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


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Tuesday, November 30, 2004  

“...This is information you are entitled to know: the next phase of your life has a lot of celebration in it.”

How I love good horoscope writers. They manage to put good news into daily predictions with just enough tailoring to put a smile on your face. Now, I learned a long time ago to not look at horoscopes for my nearest and dearest - woah nelly. But I love to read my own. In fact, I’m willing to read my own on-line as well as in two daily papers from different cities so that I can always imagine going to Fredericksburg if it looks like I might have a bad day in Richmond.

Of course, Christmas and The Wedding are up ahead, so that particular forecast is a No Duh statement, but it’s nice to hear at the beginning of a period when Mercury will be going retrograde.
Huh? you ask. Of course you do, because when Mercury appears to be going in the opposite direction communications go awry, messages are lost and people misunderstand you. Now is not the time to be witty or sarcastic. Now is the time for your computer to crash and your cell phone to go dead. And that time begins today and lasts till just before Christmas. The important thing to understand during these 3 weeks of confusion is, “It’s not your fault. It’s not his fault. It’s Mercury’s fault. So forget about it till after the holidays.”

I always love it when it’s NotMyFault.

As for yesterday’s slog through the guilt fields and fear swamps, well, it does my readers no harm to know just what an angst ridden person I am capable of being. We are all a blend of competence and self-doubt, mixed in ever changing proportions, that respond to stimuli in constantly evolving emotional states. I am merely glad to report that the looming deadline pounced but I met it, well armed with tidily filed data, challenged it’s evil threats and conquered it’s calculating heart. There was a moment when I couldn’t find the log-in and password I needed to begin my project - until I looked in the rolodex under B - and it took about 2 hours to think of looking in the cabinet where I keep the Library Board minutes and audits for the copy of the ‘03-4 spreadsheet, the original of which is at the auditors. Minor issues, soon cleared away. My annual StatisticalReportWithCertifiedFinancialStatement is finished - completed in 6 hours - a new and glorious triumph on the part of the MenopausalLibrarian.

On TheWeddingDress front - I must brave my superstitions and venture back to the FabricMecca today. Well, at least this morning Mercury is merely pausing - the actual backwards movement is supposed to happen later (I think) in the day - so let us hope that errands and cars and shopping - all forms of subtle information transmittal - can be completed with care and skill. And I promise to myself to be soothingly non-judgemental. We must have this fabric now and so we must buy this fabric now. Happily, I have a lovely 25% discount coupon for all fabrics in my purse.

That is all the WeddingNews I have today. I have a discount coupon for $$$$ fabric.

But I do want to close with a chuckle. At least, I think it is a funny concept. While I can think of nothing so absurd as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan, an extremely close second on the Master List Of Wackiness is a just beginning to age Sean Connery playing a Barbary Pirate/Berber chieftan, kidnapping feisty budding feminist Candice Bergen, trying, and failing, to look like Katherine Hepburn.

I had thought to write a more pithy elaboration on this topic - but somehow, that one sentence says it all. If you are into camp, check out The Wind and the Lion. Better get hopping if we want to time our departure to miss the rush 4-hour on 95.

posted by Bess | 7:55 AM


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Monday, November 29, 2004  

I spent a long half day, after a suitable bit of procrastination, wrestling with fabric and doubts yesterday. Since Virgo’s have a corner on self-doubt, I found lots of reasons to fret and pick and nag myself. There is nothing like worry and doubt in one part of your life to make you remember all your other weak points. Before long, the fears I have about the dress spilled over into other areas of my life, my character and my soul, shedding light on additional failings and weaknesses. All afternoon, past sins paraded through my mind, whispering imprecations and accusations and promises of retribution. Am I too big a blabbermouth (a.k.a. gossip)? Has careless chatter, harmlessly ment, but thoughtlessly spewed, come back to highlight my self-centered nature? Are deadlines, given a polite nod, then promptly forgotten, ready to spring out of drawers and off of calendars, to whip me into an emotional and physical wreck? Are even worse crimes, long languishing unpunished, waiting for just the right moment, when I’ve most completely forgotten but have the most complete public attention, before they fling off their cloak of oblivion and demand justice?

To add to my doubts and recriminations, my dizziness isn’t really getting better. I’m just managing it better. Getting up is a process, now, instead of something I just do. Slide up the pillow and wait till my head is steady; push up on my elbow and wait again; sit all the way up; stay there till I’m steady at last. Lifting my head from the prone position is what causes all the problem, so I also have to watch it during the day and not let my head get too low; you know the drill, stoop don’t bend. Probably good for my back anyway.

To be off for more than a few days with an unfamiliar complaint is the perfect place to be if one wants to imagine all the opportunities for an early and painful demise. Believe me, I have plucked a goodly portion of them out of my database of motherly medical knowledge. Armed with enough maladies, it is but a short hop from "I am sick" to "I am being punished for my wicked ways." The perfect melding of two Virgo traits - hypochondria and masochism.

Of course, there are countering Virgoian gifts and one of them is manual dexterity. Regardless of my fears, my fingers are skilled and they put together the heavily interfaced bodice lining for TheWeddingDress muslin (perhaps I ought to call it a "Satin" since that’s what I’m using to make this sample). I also worked with the shirring for the bodice. This is a new sewing technique for me. I’m using net, which is much fluffier and stretchier than the silk organza will be, and harder to work with too, but it will create the effect and give me practice without costing more than a few pennies. I’ve decided to make the dress in two pieces, a skirt and a bodice, instead of making a princess line underdress and a 2 piece overdress. The shirring will be sewn in as the bodice is put together and the two skirts will be added after the bodice is done, but before the lining is tacked down inside. God help me when it comes time to put in the zipper. I may outsource that to a better seamstress than I. At least I’ll consult with my skilled and knowledgeable friends - Oh! Oh! Yes! I just remembered someone who really could help me. Goodness - what a relief that is! I can feel my whole brain relaxing.

I sewed till 6 o’clock and then packed everything up. By then I’d made three mistakes and Mama’s Dictum is: 3 Mistakes and You Stop. This is the wisest counsel she ever gave me and it carries over into all walks of life. No matter what the pressure; deadlines, money, commitments, promises - after 3 mistakes I stop whatever I'm doing. Walk away. Come back later. Do something - anything - else. It’s the greatest frustration eraser I have ever known.

There are 9 weeks till the wedding but I have a self-imposed Weekend Before Christmas deadline. I believe I can do it too, but it’s difficult for me to get a feel for the pace of this project. When I used to sew all the time I pretty much knew how much time I needed to make any garment. I’m both rusty and on new territory so I can’t tell if I’m moving along at a sensible pace or stalling out just past the starting line. What I do know is that once I’ve made the muslin, once I know for sure what each step is, I’ll be able to repeat the process with sure deliberation. Thankfully, the fabric of TheWeddingDress is much easier to work with than the cheap imitation stuff.

Another powerful ally ranged with my deft fingers on the side of Bess Is Not Either Such A Worthless Horrible Person is the litany of loving compliments and reassurances I get constantly, from my nearest and dearest. Last night BD payed me one of the deepest compliments, identifying me with a social archetype in a book he was reading on how to build a better community. Talk about a feel good moment - having my life’s work associated with an archetype! BH also waltzed through my mind yesterday as I thought over events, both recent and long past, when the complete understanding we share made it almost unnecessary to finish sentences, certainly needless to explain ourselves. How fortunate it is that when she says something, it makes sense to me, instead of lying like an unexploded mine, waiting to shatter into fragments of misunderstanding. How fortunate that my relationship with my mama is similar. I wonder if we three women all speak a different language - or were we born with different ears.

So, the day passed and Monday is here again. A busy Monday with an enormous huge deadline that I can miss by a day or so, but which must be the target of my energies. No time today for inner struggles. Action is the word.

posted by Bess | 7:04 AM


Oh... the ONLY trouble I had in planning was picking out my ladies' dresses. I had something in mind, told them, and was promptly told every conceivable reason why it wouldn't look good on each and every one of them. It wasn't a huge concern of mine, so I gave them free rein. After months of quibbling, I finally just said "go here, order this, and shut up about it" and from then on things were delightful. Of course, I had those months, where GD does not... She can do same styles in different colors, or different styles in same colors, and it will look uniform. Often times the "Maid of Honor" (does she have one? I didn't) can wear something completely different as well...

I did all my own dress shopping alone, which was good. Mom's will think you're pretty no matter what, usually. I wanted the dress that made me FEEL like I wanted to feel (and I found it... seriously, can I get married again???)

(oh, and if I'd done a spring wedding, I would have had one with flowers embroidered all over as well...)

By Blogger Amie, at 8:20 AM  

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Sunday, November 28, 2004  

Weddings did not play a big role in our family. With three sisters you’d have thought they might have, but it wasn’t so. We all came of age during, or just after the hippie/protest era of 1965-75, so tradition, while still alive, was taking some major hits. And then there was the overall personality of my immediate family - which was pretty good at putting on shows, but very weak on ceremony. On a more personal front, weddings, husbands and marriages never figured as important ingredients of my childhood fantasies. I wanted to go straight to the point. I wanted to be a mommy. All my imaginary play was mother centered. I adored my own mom and secretly thought other mothers were vastly inferior to mine. My mom knew a thousand songs and a gadzillion stories and could draw anything and make anything and do anything and if there ever was a time when she didn’t give, do, or make you what you wanted, even as a tot I figured she was probably right and I ought to wait or do with out. I was into my teens before I ever felt any serious struggles with maternal authority and even then I knew that, at least mother understood, even if I couldn’t change her mind.

Dolls were also extremely important to me, both the 3-D and the paper dolls. But I was completely disinterested in bride dolls or wedding paper dolls. I wanted baby dolls of every description, and got them, even the big one that fit my infant sisters’ clothes. All those awful dolls wrapped up in poufy white lace seemed to hiss across the room that I'd better stand still or I’d muss my outfit. They might as well have been prison dolls. Besides, I knew already that those poufy dresses ment scratchy tulle sewn into their waists, a torment to ruin any child’s day. And even as a little girl I suspect I knew I looked awful in white. Mama never bought me but one white dress and that was for my first communion - when I got to dress up like a bride, complete with veil. I don’t ever remember wearing that stupid dress again, though I loved the tiny gloves and shiny shoes.

The concept of being center of attention, in beautiful dress, with all eyes on you, held no real charm for me either. At least, it held no fascination, because by the time I was 7 I was already dressing up in fancy duds and playing little quasi Mozart concerts for grownups and strangers. Not that I performed for royalty, but I was a talented little musician, zooming past the excruciating stage in a matter of months and into adult repertoire in less than 2 years. It is no wonder that I was not one of those little girls who planned out a perfect wedding, down to the very candles that would decorate the pews.

