cutesy spelling is one of my hot buttons. But I won't go into that here. I'm sure it'll come up again when I feel better. For now, I'm going to take a moment's respite to grumble and cuss..........

OK, I'm better. So -- look it up, if you're curious about the color. I consulted with the Lovely Daughter, and she agrees that "hot pink" is a fair description of it. In fact (another sign of our deep affection) she is working on a project which will, at the point, remain unnamed, as it may qualify as a Christmas project.

Suffice it to say, "Misery loves company." When I've finished the cap and mittens I'll take pictures, though. The black may subdue the HOT PINK.

It's about four degrees out (hey, it's above zero - if I have to go out I'll grab a shawl) but it was warmish over the weekend and we lost a few inches of snow. Luckily (that's my opinion) there is more snow forecast, starting this afternoon. I've experiened green Christmases, and brown Christmases - and the truth is --

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas!

Now I'm going to drink hot lemonade and honey and sniff and sneeze and wheeze. And knit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taptaptap - is this thing on?

OK, Mom, you've been WHERE?? Because you know, we cats read a lot of blogs, and we were just shy of crossing you off our list....

Yes, yes, Evangeline, you're right and I apologize. It's like - when you've been on vacation, it takes a while to get back in the groove. November was such a whirlwind, what with the novel and all, and just one thing came along after another, and -- well, just in time for the Chaos that is Holidays, I'm settled back in. (Operative word: "back".)

Our lovely Christmas tree was delivered by my friend (and former boss) Jerry, as he does every year. His in-laws keep a tree farm up by Antigo, and when they come down for Thanksgiving they always bring about 100 trees, set them up in Jerry's yard and sell them. We have a standing order, and every year they come by with an absolutely perfect tree after Thanksgiving - it's the right height for our room, beautifully tapered, wonderfully fragrant. As always, it's standing unadorned for a while. Part of it is to celebrate the pagan meaning of the Winter Festival and the evergreen, and part of it is that we wait a few days to bring up the ornaments from downstairs, &c.

I've started off the holiday season this year by attending the annual Tudor Dinners at our Memorial Union on campus. (Thanks, Donna!) It was Donna's idea, and we made an evening of it. The plan was for her to come over and I could drive us both. (Only need to park one car - and she's unfamiliar with Madison.) We'd go to the dinner, return home and she'd stay overnight, so we could have an extended "knittin' night - slumber party", as neither of us had to be at work before noon the next day.

The event is a medieval-flavored dinner, with entertainment by a great chorus; the servers are wearing stylized medieval tabards and caps, and the meal is divided into "courses".
The tickets said the program started at 5:30, so we got the car tucked in and arrived right on the minute. The Main Lounge had long tables of hors d'oeuvres, subdued lighting, and small tables to sit at, so we hung up our coats and investigated.

Oh, I DO love me some fancy little nosh-y things. This was about as nice an array as I've seen. There were little meatballs with a cranberry-barbecue sauce, and a tray of antipasto (yummy little pickled mushrooms among other things); there were various vegetables and dips - and my favorites: rumake, which are bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, broiled -- and little tartlets made with apple, almonds and bleu cheese filling. They were delicious! It was all very elegant, too, and I must report that I only had eight (I'm kidding) TWO little plates - simply because we weren't sure what the supper entailed and I didn't want to spoil my appetite. NOTE: I'm going to try those little tarts, I think, for our Christmas day evening; you can buy those lovely little phyllo tart cups to bake, and it seemed to be minced apples, broken slivered almonds and bits of bleu cheese. Even though I did stop at two modest plates........I did have a bunch of few rumake, because they're very fussy-mussy to make, so I really enjoyed the fact that someone else made 'em.

As it turned out, the dinner was lovely! At the beginning they sang "The Boar's Head Carol" and carried in a large bedecked (papier-mache) boar's head. The meal began with a wonderful cranberry-walnut salad with a sweet-sour dressing (just a hint of red pepper flakes gave it a spunky little ZIP). The star of the meal itself was prime rib - Donna said hers was a bit tough, but mine was literally butter-knife tender. There were some vegetables and mashed potatoes, which I ate some of, but you can eat veggies anywhere. I really enjoyed the meat. There was music throughout, and as it happened our dinner companions sitting next to us were very entertaining. There was actual figgy pudding for dessert, and truly - the combination of wonderful singing, really delicious food, and merry company made for a very festive event.

And then Donna and I stayed up knitting and gabbing and watching teevee until something like 3:00 AM. A good time was had by all!

There's another commercial, which I do like. There's a little kid, and he's wearing a black-and-white knitted cap. It shows him at school, playing baseball (with the cap under his helmet) - and then his mom slips it off of him while he sleeps to wash it. (I think the commercial's for laundry soap.) My Highly-Developed imagination tells me that his grandmaw knitted him that little cap and I think the whole little film is endearing as all get-out. (I don't remember at all what the soap is - so maybe it's not a great commercial, but sure is sweet.)

There's another one (can you sign up to be a Nielsen Family for ads?) - this one shows the mom serving her family baked potatoes - and each has a whole stick of butter standing up vertically in it. That, of course, is for something heart-healthy to use instead of butter. I like THAT commercial because, if you ask me, a whole stick of butter in a baked potato sounds like a very good idea! Thanks for asking!

We had a decent snow, resulting in a couple of Snow Days at the begining of the week. I know it's crap to drive in sometimes, but give me a cup of tea, (the silent partner of Cats, Sticks and Books) a good book, some knitting and a cat and a lovely soft heavy snowfall and I am a Happy Midwestern Woman. The "good book"? "Casting Spells" by B. Bretton. It was an easy read, finished in one cozy snow day. Not brilliant, might I add - I found myself with ideas for changing a phrase here, expression there - but it was entertaining enough.

My Writers' Group met here Monday - well, two came. Because of the dicey weather and forecast for more, our members who live about 45 minutes from town didn't want to risk it. I've thought about bringing my edited pages from my NaNoWriMo novel for their critique, but I haven't gotten to that point yet. I brought another of my short stories - and they gave me a couple of STUNNING suggestions, but said that they thought it was really a good story. I think I'm going to send that one out with my about feeling good about stuff!!

I've had nice days at the Museum this week and all is back in balance. I have good projects to work on, I'll be able to report TWO finished projects before the end of the coming week (you saw it here first!) and the Festive Days of Winter have begun.

More soon.........I promise! (That sound you're hearing? A deep, satisfied, "things are back to normal" sigh.)

I, a Superior Being, will keep Maman on task, because I am a Superior Being.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Fait (Fete) Accompli!

Thanksgiving is past. November is gone. The first snow has fallen. Accomplishments all.

Thanksgiving was nice, with all of the Usual. Mr Dearling tried something new with the turkey: he put it in its little rack on a broiler pan instead of the roaster, so the bottom would be crispy too. At the end he put it in the roaster, so there's be room for my corn pudding. He has a knack, the turkey was delicious. He made gravy from the drippings (with the gravy packet from inside the bird) and it was much better than usual. We also made the wild rice a little differently: instead of including the Scottish Fungal Sauce we usually use (that's Campbell's Cream of Mushroom to you), we made a medium white sauce with sauteed mushrooms, and it WAS much better. Fussier, but it was worth it.

The only glitch was, I left the corn pudding on the counter with a towel over it prior to putting it into the oven; Mr Dearling was out on his daily constitutional. I went to Do Something, and when I came back in, why the towel was IN the corn pudding!! Now - being Highly Psychic, I determined that someone, whose name I will not mention but whose initials are L-I-L-L-I-A-N-E, had apparently investigated the corn pudding. She didn't manage to get into it......oh no, because the TOWEL was in it. I managed to scrape off the pudding and rinse out the towel, but I still think a lot of that melted butter was absorbed into the towel. NUTS!! (It was OK in the end, delicious and rich, but still.....).

