Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Wednesday, December 31, 2003  

So. The Haile family is moving on. Still a tad haltingly, but at least in a forward direction. Two days back on the job helped. LD gets off work before I do and often drops by the library; first to hug his mom, then to find something interesting to read. He's always done this, wherever he lived. Well, I don't suppose he hugged the library director, but certainly was a regular at his local public library. He told me he never found a library as good as mine (smirk) - though Portsmouth VA was "pretty good" and the Saratoga Springs library was "okay". He's the sort of person that makes librarians swoon - a male who doesn't insist on owning everything he reads. A real statistic, to bring gladness to their hearts.

You see - most library patrons are female. Most librarians are female. In fact, more and more administrative staff in government, especially local government, is female. Most elected government officials are male. It's the elected guys who allocate the $$. It's the civil service staff who beg for $$. The elected guys don't even use the services they're providing $ for. Oh, now and then I'll find one who, say, wants to borrow a book, but for the most part, men tell me "I like to buy my books". I can't imagine why, since few people read a book more than once, but that's just the way it is. While at least half the people in Barnes & Nobel are guys, probably only 20% of those same guys ever use the library.

Why don't more men use libraries? It's a topic of discussion at more library meetings than you'd ever like to attend. I asked BD for his opinion and he says it's because they are such feminine institutions - like beauty parlors, or elementary schools. Who wants to go someplace where he'll run into his sister-in-law. And there are just too many little kids in libraries - almost like a day care. That's what he says. He is right about there being lots of women and children in libraries, though I'd venture to say there are no more women in the library than there are in B&N. And with public access internet computers, there are sure lots of teens. I can't figure it out - but I kept it in mind when we decorated the new building and tried to give it a sober look, since high tech just won't fit into this little colonial port town with no high tech industry and 4 lawyers for every engineer. It's very elegant, but it's sober. Well, it's not sober - it's masculine looking. And more men do come in now than ever set foot in the old cramped dark gloomy looking former school building we used to be in.

But since LD grew up spending afternoons in the library, he thinks that's the normal pattern of life. And he doesn't buy books unless he wants to read them over and over. And he loves to come in, pull some magazine off the racks, and settle down in the reading area for an hour or two. He is the perfectly trained library patron. Wherever the navy sent him, after he got his apartment, he'd go get a library card.

How did I get onto this topic?

(Bess, the ENFP, scrolls back up)

Oh yeah. Anyway, Monday he still had that tragic look in his eyes. Yesterday they were a little calmer, though still soft and seeking and vulnerable. Today we drive off to visit my folks in the city. We've always enjoyed each other's company and talk pretty freely about all sorts of things. And he doesn’t mind shopping - which is good, since I plan to buy one of those big boxes of glass beads at Michael's and some more fine gauge wire. I'm going to look for some 34 gauge since I've been knitting with 26 and it's a bit tough on my hands. I have a copy of Nancie Wiseman's Wire Knitting and I'm enthralled. I'm having visions of bracelets! Treasure chests full of knitted and strung jewelry. Mmmmm. We will probably stop by the bead shop too - if there's time. More fuel for my crafty passions.

Last night was WW. I am 1/3 through the passage between reaching my goal and becoming a lifetime member. It's a 6 week journey during which you have 2 lbs. of wiggle room. So far I've only wiggled 1/2 a lb. and that, during the worst food frenzy week of the year. I did have the oyster stew and while I only used half 'n half instead of whipping cream, I also used whole milk. And the roast beef - and all those little liqueur filled chocolates - and the Spanish cheeses from BD's brother. I will really be glad when the eating opportunities get back to normal. We had planned a party and there is a rather large store of snack foods in the cabinet - I think they shall move over to LD's house this weekend.

More sketches, hmmm? Well - I'll have to dig out the sketchbooks too. Thank you, Chelle, for the lovely compliment. I shall comply.

posted by Bess | 6:51 AM


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Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

New Year's is just around the bend and I've been toying with resolutions. Unlike most healthy thinking people, who make no resolutions, or perhaps change one thing, I usually make dozens and dozens of them. I figure, if there are enough of 'em, I'm likely to actually keep some. And in fact, they aren't really resolutions. They're action steps in a master plan for ImprovingBess. Some of them are things like 'give big party in May'. Well, in 365 days I am bound to give at least one pretty good sized party and maybe several. I haven't given a really big one, though, in 3 years. And my garden shows it. We have had terrible gardening weather for 3 years - so ... what do you expect?

As I thumbed through the 2003 pages in my DayRunner I came across little numbers penned in on certain dates. They represent the weight I wanted the scale to reveal after following my self-monitored diet. Couldn't help but smile at those. And sigh in relief that I don't have to go there this year. Oh - I'll be busy with WW, you can be sure, but I don't have to actually lose weight. It's been so many years that the previous year's calendar looked like 2003, with it's cryptic little notations, I'm not sure there actually is one that is minus the resolute numbers. How nice.

I look at my fiber stash and wonder if I ought to make resolutions about UFO's and oddball orphans or proper storage. I made quite a few last year - and I don't believe I kept a one. The only one I can actually remember was to start knitting Christmas gifts in July and I didn't do that - and resented resolving that I was going to - and spitefully did something else - dyeing roving, I think. Hmmm. I don't want scolds attached to my fiberjoy. But perhaps I will write down all the things I think I would like to do with fiber sometime in my life. It's as nice to have an inventory of ideas as it is to have the inventory of stuff.

Then there are the clutter resolutions. There have been years when I have lived in such chaos I couldn't even find peace at night. I did a major assessment of my life one year and created a little spiral bound notebook of daily tasks with charts for ticking off completed chores (well, after all, I am a Virgo). I believe it was called a flipper - it had all sorts of little "do it today" tasks for keeping your life in order. Now I think on it, though, it was my soul that was so out of order, and for a rather long time, and probably the work I've done on that has been the most productive, the most positive, I've done in a decade. (thank you Lucy)

Still, I think I will read the FlyLady website and see if I can pick up any good ideas. Okay - now - that sounds like a resolution.

The overall shabbiness of the house won't be improved till it's painted and BD has contracted for that already. We'll stay with LD on the nights when the fumes are too much for us. Some time this summer it's supposed to be all finished, since the painter told us he could only fit us in between jobs and would tackle one room at a time. Nevertheless - once that is done - things ought to look markedly better around here. In fact - maybe a big summer party...?

Maybe I’ll spend the NY holiday looking around for other areas of improvement. Oh - I don't even have to wait that long - since I've already talked to LD about actually packing up and moving out stuff in his old room. We'll tackle that after hunting season is over. It's virtually unchanged since he left for college in 1994. You would not have wanted to know me back then - god I didn't even want to know me back then. Yes - that's a place where resolve will truly be effective. Mind, now, I don't intend to erase all evidence of it’s former occupant. None of the children I know would even want to visit if they couldn't venture into that magic kingdom of William'sRoom. But those high school clothes can be removed - the wardrobe can either be refinished or dumped - that sort of thing.

The thing about NYResolutions I have always loved is that they offer such possiblities! So many opportunities. Like shopping with gift money - who knows what one might come home with - and you're not taking anything away from the family - this is your fun money. Well - we have money to spend, but we also have time to spend and I like the idea of having all those opportunities for my minutes and hours - all those possibilities.

The knitted scarf was finished - on Christmas morning before the D's were interested in presents. It's perfect in every way and is being used daily since the boat is still in the water. I'm fortunate that BD is a great wearer of my knitted gifts. I'm still knitting on LD's second sock - almost at the heel. The red scarf in FURZ was quite appreciated by its recipient and the smoky purpley mohair and silk scarf in dropped stitch, which I knit out of Jens yarn and gave to the one person I knew who was one of those white blondes, was so appreciated my heart glowed and my cheeks blushed. I gave it to the girl who does my nails - a sweet thing who went to school with LD. My eyesight is such that I really can't do an attractive job on my nails anymore. I can do a functional job, but the difference between the professional and the amateur is vast and noticeable. There is a wee bit of guilt attached to spending $ on bi-weekly manicures, but I just somehow feel that when someone else can do a better job than I, and I can afford to pay her, it's somehow juvenile of me accept the inferior just so I can claim I am saving money. It's just so easy to be cheap when there's no reason to be. Better to economize on things I can do for myself and spend $ on things I don't do all that well. Anyway, S adored the scarf, opened it in the shop full of customers and co-workers, put it on, let everybody touch and stroke and try on - and I sat smiling and demurring and lowering my eyelashes in the most southern of displays of modesty, while still allowing pride to shine through.

Eh. Well. There. I am no more noble than the next person. I got enough strokes in the nail salon to last a long, long time.

posted by Bess | 7:44 AM


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Monday, December 29, 2003  

Dear friends

Thank you so much for your sympathy at this really horrible time. You would not believe how precious the tag messages are to me. Never wonder if those seemingly small touches are insignificant or trite. They aren't. They are incredibly soothing. I didn't mean to be so melodramatic and then just disappear, but warm bodies in this house have taken precedence over keyboard activities.

Greg was LD's best friend during the years he served on the USS Albany. Shipmates tend to be pretty close anyway, but on a submarine there is an intimacy that borders on the familial. We don't live all that far from Norfolk, but we do live on a farm - not too different from Greg's home. We were welcome refuge for a homesick country boy. When, due to the duty watch, he couldn't get back to Missouri for holidays, he'd spend them with us. He was a quiet man, with just the slightest hint of laughter beneath the surface; a man of utter integrity, deep character, and a remarkable scientific mind. He earned his sterling reputation by his actions, at times overcoming snap judgments made by people who were too noisy to hear and too busy to see what he had to offer.

On Tuesday the 23rd he was involved in a traffic accident and on Christmas Eve his parents, who had driven round the clock on a nightmare journey across the country, bid him farewell. His beautiful mother told me that, though the body was still there, her son was gone. Tears are still seeping from beneath eyelids around here.

Greg was with us last Thanksgiving and had just arrived at LD's house when I walked over that morning. The image of those two happy friends, relaxed but anticipatory, laughing - ready to walk back with me, petting dogs, comparing stories, just living on this earth - is both precious and painful. Both these fellows were hearty eaters - a favorite type for the family cook because they validate all that kitchen labor. They were anxious that I would prepare enough mashed potatoes for the feast so I made sure I did. 10 lbs of potatoes make a mighty tall heap in the biggest serving bowl I own . I triumphantly set it down in front of them and my heart still warms at the memory of their glowing eyes and LD's whispered comment that “at this house you’re expected to really eat.” And so I'm sitting here weeping even now.