I remember a friend telling me that at her wedding she wanted Elgar’s Enigma Variations played and I told her I’d rather have Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. I’m sure that’s because she wanted to march in state down the isle forever and I wanted to move right into a log cabin in the woods.

Thus it is that I have never been into a bridal salon. Ever. I’ve not ever been a bride’s maid and as Sort-of-Mother-of-the-Bride/Matron of Honor in BH’s wedding, I made my own dress. I had no daughter who might be invited to serve as flower girl. I’ve seen a goodly number of weddings because I’ve been hired as the musician who either filled the church with song before hand or accompanied the bride down the isle. But the wedding musicians are rarely involved in the wedding preparations and their dresses need only be sober and churchey.

Yesterday I ventured into the world of bridal salons. These looming establishments, with high ceilings, lots of mirrors and glass, and racks of plastic sheathed dresses, are new territory for me. At our first stop we were met at the door by three women behind a gilt table, holding clipboards and all wearing black suits, their elegantly coifed hair and subtle make-up giving them a quietly professional demeanor. Only the slightest flicker rippled across these modestly smiling faces when we told them “No, we didn’t have an appointment.”

A quiet hush, pumped up with the energy generated by large sums of money about to be exchanged, permeated the huge showroom. White is everywhere, with very little ivory, cream, ecru, or eggshell. There were a few fathers sitting in upholstered chairs, lots of mothers and a good number of EntireFemaleSegmentOfTheFamily groups. One very sulky young girl - little sister maybe? - slouched in a couch and one or two brides with substantially plainer best friends shopped the racks.

One of the cutest things is watching the rapt parents as they gaze at their gorgeous daughters, resplendent in beaded satin, lace, organdy and tulle. With practiced hands, a clerk would sweep a young woman’s hair up and tuck in veiled combs, “Just to give you the effect”. Starry eyes glittered in daughters’ faces, only to be outshone by the beaming pride in papas’. Mother’s pursed their lips as they looked critically at seams and boning. The family groups, where resemblances were strong, were the most fun to watch.

All the dresses I saw were strapless, though I admit I didn’t look at all the dresses. It would have been impossible. It’s too bad, too, about that bare shouldered style, since many women look awful in strapless gowns. Still, they weren’t nearly as bad as the colors of the bride's maids dresses, which were mostly a dull flat grayish green - or an okay burgundy or a sober red. Plus lots of very ugly beige in the mother of the bride/groom section. Ick. But if I were going to be a bride, I would have found a wedding gown I would have loved wearing. Ecru organza embroidered in pale spring colors all around the hem, in a pattern of stems and flowers. It looked as if one had just walked through an enchanted flower garden where the blossoms stuck when the skirt brushed them. What a pretty dress.

But we weren’t shopping for wedding gowns. We were looking for Flower Maiden dresses and on this venture I discovered why it takes so long to put a wedding together. There were actually a goodly number of choices and if we had had only one little girl to outfit we’d have come home with everything needed to put on the show. Alas, little girls’ dresses are made, purchased and shipped in sizes 3-6x and 7-12 and the same company doesn’t always make dresses in both size ranges. There was also the delicate maneuvering needed to match the nature, personality and looks of two different little girls with the opinions and secret longings of the bride, while trying to restrain that infamous, manic, Hannah/Bess shopping madness which insisted on seeping out between every crevice.

Alas - wedding emporiums expect you to give them months and months of leeway - 8 weeks is not nearly enough to order in that organza flower girl dress in ecru in a size 6 and the shantung silk doesn’t come in eggshell. We found matching dresses except one was white and one was ecru. We found matching off white dresses in many different styles that weren’t what the bride was looking for. The bride graciously decided that the dresses didn’t have to match, as long as the color was right but we never did find 2 dresses to bring home. We did find a dress that was perfect - as in AB * SO * LUTE * LY perfect - but only up to size 6x. The shop promised to hold the size 5 for us and call their supplier on Monday to see if they could get another in size 8. We decided to go with that, figuring, even if a matching dress wasn’t available, perhaps a complimentary one would show up via on-line shopping.

What would we do without the Internet?

We were all pretty exhausted and the third grader was disgusted that we’d wasted a whole vacation day in stores and hadn’t bought a thing. She is not the shopper. The kindergartner, in contrast, would have stayed several more hours trying on every beaded, bejeweled, tucked, frilled and fluffed gown on the racks. The world is truly full of all different kinds.

Back at home I built up the fire and fed the dogs, then sat down with cloth and patterns, pins and scissors. I’m not usually very good at putting things together after 2:30 but, for some reason, I can pin and cut in the evenings. The dress I’m making has an asymmetric bodice and a bell skirt, in a stiff silk taffeta with an organza overdress. I am a skilled seamstress but I am not trained in design. I am sure there are easy ways of putting together this type of garment, I’ve seen them in Bride magazines. But I don’t have that particular training. Usually I’ve depended on basic patterns and assembled their shapes to suit my taste. My taste, of course, never included diagonal lines across my belly - which has always been soft and plump, even when I was a feather light weight. Sewing for a dramatically different shape housing a decidedly different taste is a true challenge. There are times I tremble a little inside because I fear we’ll pour $$$ into something that won’t look good.

When those fears rise, though, I quash them, because I have seen this style of dress. I know it will look lovely on this person’s body. It’s just a matter of figuring out the steps - something I plan to spend the day doing. I’ll report my progress tomorrow.

posted by Bess | 7:41 AM


Ack! I'm as amazed as you are about the cooking thing. I was brought up by an excellent cook (even if she protested that she never improvised -- just followed recipes...), and took Home Ec in school. So did my DD (though, like me, she'd rather bake than cook), and my DS. In fact, after last summer's job in the U of C dining room kitchen, he makes a mean stir fry and a lovely salad! So...this year, he cooks his own in dorm. I dunno what his room-mates on campus, I think...poor souls!

By Blogger Margaret, at 9:41 AM  

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Saturday, November 27, 2004  

When LD got his first apartment he wrote and asked for my recipes for certain favorite dishes. I’d already taught him the rudiments of cooking and even a few twists on just plain food cooking to make things taste better. Food is a serious part of the H family routine - they are all gourmands and a few are gourmets. I am not a gourmet but I will put my cooking up against most any fairly good chef’s. I can read a cook book as well as the next person. My hands are deft. I know that butter will fix anything that isn’t burned. Over 33 years of having my own kitchen I’ve developed a few recipes that are perennial hits. I did the math, wrote them down and popped them off to starving student on a budget.

There came the single time I visited him at college and while looking around his apartment I asked him if his roommates liked it when he began to cook. I was horrified when he told me no - when he got out an onion and a knife they all hid out in their rooms.

Offended I huffed “well, what’s wrong with your cooking?” and he told me they didn’t like the meat he used. Upon further inquiry I asked him what sort of meat that was.

He said “squirrels, mostly”.

I understood, then. Prepared squirrels look like rats in a pan. But he also told me something else that threw me. None of his roommates had ever had home cooked food. They alternated between frozen dinners and take-out. Not just at college, either. These kids had been brought up that way. “But - what do they do on Thanksgiving?” I asked in disbelief. “They go to a restaurant” was the quick reply.

So - along with many other shortcomings the baby boomers don’t cook. It really bothered me when I first heard about it and I’m still a little disgusted with a parent thinking it was a healthy way to raise kids. But the idea of every woman with her own kitchen is a very modern concept. Till fairly recently, in historical terms, it was far more common for one cook to feed all the people in a big establishment and the rest of the people to eat at cook houses. Cooking was considered a particular skill much like smithing or coopering or carpentry. With the pioneer thrust, where families did find themselves alone in the wilderness, someone had to do the cooking and it was usually the wife. So, perhaps it is not such a horrifying thing that 2 out of 3 average college boys grew up with a mother who didn’t cook. It’s just horrifying to me.

Well, all that was prompted by Catherine’s comment on girlchild’s stuffing being “better than stovetop”. I wonder what I will be comparing myself to when I have grandchildren?

The Marvelous Sheryl came yesterday and we got all the windows clean! Sparkling clean. Glistening clean. Streaklessly, vinegary clean. It took all afternoon and afterwards my right arm ached but a hot bath, hot tea and ibuprofen took care of that. How perfect, too, that every crystal pane let in the dancing shimmers from a full moon last night.

And today I get to do Wedding Stuff. GD, BH, her daughters and I are off to Richmond to buy (we hope) Flower Maiden dresses. It’s a bit of a push to drag little girls dress shopping on the Thanksgiving weekend but I suspect bridal dress shops won’t be all that busy. The older FM is in love with GD, so we can pull her away from the neighborhood crowd, the younger FM is in love with clothes so this is right up her alley. We aren’t going to try to do anything else, though. No point in making the kids suffer more than they have to. I send up, here, a little prayer to the Wedding Fairy-Goddess, that we find something quick.

Tomorrow I’ll sew more on TheWeddingDress. I’ve ripped apart the first muslin and will use it to make a heavily interfaced lining. It will go only to the end of the bodice, an asymmetrical line from waist to left hip point. Then I’ll use the rest of the cheap taffeta to make the main dress. I have some filmy stuff I can use to try making the overdress with it’s shirred bodice and I shan’t worry about a skirt for that. It’s all a new sort of sewing for me and the engineering challenge has been tremendous.

The final bit of wedding news is that my sister’s bluegrass band, The New Girls Night Out, has been booked for the reception. We all have our talents and my youngest sister was born to be on stage. It’s always seemed a pity that she hasn’t pursued it as a profession. She is truly the stuff of stars. But it’s her life and she chooses to keep her music as an avocation, to the great benefit of the rest of the “girls” in her band. Bluegrass is LD’s favorite music and I think the women’s voices will be even prettier in the church hall setting.

And I see it’s time to get crackin’. Ta.

posted by Bess | 6:52 AM


Oh, do tell us all about the wedding - we want to be in on the fun, too!

So glad you're feeling better, dearest! I always miss you when you aren't posting, and hate to hear it was because you weren't well (but don't mind at all when it's because you're knee deep in wedding fabric!!!)

Love to all your Darlings!

By Blogger Amie, at 2:16 PM  

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Friday, November 26, 2004  

Well, dearies, the golden sunshine lasted just long enough for me to shut off the computer and take BD a cup of coffee. Then thick wet clouds rolled in from the west and we had a drizzly damp day of it. No rain actually fell after about 10:30, though, and by noon, when guests began arriving, it was just another gray November day, mild enough to go without even a sweater.