All three of my children were here (YAY) and two of my grandsons and their mom, and our two friends-now-family-after-all-these-years. My Youngest, who is having one heck of a Rough Patch (as in "can't get a break no way no how") still came up with a list of things for which he's grateful, and named the best thing of all: "Hope".

Lovely Daughter brought her capital pecan pie, and after everyone left Mr Dearling got a good start on his Annual Turkey Broth; in fact, he's already made a very fine soup from some of it, and he has the ingredients for his famous Turkey Tetrazzini. I, meantime, have already enjoyed TWO "hot roast turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce" which is what I order every time we eat at one of those friendly little eateries in small towns on our travels. That is Mighty. Fine. Eating. (OK, three. I just had another for lunch. Nevermind.)

Here's the first snowfall of the year (well, except for a piddly one that didn't last.) Satisfying, beautiful, soft -- I love it. There's something wholesome about snow, and it makes me feel cozy and nest-y and snuggly; winter's a time for repairing things and knitting and reading and snuggling kitties and knitting. And reading. (See blog title).

It IS December, so that means...let's see, today's the 2nd...that means, in 29 days I can start using my 2009 Never Not Knitting , the Yarn Harlot's daily-page calendar. I got it in June, as I recall - and I am proud to say I haven't even take off the shrink-wrap. Oh yeah, I know: "If you had, Dale-Harriet, you would already have looked at every page. Twice." To which I reply PFHAWWW! (I'd have looked at every page four or five times. Nevermind.)

But there's a bigger reason for the "FETE". A genuine accomplishment, a goal achieved, a finish line crossed:

Now - click on this to enlarge it. Ignore the feeble text; look instead at the lower left-hand corner. DO YOU SEE IT?? See where it says, and I quote: "Words: 50,000"? Remember when I said I signed up for NaNoWriMo? I joined well over 100,000 people world-wide to write a novel in thirty days. There were over 500 LOCAL NaNos. (Or's a personal decision.) And I wrote, almost every day of the month. I DID take a couple of days off....Mr Dearling threatened to cancel Thanksgiving and order pizza if I looked like I was going to disappear into the writing room. But I managed to keep ahead of the game, so that I wasn't really behind at any time.

Here's how I did it. No, the picture isn't out of focus. *I* was. By that time I was starting to look a little bleary around the edges. I didn't do much else, like knitting or reading or bathing. (Ha ha - I did bathe. At least once.)

The end result is that I crossed the virtual finish line. I DID write a novel, actually something over 58,000 words by the time I got to the end. At no time during the writing (at least not after the third or fourth day) did I go back and read it from the beginning; I only read as much as I needed each day to pick up and keep going. I think there's at least one place where the winter melts into...autumn. I learned early on to keep a notebook handy so I could keep track of characters' names, which I tended to forget. I had no idea what was going to happen from day to day, and until about November 28th I had no clue how it might all end.

The only thing I knew was a) it had a little girl as the sort-of-main character; b) there was a sheep in it; c) there was a cat in it. It seemed to take place in Scotland or least, they lived in a croft. I remember now (though I still haven't gone back and reread the whole thing) that there are places where little eyes are watching from the depths of the forest. Who they are, or what -- I still don't know, they never materialized. Let me put it this way: Philip Pullman need not be concerned about any competition from here. HOWEVER, allow me to display this (feel free to stamp, whistle and applaud):

See the guy in the front, in the horned helm? That would be me. I know, I look taller there. It's actually a very small boat.

Oh - and I will be going back over it with a red pen, crossing out the effluvia and circling the literary gems, and I mean to file and polish the remainder and see what I have. Novel? Probably not, but maybe a decent short story. Only winter will be followed by spring.


As a concession to my knitterly friends, who were offering me all sorts of enthusiastic support at the last Late-Night Knit....I feel it only fair to reveal here the last few lines of the story:

....the kingdom still continues as a paragon of tranquility, fairness, joy and love, and if I had not had the delight of visiting it myself, I would not know of all these things!

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh………..

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coming Around the Bend....

...and the Finish Line's in sight! I am currently in a state of Happy Anticipation, as I look forward to completing certain projects:

1. NaNoWriMo. The finish line is in sight - the deadline is midnight on Sunday, November 30. By that time I must have finished my novel, containing 50,000 words (or more). I'm thinking there may be a few more, because a) I have a HUGE honkin' bag o' words; b) the section I just finished contains 45,000 words (I'll wait for the applause to die down) and c) where the story is right now, the girl is just heading out for the castle where she will have to perform some magical acts with the help of her supernatural helpers, resulting in (as I see it now) the place where she throws her hand-knit shroud (what do you think, cables?) over the wicked witch, who will immediately die in a great, shrieking, howling and dramatic way (no, smartypants out there, she can't scream "I'm shrinking, I'm shrinking" because I think Margaret Hamilton got the permanent rights on that one). Maybe she's allergic to wool and itches herself to death? But I'm not sure, and I think I have more than 5,000 words' worth of stuff to get to that point.

Incidentally (I haven't used that for a long time, Lovely Daughter, live with it) I did entertain a brief thought where all the little girls in the village go up to the castle, each claiming to be the true Princess to heroically save their little friend -- but see, I had this scrawny little man dressed in rags standing up in the back of my mind and shouting " I am Spartacus!" No, she's going alone.
Well - the priest (yes, he's back and it's fine), the sheep and the cat go with her. They have to, they're the "magical helpers".

I've said straight up all long, we're going for QUANTITY, absolutely not quality.

2. The Dr. Who scarf is nearly, almost, very close to finished too! It has all the ends woven in and one end is entirely fringed!! So all that remains is the fringe on the other end. I like it, I'm proud of it, and I'll be glad to get it finished because a) I feel as though it's been my Sisyphus' Rock; b) I'm ready to work on something else (dare I say it? I already have another toque on the needles!); and c) it won't be a fashion statement any more, it'll be a lifesaving necessity for the recipient. I have no pictures at this point (with the fringe) but I aim to get a portrait with the fellow wearing it.

3. I'm nearly ready for our Thanksgiving meal - well, I still have to put away the two ...erhm... three ...that is to say five knitting baskets away, ( hey, they're part of the Decor ! ) and move all the rest of the extraneous stuff in the living room to make room for The Table. (See November 24, 2007 for the Annual Routine.) Mr Dearling is In Charge; all I have to do tomorrow is make the corn pudding and then set the table and so on. I *think* all three of my progeny will be under my roof together which, if it actually does happen, will make me very thankful indeed.

And the other thing I'm anticipating is that this is the beginning of THE HOLIDAY SEASON. Now, how do you know that, Dale-Harriet? Oh, I dunno - my first clue was the Christmas ads on the teevee!!

Now, the truth is, I really like some of them. I like the little Hershey Kisses that ring themselves like handbells. I'm a terrible sucker for the Heartfelt, Sensitive, Tender, Moving commercials you get from Hallmark. Oh heck - remember that one a few years ago with the Russian-Soldier-lookin' dude watching the people walk what absolutely looked like "out of East Germany and into West Germany" for the holidays? A little kid drops his teddy bear and the soldier picks it up, hurries after him and then kneels down and hands it to him. I'm telling you, I cried my eyes out every time I saw that one. What was it for? Oh heck, I have no idea. NOt a clue. Helluva commercial.

But it's almost time for Lovely Daughter and me to go hunting for the annual Little Italian Guy for Mr Dearling's nativity scene, and for me to find a really beautiful new Heart ornament for him, too. Oh, and the star - I always send a star ornament to my granddaughter's other grandma; I've done that since her birth, in honor of "the little star we both share".

But it's almost 3:00 AM (looking back, I see many of my posts are written in the deeps of the night) and I think I might try to get the girl to the castle, at least, before I go to bed.

I'm going to end with a new Pet Peeve, though, probably because even though I'm a Night Owl, I'm a little cranky. And this is about commercials too. There is a word I don't like. I mean, it's a perfectly good word, superior to other names for the same bodily product, but this has bothered me for some time. I do not like the word "MUCUS". It just sounds like what it is: slimy, yucchy, ishy. (My children NEVER had runny noses - although they may be neurotic today from my perpetually running after them with a fistful of tissues when they were little.)

