Yammering about Yarn

While meandering through my Instagram feed the other night I saw that the Estella Society’s #estellagram for the month of April is “Made.” Color me instantly excited. My reading life is flourishing at the moment, but I am truly missing my hands being busy with some bit of thread or yarn. I haven’t been to my knitting group, Knitting Knerds, in ages and I miss having that time set aside to work on creating something. Many weeks the only time I only pulled out projects was at Knitting Knerds, but at least that was two hours of making something. I’ll get to go back in May when Sam’s school work slows down,but until then I am in crafty-wasteland. Between the Estella Society’s ever-inspiring word prompt and an impromptu trip to JoAnn yesterday I am all kinds of inspired.

And what does this gal do when she is inspired and overwhelmed? Plan. I am making some plans to knit, crochet, embroider, and if I can get up the courage, sew.

April: WIP it good

My goal in April is to finish two works in progress (WIP):

The first WIP is Persy Jane’s baby blanket that I started when I was pregnant. Holy cow. Why is this taking me so long?! Oh I know, children. Persy loves this blanket. If I work on it while she is around she snuggles her face into the yarn and tugs on it. Adorable, yes. Knitting-enabling? Sadly no. The pattern is The Purl Bee’s Super Easy Baby Blanket. I’m using a delicious color combination of yarn:

july

This is an older picture and it makes me quite proud. I’m done with the turquoise, red, and yellow. All I have left is purple and sky blue. As much as I love knitting this blanket with its soft yarn and bright colors I will say that I am growing impatient. I want to start something new and I hate I didn’t have the blanket finished by my due date her 1st Christmas her 1st birthday this month.

The other WIP I have to finish is a piece of embroidery that ONLY needs three words on it and a frame. I’ve been working on that piece off and on SINCE I WAS PREGNANT WITH ATTICUS. 2010, y’all. 2010! That piece will be shipped off to a fellow stitcher.

May-August

During the summer months I plan on another major yarn project and doing a few bits and bobs of embroidery.

My next yarn project is to make Atticus a large granny square afghan. Every time I work on Persy Jane’s blanket Atticus asks, “cause why you make her a lotta blanket?” We’ve picked out yarn and I’m going to use another Purl Bee “pattern.” It is just a giant granny square, but I like the colors. I picked some Vanna’s Choice yarn in gray, blue, green, yellow, and red. I think it will also need an orange color. My goal is to make something large enough to fit on a double-sized bed and something that doesn’t look “juvenile.”

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For stitchy projects I am going to aim for a small project a month: May – birthday gift for a coworker, June- a father’s day gift for Sam, July- burp clothes for the gobs of summer and autumn babies, and August- coffee cup sleeves for my autumn birthday pals.

September – December

This entire season is full on holiday prep. I’ll be working on smaller projects. I had intended to start on Hope’s blanket, but I will probably wait until January so I can focus on holiday stitchery. Here is the general plan:

September — finish stitching Atticus’s Christmas stocking, Christmas softie for Persy Jane, knitted scarf for Sam

October –  stitch Persy Jane’s Christmas stocking, embroidered barrettes and brooches for gifts, knitted dishcloths for gifts

November –  line and sew all three Christmas Stockings, Christmas super hero cape for Atticus, crocheted coffee sleeves for gifts

December — embroidered Christmas ornaments, penguin pillow for Hope, one-skein cowl

I know these are HUGE goals, but nothing gets me motivated to create like a wealth of project ideas and the prospect of lovely yarns, crisp fabrics, and bright bits of thread. Bring on the motivation and I am MADE to create.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Bucket Lists!

