Monthly Archives: January 2010

What I Read in January 2010

Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler (reread)
Spin Dye Stitch by Jennifer Claydon
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Ice Land by Betsy Tobin
Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
Journeyman: Travels of a Writer by Timothy Findley & William Whitehead
My iPod Touch by Brad Miser
Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (reread)
A Cotswold Ordeal by Rebecca Tope
Emily’s Ghost by Denise Giardina
The Whim of the Dragon by Pamela C. Dean (reread)

Week Crash

Tuesday morning the boy woke up around four-thirty, gasping and calling for me. When I got to his room he was sitting up in bed, fighting tears.

“Mama, I can’t breathe right,” he said.

This has happened often enough now that I don’t panic. I pulled out the mask and both inhalers, and told him to take a deep breath. As he did, he started coughing a deep, resonant cough.

Yup, I thought. The asthma’s a flag for a chest cold. Here we go.

The deep barky cough didn’t come often; maybe once a half-hour. But I called preschool anyway to let them know he wasn’t coming in, and that knowing how his colds go he’d probably be home all week. Tuesday was okay; we went out to get him a new puzzle, and did the groceries together. He was just sick enough to not go to school in order to keep from spreading germs, but nowhere sick enough to actually be quiet or restful at home. By Wednesday evening, though, I was chafing, because my work was piling up and he wanted to be at school with his friends instead of at home with me. His educator called me yesterday and she said that if he was the same — no fever, no runny nose, just the occasional dry cough — to bring him in on Thursday. And we would have done it, too, except late yesterday afternoon his nose began to run heavily. So today HRH stayed home, bless him, because I’ve already lost two days of work, and it’s only fair that he take a day off, too, so that my work week isn’t entirely torpedoed. Grandma e-mailed to see if he was on for their traditional last-Friday-of-the-month-together day, and so he’s covered for Friday, too.

Things we have learned or rediscovered over the past two days:

1. If the boy is left to decide when we go out, we will spend the entire day at home… until he remembers that I said we could go to the bookstore, at which point he will make a fuss because we haven’t gone yet. This point will usually happen when there isn’t enough time left to get to the bookstore before we’d have to turn around and come right back home for lunch and nap, or dinner.

2. Star Wars: Episode One, when seen through the eyes of a four-year-old, isn’t nearly as awful as it was when seen through the eyes of a critical twenty-nine year old.

3. It is great fun to surprise a sick child with a toy that he doesn’t expect. It’s just as much fun to build up a friend’s legend by ascribing the gift of said toy to someone other than oneself. (The X-wing MLG passed along to him was, and I quote, “The coolest gift ever.“)

4. The last quarter of the day is the hardest for everyone.

5. It is possible for an energetic four year-old to sit quietly in my office with me if he has a pile of art supplies and scrap paper, but not for long, and not often enough.

6. I can spin while the boy is here; I cannot write or edit. It’s a different kind of work, as I build up my saleable yarn. Unfortunately the boy always wants to “help,” which doesn’t.

7. Sitting down and sharing lunch together is really nice.

I only lost my temper once, just before HRH got home Wednesday evening. I know, I know; anger leads to the dark side. But it was in response to careless play with a lightsabre that ended in me being hit across the face and my glasses being knocked off because someone wasn’t paying attention, looking in the opposite direction entirely. The lightsabre was very firmly grabbed, pulled out of the offender’s grasp, and sent none too gently to the other side of the room while the offender was informed that he wasn’t getting it back for another day, as he obviously couldn’t play responsibly with it.

The landlord was supposed to show up yesterday to finish plastering and sanding the hole in the bedroom wall, but he didn’t, which also contributed to my grumpiness because I really needed to nap but instead stayed awake watching for him because I didn’t want him to wake the boy once he’d gone down for his nap. After dinner I had a massive headache, was exhausted, and really wanted to play hooky from orchestra but soldiered on, and I’m glad I did, as things went pretty well for me. I’m going to have to look at specific places with my teacher at this week’s lesson, though; I just can’t get some of the faster runs with the proper bowing.