So WHEN, I ask you, Mr Madison Avenue, did it become a good idea to make commercials with big, green, soft, squooshy-looking Mucus PEOPLE?? As if that's not enough to nauseate me completely (which it is) now Mr and Mrs Mucus have CHILDREN! And that, ladies and gennulmen, gives me a mental image that I DO. NOT. WANT.

And the latest: we're shown a few pair of hands "text-messaging" -- and there are...(if you haven't seen it yet, you may not believe this) heads - human heads - on the thumbs. And guess what, the thumb-heads are conversing. Re-read that, I'll wait.

OK, I'm going to listen to Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention in my earbuds now, and try to get those images out of my mind. And then go to bed. G'night.

Alert! Alert! Just was reminded by Mr Dearling, that in FACT, the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz" says, "I'm MELTING, I'm MELTING!" Although I do not doubt what he says ever, on account of his being right 99.44% of the time, I checked it out (we loves us some innerwebs) and as I thought, HE IS RIGHT.

Therefore - my evil sorceress may INDEED make some howlings along the lines of shrinking (who knows, if she's also 4'11" tall, then shrinking is too awful to contemplate).

That guy in the back of my head, though? He IS yelling "I am Spartacus!"

Thank you, Mr Dearling, you've made me an honest woman......again!

Monday, November 17, 2008

So what ARE you up to,


Well, for one thing, KNITTING! Oh, yes I am (admittedly just a row or two, here and there). But you know, "slow and steady", right? OK, get this:

It is DONE! FINI! Well.... almost . I still have to weave in three ends and, having meditated, prayed, thought, whined, stamped, cried, and sulked, I have decided that YES, I'm going to put nice fringes on each end. Just seemed dumb not to, like putting together a really beautiful pie and then not baking it, you know? (This is not to suggest I have ever put together a really beautiful pie, so don't bother asking.) But at this point, I still have at least the beginnings of that delicious feeling you get when something is completed. I don't think I'll tell the recipient until I'm actually ENTIRELY done, because I anticipate him jumping from one foot to the next and chomping on his knuckles in eager anticipation; I'd hate to interfere by giving him an idea when it will be his.

This is that Dramatic Moment - when I was literally half-way done with the very last row before casting off. With Previously-Unknown Fortitude I stopped (!) and laid it out for this picture. And because I'm (basically) an honest person, I will admit that, when I sat down to finish that row, I experienced just the TEETINIEST millesecond...nanosecond (is that shorter?) of a slight, vague inclination to....KEEP IT ALL TO MYSELF!!! (insert wicked cackle here). However - better judgement .... upstanding morals .... strong sense of honor .... the realization that it's 12' long and I'm just under 5' long, stopped me. The truth is, if I wrapped it four times around my neck it would still drag on the ground and trip me -- and that's assuming I could even walk with all that weight hanging around my neck. Nope. It'll be "Merry Christmas, Rick...and here's what you owe me."

OH no. This is NOT a gift. There IS a list of people I love enough to knit one of these for.....this chap's not on it. Heck, I made Lovely Daughter finish her own when I started knitting one for HER those years back, and I DO love her enough. Just sayin' is all.

I have also been preparing food and enjoying a visit from a Pack of Wild Indians. Some time back I decided it would be fun to have Theme Dinners for two of my little grandsons (the third has a sketchy schedule; hopefully we'll be able to include him at some point). It was time for the Red Indian dinner, and their mom said they "had a surprise for me". I have, as you know, quite the imagination, and I was a little worried. I needn't have.

They just Came Prepared! I LOVED IT! I mean, how cute is that? They'd made feathered headdresses, spears, (Dad's holding the tomahawk, we forgot to hand it to them for the picture); they had painted lines on their faces and they were READY!

NOTE: Overlook the Transformer costume on Xander and the brutal wrestler on Domanic's shirt. They are, after all, four and seven.

We had roast buffalo hump hunted by Grampy (ok, it was eye of round, beef. Use your imaginations.) We had corn and squash stew with maple sugar, and wild rice with wild mushrooms and nuts. (OK - frozen squash, canned corn, and the wild mushrooms came out of a particularly feisty can of Golden Mushroom soup. IMAGINATION! ). We also cheated considerably and had maple-nut ice cream for dessert. Nevermind.

It was incredibly fun, and we taught the boys some Ojibway words and our favorite message in native hand-sign language. I'd have to say it was a great success, a good time was had by all (even Their-Dad-My-Son who, at 41, is still at the eye-rolling stage). And before they left, their Mama said "What's the theme for the next one?" and Domanic said, without hesitation, "AFRICAN!"

So tell me - does Trader Joe's have canned elephant?

And in conclusion, the reason I haven't been around here much. I told you earlier on that I am participating in NaNoWriMo , the National Novel-Writing Month. To that end, may I say, I am ON SCHEDULE! Yes, folks, as we enter the third week, I can say that I am half-way through, and it looks (she said, hoping it doesn't jinx it) that I WILL end up with a 50,000 WORD novel at the end of the month. May I reiterate that it will be easily in the top five "Worst Collections of Words Ever Compiled By Someone Not a Monkey." I have this one character, a priest, who not only blathered for about five pages but caused my OTHER priest to do the same thing. They're both in Time-Out,waiting to see if they're allowed back in. But the word-count is up and all's well.

I have a secret: I hired a taskmaster to make sure that I'm keeping on-task, who yells at me LOUDLY if I leave my writing room for more than a trip to the bif. Excuses don't cut it, and outright exhaustion, I am told, is "NO EXCUSE!" Yeah, well - that's easy for her to say, she usually sleeps the whole time I'm working!

OOOPS! Woke her up by stopping typing to insert photo. (At least she can't tell the difference between novel-writing and blogging.) It's true, though, I put the throw next to the laptop because when she was just sitting on the hard, cold desk her looks were more baleful than usual, but if I start wandering away from the laptop she follows me yelling. To her credit - if I actually turn OFF the laptop she recognizes that I'm going away for a purpose, and -- figuring there'll be food involved, she follows me yelling. Cats.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Briefly.... Dr Who pattern says:

36 purple

and then it says:


And THAT, boys and girls, laydeez and gennulmens, says it all.

(PS my hanging-around-my-neck-row-counter-says "3", for the record.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Delight, Despair

Have you noticed the Change? I don't know, maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that there has been a collective sigh of relief, and people are now thinking that there IS hope, it really is worth looking ahead. President Obama (isn't that delicious?) is taking the reins of an abused animal, and it's going to take a while before he can soothe it and begin to heal it, but I think he's the man for the job. I'm saving newspaper articles and stuff, because some day I'll give it to my brown grandsons to prove that this really IS an historic event; I imagine they'll wonder what's the deal? That's just what we were all hoping when we linked arms and sang "We shall overcome". (Evangeline doesn't know what the big stir is about, either, but wonders if the new President will legislate Tuna in Every Bowl...)

I always tell the children on my Museum tours that one reason it's important to know History is because it gives us a good opportunity to learn from the past, so we don't make the same mistakes. Oh, each generation can make new ones for their descendants to learn from, but hopefully we won't make the same ones again.

Sweater worn by Auschwitz Survivor

on display at our State Historical Museum

But today - and tomorrow (November 9th and 10th) is an anniversary of an historic event that was unequalled in human recorded history. What I speak of, of course, is the 70th anniversary of "Kristallnacht" , "The Night of Broken Glass."

Youngsters (that would be anyone under about age 45) may read about it and shake their heads - "That must have taken place in the Middle Ages, what a terrible thing." Well -- let me put it in a bit of perspective: there are survivors of Kristallnacht alive today, and they are not extremely old. It happened well within the lifespan of many of our senior citizens, and I venture that a visit to a retirement center would produce a group of people who remember hearing of it or reading about it at the time.

