Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to School: change (and dragonflies) in the air


The light is different today. Actually it has been different for a few days now. The sun is finally a bit more gentle. Its light seems more golden than the harsh white of this hot, dry summer. We are settling into the comfortable seventy-to-eighty degrees I would love to have year round.

Snatches of poems and books run through my head all the time and pop up when they seem appropriate. Whenever the light changes, I think “there is a certain slant of light.” It’s from an Emily Dickinson poem. 

Unfortunately, it’s not the slant of light I thought it was. When I found the whole poem today, I realized that she wrote about oppressive winter light, which I am not at all ready for right now. 

I swear she has a good autumn poem, I just need to do some research and find it, but I’m not sure I should be reading much from or about Miss Dickinson right now. I’m starting to understand her isolated life way too well. It would be so easy to just stay home.

Back to the niceness of late summer and early autumn—It’s harvest time. Peaches, grapes, tomatoes, and corn on the cob. I have a peach cobbler cooling in the crock pot as I write this. We have blackberries as well, and soon the plums, pears and apples will be ready to pick.

This is my favorite time of year. When I was teaching, I often wished for year-round school so I could have big chunks of time in the spring and the fall, when travel and yard work is pleasant and necessary. 

But now I am seeing the excitement of Back to School from a distance and I miss it. 

Teaching this fall wouldn't work because I only have a few good hours a day. This would me my third back to school after  summers that didn't refresh me. I don’t think I miss the actual day-to-day of teaching, but I miss the people and I miss the optimistic newness of the beginning of each new school year.

Newness would be welcome. I really feel like I'm in a rut and don't have the energy to change it. We did get some very good news--I qualify for disability and will continue to contribute to the family income. I'm hoping getting that stress off my shoulders will ease depression and help. The latest news on my husband's job is no news. His department survived the latest round of layoffs. The current word is they will know for sure by the end of September. 

(Trigger Warning--CSD Rant) All of this would have been easier if Canyons School District had worked with me as promised. At the ADA hearing, when I was accommodated out of my job, I was assured that I would receive communication throughout the disability process. However, I  only received information when I asked for it, usually more than once. Yesterday I called the national insurance company handling my claim. The person helping me on the phone didn't know the answer, so she left a message for the next person up the line. He called first thing this morning. I made a call to the district office with similar results, except for the call back. The call was to answer a question I emailed a month ago. Grrr.


I usually buy yarn with a project in mind. It’s easiest to justify the purchase if the project is for someone else. (I say this while wearing the second unnecessary sweater I made for myself this summer.) So I have two knitting kits that are planned as Christmas gifts. One of them will soon actually be finished. The pattern is called “Dragon Flies” because there is an image of dragon flies in the lace. I’ve enjoyed working on it so much that I made three of them. Two will be in my shop.

The blue-gray one is knit from my homespun merino wool. That makes it look quite rustic. It’s warm enough to replace a light sweater. 

The purple and green is recycled sari silk yarn from India. It will add more pizazz than warmth. I was initially thinking someone would have to buy something specifically to wear with this, but then I realized I have two dresses and several blouses that would look great with it. This is one of the items that I consider gifting to myself, but I would rather sell it to you.

I also made a small scarf out of bright yarn samples. It is asymmetrical and interesting enough to wear several ways. All of these pieces should be listed for sale soon.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Running on Fumes


This has been a bad week. I have spent most of it down. There are a bunch of presidential biopics on PBS on demand. I watched them from bed, knitting when I was up to it. Reviewing a lifetime of politics distracts a bit from guilt and fear. We still don't know about disability payments. If it doesn't come through, my paycheck and our insurance ends when August does. I keep suppressing thoughts about the beginning of It's a Wonderful Life.

But the week started great. On Sunday my son spoke in church about his mission. I hosted and fed people afterward. Even though my family, and even some of my guests, did more work than I did, I wore myself out.

I made it with the help of the same chemical cocktail that got me through so many days of teaching: morphine, caffeine, and adrenaline. The morphine probably does the least. I take Tramadol, which is weak enough that you don't hear many addiction stories about it. (The fact that it is weak enough not to do much for pain may account for that too.) On top of that, I took two Excedrin. I'm not a daily caffeine user, so the effect is powerful. So is the adrenaline social anxiety produces. I was up and social from noon until five or six and didn't start to feel the pain until I sat down in the evening.

