Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thinking and Praying

The eighteenth school shooting this year, and politicians continue to send their thoughts and prayers. Seventeen people killed in a high school, and tweets with prayers and consolations are being sent. Hundreds of students filing out of a school with their hands on their heads while law enforcement is holding assault rifles, and calls are being made to governors and school superintendents. And everyone continues to pocket their money from the NRA and the wide variety of gun lobbyists hard at work in Washington and in governments all around our country.

I used to think that sensible gun control was a no-brainer. Of course the elected leaders of our country would want to keep their constituents safe. Of course they would want to make sure that assault rifles and high capacity magazines would not fall into the hands of people that have no business having them (which, by the way, is EVERYONE).

And then Sandy Hook happened. Twenty first graders killed, along wth six of their teachers. First graders are tiny. The visual of a shooter lowering an assault rifle to the height of such a small child is beyond my comprehension. What is also beyond my comprehension is that nothing happened, and nothing changed. Thoughts and prayers were sent, consolations were conveyed, and it was business as usual. Of course, not for the families of these children or their teachers, and not for the community which will never fully heal. I assumed that this would be the tipping point. But, I assumed wrong.

We have lockdown drills in our school several times a year. We take our children, and sit them in a corner in the dark with our doors locked. And we tell them there is nothing to worry about, and that we will keep them safe. And we know that we are lying. That our officials have put their own interests ahead of them. That they believe that the rights of people to have guns that were created to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible is more important than the hundreds of men, women, and children dying violently and long before their time. That the pipeline of money needs to continue to flow, unchecked.

My thoughts and prayers are with us all.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

It would be good for hitching a ride...

A while back, I got inspired to make some mittens. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that winter was coming, coupled with the loss of a carefully hand-knitted pair from a couple of years ago.

I like to knit. I like to wear things I knit. I hate to lose things I knit.

Once you've spent many, many hours on something, both moving forward and ripping back mistakes, it takes on qualities much greater than the sum of its parts. It is no longer just an item of functional clothing, but the end result of what you hope isn't wasted time. Which it isn't. Unless you lose said knitted item.

The pattern is from Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch, a book chock full of lovely, intricate color work mittens. They fit beautifully, and are wonderfully warm.

Pretty, huh? However, those eagle-eyed among you may have picked up on something here. My thumb might be a little cold. As will my left hand. After cruising along happily on this for a quite a while, I somehow lost the knitting mojo. I think it has something to do with the thumb. I like knitting mittens, but the thumb is so tiresome. It's tiny, and fussy, and hurts my hands to knit. And I might be kind of a baby about it, but I can't be absolutely sure.

I tried to make a pair of gloves a while back (which is basically just like knitting a mitten, but with 5 thumbs, and let me tell you, the whining emanating from this knitter was truly embarrassing), and I could only bring myself to finish one. It's a really nice glove, though. I suppose I could slip it under the mitten and wear them as an ensemble. And put my other hand in my pocket. And be a little sad until spring.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Fountain of Life

Several months ago, on a long car ride, we were fortunate enough to hear a Radiolab podcast about Oliver Sacks. It was a beautiful program centered around recordings that he and his partner Billy had created in the final months before he died. They were often everyday conversations, and somehow the mundanity of the topics discussed made it more poignant than many of the interviews I had previously heard from him.

Oliver Sacks is one of those people that had so many interesting facets to his life that he makes me feel sad that I have not accomplished more in my life. The fact that I need to take someone else's remarkable life accomplishments and turn them around to create petty thoughts about myself speaks volumes, but it is what it is.

His writing was thoughtful and elegant. He took scientific subjects and not only made them accessible to those of us who aren't brilliant neurologists, but he made them engaging. No small feat.

In the podcast, there was mention about his use of fountain pens. Sacks wrote free hand, and in the tapes you can often hear the gentle scratching as he writes. I love to try different pens, and those that write well make me supremely happy. I'd never used a fountain pen, so the next day we found a stationer's store in Boston. In the back of the shop, there was a counter with a huge variety of fountain pens and a wonderfully knowledgeable salesperson. A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a fountain pen. And then a friend of The Professor's mentioned his own favorite, and I somehow felt the need to pick that one up as well. Now these live with me:

So now that I have two, I think that makes me a collector. The salesperson who sold me the one on the left mentioned fountain pen conventions. I wonder what it says about me that I was immediately intrigued? Probably not very positive things.

I have enjoyed my collection, and expect to expand it soon (there may already be one or two in my Amazon cart, but I can't be sure). I'm also fully anticipating that my writing will be prolific, engaging, and deeply scientific very soon in the near future.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Icing on the Cake...

New Year's (as well as Christmas) really crept up on me this year. I don't know if it's age, or just weariness (or most probably a combination of the two), but I used to be able to keep a lot more balls in the air. Some days they seem to be falling all around me, and keeping up with them seems to have become both more difficult and less interesting.

Miss Serious commented last night that we weren't doing anything interesting for New Year's this year, so I got up this morning and made these (cinnamon buns from the America's Test Kitchen Baking Book):

The picture in the cookbook had a gentle drizzle of icing on the top, but I decided that if I had all that nice icing, we should be eating all that nice icing - thus the less than pretty pile on the top. Delicious though!