I've stated before: if asked "what I am", I reply that I'm Jewish, and indeed I was raised in a Conservative Jewish household. NOTE: "conservative" in this instance means neither the strictness of Orthodox Jewry nor the more casual and modern Reform branch.....has nothing, I repeat nothing to do with politics. Having said that, I also add that I consider myself an ETHNIC Jew, as opposed to religious. Judaism is a religion, true, but it's also an ethnic group - and there are candles burning all over the world where knots of scholars discuss this definition and its consequences until the crack of dawn.

What it means to ME is, when my children were little (and today) I celebrate Chanukah, Passover, and the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Part of being an ethnic Jew is the food....and those holidays have the best food (well, except Yom Kippur, which has no food at all - one fasts, *entirely*, from sundown to sundown).

But even ethnic Jews are aware of the history, and Kristallnacht was the match held to the candle that became the Holocaust, and illuminated a period of history that showed, clearly, the lengths that Man's Cruelty can go to. Again, reading of the Holocaust sounds - even to me - like events of that nature must've happened early in the Dark Ages.

My mother was known for her elegant dinner parties, and while I didn't attend (I was a little kid, and not the sort parents trot out for the admiration of their friends) I got to meet the guests before going up to my room. (Oh, hey - my sister and I got to eat the great food, don't get me wrong.)

There were newspaper dinner parties, comprised of journalists and newspapermen who worked with my father (and admired him - did I ever mention that my daddy is in Who's Who in American Journalism? Did I ever mention that I digress?)

And there were Just Friends dinner parties, and they, of course (being the 1950s, &c) were comprised mostly of Jewish friends. I remember occasions where two people in particular remained in my mind, though their names are forgotten to me, along with their faces and their relationship to my parents: one was a woman with a long, dark, purple number on her forearm. My recollection is that she wore a long-sleeved sweater, but I was shown the number. The other was a man, whom I remember thinking was very handsome, who had a leather glove on his left hand. (I also remember him as having an eye patch, but I think that's the romanticism of my little-kid self, to tell you the truth.)

I was told that he wore the glove because his hand was made of iron; he had lost his "meat hand" in Germany, and he was Israeli. He had an ACCENT! I mean, does it get more exciting than that? A tall man (ok, I'm only 4'11" now; I was a kid then; he might not have actually been tall at all) with an exotic foreign accent, described as Israeli - and with an IRON HAND!

Well....I remember asking Mom what was the deal with the number on that lady's arm, and I remember that she answered me and I don't doubt that her answer was age-appropriate, but I imagine it didn't really mean much to me.

When I got to junior high school, I hit a Jewish Phase (have I mentioned that I was a trial to my mother? Ooooh yeah). I bought a large beautiful carved Mexican sterling-silver Star of David on a fairly heavy chain and determined to wear it always. My mother forbade it! I was horrified...and realized, years later, how that must have made her perhaps terrified as well las uncomfortable; her generation practiced their religion openly - but didn't go out of their way in their daily lives to draw attention to it. That's one thing for which I mean to apologize when we meet in Heaven or whatever happens. I was put out, but didn't wear it.

But also at that time, I started reading some books, taken from our shelves at home, about the Holocaust, and I came to realize something, which I believe today. (This is my opinion, based on nothing resembling research, &c)

I think there are two kinds of Jews: one kind reads everything they can on the Holocaust, studies it, discusses it, researches it. The other kind acknowledges it, mourns it - but doesn't want to see any pictures or hear any first-person memories. And guess what? I'm both.

I read a lot - but given the chance to tour the famous Holocaust Museum (it's in Washington, D.C., I think) -- my initial feeling is, I won't. I'm sensitive to historical artifacts; I get misty-eyed at our Museum looking at Abraham Lincoln's shawl and the rock thrown through the window of a black woman in Little Rock, AR with a note tied to it reading "Next time it'll be dynamite...KKK".

So walking through a boxcar - seeing (as I understand it) piles of gold taken from people as they entered the chambers....I don't think Icould. Or would. Truth to tell, I don't know. Given the chance (I've never been to DC!) I might try and have to flee; I might not even try; I might go through it, probably sobbing.....I just don't know.

Well, boys and girls, humanity has given over atrocities, we haven't got the whole message from Kristallnacht or from the Holocaust (and I say "we", but of course now, as then, it's the few who somehow lack 2/3 of their hearts and 3/4 of their brains, but still....). There are new ones, or the same old ones performed with modern technology.

But now the world knows of Kristallnacht, and it's mentioned on NPR and in the newspapers, and it must be mourned afresh. I am mourning it afresh - but through my tears, I still feel optimistic. CHANGE, especially as it relates to human beings, is painstakingly slow. But the turtle won the race. So will we; if not in my lifetime, perhaps in my grandchildren's?

I'll end with another memory, one I might have mentioned before: I remember lying on the floor, coloring in my coloring book, while my parents sat listening to the big radio. It was 1948, and I was five years old. It was some dull recitation and I wasn't really listening - but suddenly my parents both cried out, and when I looked up, they were BOTH weeping. I didn't know daddies COULD weep, it was unthinkable! And they said "It's passed the UN, Israel will become a Jewish State." I had no idea what that meant - but it's now one of my most-cherished memories. Advancing age provides an exquisite appreciation for history.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Letter to Willie

Willie Lee Carter

Dear Willie,

We went over to John and Beth's tonight, because today - November 4, 2008 - was the end of almost two years' campaigning, and the culmination of it all. There had been a huge push to register new voters all over the country and all forms of media declared what an Historic Event this Election Day was going to be.

This was nothing like the voter registration drive I went to observe in Indianola, Mississippi that Spring Break of 1963; I was going to say "Remember?" but you wouldn't, because we hadn't met yet, you and I. But I remember I told you about it.

I had signed up to go to Macalester's "sister city", Indianola, during Spring Break. There was a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board outside Chaplain Al Currier's office, asking for people to go down and take some money we'd collected and some school supplies, because their Freedom School had been burned out. I wanted to know if what I was reading in the press was exaggerated ("Holy cow, it cant' really be like that , it's 1963") or underplayed ("Holy cow, do you suppose it's really worse than that?") or if we were maybe getting the facts.

This was the Schwerner-Goodman-Cheney period, remember. Well, as I told you, no one else signed up. But I thought I'd go anyway, because *I* could take the stuff as well as anyone else, and then I could see for myself. Also, I was curious, naive, not very bright and above all, naive.

I took the bus - Greyhound most of the way, Continental Trailways the rest of the way. My best-laid plans to be travelling in the South only during daylight fell apart when the layover in Memphis was something like three hours, and it was dark by the time we got to Mississippi. The bus went to Greenwood, and I was supposed to call "Larry", a white Civil Rights worker in Indianola, when I got in; then he'd come and pick me up.

When I got off the bus in Greenwood I started into the brightly-lit depot...only to be grabbed by the arm by my seatmate, saying "Y'all don't want to go in THERE!" as she pointed to the sign over the door: "Colored". (Well, matter of fact, I did - but you know, no. And the OTHER depot looked much fancier anyway.)

Long story short, as they say: I was afraid, so I found a cab and asked to be taken to a hotel; in the lobby I took a room and the porter came to carry my bag up to my room. He was black...and only had one arm. He followed me up to the room and when I opened the door, set the bag inside and trotted away. I should've tipped him - but I was nervous and didn't know how you did that.

I called Larry, who asked where I was and what room and said they'd be by to get me. I hung up and was crying (did I mention I was afraid?) and when I went into the bif to wash my face I didn't see the little step up, so I fell and hit my head on the sink and it hurt.

Man, Willie, I'd forgotten a lot of this, although I bet you haven't because you always did have a better memory than mine. Anyway - when Larry got there he called my room and I said I'd be right down. The porter came up to get my bag again....only this time he walked WITH me, and said he hoped I'd enjoy my stay in Mississippi. When the elevator opened there was a thin guy in overalls, and I all but fell into his arms, I was so glad to see him. Remember when I told you that, and you said "How'd you know it was this Larry guy and not the KKK?" Oh, man, Willie. Powerful glad I HADN'T thought of that. Like I said, naive.