To my intense astonishment, the Coopworth actually spins up and finishes all right. It’s fine in fingering weight two-ply, navajo-plied sock weight, and bulky weight single. It must be the finishing process. I’m stunned. I still wouldn’t sell it for full price, but a seconds category in the shop isn’t a bad idea; a sort of catch-all category for for things that didn’t quite work out, or were made from sub-par fibre.

Lovely fluffy snow happening out there right now. A very nice change from the dismal, grey overcast light we’ve had for so long. Snow brightens everything up.

Weekend Roundup

I’ve been trying to work up the energy to do this post, but it’s hard. Saturday pretty much killed me, and various small irritations on Sunday piled up and got bigger, and by this morning I was ready to classify the whole weekend a loss. Which isn’t accurate at all, and intellectually I can look back and see all the good things that happened; I’m just in a bad headspace, and the fibro is winning today.

Saturday morning the boy and I took HRH to the airport, where he rented a car to drive to the Ottawa anti-prorogation rally. The boy and I came home, made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, then headed out to attend the double-barrelled Aubin-Murphy progeny birthday party at Fundomondo. The boy had been looking forward to this for weeks, so it was a crushing obstacle for both of us when he encountered the giant indoor play structure and realized that it overwhelmed him. He desperately wanted to play on it, but it scared him at the same time. There were about twenty minutes of very stormy tears before I could coax him into the party room for some snacks and juice. Part of the problem was that the last time he’d been, he was young enough to play in the little kids’ section, and this time he was definitely not. But he’s old enough to get halfway up the big kids’ structure, look down, and be terrified. In the end we spent our time curled up on one of the couches together, playing with the games on the iPod Touch (and Debra showed us a rollercoaster game on hers, which thrilled him to no end). He was awkwardly caught between the ages of the older children and the youngest, who has been his playmate at the caregiver’s, but who was sticking to her older sister like glue, racing around the play structure with no fear. I think he might have been okay if he’d had someone of his age up there with him to distract him and encourage him along. He was very upset that I couldn’t play up there with him.

For my part, it was lovely to see and speak with adults I don’t see very often. And I got a cup of coffee and a piece of cake out of it, too.

(Small irritating thing of the weekend Number One: When we were divesting ourselves of our winterwear, the staff member who greeted us asked the boy if he’d like a grilled cheese or a hot dog for lunch at the party, and the boy said, “Chicken nuggets.” The man said, rather snottily, “We only serve healthy food here.” To which I wanted to say, “You’re offering my son hot dogs and you saying you’re serving healthy food? We make homemade breaded chicken nuggets, thank you very much, which I guarantee are one hundred percent healthier than your hot dogs.” I need to rethink my “keep mouth shut and don’t engage” policy, because I’m really tired of being the one to bite my tongue to avoid confrontation when people deserve to have their rudeness pointed out.)

After the party the boy indulged me and let me go to the yarn store in the same mall, where I picked up two braids of Fleece Artist roving (why I didn’t pick up all three there I do not know; perhaps I will stop by this weekend and see if the last one is still available). We got home and assembled the Knex kit that had been in his loot bag, then played with Lego and coloured until HRH called to be picked up from the airport again. After dinner the boy asked if he could play Rock Band, so we set it up and he absolutely smashed his way gleefully through Blitzkrieg Bop on the drums. Twice. Allowing him to do something so exciting just before getting ready for bed may not have been the best of plans, but we had a heck of a lot of fun.

