Monday, January 30, 2006

Winter Olympics

I do not like winter sports. They appear cold. I say appear because I haven't actually given any of them a whole hearted shot. When I was in the 8th grade, I went on a ski weekend with my class. I successfully snow plowed the bunny slope several times after falling once in the lift line. Not bad, I was told. What seemed missing was any desire whatsoever to repeat the experience ever again. The best part of the weekend was listening to my new A-Ha cassette tape in the van. My idea of fun in the snow is a) sitting inside a warm cabin drinking hot chocolate while watching the snow through a window, or b) watching movies that feature snow as part of a cute, romantic scene, as in Serendipity.

That said, I still get sucked into the Olympics, even the winter ones. Maybe it comes from growing up in a different country and feeling the tug of national pride, the swell of emotion at hearing my country's anthem, the sense of community in following the medal counts. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the carefully crafted stories tracing the athletes from hard beginnings to possible greatness (or at least great endorsements). Whatever the cause, I get pulled into the games and end up staying up way too late to find out who won a qualifying event in a sport I never think about otherwise. The next morning, as I grumble my way through getting ready for school, then as I try to teach through my sleepless haze, I hate myself. I hate Derek Parra and Apolo Ohno. I hate the sportscasters and the Olympic Village and Johnny Mosely. I hate all the curling teams. I SWEAR to myself and every kid in 1st period that I will not even turn the TV on, much less watch something like cross country skiing with target shooting nonsense. But then evening comes. The TV calls to me. I cannot make it stop. I say I'll just tune in to SEE WHAT IS ON. Then they play an athlete story, and it's all over because I want the little girl's daddy to win and now I have to find out if he does. At least this time around, I will have something valuable to do with my time while watching the luge. This is the brilliance of Knitting Olympics. I know I will be watching anyway, so I might as well take on this other challenge and create a point to all those missed hours of sleep.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Go Left Go Left Go Left Right Left

What have I done?

I just reread the pattern for the Aran Stocking I have said that I will do for Knitting Olympics. Divide for Heel. ? Wrp-t. ?? What was I thinking? I can knit. I can purl. I think I get the basic concept of cables. I can count and hold two pieces of yarn together and I KNOW I CAN FIGURE THIS OUT. It's on size 13 needles, for God's sake. How could I possibly not figure it out and finish it in 16 days?

But this morning, I reread the pattern and now I am freaking out just a little bit. I do not know how to wrap. What the heck. What can I do?

More to the point, What Would Michael Phelps Do? (Because I feel I must, in the spirit of competition, channel the wisdom of Olympians who have triumphed before me. ) Of course. He would slump his perfect body into a chair beside a shimmering blue pool, position his earbuds into his ears, and blast Eminem singing "Till I Collapse" over and over on his iPod until Ian Thorpe became like a distant memory in his peripheral vision. AHA! So, aside from the perfect sculpted torso, luscious arms, and long powerful legs, and aside from any memory of sharing a pool of blue water with Ian Thorpe, it's quite similar, no? Shady and me. Go Left Right Left.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Watch for me on the podium. I have just become a major contender for the gold in the Knitting Olympics . On February 10, during the opening ceremonies, I will cast on the Aran Stocking from Handknit Holidays, and it will be done by February 26, when the flame is extinguished.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Saturday, January 21, 2006


When I was in college, I went to used bookstores frequently. I enjoyed it. I liked browsing the almost organized shelves for the names of authors I was reading in class or hearing about from new friends. Used bookstores in the Bay Area were an appealingly disheveled contrast to the plastic-wrapped, crisply new, Southern California stripmall bookshop experiences of my pre-college years. I felt I was breathing in new possibilities, not just of books to read but of identities to become. Ahhh. The Choices.

Ok, so that was then. I went to a bookstore this afternoon in Ojai. Lovely bookshop, partly outdoors. Resident cat. Respectable collection of first editions, including a paperback Sirens of Titan for a mere $200. But after fifteen minutes, I started sneezing and couldn't focus on the books any more. How did I put up with that smell for such long periods of time before? It is one of the worst odors in the world. I had to get out. The Sirens of Titan will have to beckon to someone else!

Ojai is pretty and quiet. Streets lined with charming bungalows. Nice little yarn shop with a decent selection of Crystal Palace yarns. Good coffee at the Ojai Coffee Roasting Company. Like some of the towns in the Napa Valley, but closer to home.

Friday, January 20, 2006


When I think we might have kids someday, these are some reasons why:

1. People like this who make the experience seem like a fascinating adventure, who have an adorable child, have retained their identity, their marriage, their pet, their wit, and their optimism.

2. Pat Wolfe, and the books on her bibliography. The brain is endlessly interesting. Two of the most active developmental stages in brain growth are prenatal and the terrible twos. So much is happening in young children's brains. We could really change the world with intentional early childhood care and attention.

3. At school every single day, one or more of my students does something that is absolutely remarkable and endearing. They then take themselves home to adults I hope notice and appreciate them. They are completely wonderful.

4. There are so many kids who could really use a good home, even if it is a small home with busy parents.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What Testing Pushes Away

Today, I invited my students to participate in a completely sublime and captivating ritual, one that we *NEVER* do because it is not TESTED (as in, Standardized Testing And Reporting tested). I asked my students to write a story. A descriptive, creative, imaginative story FROM SCRATCH. As in, no thesis. No persuasive organizational structure. No outline, followed by drafting, followed by heavy peer editing, followed by a careful/sterile rubric score. We are beginning to study horror as a genre. Today, I projected a transparency of René Magritte's "The Empire of Light" and provided this prompt: "What characters are in this picture? What are they doing? Why? What happens? You MAY make your story suspenseful if you choose." The room was dark except for the painting on the projector. I thought maybe they would write for about half an hour, then claim they were done. Then we could read what we had written in pairs/small groups. They were still writing when the bell rang. I had to give them the option to finish their stories at home. (They did this without any of these.) I am still blown away, because A) the kids REALLY liked creative writing, B) this is the teacher I like being, C) I had a great time writing my own story along with them, and D) I am completely inspired in my career. I am not going to let testing rob me or my students. Testing has nothing to do with a love of story or a love of language or a love of thinking. I think my kids should be able to kick some testing butt, but I don't think we need to throw out everything else to make that happen.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Long Term Goal

My friend Bevin loaned me this book. I didn't even have it for 2 hours before ordering one for myself. There are so many gorgeous projects. I want to start the cabled Aran Tree Skirt in time for next Christmas.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rainy Weekend Morning

Bagels and coffee are the absolute most perfect breakfast for rainy mornings. Going out to get them rather than making THE EXACT SAME THING at home is 100% essential, especially in the rain. You can sit in a warm shop, smell the delicious air, look out the thick windows at rain falling in the patio and fountain outside, and people watch, an activity that is always fascinating, but even more so in the rain.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dog With Two Settings

This dog had two settings: gallop and snuggle. One ear stood straight up, the other flopped down. He showed up all of a sudden, tried desperately to make friends with a sweet brindle pit bull, then bolted up to me. I tried to find his name on his Carp tags while he wiggled around and jumped into my lap. As soon as he arrived, he left. He sped off down the beach in the direction of no one, and just kept running.

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