There was the very tense ride to Indianola, where I sat in the front seat between Larry, who was driving, and his friend (name forgotten) -- he was black. Didn't occur to me as anything odd, until Larry pointed out that there was a car behind us keeping the same distance whether we sped up or slowed down.........but nothing came of that. "Teenagers", Larry said, "they like to try to scare folks." Yeah well, it worked on me, I can tell you.

I was there for three days, which included a trip to the police station with Larry and two little girls, about 9 and 13, to report that they'd been threatened by some white guys with rifles sitting on their front porch as they (the girls) had walked past them en route to school. The police chief asked me how to spell my name ("uhh...D A L E") and then asked what the ni****s where doing there.

That was when I learned the Secret of the Civil Rights Workers: wrath cancels out fear. You don't use that term, ( where I come from ) and CERTAINLY not in front of children. Nothing ever came of it, but Larry and the other white workers were trying to educate the black citizens of Indianola that they DID have rights, and they should exercise them.

The other two days I was there, we went around and talked to people about registering to vote. We had to point out that ... the fact that the black folks had to recite the State Constitution before they could register (!) ... wasn't legal and couldn't be demanded. (I ask you, Willie, could you have recited the Alabama Constitution? I didn't think so, and NO, Silly, you knew I couldn't do Minnesota's, either, so there!)

There was the girl who told us that her husband was in jail for singing "We shall overcome" in the hearing of some white folks, and that the cops had come to ask her to sign a paper so they could release the prison. When she refused, they made threatening comments about her baby, but left - only to come back later with a BLANK piece of paper for her to sign. She refused and had called Larry to get the name of a lawyer for her husband.

I told you I didn't know if I'd have been able to do that, refuse after they threatened my baby, and you said "Oh, sure you could, believe me." I'm not so sure about that, but then - I didn't live in Mississippi and I wasn't black, and at that point I didn't even have a baby.

There was the night Will Henry and Lynnie and I walked from their house (where I was staying) to a store to buy beer for a little gathering that night...and as we walked back Will Henry swung his arm across my and Lynnie's backs, sending us sprawling face-down in the dirt road -- as some shotgun shells whizzed past and hit the dirt a few feet in front of us. He'd dropped too, and when the car the shots came from sped past we got up and when I asked Will Henry how he knew there were kids and shotguns in that car (because he did NOT ever even look over his shoulder) he said he just knew; the car wasn't going "the right speed". And you nodded when I told you that and said "Yeah, you just get to know stuff like that."

And the night before I left (because most of the white Workers and a lot of the black citizens were leaving for a big rally in D.C. and I really did NOT want to stay down there pretty much by myself, I didn't have THAT much confidence in my wrath), Will Henry tapped on the bedroom door (he'd given up his room for me while I was there) and when I said "Yeah?" he said "Hey, y'all wanna see the KKK?"

Well hell NO! but... you know, I said "sure...." We went into the kitchen, with all the lights out, and across the back field from the house they were marching along, two by two, with a burning cross thing at the front. And he said "They ain't gonna do nothing fitted up like that, because they know there's them FBI around. They're only dangerous when they dressed like regular folks."

The police cars there were the whitest cars I ever saw, and the Workers told me they had, next to their police radios in the cars, radios belonging to the White Citizens' Council. And when the people called the fire department to report the fire in the Freedom School - they came out and pissed on the fire to put it out. The school was, of course, a total loss.

Well, my dear Willie - THIS year, I bet those people registered. And I bet they voted (without reciting the State Constitution). And I am here to tell you - that Mississippi went for McCain, and so did some other states (because he did have some things to his credit and was even a Viet Nam vet like yourself, and he did time in a prison camp and stuff), but more people all over the country registered to vote, and more new voters registered, and more people actually got out and WENT to the polls, than probably ever ever before; the statistics aren't out yet, but they will be,) and I bet you'll be able to see them from there, too.

And Willie? Barak Obama won! He's going to be the next President. He's the President-Elect of the United States of America. We're going to have a black President. And a black First Lady (instead of all the black ladies in the White House serving food....which may not be fair, but I bet there's some truth to it).

Check out that picture at the top, I took it right off of the teevee (we have these digital cameras now, they're very cool).

I bet you can see the future up there, huh? Well, don't tell me, because I'd rather be surprised, and maybe we'll be together by then and can watch it on the teevee up there - but maybe our grandson, Domanic, will be in the White House one day. He could, you know. I mean, we always used to say that, but now? Well, the precedent has been set. And probably even HE won't believe me when I tell him what a big deal history thing this election has been.

Let me tell you one last thing -- and also, thanks for slogging through this. I remember you used to grin and shake your head when I started in one "one o' your tales", you'd say. I seem to still be at it. Anyway, this guy came to the door earlier to ask me to get out and vote (and for Obama, please); when I told him I already had, a couple weeks ago, he gave me a big yellow "I VOTED" sticker and told me this thing he'd heard. When I shut the door behind him, I cried - but you knew I would, didn't you? It goes like this:

"Rosa sat - so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run.

Obama ran so our children can fly."

Your Wordy Widow
PS I still want some of your barbecue when I get there. Our daughter's barbecued ribs are fabulous.....but yours are still better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Always Learning....

That would be myself -- may I be quick to say, to Molly Bee and the world in general:

'Tis true, if I had to write 50,000 pages, something more than Medflight would be called for. I must've been drunk tired when I wrote "50,000 PAGES". I am here to tell you, I don't imagine I will live long enough to write 50,000 pages of anything. It is to SHUDDER!

Having said that, I will here report a hodge-podge, which is what seems to be roiling around in my brain anyway.

First - progress is being made on the Scarf in spite of all this writingness going on - and I have also gotten out the wool and needles to begin the first of a few toques ordered up. I would SO love to have it done by next weekend, but I'm not sure that's conceivable, what with being so close to the end of the Dr Who that it makes my eyes water....and this writingly thing.

Second - yesterday, being a very nice day, we drove down by Viroqua to collect Mr Dearling's 19th century suit, which was made for him by a lady skilled in the tailoring of 19th century apparel. The suit consists of a fine frock-coat (silk-lined), a very handsome vest, and a pair of pants. We were quite satisfied with it; he's actually looking forward to getting a shirt, shoes and a hat so that he can accompany me in my 1857 gown. But there was a little bonus to the trip!

Seems our seamstress had in hand two extra tickets for a concert being played right there in the tiny theatre in Viroqua, so we "had them of her"......occasioning the opportunity to hear (are you sitting down?) THE KINGSTON TRIO!

As it turned out, the house was packed and we were unable to sit together, but that was OK. I did get some pictures, and will post them anon. Now, this is NOT the original Kingston Trio; one of the troupe, Nick Reynolds, just passed away a few days back. But two of these fellows had joined from The Limelighters; they all three had excellent voices and their sound WAS the Kingston Trio. It was a good concert, I really enjoyed it.

NOTE: the average age of the audience members (and this is not hyperbole or exaggeration) was probably 75 - but by watching the reactions of my fellow audience members, I realized that many of them were "my era"; we had shared the Viet Nam experience, the Civil Rights movement, &c. Our seamstress said later that she'd only recognized two of the songs (she's likely in her 40s) but I knew every word of every song!

Gotta say, though: it was a very surreal experience. Closing my eyes I suddenly remembered what my dorm room looked like and remembered the name of the college chaplain, who was active in our Civil Rights organization (Al Currier). Opening my eyes -- well, I got a vision of nursing homes in my future.

And now, as I must get back to my writing, I'll leave you with a *funny*. Might I add, to those who may not know, one of Mr Dearling's endearing qualities (which are too numerous to list) is that he has, from time to time, a brilliant explosion of the kind of dry wit you only encounter a few times in your life. Here's the set-up:

I was looking up information online about sheep. (Silly you, of COURSE there's a sheep in my story! Also a cat! What were you thinking?) I found out the answer to my question (take notes: a wether is a castrated male sheep; I needed to know from "bellwether") AND I found out another neat fact. When I went to share, the conversation went like this:

ME: In Iceland there's a breed of sheep called "Leader Sheep"; they have a highly-developed sense of direction genetically, and are used to lead the herds. They've even been known to bring the herd down from a winter pasture ahead of a storm that the people didn't know was coming!"