Everyone came early yesterday. Most folk were here by noon. I like to sit down to eat at 2:30. We’re nearly always done by 3:30 and then there’s time to take this magnificent walk down the lane, out into the middle of the field, round by the east woods and out along the open stretch to Robert’s Landing, returning in the glow of a sharply slanted sunset. I’m sure I wrote about this fabulous walk in last year’s Thanksgiving post - and the magic of it hasn’t lost a glimmer of it’s pixy dust, but it has been a long time since I’ve actually gotten to make the whole walk. Just as the wee toddlers have grown big enough to make the trek, some of our more senior guests have grown too old. Yesterday the weather contributed to the brevity of our walk because everybody showed up in light wraps or none at all and while we ate, Canada blew us some cold air. Everyone except two intrepid fellows got too cold on the walk before we’d even reached the half mile point.

The day was all that Thanksgiving is supposed to be, though. Three generations of family, new friends, old friends, cousins. Over the rivers, Through the woods, I’m not a grandma yet, but LD’s grandma was there and his grandpa too. Enormous piles of food, though I don’t have quite the variety of dishes I used to lay out. It’s easier and more fun for everyone to have enough of a few favorites and this year the young darlings made me my favorite - a cranberry orange relish that has to be put through either a food processor or a meat grinder - of which I have neither. I haven’t had this treat for years and getting a dish of it at last made me feel like the meal was perfect and complete.

Since P was with us, there was another great wedding session. BH has promised to make me a T-shirt with Ask Me About The Wedding printed on it. No joke - I wish they would. We hammered out more plans and made new ones, which include shopping for Flower Maiden dresses on Saturday. Yes! And we need a cake! Yikes! and Invitations - woo boy. and Sunday will be sewing day. I’ve designated Sundays to the Wedding Dress because I can usually get GD in the a.m. for measuring and in the p.m. for trying-on. We’ll be doing the final serious fabric shopping on Tuesday. Oh - yes - it is official, too. The Big Day is January 22 and my favorite local minister will be marrying them and it shan’t be at the old colonial church but at the Baptist church where BD’s grandparents and uncle are buried, along with so many of the wonderful people who were such an important part of LD’s childhood - and, as I said, where my favorite local minister preaches.

As for today? Well. Around noon the Marvelous Sheryl will show up and we will wash windows. It ought to have warmed up enough to work indoors and out and BD promises me the screens will be down by then. The idea is that I wash the windows when I put up the screens in the spring and when I take them down in the fall. Of course, it doesn’t happen that way every year. I always manage to get the south window in my bedroom and in the living room done no matter what, but some of the other windows haven’t been washed in ... ahem ... longer than I’d be willing to admit here. This year I want them all clean and sparkling. Too many people will be visiting this winter and I don’t want them to know just how depraved I can be.

I believe in the next few weeks I will do more shopping and more driving and make more phone calls and trips to the city than I have ever done before - and am ever likely to do again. I’m still wrapping my brain around shopping in quite such a lavish fashion. My secret little Events-Planner Heart is pumping like a perpetual motion machine. Alas, my head is still dealing with swimming sensations. They aren’t so bad once I’m up and going, but the early mornings require very deliberate movements. I wonder just how I’ll fit in any exercise with a head like this. Be that as it may - we move forward and as things develop I’ll be reporting back here. Feel free to Ask Me About The Wedding anytime.

posted by Bess | 8:59 AM


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Thursday, November 25, 2004  

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

This is the big feast at our house - though big and feasting go pretty much hand in hand around here most of the time. We'll seat 12; several guests have pulled out for one reason or another - but 12 is the perfect number at my table anyway. Tables, I should say, since a sit down feast means bringing in the card tables and folding chairs.

Woah! Sunshine! There are golden sunbeams dancing through the windows right now! goodness, we haven't seen something like that in over a week. What an omen.

I can't really think of anything worthy to say after this. A sky of madona blue, bare dancing limbs, and golden sunshine.

May you have your own golden Thanksgiving Day.

posted by Bess | 7:32 AM


Take care of yourself, dear Bess. I was afraid that you might be sick or something when you missed yesterday's post. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

By Blogger Carolyn, at 2:57 PM  

Ooooh, DearHeart! Hope you are being gentle with yourself and will let DGF and others help you with Thanksgiving Dinner...and that you have a blessed and happy holiday. Sending hugs...

By Blogger Margaret, at 8:48 PM  

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004  

Red sky in the morning sailors take warning.

Well what a strangely red sky we had this morning. Almost a pale plum color, silhouetting the bare trees of the east woods with it’s pinky glow. The air is mild enough to step out in your p.j.s when the dogs scratch at the door. We had a tiny bit of rain in the night and everything has a moist feel to it. It’s been about an hour since I first peered outside so the pink is mostly faded, but there’s still a hint of it kissing the world. What is it about looking through a window at a winter landscape that makes me feel so cozy and loved? Some sense of protection against a long cold future? I don’t know. I just know that when I stand in the doorway or peek out the window at the east woods and see that misty grayish pink sky behind it, I feel safe and loved.

Not a bad way to start a Thanksgiving holiday, either. I must give thanks for those pink sunrises, even if they do foretell impending rain. That’s what the weather dot com guys are promising - lots and lots of rain today. The laundry I hung out on the line last Sunday will surely get a rinse now. Let us just hope that the rest of their prediction - sunshine on T and Friday - comes true. Otherwise I’ll have to lug all this stuff to town and use the laundromat dryers.

So - where was I yesterday? My legions of fans are waiting with anxious hearts to hear. Well, I was in bed - and at the dr. I woke at 4 a.m. and went to the bathroom for a drink of water but before I could even get the few steps down the hall my head was swimming so, I could barely stand up. By the time I got to the sink I was so sick in my stomach I couldn’t even drink water. I stumbled back to bed, crashed on the corner and just lay there till I could roll under the covers again. I shivered beneath the blankets for 45 minutes, making a mental list of all the various forms of tumorous diseases I probably had till BD woke up and listened to my fears. He’s such a darling and right away pulled the home health dictionary off the shelf to read all about dizziness.

As the morning wore on the sensations grew slightly less severe and I dozed off and on till 9 o’clock, when I could call the dr. By about 11 it was enough better I could get up and walk around and even have a little lunch. There was only a little dizziness left by late afternoon when I finally saw the dr. who saw the fluid build up in my ear - interesting - I always figured they just looked into your ears as a pro forma gesture to make you feel good.

My ears haven’t been stopped up nor has my hearing suffered any so it was hard to believe that was what was wrong with me. About a week ago, the whole world did tilt for a moment and then tilt back. It was actually a rather interesting sensation but it disappeared and hadn’t come back. Evidently my head was just waiting to fill up enough to hit me with a double whammy sensation. Head and stomach!

Anyway, I’m on antivert and some ear drops now and as the Eustachian tubes relax and the stuff begins to drain I can really feel the sloshing sensation in my head. I missed a day of work. This year I'm finally chipping away at the mountain of sick leave I have stored up. It was a pretty insignificant day to miss - I’ll have a monumental job when I return on Monday - the annual report is due at the state library. I’ve been forgetting about that for weeks now so I’ll be tied to my desk Monday and Tuesday. I’m working half a day on Wednesday and shopping for wedding dress fabric in the afternoon.

I really do have every moment planned for the next few weeks. Planned down to the nanosecond, it feels like. So let us hope that there is no repeat of the SickDayInBed stuff. Fortunately, today is a fairly easy day - a manicure - generic house cleaning and several loads of dishes through the machine. Thank goodness for dishwashers. We expect 13 for dinner but that’s a flexible number and the turkey is enormous - enough for whoever shows up with plenty left over. This year I’ve finally let go enough to let the guests bring dishes. I’ve often let them bring rolls or wine but this year I gave up the deserts - of course, to one of the best chefs I know - but it was a bit step for me. Still - the pies have always been part of my Wednesday work load and it’s nice that I don’t have to bake them today. It means I can clean house today and have a particularly easy time of it tomorrow. Mmmm. Nice.

And yes Virginia, there is some knitting content here. Just a wee bit - but I have 2 inches of cuff knit on BD’s surprise Christmas socks, courtesy of the 45 minute wait in the dr’s office. It’s Jen’s fingering weight sock yarn and I’m using size 2 needles. The nice thing about them is that they don’t need to be finished by Christmas - I can just knit away on them, even right in front of BD, who will never think to ask for whom the needles knit - Ahh dear man, They knit for thee.

posted by Bess | 7:46 AM


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Monday, November 22, 2004  

Each day I open Blogger and it says I have 637 posts in this blog. We all know that’s not true, but their counter just sits on that number, taunting. There will come a day when I open it up and - *poof* - the number will be corrected.

Now, why does that bother me? Partly because I don’t have a counter of my own buried in the template. That is because I don’t have the focus+time to go hunting for one. But if anybody knows a good counter I’d be glad of a suggestion.

Another thing about my blog is that I try to keep it fairly non-controversial. It’s not that I don’t have lots (and lots) of opinions that would shock and dismay and inflame those who [don’t know or] love me. It’s that I have no interest in getting into a debate, much less a flame war, about my perfection and wisdom, my perspicacity, perception and literary style. I love me and think I’m grand already. Opposing viewpoints are not necessary.

[insert winking smiley face here]

This thing is as much diary-as-literature as sounding board. Half the posts I write are never moved from Word to Blogger. They are either too personal, too satirical, or too exposing. It’s not my intention to take dirty linen out into the public arena and besides, I see no point in hurting anybody in such a hit-and-run manner. If somebody is deserving of my pointed shafts, they deserve to receive them from me in person, not in a roundabout way via the Internet.

Of course, it’s always possible to make a flat statement, especially one which, while lacking qualifiers, isn’t intended to be applied universally. I'll venture to state here that all things have at least the potential for an interpretation - even skipping grades or home schooling. I’m thinking here of a little boy, BH’s little cousin, who was an immature 6 year old but was skipped up to the third grade because he’d already completed the entire 2nd grade curriculum at the end of the 1st grade. As BH said, he was going to be out of step with his classmates anyway, at least they didn’t keep him out of step with his intellectual capability. And it’s true - he doesn’t fit in with the 3rd graders either. But he gets to read better books.

Among the 16 year old graduates I knew growing up - and there were not all that many - none of them had skipped a grade. I grew up in a good sized city with an extensive summer school schedule. It was possible to start taking classes after the 7th grade and be finished with school after the 11th. There was a big city wide youth orchestra, but to participate you had to also play in your school’s band or orchestra. In order to open up a hole in my schedule when I was 13, I had to start down the summer school road. Since I always enjoyed the learning part of school, this was no misery for me. To be sure, half the students in summer school were kids who’d flunked the year before, but that was just an opportunity to meet interesting (as in, slightly bad, but not so bad as to be drop-outs) older boys in a limited environment, sans the competition of cool girls, who knew that it wasn't cool to fail a class. The only kids in summer school were those who’d flunked or the 1960’s version of a nerd.

What did we call them, then? Grinds? Brains? Ah well. The slang escapes me. And did the other kids call me one? Ha! What a joke. I was no brain. My sister was a brain but I was just a nice B sort of girl.

