Dipping my toes back in

Hi folks.

It has been a crazy few weeks here in Jenn’s world, with upheaval galore.   Most of it is work related, and I am still trying to figure out the new landscape, since the changes that happened ended up very different than the changes I was expecting at the end of December.  Mostly, it’s just meant I’ve been spending even more time inside my head, thinking, pondering, turning things over (and over and over and over).

Breaking blog silence to note that today is the anniversary of one of the interesting, quirky stories of Boston history – the Molasses Flood.  I remember the first time I heard about it, and it just made me giggle – how scary could a flood of molasses (in January, no less!) really be?  It turns out, very scary indeed, and when you see the pictures of it, you start to realize that this was no joke.   That’s an elevated train line, knocked over by the flood.

Twisted elevated structure on Atlantic Ave., damaged in Molasses Disaster
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

There’s an excellent book about the disaster, detailing how and why it happened and the ensuing trial, if you want to know more.

I’ve been knitting like a fiend, with three different projects going (at least? no, actually, I think it’s four…*counts in head* yes, four.) My favorite right now is the half of a BFF cowl that I am making for a swap with some of my Ravelry friends. I splurged on Swan Island merino for it, and it is lovely to work with. The pattern is easy enough to remember without having the chart handy, but interesting enough to keep me entranced with it. There is little better for happiness making than a knitting project that’s really enjoyable.

Isn't she just lovely?

Isn’t she just lovely?

Did any one get…

the license plate on that truck?

Seriously, work has eaten me alive this week (I think I’m on hour 85 or 90 since last Thursday.  even time I think I that the end is just over this next little hill, a new process blows up or doesn’t work or leave little weird messes under the table like my cats.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to surface in the next couple of days.

Sheesh.

First Snow!

Saturday morning, we got our first noticeable snow of the season.  Of course, it turned to rain and melted in short order, but I woke up to the beauty of snow dusting everything, making everything sparkle.

I was washing dishes at the sink, looking out the window and thinking “gosh, it is so pretty out there, I bet that would make for some gorgeous pictures,” when the lightbulb went on and I realized that I could go out and take some pictures if I wanted to.  So I did.  They didnt come out quite as I was hoping, but I liked them anyway.

I started with one of my deck boxes, which hosts some of my kitchen herbs

 

Then out to the asparagus ferns that are taller than I am. I know I should cut them back, but they are so pretty.

 

Wiley’s blackberry bush with its gorgeous purple leaves

 

The rosemary is still beautiful and green.

 

Tall grass in my neighbor’s yard.

All around, it was beautiful white, lovely and sparkling.

The only ones who seemed unimpressed were the chickens.

Fudge says “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this!”

Weekend recap and the December to do list

This weekend was a busy one!  Miss H and The Mister spent Friday night sleeping over at the Museum of Science, while I got trapped at work late.  While they enjoyed the museum, my Saturday morning was spent in delightful puttering around the house taking care of this and that.

 

She is almost as tall as the tree!

 

Saturday afternoon, we drove out to a new-to-us farm and picked out our Christmas tree.  Miss H was impressed that our little tree was older than she was when we counted the rings.  The folks at the farm were super nice, and we will definitely be going back there next year.  Saturday night I spent playing board games with my friends, and Sunday I drove nearly to New Hampshire to see Miss H perform in the first of her two holiday concerts.  My parents came up to see it and we all had dinner afterward.  It was lovely, but a long drive for a short performance.  Miss H had a near-solo (descant part with 4 other kids, singing against a 150 voice chorus).  She was a bundle of nerves this morning, but they sounded beautiful when they sang.  Before I drove up to the concert, I stopped by the Handmade Holiday Show at Gather Here, too.   I picked up a couple of lovely gifts and stocking stuffers and the last bits of yarn that I need for my holiday knitting.  I didn’t think there was much, but…

This morning, I made my mental list of the knitting I have to finish in the next 23 days.  It’s a longer list than I am used to, because I don’t usually do much Christmas knitting:

1.  Weave in ends and block Ella’s sweater.

2.  Finish Sam’s sweater (one sleeve and a hood, buttons, weave in ends and block).

3.  Soak mitts for Shani (belated birthday present – not started).

4.  Weave in ends and block Carrie’s birthday present (due next week).

5.  Hat for Katie (about 4 rows done)

6.  Two pairs of Teknika gloves  (not started)

With no vacation time left, and plans every weekend, this might need a Christmas miracle all of its own.