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Today’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is to discuss our bookish bucket list. Participants can discuss book, blog, writing, etc… related goals. I thought I could get really specific and discuss number of books I want to read or a particular series, but I thought that was kind of limiting. I’ll be 34 next month and I’m hopeful I’ll live until I’m at least 80. I don’t know what path my reading will take between now and then. I’ve tweaked this a bit to make it my bookish goals to complete by my 40th birthday (which will happen 27 April 2020).
1. Complete my Classics Club challenge of reading 100 Classic Books: I hope to meet this goal by April of 2017. I am considering a classic as a quality book published prior to 1965. I know that is sort of an arbitrary number, but I didn’t want to get into the “modern day classic” debate as the purpose is to read older things. I may do a different challenge after this one and read 100 modern day classics.
2. Apply to Graduate School: Sam is working on his undergraduate degree in Art Education and we have two small kids; needless to say the idea of graduate school while Sam is studying and we have little ones is daunting. We did decide that I will apply for graduate school when Persy enters Kindergarten in 2018. I know I want to do one of two things: 1). Get my Masters in Library and Information Science and keep working in libraries OR 2) get two graduate degrees, an MFA in Creative Writing and then a Masters in Clinical Counseling and work with teaching creative writing in therapy. I also really like the idea of teaching college-level creative writing.
3. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo: I’m going to try this year!

4. Travel to England: For our tenth wedding anniversary (January of 2020) I’d like to go to England purely for bookish enjoyment. I want to visit bookshops and literary landmarks.
5. Meet my book-blog buddies: I’d especially love to meet Andi, Heather, and Thomas!

6. Have a sacred space in my home solely dedicated to books and reading: It can be a room or a nook. I’m picturing a cozy chair, nice lamps, shelves of books…. Not a room of books littered with office papers and other random pieces of junk (totally my current situation).
7. Impart (or attempt to impart) on my kids a love of reading: Bedtime stories, summer trips to the library every Saturday, bookish gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I’ve accepted that Hope is not a reader. She is very kinetic; she feels about running the way I feel about books and that is OKAY. Maybe Persy and /or Atticus will be my bookworm(s)?
8. Actively work with literacy based-charities: I plan on applying to be a World Book Night giver every year and I am also coordinating our library as a book box pickup site. I’d also like to get involved in our public library’s Friends of the Library group. In addition, I’d like to keep doing our library’s book drive every Christmas.
9. Fill a journal every year: I keep a journal and I try to fill one up every year. I write about day to day things, but I also try to include mementos, quotations, recipes, etc… I have to make it a priority to write at least 3 times a week or I tend to put the journal down and not pick it up again.
10. Meet a famous author I love: Margaret Atwood, Susan Hill, and Sarah Waters are top contenders. Even if it is a cursory meeting at a book signing I would be pleased as punch.

What’s your bookish bucket list? Let me know in the comments!

Two Book Reviews

William: An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton

This book was an utter surprise. When I started the novel I thought I was reading a cynical satire on the out of touch pacifists in pre-World War I England. Instead I found my self enthralled in a cynical novel about the war, suffering, loss, and the loss of the individual in the face of terrifying world changes.

The first quarter or the book led me to believe that I would be reading a stinging satire with overblown, unsympathetic characters. William begins with a description of the protagonist; William is an a clerk of average talents, but a dogged work ethic. His overbearing mother dies leaving him a small sum of money. The money doesn’t make him wealthy, but it allows him to leave his hated clerk position. He then becomes embroiled in politics with his one political friend from his previous clerking job. He protests, he rages, he writes for a newspaper. He is concerned with labor, disdainful of wealth, and champions the rights of women. He and his comrades have noble ideas, but they do not really work in a way to enact systematic change. Rather it is all for some sort of vainglorious sense of being angry and downtrodden. William meets and marries Griselda, a suffragette. The pair have no concept of the world around them, including the incidents leading to World War I. The novel completely changes when William and Griselda leave for their honeymoon in Belgium. Suddenly they are thrust into the atrocities of war. Murder, rape, hunger, violence, slavery, and death.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot as I think Hamilton intends for the reader to be shocked. I will say that in the end William finds him self in a clerical position and unhappy. However, William’s ultimate fate is just a grim reminder of how an individuals can seize to matter in the face of such radical upheaval.