Astute readers will see that there is no nap in this daily summary, and that is correct. I suspect that had something to do with the tears at the party as well; it all coincided with what should have been his naptime. Anyway, all this to say that when the boy’s teeth had been brushed and his pyjamas put on, he came into my office to tell he was ready for our storytime, and he looked at the computer monitor, where he saw dear little Zoe, Neil Gaiman’s cat who was dying from a esophageal tumour (and whose exquisite portrait graced my desktop for a good three months last year). And without a pause, the boy said, “Is that cat dead?” and started crying. Yes; before I’d had a chance to tell him who it was, and why I was reading a post about her. We soothed him for a good ten minutes, because he was extremely distraught about this cat whom he’d intuited was dying, and that propelled him into wanting Maggie, and asking if Zoe was going to go to the Summerlands, and was she going to be well again there, and what happens to their bodies?, and it was hard for everyone. We talked about writing “your friend Neil” a note to make him feel better about Zoe, telling him that she would meet Maggie in the Summerlands, and it really touched me that this child wanted to reach out to a man he’d never met to make him feel better about his loss. He is, at times, so intensely empathetic.

He passed out within four minutes after his story, before my cuddle was even over. I wasn’t surprised. It had been a very emotional day for him.

HRH and I were then initiated into the joys of Settlers of Catan, a board game that we’d heard about for a good sixish years but had never played. The upstairs neighbours bought a set, and we all settled down with Bailey’s and cookies and had a really good time. HRH and I are planning to buy an expansion set for it so we can do this semi-regularly.

Sunday we decided to do absolutely nothing. Friday I’d broken into the light brown Coopworth I had bought over Christmas week, and I was horrified at the quality of it; it’s full of neps and vegetable matter. It’s frustrating because under all the crap I can tell there’s a fluffy, soft, silky long-stapled wool. So Sunday I decided to wrestle with it and try to determine the best way to spin it, because I wasn’t going to waste it. I got some Aran/bulk two-ply done, but I decided to experiment with a laceweight single, theorizing that it might be easier to pick out the neps and dried grass that way. The Coopworth has grudgingly agreed to be spun laceweight, but only with plenty of cross-lacing, and by supported long draw. Neps were mostly minimised this way, but it’s still annoying. And I discovered that I have *another* bag of Coopworth stashed, in dark brown; it’s what was included in my wheel when I bought it. A quick peek into the bag shows vegetable matter and a few neps there, as well; I wont know the extent of it till I haul some off to predraft it and try to get it spun. Research on Ravelry forums this morning has turned up the general opinion among wheel sellers and buyers that the fibre included in the Louet wheel kits is of seconds quality; apparently some LYSs open the boxes and switch out the crappy fibre for good fibre instead, which is really nice for the beginning spinners. Reading this, though, I wondered if the LYS I bought this bag of fibre from did something similar, but put the lousy-grade fibre taken out of the box on the shelf to sell to an unsuspecting spinner, like me. Either way, I’m not impressed. People have assured the spinners of low-quality fibre that the Louet stuff in general is good, which has otherwise been my experience.

While I spun and muttered nasty things at my fibre, HRH and the boy played video games. The boy’s getting to an age where he’s got more fine motor control and a better understanding of how to manipulate controls to obtain a desired outcome, and to understand instructions. He has also reached the age where he finds the Raving Rabbids hilarious. HRH still has to talk him through things, and often has to direct a lot of the action, but it was great to hear them giggling together in the next room. We also got him going on the Wii Fit balance games, and the Shaun White snowboarding game that Scott worked on, and much fun was had.

For dinner I made a fabulous turkey pot pie with half the breast we’d frozen from Christmas dinner, and slurry stock from the 2008 Christmas bird. I usually use phyllo pastry to top my pot pies but I forgot to defrost it in time, so I made a basic shortening dough which worked brilliantly. Lacking anything else I added diced potatoes and parsnips along with the onions, and it was delicious. While I cooked, HRH whisked the boy downstairs to look at the upcoming weather, and while they were down there they logged on to WOW and the boy made a character of his very own. When I went down to get them I discovered that the boy had made a gnome rogue, and had already mastered how to move around, how to initiate an attack, and the key combos to follow through. He very proudly showed me how he took down wolves to sell the meat in order to gain a pair of leather gloves.