Well. Rats. This is why I'm taking so darn long to explain myself. It just hurts like fury. I feel like those cartoon characters that get cannon balls blown through their bodies - like a huge smoking hole goes right through me. And I know both the D's feel the same.

We went to the memorial service on the pier by the submarine on Friday - a moving ceremony for us all, though the most so for LD. Since then we have mostly just sighed and walked, and wept and talked. Lots of talking. Lots of remembering. Lots of touching on the beauty that was this stalwart, honorable, fascinating young man. He is an enormous loss to us - an even greater loss to his family - but he is a loss to all, for he would have been our tomorrow.

posted by Bess | 6:43 AM


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Saturday, December 27, 2003  

Gregory Michael Taylor

July 7, 1977 - December 24, 2003

Farewell beautiful man.
Wait for us, if you can,
Beyond the shell that freezes us in a world without you.

posted by Bess | 4:02 AM


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Thursday, December 25, 2003  


posted by Bess | 6:03 AM


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Wednesday, December 24, 2003  

Okay darlings - Did you hear Tom Brokaw last night? The four terrorist targets? Tappahannock? You know, along with Las Vegas, NYCity and D.C.? That’s me. Us. Home of the library with the best ratio of knitting books per capita you ever saw! Do check out this site:

And for more info, here is another site:

And here is the walking tour of the town:

We heard about it when a dear friend called late last night and said he'd heard it reported on the television news. We're about 100 miles south of D.C., which everybody always expects to be a target of any sort of thing, be it terrorism or tourists. Fer cryin' out loud - it's the national capital. We're also about 30 miles from Ft. A P Hill, which I have heard is beefing up - but then Bowling Green ought to be the target. And didn't the Everly Brothers have a song about Bowling Green - even though it was KY, not VA. And we're pretty near the naval weapons center at Dhalgreen - but that's still closer to A.P. Hill or even something in Maryland. Now - I have had calls from people reading the Da Vinci Code, about some clue referencing coordinates that are just north of town - and the obscure statue .... hmmm Younger Lumpkin's Lioness or Belle Bowe's Dog? They're both visible from Hwy. 17. At least, they used to be and one might speculate that Dan Brown had taken that route one day, to avoid the I95 traffic. Could that have sighted our little town on some terrorist radar? Or is it just because we are sort of Maybury U.S.A., only, within easy hittin' distance from D.C.?

But, for all that we are sort of snickering about it, there's the thread of discomfort - unease - that little frisson of tension around the Arab shopkeepers who seem to have taken over management, if not ownership, of the three little stores-cum-gas stations dotted about the county. A slightly tighter set to the teeth. If any of you saw the HBO movie Path to Paradise, about the first terrorist attack on the WTC - well - it's enough to make one pause. Essex County really has only two ethnic populations: Come Heres and Born Heres, with its subset of mostly brides; Brought Heres. I'm one of the Brought Heres. Any other group is usually represented by a single family unit who came here for a specific job. We're not that much of a population center.

Well. I am not sure what to make of it. One of the important foundation stones of my life is trust. Trust in other people, based on the assumption that most people are as honest as you expect them to be. It's not naiveté or stupidity. It's a social contract with the world that allows me the freedom to treat others well. It's based upon the concept that since most of us want similar things, most of us want to behave in a basically similar, ethical way in order to achieve them. Oh - I know there are crooks and worse out there. But if I don't assume most people want to achieve their goals without harm to me - my only other option is to assume that all people are threats.


Now I don't feel like even talking about knitting.


posted by Bess | 5:34 AM


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Tuesday, December 23, 2003  

Scrambling about weaving in ends of scarves and wrapping gifts. Except when I dawdle here. I'm a real RedRidingHood sort of gal - easily distracted - the more so at this deadline holiday season. I am giving away 3 knitted scarves this year and 3 hemmed fabric ones. A scarfish Christmas. This, from the gal who said she was making no gifts this year. Huh!

I can honestly say I am baking no gifts this year. The house lacks a certain sugary, spicy smell but the temperament and tummies of its inhabitants are much happier. We're giving a small party on Saturday and I'll do a wee bit of cooking then, and BD will cook a Virginia Ham. That is his specialty, and since it takes days and days I am glad as can be to surrender the kitchen to him.

Yesterday a woman came into the library to return a book, took one look at me, turned around and dashed out of the building. Now - I don't usually scare full grown adults, and we have known each other for years; (met her the day the dogs killed the little pig and I had to cook the whole thing immediately - a story I may actually write about some day). She taught my son 10th grade English! The other patron at the desk asked if it was something she said, but EnglishTeacher soon returned with a handful of knitting! Seems her family decided to give only homemade gifts this year and she was knitting a scarf ("the most expensive scarf you ever saw") for her niece. First project - garter stitch - Manos yarn - someone else had cast on for her - and now she didn't know how to take it off the needles.

She was very good humored about it all and said she figured at worst, her niece could frog it and make something she really liked. After showing her how to bind off I showed her the drop stitch lace stitch I am so addicted to this winter and that whetted her appetite. She left expressing the hope that I'd be teaching a class soon. Hmmm. Looks like I know what I'll be doing in January. Now - that's something to look forward to.

Today is the last day at work till Monday and I am truly ready for some days off. I'm on the last ball of Cashmerino with BD's scarf. Ought to wrap that up sometime tomorrow. I'll have the cuff of LD's sock done too and can knit on the foot when we go see my parents on Friday.

Yep, yep, that juggernaut feeling is thrumming everywhere. Ticking off items on lists. Not really thinking about how I'll get it all done. Keeping the door open to possibilities. Yep. It feels like Christmas.

posted by Bess | 6:17 AM


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Monday, December 22, 2003  

Just time to pop in and out today. I am madly knitting on scarf'nsock. One sock is finished but for closing the toe, which I shall do after said socks are given. I haven't used this yarn in a long time and don't have the recipient's foot to try it on. I don't mind ripping back and knitting a little more or less foot, but I hate picking out the Kitchener stitch. BD hovered and lingered and cuddled all day yesterday which left me no time to knit on the scarf till late, when I sat behind a chair, by the stove, while he read the paper, and kept the knitting down low in my lap. The next half hour ought to let me get going on the last ball of yarn.

I finally found out why he wanted a scarf, too, after 31 years of living with this guy! no.32 years. Wow!

All the years I've know this man he has been a sail boat man. But about 3 years ago he began the quest for the perfect motor boat. Long, winding, twisting, tortuous paths later, he finally drove home his ideal - and he has plans to take this boat out all year, except in January when we get ice. But putting about in 46 degrees with a 10 knot contrary wind is a serious cold weather sport. Shucks. I could have knit this as a seaman's scarf after all. Well - it's not going to be. And who would have known. After all, who could understand a man after only 32 years?

Was virtuously abstemious at various party functions this weekend or at least, at the food tables arrayed at these functions, and by golly, enjoyed myself tremendously.

posted by Bess | 6:29 AM


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Sunday, December 21, 2003  

Well. I didn't mean to be so revealing yesterday nor so burdensome. It still feels good to have put thoughts onto virtual paper. So good, in fact, I'm not yet ready to erase them. I can re-read what I have written and ask myself it that is how I really feel, why I do what I do, who I am? That, of course, my dears, is the ENFP forever questing, forever asking why we exist at all, anyway. And there is that other question: Why do I blog? And what are my responsibilities as a Blogger? How much is too much - information? detail? When does it become gossip or betrayal or whining? But truly, I am not suffering - merely living. I thank those of you who felt the urge to respond and I appreciate that gift of lightening a load I wasn't altogether aware I was carrying. Trash pick-up is tomorrow.

Eh. Well. Self-pondering can be a good thing for occupying a mind in a gloomy state, while cleaning house - and that was yesterday. Today is new and I am back at Tara anyway, so I can think about other things. Better things. Like: Will I finish the Christmas scarf? (yes) the Christmas socks? (doubt it) and is there time to order the rib roast? (probably) and who is left on the list to call about the party on the 27th? (let's let BD do it)

Okay - that takes care of the philosophy of today. Or at least, half of today, since the other half will be spent among other people in other houses. Part of the rush yesterday was to get the Christmas tree up and decorated. This is almost always my job and my delight - for BD has his own issues when it comes to holiday rituals. I like a BIG tree - that is in the way all the time and holds every ornament we've ever collected. Last year we cut a very small tree and I was dissatisfied with it all season. This year we picked a compromise size tree - about 8 feet tall and not too full but rather beautifully proportioned. Our trees are spruce pines taken from cutover areas, either beneath power lines or along White Oak Swamp - which was the woodlot each of the farms down here got a portion of. Only Melvin Clark's farm actually boarders it, and John Allen's, I suppose, since the road divides those two properties. LD lives at John Allen's (funny how a place retains a name long after the owner dies and the property's sold).

Three types of pines grow around here, if you don't count the White Pines that people grow as screens. The Rosemary pine, which is what people call the original pine found in these parts, is fairly rare and when found, is already quite a substantial tree. The Loblolly is the crop tree grown for either lumber or pulp, usually depending on when it's cut. The spruce is the volunteer that pops up when a piece of timberland has been cut. It's a short needle pine with many branches - if it grows in the sun. It is almost always crowded together with other things leaping out of newly sun-warmed soil, and so the individuals tend to have branches only on the side that gets sunlight. It's not till they have some height on them that they thicken up.

We put our tree in the corner, though, and a one-sided tree is just what we are looking for - something that has had plenty of sunshine on one side, with thick branching and lots of green. Of course, these are wild-grown trees so there are always gaps in them. For years I bit my lip and accepted the fact that I would never have a perfect symmetrical tree with a theme to its decorations. Now I'm secretly pleased that nobody has a Christmas tree quite like this - with as many as 10 balls on any given branch, some of which dangle from great long ribbons, filling the inevitable gaps. It's so full of toys that little kids love to visit and play with it. Most adults think it's weird looking - but that is because they look at too many magazines. And the folk with laughter in their eyes appreciate its unique appearance.