It was worth it. I enjoyed my son's talk and seeing him reunite with friends. It was fun chatting with my friends and family as well.

But there is always a price. One active day has cost me a week so far. I haven't travelled too far from my bedroom.

My initial thought for today's blog was to write about getting outside more, but I didn't. And although I knit, I didn't finish much and really am not up to dragging around equipment to take pictures. I'm hoping to write a good entry about sitting in the garden watching the weeds grow next week.


This spring I went on a shopping spree for yarn and patterns. I picked up a couple that would be perfect for summer family birthdays. Those birthdays are long past, but I've finally attempted one of the patterns. I have finished it in lavender homespun, knit quite a bit in green and purple silk, and next week will probably get to the jewel-toned cashmere blend I initially bought .

This pattern is called "Dragonfly" and has a dragonfly pattern in the lace work. I remembered about it when I paused to look at an orange dragonfly perched on a stalk in my heat-burned flower garden. one version of this shawl will become a Christmas present, but by next week, the other two should be listed in my shop.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What if: Robert Frost,the Multiverse, and RA triggers


After a month of not quite functioning, I felt good enough to swim. It was delightful. Of course, my body is punishing me now.

Mentally I’m still scattered. I talk to myself constantly to remember what I’m doing. When I pray, I can't remember if I said amen before my mind whirled off to another topic. I’ve tried to write poetry, but it’s not working . Notebooks and computers are littered with abandoned ideas,  like blown out matches that burned bright for a second, but failed to ignite anything greater.

 Though I can’t recall if I took my meds, my mind still retains poetry. I have more than a dozen that I memorized with my classes and can still pull up without effort. I decided to exercise the part of my brain that still works by learning a new poem.

 Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” reached out to me. One of my pattern books has a “Road Less Taken” scarf that I like.

Plus I listened to an interview KUER’s  Radio West  with David Orr, who wrote a book about the poem. 

Orr pointed out that since the title is “The Road Not Taken," the poem is about options we didn’t choose. Things that make us wonder “with a sigh, someday ages and ages hence,” what if I had taken another road?

What if . . .. 
I think most of us have imagined alternate lives. For example, both my husband and I have mental pictures of how our single, separate lives would have been.

My man would live in a modern, minimalist home—no clutter, cutting edge technology. Without the financial responsibility of a family, he would have freedom to find a job both intellectually stimulating and focused on the greater good. I would live down town in a cluttered and colorful apartment and spend my money on season tickets to theaters and the symphony. I’d travel the world every summer.Obviously both of us chose a different road, together.
I've always tried to map my future roads. In middle school I was fascinated by genetics, but I worried about the moral responsibility of tinkering with DNA. I also believed that any career should be a plan B. Plan A was to stay home and raise kids.

But I noticed that teachers and nurses seem exempt from criticism of working mothers. So I decided to teach science. I had no clue about the moral responsibility of teaching--striving to meet individual academic and emotional needs of 150 diverse adolescents.

By high school, lifelong love of reading and writing made English my favorite class, so I was unsure which topic I would major in. I planned to minor in my second choice and maybe teach both. 

During two high school summers, 4-H Conservation Camp in Logan Canyon sparked an interest in wildlife biology. Stories of people sleeping in tents for months at a time while counting bears sounded great to me. But I was already in love with a city boy and I didn't think I could raise kids out in the woods. 

Math sealed my fate. Or lack of math. Although I passed college algebra and trig with good grades, I didn't understand any of it. Calculus terrified me.

To major or minor in science, needed calculus or statistics. English required a 300 level foreign language class. Three years of German seemed better than one semester of math. I chose the English teacher road.

According to one physics theory, I may be traveling all of these roads simultaneously. In the multiverse, (as interpreted by sci-fi writers) a new universe exists for each decision. So there would be an alternate me teaching science, one running around in the woods, and one with season tickets to the opera.

But as fun as the multiverse seems for  movie plots, I have a hard time accepting it as reality. We make too many decisions every day. My world view doesn’t allow for three more versions of me based on what I choose for breakfast.

