Thursday, January 25, 2007

O Joy! or, Proof Positive that I Am a Nerd

Today, I had one of those bouts of complete elation that come only rarely in a lifetime--something I thought was lost to me forever came back into my hands.

This book was one of the textbooks for the Anglo-Saxon class I took my first semester of grad school. I was an aspiring medievalist, and a class where I was required to read "Caedmon's Hymn" and Beowulf in their original languages was pretty heady stuff. And not easy. This book was a godsend. Not only does it contain hundreds of basic Anglo-Saxon words, but it explains in very clear terms how these words can be combined, so that once you get the hang of it, you're all set with your hwaets, your weards, and your hlaefdiges. And it was only $2.95! A college textbook for $2.95. Even in the lang, lang ago, this was quite a bargain.

Now, I did not become a medievalist. I grew tired of going to school and allowed myself to be seduced by the siren song of rock and roll. I traded my eths, my thorns, my ashes, my wynns, and my yoghs (insider lingo for the Anglo-Saxon in the know) for miniskirts, danskin tights, and a short-scale Rickenbacker 325. I finished my M.A. but didn't pursue a Ph.D. I played in several bands. I moved from Syracuse (where I bought the book) to Boston and then to San Francisco. But through it all, Word-Hoard and my other favorite textbooks went with me.

Until the relationship on which I had embarked back in Syracuse--a relationship that had endured two moves and almost a dozen years--fell apart. And I was a wreck. A wreck who feared she could be a broken wreck. And so I sold about half my books. Including Word-Hoard. When the cloud of despair and anxiety started to lift several months later and I realized I was not going to be broke--well, not quite yet--I regretted selling that book, deeply. I went back to the store I had sold it to to try to buy it back, but it was no longer on the shelf.

And then...this morning Jeff walked into my office at work and said "I found this in the pile of books they're giving away up by the old dictionary department, and I thought you would like it." Then he handed me Word-Hoard, and my heart soared! I can't even describe the feeling--that I had gotten a long lost, long-forgotten piece of myself back again. A reunion. A healing. I think my reaction both shocked and delighted him. I know I was shocked and delighted!

I know this reaction is rather silly and overwrought, but damn if doesn't make me happy!! Thanks, Jeff!


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Query:

When the hell did they stop making workout gear for the rest of us? You know, those of us who just want to go to the club, the gym, the track during lunch or after work two, three days a week just to run, do the elliptical trainer, or whatever, and don't want or need to look perky or sexy or buff, but don't want to look like a raggedy old slug either?

Because apparently they don't make plain old mid-thigh cotton or cotton-blend elastic-waist shorts anymore.

And before you perky, sexy, buff types (and especially you lean and mean runners) start lecturing me about the horrors of cotton, let me tell YOU that I don't run fast enough to need much wicking, and I wear my shorts loose enough that air circulates just fine, thank you very much. And I like the drape of my old, well-worn cotton shorts. Although it's not really the FABRIC that's the problem--I'm sure I could be persuaded to try some "smart fabric," depending--it's the length and the style that seem to be impossible to find these days.

Let me explain: I'm in serious need of some new running shorts. Tops too, but I can make do with old t-shirts in the winter. In summer, well, let's just say that wicking fabric is a good thing. But the shorts... sigh. My current shorts are so soft, so comfy. But they have torn seams in the crotch (meaning I have to avoid certain stretches in public), and the waistbands are fraying something fierce. Time to replace. So today I trot off at lunch to the nearest Target, and find, well, nothing suitable.

There were many pairs of stretchy running capris, which didn't really fit the bill. I don't mind the length so much (although I'd like something with a tad less coverage and cling for summer), but the tag said they "fall just below the waist." Isn't THAT special? Sorry, but I don't want to worry about my damned pants falling down as I promenade around the track, thank you very much. Or even the vague FEELING that my pants are going to fall down.

Then there were the French terry short shorts with the drawstring at the waist and "legs" that barely cover the curve of one's ass-cheeks. No way am I going to show off my upper thighs OR ass-cheeks--vintage 50+ years and counting--to my fellow perambulators.

I was so desperate that I went to the men's section to see if I could find plain old cotton gym shorts, but no. Even the men's shorts were too short (what, are we doing a back to the future turn on the 1970s basketball court again?) or made of some hideous material better suited to parachutes.

Which means I'll just have to bite the bullet and go to the running store (either in Evanston or online) and pay through the nose for shorts that are obviously so out of style that they can't be found even for cheap at any self-respecting big box.

Maybe it's a sign--If I get on the stick and lose weight and tone up and become that buff gal who likes to show it off, I could see myself prancing around in those short shorts. Maybe I would even spring for ones with a school name or witty word silk-screened across the butt.