Mr. Dearling: That's nothing! Those Leader Sheep are so smart, they train them to herd dogs!

Well, it cracked me up for about an hour, is all. Back to the novel.

Friday, October 31, 2008

There IS......

Knitting happening! Bet you thought I've been forgetting all about knitting, what with all the stuff going on around here. About two weeks of Unadulterated Chaos and Turbulence, to be exact.

Let's see...I guess it was Halloween, actually. Busy times at the Museum, what with roaming around in the guise of Mary Hayes Chynoweth, Psychic Healer & Spiritualist. Also a couple of tours, participating in a reception for the teachers, in town for a conference and preparing for both. We also had some arts projects going - kiddies could make masks or design tombstones, that sort of thing.

In the midst of it all, I says to myself says I, "Donna's going to be at Barnes & Noble, and going there with Dr Who for a couple of hours of nothing' but sittin' and knittin' sounds like just the tab."

In case you can't tell from here, I am VERY near the end of the Dr Who scarf, and draping it all the way across the table AND all the way across the chair opposite was, might I add, very satisfying. There's a LOT O' SCARF there, ladeeez and gennulmens. It engendered some comment from passers-by, who seemed appropriately impressed with the sheer volume of the whole thing.

HOWEVER!! I must admit, although I'm proud of my knittifying, although I'm feeling a certain delicious anticipation as I near the completion of a truly major project, although I find myself wickedly chortling as I knit be entirely fair and honest, here's a truth: Donna crochets - probably a lot better than I knit. She's made stunning doilies, with beads , that are eye-wateringly beautiful. But her Latest and Greatest are afghans (yes, that's PLURAL) that she's been making for various family members. Now, there are those who sort of pfaw and pshooey about crocheting. I am not one of those. I know how to crochet; I must admit, I have even enjoyed crocheting in the past. This is just my KNIT period. And Donna has been working on her current afghan about as long as I've been at the Dr. Who. FYI: she's using double strands and a pretty hefty hook. Further FYI: the girl is FAST ! And she is also very near the end of her current afghan project.

Let me just put it this way:

What you see here is a thick, chocolate-brown, waffle-patterned (as in "WARM") heavy (think about 15#, seriously) afghan . Actually at that point, it's Afghan with a capital *A*. Is that not a wonder of modern needle-plying? Whereas my scarf has overbulged my largest knitting basket, her afghan must be carried about in a laundry basket! True story!! Just wanted to give credit where due, and share with y'all a bit of something has me impressed four ways from Sunday - and then some.

That being said, I am writing at nearly 9:00 PM on Friday night, which is (as has no doubt not passed your attention, HALLOWEEN! My most favoritest holiday, and even as I speak, my talking book is filled with candy ("Oooooh, you're so SCARY" {cackle cackle cackle}) It looks exactly like a real book, and kids love it when we open it and it talks. Or....maybe not, but *I* love it when I open it.

My Evangeline is a perfect Halloween cat -- as a result, she traditionally spends the holiday enjoying a meditation in the basement, with Lilliane. They don't ever try to get outside, but I prefer knowing that we can hold the door open for the little tykes without worry. Evangeline is, by the way, my Familiar, my companion...much more than just a "pet" to me. I love Lilliane (although she is for sure Mr Dearling's good buddy) but Evangeline and I have one of those relationships. You catfolks know whereof I speak. 'Sides that, she's just so durn CUTE!

Anyway, as I enjoy the winding down of this, my most favoritest (October) holiday, I am here also announcing (as I have before) that, while I intend to post here at LEAST once a week, I may not be able to do more than that, because, Ladies and Gennulmens, in roughly ONE HOUR FIFTEEN MINUTES I will convert from being an enthusiastic knitter, contented museum guide, happy catmom, card-carrying SCBWI member, writer of children's SHORT stories and all around being (Harvey, a drumroll here, please)----

A NOVELIST! You know, like Anne Rice. Like Stephen King. Like Danielle Steele. A Novelist. Me. As I mentioned on October 12, I have registered for the NaNoWriMo , and therefore, at precisely 12:01 AM (now exactly 30 minutes away) I will Begin Writing my 50,000 page novel. I will complete this novel -- or so I anticipate -- on November 30 at midnight.

I am telling you this for the following reasons: 1) my writing here may be somewhat truncated, in spite of my best efforts; 2) I'm told that the fear of shame and embarrassment caused by failure is a powerful motivator; 3) I'm actually a little bit excited. Wish me luck, cheer me on...or heck, go ahead, laugh at me. I can take it.

IF I do, in fact that is, WHEN I successfully complete my novel, I will announce it here. In fact.....I believe I'll post my weekly word totals here. And I'll be honest (so if I fall behind, you'll know it).

I have laid in snacks for my first writing session: Almonette cookies, ham for sammiches....but best of all, mini-corn-dogs . Tell me THAT's not incentive! Tonight I mean to try to write for a minimum of two hours, hopefully three. I can make it up tomorrow when Daylight Savings ends anyway. (Look, I KNOW it doesn't work that way, nevermind!)

And as I wander off, I will leave you with an image of Extraordinary High Drama, a moment which, but for the existence of a thin pane of glass, would have ended in a scene of such carnage as to forbid my speaking of it here:

How's that for drama?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

As Promised --

Wouldn't you guess this was a GIANT? Like, some really TALL person? Well, it's not, it's ME! Last weekend I was at Writers' Retreat, and the weather was very nice on Saturday, and I found a time in between events to go out (as had been suggested) and look at Lake Michigan. Owing to the time of day, the sun was behind o' me, and I saw this and thought "PHOTO OP!" (When you're 4'11" something like this can have a dramatic effect.) Yes, I see that it makes me look like a pinhead. No comment.

I was not led astray; the lake was beautiful. The waves were crashing on the shore......well, not exactly *crashing*, but making that wonderful wavy sound. The site is a convent, and seems now to be a comfortable home for many Dominican sisters, whose apartments are separate from the retreat facility, although its dining room is across from that provided for our use.

I couldn't say if there's a common kitchen, but I found the food to be delicious. There were comments - "bring something good for the snack table, the meals are plain"...that kind of thing. Maybe I have simple tastes (well, ok, I DO) but I enjoyed every meal.

I had also read that there was a Labyrinth on the grounds, and I had made up my mind to investigate it. I've always wanted to walk one - not the corn maze type, an actual labyrinth. There was, in fact, overlooking the lake. I put my stuff over by a bench, went to the start, and walked it. I have to admit, the first time around, in spite of trying to have peaceful or prayerful or meditative thoughts, I kept thinking things like "Gee, you could just step right over and walk right out" and "I wonder if this really works, didn't I come this way going the same direction just then?" and "how on earth would you know how to mow this thing?"

Not appropriate thoughts. I can imagine what I'd think if I got to see the Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. Well, I'd like to think that I could get all the foolishness out of the way first ("WOW THIS IS OLD!" "How'd they get it so round in those days?" Look at that CEILING!") But some day, I'd love the chance. The whole concept of a labyrinth appeals to me on several levels.

I'm glad to say that the second time I walked it, my thoughts were as they should have been, and I was a little surprised to find myself expressing gratitude, rather than asking for anything. It was that kind of a day, that kind of an event.

Because it was in a convent, the accommodations were what, in the Middle Ages, were referred to as "cells". The convents and monasteries were none of them trying for AAA Five-Star designations, and the residents were content (or supposed to be) with a tiny room containing only a pallet or bed and perhaps a rustic table with a candle on it. I found my "cell" to be absolutely sufficient, entirely comfortable, and esides that it was only two doors down from the biffy.

