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To Boldly Go

Leonard Nimoy passed away this week. I can still barely wrap my head around that fact.

How does someone you never met become a fixture of your life, enough so that you actually feel grief at his/her passing? Well, I’ve been thinking about that this week, because I actually felt pain upon hearing of his death. I’m a child of the seventies and eighties. I grew up watching Star Trek and the movies and series that followed. I didn’t have a crush on Jim Kirk like other girls did; my guy was Mr. Spock. My heart belonged to that pointy-eared alien from day one.

I’m a huge scifi-fantasy geek. My favorite books are generally fantasy, my favorite tv shows are invariably scifi. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern top my book list, and for tv, if you guessed that Firefly topped that list, you’d be spot on. And Firefly could never have existed without Star Trek.

My dad worked for a defense contractor as an aeronautical engineer when I was growing up, and was actively involved in the space program. Models of airplanes and Apollo rockets everywhere. Dad could look up at a dot in the sky and know that dot was a Boeing 737 turbo-prop whatever-thingie, and he’d be right. I was dragged to more airshows than I care to remember. His love of all flying machines led him, and therefore my brother and me, to all things scifi. He introduced me to the USS Enterprise, and Mr. Spock. Between Spock and Uhura, I was hooked. I thought Nichelle Nichols was beautiful then, and I think she’s even more so now.

Spock, though, he was just cool. Always calm and completely unflappable. The Vulcan mind-meld was the epitome of awesomeness. And the ears! Who wouldn’t want pointy ears?!

The years passed, and Star Trek disappeared from my tv screen eventually, but I continued to see Leonard Nimoy hanging out at our house as Dad was also a fan of In Search Of. The show’s content didn’t interest me, not as a young girl discovering that the opposite sex could be – gasp – cute, but Mr. Spock had given me the gift of science fiction. Next in my heart were Han Solo and Chewbacca, followed by the real Lieutenant Starbuck, Lieutenant Boomer, and Captain Apollo as played by Dirk Benedict, Herbert Jefferson Jr, and Richard Hatch in 1978’s original version of Battlestar Galactica, which brought with it another fixture in our house: Lorne Greene, who was white-haired when I was an infant, and who I thought was immortal. He’d been around forever, and I thought he always would be. He was the first of my scifi heroes to boldly go away forever.

After that, while I enjoyed the other Star Trek series and other shows like Farscape, I never had another crush like the one I had on Spock until Malcolm Reynolds and his Firefly, Serenity. I love Nathan Fillion in Castle, don’t get me wrong, but Mal…Mal was fun to watch. I loathe FOX to this day for that particular cancellation.

Star Trek was the show that started me on the road to geekdom. I’ve never attended a Comic-con; though I have dearly wanted to go, they’ve never been held in a city near me that I know of. But I’m a geek nonetheless, and proud of it!

I’ve watched the most recent versions of the Star Trek movies, now that Chris Pine is Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto is Spock. Zachary makes a good Spock, but still, no one was as good at playing that character as Leonard Nimoy. He was Spock. And like Lorne Greene, he was in my home forever, and had become immortal in my mind also. I’d seen him in recent shows and thought, wow, he’s in his eighties now, still standing tall, still a commanding figure, still going strong, looking great. It was a shock to not only hear that he had passed away, but to hear that he’d been ill. I’d never seen any sign of it.

I didn’t know Leonard Nimoy. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting him. But I knew Spock very well, had known him for…well, no need to put a date to it; let’s just say for many years. And part of my heart broke to know that he was gone. Mortality is something we rarely want to face anyway, even knowing that one day we’ll have to. There’s no cheating death. While this grief doesn’t compare to the loss of my mother nine years ago, or the loss of any dog I’ve ever owned, it’s still a very real grief. The man who gave life to Mr. Spock, who gave me the gift of letting my mind boldly go to places it had never been, was a part of my life from infancy through adulthood. A star has gone supernova, and will be missed.

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Making the Grade

A delicious eggplant purple!

A delicious eggplant purple!

