Monday, August 31, 2009

The Final Review

It's funny. Last year my school got out much earlier than most did. While everyone else used up all their snow days and then some, we got away with implementing "delayed starts" and had days to spare once spring rolled around. In addition, we didn't go back until after Labor Day so it ended up being one of the longest summer vacations I've ever had.

Oddly, I didn't really enjoy it like I should have. I found myself worried about not using my days well or running out of time. I ended up feeling anxious about not savoring my summer instead of just shutting up and savoring it. I think this might have had something to do with the upcoming job change and my knowing that The Bad Job At The Middle School That No One Else Would Take was looming.

This year was different. We were slammed with snow days, the first few coming in succession as an ice storm had taken out the power to the whole area. This was before the Christmas bells even began tolling and it got worse from there. We had to go well beyond our scheduled closing date in order to make up our days. Even the ones we'd built into the system were not enough to sustain us. With Labor Day coming later this year, we are going back early. It is a short summer this time around.

In spite of that, I really did get into the spirit of this summer vacation. I honestly can't recall the last time I left the classroom behind me on the last day and let all that school stuff go without a second thought. It was a tough year, but I didn't reflect on it once. I simply summered.

But all good things must come to an end and summer vacations are no exception. This one is done. Some things just have to be set free. Like moths that flutter in through the tear the AGK made in the screen, summer is better off for being sent on its way before it eats more of the socks. I don't know why I felt that was an apt comparison, but I'm sticking with it. It's theme-based and that somehow makes it seem OK.

So here it is... the final review of Summer Vacation '09. As I do every year, I made out the Index Cards Of Summer Organization well in advance so as to have some kind of structure during this time of leisure. (Otherwise I tend to lie around demanding that someone feed me grapes then getting cranky when no one does so) Rather than listing all the things I wanted to get done then trying to come up with creative excuses for not doing them all, this year I decided to simply give myself a few categories with which to work and then jot down what I did that fit. We don't need a complete run-down, but here are a few of the things that I thought might be worthy of the jotting:

Stupid Medical Stuff: Before the first week of vacation was done, I'd managed to get to both the doctor and the dentist. Getting that sort of thing out of the way is a coup and don't try to tell me different. A+! (I put off the visit to the optometrist and the whole bifocal thing, but we don't need to discuss that...)

Summer Of Compensatory Knitting Socialization (S.O.C.K.S): Every summer, I vow to travel down to The Yarn Sellar and knit with others in order that I might relearn all those social skills I let lapse during the winter months as I knit alone. This year's score? That would be an F. A big one. I have no excuse other than pure laziness on my part. It was just too easy to make excuses for not finding my shoes every time Tuesday rolled around. And every Wednesday, I regretted it. I always enjoy spending time with the other knitters and I don't know why I couldn't find it in myself to do a better job of it this year.

Visiting With The Vegetables: The first day of vacation was a Wednesday, I think. If not, it was the second. Either way, it poured. But I still went to the Farmer's Market and bought fresh produce just like I said I would. I missed two trips this summer. Once because I had an appointment with the eye doctor and the other because I was without transportation. Otherwise, I went faithfully every Wednesday and may even be dating The Produce Guy With The Little Stand Down At The End. Or's hard to tell, but we sure do have good banter. The only reason I'm giving myself a B+ instead of an A is because I didn't always manage to eat what I bought. But still...

Playing With The Wool: I did pretty well there, too. While I didn't finish "The Dishcloth" (with sleeves) as I said I would, I did crank out good deal more of the knitted stuff than last summer. I even wrote it down on the appropriate index card. They were, in no particular order: The Socks I Started When There Was Snow On The Ground, A pair of Bripples, 2 Octagonal Swirl cloths, 1 Nubbins cloth, 1 crocheted cloth, 1 Grandmother's Favorite cloth, 1 Doily cloth, 2 Darryl Waltrip cloths and the Rose Trellis Scarf. I started an Invisibility Shawl and have a pair of ribbed ankle socks fairly close to the finish line.

Spinning didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. I finished up some merino and a few small blended batts but that was about it.

However, in light of last year's poor showing with spindles and needles, I still feel like I deserve an A for effort, if nothing else. I can afford to be generous with me.

I also did a lot of reading, cooking and napping. I managed to tidy up the bedroom a bit and get rid of a bit of the clutter in there. There was some champion lolling about while watching TV and I don't think you will find two other cats in the world so well-snuggled as mine. The blogging suffered a bit and I finally had to throw in the towel on the nightly posting, but I really do think that was for the best. The time had come for me to take a step back for a while and the restful days of summer seemed like as good a time as any.

All in all, I had a wonderful summer vacation. And I don't think I've ever been sorrier to see one end. But ending it is. Tomorrow, I will hoist myself out of bed (literally since I'm still trying to deal with all that summer resting and noshing weight), put my coffee in a travel mug and point the car south. I will then sit through a day of teacher workshops in preparation for the arrival of students on Wednesday. It's over whether I'm ready or not.

I've been trying to explain this situation to the cats for the better part of two days now. Today I was especially blunt about the matter and did everything in my power to get them to understand that tomorrow will not involve the same degree of snuggling they've enjoyed for the past two months.

There was little in the way of of response.

I doubt that anyone even heard me.

This is going to be a rude awakening tomorrow morning, I fear. There will be a great deal of confusion and probably more in the way of hurt feelings than I like to see. Tomorrow evening promises to be filled with recriminations and the need for me to repeat everything I've been saying to cats who can't be bothered to listen. I suppose I could have been more forceful about it, perhaps tried harder to wake them up...

In my defense, though...could you?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer '09 Philosophy

Tomorrow will be a busy day here at the manse. I don't have to go to school, but I do have to do all those things I said I would do this summer and failed to find all that important until the last second. It will be a mad rush for about an hour and then I will give up and just sit back to enjoy those last few seconds of freedom. I also need to go register my car because that is one of those things I put off and it's kind of important. At least to those people who think I should be current on all the appropriate taxes...

As I reflect back on this year's summer break, I can't help but acknowledge the appalling number of losses we experienced. It felt as if every time I turned around there was another breaking news story about someone who passed away and whose life was somehow notable. Of course, I knew none of them what with my being a very busy individual with no time for hobnobbing amongst the stars. But I still sort of took it personally. I now feel an overwhelming urge to purchase any and all products every hawked by pitchman Billy Mays as if that will somehow make up for my not doing so when he told me to...