And what do I really want to be doing right now?  Picking up the needles with my Albers Cowl on them, of course.

Achievement unlocked: NaBloPoMo complete

For the first time ever,  I did it!  I completed NoBloPoMo!

To celebrate, I’m going to do a little surprise giveaway.  Leave a comment on this post, telling me something you accomplished this month (and  if getting dressed every day was all you could manage, I’ll take it!)  I’ll draw a winner next week, and they’ll get a little box of surprise happiness in the mail.  Might be yarn, or  a book,  or chocolate.  Heck, it might be a rattlesnake, but probably not because they’re hard to find this time of year.  And they might not pass the Post Office’s “Anything liquid, fragile or hazardous?” questions.  So it PROBABLY won’t be a rattlesnake.

I was thinking last night how good it was to have a project with a fixed goal or firm deadline attached to it.  Having two in one month might not have been the best plan, but it refreshed anew how much better I do when I have something concrete to work towards, especially when I’ll be letting someone down if I don’t finish on time.  It reminded me of my crazy pre-Squam project from this past Spring, which is best titled “the tale of 10 box bags in 10 days”.

Early in May, I took a sewing class to learn how to make a box bag.  It’s one of those projects that I thought I could reverse engineer on my own, but I love taking classes at Gather Here, so I jumped on the class when I saw the opening.  I loved making the bags!  They were challenging (but not impossible), didn’t take a lot of fabric and created something really useful.  I knew I wanted to make more, but I also knew how likely it would be that they would end up on the mile long list of want-to-dos that litter my crafting landscape like shiny things in a magpie’s nest.  I needed a plan – and so, I decided I would make a bag for each of my Squam cabin mates as a surprise “I’m so glad you’re here!” present.  I posted up on Ravelry asking everyone what their favorite colors were and when I had my list, I hit the fat quarter bins at Gather Here to pick out fabric for everyone.

Then I spent two weeks doing other stuff that I somehow decided was more important.  They might even HAVE been more important, but the next time I came up for air, I realized I was less than two weeks out from Squam departure – oops.  But!  Everyone knew I was planning something and I had bought all this fabric – it was just going to have to be a challenge to get it all done on time.

So, I started sewing and cutting and sewing some more, and I got them all done!  We’ll gloss over the part where there were several nights I was up until two in the morning and the number of ridiculously stupid mistakes I made along the way (truly, how many times did I have to sew the end shut with the zipper head on the wrong side of the seam before I learned that lesson?), and quietly bask in the knowledge that I got it done.

A not-very-good picture of the first seven to get finished.

I brought them up to Squam, and since I was there way before everyone else and heading back out of the cabin for yarnbombing, I left them on a table in the main room with a note, for everyone to find when they got there.  When we came back, everyone had arrived and they were all excited about the bags and I got hugs and thank yous that were almost overwhelming.  As I accepted their thank yous, the thing I kept saying was “It wasn’t THAT much, and besides, I really needed a project.”

I realized afterwards how true that was.  I really needed a project to focus on in May, and it had to have a deadline and it had to be all consuming (or as close to that as a working mom can get, anyway.)  Work and life were feeling completely overwhelming all month, and when that happens, without something that needs doing, I just sink.  I work, I go home, I keep it together until H goes to bed and then, most nights, I go to bed when she does.  I know I should *want* to do stuff, that staying engaged replenishes me instead of depleting me further, but without a focus and a deadline I just drift.  Working on these bags was possibly the first time I realized that if given a project that I had to keep working on, because I had a deadline and a commitment, I could maybe stave that off.

The truth is, work and life (but especially work) is chronically overwhelming these days, and worse, usually overwhelming me with tasks that just never get completed, because it’s not in their nature to ever be finished.  This month, knowing I had to get a blog post up every day and knowing I had to get a knitting project in the mail by a certain date kept me moving.  Having projects with an obvious finish point helped too, because I could enjoy knowing it was done.  I didn’t get enough sleep, work still made me crazy, but I was happier too.