The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin

Clocking in at under 300 pages this fascinating account of an alleged (an probable) relationship between the young actress Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens the famous and married novelist. It is meticulously researched and well-written. I think nearly every modern Dickens scholar can agree that Nelly Ternan was Charles Dickens’ “lady friend,” but the truly controversial parts concern Ternan’s possible pregnancy and the death of a child. What evidence there is is compelling and the story is fascinating. However I had two slight problems reading this:

  1. I read Tomalin’s biography of Dickens a few years ago and so at times this felt like re-reading.
  2. There is so much conjecture (but well-grounded conjecture) that I almost wished Tomalin had written a novelization of the affair. I think it would have been a bit more engaging. There’s a little bit of evidence, and Tomalin at times will admit to imaging what must of happened or what one must have been thinking.

I guess a little too little concrete fact to make it truth, but not enough gray area to render it implausible. I need for someone to get on that novelization of this story ASAP.

The best part of the book has nothing to do with Dickens and not much to do with Ternan as an individual. What is truly fascinating is how easy it is for a Victorian woman to all but disappear from the pages of history. The concept of a biography based on a woman who tried — or had others try — to actively extinguish her existence was really interesting. It reminded me a bit of Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and how that book is really about the problem of biography; or really, gender and biography.

I Feel Like a Jerk for Complaining… Gonna do it anyway

Welcome. You are about to hear me complain about my landlord and rental agreements and fecal matter. This post isn’t about books and my adorable kids aren’t featured. I don’t have it in me to fashion something brilliant or witty or oozing social commentary. This is just good, old-fashion complaining.

Here goes….

When I started dating Sam I lived in a small brick town house in walking distance to work. The rent was $600 a month and included water and pest-control. It had two bedrooms, one bathroom and it was in a nice location. Yeah, there were things i didn’t like: carpet, small oven, no room to hook up a washer and lugging my laundry to the end of the 24-unit complex to wash clothes. But all things considered it worked great for just me and the kid. Even when Sam moved in we had plenty of room. Then we married and I was pregnant with Atticus. I knew we had outgrown the town house and I began looking for a rental home.

I soon learned we had several options:

1) Something in our price range of $600-$700 a month in a gang-riddled area in sad slummy homes

2) Something in the nice historic area of town (where I work) for $1,200 to $1,500 a month

We sat down and made a list of what was important to us: under $700 a month, 2-3 bedrooms depending on the size of the house, ceiling fans, being in a nice area, etc…. Impossible. Absolutely impossible. One day my mother-in-law saw an ad for a 3 bedroom house in the good area of town for $650 a month. We jumped on it.

And I loved it. The home I rent is in a quiet area, but in walking distance to shops, my work, the hospital, etc…. We have a laundry room, pantry, kitchen, living room, study, bathroom, and two bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs we have “the man cave,” a bathroom, and another bedroom.

When we signed the lease agreement I had this tiny twinge of doubt. The landlady would only do a month to month lease. She is elderly and lives alone and had issues in the past with folks starting out as great tenants and then moving in family members or getting dogs or playing loud music. I understood her fear and I told her I was fine with month to month because I knew that she would see we are quiet people and we weren’t going to be bad tenants.

I didn’t realize a month to month lease would have me by the gonads. I did not realize that her son handles all the repairs and that he is an insane person. David is the bane of my existence.

We don’t complain because we are afraid she will end our lease and we will only have one month to move. We’ve been here for nearly 4 years and we’re still on a month to month lease. Listen to some stellar advice we’ve had from David:

  • On a kitchen drawer that was broken when we moved in and he promised to repair, “you’ll need to buy wood glue.”
  • On the roaches, “flick the light on fast and they leave. It is what I do at home.”
  • On the bathroom that mildews from no ventilation, “towel down the walls and ceiling after bathing.”