Last night, I found myself particularly moved while watching the interment of Senator Kennedy. I set aside that sock I so desperately want past the heel point so I'll have some mindless knitting for Tuesday's teacher workshops in order that I might watch without distraction. I'm not normally one for televised funerals. But, for some reason, I was transfixed.

I commented on this to the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty. He was the only other one awake and since he was right there on my foot, he seemed like the obvious choice as a pondering partner. He had little to offer in the way of insight, but I found him to be a pretty good listener while I ran through the possible reasons for my rapt attention during the ceremony.

Maybe it was the soft Irish lilt of the priest. Or maybe it was the way the darkness gathered, making the Eternal Flame more prominent. It could have been the sight of the military pall bearers and the dignity with which such people always seem to carry themselves during these events. The speakers were certainly moving and they could have been the cause of my unusual attention level. Maybe it was the fact that, for once, we were seeing the life of a Kennedy played out to the end rather than cut brutally short.

It could also be the fact that I have reached an age where I actually recognize some of the players. When someone of a certain vintage passes, it is no longer "just some old dude." Instead it is someone whose life, while not ever intersecting mine, ran parallel to it and was a part of my view for as long as I can remember. I suppose that, if I were being totally honest, there was a great deal of that going on. For my entire life, there has always been a Ted Kennedy. I cannot picture the senate without him in it.

Maybe it was just a moving service, nothing more nothing less.

In the end, the cat and I didn't really come up with much more than that. The AGK isn't much of a philosopher and I can only deep-think for two for so long before I peter out. Finally, I hoisted the big guy up on my lap, dug deep for what I knew about the Kennedy family and said,

"Well...I imagine there is a hell of a football game going on in heaven right now."


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Living In The Fishbowl

It should not have come as a great shock when I got a sore throat yesterday. I should have seen that one coming. The signs were all in place and I was a fool for ignoring them.

To say that this last week of summer vacation did not go as planned would be like saying that Hollywood has a little bit of silicon floating around. Understatement. Of epic and D cup proportions.

However, I have decided to see this as a sign that it is time to go back to work. Sure, I may have to go back to The Bad Job At The Middle School That No One Else Would Take And For Very Good Reason. But it is steady work and gives my day a little bit of structure. I suppose it's time for that after my two months of leisure.

But the summer isn't over until I have rehashed it to death and what else is a blog for if not the rehashing? I've already covered the sinus issues, so now let's discuss my eyeballs, why don't we?

I've been putting off getting an eye exam for a while. I knew that I needed new glasses. The ones I'd been wearing for four years had been through the wringer. Most of the anti-reflective coating had flaked off down the center of the lenses, causing my students to ask me if I ever cleaned my glasses or if I was just too blind to see those big smears. I also knew that the time had come for me to make the move into bifocals and I really didn't want to hear that.

It's not about getting older. I wore bifocals when I was twelve so I have had some practice with this. Besides, you're only as old as you feel, right? And, these days, I feel about 80 so bifocals seem rather appropriate. I just knew that they were going to be pricey and I hate spending money on practical stuff like my vision.

But then I started getting headaches and it was becoming harder and harder to go from looking at my knitting to looking at the TV. When the knitting and the TV watching start to suffer, I don't mess around. I take action.

Hence, Summer '09 ushered in the changing of the guard as far as my lens prescription went. A couple of people have asked how I was doing with the Progressives, so I figured I'd add that to the vacation wrap-up series.

In short, they aren't bad. I was far less of a big, fat whiny baby about this than I was the neti pot referenced in the last post. Although how I could have been more of a big, fat whiny baby, I have no idea...

Today's frames are tricky when it comes to bifocals. They are rectangular and there isn't much space for adding a second seeing-space. You don't get much of a transition between the two. But I think I've finally managed to find the "sweet spot" required for things like walking across a room or navigating a supermarket without careening into other shoppers and artfully arranged fruit pyramids. I'm still better off in my own living room than anywhere else, but I do have to leave the house from time to time for supplies so I deal.

What I haven't completely gotten past is the Funhouse Effect. Should I dare to turn my head quickly from side to side, perhaps to catch a glimpse of a cat who isn't supposed to be on the counter or to confirm that the sign really does advertise a yarn sale, the world suddenly begins rocking. It's like looking through a fishbowl. Except there are no fish. Just lots of people looking at me strangely because apparently I have a tendency to shout, "Whoa!" when this phenomenon occurs.

If I had a horse, this would be easier to explain. But I don't. I also think that, if I did have a horse, I would probably have bigger issues since this would now involve explaining why I brought him into the grocery store. I am pretty sure that this isn't allowed what with all the carrots being left out and all...

It's gotten better with time, though. I almost never find myself trying to stabilize against the rolling that only I can see. And, when it does happen, I'm a bit more prepared for it. All in all, I think I will be OK with my bifocals. I suppose that, when I write my What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay, it won't be the most exciting read. But at least I'll be able to see what I'm writing.

I can also knit and look up at the TV now. Which is really all that matters, right? Sure, it's great to be able to see where I'm driving. And I suppose that it will be better for the students in my class now that I can read their assignments or observe what is going on in the back of the room that they don't want me to see but which I probably should be aware of.

But it's really all about the knitting and TV.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Drowning The Genie

It's the end of summer vacation and a good time to reflect back on all that was. In this installment, I shall talk about my sinus cavities. They were very influential. They defined me for a good part of the past two months.

I have been having off and on again sinus problems for a while now. It's nothing serious. It's just uncomfortable. For some reason, the problems seemed worse than usual this summer. I imagine that the weather, which ranged from very low to very high pressure systems, might have had something to do with this. There were points where even looking down to check the knitting progress was just short of being actually painful.

I didn't mention it much, though. I knew that if I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, they were going to make the suggestion. I did not want to hear the suggestion. I dreaded the suggestion. But I knew I'd get it. My doctor had already made the suggestion.

My doctor is not what you'd call an earthy-crunchy-let's-chant-and -steam-some-herbs-and-you'll-feel-better-in-no-time sort of physician. She's pretty traditional. So if she is saying that it might be time to consider the neti pot, then you know it's not anything too crazy. That or she is just so sick of hearing my whining that she'll resort to anything in order to shut me up.

In the end, we decided that it was probably not the best idea. This conclusion was not based on any medical reason. Instead, it was more about my somewhat over the top, childish and not exactly subtle reaction to the very thought.

I objected to the idea for several reasons. Among them were the fact that it is disgusting, I had reasonable concerns about whether or not I'd be dribbling water down my throat or getting it in my ear canal, it is disgusting, I was already using saline sprays and (as I may have mentioned) it is disgusting.