Now, I need to figure out how to create that kind of energy and focus without an external deadline.  I suppose December is covered, what with Christmas knitting, but in the new year, I need to find a way to make goals and use them to help keep my head above water.

Thank you for reading, and helping to keep me going in the right direction!

Chicken Cordon Bleu and re-learning old lessons

It seems there are some life lessons I need to learn many times before they will stick in my head.  Tonight brought another one home to me, because I was motivated by a burning need to make Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner.

Thursdays around here are BBC days, which means driving Miss Hannah into Boston for her weekly chorus rehearsal. I pick her up as soon as school lets out and she is there until 6:30.  Needless to say, this makes the idea of cooking dinner a challenge.  Until today, I have been driving her into the city and staying in the parent waiting room for the two hours of rehearsal, telling myself that I liked the couple of hours of knitting time, with no other responsibilities.  Who doesn’t love those minutes they can carve out for themselves where they “have” to work on something they enjoy?  Especially compared to coming home and doing housework?

This week, I asked Wiley to pick her up and I came straight home, because I wanted to make dinner – I’d planned on making it on Monday and didn’t get to, and could not get the craving for it out of my head. So, even though I knew the non-stop round trip would be annoying, and the traffic going home would be worse at 4:15, I did it anyway.

And I had such a better evening.

Because I *love* spending two hours in the kitchen creating a meal, especially when I am alone and can just putter along at my own pace, without anyone getting in my way or needing my attention.  I put on some of my favorite music and sang along, loudly.  I cooked delicious dinner, cleaned up the kitchen and had time to deal with the vegetable delivery box.  If I compare that to how stressed out and awful another night of take out makes me feel, or how overwhelming I find the noisy waiting room before all the kids settle into their rehearsals, the extra 20 minutes it takes to get home seems downright fabulous.

But the funny thing is, I already KNEW this stuff.  I know how digging in to cooking always make me feel better, even after a crappy day.  I know I like having time to myself in the house.  I know I would rather do those things than make small talk with a bunch of near strangers for two hours.  If I know all these things, how did I manage to convince myself that I would feel put upon if I went home and “worked” for those hours instead of staying there and knitting?  Why did I do that?  I have a theory on that, and it’s neither smart, nor flattering, and has to do with bitterness over divisions of household labor in our house, despite the fact that such bitterness is largely unwarranted.

Maybe this time the lesson will stick.  I can tell you that Wiley will be taking over pick-up duty from here on out -and I’ll be heading home to cook delicious food.

And the Chicken Cordon Bleu was delicious – everything my taste buds had been hoping for.

In which I might be a little oversensitive

First off, yay!  Deadline knitting, completed on deadline and off in the mail today!  This is a good thing, and the natural celebration is that I did not a bit of knitting this evening, merrily ignoring my Christmas knitting obligations.  There will be plenty of time for that tomorrow.  Note:  do not mock me when I’m awake and gibbering at 3 AM on Christmas Eve trying to finish the knitting.

The rest of tonight, as I’ve been puttering around, I’ve been doing some pondering and a good bit of navel gazing.  I had this interaction yesterday that is really making me think.  I had to ask someone a question about some confusing instructions, and the response  I got back was brusque and dismissive, and worded in a way that had strong tones of “If you would just read the instructions, you wouldn’t need to bother me.”  Now, I had read the instructions;  I knew that what I was asking about was not addressed in them and I knew that I was in the right.

It would be entirely normal to be annoyed by an e-mail like that, but my reaction to it was completely over the top.  I was literally so angry and upset that I was shaking. I know I really hate it when someone acts like they think I am stupid, especially in an area where I know I am quite competent, but I was out of my head with fury.

I wrote back a snippy but polite e-mail re-explaining my point and pointing out that it was not in the instructions, and then I posted something about it to Facebook to vent a little.  I got what I wanted out of that – some sympathy, some humor (including a suggestion from one friend that I respond with “You should check to see if your e-mail got hacked, you wouldn’t believe the bullshit someone is sending from your account”, which I loved) and general cheering up.