We’ve repainted the bathroom with mildew resistant paint. We called an exterminator. We got a dehumidifier for the bathroom (and after 3 years of prodding he put in a vent).

In other words we’ve dealt with stuff because the cheap rent outweighs the frustration. Add on to this all the times he comes by unannounced (once even when I was breastfeeding Persy and boy was that awkward). We caught him standing on our porch reading the fat-lady underwear catalog in our recycling bin. I try very hard not to make Psycho analogies but OMG he is a creeper.

Then this.

Friday morning we woke up with water and fecal matter all over the basement. Sam’s art supplies and art books are ruined. It got into Hope’s room. We couldn’t use the bathroom. I went to work even though it was my day off because work has bathrooms and coffee. We called the landlady. The plumber came. Final verdict: roots growing into the line outside.

Fine. It is repaired. Then I tried to talk to my landlady and her son about clean up. First he said, “do you know how expensive getting a plumber is? That cost me hundreds.” Yes, David. Sam and I went out in the night, dug up the back yard and used our magical Vegetarian earth powers to cause roots to enter the septic lines so we could splash in excrement upon waking. You’ve caught us.

I told them that we would handle the physical cleaning up (when I realized they weren’t planning on cleaning it up) if we could rent a wet/dry vacuum and get cleaning stuff and then they could just deduct that amount off the rent. They laughed in our faces. Nope. Nothing off the rent. No help with cleaning. No reimbursement. NADA. They said they aren’t in charge of our personal property, THEY ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PHYSICAL CARE OF THE HOUSE. Right, I would say poo-water soaking into the wood of the home and inches of fecal matter covering the toilet and floor counts as “physical care of the house.” Oh yes, and David STUCK HIS FINGERS IN THE TOILET, PULLED OUT A PLOP OF BROWN OOZE, SMELLED IT, AND SAID IT DIDN’T STINK.

But what can we do?

If we push the matter and complain, then they can refuse to renew our lease and we will only have a month to move. I’ve looked and we would end up in an apartment complex further away from work. I love living in a house and I would love to avoid an apartment complex.

I feel like a tool complaining because some folks don’t have a place to go, but I am having a terrible time.

Last night we had a wonderful night staying with friends. Today my parents are handling the three little peppers while I work and Sam cleans the basement. However we’re worried. Worried they won’t renew the lease. Worried this will happen again. Worried my husband will have a heart attack from anger.

What sucks is we are really good tenants. We’re quiet, we’ve never been late with rent, and we follow all the rules. The one thing they held against us is that sometimes the lawn looks untidy. That’s it. The one strike against us.

What do I do blog world? Suck it up, look for something else, drink myself into oblivion? I know what I am doing; I’m making notes because I’m pretty sure David-Poopfinger will be in my novel. Whenever I write it.

Food for Thought, or, Attempts on Kissing an Eating Disorder Goodbye

Beatrice-Blocks-a-Binge

Losing weight and liking myself have been linked in my mind since I hit puberty at the tender age of 11. As a barely chubby and really just curvy girl of 15 I wouldn’t ride on roller coasters that went upside-down because I thought I would break them. I’d be racing along and over a bend and my weight would snap the bar and straps and I’d go plunging to my death. It didn’t matter that all the grown men on the ride were heavier. I was going to cause the disaster. I was going to die because I was just so fat. I’ve always seen myself as bigger. At 140 pounds I felt I looked like 300 pounds and somewhere along the way I actually became 300 pounds. Then I became more than 300 pounds. Part of that is from eating like a 300 pound person. I can eat a lot. Yay, I’m vegetarian and eat a lot of tofu, kale, and organic fruit. But I also love cheese, ice cream, bread, pizza, donuts, and french fries. Not just a donut here and there. Two or three or maybe more. To be “nice” to myself or to relax after a bad day or to reward a milestone or to celebrate I will eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Crunch Ice Cream. When I fail at eating healthily and in reasonable amounts I don’t just eat a little bit bad. Why get a small french fry? If I am ugly, stupid, fat, worthless, sloppy, disgusting, repulsive and embarrassing why not go for the large fry and add a large chocolate milk shake? I tell myself, “why bother with controlling myself when I fuck things up every day?”