Well. Let me tell you, those turban headbands were a hit. Seriously. I made the one for myself – which was actually a bit too large, as I’ve discovered – and the girls each demanded their own. First, I made another white one for Bryony, which also came out a little large for her little head, but she loved it. Then I bought the hot pink and teal blue to make more headbands for them. The hot pink for Aneira took another two days, because I had to intersperse knitting during my breaks from studying (if you suffer from insomnia, pick up textbooks on pharmacology and surgical nursing. You’ll be immediately cured, I promise you). I made hers a touch smaller, and also upped the ribbing from a 2-1 rib to a 2-2, and it worked out beautifully. The teal blue for Bryony was a slightly thinner yarn, calling for size 11 needles as opposed to the size 13s I needed for my and Aneira’s headbands. I upgraded hers to a 2-2 rib and made it smaller also, and haven’t laid eyes on the white one since. Every time that kid walks out the door, I get a hug and a “Thank you for my hair thingie, Mama!” Big hits. I didn’t even get pictures of them before they were snatched by the children! And while I’d love to post pictures of the girls wearing them, I won’t. As I said, way back when I began this blog, this forum is far too public, and I won’t expose my children on it. Far too many predators out there, and they don’t need to see my kids. So I’ll try to snag the headbands back again for pictures. This may take some time.

I’ve finally started on the purple one for myself, once again only able to knit when I’m away from the books, which isn’t often, so I haven’t gotten very far, as you can see from the picture. The purple yarn calls for the size 13 needles, but, well, I didn’t realize that when I started it – because I forgot to look – so I’m doing it on the 11s as a 2-2 rib. The only real difference between the 13s and the 11s is that it’s a tighter knit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Purple is my favorite color, and this is a deep eggplant shade that I love. I can’t wait to be done with it so I can see how it looks. I’ll take any shade of purple I can get hold of, but the deep, dark amethyst is by far the one I love most, while pastel purple is the one I like least. Pastels in any shade are nauseating for me, at least in terms of any adult using them. I’m not even thrilled to see kids in pastels. You have no idea how sick of pastel pink I was by the time my girls were out of baby clothes. Never have I been so happy to see clothes in other colors.

While the headbands made the grade, on the study front, I did not. Veterinary technology classes are considerably harder than veterinary assistant classes. In the space of a week, my grade has dropped from an A to a C, and I am supremely unhappy with myself for that. I don’t want to just skate into graduation by the skin of my teeth. I want to do this right, otherwise, what’s the point? To that end, I’ve already signed up for tutoring. I’m determined to get it right, one way or another. As I told the hubby last night, I never had a Plan B. This is it. It’s also not as though I’m still in my twenties, with plenty of time to pussyfoot around what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m closer to fifty than I am to forty now, and that has an effect on the landscape. So I either do it badly or I do it well, but it’s getting done either way. If I really work at it and still don’t do better than a C, well, then, at least I passed. The grading system in this field is a little different than normal, though, and my grades aren’t as low as a normal C. A C here starts at 77% and goes up to an 84%, which would be a B anywhere else. So it’s some consolation. A B is 85 – 92 I think, and an A is 93 and better.

Time to get back to the books now…break’s over. See you soon!

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Snow Days

Weekend project time!

Weekend project time!

We’re expecting 16 inches of snow to drop on us this weekend. It’s nothing in comparison to the northeastern states and Canada – holy cow! – but generally that means lots of closures in Colorado. I used to regard this fact with some measure of disbelief. After all, in New York, if it wasn’t over two feet deep, almost nothing closed. You could be late to work, but you were still expected to be there, so the first time Aneira’s school closed down here, I was shocked, because there was less than two inches of snow on the ground. Why on earth were they closing?

It took me a couple of years, but I think I’ve figured it out: every single road here has curves or grades. Every. Single. Road. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Picture driving that. I can’t speak for the private schools, but the public schools in my area do not bus, so you’re driving your kids to school and back every day. Just doing that accounts for four trips in the vehicle per day, not including whatever else you have to do. Granted, they’re short hops, but the statistics say that most accidents occur close to home, so that’s four opportunities to wreck your vehicle, not to mention yourself. Then factor in teenaged drivers, cocky with owning their first car. Then factor in other people who shouldn’t be driving: those elderly people who haven’t yet come to the realization that their eyesight isn’t quite good enough anymore, drunks, stoners driving high…add all that up together with curvy roads, or hilly ones. Yeah, I’m thinking staying off the street is a very shiny idea! Sure, there are people who are very capable of driving in bad weather, who know to slow down, how to avoid locking up the brakes, who drive defensively at all times…and then there are those others. Even the best drivers can’t always avoid an accident.