Magnificent ERIC of Blogger Help Desk told me (within an hour or so of my email) that the problem with my apostrophes and quotation marks comes from writing my post on MSWord, which BD has set to produce curlyquotes. Blogger reads them as ASCII symbols. Since I can't spell worth a hoot, I have to use a wp program and since BD writes for a living, it would be WoeUntoMe if I forgot to change the flat quotes back to curlyquotes, always assuming I could figure out how to make the change in the first place, an added chore has been tacked onto this activity. But at least I know what the problem is and a fiddly-bits task for these few paragraphs isn't all that onerous.

Ahh - Is that a blue cashmerino scarf I hear calling me. I must be off, then. Adieu mes amis.

posted by Bess | 7:24 AM


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Saturday, December 20, 2003  

It feels like I have had things looming for so long I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever just live my life again. Daddy's health; the IssueThatWon'tDie at work; hurricanes! Yesterday we helped beloved H move her things out of her soon to be ex's house. True to the mental state of anybody living through the death of a marriage, she hadn't a clue how much stuff she had to move, which turned out to be mountains, unpacked; though she was sure she had sorted and tossed and packed it all. Well - no divorce is easy and this is as hard as anyone else's. We are all the close family younger than 60 that she has and thank goodness both my Ds are guys with big strong shoulders and backs and arms, who already know how to drive trucks with more than 3 gears. It was an exceedingly difficult evening - all 5 hours of it - both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, when I saw how much there was to do and how totally unable to manage the doing of it H was, it was as if I could step outside of the situation and see things differently - more maternally - more sympathetically, but with more poignant awareness of the utter sadness swirling 'round. Tension was heavy, clumsy; directions were scattered. And there was really nothing to do but to plow through it.

Those who know and love me know that I do not do controversy. I pick my battles after long deliberation - or when they attack some core value deep within me - something which can't be abrogated and survived. I don't believe this means I am weak or wishy-washy. I believe it is because I tend to see bigger pictures and find that most issues are rarely of significant import to the final outcome. Those who enjoy the energizing effect of an argument (debate, do they call it? philosophical expostulations?) find little joy in my company. Most of the people who are adamant about everything are just that - adamant about everything. "You never buy strawberry ice-cream" and "I only like vanilla ice-cream". Sigh. All sides are alike to them - and any side is worthy of loud defense. In the end, the adamants of the world merely remind me of the answer to the Green Knight's riddle - Everyone wants to have his way.

But of all the controversies I avoid, other people's marital conflicts reign supreme in the list of utterly duckable situations. I don't feel the need to rush in and make your life better. I don't want to advise you on how to go about solving the problem, settling the score, or seeking revenge. I don't want to be part of it. Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, "... every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". As such, my advice would be pretty worthless. I don't even admire those folk who want to rush in and help whenever a friend is struggling. And here is the crux of what is sitting on my stomach and gnawing at my emotions these days.

I had a beloved aunt - she was the darling of the family. It was family so riddled with jealousies and competition I thought it was unique in it's dysfunctionality until I grew up and found out that all families are nutty as pecan groves. But to be loved by this aunt, to be graced by her favor, to be in her company, was one of the few safe things about going to Grandmas. She was the only aunt I had who, when she looked at me, didn't frighten me; the only one into whose lap I would be willing to climb. She enjoyed loving. She also was a fixer - a taker-in of strays - a sympathetic ear and shoulder to anyone in need. And when I was 8 she offered that sympathy - and the haven of her house - to a neighbor with an abusive husband. And when he came after the woman with bullets, it was my aunt who was killed, my uncle who was wounded, and the neighbor who got away - 2 weeks before Christmas of 1960.

Of course such an incident was bound to alter the entire family. It cast the threat of danger over a holiday season for all of us. Like all the others, it left me with grief and loss and fear. And in my case, a little anger, that the only kind person in that slightly frightening family had gone and sacrificed her life for some neighbor I didn't even know! Who wasn't even kin! It fed my natural repugnance for "fixing" others; proof that you can not make someone else's life better - he must do it himself; dried up any crusading zeal within me to advise you how to do it right. It somewhat shut down the generosity that twines with the busibody-ness weaving through the hearts of the helpers of this world. And it utterly dried up any sympathy I might otherwise have for such victims who fall into the clutches of abusers - who invariably hook up with just the sort of person who will fill their lives with the thrill of danger and the threat of pain, who glamorize their lives with their martyrdom until some helper gets shot. It is no surprise to me that domestic calls are the ones the police dread the most. And you can believe - I do not linger when couples begin to quarrel. Even my own parents are bid cheshire-cat-like farewells as I fade away at the onset of their bickerings. Oh - it is stupid, I know, to feel like any fight might escalate into a shooting match and I would be the innocent bystander. I know this. But I don't feel it. You can be sure, even though I hasten to state that the Soon To Be X is not an abuser, walking into that house last night was an extreme act of courage for me. And it has left me drained.

This is a far more personal issue than I have ever posted about before. I'm still not sure I will leave it up for long, because such a tale is a burden to others. But I have been able to exorcise several other demons of my youth by telling the tale to people who, while politely willing enough to listen, don't need to care. They are able to take a tiny bit of the pain connected with the tale away with them, and as they go, they just toss it into the trash can. It doesn't have to linger in their souls a moment, but the telling of it does diminish my own load. Eventually, I have been able to give away entire "traumas" to other people - till the day comes when I look around for an old fear, or an ancient, destructive habit, and realize - it is gone!

I believe that's what I am doing right now.



Thank you. The trash can is by the door.

posted by Bess | 6:47 AM


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Friday, December 19, 2003  

Wonder why blogger didn't like my apostrophes yesterday. Sure looked strange.

I haven't really anything much to post today. Still working on the basket weave cashmere scarf for BD and the socks for LD. I'm enjoying them both too, but I'm knitting like a kid with ADHD and not getting much done. I haven't finished Christmas cards either but I believe I have shopped all I am going to, other than groceries. In a moment of boredom yesterday I took a peek at and nearly - did something embarrassing - because they have several interesting items in the under $3 a skein category. Mmmmm. It's hard to resist. Mmmmmm I have spent so extravagantly on myself this autumn it is absolutely evil of me to think of spending more on yarn and more on me. Sometimes I can live quite comfortably with certain evils.

I have a thought to write about Christmas movies and books because I have such a strong emotional reaction to them. I also have this scarf I could be knitting on and .... even without the usual sugar high of Christmas, I'm utterly distractible these days. Sigh. Imagine - I can't even blame it on too much sugar. I shall blame it on Mercury in retrograde.

Still - there are two favorite Christmas tales for me - one is White Christmas, the movie, with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. I love this movie - utterly absolutely love it - and weep through the whole thing. I've never quite put my finger on why that movie chokes me up so, though I suspect some of it has to do with the face of the general, played by Dean Jagger. Well - with the whole role of the man, but particularly his face. Hmmmm. Wonder if we new each other in a previous life?

My daddy was a WWII vet and retired from the army reserves, so there was a faint cast of military life, ever present in my childhood. Everything that was my parents’ world before I met them seemed wrapped up in that movie. All the nostalgia of my own childhood feels woven through it as well, since it was the one sure bet to be on television during the Christmas season in 1950's and '60's Richmond. I was grown before I saw either Miracle on 37th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life. My sisters and I quickly learned the words to the duet "Sisters" and could get absolutely giddy singing it. I was entranced with Vera-Ellen's dancing. Was she the prototype for the first Barbie? My goodness, I would have traded my soul for her body - though sadly, she was an anorectic. I just thought she was beautiful to watch in motion. I already had bad ankles by the time I was 11 and to see her prance around in those high heels!!!!

The other important piece of Christmas literature in my Decembers is Ferrol Sams marvelous book Christmas Gift. The book is marvelous - it is the Christmas of the south - but if you can get hold of the audio version, you can hear Sams read his own work and then you will also be blessed with one of the most beautiful of the southern accents - rural Georgia. Sams is one of those writers who was not prolific but the half dozen books he wrote are pure reading bliss. There is so much love in that man that he fills every page with the graceful beauty of jeweled thought.

Our library has an audio copy and right after Thanksgiving a certain librarian checks it out and plays it in her car for three weeks - over and over - listening to the cadence of this rich fruity voice as it tells of Pa Jim and Bubba Hugh and getting Christmas Gift on the Bearcat; of Amalgamation Cake and Roman Candles and little girls who took from refined and corseted women who up their parlors and taught; about the fascination of a relative with characteristics about which we didn’t speak, and about passing along the traditions of a family from generation to generation. Viewed through the haze of the author’s memory - it is the image of Christmas I hold dearest out of all written accounts and if I could not have been me, I would have liked to have been a Sams.

I finally did return the tape to the library - but of course - it's pretty late in the season - it may not draw any attention this year. If someone comes in, I'll recommend it - but one never knows, it may be taken off the display shelf in January and disappear into the back of the stacks for another 11 month sleep before once again riding the back roads of Essex County in the chill December evenings.

posted by Bess | 5:29 AM


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Thursday, December 18, 2003  

Thank you all for your many kind words. They are warm and welcome to my heart.

posted by Bess | 6:44 AM


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Not much knitting info to report. Plugging away in dribs and drabs on both knitted gifts. I stupidly forgot my knitting on the bus trip to Richmond with E but I’m not sure I could have knit much anyway - been a long time since I rode on a school bus - no wonder I get motion sickness at carnival rides - full of 1st and 2nd graders. Woo woo. What I did remember was how to fold those fortune teller/cootie catcher things and how important it is to be the first kid in your class to have something cool that also predicts the future. E is really cool right now.

Predicting the future. How mankind longs to know what will happen next. Every culture develops its own magic for it and adopts as many others as it can discover. As a teen I learned palm reading, tarot reading and dabbled a bit with horoscope casting. Never very skillful - but full of the silly fun of demonstrating (evidently the urge to teach is born in some), I learned one of the most important lessons about how to treat other people when I was playing with future casting. I was reading the palm of one of the boys I knew and stupidly said “Oh. What a short lifeline. You’re going to dye young!�

What a stupid thing to do. To say. That poor boy was absolutely devastated. Nothing I said subsequently, had any power to lift the weight of such a carelessly, teasingly tossed off comment. I couldn’t believe he would actually believe me - I was just a stupid 16 year old girl who read a book in the library!! It’s just stuff - a parlor game, right?

Truth is - I don’t remember seeing much of him afterwards - though I may have. But think about this - 1968, a boy, not any great shakes as a student - everybody knew those boys’ future held nothing but Viet Nam. Well, when we were both in our 40’s I heard him interviewed on the radio so I know that he at least made it to the dawn of middle age.