Anyway - this is not what I intended to post about today. I was going to tell you about taking the boat up Occupacia Creek and seeing 3 bald eagles. I was going to try to describe the flocks of geese we startled upstream from Baird’s Landing. I was going to report about the battery case being flooded and the terminals being actually corroded off and how BD had to do a patch job as we drifted in the ebb tide, but how I wasn’t worried that we were up the creek without a paddle, since we had 2 oars. I intended to tell about the walk through White Oak Swamp and climbing up into Sandra's deer stand and looking for BD's jacket.

I thought I’d describe how I finally got the chance to do some long core centering and how my brain completely filled up with French seams on silk taffeta and how, in the wee hours of the night I woke up, after taking several long naps yesterday, and began to assemble a wedding dress, step by step, in my head. And how I’ve resolved to insist that GD doesn’t look into another Wedding magazine because each time she does she sees another dress she likes. And there are that many beautiful ones so I understand the temptation but the engineer part of my brain can’t handle another change order.

Those are all the things I intended to write about today. Instead, I am going to log off and begin the shortest work week of the year - the 2 days before our Thanksgiving holiday - what fun.

posted by Bess | 7:11 AM


Words to live by: Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Ain't it the truth!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:24 AM  

See, what I do is translate "high school" for my current corporate workplace - because Corporate America is high stakes high school. Though I find I really haven't changed since high school, I'm just more skilled at playing the necessary games.

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:00 PM  

Oh, btw, I graduated at 16 and my son dropped out so he could graduate at 16 from "adult high school" and go straight into college - neither of us were worker bees, nor did we see this as conveying bragging rights. Certainly my career history is evidence that it makes no damn difference later, it's just a matter of saving sanity at the time. College at 17 was weird - the guys who wanted to date me were 24 and didn't want to go to prison. My son had similar experiences, though being younger than the girls doesn't create the same risks. It makes no difference in the long run, and at the time it has its good points and bad points.

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:05 PM  

Lawsee - I didn't mean to criticize the folks who hustled through high school. Certainly, at the time I didn't have much of an opinion one way or another about them. I was far too interested in myself and the long quest for self definition. But just as certainly I had opinions about what their parents were really saying.

I've often pondered the line between pride in my child and defining myself with his achievements. I hope I don't fall over that line too often.

By Blogger Bess, at 9:25 PM  

Nope, I didn't take it as a criticism - I know what you mean about parental bragging rights, though around here that's all about sports - parents live for their kids' sports activities. Grade-skipping has fallen out of favor these days and I think that's a shame, sometimes it's just the right thing to do, but I guess parents pushing the school to skip their kid for ego reasons caused the schools to not want to skip anybody. Right now Boss's 7 year old really needs to be skipped a grade, it is totally the right thing to do - he's an "older" first grader and way too advanced in reading, math, social skills, etc. for the curriculum, we'll see if the school agrees.

By Blogger Catherine, at 6:38 AM  

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Sunday, November 21, 2004  

Once again I find myself lined up with Catherine.


Now, these little quizzes are often cute but I wonder about the answer choices to the questions they ask. They usually seem to be - not much of a choice. Now and then, though, they make me really think about the answer. The hardest questions begin with: “When you were in high school...”, which leads me to think most of them are written by people with fewer miles on them who are, thus, able to remember what high school was like.

It’s hard to remember what I thought and felt in high school, beyond a few key decisions I made about things. I started out in a large public high school, switched early on to a minuscule catholic girls school, and ended up, my last year, at a different large public high school. No, we weren’t army brats. I just got in with a bad crowd at 13, was rescued by my parents (kicking and screaming) and released back into the world of boys and dating when my folks realized they were going to have to shell out for 2 more daughters’ private tuition checks plus college checks as soon as I graduated.

Funny about the ambitions my parents had for me. They were always so impressed with children who graduated at 16 - kids who started going to summer school before they even entered high school and smashed their way through the required subjects in 3 years. It wasn’t that these kids were brilliant, though the bragging rights to a child who graduated at 16 allowed you to puff that off, thereby implying that you were a parent of a genius. Mostly these kids were just hard worker bees.

My sisters and I went to summer school a lot and so our school careers were patchy mixes of being freshmen, sophomores and juniors all in the same school year. That made fitting into the little catholic school particularly difficult. St. G's was very quaint and old fashioned in its thrust for school spirit and class spirit and class identity. The class of 1970, we were. I belonged to it based upon the English class I took. In most other aspects I was the class of 1969 - you know, those of you who remember, the joke number. In reality, I was not part of anything at all. My plan, once I no longer hated everything and everyone in sight, was that when 1970 finally got here I would be gone. I was, too.

Not because anybody was mean to me, worthy of my hate, or was in any way - well, durn, come to think of it - anything at all to me. The girls were nice enough. They were already grouped into friends, usually based on their feeder elementary schools, and opened up to let in new folk fairly easily. I don’t know if they opened up to me or not. I was so deep in the blue funk of teenage depression those first few months in that school, I wouldn’t have noticed either warmth or snubs. I know they were none of them deliberately unkind to anybody, though they did avoid one girl with ringworms who smelled pretty strong.

So the interesting thing is - I don’t remember what I was in high school. Here are quizilla's choices:

Had a few extremely close friends who you stuck by through thick and thin.
Nope. I had a few friends. sort of. I can remember 2 and haven’t heard of or spoken to either of them since I left school.

Were a loner and happy to be one.
Well, I checked this one, because it was the closest, but I bet I didn't look like a loner. I suspect I looked like a typical happy teenage girl with friends.

Were high school valedictorian, prom king, queen etc.

Enjoyed turbulent relationships with both teachers and friends.
What? Queen of non-conflict? Besides, I had a couple of outstanding teachers. I am never turbulent.

No one understood you.
Well, sort of. Certainly no one knew me.

Were the one people ran from when they saw you coming down the hallway.


Were friends with everybody and could fit in everywhere
Not that I felt so, but I wonder if other people thought that about me. I sure had to bridge a bunch of social gaps and don’t remember being ostracized for it. I don’t know.

It might be fun to have someone fill out one of those quizilla quizzes for me. Then I’d really learn if I were catnip or molly.

And there you have it - a fritter away post prompted by blog reading. This is because all I did yesterday was go to work, buy Thanksgiving food, take a bath when I got home and hit the sac at 8 p.m. I finally got in my obligatory 8 hours of sleep and feel decidedly better for it.

I shan’t write about my plans for the day because my batting average is ZER0 on fulfilling plans these days. I hope I can do what I want to do. I’ll know tomorrow.

posted by Bess | 8:01 AM


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Saturday, November 20, 2004  

Who did I think I was kidding? Down time? Alone? A moment to center myself? HA!

Not when there is a Big Darling who is being a BigStrongRockofGibraltarManlyDarling who says “spend some time with me”. Besides, he’s off today on a work jaunt, promoting the Jamestown Festival stuff and being feted and admired as the expert. I’ll have a couple of hours after work - and I’m going to take them.

I also realized that I am not getting to the gym and the only way I can see to get there is to go in early and the only way to do is to curtail my morning computer time (and did you know this sort of run on sentence is a literary device that comes from the bible? At least, that’s what Professor Potkay says). I don’t want to stop writing the blog because it’s becoming something of a wedding diary, but I'm going to give up my daily blog reading. That’s the only way I can see to slipping in what I realize is a vital component - exercise. I’m not only not getting those extra lbs off, I’m having to make room for the added fluffiness the remaining lbs are morphing into. This is not good. If we are going to have a blow out smash of a wedding party and I’m going to be the number 3 woman - by golly - I am going to be a slim number 3. Slim and trim and put back into my clothes woman. Besides, with the wedding taking place down here I have far more responsibilities (and visibility) than most mothers of the groom. Besides that, most of the guests are our friends and I want to impress them - ha! who cares about strangers who will go away and forget you. There is that element of competition involved - can I look as good as the MoG as the last Haile MoG did? (I can)

Oh law - we are so absurd - we humans, with our rituals and petty emotions and idiocy.

But mostly I need to get healthy and my sciatica is acting up. It didn’t bother me all summer, when I not only visited the gym fairly regularly, but also wore flat sandals. So I may have to change my shoes. This is not good. I adore shoes. But I adore feeling good more, so if I have to switch to ugly shoes I will. Not for the wedding, mind, but for daily wear - yeah - I can do that.

And I will make the changes in schedule that I need to and the big loss will be blog reading and Knitters Review Forum reading. Well, so be it. It’s only for 2 months. I’ll just have all that fun catching up with buddies come February. Let us pray for lots and lots of snow, late in the winter, here in Upper Tidewater Virginia.

As for more important stuff, yesterday P, the Young Darlings and I went to the fire hall to check out the space. It’s plenty big enough for our needs and has a great kitchen. I don’t actually drive down the road to the high school much any more so I had forgotten that the fire hall was actually past the old John Deere store and the livestock market. There are a few trees and then a broad grassy area and then the main Volunteer Fire Station with Fire Hall. So the actual site isn’t quite as industrial as I’d feared. After plunking down the deposit P&I left the kids and drove up to look at Vauter’s Church.

It was a lovely gray day, mild, but promising rain. It’s early in the hunting season so trucks clustered along the highway, with Men in Orange everywhere, even in the church yard. This is the church I wrote about last March; the church with all the ghosts - with 300 years of community. I am not Episcopalian but the Hailes are. Their church is St. Paul’s, but I despise the minister there (she is evil and has gone over to the dark side) and besides, it’s more than 20 miles from us. We live in Saunders territory; and Ellis and Wright. All the Hailes are “somewhere in the woods between the Rappahannock and the Mataponi” as their old colonial patent states.

I’m surprised I can’t find a better photo of the church already posted somewhere, since it is a stunningly beautiful place. I will have to take one and post it myself. Part of its beauty is that it stands alone beneath the trees, the parish hall a separate building, unlike most of the architectural tumors people have grafted onto their beautiful old buildings. Of course, I don’t belong and I’m not on any church vestry, so it is not for me to say what any group of people ought or ought not to do with their churches, but I will say that - if for no other reason than esthetic value, I feel more akin to the Vauter’s crowd than the St. Paul’s.

We scoped out all the colonial beauty and then I took P back to her car and was home by 2. The afternoon was spent sort of dopily hanging out, riding off with BD to get dog food and checking the countryside for sources for cedar trees - because we have a Fan Tastic plan for decorating the fire hall. And - of all things - casting on the sock yarn I got from Jen. I realized I needed something I could pick up and put down and not have to worry about where I left off, for those times when my hands needed to do something and but not my brain. So, there is knitting content after all.