That being said, before things hit the nasty point today, we had errands to run, one of which was for some thick yarn to keep me busy the rest of the weekend after homework is done. Once the girls saw my turban headband, there was no end to the clamoring for me to make one for each of them. I used some of the remaining white yarn to make one for Bryony already, and started another one for Aneira. Then I made a realization: if they both have headbands in the same color, the arguments would be epic. New plan needed. Thus, I went off to Michael’s and Jo Ann Fabric for some hot pink yarn for Aneira, teal blue for Bryony, and purple, of course, for me. This oughta keep me happy for the weekend!

Now that thicker yarns are finally on my radar, I foresee buying more of them. They’re fun for short projects like the headbands, and look just as pretty as fingering and sock yarn. I had a very hard time today, keeping it down to three skeins of yarn, but I had limited myself to spending only a certain amount, and there were a few there that, though I wanted them badly, one skein alone was two-thirds of my budget! There was a skein of a deep, dark purple, with something sparkly all through it, and it was gorgeous, but it would have cost too much today, so I very sadly bid it adieu, at least for now. Thankfully, the BPD wasn’t acting up today, so no manic phase, where I wouldn’t have had a budget, and would have spent every dime I had.

One of the nice things about picking up a craft, any craft, is that it forces you to learn patience. We live in such an instant gratification, disposable world now. Learning something like fiber arts, or pottery, or stained glass or anything else, really does force patience upon you. You envision a knitted scarf in your mind. It’s gorgeous, and you want it now. Well, you’ve got two choices. You can knit what you see in your head, but it’s going to take you a few days to do it because you can’t sit and knit all day. There are kids to take to and from school, homework to help with, meals to cook, laundry to wash, whatever. Or, if you really want it now, you can go buy a scarf at the store, but it won’t be the one pictured in your mind. It certainly won’t be one of a kind!

Can you imagine what life must have been like during the medieval era for instance, when your life and your clothing depended on your own skills? You raise the sheep to shear the wool to spin into yarn to weave into cloth to make a dress. Or you went hunting a boar in the woods and took the chance that he would skewer you while you were trying to do the same to him, so you could bring him back to dress and cook and have meals for a couple of days. I wonder what they would think of our world? “You want a woolen dress? Well, there are thirty or more variations available in as many different stores, in all colors and sizes and prices – choose a place and let’s go get it. You don’t have cash? Hey, that’s all right, just use your trusty credit card. While we’re out, let’s pick up a pork roast at the store. We can take it home, toss it in the microwave because it’s pre-cooked, and have lunch within ten minutes.” Really, what would they think? How would the quality of our clothes, our food, our things, hold up to their opinions? How would they feel about the differences between our worlds? I weave and spin and knit because I enjoy it; for them it was survival. If you didn’t hunt, you didn’t eat. If you didn’t weave, you weren’t clothed. It’s an entirely different perspective. I can’t imagine they would really approve once the novelty wore off. We throw away everything, up to and including marriage. We have instant gratification in just about everything. We have instant mashed  potatoes, for crying out loud. Just add water, butter, and milk, stir, and voila!

My mom never made food out of a box, with the exception of cake mix. She made meals from scratch. We begged for Chef Boyardee to no avail, but the only way we were getting that was by visiting our friends whose parents were more agreeable. I realized before I moved out on my own, though, that Chef Boyardee and others were all garbage food. Now, in adulthood, I’ve yet to hear anyone complain that I made potato salad rather than buying it at the deli counter. No one prefers Prego over my homemade spaghetti sauce. Every member of my family would rather cultivate patience and wait for what I cook than eat pre-packaged food. Okay, there are exceptions. I haven’t yet convinced them that baked macaroni and cheese is better than that Velveeta boxed crap any day of the week!

But anyway, the point is that I think learning how to do things for yourself makes you patient by default. It’s not always going to work, of course, because sometimes you do want it right now, and we do live in a world where it’s possible to get it right now. Ah, but how much better do you feel when you’ve done it yourself? It took you longer, but I’d bet anything that the quality of what you made far exceeds the quality of the one in the store.

I also think that the more self-sufficient you are, the better off you’ll be in the long run, and when the opportunity comes up to learn to make something new and functional, I always want to try it. There are things I still want to learn: candle making, soap making, canning…and if I do, if the apocalypse does come, I’ll be able to provide better for my family, by the ability to give them blankets and clothing, to give them light and a way to keep clean, to store food, and I’d even be able to barter those skills to those that don’t have them. It’s a crazy way to think, isn’t it? But the world wasn’t always industrialized to the extent that it is today, and there’s always the chance that it won’t be again. We thought it would happen once before; remember Y2K?