Now, I must admit, I had rather more posh accommodations than (as I understand it) ANYone else! If you click on this and biggify it you will notice two accoutrements which did not appear in any of the other cells: notice, on the top shelf of the bookcase a small television set! I did turn it on, and it did work. (I then turned it OFF because that was not what I meant to do with any of my time there......but STILL!!) You will also notice, on my plain-but-functional desk, FLOWERS. It was a lovely autumnal arrangement in a quaint little basket, which delighted me. I believe I've mentioned before, when I go anywhere without Mr Dearling, he often sends me flowers with a little note saying something like "Remember me". SILLY SILLY MAN! {ahem} Excuse me.....suffice it to say, even if there were no flowers, I think I'm safe in saying that I'm not likely to forget him any time soon. Still - I love that, it's very romantical.

However, the purpose of the whole thing was this Retreat, see, for members of the SCBWI, and I went feeling like Someone Who Kinda Writes Children's Stories...and came back, honestly, feeling like a Children's Writer! Hard to explain, except that I learned terminology, techniques, and ideas, and got a bunch of thoughts and observations, all of which gave me an earnest confidence. Now, of course, comes the putting it to use.

As I said before, I was tickled to find myself among really-o truly-o CELEBRITIES, even though I didn't know it at the time, and my favorites, especially upon retrospection, were:

Holly Black, author of "The Spiderwick Chronicles"

among other things, who was absolutely fascinating, very funny, and who provided some truly solid information about the technique and process of writing about fantastical worlds peopled by folks some people don't believe in (yeah, I KNOW! Hard to believe!) which I found to be of particular interest; and

Linda Sue Park

who has written quite a number of books, including "A Single Shard", which I haven't read but am about to (as well as a couple other of her books that sound intriguing). Might I add - "A Single Shard" won her a NEWBURY! That's (for those who may not know) just about the equivalent of the Nobel prize, for children's literature.

I guess I didn't really feel bad that I didn't recognize these girls' faces, because a glance at the back of a book jacket doesn't tend to stick in my mind....but when I knew who they were and listened to them, I allowed myself to enjoy feeling all star-struck and stalk-y and goofy. I think I managed to speak like an intelligent person in any conversations I had with either of them - or anyone else. I hope.

They had one little discussion that illustrated to me the circles in which I was moving: they were discussing the finer points of some writerly business, and both referred to ideas they'd shared with "Philip". Someone with as much awe as I but who maintained the ability to speak squeaked "PULLMAN?? PHILIP PULLMAN ??" and the response was in the affirmative. (!)

So now there remains one last element: I need to try putting what I learned to good use, and whether or not I actually achieve my resolution to be published in this, my 65th year, I can certainly say that I'm now headed in the right direction and wandering mindlessly through the wilderness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I left home Friday at 1:00 pm; my Mapquest said the ride to the Retreat site was one hour, 59 minutes. I entered to door at 3:00 pm. How's that for truth in advertising? I like those maps a lot, because they give you the mile-marker Exit Numbers, which I can follow easily. Towards the end, though, when I was honing in on it, I suddenly remembered that scene in "The Color Purple" where the white lady drops off her "colored maid" to spend time with her family and then leaves to drive herself home - only to have a panic attack at driving alone and requiring her to come away immediately to take her home.

Well, maybe not quite THAT bad, as I did get there, on on time (!!!)

What to say? Well, just a quick synopsis here, as I haven't put in my photos yet, but in overview: YES, it was infinitely worth-while for me. I left here having written a bunch of kid stories, and came home the author of children's stories. I got just a fearsome lot of information about the nuts & bolts of getting something published, having had the privilege of hearing editors and agents both. And as for the craft of writing? Well - I discovered that I don't know many authors' names, but I am familiar with some of the books. VERY familiar.

For example, Holly Black . I imagine I'm one of the few who didn't know her name, but I OWN the first two books of her extarodinarily well-known Spiderwick Chronicles. She was hilarious, informative, interesting and interesting, and I sat listening, I suddenly remembered - they made her book into a MOVIE! I guess that's pretty good.

There was more, and I'll elaborate when I get my pictures; in the meantime, suffice it to say that I came away feeling like a really-truly author, and actually and really inspired.

"Details at 11:00".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Onward and....


This is the statue depicting the motto of the State of Wisconsin. She has a twin standing outside the Capitol. They bear some resemblance to the figure named "Wisconsin" who stands, enrobed in gold, at the pinnacle of the dome of the Capitol. (It is said that she's pointing toward Washingon D.C.; if that were true, she'd have lowered her arm and frowned eight years ago.)

"Forward" is also my motto for today, because tomorrow morning I'm leaving for my Fall Retreat of writers in Racine. I guess this fits the "Books" part of my title. I've made a list (and not lost it yet!!) of things to pack. The clothes will be easy, just which of my 18 identical dresses to take, and which jammies. The knitting -- well, you know, I'm not yet 100% firm on whether or not to take any. This is a literary, wrie-y, book-y sort of thing....but I'll see. I imagine if nothing else I'll take a ball of red and some DPNs and cast on the first newly-commissioned toque -- if I have NO knitting with me I feel like I'm missing my underlinens.

We're to take "something for the snack table". That sounds promising, although someone mentioned the meals provided being a bit plain , which is in keeping with the fact that it's a convent site. Not sure what I'll take along for that - SOMETHING, or I won't feel right trying some of the Double-Rich-Extra-Chocolately Brownies they keep talking about.

Daisy! Of course I'll take Daisy, because I can imagine somewhere along the line my Muse will grab me by the ankles and shoulder and drag me off to write something, even if only in the deep hours of the night. I can almost taste the anticipation of Inspiration, and I'm not a-going to fight it, I can tell you.

Cats? No, although I'm sure each kitty will spend some time lying in the suitcase (admit it, yours do that too) I don't think they'd be welcome. PICTURES of cats? Gee, well - if I had any maybe I'd take one. {{koff koff}}

No, the biggest thing I'm concerned about taking is......Stuff I've Written. I'm going to take Ygraine (remember? she's my flash-drive thingie?) and also print out copies of as many of my stories as I can. One of my dear colleagues in my Writing Group (thanks, Stephanie!) gave me a link to proper format. I don't know as my stories will do anything other than hunker down in a corner of the laptop bag trying to look like kleenex, but you never know. I hear there are going to be people there who are actually attached to PUBLISHERS, and I think I've also heard that sometimes people get connected, and are a little closer to seeing their stories in print. Excuse me while I go lay down and hyperventilate for a moment.....

OK, I'm better. There is also a deal, I think Saturday night, where some editor types collect from the participants a "first page"; these are then read aloud and commented on. It can be the first page of ANYTHING you've written, and of course they don't get to everyone's, and they're anonymous. Am I brave enough to risk that? No idea.......but I may prepare First Pages of a couple of my things, just in case.

No idea of the Nunnery has wifi (what a concept!) but I can make blognotes while I'm there, at least, and will report back when I get home.

Also, you may have noticed, here and there, that there's apparently a Presidential Election coming up soon. Yeah, really! And to that end, we had a visit Tuesday from John Kerry who shoulda won himself a while back who was going to be speaking on behalf of Obama. Because the crowd began gathering at the Capitol early, before I left the Museum, I got a couple of pictures. Frankly, I can't imagine a more inspiring place for a political speech. We didn't stay for the Rally* but everyone looked very enthusiastic about it:

There was a band playing while people gathered in a very anticipatory mood. It was very accommodating weather for the event, cool and cloudy. It's a fairly short walk from campus, so I imagine before the actual speechifying began the crowd swelled ; I didn't watch the coverage on the news, but I know how these things tend to go.

If you click on this one, you can see "Forward's" twin sister at the heart of the throng. I'd have sworn I saw a "Capitol Statues for Obama" button on her chiton. But this does show a little corner of the mood among Madisonians, for the most part - peace signs, &c. I'm sure I've mentioned before, Madison prides itself on being described as "77 Miles Surrounded by Reality". We atribute the Free Thinking atmosphere as resulting from the combination of main University and State Capital.