The kids were by late in the evening to pick up our address books. List making abounds and plans are humming in brains. Now, BD’s off to the Chesapeake Bay and I’m headed for the gym. I’m training my new staff today so I have to be at work by 10, but I get off early in the afternoon and I’ll have several hours to myself - after I buy the Thanksgiving stuff. Maybe then I’ll get that core time. Or maybe not. Well - we will work with what we get.

posted by Bess | 6:44 AM


I think almost everyone who's got tag board has been experiencing others out there... you've got this alternate way of commenting, so I wouldn't worry about it until you're ready, but when you are (when the smaller Ds are on a honeymoon, maybe?) I'll help you figure out what, if anything, you want to do!

Love hearing about the planning... what fun... can I get married again?

By Blogger Amie, at 8:37 AM  

I deleted Tag Board off my blog ... it was slowing it down so drastically and then, when it finally did come up, half the time it wasn't working.

So, it's gone. So there. :-)

May add a new one, may not. Right now, I just want to figure out how to make my comments act like your comments ... any chance you can send me the comment part of your template so I can compare it to mine? Just copy it into an email for me ...

Have a great weekend!

Hugs, Jen

By Blogger Jennifer, at 6:17 PM  

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Friday, November 19, 2004  

What is wrong with Tagboard and should I delete it from my blog? If I do will I ever remember how to put it back? Blog maintenance is not a high priority issue these days, but every blog I read that has Tagboard on it loads about as fast as the last ice age spread across Europe.

Any great wise ones out there with opinions are invited to comment - but of course, not on Tagboard.

Last night was a delicious, hilarious, lively, energetic evening of cooking and tasting party food. P arrived about 4 and we went grocery shopping. The idea was to pick up some things that could be whipped into food ideas and then to pull out recipe books and discuss real desires. Now - P lives in the city where there are glorious grocery shops and specialty stores. Besides, she is a professional with a smoked meats business as well. Alas, we live in the country where there is Walmart and Food Lion. Generic mass produced corn starch and sugar foods, but nothing in the outstanding category. What my sister would call prairie food. But we still managed to put together some scrumtillioshus dishes.

The kids arrived about quarter till 7 and everybody, including the 3 dogs, clustered in my kitchen dipping crackers and fingers into bowls while P created magic on the long counter and I put together a totally unnecessary curried chicken dish on the stove. Those of you who know my kitchen can stop laughing now. My favorites dishes were the crustinis and the smoked salmon pate, but the almond stuffed, bacon wrapped dates disappeared and the mock up trifle - not what P'd really make, just so they’d get the idea - disappeared fast.

We all sat around making wedding plans till 10:30, though the boy darlings had to slide out the door a while, about the time it got entirely too feminine and once when I slipped out to the kitchen for something and overheard a hunting telephone call amidst the wedding ones. LD is actually a gentle and slightly bemused, but very active participant in all the happy planning. He always was a fabulous assistant in any event I ever planned and in his slightly shy way, he’s extremely useful, warm and loving. And of course, he’s deeply in love right now anyway so that his face softens with tenderness every time he says “Well then, we’ll do that (whatever you want), sweetheart.”

BD had gone to bed by 10, the young D’s went home about 10:30 or 11 and P and I stayed up till midnight talking talking talking. She’s been on the west coast since August helping settling things after her grandmother’s death, so we had a ton of catching up to do. And she’s awake now, so I’m outta here.

If you wonder what I’ll be doing today - it will be more talking, planning, and - by golly - napping. With a little time in the afternoon seeking that center of calm and reason that I know I left somewhere deep inside.


posted by Bess | 6:47 AM


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Thursday, November 18, 2004  

So, who do you think woke up at 2:30 and couldn't get back to sleep till 4?

Darn that stupid newspaper article.

I refuse to ever read another thing about sleep again. Ever!

It's a good thing I am such a paragon of flexability because my knitting class got postponed till after Christmas - or rather, till after January. Right now, just about all my life is getting postponed till after January so it will be very interesting to see just what February is actually going to look like.

Ahh well. I'll think about it tomorrow. At Tara.

Now - let's see. I'm not knitting. I'm not spinning. I won't sew on the WeddingDress till the weekend - I'm still too early into the serious construction issues part of the sewing to work on it at night.

Guess there's nothing to post.

Oh Wait. I got my latest issue of Knit'n Style and it's the first issue I didn't see something I wanted to make in it. I'm wondering if it is because I'm in a non-knitting phase - I'll look through it again but so far it's a blah issue.

Now, I'll give any magazine a break - every issue doesn't have to be fabulous - but if it turns out that half the issues are uninspiring, I'll let my subscription drop. I did that with Knitters and CastOn, almost did so with InterweaveKnits. So - it's wait and see.

So - there's my fiber content for the day. Truly the minimum.

posted by Bess | 7:39 AM


Ah yes! Virgo Guilt has been raging at this end too. I'm not working outside the house -- but beat myself up if I don't do "enough" in a day, whatever that is! And as for the weight...well, I'm workin' on it! (sigh)...

By Blogger Margaret, at 10:10 AM  

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004  

It wasn’t so bad at WW last night. There was a little loss - well, I should hope so, after a week of not eating at GML, and all. I still can’t seem to leave the fabulous cheese BD brought home from Canada alone. But soon it will be gone and then I can’t succumb to its siren song any more. Let us hope I can do better with the exercise this week. Today will be the first time I’ve been able to get to the gym since before the retreat.

So smack on today's front page of the Richmond Times is this article warning that lack of sleep makes you fat. Seems that the more hours you are awake the more hours you can eat (duh) and the less leptin, which tells your body you’ve had enough to eat, you have and the more grehlin, the substance that makes you feel hungry, your body makes. Lose 2 hours of sleep and you’re 23% more likely to be fat. Loose 3 hours and it jumps to 50%, lose 4 and it’s a whopping 73%. Now that’s the sort of news that’ll keep you up at night.

I obsess about this because for about 3 years I’ve had lots of trouble sleeping. I think it’s something like drinking water. I forget to drink water and after a while I am not drinking any water at all and I’m so empty I can’t tell if I’m hungry or thirsty. In fact, I lose the ability to know if I’m thirsty or not. It’s a constant battle for me now and I have to schedule drinking water. I suspect some of my insomnia is that as well. Sure, there could be some hormonal stuff involved, and I always toss and turn when I feel guilty - and folks, I’m a Virgo, fer cryin’ out loud. We have a corner on the guilt market.

And of course, it’s delightful to think that it's not my fault that I’m not in perfect accord with the perfect body and the perfect life like it was in the perfect good old days when people did everything perfectly.

Nevertheless, it has bothered me that I operate on 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Maybe my New Year’s Resolution this January ought to be to sleep 8 hours a night.

I still haven’t had my quiet moment in space and time yet. Till I do, I’ll be operating on grit and mental acuity, conscious thought and determination, but not with sure instinct. For such an intuitive person, that means - I’m be running on 3 cylinders - not the best way. Certainly not my natural way. It’s rather pleasing to know how much I can get done minus my most valuable talent, but it’s not much fun over any real stretch of time. I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to find a hole in my schedule to reconnect to this essential power source when I suddenly realized that I can take Friday off!

P is coming on Thursday to cook wedding stuff - and I hope to play with her a little, too. I had planned to go in late Friday, but now I think about it - I’m just going to stay home, period. I have to work Saturday anyway, and I worked last Sat., so that is that. Friday it is.

And tonight? Tonight I teach a beginner knitter class after all. I’ve got the yarn and needles I bought for the October classes that didn’t make up. I just have to dig out the pattern for the hat and make copies of it. It’s not essential for them to get the pattern tonight, they don’t start on the stranded colorwork till next week, but I’d like to give it to them anyway. I really like these women a lot. They are the ladies who work at the nail salon I frequent and they’re really dear people.

That last statement opens a door to an entire new contemplation - about people I saw, but didn’t get to know, back in the days of yore - in high school, when all my social skills were hammered out. Those folk, usually far more adept at doing the things one is supposed to do, were well within my vision, but never close enough to talk to. I’d watch them, noting that they always seemed to wear the right clothes, introduced little gestures or phrases that were cool from the get go, clustered in social groups that just seemed to be doing age appropriate things, like going on dates or joining clubs or working at jobs. They seemed older than I, who, even now, with decades of successful social navigation under my belt, can still feel uncomfortably gauche and immature at times.

Most of these people were girls, though there were boys, too, who seemed to be part of that other world. That world of fast access to the grown ups. Now I think about it, of course these people would seem more mature. They had less time to stay a kid than those of us who were expected to go through 4+ more years of school after we turned 18. They had to start thinking hard about rent and taxes and phone bills and cars that were not going to be supplied by parents. Some of them were going to be thinking about their own babies. They didn’t have time to be gauche and awkward and clumsy. They certainly didn’t have time to narrow their focus down to something as specific as the Galamian method of vibrato compared to the Toth.

Those of us who had been placed on the four-more-years track, a far smaller number 30 years ago than today, knew we were separated from them and we knew that as time passed we’d see less and less of them till one day we might never see them at all, unless we ended up teaching their kid in our classes. So we never got to know them, we babies with the ambitious report cards.

My family wasn’t much of one to use individual services, like beauticians or manicurists or house cleaners. Heck, we tended to even do our own house painting and I never remember a plumber or electrician coming to our house in all the 18 years I lived with my parents. Daddies took care of those things and let’s face it, any service man who might have been summoned would have come while I was in school. Of course, now I say this - I remember in one place we lived, the upstairs shower never worked. You had to use the other bathroom if you wanted a shower. Perhaps my parents, even in their late 30’s, were still just too shy to talk to those people over there. When you’re a kid you can never figure out why grown ups do the things they do. You just assume they know what they’re doing and you’ll find out “when you’re grown up”.

Anyway, this long meandering post is merely taking you to the spot where I walk across the room and start talking to those folk “over there”. And they’re just as nice and friendly and warm as you’d ever want someone to be. And when they find out you teach knitting they’re thrilled and can’t wait for you to offer them a class. And that’s just what I’ll be doing tonight.

posted by Bess | 7:09 AM


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Tuesday, November 16, 2004  

Real frost finally skimmed across my lawn yesterday. The thermometer said 28 and the nip in the air felt like it. Sweet autumn days aren’t absolutely gone, but the forest is getting its winter skeleton look. Dark bark etches a black mesh against blue skies. The thick evergreen branches of cedar and arborvitae shelter little fluttering birds. The fragrance of wood smoke touches everything and makes stepping through the front door a blessing. Winter is on its way.

One of the things that really excites me this time of year is the light. After experiencing this phenomenon for 52 years, whenever my little patch of earth starts looking way from the sun, the shadows make me feel like celebrating. I realize this is a conditioned response. Acute angles of sunlight after months of hot summertime must mean Santa will soon be here. I don’t care. I love the way I begin to feel when the darkness seeps into the afternoon, heralded by long red shafts of sunset. We’re having some glorious pink skies this year, probably courtesy of Mt. St. Helen. I remember in the ‘80’s the sunsets were breathtaking. What a treat to see them again.