So far I’ve only tackled small things like scarves, belts, placemats, crocheted blankets, hats…one of these days, I’m going to tackle a sweater, just to see if I can. I’ve developed enough patience now that I know I can finish a project. My only unfinished projects now are the ones I’ve had to frog several times just as I get into a groove. But I’ll go back to them…just not this weekend. This snowy weekend, my skills belong to my girls and the headbands they want!

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Turban Headband, Done!

I did it!!

I did it!!

Wow! I did it! It took me only a few hours with some big, chunky, thick yarn, and, as promised, used up less than half a skein! I did it!

There were more than a few mistakes along the way, I must admit. Among them, forgetting how to do a cable stitch, for one. That accounted for about three unknit-reknit sessions all by itself, and I am very slow. And my faux-grafted seam could be better…lots better. But it was only my first time, so I think it looks pretty good, and also that I’ll make more! After all, the kids need a way to keep their ears warm too, and they would look so cute in these in some bright primary colors. Aneira, of course, will insist on pink.

I’m so proud of myself right now, I could do a Snoopy dance, but it’s nearly one in the morning, and my studio is directly above Aneira’s bedroom, so I think I’ll refrain. But I did it!!!

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Pet Peeve

I know I just left here. I know I just posted. But I have to say this, because it is so. Gorram. Irritating.

I just went to cast on the stitches for the turban headband, okay? And the only end I can find for the yarn is the outside end, which means that, should you use it, the skein is rolling around all over the place. Also irritating. Why is it so difficult for yarn companies to leave the end hanging out where it can be found???

Seriously! Nothing is more annoying than having to pull out the entire center of a skein of yarn just to find the end you need, when it’s so simple to just leave it hanging out in the first place. I’m really not in the mood to pull out the yarn ball winder to create my own center-pull skein. I just wanted to sit down and knit while watching mini-me play her video game. Now I’m not even sure I want to knit, just because I don’t feel like rewinding an entire ball of yarn. Gah!

Okay, rant over, at least temporarily. Please return to your regularly scheduled program.

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Starting Something New

Size 13 needles and Lion Brand Thick & Quick yarn

Size 13 needles and Lion Brand Thick & Quick yarn

That seems to be my theme for this week. School has restarted; I’m now on part two of the journey to becoming a veterinary technician. That means I’m doing the last forty weeks, give or take, of my degree. It also means that life just got ten times harder. The first two courses I’ve landed in are surgical nursing and pharmacology, and I’m floundering already. I foresee a lot – and I mean a lot – of time spent with a tutor! But I really need to do this, so I’m going to do it. I have no desire to be on disability for the rest of my life; neither do I want to go back to work if the job is one that doesn’t make me happy. There are enough people out there who hate their jobs. I don’t intend to be one of them. I may never get rich, being a veterinary technician, but I’ll love going to work.

The other new thing I’m doing is knitting a turban-type headband, which is an item I saw on another blog, Confessions of a Yarnho, and pretty much begged for the pattern. GG had a giggle at my expense – I wasn’t kidding, I really did beg – and sent me the link to the pattern, which ultimately put me on Jenni Hodges’ blog, Spicy Life. It looks like a quick pattern that even I, novice knitter that I am, can handle. So I’m giving it a shot. Even though I’m a novice, I’ve come a long way from sitting next to my mom knitting the garter stitch that bored me to tears. Now, at least, I know how to read the instructions!

The pattern calls for really chunky thick yarn, and huge needles – size 13 – so I had to go out and not only buy yarn, but new needles for this one. Yeah, big hardship there. I’ve never really knit with thick yarn before. I have an ongoing love affair with fingering and sock yarns, so I’m very thankful that Jenni was very specific about the yarn she used, so I could follow her pattern! Otherwise, I’d probably still be standing in the store, wondering what to use. Just like in cooking, the first time you try something, you follow the recipe. Only after you’ve done it right with the recipe a couple of times can you start tweaking it and adding and subtracting things to make it your own! So I got the yarn, and a pair of Boye size 13 needles. I didn’t even have to look at my needle collection to know that I didn’t have anything near that size. See love affair above.

This is the best time for me to give this a shot, too. Hubby is off at an appointment of his own, the dogs are lazing around in their favorite spots, Aneira is still at school, and Bryony is totally wrapped up in Lego Pirates of the Caribbean on the Playstation. When better? Wish me luck!

