Fireworks

Fj0382580ireworks have been sounding in my neighborhood for several nights in a row.  Generally I don’t mind.  Something about that deep *thunk* of the large displays shooting into the sky fills me with a happy anticipation of color and spectacle.

I have been thinking about freedom and independence and rights and such.  In the past two weeks, we have been through so much in this country.  The public explosions of rhetoric over the US Supreme Court decisions has been enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand.  It would be nice if all of the discussion (and I use that word lightly) contained important points of debate; however, most of it has been a blast of hot air, smoke, and even fire.  From the outside looking in, it would seem that we had lost all sense of proportion.

Churches will not be forced to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, yet many people with deeply held religious beliefs have been screaming that their rights are trampled.  No one has ruled that they cannot believe and worship as they please, but they are shouting that their First Amendment rights have been taken away.

In a similar vein, those who revere the Confederate flag for benign reasons are unable to accept that while they may continue to remember the old South, the flag itself has long been a symbol of oppression and everything we did wrong (and continue to do wrong) in this country with regard to race relations.

But here is where I have hope:  We have the freedom in this country to disagree with government rulings.  We have the freedom in this country to disagree loudly and boldly, and we’re even allowed to be stupid when doing so.  We have the right to assemble, the right to practice our religion without our government establishing one overall religion, and we have the right to bring our grievances to the elected government.

So, yes, there are all kinds of fireworks going off, but I’m glad we’re free to let that happen.  It’s an annoyance sometimes, but it is a small price to pay.

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What I’ve learned over the past few days

  1. Admitting my error to the potential employer was not just the right thing to do; it was rewarded by a gracious response and praise for owning the error.  (Sounds like a place I want to work!)
  2. Having to knit the border stitches again actually gave me a little better insight to how I wanted to shape the pattern stitch.
  3. Admitting to being human is really scary sometimes, but it’s never quite as awful as I think it will be!

Seriously.  I had a great phone interview with the potential employer.  We’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, the shawl is blocking and the pattern is written.

Being Human

There are days like this.  Days when, no matter what I try to do, I fail.

Witness this little ball of yarn.  YYarnBallou have already inferred, I am sure, from the ramen-like quality of the thread that this little ball of yarn is the result of undoing a few stitches.  Actually, it’s from undoing a lot of stitches:  16 rows of the border of a triangular lace shawl, to be precise.  I tried to take it back just 8 rows (which would have been to the point where the error occurred), but it turns out I am about as skilled as a three-toed sloth playing cat’s cradle when it comes to undoing a few rows when those rows contain eyelets and double decreases and everything else.

I tried.  I really tried.  I tried picking up the stitches and working back bit by bit over what remained.  It turns out I am hopelessly lost when it comes to figuring out the order of stitches where even the simplest of lace patterns is involved.  Cables — yes, I can figure out cables if I dropped a stitch; lace — no.  I suck.

The other thing I suck at is proofreading my own work.  I emailed a PDF of some design samples to a prospective employer, one who I had just spoken to on the telephone this morning.  I had told this prospective employer that I had spoken with one of his peers and had learned that he likes to surround himself with only the best people, so I told him that I would definitely be in that category.  And then I emailed him the design samples.  And then I took a look over those samples and I discovered two typos.

On top of that, I completely forgot about an appointment that was to have been today at 2:00 p.m.  I’d been awake around 3:30 a.m. and working.  At 10:00 a.m. I decided I could have a bit of a nap.  At 2:05 p.m. I awoke and realized what I had forgotten.

Honesty and humility go hand-in-hand for me.  I have to be honest with myself and with other people, and being honest means I have to admit that I am not perfect.  I make mistakes in knitting.  I make mistakes in proofreading.  I make mistakes with my schedule.  I make all kinds of mistakes.  Mistakes are what make me human.

I don’t like them.  I truly do not like making mistakes.  I do not like making mistakes and I certainly do not like finding out about mistakes some hours after the mistakes have been made.