In the spring of 2003 I was hospitalized for two weeks after a suicide attempt (I was in one hospital of 72 hours, out for a week, and then back at a bigger hospital). I suffered from clinical depression and PTSD. My psychiatrist maintains that I am Bipolar, but I disagree with that diagnosis. What was truly surprising was my diagnosis of compulsive eating disorder. Here is what a compulsive eating disorder feels like:

You feel you eat enough, but you can’t stop eating. However much you eat, you keep on having more. At times, it feels as if you have been taken over by someone else, and you can feel physically bad and very guilty when you stop but you do it again anyway.

You might make promises to stop, but, whatever triggers you, starts it off all over again and you feel out of control. You try to diet and you can’t even get started, or you may lose weight, only to put it all on again and even more. You have probably tried lots of diets but you may be fatter than ever.

It seems like an unending cycle of eating, remorse, dieting and overeating again. You feel very ashamed of your eating habits and so you may eat a lot in secret. You can’t make sense of what you do. You long to eat normally like everybody else, just take food or leave it. But it’s never enough. (source here)

So there I was, in an Atlanta-based mental hospital in a women’s ward that specializes in eating disorders. I was the only fat girl. Around me were anorectics and bulimics. One girl had to be rushed to the hospital because her kidneys were shutting down from abusing laxatives. A few were in wheelchairs and recently had feeding tubes removed. I saw bulimics with the uncanny ability to puke silently. They just opened their mouths and quietly spilled out so much silent shame. We had to leave bathroom doors open and couldn’t be alone after meals. No outside food was allowed and we had to each fill out sheets indicating what we ate and how we were feeling. Snacks occurred at regular times. Snacks in lovely portions that would send me into a panic because I couldn’t have more. The bulimics couldn’t throw-up in secret, but that also meant I couldn’t eat in secret. On Tuesdays we had a challenge day. The anorexic women had to eat ONE bite of chocolate cake (oh how they cried!), the bulimic women had to eat ONLY ONE bite of chocolate cake and not throw it up (oh how they cried!) and I had to eat ONE bite of chocolate cake and not eat the rest (and oh how I cried).

I didn’t feel out of place among the emaciated. Half of them thought they looked 356 pounds and the other half cowered in abject horror that a cracker would send their 80-pound frame hurtling towards my doughy, fleshy size. We had lots in common. Every last one of us had either been raped, physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected. Maybe our lack of eating or eating too much was a twisted way of making our bodies our own again, of controlling things we could, or making people not look at us as sexual beings to be consumed and owned. The abusive man who raped me when he was drunk was very happy I was fat. If I ate something healthy he would get angry. He would go to the store and buy junk food. He told me losing weight meant I was trying to “cheat” on him. He wanted me fat so no one would look at me. As long as I was fat and ugly I was his. When he wasn’t drunk he could be really nice and I felt so honored that someone would be willing to go out with me. Despite my horrific weight (at the time I was right around 200 pounds) someone would consent to be with me. Then I realized the bigger I was the less it hurt when he abused me. It is harder to forcibly spread one’s legs when you have large, hefty thighs. When some one is spitting out a string of curse words and calling you a fat slut it is helpful to have a wide expanse of stomach and breast between you and he; you get less saliva and beer breath stench and it makes it so much easier to disassociate.

But I digress. The point is I was fat. Really fat. And unhappy and I hated myself. The nutritionist, therapist, and psychiatrist were in agreement on one thing:

I should never diet. Ever.

As my psychiatrist said: “drink water, go for a walk, and eat until you’re full.” He also said that I could very easily swing the other way and become bulimic. In fact, at one point I ate so much I would throw up without trying.