But I just never thought. What I saw as silly play and fairy tale dress-up, this poor guy latched on to as if it were stone tablets. That’s when I realized that many, if not most, people are living in fear, full of bogeymen demons, longing for some sort of assurance that it’s going to be all right. And if I was going to play at being the AllWiseOne and tease people with my ability to predict the future, by gum, I had better only give them good futures. - And knowing this - E‘s fortune teller had 8 funny and good fortunes and no mean ones.

BTW - all you Virgos out there - January is to be full of fireworks in our house of romance.

posted by Bess | 6:39 AM


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Wednesday, December 17, 2003  

Yippee! I did make my goal yesterday and am now in phase II of the WW program - 6 weeks of maintenance with 2 pounds of wiggle room. It was a very very happy evening for me too. I’m glad I waited to share it with some special people - the sort who laughed happily when I danced about in stocking feet and the sleeveless summer outfit I started out in. No quarter given to clothes last night.

Necia - at least you knit your sweaters. You’ve no idea how much stash I have to knit sweaters “when I’m smaller, so I don’t have to use so many stitches”! One of the first projects I’m going to make is the baseball style jacket out of K1C2’s doucer et sois (gad, how is that stuff spelled?) mohair with the matching DK wt. wool yarn for the bands. And the red eyelash cropped sweater with the glitter gold trim. And the repeat of Flidas in the teal Brown Sheep wool&mohair.

Well, forgive the giddiness.

But it is true - and I oh-so-identify with Catherine, who forgets that she doesn’t have the body she used to have till she has to put something new on it. yep yep yep.

Well, looks do matter and looks are frivolous at the same time. Just the way the world is.

I also frogged the seaman part of the seaman’s scarf and knit the frogged yarn back using the basketweave pattern. This will take 3 balls and I’m into ball #2. Gonna take some fast needles to finish this and the socks but I’m pretty sure they’ll get done. I got new glasses on Monday, with a shorter focal length so I can see my knitting much better - helps stave off fatigue.

It’ll be a long day since I’m accompanying beloved goddaughter and her 2nd grade class to see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We haven’t seen a lot of each other this fall and I miss her terribly. Instead of taking the day off, though, (what was I thinking of???) - I merely swapped with the evening staff so here it is, HumpDay the week before Christmas and I’m putting in a 13 hour day. I must be out of my mind!

Eh. But - I’m still grinning about my success so really, it’s not so bad. But no more time to linger here.

posted by Bess | 6:13 AM


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Tuesday, December 16, 2003  

Lawsee - quarter to 6 already - so what do I do now? I’ve been knitting on a seaman’s scarf - which I think is a logical design - but it is for
MrConservativeLikesEverythingSoLongAsPawpawDidIt and I just imagine him hating the ribbed neckband. (I also imagine him hating being labeled a conservative) It doesn’t look like a scarf. Papa never had a scarf that looked like that. To rip or not to rip - that is the question.

Angst like this over gifts is pretty stupid, but I continue to indulge in it anyway. This is why I always swear and talk and mutter about not making knitted items as gifts - except for knitters - who appreciate what is going on - are interested in innovative ideas - want to see what I’ve been up to - appreciate it for itself and don’t look at it as some sort of comment on them. I know all this - I know I should not put my heart into each gift I make - I even write about it. Heh! and I fall right into the trap every year.

What an idiot.

Eh, well - it is good for people to see me in all my stupidity. Not much opportunity for disappointment then.

I am making BD‘s scarf out of Debbie Bliss’ Cashmarino Aran - which is my new favorite yarn. It’s got that bouncy plush feeling of Aurora8 but it doesn’t split, though it is a multi-strand yarn. I think it is the microfiber content that makes the strands behave. It’s really plush feeling and it’s blue. Yep yep - I quit using the greige/taupe stuff in my stash, because it didn’t make my eyes happy.

Scarves are wonderful to wear and very stylish but I think they are boring to make - so I am glad traditional men’s scarves are short. Even if I do rip, and I really think I shall, it’s just not all that much knitting to do.

Brain cells all around me are beginning to shut down about now - and tensions are mounting. I am seeing snarling going on all over the place - typical Christmas nerves. Since I love Christmas so much and enjoy all it’s possibilities - I am completely flummoxed when I see it bring out the nastiest stuff in otherwise fairly reasonable people. I post on two boards and on both of them, spats have caused shoulder flouncing and foot stamping. Posters who fling out “Good bye cruel world I’m off never to return you wound me so” always make me laugh. I’m inclined to think “good - then I shan’t have to read any more of your angst”. In fact - if I have a clue - I won’t read this sort of post to begin with. Once a comment on a recipe slides into a rant on global agriculture, I exercise my click options. It is not that I think people ought not to post such things - it is that I don’t care to read them. I like my misery and anxiousness to be closer to home - like - will BD be disappointed in the scarf if it doesn’t look like a real scarf.

Think I’ll go froggin’.

posted by Bess | 6:15 AM


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Monday, December 15, 2003  

All about weight - not knitting

Okay darlings. I spent so much time writing this letter to a WW buddy that I’m not inclined to write about anything else. It’s no news that I’ve been working on a body project for 6 months so here’s what is going on with me right now. This is where all my literary energies went this morning.

Hello Sweetie

... chatty stuff ...

Right now I'm chewing my nails because, although I have been below my goal weight for almost 2 weeks - this morning, on my home scales - I can see I am just slightly above it. Now - what the HHHHHHH?????? is going on! Is it psychological weight gain? Is it Holiday Jinx? I've been doing step aerobics at home for 2 days. This uses different muscles from those the treadmill and elliptical trainer use. I can really feel it in my outer thighs. They feel stretched and have that slightly pulled feeling you get when you start a new routine. I know that when you stretch a muscle in a new way, it actually tears a little and fills up with a water cushion till it gets used to the effort. Am I retaining water? I've tried really hard this weekend to stay OP - have I been too strict? too generous with overestimating the AP's?

Weigh in is on Tuesday. I could have weighed in on Saturday at a different meeting and been at goal. Am I going to NOT MAKE GOAL?? this week because of hubris? rats rats rats!

Should I eat nothing for the next 2 days? Work out extra hard? Eat the same? Stop working out and let the muscles release water?

Man - do I feel frustrated - irked - pissed off - sad - doubtful - confused - gypped - I feel like a caged lion, roaring loudly in protest.

And honey - even as I write this - I feel about as silly as I can be.

Why? Because:

1. I'm thinner than I've been since I was in my mid 30's
2. I have the most fantastic velvet Christmas outfit and a party to wear it to
3. I can almost wear the last piece of clothing I ever bought in the junior department, way back in 1987; a pair of size 11 twill jeans. They're only the slightest bit tight about the waist.
4. Most important of all - over the next 30 or 40 years it won't make a whit of difference if I make my goal before Christmas of 2003 or after.

Oh - I know it's a disappointment. But it's not really all that important - what is important is that I am slimmer and fitter and happier with my body, my self, my looks, than I have been in years and years and years. In fact - I am so slim and trim now - I am not sure it is really me.

This brings up one of the most unusual aspects of a big weight loss. It's the mind set that has wrapped around the idea of being a fat woman. Have I come to believe that I will always be a fat woman? Is the idea of weight loss for me - alien? Do I really think that this slender me is only a temporary aberration. It's been several months since I've thought about this - but when I started this journey I couldn't even set a goal because I was so nervous about losing a lot of weight and then putting it back on - because I was born to be a fat woman. If you saw my family you would think "oh. fat people". I'm used to them and I love them, and they are beautiful to me, so in my eyes they are not extraordinarily fat, but the truth is - we all have dumpy short-waisted fat bodies. And fat cheeks and double chins. All except me, for now, that is.

You know the three body types. Endomorphic, ektomorphic and mesomorphic. Well, my family has the endomorphic body type. The fat one. But in fact, for many years I was a slim woman, 5'6", big boned, broad shouldered, weighing between 140=145, wearing the old size 12, which is a size 10 now. I have never looked "skinny" because I am big busted and curvy. But I was trim, fit and stylish. Since I matured in the Twiggy era, I felt fat even when I was not, and learned to disguise my figure using color, line, cut, etc. As I gained weight in my 40's I still used those skills to look my best. Photographs would sometimes force me to admit how big I was becoming - eventually 200 lbs. When I would lose some weight I'd get that same feeling of being trim and stylish. But then the weight would begin to creep back on. I've lived between 170 and 190 since about 1997 or 98. I honestly never thought I'd get down below 150 again. It was only this summer, as WW began to really work for me - without leaving me starving or having to skip festive events or feeling deprived - only feeling careful - that I began to dream of those size 11 jeans.

I feel a little embarrassed that I care so darn much about how I look. And believe me - looks are the primary motive in this whole process. OH I can say the words about health and diabetes and fitness and heart rate and all that - I even try hard to embrace them. But it’s not true. The primary motivating factor here is appearance. Perhaps that is why I have such trouble believing. I honestly don't know if I am going to be able to feel like I am a slim woman instead of a fat one in a skinny disguise. I just don't know how things are going to pan out in the future.

What I do know is that the weight issue will always be with me. Like dyslexia. Like bad ankles. Like old lady eyes that need glasses. I'm not going to "get there" and poof - I'll be done and will be able to put it in a box on the shelf. The issue really is “who am I?” (oh god - ENFP again! Man - I am so to the letter an ENFP - like a caricature of a personality type) Anyway - the issue is self definition and let’s face it, a big part of the definition of me is: A woman who will be working with this issue forever. I just intend the issue to be between 145 - 150 lbs, instead of between 170-190.

So - thanks for listening to my diatribe. Looks like I may not get the Christmas present I wanted - to hit goal. But I swear - when I waltz into that party on Sunday, in burgundy velvet and glittery gold, in open toe sandals with heels - I promise you, I will SASHAY!! And if I can't get one gift - I sure can get another.

posted by Bess | 7:01 AM


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Sunday, December 14, 2003  

Why God Gave Us Yarn Shops

Just in case you needed the answer immediately - in case you didn’t know - in case you haven’t time to read the entire post in order to achieve enlightenment -

It is so that one can find comfort - of course.