Also, the pot looks like Aladdin's lamp and I was afraid of drowning the genie. Then I couldn't wish for healthier sinuses.

However, the situation deteriorated enough this summer that I was past caring about such things as disgust and lifeless, floating genies. I broke down and got the pot. I have two renditions of this event, both of which I will share with you now. The first is what I like to call The Big, Fat Baby Who Overreacts To Everything And Couldn't Stop Whining If You Muzzled Her version:

OH MY GOD!!!! Neti Pot???? Do you realize what they want me to do??? I have to stick a stupid teapot up my nose and dump water in it until it comes out the other freakin' side!!! Yeah. That's right. It's a head enema. A headema!!!!! Oh, this is just great. I particularly like the part where you hold your head wrong and it comes out your stupid eyeballs!!! Or how no one tells you how to breathe and you just have to figure that out for yourself before you drown right in your own stupid bathroom. That'll look good on the 6:00 news. My mother will be so proud...

Then, once you've survived the horror and are thanking any and all deities who may or may not have had a hand in your living through this nightmare, you have to do the OTHER FREAKIN' SIDE!!!!!!!!

If there were any doubts in any minds at this point, let me clarify things for you. Water boarding is, in fact, torture. There is now no question about it and I don't want any further discussion on the matter. I will personally go testify before any committee that wants me. I will demonstrate if that's what they want.

Oh, and by the way. In case you were wondering. I've read that stupid pamphlet fifty times now and I still can't find anything in there about what to do if you happen to have an Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty in the sink. Not a word about AGKs who love running water in all forms and do not care if it happens to be snot water dribbling out of mommy's face. No. They don't mention that at all. He sees the whole thing as a marvelous parlor trick performed just for his entertainment and nothing will stand between him and the process. Not even a closed door. I should probably write to the company about that and see what they say. I'll bet they don't have a plan for that, those big, stupid neti pot torture executives.

This is a nightmare of epic proportions and everyone involved is a big ol' jerk for making me do this. But I shouldn't be worried because, apparently, I will "just get used to it." Isn't that nice?

Now, let's take a look at the Grown Up Making The Best Of A Bad Situation And Who Will Be Mature About This version of the same distasteful event:

Well, it's not ever going to be the greatest part of my day, nor should anyone be looking to me as the new poster child for Nasal Irrigation. However, it is possible to get past the worst of it and practice really does help. Some days you get it right, some days you get it wrong. That's the way it goes. While I don't see myself ever "getting used to it," I have to admit that using the neti pot has worked wonders for my sinuses. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that I am breathing more clearly than I have in years. It's been a couple of weeks now and, so far, there have been no ill effects and I guess the practice is something I can live with. I am a fan of breathing so that should help to motivate me in getting past the Ick Factor.

Also, if I remember to feed the cats before doing the whole neti thing there is far less chance of any AGKs breaking down the door because the sound of running water is too much for him to resist. Usually. Sometimes there is nothing to be done for it. Maybe I can train him as an assistant or something. He could be my Neti Towel Boy...

I'd like to think that I'm being mature about this overall. The reality is that I'm probably alternating between the two extremes most of the time. But I can breathe and when I look down to find that stupid dropped stitch or to figure out where I missed a yarnover, it doesn't feel like my sinuses are going to explode out of my head. This is bad for the knitting. It's very bad. Worse than a dropped stitch, I should think.

But I still feel kind of guilty about that poor genie...


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dodging Bullets

Well, here we are. It's the half-way mark in the last week of summer vacation. This is the week that I feel like I have to try and get done everything that I meant to do this summer but never got around to getting to doing. Or not doing. Like that light bulb in the hallway that burned out back in April...

It is also the day of the Wednesday Night Bullet Post so I'll just review this bittersweet time in the customary shorthand format:

*I was grounded today. There is a great deal of stupidity going on around here right now.

*Great, vast waves of stupidity. The kind that gets in the way of my really enjoying this last week of summer vacation.

*The worst kind of stupidity is your own.

*My current life circumstances are of my own making. There is no one to blame. Nary a soul.

*I miss blaming. I'd cut off my right arm to have someone to blame for this mess.

*In the "here and now" there is nothing to do about it, though.

*In the short term, I can fix this.

*In the long term, there will probably be repercussions but I'm not a fan of those so I'm going to be optimistic about the whole thing.

*I had to stay home today. Not by choice.

*I missed the last chance to go to the farmer's market this summer.

*Maybe I'll break down and go on Saturday with the rest of the people just to say I made it.

*By the weekend, I'll have reached The Short Term Solution stage of this week's festivities and will be able to do the things I wanted to be doing for the past three days.

*Tonight's dinner: fried rice made with the sad veggie leftovers from farmer's markets past.

*I didn't have any soy sauce.

*That's OK. I had ketchup.

*The entire Asian community weeps for me tonight.

*I'm getting my hair cut on Saturday.

*I'll not be telling The World's Greatest Stylist And Life Coach about the ketchup.

*She likes me, but I don't know if she will completely approve of this condiment-related insult to her culture.

*I love ketchup. Without it, I'd probably have starved as a child.

*Anyone who tells me that I am wasting my time with the Panda Cam can just kiss my patootie.

I am most certainly NOT wasting my time.

Not one hour of the many I've spent waiting for baby panda to wave to me has been wasted

*I'll fight ya. I seriously will. I defend my panda time to the death!!!!!

*Here's a question: How am I going to tell the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty that I am going back to school next week?

He has no idea.

Nary a clue. He is oblivious to the coming abandonment.

*I've been busy dealing with the stupidity this week and haven't had much time to spend discussing the matter with him.

*He is not going to like this. It is going to be high drama.

*In the year that this cat has lived with me, he has gone from a relaxed, but a little standoffish beast to a needy, clingy feline who can't bear the thought of my leaving the house.

*He's been known to panic when I go to the bathroom.

*Now I have to announce it when I feel nature's call.

*Next week is going to be rough on the poor lad.

*It will probably be equally difficult for his big sister who will have to keep him entertained whilst I am off earning a living.

*She hates him and all he stands for.

*He loves her. And me.

*And hates everyone else...

*I made yarn.

*I still call it yarn even if it is not what one might call, "lovely of ply."

*Poorly plied.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Even after all these years, I remain utterly transfixed by the making of yarn in my own home.

*This was a batt sent to me by the unbelievably talented Susie.

*I am equally transfixed by the fact that I know someone who can dye like this.