I think it's an exciting place to be, though, and I suppose one reason I like it so much is that I'm in agreement with the general population around here. It's a place an Aging Hippie can call home and be comfortable. (See above. Nope, don't know him.)

DISCLAIMER: we have our share of folks whose belief systems are like the Opposition, no matter which side you're on, of course. The teacher of my museum group yesterday wrote on his comment sheet that I had used "slang expressions" which they're trying to avoid: I referred to Candidate Obama as a "black man" (apparently they use only "African American" in their school) and I also mentioned that some of our red brethren prefer the term "Indian" to "Native American". I haven't had such comments before, but there are Perpetually Outraged no matter where you go. (My boss wasn't ruffled in the least....we know 'em when we sees 'em.)

And having said all that, however, I can also report that I am in the Final Stretch of the Dr. Who scarf!! (I will pause until the roar of enthusastic applause dies out.) I don't know as I'll finish it completely today - there are a couple big thick bands at the end, but the end IS in sight. I've been diligent about working on it while taking teevee breaks - and my Knitting Coach has been uncommon attentive:

You're slowing down - KNIT KNIT KNIT!!

I suppose it's not too soon to begin trying to decide where or not to actually add the (sometimes optional) 7" fringe to each end. Any thoughts on the subject? I may leave it off just because it stands a pretty good chance of, you know, *dragging*, and it could get wonky pretty easily. I'll watch my tapes of Tom Baker to see how he handles it - and maybe I'll swallow my
abject mindless pointless terror nervousness and see what the folks on Ravelry have to say about it.

* My mind is made up, and while I'm still reading stuff, I'm finished with speeches, debates, teevee commentary, &c. I can't imagine anything anyone could say that would sway me at this point - unless Barak announced that Knitting would be Illegal and ALL books should be burned. No worries, mate.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sense and....

Sensibility? OK, friends, I am 65 years old and of sound mind (stop that snickering back there). As I sit here, looking just a tad into the future, I'm questioning....just a little bit...some recent decisions. Between today and December 1, I have arranged for what the Department of They refer to as "a full plate". But first things first.

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day!

Now, to clarify - this is NOT the Italian, Columbo. This is Jean Nicolet, Explorer late of New France, celebrating the day with a few of his Indian friends from the East. In recent years the celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day has gained some popularity in a tiny portion of the population for a variety of reasons. My interest in the Native People can be traced precisely back to my 7th year of life when I read "Wi Sapa" by Lyla Hoffine. It's the story of a Sioux boy, age nine, and his life pre-contact. One of the last incidents in the story is his meeting with a white trader who gives him a metal knife. HOW I loved that story! I remember announcing to my mother (poor soul) that I intended to grow up not only male but Sioux. To her credit, she neither laughed out loud nor said anything discouraging. (She may have wept into her pillow later, but if so I never knew it.)

It is surely evident that I did not achieve either goal (!) but I have come as close as one can, by reenacting an Ojibway or Metis woman of the Fur Trade in about 1760 and forward. As a result of all that, I am one who does celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. So, to all of you who do AND all of you who don't, I repeat: Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Now then, how about this? You see before you a cat toy ("Cats"), a pair of knitting needles (they're at the top there...."Sticks") and a BOOK! In fact, the Yarn Harlot's new book, which I have finally dipped into, having finished "Little Heathens". The knitting part is the Dr Who scarf, which has attained approximately nine feet at this point. It's almost twice as long as I am, which means I roll it up for ease of knitting. This is to prove that, despite wandering off in myriad directions, I DO remember what I intended to write about in this here blog.

But -- see, here's the deal. I'm back to the Sensibility-Full-Plate bit. I've signed on for a couple of things, and I suspect that it may affect how often I can get back to my cats, my sticks, or any books at all. Here goes:

1. I am registered to take two classes, which start on the 22nd & 23rd of this month. One is about taking Oral Histories, coincides perfectly with my intention to do such a project at one of the senior centers where Mr Dearling and I have been giving programs as Museum outreach; the other is about Infancy & Childhood in the Middle Ages! Talk about a source for information useful to a kidlit writer! Each class (one on Wednesdays, one on Thursdays) is only four weeks, and they're not going to be all "Get your homework done!" sort of things, so I'm hoping they provide blog fodder and not interference.

2. I am going off to the Fall Retreat of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI, to those in the know). That's this coming Friday; I'll be home Sunday. I have no idea what to expect, but the anticipation of being surrounded by "Children's Book Writers & Illustrators" in a symposium-workshop-social sort of place tickles me no end. Remember my Birthday Resolution? This can only be a good thing for keeping it. My dear colleagues in my Writers' Group have all been, many times, but none are going this year. So between them and the "list", I expect I can get a good idea of what to expect. The venue is a convent, and thinking about spending my nights in a little cell with only a bed and desk (what more does a writer need?) is entirely delicious. And that may be good blog fodder too!

3. "Aye, there's the rub!" Here's the Big Thing: I have registered to take part in NaNoWriMo!! What the hey, Dale-Harriet? Never heard of it!

Allow me to elaborate. It's this contest, see. You sign up, and then you begin at 12:01 AM on November 1 and write a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. Reread that last bit (and if you mutter "good grief dale-harriet why?" as you read, I won't be offended).

In the words of the immortal whoever-it-was: "Because it's there." I heard about this last year and it intrigued me. Being as this is my Major Writing Year, I says to myself "GO FOR IT!" So I've signed up.

There are literally thousands of people from virtually all over the world who sign up. If you don't manage to finish, nothing for it - you've done an amazing thing. If you DO finish, you upload your novel at the end for an official count, and if you succeeded in 50,000 words, you WIN! The prize includes a web badge, a pdf certificate and $1,000,000. No, that's a joke, there's no money. But from where I stand (drawn up to my full four-feet-eleven-inches) finishing a thing like that sounds like blog fodder and bragging rights enough for a century!

There are a couple things: I write SHORT STORIES. And for CHILDREN. Also, I have a marked lack of discipline rather short attention span. But, ladies and gentlemens, I am going to give it a shot. It works out to something like roughly 1,700 words a day. Will you believe me if I say the quantity doesn't phase me? I think the easy part will be spewing words. The hard part is going to be having them make sense, form a cohesive story, and coming to a conclusion instead of just wandering away muttering.

However, my purpose in mentioning this is, between finishing the Dr Who, (knitting a couple of toques that have come my way recently - NEVERMIND!), taking the classes, going to the Retreat, continuing to work on my normal stories with my Writers' Group, and -- you know, eating, feeding the cats, chatting with Mr Dearling, relating to the world, *working at the Museum* and (oh heck, I'll just say it) keeping up with the Real Housewives of blogging time may be somewhat compromised. I am intending to post at least once a week so's you know I have't become ill/ run off with Raoul the Pool Boy / been taken by the Rapture/ or died. Or any of the above in a group.

Also - I started a new blog for the sole purpose of preparing for the NaNoWriMo and keeping track of things. I'll give you the URL, but hear this: I don't intend it to be the sort of thing people actually may look at ner nuthin'. It really will be pretty much a place for me to post thoughts (if I have them) and that sort of thing. My fellow local NaNo folks (oh yeah, there's a network and I'm not alone, even here in Madtown) will know of it, but this is NOT an advert or recommendation. It goes like this: The Trembling Quill .

Soooooo....wish me luck. One of the instructions is, tell everyone you know you're doing this because the embarrassment, shame, and sense of failure is heightened in proportion to the number of people you've told. So there you are.

And lastly...
...these are growing in my back yard in rich profusion on a narrow rather smooth-barked tree. Anyone have any idea what they are? I tasted one (it's ok, the feeling is back in my foot almost up to the ankle) I'M KIDDING! and it was sort of bittery, but fruity. If they are edible, I would love to know, and eat 'em.

Otherwise - I won't. Crazy? Yes. Stupid? Naw.