Like - when your soon to be ex-MIL is picking up your daughter and the last time you saw her was at your kid’s school and she ripped you up one side and down, in front of all the parents of your child’s schoolmates, most of whom have met your soon-to-be-ex and wonder how you two ever got together in the first place - and you aren’t sure if she’s going to even bring your kid back, but your lawyer said you can’t refuse her request and so you get your cousin to be there with you and when you’re blinking back tears, as the car drives away, your cousin can say, “Wanna go to the yarn shop?”

That’s why.

And that is also why God gives other people a blank-slate sort of day - so you can take your cousin to the yarn shop.

Which we did after the Christmas Parade. There is something so festive, so happy about a Christmas Parade in a small town. In a teensy weensy town. Where half the people on the street watching are your cousins or your friends or your co-workers, and the other half are your clients or patrons or students. All the church Sunday schools have floats and there are umpteen Little Miss (and Mr.) Snow Queen (or King), all dressed in white and the local fire department’s Miss Flame - who gets her title not for her beauty, though she’s dressed in an evening gown and her mother’s wool coat (do you know a single teenager with a wool coat these days? of course not - it’s down jackets or parkas), but because she collected the most money for the fire department last summer. Of course they are beautiful the way anybody so young, and with access to the makeup counter at Wal*mart, is. Ahh - I used to go watch the sports events when LD was in high school and gape at the beauty of 16 year olds. How gorgeous their skin, their supple limbs, the plain and the ones with perfect bone structure - they all have this energetic glow of youth and ... lawsee - if they only had a clue of how gorgeous they really were - how much less angst they would suffer. Eh. And probably how awful it would be for us geezers to have perfectly beautiful youth combined with the power that comes with comprehension - but without the judgment that comes from survival.

Anyway - we waved and shouted Merry Christmas at everyone and met up with the S2BX MIL and after hugs and sighs and looks of determination - we toddled off to Fredericksburg. This was H‘s first trip to this shop - and it was the perfect shop to visit on a stiff upper lip sort of day. It’s in an old house on the dividing line between the commercial and the residential part of downtown. It’s also a straight line direct shot from Highway 17 to the block the shop is on so it’s really a breeze to get there. The architecture of the building is warm with lots of front room windows and a porch strung with icicle lights. At a little after 4 p.m. on a December afternoon, dusk was already hinting so the lighted windows looked particularly welcome. Inside are all the colors and textures of what looks rather like some millionaire’s private stash. I’ve always liked the way Nancy arranges the shop - What once was the living room has the trunk shows, rocking chairs by a fire place draped with shawls, one low set of shelves filled with yarns. She has a glass front counter where the cash register is and inside are the exotica - a little display of combinations of things - glitter yarn with mohair, or buttons laid atop a rich wool. The former dining room has the basic wools, a central display of samples, patterns, and perhaps a basket of yarns the samples were knit from, the Collinette stuff, the gorgeous classic elite - and this year - a lace merino that I really lusted after. In the room that was the former glassed in porch are the scarf yarns and books. In the passage between the living room and the back room are the sale things and needles plus a full length mirror where you can try on a sample and see if you like it. The back room has baby stuff - and baby books - and sample baby and kid sweaters and blankets.

The whole shop is warm and cozy and friendly and Nancy is as friendly as her shop. She’s a former gym teacher, tall and fit and athletic looking - and obviously having just so darn much fun in her new career. We spent an hour and a half touching, sitting on the floor, putting colors together, scrutinizing the needles, the buttons, the books and magazines. Lawsee me, the magic that texture and color can work on a wounded spirit. WE were giggling before we’d left the shop. A customer asked “are you actually buying or just getting a fix?” and we laughingly lifted our selections high.

Or rather, H’s selections, because I only bought one small ball of a novelty yarn I intend to knit into a scarf with some fluffy eyelash I have at home, though, not for me and not now. I just knew they were a perfect match. I am SO glad I did that inventory of my fiber stuff right after T’giving. It would be so easy to buy more yarn - there is so much beautiful stuff - and in fact - I’m not saying I am NOT buying more yarn - but just wee tad bits, not real buying as in $130 for that lust-inducing drop-dead gorgeous recycled silk and mohair sweater kit........ groaan

So - we toddled on home and spent the next couple hours knitting. H hasn’t knit in months so it was good to have her old teacher near by, in case she had any questions. She had a good 6 inches of the absolutely perfect scarf she’d been wanting to knit for her ogArchiveURL$>'><$BlogArchiveName$>

posted by Bess | 8:18 AM


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Saturday, December 13, 2003  


Done shopping.

At least, I have no reason to leave town to produce Christmas and that’s as good as being done. There will be some grocery shopping - and the Darlings like those baskets full of luxury foods - only they like me to make them up myself. And the foods need not be all that luxurious - a couple of cans of smoked oysters - a chunk of good Stilton from the little W&C shop across the river. Rather fun, supports the local economy, and doesn’t’ require 2 hours in the car.

There is one more sort of shopping to do - and that is with BD. I call it tag-along shopping. It is the only sort of shopping I like to do with him. For some reason, when it comes to actually putting the money down - I’m rather furtive. Or, to put it in a kinder light, I prefer to be alone. I have a couple of girlfriends I can shop with, though, even with them I feel the weight of compromise. We must split the time we spend at every counter, shop, even over every item, with some level of equity. At least they can understand why I might want to go to a particular shop or linger over a particular item. With BD it is impossible to even explain what the hey....?!?!?! Since I don’t shop at either immoral or illegal places, I don’t feel like explaining. I am reminded of a magnificent quote from a beloved author whose father would answer, when probed for the source of a particularly fine jug of corn whiskey: “If you like that whiskey, by God, then drink it” I feel same with BD. If he likes the results, then enjoy it. Don’t ask how they are achieved.

So, when I am really spending, I go alone. And when I go “shopping” with BD, it is to keep him company, go to places I otherwise wouldn’t, and enjoy watching his taste unfold. Hmmm. I wonder if he might enjoy watching my taste unfold. Never thought about that. Ahh the discoveries one makes when ideas flow from the fingertips.

Nevertheless, I am not inclined to change now. It has taken 31 years of marriage to allow the ever patient one to even see me put on makeup - I don’t believe the chance to witness my brain unfold when shopping will ever happen.

At the moment, though, the weekend lies open like a brand new diary - blank pages, clean, white, full of possibility. Since SomeoneElse cleaned the house, there is only laundry to do and that doesn’t require much attention, only small bits of time spread out over several hours. There are gifts to knit, (I know, I know, but I never promised to keep my promises to myself, for goodness sake, besides they are half done) and gifts to pack and Christmas cards to write - and lovely walks to take and oh any number of pretty things to occupy my weekend. And nothing onerous waiting on Monday. Only beautiful hours of life to pluck as they ripen, to savor in all their sweet richness.

posted by Bess | 8:29 AM


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Friday, December 12, 2003  

Ready to turn the heel on LD‘s sock - I’ll do that before I leave for the city shopping extravaganza. Dithering over the scarf pattern too - I suppose I’ll just knit to the widest point and make my decision about altering it then. It’s just too difficult for me to know for sure if it’s going to look balanced or cramped.

It’s also difficult for me to work with a yarn that, no matter how delicious it feels - is basically a color I find uninspiring. It’s not ugly - mind you - it’s lovely for a blonde, which BD once was. It’s taupe. What can I say. No warmth in it. No snugly coziness. I’ve had this yarn for years and never used it because it just doesn’t ignite the sensual response I’m looking for in my pleasure experiences. The joke is it would look really good on BD - just like navy blue. But at least blue is a color - albeit impossible to see in my dimly lit, heavily porched house. Hmmm. Well. We shall all know tomorrow - what will happen to the scarf.

Reading some of my favorite blogs has me thinking about Christmas cooking - and cooking in general. The recipe I sent Annie was one of my own devising - grew out of spaghetti sauce - but, like lots of home cooking recipes, probably developed one evening when I didn’t have any spaghetti but did have macaroni. It’s LD‘s favorite recipe - the first one he asked for when he moved into his own apartment. It’s also something I consider easy to cook - though I suppose frozen TV dinners are the only really easy recipes and they require a microwave - which I don’t have. There is also a rotary dial phone in the kitchen, but the wood cookstove was sent to the cabin years ago. This is a little house in the big woods.

Usually in December I go into cookie gear. This year I’m trying to avoid that. I may not completely succeed - but I’m sort of hoping LD will do the honors. He said he thought he might and truth to tell - I just don’t want the house full of festive fare. I’ve been 6 months on WW and am still pretty new at it all - not so much dieting, as living without all the junk food. Use to be that December mostly meant 31 days of a low grade upset stomach topped by a blissfully happy mouth. I'm just not in the mood for that this year.

No doubt about it - I was born to respond to advertising images. Cover of Southern Living books? You betcha - mouth watering, nostrils flaring - I can hear the clink of glasses at the party and feel the sensuous cling of stretch velvet as I toss my hair back and throw out some witty comment, languidly cradling my champagne glass, flirting outrageously with my companion. Those glorious cut-out cookies with royal frosting decorations? Uh Huh - and the little taffeta flounced children gathered ‘round me in my colonial repro kitchen, their eyes sparkling with wonder at the shine of the dragees we use to decorate the tree shaped sugar confections?

‘Course, we all know the stretch velvet shows all the bulges and the only thing I’ve tossed is the champagne, down the front of my blouse - and the kids are whining and the royal icing makes the air so full of sugar your teeth grow fur.

But those images!!! How they set us up for expectations that - well - it would be fun if they could be fulfilled - but I suspect that only happens in movies from the ‘40’s. And when I contemplate heading off to the kitchen and digging out the bowls and pans - my stomach sort of clutches. Actually - in years past it has sort of cramped and twisted most of December. Funny - I’ve noticed this year that my stomach has cramped up on me even just looking at the holiday magazines. Well - it is all a journey - this weight loss thing - and I guess I’ll just let it happen as it will.

Anyway - the cooking will occur - but not the fortylevendyhundred cookies - and we will have the party, but in my house, it’s the sort where pillows are tossed on the floor and teenagers lounge on the staircase and wee ones will play with the magical toys in William’s Room. Old guys still linger around the food table, but BD will cook the ham and friends will bring potluck type dishes. And so help me - every leftover is going home with LD.