When he was in bed, HRH and I headed out to our sort-of-monthly-but-not-really steampunquian game, which was fun for most of us but oddly paced. When I got home I slept badly, being woken up once by a cat and once by the boy, and in between having stressful dreams about the steampunquian party being caught in a dangerous underground situation, and then about having a huge emotional confrontation with one of the player characters (one that I suspect is coming eventually, but it was very upsetting in the dream nonetheless), and finally about stage managing a play where no one was ready for anything and the second lead actress didn’t show up after intermission so I had to go on with a script in my hand while still stage managing. And something that frustrated me on the way out of the game the previous night started gnawing at me, so today has been unpleasant as a result of it all. And it’s grey and rainy and I’m just generally out of sorts.

But so far I have done work associated with the cello manual, and solved a wifi Mac mystery with the help of my research skills and my local Mac allies (which took up way too much of my time today, but at least now I know that it’s nothing I’m doing wrong — in fact, I am doing everything extra-right — it’s someone else who hasn’t secured their computer properly and my Mac is picking up their file-sharing signal), and have handled correspondence, among which was contact made by a previous client who will have more work for me soon, and who put a friend in contact with me for a small contract with them. So!

I missed the window I had for cello practice when no one was in the building, and because it’s so grey outside I can’t tell what time of day it is, which messes with my sense of how the day unwinds and things are paced. No, looking at a clock doesn’t help; I can’t internalise it. And so the day feels like it has gotten away from me.

I need to repeatedly remind myself that when the fibro rears its ugly head, I am not a failure, and that it’s okay to be quiet and not get things done.

Friday Fibery Update

Here’s what I’ve been working on.

First, a photo of the silk scarf I did for my mother as a Christmas gift, now known as Mum’s Orchid Silk Scarf:

I had third of it done for Christmas day; I wrapped it anyway, needles and all, so Mum could at least open it. It was three-quarters finished by the time we left (so much easier to knit something when you can do it openly), and then I ran into a big old wall about sitting down to knit the last bit. (Having to frog the last five inches not once but twice contributed to that.) The silk is lovely, but the lack of stretch means it’s a bit unforgiving to work with. Anyway, I finished it last weekend, and blocked it this week. Blocking solved a multitude of the things I didn’t like about the yarn I’d spun, and it looks so crisp and even!

Wednesday I did some dye tests on the oatmeal (a fancy name for pale greyish brown, really) Blue Face Leicester fibre that Ceri and I bought for her sweater. I used my new Jacquard acid dyes, and was kind of flailing in the dark about blending them. I blended a green from blue and yellow, which ended up quite piney, and tried a straight vermilion red, which ended up a mauvey/old rose colour. The I spun a bit of each and chain-plied them to show Ceri what they’d look like in yarn form.

This was the first time I’d tried dyeing a solid colour on the stovetop, and it worked brilliantly. It will be great for solids. I hadn’t done it yet because I usually hand paint my fibre at least two different colours, and set it in either the microwave or the oven.

Yesterday I spun 54 yards of two-ply Aran-weight from 2.3 oz of 70/30 mohair-merino blend of fibre. It’s nice and fluffy:

It’s slated for dyeing; maybe lavender. (Which I could do by screwing up my blue dye again, stabbity stabbity stab… see below.)

And today, I finished spinning 57 yards of a lovely squooshy Corriedale single. I decided to try crockpot dyeing, as it is a technique I haven’t tested yet, and decided on cornflower blue and willow green. Everything looked just beautiful… until I added more vinegar to the crockpot. At which point the blue broke spectacularly and went purple:

And I was so careful about adding the vinegar, too! Just a wee bit! And not directly on the fibre! But alas, disaster nonetheless. Once it’s dry I’ll reskein it and it may not be as awful as I think it is now. But it probably will be. On the other hand, that’s a very pretty green. Without any blue in it, it may be even nicer.