My problem wasn’t purely about food. It was about depression, control, self-loathing, and safety and it was all wrapped up with a giant “prone to addiction” bow.

When I got out of the hospital I did as the doctor ordered and very slowly, very very slowly the weight started to come off. Between college graduation in 2004 and June of 2008 I lost 108 pounds. I was down to 248 pounds. I lost the weight gradually at a barely perceptible 25 to 30 pounds a year.

Then I started to gain weight how most people gain weight. I started dating. We went out to eat, we snacked while watching TV, we got married and I started cooking home cooked meals instead of the simple meals I ate when it was just me and Hope. I got pregnant. I got big. I lost a little and got pregnant again. I had her and now here we are. I’ve gained back up to 305 pounds. 57 pounds heavier.

And I hate myself. I can try to intellectualize and say I want to lose weight for my health. I can say it has nothing to do with body image and everything to do with making sure I live a long life for my kids. This is all mostly bullshit. I want to feel pretty. I want to wear what I want. I want to not have sores on my thighs from my legs rubbing together. I want to know what it is like to be calm with someone looking at me. I want to be okay with sleeping with my husband. There we go; there’s a TMI. I no longer want to have sex with my husband. I don’t want anyone to see me in my clothes, so I certainly don’t want my husband to see me naked. I should also point out that I know Sam thinks I am beautiful. He loves my thighs, and hips, and butt and EVEN MY STOMACH. He loves my stomach. He is sexually attracted me at 248 and at 305 and he will be sexually attracted to me at 145 and at 400 (he certainly didn’t mind how big I was when I was pregnant). He loves me … all of me. My hang up is I don’t love myself even a little bit. When we go out I think about how handsome he is and I feel worthless. I don’t deserve someone so personable, and handsome, and talented. At the same time I KNOW THAT I DO. I’m smart, I’m creative, I’m a good mom, etc… and I can tell myself these things until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter until I learn to love my body.

Ultimately, until I learn to honor, appreciate and cherish every dimple, dent, and roll I will not lose weight and I will not be healthy. It just isn’t going to happen. I have to love ME even if I never get to ONEderland. I must appreciate the body I am in. When I love myself I won’t need to eat Ben and Jerry’s to feel better, I won’t want to cram myself with food to stuff up the feelings of loneliness and hatred, I’ll be actually tasting my food and not in a panic to scarf it all down. Even if I don’t lose a single fucking pound I will be healthier. Yes, there are health risks to being 300 pounds. Suicide and depression are actually health risks as well and if we wanted to go by my health file I’m more likely to die of suicide or drug addiction. Once you have a suicide attempt and four psychiatric hospitalizations under your belt and a year and a half of meth use mental health becomes far more important than creaking knees, high cholesterol, or midsection fat.

I’ve completely changed the way I think about my body and my health in the past few days. I may log my food intake, but only as a way to keep binge tendencies at bay. I spent a portion of my tax return on clothes. Nice clothes. I haven’t bought nice clothes in a while because I was waiting to lose weight. As I type this I’m at work (on my lunch hour) wearing new black slacks, a black tee with chiffon insets, an antique necklace I wore at my wedding, earrings, cute shoes, and I’m wearing makeup. I feel pretty. I feel like I might kinda like me right now.

I completely didn’t intend to write all of this. I meant to write about dieting and how I’m going to embrace healthy eating and then mention my new clothes. As I began to write this all came flooding out of me. Shame. The shame of being fat. And hope. Hope for learning to love myself like my friends and family love me.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR Pile

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My plan is to wrap up Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose and The Warden by Anthony Trollope and then complete Emma by Jane Austen before the end of the month. Then I can start on my Spring TBR Pile!

Here are the spring contenders:

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Iris: The Life of Iris Murdoch by Peter Conradi

Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

What are your top TBR reads for the spring?