It’s off to the city for me now - or at least, in about an hour or so - and I must make a shopping list.

posted by Bess | 6:51 AM


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Thursday, December 11, 2003  

Well, well - though Saturn, that goal oriented task-master is telling me to hustle along towards my personal grail, the link between Venus and Jupiter reminds me that romance is in the air and I can let my hair down a bit, have some fun today. Thank you heavenly bodies. I am just in the mood for that.

Both of yesterday afternoon’s meetings were not only productive, but proof that HrrrrHighness needs external structure to get things done. Normally folk ‘round here don’t even hold meetings in December unless they are the cheese ball/double chocolate mint brownie/eggnog type of meetings. Clubs gather in people’s homes, or don’t gather at all, work is left for February because, you know, “the weather is so unpredictable in January.”

Only in the south - at least, only in Virginia, that buffer to all the rest of the south, against sleet and snow and cold north winds, is the month of January pretty much crossed out of people’s lives. We also do this in the summer, but that’s a different weather related phenomenon. Because we get so little snow, there is rarely enough money in state and local highway budgets to shove it out of the way. Because it is possible to go 2 or 3 or even 4 years without even seeing any snow cluster on the lawn, everybody forgets how to drive in inclement weather. A few dancing flakes appear on a gray afternoon and the schools are closed. Long after the roads are clear, they remain so, because once some inexperienced bus driver got stuck trying to pick up three pre-schoolers who lived down a forest lined tertiary backroad. The only people bold enough to go out on icy roads around here are teens and ladies, of a certain age, who drive enormous Bucks right up to the curb, and then maybe a little bit onto it, and perhaps smack into the bookdrop. It is better to stay closed.

I love living in Virginia.

As to my glorious sense of freedom - ah yes - well - the meetings were short, fast paced, productive, friendly and energizing. Scot Adams, eat your heart out. All the work done last week is now just that: done. No guilty return from the Christmas holidays suffering that foreboding feeling of looming panic - how will I ever get that done - besides, we’re shut down for snow! There is nothing with a deadline hanging over it, till January, so I am waltzing happily the rest of the month. That golden glow you see in the east/north/south is my beaming smile as I prepare to wallow in festive happiness.

My mama used to say “can’t you just like something - must you always LOVE everything?”

Alas. I can’t. Even when I appear neutral, noncommittal or non-judgmental, it’s just a ruse. I am a Virgo, after all, and have opinions on everything. I am sure I am right, too. I don’t necessarily have to make these truths known to the world, but I acknowledge them to myself, nonetheless.

And right now I am unabashedly happy and filled with LOVE!

Did a wee bit of knitting on BD‘s scarf yesterday. I found a darling twisted stitch anchor at the back of Barbara Walker’s first treasury (And told BD I want a copy of that book for my Christmas gift.) so I’m experimenting with that as the sole decoration on his scarf. I’m not sure if I made the scarf wide enough for the design - so may narrow the design down a tad. I’ll know once I’ve finished the motif, if I like it enough to make a second one for the other end. It’s 32 stitches wide and the whole scarf is only 36. I don’t want it to be so wide the wings of the anchor look like they’re dropping off the edge of the scarf. And it only left me 4 stitches for the garter band on the side. but it doesn’t seem all that hard to make the anchor say - 2 or 4 stitches narrower. Well, I shall know after the weekend.

BTW - I’m using that Aurora8 in my stash, the stuff that might be called wheat colored, but I am sure is really taupe. Goodness that stuff feels sweet on your fingers.

Beloved friends are sending me gifts and, though I have at least gathered my own offerings, none of them are wrapped or packaged for shipping. That will have to be another weekend task. Fortunately, someone else will be cleaning my house for me today. And I’m taking tomorrow off to go Christmas shopping - alone. I can blitz through the stores and linger only where I want - prowl to my heart’s delight and, I believe, even fit in a visit with the folks. I shan’t tell them, so they can enjoy the surprise.

Yes yes. I am ready for pleasure. Ready to enjoy it and ready to wish it for the rest of the world.

posted by Bess | 7:44 AM


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Wednesday, December 10, 2003  

So, here it is 4 a.m. and I’m prowling around the house like a Christmas mouse. This is the result of a whacked out schedule and 3 - count ‘em - 3 cups of coffee after 6 months of only one a day, thank you, plus a disgusting number of business workshop sweets. My poor body does not like this one whit.

For those who know me, it is no news that I don’t “do” 95. That is, I don’t drive north of Fredericksburg on Interstate 95. This is a severe handicap, since there are some gloriously special people (Yes, Lissa, sweetie, you are one of them) who live not more than 90 miles away, but whom I do not visit, because it requires driving on that river of death. If you live in the sticks long enough you forget how to drive around other cars - and if you never learned all that well to begin with, the idea of jockeying for position among the million vehicles scrambling through the asphalt corridors of NoVA is enough to make the heart stop.

Fortunately, other people are not such chicken hearts and yesterday one of them drove me to Arlington PL to take a book repair workshop. Fun - interesting - informative - hands-on - glad I went. But it ment I had to be up on Highway 17 to meet my ride at 5:30 and since it was Tuesday Night Knitters, I didn’t get home till 9 o’clock. This is tough on an old body but worse was the heaping pile of Danish/brownies/bagels whispering from across the room. I can usually pass on much of that stuff but for some reason I didn’t yesterday. 2 brownies later and a mocha latte on the way home, plus a cappuccino at TNK - I’m wide awake at 3 a.m. and wondering how I’ll get through a Wednesday that includes story hour, the 5-year plan committee meeting and a by-laws rewrite committee meeting all before 6 o’clock. I think I’ll be a zombie by the time I get home tonight.

Thank goodness the long drive home caused me to miss my WW meeting and I have a whole week to undo the sugar/fat damage.

Eh. But I am taking Friday off. Just keep clinging to that idea, I tell myself. Friday off. Christmas shopping all by myself Friday off.

I got the cuff of LD‘s first Christmas sock done yesterday - 9 inches of ribbing. I’ll begin the heel flap today. I’m making it from some Interlacements Toasty Toes a friend brought me over a year ago. Fortunately, this yarn makes 2 pair - since I had intended this for socks for me. I’ve also cast on 36 stitches in Aurora8 for a scarf for BD who, out of the blue, told me he wanted a shawl for Christmas. After blinking a moment and trying to imagine what he would use a shawl for - and then asking if he meant something to wrap around his legs in the cold den on nights we watch movies - he pointed to his neck and said “something to wear there”. I realized he meant a scarf!! Happy days - something almost mindless, out of stash yarn that perfectly matches his coat. Yes. Only of course - I don’t like mindless and am scouring the pattern books for just the K P design I want to use to make his scarf special. A seaman’s scarf with that ribbing that goes around the neck.

Been following the dilemma on Annie’s blog - about design duplication and the responsibilities of editors - and what constitutes original design - especially in clothing!!!, for goodness sake, which mankind has been wearing since Adam’nEve so how original can any garment be!?! It’s a tricky slippery slope - but I think I have to weigh in on Annie’s side to say that any publisher has a responsibility to do due diligence before offering something as original and, if it is not truly original, ought, in the text, to at least comment that “Here’s a new twist on an old theme”.

posted by Bess | 9:44 AM


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Monday, December 08, 2003  

I didn’t think there would be time to post this a.m. ‘cause my prayers have been answered, I’ve been sleeping nice long 8 hour sleeps all weekend. But I zipped through the morning routine so here’s an update on my knitterly activities.

Of course, one should truly never count one’s chickens. I didn’t get a whole day all to myself in the CleanHouse, which isn’t all that clean any more, since on one of their forays, the dogs made a pit stop in a mud puddle, but I got some time and finished both the red lace scarf and the spinning project. I’m back to spinning the lovely merino dyed to look like a sugar maple in October and just before sleep last night I cast on a pair of socks. I really contemplated hard about knitting 2 on 2 but I just know I’ll get frustrated with turning them, catching the inner yarn between two needles and always having to thread the ball back between them. Only one sock - let us hope they knit up fast. I have to ride to D.C. tomorrow (ugh, shudder, groan) so I’ll have a long time in the car going up - it’ll be too dark to see coming home. Maybe. Maybe is about all I can say.

Though I know one ought not wish one’s life away - I will be heartily glad when 6 o’clock Wednesday comes. From that point on I have no obligatory stuff to do at work; only fun stuff. We can be cheery and bright and wish people Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays all day long. Sometimes, during December, I like to see how many people I can make smile when I’m in a store. I push my cart around (mostly the only store I go into is the grocery part of WalMart - that’s about all there is in my little town) sort of looking for what I want, but all the time looking at people and seeing if I can catch their eye - and then I’ll smile and say MC and watch what they do. It’s really neat to see the change - as if whatever burden weighing on a person’s mind is lifted a moment. Their heads lift upwards and most of the time shoulders straighten too. Yeah, I know, it’s manipulative, but it’s also a bit that, I just can’t contain the excitement I feel this time of year. And with the full moon tonight - well - maybe you better stay out of the stores today just in case I happen to be in your WalMart.

posted by Bess | 7:42 AM


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Sunday, December 07, 2003  

Yippee! Knitters Review Forums are back up. Congratulations to Queen Bee Clara for pulling the all-nighter off. I hope, sugar, you get looooots of sleep now.

And the answer to yesterday’s question is YES!! The house is clean, the pile of laundry is only 4 feet high and it’s a sunshiny day. (yeah, I don’t have a drier). The Darlings are going to be cutting firewood today so I not only is the house pristine and BE YOU TEE FUL, but I get it all to myself!! O wicked delight.

Hmmm. this sounds ominously like a segue into one of those “You know you need to get a life when you thrill over sitting in a clean living room” or perhaps “You know you’re a slob when cleaning the place up is cause for celebration” or maybe “You know your brain has atrophied when you’d rather have a sparkling kitchen than go to a party"

But that’s not really true. This joy, the savor of a tidy living space - is a familiar old friend - akin to pulling out your summer clothes after the long bleak gray days of February and March. It’s very similar, in fact, to the changing of any of the seasons. Fall does tend to seep into winter around here, and summer can catch you unawares as well, but that special day, when you know it is smack on winter and not autumn, is an energizing day for me. My house is very warm - both in color and in temperature - for we heat with wood and the glow pulsing from the stove window enhances the feeling of coziness it’s actual BTU capacity produces. I enjoy this house they way a dog enjoys a bed, or a pony will shiver and roll in grass when it’s let out to pasture. I savor it.