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The New York Girl

That’s me. Always have been, always will be. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the girl. More than that, I am a Long Island girl (and no, it is not pronounced “lawn GUYland”, contrary to popular belief). As we begin planning to move once again, and not to New York, I am realizing now how special and unique my home state is, especially Long Island. Once upon a time, I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I left just as soon as I could, running across the country to Arizona, where I thought I needed to be, only to discover that 1 – the world outside of New York was entirely different to the world I knew, and 2 – once you’ve left her, it’s nearly impossible to go back. Note: I did not say totally impossible, just nearly so. I have known others who have managed to go back.

There was a woman I went to school with in Arizona, who had done a study on people who have been uprooted – voluntarily or not – from their home states, and what she found was that of all of those people, the ones from New York and Oregon are the ones who are the most rabidly loyal to their home states. I believe her, because I am one of them. More to the point, I am loyal to Long Island. I haven’t lived there since 1996, and am not a big sports fan, but if you asked me who I root for, it’s the NY Islanders, the NY Jets, and the NY Mets. I don’t care how well the teams are doing, or not. They are all affiliated with Long Island, therefore they are my teams (Yes, even the Mets. Queens is on Long Island, folks, whether you like to admit it or not. If Long Island sank into the sea, Brooklyn and Queens would be lost too). And the first things I look for wherever I live are good pizza, Nathan’s hot dogs, a Sprout’s market for my Boar’s Head deli meats, and a good bagel spot. I have given up on a good delicatessen. Sorry, but chain delis like Schlotsky’s and Jason’s, or sandwich shops like Subway simply do not cut it. If you’re making a pastrami on rye, you don’t nuke the pastrami, for starters.

Food isn’t the only thing I miss. I miss the diversity and the culture, the availability of transportation at almost any time, and no, the city really doesn’t ever sleep!

Long Island does, but it, too, has its uniqueness. Sleepy little hamlets, playgrounds for the rich, farms, a reservation, beaches all around. We gave the world Billy Joel, Steve Buscemi, Billy Crystal, and the Baldwin boys: Alec, William, Stephen, and Daniel. And I’ve never seen such close-knit communities anywhere outside of LI. While many of us left NY upon graduating high school or college, just as many of us stayed, some still in the homes they’d grown up in, sending their children to the same schools we attended, where some of the teachers still remain, thirty-some-odd years later. When I left, I thought of it as stagnation, but I see it very differently now.

LI is populous enough that town boundaries amuse me. One side of the street could be one town, while the other side of the street is another. And though there were several thousand people in town, we all knew each other on some level, even those kids that never attended the same school, and many of us across town boundaries. I didn’t realize until I left how unique that was. The places I lived since then, it was lucky if you knew your immediate neighbors, never mind the rest of the town.

The one thing I apparently never mastered was the attitude. My mother always told me I was too nice for New York. I never had the in-your-face, take-no-prisoners personality that is known as the NY attitude, and I always envied those who did. Maybe with strangers whose opinions I cared nothing about, but if you were even an acquaintance, I was likely to put up with more from you than I should, and I’m still that way. Hard for me to draw a line in the sand and say “I’m done!” I’m trying, though, and all of my other New York survival skills are honed just fine, thanks!

Speaking of which, I discovered that fact when I went back three years ago for the first time in fifteen years. It was automatic to put my purse cross-body under my jacket, meet no-one’s eyes as I walked, and to walk quickly.It was like riding a bike, yet still a surprise that I fell back into old habits so easily, without much thought, even after such a long absence. These habits weren’t practiced at all, in either Arizona or Colorado. Not that both places don’t have their dangerous areas, but in both states, none of their cities resemble cities as I know them. To me, they resemble suburbs, where I never felt the need to use concrete jungle survival skills. You never see the crowds of people on the street in Tucson or Colorado Springs that you see in Manhattan.

As a side, humorous note, I would like to add – for people who have never been there and only seen movies – when you see high-speed car chases down New York City streets? Know that these could never happen. Never. Never. The streets are far too congested for them, at all hours. Better at night, of course, but still. And not all of New York is NYC. In fact, in geographical terms, NYC consists of only a very small part of the entire state, even when you include the outlying boroughs. Don’t forget the Adirondacks and the Catskills, which are beautiful (and much older, gentler mountains than the western ones); or Niagara Falls. Upstate New York is gorgeous, and has many rural areas.

Yes, I am a New Yorker. I may never live there again, that’s true, and may not have the stereotypical attitude, but I will always be proud to say that I am from New York. I will always believe that it is the best state of the union, and I will always miss it.
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