*Me. Knows a person who can make even my poorly plied yarn look beautiful. Me...

*Anything I do with Perchance To Knit fibers always looks good.

*It's magic, I think.

*Since I was grounded yesterday too, I couldn't go to visit with the other knitters at the Yarn Sellar.

*This was sad on many levels. But mostly because I missed Patti's birthday party.

*Happy Birthday, Patti! Thanks for your wonderful shop where happy knitting memories abound and for being such an all-around amazing person!

That's it for tonight, my darling dears. I must go see about putting some stinky fishy foods into the bellies of some very "present" kitties. One of them happens to be sitting on my foot and clawing up the couch. Maybe my going back to work is not such a bad thing. It'll be a break from my own stupidity and my foot has been asleep since I came home from school back in June.

The couch is beyond hope so it doesn't care.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Just Wonderful

I really hate putting off that first visit back to the classroom in August. It's one of those things I dread, but I want to get it done so that I can enjoy the last week of summer vacation. It doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes I procrastinate. Shocking, I know...

In general, though, I really do make an effort to get the room set up before it feels like I'm under pressure to do so. My plan this summer was to spend a morning or two at school during the second-to-last week of break then pretend that I didn't have to go back at all for the rest of my life. This was a very good plan, if I do say so myself.

The weather didn't think so, though. Last week was hot, muggy and unbearable. The very idea of being in my third floor classroom while the temperatures soared to the top of the thermometer was something I couldn't bear to contemplate. I decided to stay home and go in first thing Monday morning. No doubt about it. That was the plan.

Except that I didn't. In my defense, the weather was still a tad muggy this morning and a check of the forecast predicted better conditions tomorrow. It made sense to put it off for one more day. At least in my own mind. For a while.

I wavered a bit. There was a certain familiar ring in all this, the chiming of every task I've ever not done because there was a "better" opportunity for completing it in the future. So I thought about it a bit. I even put on shoes just in case I decided to take the high road.

I did not take that road. It was a near thing. I had to really exert some thinkin' muscles to come up with another excuse. I did pretty well, though. I'm on day two with the new glasses and still not used to the delightful fishbowl effect of the bifocal lenses. Nor have I figured out where one might place one's eyeballs in order to look down whilst walking. This is a necessary skill here at the manse where Absurdly Gi-normous Kitties roam free like the buffalo and live for opportunities to entwine around moving feet. Another day to get used to this visual funhouse before highway driving would be the best thing I could do for the community.

I'm all about the community. I live for the opportunity to do good deeds for the populace. It's just who I am...

I'll go tomorrow. I have to. This is a task that needs to be done and I'll feel all the better for just getting it over with. In the meantime, I soothed my guilty conscience by finishing up the plying on some wool that's been on the wheel since before forever. Karma and the rules of a just universe paid me back for my sitting at home when I should be at school; the final result was not my best work, I'm afraid. But poorly plied yarn is still finished yarn and at least I can add something else to the Finished Column for summer vacation '09. I'll see about putting up a picture once it's finished drying.

Yes, it's the last week of school vacation and the set up of the classroom is yet to be finished. The need to do it looms over me like a dark cloud. With any luck, I'll get my mojo working bright and early tomorrow so I can get it over with. If not, there is one more little incentive floating around these days that might just do the trick. Staying home means that the TV is on. There is no avoiding the need to start getting my act together as long as I'm staring at the glowing box of entertainment.

This commercial? It haunts me...


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sky Watching

It is just too hot to knit. That is the sad and simple truth of it these days. All I can do is sit and gaze at the clouds, hoping that they will provide me with a little shade before I melt away altogether.

Since there is little to report on the Sticks 'n Strings front, why don't I do a book review instead? It's been a while since I stepped up for MotherTalk and I think I have one you might be interested in. Before I forge ahead, though, perhaps I should review the background behind these little side trips off the knitting path.

First, MotherTalk bloggers are charged with promoting books as much as they are with reviewing them. We are, to some degree, compensated for providing this service. At the very least, we receive a complimentary copy of the book being promoted. I also use the time spent on the project towards my teacher recertification credits. However, I am very careful to choose books that I feel I will be able to honestly and authentically recommend to young readers.

Secondly, my reviews are not from the parenting perspective. Instead, I discuss them using my background as a counselor, special educator and parenting resource consultant. While I've raised naught but cats and have little to offer in terms of mothering advice, I do have over twenty years of experience working with challenged readers in a variety of settings. I like to think I can provide something of use in that sense. However, I encourage parents to use their knowledge and expertise in the needs of their children when making decisions for them as young readers. No amount of professional experience can equal what a parent already knows.

That should cover the disclaimers on my end. Now...let's take a look at the book!

In this follow up to The Dangerous Days Of Daniel X, authors James Patterson and Ned Rust continue the story of alien hunter Daniel X. Orphaned as a very young child, Daniel must take on the job left by his parents and keep the earth safe from the threats that come from beyond the stars. Although a child by both human and alien standards, Daniel is armed with the ability to create almost anything he needs to continue working his way through the list of known trouble-makers, including replications of supportive friends and family.

This time, Daniel must stop a creature bent upon using the small town of Holliswood as the set for reality entertainment at its most horrifying. It will take all of his natural abilities, the assistance of his simulated associates, a little help from an attractive local girl and no small amount of luck to pull the plug on this made-for-alien-TV nightmare. But Daniel is more than up for the task.

The story is quickly paced, perhaps too much so for many adults. However, for young readers who struggle with longer novels or who have difficulty maintaining attention for extended periods, this is ideal. It is also appropriate for those who are sensitive to conflict driven stress and who require a quicker resolution in order to maintain a comfortable emotional level while reading.

As a character, Daniel remains as compelling and self-effacing as he first appeared in the series. One can't help but like him more for his flaws and the sense of humor he demonstrates over how they sometimes lead to failure. He seems to have grown up a bit after his experiences in the first novel. Then, I was struck by the depth of his loneliness and how he struggled with his singular nature on planet earth. This installment doesn't seem to connect strongly to the earlier events that brought Daniel to the place he is in the present and I couldn't help but wonder about that. However, focusing on the "here and now" aspect does make this more of a stand-alone book.

As always, I caution parents strongly against using "grade levels" as the sole means of determining the appropriateness of a book for their child. While it is helpful information, this is really only one piece of the puzzle and can restrict young readers if used inappropriately. I vividly remember being told by well-meaning librarians that I was "too young" to read certain books while still in first and second grade. ("Little Women?" Really???) I include reading levels to help parents make informed decisions about material, not to exclude readers. Children will often surprise us with their willingness to rise to a challenge if the story appeals enough.