BD designed and built (as in with his own hands) the house and I have always thought the rooms were particularly comforting to be in. He has delightful theories - such as - all conversations take place in 10 square feet so rooms should be multiples of 10 square feet. And he also told me he designed the proportions using the Fibonachi numbers.
“The same dimensions as the Parthenon”.
Lord love him. That’s just the sort of thing he’d think of doing.

But there is more to the clean-house-delight than just my meager 2 hours of hustle and bustle. This is a country house - a real old-time country house, but without servants. Unless you count me as the servant - and Sheryl, every other week for a couple of hours. It’s country in that not too much separates us from critters. Spiders and mice in particular. Competition for living space between them and us is fierce. The original plan was for Sheryl and me to spend yesterday morning thoroughly gutting the kitchen and tossing out everything selected by critters as dwelling places. Unfortunately I’d forgotten about the Santa Breakfast and we had to cancel. We’ll get it done in January - but it did mean that whatever appearance of a deep clean the kitchen would have this holiday season was going to have to be done by me - and so probably it wouldn’t even look very clean.

Ahh, but, as life is woven out of many threads, to form a rich tapestry of cause and effect, BD is once again on his quest for gallons of hard cider. LD and I neither seek it nor do we believe he is ever very successful, but it is common for him to purchase unpasturized cider in large quantities and to dot them about the house trying to get them to turn hard. (The nay-sayers think it merely turns to vinegar and are secretly amused when the hopeful enthusiastically sips that nasty sour stuff). Usually half of the gallons just go bad on the back porch, so this year he arranged to have a friend deep freeze some for him. So far, every jug he has thawed out has leaked - but so far the leakage has been in easy to clean places. Alas for BD, but hooray for me, the leak on Friday night was on top of the refrigerator. On top and behind and in front and all over the kitchen. Several hours of hard scrubbing were needed to get back to square one - and in the process, my dearest BD gave the kitchen at least the look of a deep clean.

He, on the other hand, was full of tales of discovery, of the riches unearthed when he pulled out the refrigerator. You don’t want to know and I am mighty glad I wasn’t present. It was a veritable tomb of trash and a testament to my utter slobishness. Sigh. Thank goodness it’s done, and thank something greater than goodness that I didn’t have to do it.

All this means that today, my time belongs to me. I shall be spinning a good portion of the day, and knitting a wee bit. Or maybe something else - it’s just so much fun to have a whole day with no obligations attached to it. Like having money with no bills to pay.

And early this evening there is the first of the Christmas parties and the community chorus concert afterwards, so no cooking for this gal. The split pea soup is on the back of the stove (bubbled away while I did the whirlwind job on the house). Lawsee! I’m gonna become an absolute sloth at this rate.

posted by Bess | 4:45 PM


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Saturday, December 06, 2003  

Way too rushed this morning to post anything, I’m only now back home - and the house is a pit - so there is only time enough to say good morning. Yesterday was one of those “If you put it off till Friday you’ll have an agonizing day.” I tell myself that I really am working on things when I let them “cook” in my brain - but I am never sure if I’m not just procrastinating. Thing is - if I had only had what I had expected on my plate, I would have been done by 4:00 p.m., had 2 hours of sort of tidy up at work, have the books done up and the doors locked on the dot at closing time, and been out the door and home in 20 minutes. Only - it don’t work that way. An issue cropped up on Tuesday that, in the end, demanded my attention, thought, and careful choice of words. And that got stuffed into the 4 to 6 p.m. slot that somehow stretched over to about quarter after 6.

Instead of leisurely ambling on home, to dress for dinner at friends, I was hustling, late, a little anxious, and slightly chilly, since I’d dressed in a suit for a photo shoot in the a.m. that didn’t happen, as good as bare legged on the rawest day this autumn. Everything ran late after that and when we arrived at our friends, their heat had been out all day - and though on now, the ancient walls and high ceilings of 18th century architecture had had time to soak up all of the cold of 38 degrees and raining. And the guys decided that nothing would do but Mahler - in all his permutations - and it was after midnight before we left - and nigh on to 1 a.m. before I was shivering in bed.

This morning we woke to a dusting of lovely snow - I’m sadly just below the snow line in Virginia - not more than 30 miles due south of nature’s snow fence. A local club was holding a Santa Breakfast and I was the roving Christmas lady, moving from table to table reading Christmas stories from the library. Though I had a selection with me, I ended up going with Berenstain Bears for the older ones and Eric Carle’s Dream Snow for the wee ones - and perhaps the not so wee ones. I saw the gleam of Christmas Gift in the eyes of many a grandmother. I think I’ll give our little local book store a heads up.

This was my first time reading at the Santa Breakfast, but it was enormous fun! I don’t have little ones any more and to be surrounded by dozens of velvet trimmed darlings and their beaming grammas and grampas, mamas and dads, was so much fun. Also - I don’t know that many of the young families any more. Cub scouts, PTA and even the high school regional championship football game, being held in the mud and wind this afternoon, are pretty much things of memory for me now. Between children and grandchildren comes borrowing, and I will surely be back with Santa next year.

Now the trick is - can I do a thorough houseclean in 2 hours so as to have a glorious free day tomorrow with a clean house and nothing to do but drift happily from room to room?

I’ll report back tomorrow.

posted by Bess | 3:05 PM


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Friday, December 05, 2003  

Sorry about the lack of verbiage yesterday. Slept deliciously late for a radical change. Wish I could have done it this morning too but my eyes popped open at 4 a.m. I love waking up at 5 but I hate waking up at 4 - for some reason the latter feels unhealthy, while that extra hour feels right. I am lazily blaming it on chronology since I am at the M period of life, and I need something to explain why, for nigh on 2 years I’ve chugged along on 6 hours of sleep every night till the body rebels, throws out flu like symptoms, and I then sleep 20 out of 24 hours and everything feels right and tight. I don’t like it - it’s the sleep equivalent of drinking 10 cups of coffee a day - or smoking a pack of cigarettes. I only hope a time will come when I can get 8 nice consecutive hours of sleep every night and 16 lovely hours of awakedness.

I’ve spun up 1/2 of the Christmas Present Spinning I suddenly decided I needed to make Monday morning. It went deliciously swiftly and didn’t interrupt my other suddenly-decided-on knitted gift projects a whit. Yes - the ever pontificating, stuffed shirt of a Bess has succumbed to the desire to MakeGifts after all. I’ve dug out the Toasty Toes sock yarn (can be knit on size 4’s ) last night for LD‘s present - I love this yarn and it comes in a big enough blurging wad of bouncy merino to knit two pair - so if I am swift I will make a pair for BD as well. But I make no promises. Even to myself. I’ll just start knitting and see what happens.

I’m still dreaming about a cropped sweater out of that red STARS I uncovered in my stash clean-up. (I’m still enjoying walking by that part of the den and just admiring - I haven’t yet dumped anything new on the piles.) Sigh. It would be so much fun to have a cute, scrunchy red sweater to wear at Christmas time. 3/4 length sleeves - I’m thinking a yoke style sweater with no design till you get to the last decrease and then knitting that part in an openwork design out of the gold lame. Then, if there is any more STARS left I could knit a cowl that I could just pop over the lace yoke bit for a different, not so dressy look. Hmmmm. Awfully tempting to cast on right now.

This week has absolutely dragged. For a while I thought I was coming down with something, I actually ached so - but now I think it was all emotionally based. I do tend to make myself sick when issues are bothering me. I’m supposed to be leading a 5-year-plan project for the library and I am just so utterly uninspired about it. Especially at this busy time of year, the committee is going to get it’s energy from me and I’m running on only one cylinder, not merely 3. Not just feeling guilty about that, I’ve been stymied and puzzled. I’ve never been so listless about work before, but when I got a call from a colleague about TheIssueThatWon’tDie (think here, skeletal hands clawing up out of the ground in an abandoned grave yard) I was able to unblock a bit. The upshot is that once again I will be at the keyboard today - creating a new position paper, altered slightly and perhaps even fundamentally, because I am now speaking to a new audience. It is actually the paper I ought to have written over a year ago, but didn’t, because I was so P.O.’d. Well - I shall do my dooty. At least now I feel I can state my case to someone who is actually listening. Of even more help in re-energizing me was the staff meeting, where we could spit out the things that have been bothering us - mostly lack of adequate staff - and could really get this problem of subtle, deadly burnout into some bright light. We may not be able to do much about the underlying i$$ue$ right away, but at least we have identified them. We all felt a little more lively after the meeting.

And sweetly, happily, Friday has come ‘round again and I get two delicious days to spend on myself. I’m reading Christmas stories at a Santa Breakfast, will probably slide on over to Mechanicsville and do a tad bit of shopping, and then I’ll be home to play with my toys by mid-afternoon. Long live December!

posted by Bess | 6:08 AM


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Thursday, December 04, 2003  

So - What have we here? Three Muskateers? Three Knitateers? Three FiberFiends?

Naa - It's Bluestocking, BessH, and Marfa

posted by Bess | 9:55 AM


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Wednesday, December 03, 2003  

Hmm. Waddaya think?

you are deepskyblue

Your dominant hues are cyan and blue. You like people and enjoy making friends. You're conservative and like to make sure things make sense before you step into them, especially in relationships. You are curious but respected for your opinions by people who you sometimes wouldn't even suspect.

Your saturation level is very high - you are all about getting things done. The world may think you work too hard but you have a lot to show for it, and it keeps you going. You shouldn't be afraid to lead people, because if you're doing it, it'll be done right.

Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the html color quiz

Thank you Fillyjonk.

posted by Bess | 3:54 PM


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Let us sing a song of praise for


Blogger Techie Extaordinaire Prince Of Problem Solving Hero of the Day.

Not only did he fix the posting problem, he went in and finally fixed the archives.

With alacrity!

And courtesy!

And he even answered my e-mails!

As the flowers shower upon his anointed head, may electric impulses always obey his every command, may all coding instantly succumb to his slightest wish, and may his bosses give him a fat raise. This is the first time I’ve gotten such personal, friendly, effective service from blogger ever. Pretty darn good service from the technical department in any business.