But folks, that's going to take a while. And in the meantime, I need me some new shorts!!!


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Knitting Lessons

No, I don't need them--I've been knitting since I was eight. But sometimes the very process of knitting results in life lessons...

To the point: I just had to rip back the piece I've been working on, entirely. I posted a picture of the sweater in my last entry. I hadn't gotten all that far--only about four/five inches of the back--but far enough that tearing it up was emotionally painful. A fair amount of time invested, and seemingly for naught.

What happened? Well, I dropped a stitch. Not usually cause for such drastic action, since dropped stitches can be picked up and any laddering remedied without much effort or angst. But this pattern is fairly complicated, with a couple of different stitch charts per row, and I was working with black yarn--black yarn with a bit of mohair. The pattern, the yarn color, and the yarn's texture all conspired to hide the stitch in question.

And then...I started second-guessing myself. Had I been working that portion of the pattern wrong all along? Maybe so. Since I couldn't find the dropped stitch, maybe it was never there in the first place (even though, deep down, I KNEW I had cast on the correct number and that I had been working the pattern correctly only a few rows before). And the same factors that were hiding the dropped stitch would also hide a surreptitious increase, right? So, rather than rip back a few rows (such a pain, what with cables and yarn-overs and such), I just added the missing stitch and soldiered on.

Until I saw it, laddering its way through the column of ribbing, almost directly in the middle of the back. I'd have to rip out at least half of what I'd done. And, truth be told, I haven't been all that excited about how the yarn was working up--that little bit of fuzzy mohair--the texture that was so friendly about hiding imperfections--also obscures the rather sharp edges of the pattern.

So I decided the best thing to do was to tear back, return the yarn to the stash, find a yarn that will enhance the pattern rather than hide it, and start again.

As I said--at least I was only a few inches into the first piece.

And that's where the life lesson comes in--sometimes you just need to admit the mistake, go back to square one, and make the attempt anew.

And they say knitting is a calming exercise.



Monday, January 08, 2007

Updates on Various Stuff

I know everyone is on pins and needles as to how I'm coming along with all those typical New Year's resolutions. Well, comme ci, comme ca.

I haven't done much writing on the novel, but I have been reading back through it and tweaking stuff here and there. It had been so long since I'd worked on it that I forgot the last name of one of the characters and made him up a new one, which I like better. I didn't think I'd used his last name much in the first part, but I misremembered. After I changed it for the twelfth time, I suddenly remembered the find and replace feature. Oh well, it's been a useful exercise. I think I may get back to some actual writing sometime next week. Jeff expects to see a draft on April 1 (Go Fools!), so I really should get crackin'.

On the getting in shape front, well, I've been less than completely conscientious. However, I have not been a slug, either. I start out the week with every good intention, and I follow up. But then other things intervene, I lose motivation, and shirk my workouts on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. I'll try to do better. And I've set a goal: I want to be in much, much better shape by the time I get my braces off (due around mid-August, if all goes according to plan)--and I want to run the Ricky Byrdsong 5K again this spring--knees permitting.

No, I haven't picked up the guitar yet.

Yes, I have picked up the knitting needles--I'm working on this:

I have two other projects in that same magazine that I want to tackle.

I think that takes care of the resolutions... now for an orthodontia update.

I'm still not used to having a honking big wire attached to my upper teeth, but a whole world of dental hygiene has opened up to me. Who knew there were such things as floss threaders? Or interproximal brushes? I mean, this is my second go-round with braces, and all this stuff is news to me! Keeping my teeth clean takes much longer than it did pre-braces (the floss threading alone is your whoreson devourer of time... and if I do take up the guitar again and cut my fingernails, it will take that much longer--one needs fingernails to get a purchase on the end of that threader, believe me). But I have a wonderful new device to aid in the cause: a SonicCare electric toothbrush. That baby is something! It scrubs like crazy, massages your gums, scours between teeth and around brackets, and even shuts off automatically after two minutes. To get the proper cleaning experience, just keep brushing until it stops and voila! Clean, clean, clean teeth!

Of course, there is the pain problem. It's not too bad, but since the goal is to close that obnoxious gap between my middle two incisors, one of them has constant pressure on it via some elastic thread stuff to move it toward the other. And that one tooth is always pretty tender. Which means that I use my molars way more than my incisors nowadays... and that's not always easy. Or comfortable. Or sightly. But hey--I can see the gap narrowing a little more each couple of days... yea!

Then there is the lower retainer, which I was sure would keep me up all night the first time I wore it. It didn't. I got used to it pretty fast. But it's amazing how well it appears to fit each morning and how tight it is each night. Oh well, it's all for a good cause, huh? My vanity. Heh.

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