I performed several informal readability tests on randomly selected passages throughout the book and the results varied greatly, ranging from mid 8th grade to early 11th. It should be noted that this process assesses only the text and not the content of the book. Lexile scores, a more comprehensive and thorough measurement, are generally not available on newer publications as it takes time to get them into the database. However, the first book is considered a 680 on the scale and I think that is a reasonable basis for comparison. Overall, I'd say that this novel falls into the category of "middle school reading." Again, I suggest you consider your own child's individual reading style and needs along with this data.

Those of us who work with children who have experienced challenges in their lives often have to be aware of the themes in the novels they are reading. Literature is a wonderful way to help children process life, but only if we are alert to possible minefields. Daniel confronts several issues that might bring up emotional reactions in some young readers. Among them, I would include:

Loss: Daniel lost his parents early and was a witness to their violent demise. This is handled very sensitively by the authors and could be a useful springboard for discussion. It could also be a painful thing for some children to read without support, especially if they have been victims of violence themselves.

Relationships: There are absolutely no overtly sexualized aspects to the book, however Daniel is a teenaged boy and experiencing the usual feelings one develops during that time. Again, this is handled very well and there is a rather charming innocence in how this character approaches the opposite sex.

Mild Violence: The very nature of the book requires that there be some physical conflict. It is certainly less graphic than other books in this genre and contextually appropriate. In addition, Daniel really does seem to try taking the high road when he can but this isn't often an option for him. Frankly, in a novel where the theme is good vs. evil, one can't help but destroy an enemy every now and again. I did not find myself overly concerned about the level of violence at any point, but sensitive children might find it to be overwhelming.

Possible Personal Agendas: PPAs are unavoidable. Who we are and what we value comes across in everything we do and writers are no exception. In fact, the best books are often those where the agenda becomes the vehicle for the plot and the author drives it along passionately. I couldn't help but wonder if there may have been some PPAs in this novel, especially around the issues of media and education. My strongest reaction, not surprisingly, was to the latter.

In two particular scenes, Daniel's "mother" must call him in as sick from school and her manner of dealing with the person who answers the phone is, at best, critical. I had a definite emotional response there. If the truth be known, my feelings were rather hurt. I've been on the receiving end of a few of those calls, the kind where you just happen to be in the main office so you decide to help out and pick up the phone then find yourself being blasted for enforcing policies you neither created nor have the power to change. And the thought of the person on the other end of the line being one of my favorite authors...ouch.

However, the research has shown clearly that comprehension is improved when the reader is actively engaged in the reading process. One of the tools authors can use to effectively engage readers is to evoke strong feelings or to cause them to remember similar circumstances. Further, this book wasn't necessarily written to meet my needs. Rather it was meant to be enjoyed by younger readers and, let's face it, what young person wouldn't be just a little proud of a mom who said the things they couldn't say to an adult?

Overall, this aspect of the book is a minor issue if, in fact, it even qualifies as that. Parents can and should use their own judgement around what may or may not be agenda-driven writing and how it fits with their own family values.

I was pleased to be able to read the second novel in the Daniel X series and believe that it is well written for its target audience. It should also be well-received by a wider readership in that it has some definite cross-genre appeal. All in all, a very good reading experience for me and one that I will definitely be sharing with my middle school classroom once school starts up in a week or so.

There you go! A nice little book review to make up for my most pathetic amount of knitting this past week. With any luck, our heat wave will break soon and I can get back to business over here. I still need to get a few things done before the first period bell rings, not the least of which being the set-up of the classroom!

Watch the skies and think good thoughts for me, 'kay?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WNBP: The "I Didn't Melt" Edition

The mercury shot back up to 90 today. However, it seems that tonight is going to be cooler and that tomorrow will be more along the lines of "seasonable." In celebration of that and the fact that I did not expire in a sodden puddle of my own sweat, I launch merrily into the Wednesday Night Bullet Post!

Well...maybe I don't so much "launch merrily" as I trudge soggily, but you get the idea.

*Everyone will be pleased to know that I finally made it back to Chicks With Sticks last night, thus resuming the proper summer schedule of activities.

*Of course, school is soon to start and this summer schedule will mean nothing just like it does ten months out of the year, but I still feel like it was a good thing to do.

*They have air conditioning there.

*I almost didn't go to the Farmer's Market today. It was kind of hot...

*Have I mentioned that in the last thirty seconds or so?

*But, since I'm all about the schedule and the routine these days, I ventured out into the hot shopping center parking lot in order that my crisper might be filled with veggie goodness.

Basil, carrots, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and the most beautiful baby 'taters I ever did see!

*I didn't get to chat with The Guy Who Has The Little Stand At The End And Whom I Think I Might Be Dating But Who Really Knows Anymore?

*He was busy dealing with the tourists.


*Folks From Away (local terminology, there...)

Guy From Away: Do you have any lettuce?

Veggie Guy/Possible Boyfriend: Ayuh. Gut it right down hee-uh. I keep it nice 'n cold 'n wet in th' coolah.

GFA: Is it Maine lettuce?

VG/PB: It's from right off owah fahm. I won't touch that grocery stowah stuff! Godawful...

GFA: What do you do in the winter?

VG/PB: (assuming a put upon, but patient expression) Well, suh. I just don't eat th' stuff!

*Then he kind of rolled his eyes at me.

*Because the answer to all questions involved here were probably kind of obvious.

*There wasn't much to say after that. I bought my gi-normous carrots and went on my way.

*He cut the tops off for me without even asking.

*I always get the tops cut off.

They go to the goats and I like knowing that I helped feed the goats.

*The Veggie Guy and Me? Totally in sync.

*Tonight's dinner: grilled new potatoes and a huge garden salad with shredded cheese.

*The lettuce was from the grocery store...

*It actually didn't feel as hot to me today even though the thermometer looked exactly the same.

*Maybe I'm getting used to it?

*I tried to knit a bit on the sock I was working on last night.

*That's when I realized that it is, in fact, just as hot as it was yesterday.

*Sock go away.

*I think sock understand.

*I don't spend all my time looking at the new baby panda on the San Diego Zoo Panda Cam. Honest.

*Sometimes I look at regular pandas, just for variety.

Walking Panda

Snacking Panda

*But mostly I just look at the baby.

Dudes...seriously. Even I had to say, "awwww!" on that one.

He/She is growing up so fast! And mommy is a little more willing to step off a bit.