Each day the sunshine nudges me into a happy holiday state. It seems to whisper that exciting things might just happen and they might happen tonight. The memory of these anticipatory feelings goes back at least as far as elementary school. Can it mean? Does it promise Fun for the evening? Will my report card be Good this time? Will I finish my Homework with some time to play? Later, in my teens the feelings were the same, even if the hopes were different. Maybe He will call. There might be a Party next weekend. Perhaps I will wake up Pretty of better yet; Cool!

Even now, from the well entrenched state of the half-century mark, I still feel the little frisson of the possible, the hopeful, the maybe. We don’t really change much, do we. We get more used to who we are, we become more of whatever that is - till, in our ancient old age we are boiled down to the essence of self. Oh. I just had such a thought! Bess Bullion!

Wish I had a smiley face here - the laughing one.

Anyway - I do so love this time of year. But you are all wanting to know about the wedding dress, right?

Alas, I forgot to take any fabric to work with me and had SUCH a pile of work to do I couldn’t take even a 5 minute break to go talk to the quilting ladies. Monday is a late-ish day for me and I am a pure, undiluted morning person. Working on even proto-wedding dresses at night is not going to happen - at least, not major construction work. All I did yesterday was think about it.

Thinking is no small part of this job. I have not made a strapless dress before. I never wore one either. When I once may have been able to wear them, when I still had the lightness of youth, they weren’t in style and now that they are, I don’t have the figure to pull it off - even if I had the personality to want to. So I let my mind ponder the possible ways of constructing one that is comfortable, stays up, doesn’t gap, and doesn’t weigh 35 pounds.

When I have it figured out I’ll share my wisdom.

Tonight is WW and I almost dread to go. I can’t figure out why I am straying so far from the known and easy path, to stumble down a rocky road littered with blocks of cheese and extra helpings of bread. I haven’t been to the gym in over a week. I’m wondering how to fit some visits in this week and now I remember - I’m supposed to go to the dentist during my lunch hour.

Well durn. How does one fit it all in, hmmm? You get one part of your life in order and wham, another part decides to go astray. Just thinking about the body thing is a bit of a downer - but also a reminder that I need to spend some time in quiet meditation and planning. The next two months are going to be packed full and if I want them to unfold without wrinkles I had better make sure the core of myself is completely stable. That means watching less TV - or, in our case, fewer videos.

Video watching is my most reckless activity and one of the prime causes of dissatisfaction in my life. It’s dangerous because, though it can be a pleasure, it also steals my time - my mind - my life. It makes me dopey and fritters away huge chunks of opportunity. And sometimes it lacks even the literary value of a good plot or decent acting. We’ve been watching rather a lot of the stuff lately. It’s something BD really does like to do - far more than I, actually. So it’s something we do together. But truth is - I’ve gone over my limit and resentment has crept into my spirit.

So there. I have gone from excitement and thrill, through pondering to worry and now resentment - all in a single blog post. Still, there is something very good about identifying sources of discontent. First, know thy enemy, right? Determination follows easily after that. I can close now with the gift of resolve. What a great way to start the day.

posted by Bess | 7:28 AM


Bess, you are a Brave Woman, sewing such a confection! But I know you can pull it off!

Did I miss something? Do you have a Wedding Date yet??

By Blogger Margaret, at 10:06 AM  

What a wonderful post. I can identify with all of your "almost winter" descriptions and makes me even more homesick for my midwest childhood. The desert has it's own beauty, but it's not the one I have imprinted upon me from childhood.


By Blogger Literary Lady, at 8:18 AM  

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Monday, November 15, 2004  

Wedding dress excitement is beginning to make its presence seen and not just felt around here. There are piles of snowy shimery fabric heaping up on the dining room table and little whisps of thread still cling to the carpet, in spite of my vacuum weilding. And watch out for that box of straight pins! A trip to Walmart on Saturday uncovered some $1-a-yard taffeta and a sparkly fabric with a similar hand to the silk organza we purchased at G Street. The kids came for breakfast on Sunday and then GD went home to do some work while B&LD drove into the forest to split firewood. The house was mine at last and I began to pin and cut and sew.

My sewing machine is an ancient relic from 1972 - purchased with my first paycheck from the Richmond Symphony - and by golly it took the entire check. It was the second from the top line of machines, the one without cams, but with the innovative zigzag stitch that let you sew on knit fabric. Do you remember polyester knit?

Yeah. Gross. In fact, I never made anything with that stuff nor did I ever buy any clothes made from it, but you could also get acrylic knit fabric and a t-shirt fabric that was sometimes cotton and sometimes a cotton blend. Can you imagine a world where it is cheaper to make a t-shirt than to buy one? Been a long time, hasn’t it?

Anyway, my sewing machine has been aging somewhat gracefully, but it may have crossed the line from temperamental to more trouble than it’s worth. I have not been able to adjust the bobbin tension properly for 10 years; nor has any repair man I’ve taken the machine to, btw. I did a major packing-up a few years ago, with additional reorganizing when the GuyWithPaintbrushes came last spring. So now, of course, I can’t find the little box that holds the zipper foot, nor can I find the operator’s manual, which I did find during that first flurry of efficiency. I don’t know if I can sew with the feed dogs down on this machine and one of the spindles that holds the spools of thread snapped off last summer.

This is not a good thing.

A dear friend, C, brought over her machine, but it is one of those Singer machines that has a horizontal thread spindle - not good for embroidery with metallic thread, though the feed dogs do drop down for this sort of sewing. I may have to hook up with one of my quilting friends to do any of the embellishment I have in mind. C has made lots of strapless dresses, though. She has 2 teenage daughters. She had lots of advice about underpinnings and structure.

By dinner time I had a shell of a dress for GD to try on, a slim fitting sheath with a back zipper. I gathered the sparkly stuff and pinned it around her hips at different angles and in different directions. Now - this is a 24 year old woman with a lovely figure that is a perfect fit in sewing patterns. This is a major relief for me - because I never could make anything for myself with standard pattern sizes. Everything had to be cut and adjusted and moved about, with extra inches taken here and other inches removed there. Since she’s well proportioned, she doesn’t have any particular figure “flaws” to disguise. At this junction we are looking for a silhouette she likes - or perhaps that feeds some secret hunger in her.

That’s the way it is with clothing, especially wedding clothing. Especially for women.

Our clothing is a major form of communication. We wear particular styles, colors, textures, to explain to people who we are. In different settings we want to be sure people know different things about us. On a Saturday morning I don’t care if you know I am efficient and can meet deadlines. On a Wednesday afternoon, I do. If I were going to be the center of attention at a big event, you can be sure I would have an attention grabbing outfit. If I’m not the center of attention at that same event, you can be equally sure I’ll have on a great dress, but I won’t try to rival the guest of honor.

Then there are the fantasies we can fulfill when we have the right costume. Wedding dresses play a little of that costume role because the event itself is so theatrical. Not that I think a wedding is just a show. But the event is special enough, far enough out of our ordinary lives, in spite of its great importance to those ordinary lives, to justify extraordinary clothing and a bit of fantasy fulfillment. A lot of hopes and prayers and dreams can be sewn into a wedding dress.

I haven’t delved too deeply into GD’s psyche to see exactly what she wants to express about herself in this wedding dress. I’m comfortable with letting her experiment around a bit. But I believe I’ll ask her outright, next time I see her. In the mean time I’m taking a half yard of the silk organza to work with me, along with the hologram thread. A quilting group meets at the library every other Monday and one member promised to bring her sewing machine today and show me how to scrumble.

This all sewing post should give you a hint about the status of my other loves. I’ve packed up knitting and spinning till post-wedding dress, maybe even till post-wedding. With holidays and wedding arrangements filling up the next 8 weeks I believe I’d ruin any knitting project I worked on. A very dear friend, a professional caterer, has offered to work with us on the food side of the wedding and she’s coming down Thursday to cook in my kitchen. We’re having 15 for Thanksgiving dinner next week and I’ve scheduled the Friday after T’giving to take down the screens and wash the windows - with the Marvelous Sheryl’s help. R&Co. will be here Saturday post T'giving. Then there’s Christmas, which I love too much to give short shrift. It will be different this year, of course, but wonderful.

So February will be a grand time to pull out BriccaTheAran and that natural blue mohair. Let’s think sunny January and snowy February.

posted by Bess | 7:28 AM


Hats off to you for teaching such a challenging subject! Teaching is hard work - I did a domino vest demo for our knitting guild once, and it pretty well wore me out!!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 PM  

Anj and I are both fairly early risers as well, so please feel no guilt.

And I wish I'd been able to spend a little more time with Vi as well - what I did spend was lovely.

You did a wonderful job, and everyone was raving about what a good, sweet, patient, understanding teacher you are... I, of course, already knew this about you...

By Blogger Amie, at 4:42 PM  

Amie and I were up. In fact we had slept later than normal b'c of my overtalking the nite before. So don't fret. We really loved waking up and seeing to happy souls talking on the porch. And the loud mouth thing? My problem too.

Your class went swimmingly. I think you just got us when we were in a comfort zone. Everyone knew the person beside them by that point and were willing to talk them through it. Knitdad and I were giving pointers to the people beside us and I loved learning what you taught. In fact I taught some of it to knitters this evening. Thanks also for the drop spindle class. I've been practicing a little each nite.

Talk soon!

By Blogger purlewe, at 10:02 PM  

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Sunday, November 14, 2004  

It’s been a week now since the last day of the KRRetreat dawned - let’s see if I remember how that day went.

I was up early. Well, not all that early, of course, but about 6 or so, after a night full of dreams. One particularly uncomfortable one included my librarian mentor, Peggy Rudd, State Librarian of Texas. She used to work in Richmond and in my dream she was coming out to my library to see how well things were going. She found the entire computer network down and the lights burnt out and when she sat down to talk about it with my assistant and me, all we would do was scramble around on the floor, grabbing up foil wrapped Halloween chocolates and stuffing them in our mouths.

No need to be a genius to interpret that dream - I was worried about doing a good job (in the class) while my body was trying to cope with the effects of extreme eating.

Might as well get up if you’re going to have dreams like that. I dressed quietly and slipped out of the room. My next door neighbor, V, was sitting on the porch with her journal. I’m sitting here a week later, trying to remember if we smiled first and then I got that shot of recognition, or if I knew the instant I saw her sitting there, that here was someone special. Special in her own space and special to me. Then came a flood of kindred spirit, prompted by the sight of her writing in her journal. That was a safe feeling. I was still anxious about my car, so anything that could offer soothing vibes was so welcome. What I know is that we smiled, and it was a real smile, where eyes touch. Then I went down to look at the car and see if it had done evil things in the night.