I worked through an entire eight-row pattern repeat before I saw the error in the lace border.  It wasn’t an obvious error, and it was only on one of the two triangles that make up the shawl so I was thinking that perhaps no one else would notice, especially if I photographed it just right.  But I couldn’t do that.  It wouldn’t be honest.  It’s a shawl I plan to submit for publication, and it wouldn’t have been honest to submit a flawed item.

So, as hard as it is to admit that I am not perfect, as hard as it is to have to email a prospective employer with a corrected PDF, as hard as it is to call someone and admit that I was sleeping instead of remembering the appointment, and as hard as it is to start again on the border of the shawl, I have to admit that the honesty about all of it actually helps me to feel free to start again.  The prospective employer might strike me off his list.  There were a lot of hours of work lost on the shawl.  I won’t get that appointment made up until next week.  But I am human, and I’m learning to be OK with that.

Nothing New Here

I cannot seem to get over whatever it is that has been ailing me, and I am losing my patience with the process.  My throat aches and feels inflamed; my head hurts; the upper part of my chest feels tight; I feel tired.  I’m not running a fever, so it is not likely to be an infection.  The only thing I can say for certain is that it has hung around entirely too long.  I’ll try to get an appointment this week with the doctor to see whether the professional medicos have anything new to add.

Insomnia, which has been an affliction of nearly all of my life, comes and goes.  When I was working I was usually at the office at 6:00 a.m.  Three other guys were there, too.  We had coffee; we shared a few words; we got to work.  I miss those guys.  I miss working a regular job.

I miss a lot of things.

I miss the paycheck (always nice), but more than that I miss the work and the people.  I miss talking with Keith about what was on PBS Sunday evening (we’re both Anglophiles).  I miss John having a bit of a rant about whatever was in the news that morning.  I miss Mark’s concentration on his work as I filled up my coffee cup.  I’m actually missing just a little bit the way Dave would come back and ask me the same questions (“How’s the puppy doing?” — as if our younger dog were still very ill this many years later).  I miss hearing Tex on the phone in the morning, talking to his young son before his son left for school (“I luv ya, buddy!”).  I miss the daily email from Richard asking what was a good time to take a walk.

I miss sitting down at my desk and sorting out the work for the day.  I miss scanning a multi-page wiring diagram and then putting it all together into one enormous piece.  I miss building up an image from only a line drawing and a poor photograph.  I miss the kind of problem-solving that comes from resolving those kinds of creative challenges.

But I seem to be getting over some of my grieving for all of that, and that’s a good thing.

The job search continues, and it continues to be a slow process.  I’ve found a few jobs to apply for, and at least two jobs I applied for two months ago are finally coming onto someone’s radar.  We’ll see what happens.

So, nothing really new here. I have insomnia and I’m still trying to get over whatever this crud is that ails me.

I’m going to figure out whether I’d like to tackle cleaning up the kitchen or just sitting down to knit.  While I do that, you can look at this cute puppy picture (Casey wheCute Puppyn he was just a few months old and before he got sick) to pass the time.

Karmic Balancing Here

Things aren’t going the best for me in the world of being steadily employed, but I teamed up with Elizabeth Lovick to offer some wonderful things to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) for Karmic Balancing gifts she can give to people who sponsor her team for the annual Bike Rally (Montreal to Quebec) to raise money for Toronto People with AIDS foundation.   Liz is donating two of her books, and I went through my yarn stash to find some wonderfulness, to wit:

KB 1A print copy of Exploring Shawl Shapes (A4, 98 pages, full color, due for publication in June 2015), plus 2 hanks of Zitron’s Trekking Hand Art (fingering/sock weight, 75% superwash wool / 25% nylon, 459 yds / 420 m per 100g hank) in color 551 Sansibar.

I am the graphic designer for this book (cover and inner pages), and I can tell you that I have learned a lot from working on this project.  In fact, I will soon have an honest-to-goodness grown-up shawl pattern to publish!

KB 2

A print copy of Centenary Stitches (A4, 160 pages, full color), plus 6 hanks of Cascade Quatro (worsted weight, 100% Peruvian wool, 220 yds / 200 m per 100g hank) in color 5024.