*He doesn't look like a naked mole rat anymore.

*Now he looks sort of like a guinea pig...

Yay! I made it through the whole post and I still haven't melted! I'm like a superhero or something! Now I'm going to head over to the window area and wait on that cooler air. It's bound to be arriving any time soon. I just know it! Happy Wednesday and may moderate temperatures be yours to enjoy!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Creativity Is Cool!

We creative types see the possibilities in everything. When confronted with an empty coffee can, we don't necessarily see trash. No. Many of us see a container for straight needles. If we wash it out really well and put a hole in the lid, we know that we have something to keep the yarn ball from rolling all over the living room while we knit. It's a button container and it's a gigantic pom-pom winder if you are in need of a pom-pom larger than an infant's head. Heck, just a few weeks ago I made a coffee can into a portable sterno stove for no reason other than I thought it could be done.

There are possibilities in everything if you are just willing to take in the view from another angle.

And on a day when the temperatures soar into the nineties, the air quality is beyond poor and the symptoms of heat exhaustion grow ever closer, you can't help but see the possibilities in a sock bag. Sure, you could just start knitting a sock and hope that the very act will inspire chilly thoughts. That little bit of mental trickery could work. I, however, saw a different path. I saw the road to an ice pack, a little something to press upon my fevered brow while I worked up the energy to go get another soda.

I'm not sure that this is what Trek had in mind when she stitched this up, though...

Intentional or not, this thing was a lifesaver today. Even with the lowering of the sun and the approaching night, the heat still continues to rise over here. It is even hotter now than it was at noon which seems grossly unfair in spite of my understanding that there are any number of scientific explanations for this phenomenon.

It was too hot to knit after 10:00 this morning. But that doesn't mean I can't work in a knitting reference or find a use for my knitterly paraphernalia. And tomorrow I get to do it all over again.

Because it is supposed to be at least as miserable then as it is right now. Gah.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Red Hot Sheepie

Sometimes a theme presents itself. Other times themes don't present themselves and then I have to make one up. But this is one of those times when I could work with the theme and we always celebrate those blogging days, don't we?

Our theme of the day? Red. Bright, blazing red.

The thermometer is showing a great deal of red these days. I knew this was going to happen. We had the chilliest summer in recent memory and shivered our way through June and July. I only just took the flannel sheets off the bed a few weeks ago. And now, right on time for school to start up and trap me in a room with a bunch of sweating teenagers, the weather takes a turn for the warm. The humidity, probably feeling left out, has also stopped by for a visit. The current temperature in the living room is 84 degrees, not such a horrible thing, but the moisture in the air makes it feel like soup.

I haven't gotten much done today. I'm not a strong swimmer. I'm afraid if I try to move through this air that I will drown right in my own kitchen.

Yesterday was also a muggy sort of day but I didn't mind it so much. Just when it got so bad I thought I'd melt into a grumpy puddle, I hopped in the car, blasted the A/C and headed over to Mommy and Daddy Sheep's house. From there, we all traveled to the annual lobster feed sponsored by my father's former place of hire.

There is nothing like the breeze coming off the ocean as you enjoy the marina views. I don't know how you'd top that...

Well, maybe I do. A big ol' tray covered in red lobsters, steamers, corn and other assorted side dishes might improve an already delightful evening. I'm not saying that I couldn't consume two lobsters in one sitting. I'm sure that I could. But I always save one to take home for lobster rolls. A lobster feed is kind of like Thanksgiving. The best part is always in the leftovers.

In case you were wondering, I will solve the mystery of The Perfect Lobster Roll. The recipe is a bit complicated so you might want to print it out or take notes. It goes like this: Take your nice red lobster and pick off the meat. Shred or chop it a bit. Add just enough mayo to hold it together. Put it on a sub roll. Or a hot dog roll. You may have lettuce if you wish. It's better that way but I don't want to tell you how to eat your lobster roll.

I'm sure that there are a few people out there who are saying, "But, Sheepie! I went to a fancy pants restaurant and had a lobster roll with capers, truffles and shaved gold. That was surely the finest lobster roll ever created. I know because they charged me forty gazillion dollars for it!"

Feel free to your opinion. I'm just sayin'. Lobster. Mayonnaise. Bread. The End.

Also in the "red" family, we have my latest dishcloth. I whipped up another Darrell Waltrip since those seem to come together so quickly. This may be the one that ends my dishcloth frenzy for well and for good, however. It isn't my favorite. It's a dishcloth so it doesn't have to be high art or anything. Beauty is optional in a dishcloth. But I don't think I love this one. The colors just didn't seem to work with the pattern very well, in my opinion.

It looks like I used it to clean up the crime scene.

That's OK. If I ever really do need to clean up a crime scene, I suppose it would be nice to have a designated DNA moppin' cloth. I can't honestly foresee a need for one. I'm a pretty law abiding citizen and have never once had thoughts of dastardly deeds. Maybe it will work for spilled pizza sauce or a tightly sealed jam jar thrown in anger...

I'm sure that I could think of other things in the red family if I put my mind to it. But it's still really hot and my brain has started flashing the "check fluids" light. I think I need a beverage before I blow a gasket or something. I hear that's an expensive repair. There is also no sign of this ending any time soon, so I'd best pace myself.

We don't want that needle to go into the red zone, now do we? Having a new cleaning cloth is not enough to justify a 'sploding head.


Friday, August 14, 2009


The other night, I tuned in to the San Diego Zoo Panda Cam as I do regularly. There, I was treated to the sight of a panda having a nosh. This, in and of itself, is not all that unusual. A pandas gotta eat, right? And this one really seemed to be enjoying the process.

However, I was very disturbed by what I saw. This panda was nibbling on what I could only guess was one of those naked mole rats you hear about from time to time. (At least I hear about them from time to time. The things you hear may be different...) I was extremely upset by this. My first thought was that it was rather callous of the guy running the panda-cam to keep zooming in on this horrific scene. My second was to wonder who I could call because pandas are supposed to be jolly, rolly-poly creatures who eat bamboo. They are most certainly not supposed to be vicious carnivores with a taste for naked mole rat flesh. I wanted this blatant example of false advertising dealt with immediately!

It soon became apparent, even to someone in a state of high agitation over the murder of naked mole rats, that I had misread the visual just a bit. That was not a naked mole rat, nor was it being consumed.

No. It was a baby panda being gently licked by its loving mommy panda. No naked mole rats were harmed in the making of this panda-cam moment. They didn't even show up for the shoot. A quick visit to the zoo site confirmed my suspicions.