It had not, though the inside smelled awful. I rolled down the windows and took my materials out of the trunk, which was even stinkier. I peeked inside the lodge, where the yoga class was going on, but I wasn’t in the mood for yoga. I wanted coffee and my class swatches because I still had one seam to finish.

I took everything back to the motel. V was still writing, but seemed so comfortably welcoming I pulled a chair outside and joined her. We talked gently while I sewed on the bottom seam. I confessed my nervousness about the class. She poured out gentle reassurance. Alas, I have a very carrying voice. The unsympathetic would call it loud. And it’s true. I can call my guys home across a half mile of woods or water. I don’t try to be loud, but not only did my chatter bring out A and A, but KnitDad told me later, that he could hear me in his downstairs room, though he sweetly said he was glad, because otherwise he’d have overslept.

Well. There. We are what we are, right?

So, why was I nervous about teaching the zipper/seam class and why did I agree to do something that made me nervous? Well, I was nervous because I didn’t own the knowledge enough to feel it pour out of me, the way teaching spindle knowledge does. And I agreed to do the class because it really irked me that I was nervous about explaining something I really did know how to do. So - it was, in a way, a selfish indulgence on my part; an opportunity to gain skills as a teacher - perhaps at the expense of the students. In my defense I'll add that, though there were many people present who were far better at any of the seams than I, there were also those who really would benefit from the instruction.

My biggest mistake was in not making people move their seats. Folk sat around the room in a large oval, staying where they had already decided they were comfortable. This ment that some people wanting to learn were behind me, and lots of folk who were in front of me weren’t participating. God that is disconcerting! I kept having to twirl around to be sure those in the back were receiving my instructions, and of course, the non-participants in front of me were confusing. Trying to make eye-contact with someone who is not paying attention can really throw you off your stride. So - if I ever am in that situation again, I will have everyone who is going to participate in the class move to one corner and the rest of the folk can go wherever they please.

The combination of skill level and participation was such that there was a general hubbub (let me call it by its name: Pandemonium) of voices going on all the time. At strategic points folk would shush if I asked them to, but most of the time it was pretty noisy. So noisy that Clara asked me if I thought I ought to do something about it. Ha! That was when I actually noticed the noise, ‘cause truth is - I'm comfortable in chaos. Not 24/7 chaos, but spurts of it. I was born to watch over toddlers. But that doesn’t mean any hungry learners enjoyed it.

Two things kept me going doggedly to the end - or perhaps, three. First were my helper elves; Lissa, especially, because I’d already asked her to be my roving aide, and then the other skilled needlefolk in the room who quietly guided their neighbors through the intricacies of zippers, mattress stitch and 3 needle i-cord bindoff. Second was the fabulous anchoring of V’s eyes. I found myself returning to her eyes again and again when I began to waver. And she knew it. She would make that eye contact and her spirit would wash across the floor and say to me “go on, honey, you’re doing fine.” What a gift!

The third thing that made the class actually fun was that, in the end, people learned the seams - there were little zippered pouches all around the room. What a thrill! Even though I was clumsy at explaining, I still had something to offer and people were still able to make it out through my stumblings and the room's hubbub. Sometimes, life just turns out to be so sweet.

I was inordinately glad, though, to see my watch hands point to 12 just as the last person “got” that 3-needle i-cord bindoff. It’s a sweet little stitch and folk will have a useful reminder of how to do it now, as well as a place to put their little knitting accessories. We’d been at it since 9:30 and it wasn’t till I got home that I read in the schedule that the class was only supposed to last 2 hours. Ah well. Best laid plans.

There was a little time between the class and lunch; just enough to teach a few new spinners. How glad I was to show V how to do the Miss America wave. She had a very simple spindle, hand made, of weathered wood, but beautifully balanced. It’s a tool she’ll enjoy playing with and I was honored to be able to show her how to have fun with it.

Would you believe anybody would want lunch after such a weekend? Well, we all did. But by then folk were peeling off to catch planes and cover miles on the long journey home. Not everyone, but in 2’s and 3’s, they’d get up from the table, hug new found friends, cry out farewells and move off.

After lunch, those of us with the least distance to cover and the most time to spare, lingered; to buy more goodies from Jen, to make the day go slower, to hold on to the happy glow just a little bit longer. The afternoon shadows had begun to lengthen before the last of us reluctantly got in our cars and said good-bye to the KRRetreat. What fun. What challenges. What bliss. The let down hadn’t hit us yet, so we could carry the glow all the way home. And like Christmas or Birthdays, there is always next year to look forward to.

Thank you Clara.

posted by Bess | 8:13 AM


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Saturday, November 13, 2004  

Hmm. Evidently tagboard doesn't like long email addresses. Anyway, this one's for you, Necia:

Carodan Farms own store brand worsted weight wool.

This is better anyway, since I can elaborate on the blog. This wool is a ruggedly textured yarn that still has the oil on it that you need when you spin wool by machine. It's a surprising scent, actually, but washes out with soap and warm water and when you wash the yarn it blossoms into a lovely rich wool. It may feel a little rough, (though not scratchy) when you first get it, but it actually begins to soften as you knit it. It is also very reasonably priced. I like all the colors, but the blues are the most gorgeous. There are little tiny spots of complimentary color spun in with the main color that serve to deepen the main color, but it is not a "flecked" yarn like some of the tweed yarns.

I'm talking myself into a pair of mittens from this stuff.

NO bess BAD BAD BAD. It's sewing time for you.

And folks, I am still running behind the clock and don't have time to put in the final installment of my KRRetreat report. I know there will be a little time today though, so check back in the evening if you are unable to wait.

Yesterday was one of those days when you long to be at home, in bed, with a cup of your favorite hot drink and a book/knitting project/cat/dog in your lap. Sigh. Unfortunately, I was at work with a crashing circulation system. That's the third time, though, so now all the bad things that can happen at work have to be over with. Right? The software company wants me to send them my entire database FTP. Gad! Well, the computer wizard is coming at 10 o'clock to caress the system and he can take care of that for me.

We have new staff coming on in a week but till she does we're all working odd extra hours. I'm pulling the Saturday duties. This is good, in a way, since I am going to need those comp time hours in the weeks ahead. But this is also why I can't wax eloquent about the retreat. In fact, I'm off now, to do something with this hair. (the color, not the cut)

posted by Bess | 7:30 AM


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Friday, November 12, 2004  

Today I get another shot at ThePerfectHaircut - which means there isn't time to wax elloquent about the last day of the retreat. I'll get to it either later or tomorrow.

I'm thinking about letting my hair grow a little longer anyway - and will talk it over with the the Lady of the Scissors. Short hair is nice but there's really nothing you can do with it - except wear it the same old same old. I feel myself sliding into hair envy, since half the women in my family have fabulous hair and the other half have my kind of hair. It's not bad hair, there just isn't all that much of it.

I'm going to have to work this Saturday so I spent some of yesterday cleaning my house. It's odd how it had gotten so cruddy that even BD noticed, though he didn't say anything. I just knew he felt that the house was not as comfortable as usual. It sparkles now. Then GD and I drove off to look at a potential wedding reception site - a local winery. It was a lovely place for a summer wedding, but a little far away for a winter one. I did do a little wine tasting and discovered the most delicious desert wine, picked up a bottle of that and another of a sort of middle of the road red - not dry and not sweet and not oakish - just red. They did sell an expensive $30+ wine and it really was good, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

The wedding site choices have narrowed down to ... well ... probably just exactly the right spot, but the kids are checking out one more place today. Looks like after the weekend we'll have time and date and place and I can babble about it even more. It's simply delicious that they live next door and I can be so intimate with all the plans. And of course, the dress floats about our conversation all the time. The boys drift away when we begin talking fabrics and trims and I feel wickedly greedily glad to seem them go. I haven't had a woman to talk sewing with since I lived with Mama - good lord, back in 1970!

Oh - just writing that brings back such a flood of memories. Honestly, no girl ever had such a wonderful fashion mother. She was so clever with her hands, and had such an eye for line. She was generous with her tools and with her time as well. Many a night we'd work together to finish a fine wool crepe bias skirt or to fit a collar to a difficult neckline. And she understood about shopping to just look - shopping for inspiration. Not that she played about in stores all the time - but she just understood - sometimes it's not a buying or owning thing, just a looking thing.

I can never remember quarreling with Mama about clothes, nor ever remember her vetoing anything I picked out, though her taste didn't match mine. She had such bigness of heart when we shopped together. She never confused what was right for her with what was right for someone else.

Well, anyway, it's a lot of fun to talk clothes with another woman again.
And with that I better close and get ready for work.

posted by Bess | 7:09 AM


The more I read, the more I drool! Sounds like you had a *divine* time! Ah...but I get to go on a wee quilting retreat next month at a much-touted B&!

And now I know why I have 3 stashes -- it's part of the Virgo Personna! But sensual??? Never thought of m'self that way, I must admit...

By Blogger Margaret, at 9:49 AM  

Love, your class was excellent, and I was honored to be your helper elf! It sure seemed that many more than 5 people caught the spinning bug from you! YOur obvious joy was contagious, and lit up the room. I'm so lucky that you are my friend!!!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:05 PM  

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Thursday, November 11, 2004  

Saturday dawned cool and bright, but sleeping in a room with blackout curtains prevented me from knowing this. I woke when the alarm went off and Jen and I had less than an hour to get dressed. Now - the naturally beautiful get up, wash their faces, brush their teeth and hair and put on their clothes. Thank goodness for that, since it left me more time in the bathroom and at the mirror to prepare for the world.

Roomie Jen was feeling coldish so I drove her down to breakfast. The parking area is on a steep slope and the only place left was the steepest part of all. There was a trudge back up the hill to the lodge where we were greeted by the cutest border collie, rolled over on her back and sweeping the ground with her plume like tail. I never did ask the dog’s name, but she was the most shameless flirt you ever saw. And when she wasn’t begging for a belly rub she was herding the guests. If you’ve ever seen a sheep dog hunch it’s shoulders, preparatory to circling its charges, you can imagine the scene as folk got out of their cars and the little GML dog gently urged them into the dining hall.

What can one say about Graves’ food that hasn’t been said by everyone else. It’s lavish. It’s hearty. It’s fairly high on the carbohydrate counter. The dining hall is pretty loud - it’s a big open wooden space. The noise seems to generate more noise and crank up the personal energy level as the minutes tick by. Near the end of breakfast someone pointed over my shoulder and cried out "Look!". I turned and there was R, my dearest and only girlfriend from college days, making her way through the room. Up from the table, arms flung wide, we were hugging and laughing and bumping into other diners. R lives a scant 5 miles from Graves and had registered for the day. Not a sole complained about our jostling, because knitters really are the nicest people. Still, we moved on downstairs then, to giggle and talk and find seats for the chart reading class.