My biggest “what if” is if I could have taken a road that would bypass RA. No one really knows what causes it. The theory is heredity, plus a trigger. Heredity I’ve got—aunts on both sides of the family, at least one cousin, my little sister. But the trigger is trickier.

Right before I got sick, I ran a half marathon that I was not at all prepared for. I never recovered. So was that exertion my trigger, or a coincidence? It wasn’t a trigger for anyone else in my family. Lifestyle doesn't seem to be the answer either. My sister, cousin, and I were all raising little kids. But my aunts had grown children when they were diagnosed. I taught full time; my sister stayed home with her kids.

Years ago, I listened to a radio interview with a rheumatologist. He explained the heredity plus trigger theory. Several times he mentioned smoking as a trigger, but gave no other example. No one in my family smokes. But I looked out the window at a smoggy January sky and wondered if we had all grown up breathing our trigger. 

The “what if” road I try not to dwell on is the one without RA. On that road, retirement, finances, and travel would go exactly as hoped for. But I can’t get there from here.


Of course, I knit the “Road Less Traveled” scarf. You may recognize the yarn from the sweater I made earlier. You will see more of this green in the future.

I love the color and am happy with the result, but there was some frustration in the process. The lace repeat was easily memorized, but went wrong whenever I stopped paying strict attention. When I made mistakes, I had to unravel a few rows and knit them again. I knit and unraveled and reknit until the scarf grew to six feet long. Now it is finished and pretty, and in my shop.

 I also knit a sweater for myself. The yarn is a cotton/linen blend which you will also see again. I’ve been knitting  pieces of it off and on since May. I rarely have only one project going. But this time I have no idea what I’m going to knit (or write about) next.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I'm Dyeing Here!


I trust you noticed the "e" in dyeing. It will make sense later.

I usually pride myself on not sweating the small stuff, but English is an exception.

When people find out that I'm an English teacher, they often tell me they should watch what they say.  Not true. I listen to what they are saying not how it's said. Besides, correcting people's speech would be rude.

I'm not as tolerant with writing. I see everything with a proofreader's eye. I am the one who penned in an "h" when the supermarket was selling "fresh erbs." I wince at the constant public misuse of apostrophes and chuckle with catty glee when I find a little error in the writing of anyone really smart.

If I could choose a Facebook upgrade, it would be the option of editing other people's posts. My changes wouldn't be visible to anyone else, but they would make me feel better.

My pet peeve is mistakes in the public writing of educators. Sloppy grammar and spelling makes us all look bad. And there is a lot of it. I don't know how many times I've really wanted to offer my editing services to counselors or administrators, but I've never been gutsy enough to do it.

Not that I don't make mistakes. My skills fall apart at the white board, so students often get the chance to correct my errors.

The ones that I miss haunt me. Years ago, I wrote an e-mail to the English department that referred to the "roll I would play" instead of the "role I would play." I didn't catch it until after I hit send. No one said anything, but I'm still embarrassed.

I ran into another small error of mine this week, but not related to grammar.

There are two kinds of dye for fabric.  Plant dyes are for cotton, linen, and rayon. People use that to tie dye cotton T-shirts. For wool or silk, a protein dye is needed.

I've known this for decades, so when I tried to use a dye kit that I bought some time in the distant past, I assumed it was protein dye.

The procedures in the instructions were odd.  Salt was added instead of vinegar. Everything was done with room temperature water. But the dye bath was the royal blue I wanted, so I left my yarn in to soak for an hour and diligently stirred it every ten minutes.

During that stirring, I knew something was wrong. The yarn just didn't seem to absorb the color. The water was royal blue, but my yarn ended up mint green. Somehow I've got a kit of dye in three primary colors and black, but it's all plant dye.

I'm sure I'll find a use for my green yarn. It's pretty enough to keep instead of dyeing blue on top of it. And maybe I'll have a tie-die party some time to use up all that dye powder. In the meantime, I need to wash and spin some more white wool, then buy some actual protein dye in a nice shade of blue.
Why is mint green not the color of the mint under my yarn?


This week I also knit a couple of hats. I don't understand slouchy beanies. I probably wouldn't wear one (maybe I'm too old),  but they were fun to knit and are available in my shop.