In my defense, I should say that I view the panda-cam from my computer's dashboard and there is no text to help me decipher what I am seeing. Frankly, I didn't think I'd need it what with my general panda knowledge and all. In addition, a baby panda bears no resemblance whatsoever to what we typically think of when someone says, "panda."

They look like naked mole rats. Hence, the confusion.

Later, I realized that I should have taken a screen shot because how many times are you going to see a baby panda? I suppose if you work in the panda field, you'll get a few opportunities. The rest of us are out of luck. It became my mission to get a picture of this little bugger.

This is harder than you think. First of all, baby pandas are tiny. Think "stick of butter." That's what the website used for comparison. Secondly, Mommy Pandas are very protective of their babies and like to curl right around them. I suppose the fact that baby has no fur and looks like a naked mole rat might have something to do with that. No one wants their offspring to be the target of laughter and harsh judgement. Then there's the fact that I can't spend my whole day watching the panda-cam hoping for a glimpse because that would border on obsessive. I had a challenge on my hands here!

But for you, I tried. I actually do have a little bit more time for this kind of nonsense right now and some of you do not. I made the effort because you and the baby panda are worth it. It took up some valuable knitting time, but there you go. I'm just that kind of gal.

And maybe a little bit obsessed now that I think about it...

Today, I finally managed to get something. Please understand that even the best shot is going to be fuzzy and remember what I said about the size of this thing. It's so small, they can't even tell whether it's a boy or a girl yet! But I did my best. What you are looking for is the little blob under Mommy Panda's chin. Just pretend you are looking for a naked mole rat and you should be fine...

"Oooohs" and "Ahhhhs" are perfectly appropriate here.

But anyone who goes, "Awwww" is going to be outed as a liar because there is absolutely nothing cute about a baby panda. Nothing.

There. Now I won't have to feel like I wasted my entire summer vacation. Or the last two days spent staring at the panda cam and yelling, "Move!!!!!" I have successfully captured a baby panda on digital media for you. I'm tired...

In all seriousness, though, I do suggest stopping by the website if you get the chance. Apple has a download for a widget that will let Mac users watch from the desktop and that has made panda ogling ever so much easier for me. Glimpses of the baby are rare, but the camera is now devoted entirely to this scene so you'll probably see something if you watch long enough. It's really rather amazing.

Once you get past the whole "flesh eating zombie panda" thing...


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wii Have Bullet Points, 'Taters, REM Sleep And Dishcloths

I have had some difficulties with the routine of late. This has made it challenging to remember what day it is. But I know a Wednesday when I see one! And that means it is time for the Wednesday Night Bullet Post. Let's do this thing!

*Insomnia has had me in its grip of late.

*The approach of the new school year always stirs up a little of the stress for me.

*And the humidity hasn't helped either.

*I finally slept last night.


*Sleep is necessary for thinking, I've found. And thinking is necessary for all sorts of life functions.

*Like driving and buttoning your shirt right.

*Dishcloth mania continues unabated over here.

*I blame my sister-in-law. She mentioned in passing that there was this one time she didn't get a dishcloth from someone she knew way back when and I was suddenly overcome with the desire to right this tragic wrong.

*I have yet to give her a dishcloth. But now I can should the opportunity present itself.

*Plus they're wicked fast to knit and make a girl look productive.

*Even when she hasn't been sleeping.

*They range from the simple:

*To the somewhat more complex:

*I won't lie to you. The latter has issues. The stitch count was a bit off as I neared the end.

*I didn't much care by then.

*If you'd been trying to do a doily on blunt wooden needles, you wouldn't either.

*Not to mention the whole sleep deprivation thing.

*It's lopsided, but fine. In fact, I think it looks pretty darned spiffy for something that will be scrubbing pots.

*That's the problem with "pretty" dishcloths.

*When you give them away, no one wants to use them.

*They end up under a vase or on the back of a chair.

*Which seems silly.

*Although if you did this pattern in crochet cotton, I'll bet you'd have an actual doily.

*I'd be mad if I saw that in the sink. But not if I saw the dishcloth floating in a soaking pot.

*Today was Farmer's Market Day!

*Also known as Visiting With The Vegetables.

*It wasn't raining.

*Hence, "others" were there.

*Makes for challenging shopping.

*But I managed.

Local wild blueberries, garlic, 'taters, onion and peaches.

*I've said it before and I'll say it again: when you think "Maine" you can't help but think "Peaches!"

*Not pictured: scallions

*aka green onions.

*Tonight's dinner: Potatoes, garlic and onion roasted in olive oil and seasoned with fresh basil.

*I guess I forgot to put that in the picture too...

*I was going to put chopped scallions on the 'taters when they came out of the oven.

*But then I realized I had an already "biologically combustible" mix in there. Probably best to wait on the scallions...

*After the market, I stopped at the local purveyor of digital entertainment and picked up a copy of Wii Sports Resort.

*Comes with the new Wii Motion Plus accessory.

*I had to ask the Game Guru behind the counter for it because they don't put those out with the other movies 'n stuff.

Game Guru: I can tell you from experience that this is a lot of fun.

Sheepish Annie: So I'm told. I like the Wii Sports game so I figured I'd get this one, too.

GG: That's what I thought when it came out!

SA: It's a little embarrassing, though. I mean, like, I used to play really cool games where I got to kill stuff.

GG: Yeah...

SA: And now I'm playing tennis, for heaven's sake! And golf? When did I become a golfer???

*He looked at me. And in his eyes I saw understanding, compassion and perhaps just a bit of relief at finding another who was experiencing such angst.

*We may be separated by life experiences, social groups and more than twenty years of age but, in that moment, we were kindred spirits.

*Then we got to talking about Wii bowling and I started feeling kind of geeky again.

*I had to buy a used zombie movie just to balance things out a bit.

*I made scones last night.

*Scones are easy and something I can do without sleep.

*I'm going to have one with fresh fruit later on.

*Once the garlic and onions have settled down a bit, of course.

I anticipate an evening of Wii Sports (the 'resort' variety) and peachy/scone-y goodness. I'll probably also knit another dishcloth. I think that is a fine way to celebrate midweek and the return of my sleeping ability.

Of course the garlic and the games will probably keep me up all night. But that's just more time for dishcloth knitting, right?


Monday, August 10, 2009

Peachy Customer

There are lots of things I don't do particularly well. In general, the mishaps born of my fumblings are the stuff of this blog. They make for entertaining stories.