Thank You, Eric

As for news from the Life-O-Bess :

Yesterday was a slightly more effective work day for me than Monday. I did pop off my statistical report to the state, fortunately after printing a paper copy of it, ‘cause once you send it, you can’t even see it again till they’ve crunched the numbers and since that’s an outsourced job, it’s none of your business when they do that. And I at least copied the worksheets for the 5-year planning work that has to be done and mailed, by Friday. I am soooooo unstimulated about that. And got stuff ready for story hour. Wednesday does mean Story Hour. Oh yes, and I had a lengthy phone conversation with an affected colleague on the ProfessionalIssueThatEvidentlyWon’tDie. It’s been thrown out into the political ring yet again!!!! How many calories does one burn while throwing a hissy fit?

And of course I created valuable visuals for my blog.

Speaking of calories - my WW meeting was last night and I went down a pound over the Thanksgiving holiday. Woo woo! This would be a smiley moment, only I don’t have smiley faces coding so just insert your favorite *here*. There are now 2.2 lbs of soon to be forgotten Bess lingering and I will be at my goal! Stayed late with the leader, who is really a darling, after class and we talked about things - and about how hard the maintenance is. She laughingly admitted that she tries not to dwell on how much harder it is to maintain than it is to loose - because she doesn’t want to ever discourage anybody - and even though I hear her and somewhere deep in my teensy bit of intelligent heart I suspect she is right, all the rest of me, flush with success, is shaking it’s collective head, thinking, “Oh No Not Me - I am almost finished - almost done - almost free at last.”

Well, I am sure empirical evidence will once again prove to me that reality is what I always suspected it was, not what I always wished it would be. (Virgo-speak, Chapter 3 Dealing with Chronic Doubt) Thanksgiving was not nearly the issue some might have thought it would be. That meal was planned out and sufficient padding cushioned any damage it might have done. It was Saturday’s abandoned excess that shocked me - a day of constant nibbling off of blocks of cheddar cheese and glazed ham. I honestly haven’t any idea how much I packed away, never feeling hungry and never quite feeling full. All that saved me was a ramped-up exercise program that was actually quite delightful and, since I was on holiday, easy to fit into my day. I can only look at it as an object lesson on how easy it would be to return to my former dimensions. When I think that I used to eat like I did on Saturday, pretty much all the time. Good gracious!

I’m more than half way through the red FURZ scarf and have a spinning project I suddenly must begin today. It’s difficult to get much work done during the week. BD is watching the video series about Verdi in the evenings and though it is interesting, it’s also extremely long and a bit amateurish ... didn’t there used to be something called Spaghetti Westerns - well - this is a Spaghetti Biography. It is packed with information and I rather do love Verdi’s operas - have you ever really listened to that duet in Rigoletto when he plots with Sparafucile to murder the duke? The melody is only played by the cellos - it’s too secretive for even the singers to use! It’s really effective.

Anyway - not only does BD like to watch movies, he likes company and he likes to discuss them afterwards. If the movie stinks I walk away but if it is fair to good I frequently stay. Sometimes I resent the theft of my time and sometimes I feel enriched. How do people with television reception ever get anything done?

Ahh well. I am rambling. This is a sure sign it’s time to go do something else. Bon Jour mes amis.

posted by Bess | 5:48 AM


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Tuesday, December 02, 2003  

Bess gets 5 stitches to the foot now that she's bulked up and can heft those size 158 needles.

posted by Bess | 10:42 AM


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My Christmas gift to myself this year has been arranged. No. It is not a fiber gift, nor is it clothes nor jewelry, though I had thought long and hard about getting a gold necklace. I will just pick out one and point it out to BD with bold subtlety.

I have repeated myself enough on the subject of gift giving and getting, so it should come as no surprise that I buy something special for me each year. This year it is 5 weight training sessions with a personal trainer at the gym. If that isn’t the jock-est thing I’ve ever done - I don’t want to remember what was. Weight lifting?!? Me!?!

I am descended, down the maternal line, from generations of sitters. My beloved mama did not approve of sweating. I believe her goal, from June through September, was to sit as still as possible and drink celery juice to prevent any of that nasty, sticky sweating. She bore with great patience, the repulsive habit my Dad and I had, of playing tennis on the weekends - and was overjoyed when my violin teacher told her that my wrist would be ruined if I continued to smash and jam it against flying tennis balls. Field hockey? - the only team sport for which I ever showed the slightest aptitude - Impossible! It required staying after school too many days - I had orchestra practice on Tuesdays and lessons on Thursdays.

My dad, on the other hand, is almost manic in his need to move his body and like many guys, even becomes mean if he doesn’t get enough hard physical exercise. BD requires regular doses of HurculeanTasks and LD is just the same. When the say “we’ll walk home from town” honey, that’s a 13 mile walk. In fact, realizing the male need for hard body usage was the first inkling I ever had that Daddy wasn’t crazy - he was just a guy! One of my sisters inherited 100%+ of his extreme physicality and I am no slouch when it comes to getting off my duff. I’m more likely to incorporate it into daily living, but we have always lived half a mile from the mailbox and I carved my garden out of cut-over timberland using hand tools.

But I’ve always known that my upper body strength was - meager at best and with the WW program and the nice weight loss - my skin is sagging on my arms. So I sat down yesterday with the PT gal at the gym and told her I wanted something to tighten up the skin that I could do at home - and of course, she told me you can’t just fix one part of the body - and I knew that and we ended up scheduling the next 5 Mondays to get poor saggybess started down the road to muscular magnificence.

Knitting jock. Hmmm. I believe we need a visual here. Stay tuned.

posted by Bess | 6:09 AM


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Monday, December 01, 2003  

Here's a scan of the red lace scarf knit in FURZ.

posted by Bess | 12:29 PM


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Well, O Best Beloved, ‘tis Happy December at last. Those who know me are not surprised to see my face brighten and eyes sparkle when The First Day Of Christmas comes. “What?” you ask. “This is Saint Edmund’s Day! or St. Philaret the Merciful or any of a number of virgin martyrs like Sts. Bibiana, Candida, or Florentina” Or - at best, the Monday of the First Week of Advent. Perhaps so, liturgically speaking, but for me it is the day the Christmas music comes out of the wardrobe in the den and thus - ‘tis the First of Many Days of Christmas”.

Bare trees against clear pastel sunsets thrill my heart this time of year. Holiday lights twinkling in fantastical configurations trigger excitement. That sense that nothing very important is going on at work, even if the governor’s budget is coming out December 19th. I have a favorite Christmas time perfume for December. I enjoy the challenge of celebrating the entire holiday within a tight budget. I have certain particular ritualistic activities for certain days. I only see the smiles on people’s faces - some inner shutter closes over the Grinches and Scrooges, imaginary felt pads close out their complaints. I am an UnabashedChristmasLover.

Every evening this week I will address Christmas cards - a few each night, till everyone has been contacted. I love Christmas cards. I love to get them and to send them. Sometime this week I will buy two small green wreaths for the front doors. This is also the time I get BD to take down the screens and trim back the ligurstrum. In the coming weeks I’ll check out my favorite holiday books from the children’s section of the library and snuggle in bed with them. For some, it is the Cratchet’s Christmas Dinner - but for me it will be Betsy Ray’s trip to Milwaukee and Laura’s Christmas in the Big Woods, John Woodall’s Edwardian Christmas and Peter Spier’s Christmas. I will read to the children Jan Brett’s Wild Christmas Reindeer, though it is really intended for the parents, and Alexandra Day’s Christmas We Moved To The Barn.

BD will be gone most days this month, for his Christmas Spirit, a far more tender, nostalgic and melancholy one than mine, is assuaged by assembling bicycles for the Salvation Army. The folk there call him TheBicycleMan - in fact - they once sent a letter addressed merely TheBicycleMan with our post office and zip code. I am proud of him - and I’m proud also that, living here, that is enough of an address. Now that he has found a way to put meaning and justification into the celebrations, he has much happier Christmases and his happiness has freed me to let my own joy bubble over, for I’ll admit, I’d put a bit of a damper on in years past. I can ignore a gloomy celebrant, but I have no desire to change him and I certainly don’t want to rub him raw with my own exuberance.

And on the weekend before Christmas Day, we’ll go out into the woods and find the prettiest spruce pine we can find and bring it back to decorate. It will fill the same corner of the living room, where permanent screws are in the wall to hold it up and pine sap stains streak the walls, to be hidden by a cluster of small pictures the rest of the year. Huge tubs of ornaments will be lowered through the air vent into the attic - so that one doesn’t have to tramp up and down the stairs. In the space of an afternoon the house will be transformed into a wonderland of secret hidden magic. We’ll listen to Old Time Radio’s holiday programs and sip some delicious thing in a room lit only by the dancing colors of tree lights.

Every year I seem to let go of more expectations during this season, opening myself up to serendipity and chance, and each time that happens I have even more fun. Time was, I wanted the perfect Christmas tree and the maximum number of Christmas cookies and the ultimate gifts for everyone - all home made and exquisitely wrapped. Now I really don’t care - so long as I get the music I want and some days off - that is enough for me. Perhaps the day will come when I shan’t even require them - but, as the music is free - or at least already purchased - and the days off are pretty much legislated - I doubt I’ll ever have to sacrifice them.

My favorite astrologer tells me that this month I am to lighten up - to refuse to bear other’s burdens, to savor my joys and to put my house of romance in order - rather ominous sounding but then everything holds portents for Virgos. Still, I always like to take advice I want and I want to be light and airy and ready to laugh this month. I feel I’ve been gloomy long enough. How perfect for the desire to match the season.

On a more fiberly note:

My Winter Knitters magazine came on Saturday and there was a pretty little lace and dropped stitch vest in it. I have been swept away with dropped stitches lately, am knitting a red scarf in something fuzzy ( I believe it is FURZ, but I don’t have the ball band with me) and ripped it out so as to begin again using that little 8 row pattern - so easy, so elegant. It works extremely well in an eyelash yarn, knit on size 11’s I believe. 2 balls will make a 6 foot scarf - destined to be somebody’s gift because I want a red cropped sweater out of the STARS and one red fluffy eyelash garment for this 51 year old feels like a statement, but 2 begins to feel like a signature. I like chic, but not ubiquitous.

Yesterday LD and I went to visit my parents and on the way home stopped at Barnes & Nobel where I picked up Beadwork Creates Bracelets, a little new book from Interweave Press. More and more I am being drawn into the world of beads. I dream about socks with beaded cuffs and sweaters with beaded yokes.

Ah well, there you have it - the sun and the moon are having a party in my fun zone and I intend to indulge completely.

posted by Bess | 7:23 AM