ETA: It is much nicer after rewinding it on the skeinwinder, because the purple is spread throughout the skein. Still not my cup of tea, though. Once it’s fully dry I’ll reskein it and post a pic for the alien Muppet yarn fans.

ETA: Much easier to take once reskeined. Et voila:

2009 In Review

Better late than never. I’ve had this sitting in a file on my desktop, and I haven’t posted it because I was sure there was something I was forgetting. (There was: Neil Gaiman. Only the most exciting assignment I’ve ever been given, ever. Duh.)

Things I Did In 2009 That I Have Never Done Before:

Bought a brand-new cello.
Bought a spinning wheel and started spinning.
Joined a third social networking site (Twitter, which I vastly prefer to Facebook; I find FB very annoying, with a heck of a lot more noise than actual signal).
Canned a whole pile of garden tomatoes.
Performed a spiritual handfasting ceremony for two dear friends (not the same as legally marrying a couple, which I did for t! and Janice).
Sold my primary musical instrument (to someone very deserving!).
Bought my first Apple product, a Mac mini.
Interviewed Neil Gaiman in person.

Things I Did in 2009 Of Which I Am Proud:

I bought a new cello. If you follow my journal regularly you were privy to the angst I felt about the whole buying a new 7/8 cello when the 4/4 I had was so very excellent an instrument. This was a huge issue for me, because I had to deal with my preconceptions regarding thrift and what I deserve versus going overboard, and what constitutes any of those things. I am very, very happy with my choice to sell my first cello and buy this brand-new 7/8. The sound is evolving nicely and we play well together. We’re a good fit. This was HUGE for me. I am so very proud of myself for taking this enormously weighty step.

I am very proud of not quitting my cello lessons. As of mid-October it was one full year of lessons down, and I can tell that my technique has improved by leaps and bounds. I wasn’t ever really in danger of quitting them entirely, but I came close to asking to move to a biweekly schedule for the sake of finances, a move that would have had negative repercussions on my development.

I am proud of sticking it out in second chair at orchestra and not asking to be moved. I really, really struggled with the music this past fall, and I came very close to asking to be switched. Actually, I did ask, indirectly; I told the section leader that if she wanted to rotate me to the back to give someone else a chance, I’d be fine with that. She immediately vetoed that idea, which felt nice on one hand, but made my heart sink a little on the other. I’m sure this is very character-building for me.

I am thrilled with, and proud of, switching to a Mac computer. I’m pretty set in my ways (mainly because it takes energy to learn something new and there’s not a lot of that to spare) and learning a whole new interaction with a computer system was a bit intimidating. Apple made it very easy for me, though, and I’m terribly pleased with the whole affair. I vastly prefer it to Windows machines.

I am freakishly proud of stepping into the spinning hobby. Like the 7/8 cello and the move to a Mac, I researched exhaustively for months (rash is nowhere near my middle name) and finally decided to buy a spinning wheel. I thank Ceri form the bottom of my heart for giving me the early birthday present of a spindle workshop last spring.

And finally, I am also proud of the interview with Neil Gaiman. Not only did I step up to the plate and take the assignment from the lovely and talented Tamu at fps magazine instead of backing down because it would have been easier, but I actually got through it without fainting or choking or forgetting how to speak English. It was also just a pleasure to meet him and talk for twenty minutes. He is a wonderful person.

Good Things About 2009:

Taking up spinning. I can’t communicate how deeply this has affected me. It relaxes me, engages a part of my mind that I haven’t often engaged, and occupies my mind just enough to let everything else settle. Plus I get pretty yarn out of it.

Like last year I’m sure there’s more, of course; a lot of this year was good. But these are what stand out in my memory. I am still thankful for my friends, appreciative of them and their strengths, proud of their accomplishments and successes, and love spending time with them. I’ve also further refined my stop-spending-time-with-people-who-drain-me technique, with excellent benefits to my psyche and physical health. And I’m still working on the maintaining a decent balance as regards my physical energy, too, which goes well enough now that I understand I have to manage the energy carefully thanks to fibro.