R has actually knitted for many years, but she is different from me. Where I have to dive into the whole vat of something if it ever peaks my interest, R goes precisely and thoughtfully from one project to another. There is no obscene stash in her house. There are not even any UFO’s. She gardens the same way. She has the most beautiful and lovely world, because she is a careful, thrifty Aquarius instead of a hoarding sensual Virgo. And we never quarrel and we each admire the other and count ourselves lucky to be in the company of such a superior person. It’s always been that way. Hardly likely to change after 33 years.

The chart reading class was really wonderful. Annie was hilarious, as usual, but also very clear in her drawings and her explanations. Best of all, there was a courtesy and eagerness around the room that made things feel both comfortable and productive. In such a big crowd there is always a variety of skill levels and those who had more skill were quick to murmur additional explanations to those near by. This has always been true at all the retreat classes so far and it carried over into Sunday, thank goodness.

There was a general hubbub out in the hall. I was sitting where I could look out the door and down to the other public space where the vendors had begun to set up shop. The activity proved to be too tempting and I snuck down the hall to see how things looked. Ooo la la - fiber, needles, and books, Oh My. Tools and jewelry and gifts! Oh My. But I didn’t linger and I was back in the classroom in time to hear the familiar rumble of furniture being shoved about in the dining room. With a Pavlovian response, my mouth began to water and I began to imagine what I’d discover for lunch.

The shops were wonderful this year, spread out in two rooms, making it easier to see what everyone had to offer. Carodan Farms had wonderful kits that made my mouth water and two of the Elizabeth Lavold books. Oooo so tempting. Jen had gorgeous fiber and some sock yarn I was not about to leave behind. Two skeins popped into my bag. Stony Mt. Farms had a beautiful stand with arching copper arms, like the branches of a tree, all hung about with gorgeous spindles! Beautiful balanced wooden spindles that glowed like so many live things, just begging to be picked up and twirled. I was riveted, entranced, and unable to tear myself away from them. Others responded the same way, because I was surrounded by a press of eager people, full of questions about them.

I just now realized that perhaps they were tempted as much by the spindle spinning I’d been doing the previous night. A brief digression here, to reiterate how I can’t really work on anything that requires thought when I am in a crowd of knitters. I’m too busy responding to the energy in the room to concentrate on the number of stitches in a given pattern. But I can spin on a spindle anywhere - in a crowd, alone, on a boat, in a car (when I’m a passenger, of course). I bet a lot of would be spindlers were prompted to give the craft a whirl (sorry) after watching me. Well - I don’t mean to sound stuck up - I just think seeing a demonstration encouraged latent desires.

Anyway, people were all about asking spindle questions. E even asked me if I would teach her to spindle spin and by the end of the afternoon there were far fewer pretty little spindles hanging from Barbara Gentry’s spindle tree. One of those beauties came home with me.

As for my own shopping, this was the most restrained I have ever been around fibers’n yarn, but the truth is, my brain is very much preoccupied with wedding dress plans and my pocket book is keeping it’s lips pretty tight as well. Besides which, I have all the yarn and fiber and patterns and books and tools I need to last me oh, perhaps a good half dozen years. So my purchases were few, but they were certainly quality.

As the sun began to slide down behind the apple orchard on the far side of the valley, we clustered in twos and threes with our purchases; stroking, casting on, admiring, planning. R had to leave before full darkness came on and we hugged and grinned and laughed about the fun we are going to have. Their annual post-Thanksgiving visit is barely 2 weeks away. Out on the porch, three dexterous women learned about the Magic of Twist. I can’t restrain the grin on my face, even now, as I cast my mind back to that glorious moment when those new spinners suddenly saw that twist, like a live thing, leap up the fibers and kiss their fingertips. Each time I see it I feel again, that moment when I first knew that magic. I believe that is why I so love to teach spinning. That Ah-ha moment that floods the body with sureness and knowing and wonder. That instant bond with all of humanity that forms when one understands a craft as old as civilization - that actually created civilization. You can never really be alone if you own one of the ancient skills.

After dinner I needed to go out to my car, and found it in a cloud of gasoline fumes. A note taped to the driver’s window said that the car was leaking fuel. Utter panic washed through me - oh god - 100 miles from home and not a gas station in sight and my car will blow up if I touch it and there will be an inferno sweeping through the valley and I’ll never get home and why didn’t I let BD drive me up here and what am I going to do and ... and on and on.

It was black dark outside. There was no way of knowing what had happened. So of course I got in and turned the key and half a tank was left. Hmmm. Nothing to do but petition the OneWhoDealsWithCars. BD was loving and reassuring and gentle and full of promises to be there when the retreat ended to take care of it all. I have no trouble imagining all the possible catastrophes in any given bad situation, but once I’m offered some solutions, I calm down fast. I promised him I’d look again in the daylight and call with an assessment. And then, R’s husband was only a few miles away. So long as some of my OnesWhoDealWithCars are near by I pretty much forget about cars anyway and go back to having fun - which is just what I did.

To save those who can’t wait till tomorrow to find out what had happened, evidently the car was parked at such a slope that gas leaked out of the vent in the gas cap. Once the car was parked on level ground it stopped leaking. I had no trouble getting home all on my own.

Two more spinners found their inner spindle after another gargantuan dinner, making a total of 5 converts. A good Saturday’s work, wouldn’t you say? I missed the felting workshop with Barbara Gentry, but truth is, we’d had a little fun session last winter when I was visiting her shop. I also ought to apologize to her right here, for getting a little noisy in my corner of the room, while I talked spinning with a novitiate. A good shushing quieted me down and nobody had to remind us again that a class was going on.

Back in our room, I asked Jen to read my handouts for Sunday’s seaming class. Although I could feel the first stirrings of nervousness down in my stomach, I determinedly ignored them and put my trust in some kindly goddess who would leap into my mouth and make me say the right things. So another day of the retreat came to a close with the two of us falling asleep almost the instant our heads touched the pillows.

posted by Bess | 8:48 AM


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Wednesday, November 10, 2004  

It wasn't so bad to go back to work after all. How lovely that I have such a nice job. The WW scale showed me that I had gained only 2 lbs - which - considering the amount of food I'd managed to consume over the weekend, was not too bad. I'm back on the program today.

What follows is the first of several installments of my Retreat Report.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I’m glad I saved Friday’s early morning post because the past 4 days have been packed so full, it would be hard to remember just where it all began. I remember that it began with the anticipation of the feminine luxury of a manicure. The joke on me was that it very quickly spiraled down into the reality of administrative responsibility. I planned to stop by the library and drop off a book as I drove into town. Unfortunately, my key wouldn’t open the back door. The tumblers wouldn’t move inside their hidden box. The door wouldn’t open.

There was a scramble over the next hour, complete with mad dash to the county administrator’s office, phone calls to MaintenanceMan and a plumber (you don’t want to know), a sidewalk meet-up with my assistant to supply her with front door keys, and some quick schedule planning so that the Saturday staff could get in. Whew is all I can say.

For all the burden of being responsible for a public institution, I felt remarkably little stress about blithely waltzing off to the retreat, albeit a little later than I’d intended. The weather was crisp and golden, the drive was easy except for that stretch of road between 95 and the Rapidan River. Driving through the Virginia piedmont on Route 3 is a bugger, always crowded, always slow, with the development fairy sprinkling vinyl villages and shopping centers willy nilly.

Of course, we need a shopping center now and then and I stopped at Borders and at the mall. The Borders was awful - at least, the craft section was. The book I wanted was supposedly in the store, but it certainly wasn’t any where I could find it and the slender, pierced and head shaved tweentey-something who was supposed to be working there managed to melt away before I could insist that he locate it. Truth is, I know how hard it is to keep certain collections of books in order. I also know that once something is really out of place it’s not going to be found in the amount of disposable time the patron or customer has to fritter away. Oh - one of these days the manager will make somebody clean up the craft section and the book will be found, but it wasn’t going to happen last Friday and what’s a $29 loss to a megalith organization. Heck. I don’t even live in Fredericksburg!

But when I go on-line to buy that book, it won’t be from Borders, that’s for sure.

It was close to 5 when I finally got to Graves Mt. Lodge and the welcome I received from all the wonderful people there was as loving and warm as a hug from mama. In fact, it was full of hugs. Hugs and laughter and the happy delight of meeting up with KnitDad, on the east coast at last.

Each year the retreat, in addition to bringing old friends together, offers up the delight of new friends who will be next year’s old friends. The new buddies are a precious gift. You never know who will touch you across the room with a special feeling of knowing - of having been waiting forever for this one moment. It has happened at previous retreats. It happened at this one too. But this meeting was special - because we knew it was going to happen. We knew - and we were waiting and we were excited about it. Best of all, we weren’t disappointed. The face2face with KnitDad was as wonderful as I’d known it would be.

I never asked the incomparable Clara about statistics, but the retreat seemed cozier this year. There was very good energy throughout the assembled knitters. Perhaps it was because I got there late. Perhaps the pre-conference dye workshop had produced a little flame of happiness that was already permeating the group, filling everyone with good vibes. Whatever the reason, this retreat held a sweetness to it that overrode all my other feelings.

And feelings I had in plenty. I never knit anything at these events. I’m so pumped by the voices and questions and actions and products and ideas and triumphs of the other people present that I can’t settle down to do anything at all. I can spin on my spindle, which somehow keeps me from otherwise spinning off the deep end emotionally, but what I spin doesn’t even become anything. I’m remarkably like an overstimulated toddler when I get in a group of knitters. I’m actually like this with my own little Tuesday night knitters group. Imagine what I’m like when there are 65 or 70 knitters in a room.

We all tramped upstairs for dinner sometime around 6:30 and began the first of many gargantuan meals spread out upon the groaning tables. Graves is a little heavy on the carbohydrates but you could eat a fairly balanced meal of self-selected portions if you chose. You could, but I seldom see anyone do so. Like teenagers, we tended to dive in and scarf down. Even the people who complained about the sugar or starch in every dish didn’t seem to restrain themselves much.

The evening closed with a show and tell session that gives folk a chance to introduce themselves. Seasoned retreat goers know that this can go on a long time, since knitters love to share and love to admire. Those who were absolutely bushed by the journey slipped away to catch some Z’s, but the rest of us sat around till after 10, admiring and touching and ooing and ahhing. Gorgeous stranded colorwork. Silky scarves. Cleverly tied shawls. Felted bags. Antique knitted skirts. The collection was worthy of a gallery exhibition. What was cutest of all was how people would stand up and begin talking about their knitting without remembering to introduce themselves - this happened much more than once.

Eventually the crowd broke up and I was up the hill and fast asleep before 11.

posted by Bess | 7:09 AM