May we all have a healthy, happy, productive, and fulfilling 2018. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tiny Squares

So a while back, we had gone to New Jersey and taken a hike in the woods. We wore long pants and sleeves, and checked ourselves carefully for ticks on our return. No ticks.

We stayed the weekend in New Jersey, and returned home. The morning after our return, I was in the shower, and noticed what looked like a poppy seed on my right hip bone. Hmmm. I went to brush it off, and it stayed put. Giving it a little tug, it came off. I put it on the ledge in my shower, not thinking too much about it. When I had toweled off, I gave it a peek - still looked like a poppy seed. After placing it on a pice of paper, lo and behold, it started moving. Yuck. Mind you, this is a full 3 days after our hike in the woods...

So I bagged up the little offender, and we gave each other a very careful once over. No ticks.

Next morning, I woke up, and decided to give the spot where the tick had been a look to see if the bite had done anything. The bite was fine, but I was horrified to discover a poppy seed about 2 inches to the right of where the first one had been. And on further inspection, he had a little friend on the other side of my waist as well. Hmmmm.

So we bagged my new little friends, and gave everybody a check. The Professor and Big Trouble remained uninhabited, but Miss Serious also had a little friend, which got its own special bag. We delivered all of the bags to our respective doctors for testing, and tried to figure out what exactly was happening. I decided to vacuum the heck out of the apartment,  and wash everything that was washable. And then we thought of the dog.

The dog had stayed the weekend with friends who have a backyard while we were away. so our first thought was that he had gotten ticks from the yard and brought them home to visit. We took him to the vet, and decided to toss out many of the items that he liked to sleep on, one of which was the sock yarn blanket I had made. To be fair, it did have several squares that had rips in them, because some of the yarn I used wasn't sock yarn and wasn't as strong as the others. Three hundred dollars later, we learned that the dog had no ticks, and I immediately regretted getting rid of the blanket, as well as having given all those dollars to the vet.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to start another one:

I've been working on it for a while, and now it looks like this:

It's nowhere near as big as the one I tossed, but hopefully it will be someday. And of course, tick free.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Coronation Day

So it's official. I've entered my elder years. I know this, because I have now had to endure the kind of dental work I only ever heard my grandparents talk about.

About 10 years ago, while camping in Connecticut, I broke a molar while eating one of the mushiest foods ever, a soft, cheesy breadstick. After breaking off a chunk of said tooth,  Miss Serious and Big Trouble insisted that I leave it under my pillow. The next morning, as the sun rose over our little tent, I reached under my pillow and discovered a dollar bill that had been torn in half. The Professor must have his little jokes....

Upon returning to Chez Necessity, my dentist put a sort of wall around the tooth, and basically gave my a gigantic filling. He stated, not in a particularly comforting way, "It might work."  It did, but my new dentist has been eyeing it since I started seeing him, and finally convinced me that I would rather take care of it on my own terms rather than when it breaks (and he assured me that it definitely would).

My dentist is an older, Russian gentleman with an accent so thick that everything he says sounds like a Dostoyevsky novel. I did not quite understand what getting a crown entailed, and would have enjoyed remaining blissfuly ignorant, but after he finished drilling my tooth, he gave me a mirror so I could see what he had done. Appalled, I gazed at the nub of what used to be a tooth that he had created in my mouth. He stuck the temporary crown on top of this horror, and sent me on my way.

Two weeks later, weeks in which I learned that it is possible to only chew on one side of your mouth,  I returned for the permanent crown. I was thinking of asking him if I could have it bejeweled, but I decided that it is unwise to kid around with the person who holds the dental drill. After my second shot of novocaine (the first one served only to numb my neck, an odd sensation at the best of times), my permanent crown was attached to my little tooth nub, and now lives with me forever. I'm feeling more royal already - maybe I'll pick up a Corgi.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Like Poofs Through an Hourglass

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and in the morning, as we have often done, we went to an interfaith service sponsored by the Interreligious Council of New Rochelle. It is enlightening to hear people from many different faiths and walks of life all in one place, sharing together. The speaker was an Imam from a local mosque; in his introduction, it was explained that he is not only an Imam, but a speaker at the UN, a liaison with the police department, a consultant around the country, and, of course, his day job, which was a medical director. You know, like you do. His talk was thoughtful, engaging, and funny.

When being presented with such an accomplished person, it would be most appropriate to be impressed and interested in hearing the upcoming talk. Instead, I decide to take this opportunity to feel slothful and unhappy that I am somehow unable to accomplish even a small percentage of the resume being presented to me.

And then I got home and looked at my knitting pile, and decided that he probably isn't spending a lot of his time making these:

Who needs to be a speaker at the UN when you can have lots of little poofs made out of sock yarn? These are for The Beekeeper's Quilt from Tiny Owl Knits. I hope to someday have enough to create a quilt - maybe in time for one of the kids to take to college. Or not.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my wonderful family, who make me smile every day. I am thankful for friends who open their homes to us on this and many other days throughout the year. I am thankful to be able to have a job that fulfills me, and students that are quirky and exhausting and lovable. I am thankful that a group of people from wildly different backgrounds are still able to come together to share their thoughts and beliefs with kind and grateful hearts. And I am thankful that a pile of yarn poofs can make me so happy, even if they aren't truly a replacement for actual accomplishments.