However, my self-esteem is not so low that I don't know about the things I do well. I have been hanging around me for a long time now and I'm pretty adept at identifying the good stuff.

For example, I am a rather delightful customer. If you are in retail, I am not such a bad person to have show up at your counter.

Sometimes I'm good at this because I'm generally comfortable with the idea that I don't know everything about everything. There are times when I am making purchases which require a knowledge base I do not possess. I've also learned that faking it is a sure path to disaster. My best bet is to find a vendor who seems relatively trustworthy and fling myself upon her mercy. Nine times out of ten, this works. On the tenth try, I end up purchasing the high end version of the product instead of the sale item I wanted and find myself with the extended warranty. These things happen sometimes...

Other times, I am a good customer because I know exactly what I am doing. Either through experience or diligent study, I have a solid understanding of the product being discussed. Today, for example, I was continuing my quest for a new pair of glasses and perusing the wares at the local Big Box Department Store Of Values. It went like something like this:

Glasses Guru: Hello, ma'am. Is there anything I can do for you today?

Sheepish Annie: Why hello, yourself! I do believe you can assist me today. Here's the deal, my good man. This is my prescription. I'm in the market for a Progressive bi-focal, preferably something in the Varilux line. Obviously, given the prescription strength, I will be needing a high index lens. I believe that a 1.67 should be plenty. Anything beyond that is overkill, in my opinion. Now, here's where things get tricky. I need a narrow lens width to minimize facial distortion. Of course, this will also help with the overall thickness of the lens and is a nice benefit. My current glasses are along the lines of a 44mm width and really pretty close to perfect. I'd say I can go as high as 46mm if we push things, though. Now this means that we will also be looking at a short corridor Progressive and I know that's going to bump up the price a bit but that's the way these things go sometimes, right? Given my needs, I'd say our best bet would be to start over here in the children's section and work our way up from there. We are going to run into some issues with bridge width, but I think we can find something that will work. What do you say, my fine fellow? Are you ready to make some middle-aged myopic magic here?

GG: Wow.

SA: Problems?

GG: Um, no. It's just that you really did your homework...

I merely smiled. The truth of the matter is that I actually did very little homework. It's really more that I've been buying glasses for almost as long as this guy has been alive and, to be honest, I've screwed it up more than I've gotten it right. Painful and expensive lessons are really amazing teachers, aren't they?

I'm also a good customer because, as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I know I'm not the only person in the world. Or the store. When the Glasses Guru is working alone, I know that I'm going to have to be patient while he answers the phone and deals with other customers. Further, some of those other customers are not as enlightened as I when it comes to recognizing this fact. But, patience is often rewarded with better service, especially when you can commiserate with GG over the guy on the phone who couldn't understand whom to call about his contact lens order. The fact that all orders are now going through 1-800-CONTACTS seemed to flummox him and required several repetitions.

CONTACTS. The thing you want to buy. Dial that. You will get your lenses...

I also know that when the Glasses Guru is willing to spend 45 minutes with me even though he knew right up front that I am only shopping around at this point and not planning to give him any money today, I have probably found one of the good guys. He had a great sense of humor, wrote down everything I needed should I decide to order and never once made me feel like I was the victim of a hard sell. He saw the incredible irony in the my putting old-lady lenses in frames made by Disney and laughed at my commentary on this subject. He also beat my optometrist's price by about $150.00.

We need not discuss the fact that the kiddie frames I will probably buy are a shade of light purple. "Plum" to be exact. Whatever. I'm moving into bi-focals. I might as well get something that matches my varicose veins, right?

(I actually wore bi-focals in jr. high so this isn't really the big deal I'm making it out to be. But I do like to inject a little self-absorbed drama into things every now and again...)

I may be a great customer, but I'm sort of lousy when it comes to sticking to a yarn plan. In fact, I'm probably the worst sticker-to-yarn-planners in the world. Gripped as I am in the summer dishcloth knitting frenzy, I still decided that I would use up the cotton I have here before going out to get more. I need glasses. I can't be tossing money around all will-nilly on yarn when I still have half a cone of the stuff right in my living room! I swore up and down that I would not be buying any more yarn until a dent was made in that which I already possess!

But what is one to do when faced with the brilliant shades of Peaches & Creme available these days?

I didn't get the purple, though. That should count for something...

The glasses remain under consideration, but yarn I don't even have to think about. Even if I promised I'd think about it before dropping the cash. I suppose that spending money is another thing that makes me a good customer, but I sometimes wonder if my priorities are a little bit skewed.

Maybe the Glasses Guru would like a nice, new dishcloth...


Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Gr-8-est Love Of All

Oh, Octagonal Swirl Cloth! Even after all these years, I am still fascinated by you. The magic? It just never seems to fade. We have something special, you and I.

Each and every time we meet, I remain utterly transfixed by the way you form on the needles. You are a clever one and I look all the smarter for being with you. You aren't in the least snobbish. No. You are a humble sort, always knowing that you are destined for hard work. I find a simple, understated dignity in that.

And the way you adapt? Brilliant. You are cool with dpns or circs. You just work with what's available. Sure, you don't always act predictably during Magic Loop but that's OK. Sometimes a girl likes surprises. Yarnovers don't always have to be where you'd expect them, after all. It still works.

I've learned so much from you. Why the first time I knit you way back when, I didn't even know how to do a M1 increase! I learned just for you. You taught me the value of a loose bind off, too. Without you, I'd still be casting off to the sound of squeaking yarn as it travels ever closer to the breaking point.

Not that it's always been easy. Sometimes the cotton is hard on the hands and we need to take a little break from one another for a while. And remember yesterday? When I was watching that Baking With Julia Marathon and lost count? I think it was when they were making that chocolate ruffles cake...maybe it was the scones? Whatever. We had a bit of a time then, that's for sure. Tinking back three rows was certainly a strain on our relationship and things got kind of tense for a time.

But then it was over and oh how we laughed! This is the stuff of long term relationships. The road sometimes has a few bumps in it, but that's what makes us stronger and wiser in the end, right?

Oh, heck! I'm just gonna say it. I don't care if I'm the first to speak the words. Octagonal Swirl Dishcloth...I love you. There! I said it. I love you!!!

OK. Um. Yeah. This is awkward...

You need some time. I understand. I sort of threw that out there kind of fast. You probably want to sit with this for a bit. That's cool. I get it. You want some space? I can do space. Space is, like, my middle name! You just take all the time you need and don't worry about me. I'm not the clingy, needy type at all. I'm, like, all whatever and stuff. I'll see you when I see you.

Call me...