Not-So-Good Things About 2009:

Scarlet fever. Come on. I mean, really. (Not that it was bad, just annoying. It was nowhere near as awful as the time I had it as a kid. I was fully operational and non-delirious the entire time. But still – scarlet fever?)

How Did I Do With My 2009 Wishes?

Further refine and develop my cello skills

Finish and polish and start querying Orchestrated
Finished writing it and did a full edit on it, which is two out of three, anyway. Then the last quarter of 2009 happened and bam.

Keep on writing
Um. My writing has really, really, fallen by the wayside. I’m so tired that I can’t think ideas through any more. This really upsets me on one level, but on another I don’t have the energy to be upset. I suspect I’m shifting into a more editorial phase of my career, and you know, that’s just fine right now. After five books for the publisher and two and a half for myself over the past six years, I figure I’m entitled to some down time.

Start making all our own pasta
Fail! And all due to the unwillingness to invest in a pasta maker or attachment for the KitchenAid.

Plant, harvest, and preserve more vegetables from the garden
Win! We enlarged the garden by a quarter this year and got a really good crop of tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and carrots. We had a surprise cucumber plant emerge three months after we’d planted the seeds. The potatoes really worked well this summer, too, and they were delicious, although we didn’t’ get anything like a big yield (better than last year’s afterthought experiment, though). Our green onions did well too, but they were so small that it was hard to use them. It felt like I was wasting more than I actually got into the pot. Perhaps not the most efficient of crops; maybe full-size onions next year.

Save more money
Well, debt accumulation has been stopped in its tracks, but paying it off is happening very, very slowly. Part of this has to do with my income readjusting, since I no longer consult with the publisher and get large chunks of money as a result; I get smaller amounts trickling in on a pretty regular basis.

Wishes for 2010:

1. Further focus my energy on a smaller group of friends. This means narrowing my online circles as well as real life. I just don’t have the energy or the time; I can’t help or support everyone. HRH has already begun doing this in his own way. It’s not that I don’t like certain people with whom I’m easing myself out of a closer sphere of interaction; it’s mostly that I can see there are people who end up causing me exhaustion both mental and emotional, whether I enjoy interacting with them or not (and that covers both online and/or off).

2. Focus on my spinning. I going to let this be my relaxing thing for the year, and I’m not going to worry about using what I spin. A couple of months ago I decided that in early 2010 I’d open an Etsy shop and list stuff there as I spin it, and hey, if it sells, then I recoup the money for the fibre and some of the time, and I get to do more. It’s the process I love, not the product to be used for a specific project of mine. (Actually, I do love the product; I adore looking at skeins of yarn I’ve spun, and petting them, too. I just don’t want to be saddled with piles of them that I’ll never use.)

In Summary:

If I had to assign a value to 2009, I’d say that again, it’s been an overall good year. Watching the boy grow and develop in leaps and bounds (if one more person tells me that he’s ahead of his peer group in language, social, and physical terms I may pull my hair out) has been fabulous. HRH got his permanency, which means barring humungous disaster, we’ll be okay for the next twenty-five years as pertains to his career. We’re looking at a move to the south shore in 2010 as well, to be closer to HRH’s job and the boy’s kindergarten. I hate moving, but I’m actually looking forward to this because eof what it means to us.

So here’s to a quiet, successful, fulfilling 2010.

Warning: Technology Upgrade Ahead

I’m about to start trying to install the new wireless modem. If we vanish from e-mail and online interaction for a couple of days, you will know that things went horribly, horribly wrong.

Wish me luck.

(At least I got the penultimate draft of the book layout to Emily yesterday; I wanted that done before I tried this, just in case.)

ETA, 30 minutes later: Huh. That was fast. How refreshing to have something go well the first time when dealing with this company. The wireless through my Mac mini even works; my iPod Touch is accessing the Internet with great glee. Did you miss me?