The funniest thing in doing that though, was that one of the first people to respond to my post is someone who regularly makes me feel like he thinks I’m stupid, saying that anyone who thinks I’m stupid was not worth worrying about.  And that made me think – if this person doesn’t think I’m stupid, yet routinely makes me feel like he does, is it possible that my perception needs to be re-calibrated?  Am I carrying so much baggage that I am seeing slights where none were intended or are people unaware of how their words and actions would be perceived by any reasonable person? I think it’s likely that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless, I probably need to work on easing off my oversized reaction to interactions like yesterday’s.  If nothing else, that kind of fury and rage over a trivial matter cannot be healthy.

Now that I’ve seen the trigger and response and the pattern it creates, I need to figure out how to head the reaction off and find a calmer, healthier way to react.   Something to think about.

In the end, I got back perfectly friendly response to my e-mail recognizing that my point was now understood and I was right, and we had a reasonable conversation.  I was glad I hadn’t unleashed my initial HULK SMASH reaction on this person – that would have been impossible to recover from.  I wonder if I’ll be able to find a way to make it so that SMASH isn’t my automatic reaction.

How do you cope when you have an emotional response that you know on your intellectual side is an outsized overreaction?

Fiddly Little Bits

Oh, applied I-cord, you make for such a lovely finished edge, I love you for that. But why do you have to be such a pain in the bum to create?

True to form, I am flat up against my deadline, knitting like the very hounds of hell are nipping at my heels. Almost finished, though, and this baby goes in the mail tomorrow!

And there will be much rejoicing. Yay.

Snippets

Deadline knitting and NaBloPoMo make terrible bedfellows.

Crunched for time, so here are some interesting things I came across today while killing time at my desk.

This might be the most charming block in NYC

Cat Heaven?  I just want to know why I didn’t visit here when I was in Japan

Charles Schultz would have turned 90 today.  We still miss him.

Why I am getting a Costco membership

And on that last link, here is a quote that, to me, sums up so much of what it wrong with our business culture today:

But not everyone is happy with Costco’s business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco’s customers but to its workers as well. … One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.”

Perhaps I am hopelessly naive, but shouldn’t it be better to be a customer or an employee of a company than a shareholder?  Altruism and love-your-neighbor hippiedom aside, why has the idea that building a strong company with loyal, repeat customers as how you create actual value for your shareholders completely disappeared?

Of course, the end of the article’s focus on Mr. Sinegal’s focus on cutting expense and demanding rock-bottom prices on his goods raises interesting questions of what THAT mindset is doing to workers further downstream, but I’m also not kidding myself that every other retailer is doing the same thing AND not passing any of the benefit of that onto their employees, so perhaps this is simply the lesser of two poor practices.

Have you found anything interesting in your forays around the internets lately?

 

Feeling christmassy already

Early Thanksgiving means that it feels like the Christmas season has descended far earlier than usual, and I keep forgetting that we have a whole week before it’s even December.

Today was the Christmas parade in Quincy, and so it feels properly like Christmas to me now that I’ve seen Santa ride by on his firetruck.   Instead of hanging out on the steps of our church and watching the parade with church folks, this year we spent it with the family of one of H’s classmates.  That was an amazingly huge crowd of folks.  I was completely overwhelmed, but she had a blast hanging out with the cousins.

As I was driving home the other night, I was admiring the lights that some of our neighbors already had up.  I never used to like lights;  my parents were anti-lights when I was a kid, and as with so many other things, I decided I didn’t like them either mostly as a defense mechanism for being bummed that we didn’t put them up.  When I got older, I went through a phase where I thought white lights could be lovely, if they were done “right”, but colored lights were tacky.  Now, I love them all – delicate white lights twinkling like stars, icicle strings hanging from eaves, bright multi-colored lights in their riot of blues and greens and reds.   While the whit lights are beautiful, the colored lights seem like the embodiment of joy in the season, and I love them for that.

We haven’t put up our lights yet, I think that will be a project for next weekend, and I can’t wait to see our house joining our neighborhood in dressing up for the holiday.

How do you decorate for the holidays?