If you don’t know, this is a book of patterns for which I personally translated a dozen vintage patterns, knit two of the patterns, and designed everything (cover and inner pages).

KB 3

A DVD (NTSC format) of the film Tell Them of Us (67 minutes, plus extras — you’ll love the credits of the knitters and crocheters because it’s a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG list!) plus 7 hanks of Fibranatura’s Shepherd’s Own (worsted weight, 100% wool, 252 yds / 230 m per 100g hank), natural/undyed color (kind of taupe-ish).

I’m also the graphic designer for this film.  I was really proud of this design and the Photoshop work involved in conveying the image.

Click on the Yarn Harlot link above to learn how you can support Stephanie’s team.  In the meantime, I’m still destashing, so I might come up with some more truly wonderful items from my stash to donate to this worthy cause!

Northern Pines Lace Scarf

This pattern is available now on Ravelry.   It is a reasonably simple lace pattern consisting of only 8 rows with the wrong-side rows worked in purl stitch.  I worked this with 5 balls of Jojoland Rhythm Superwash; finished size is about 9″ wide x 84″ long.  It can be made shorter quite easily; the pattern gives instructions for using only 4 balls of yarn (about 440 yards) for a scarf that will be only about 72″ long.

K2tog

At 1:00 a.m. they were asleep. He, on his right side, a single line from head to toe, his face relaxed; she, on her stomach and sprawled like a child with one foot dangling off the edge. But her head was near his, and her arm reached out to his, and they held hands through the night.

It had not been an easy evening. In fact, it had started on Friday when she came home to say that she might be laid off from her job due to budget cuts. From that moment the weekend was a like working with a knotted hank of yarn: a few yards of “normal,” interrupted by a tense spot (again!). It meant carefully working backward; it meant leaving lots of ragged ends to weave in later, when the fabric was more secure; it meant walking away sometimes just to get some emotional distance from the problem.

The problem wasn’t that there were knots; the problem was that this was an expensive hank of yarn in which they both had invested everything for more than 20 years. There had been other knots. Good grief, there had been other sections with many knots and there had been times when they both wanted to just rip out everything. But they had worked through them, learning to be gentle and patient. It was never easy, but they were committed to coming back and trying again.

Earlier that day she had been afraid again that they were at the end. He had walked out. He had never walked out before. In the past he withdrew into a huge shell and stayed there for days. But this time he had actually gotten up and walked out the door. “I have to leave,” he’d said.

He had felt overwhelmed by the reality that they both were growing older. There might be another 20 years of work to do on the blanket of their lives, but she was worried over the devastation that would likely follow if her job were gone. They had lost so much of their savings in the economic realities of the last 10 years, and they both were of an age considered “too old” by potential employers. She felt they needed to downsize themselves: clear out the clutter and find a small house in a little town where the taxes were not as high and the mortgage payments would be smaller. But he couldn’t face leaving. His family had moved around so much when he was young, and then he had moved around so much as an adult, and each time he had found it hard to make new friends. This house they had bought together was the first place he had ever felt was HOME.

The future is still uncertain. She does not have a definitive answer on whether she has a job, and she may not have an answer for another week, but yesterday a small miracle happened: he came back. He was gone only about 30 minutes, but he came back; and when he came back he didn’t withdraw. He said, “Let’s NOT talk about this for a while. Let’s talk about something else.”

So, they talked about other things. They pretended everything was normal, that the upset of the past few days had not happened. And then another little miracle occurred: He was willing to talk about it. He asked if she was willing to work with him. He asked if she was willing to help him find a way that they could continue to live in this house, and she said yes.

At 1:00 a.m. they were asleep. He, on his right side, facing her; she leaning to the right, leaning into him and holding on: it wasn’t a decrease so much as a new direction for the whole work. Do they need to increase somewhere else on the row to keep the number of stitches even, or is this one of those rows where the stitch count would differ from the cast-on edge? They don’t know, and it’s OK.