Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Trying to settle down

With so much going on in preparation for the trip to Hawaii, I'm having trouble settling myself down. This weekend, I need to do some sewing and begin prepping the apt. At the same time, my office is going nuts since my job is one that benefits at least 3 different departments.

My knitting and naalbinding bag is back at the apartment, and I really wish I had it here. Reminder to self: before leaving on vacation, pull all the knitting out of the active projects bag. Unfortunately, a friend of mine recently had problems with both her knitting (despite having called ahead, used circular bamboo needles, and all the rest) and her crochet (despite the fact that the website had specifically told knitters to bring a crochet hook, lest they have to bind off knitting projects and turn in their needles. And the airline lost a ball of alpaca yarn as a result of the mess. I hope my sketch pencils and naalbinding won't encounter resistance. Oh, and I'll have a kumihimo disk with, as well. But since that's essentially a foam frisbee, I can't imagine that even the most paranoid government representative will take it away.

Oh well, tonight there will be a bit of a special treat. My husband is going to be collecting his mended shoes tonight, and the cobbler is close to an Italian restaurant that we used to eat at when I worked in that neighborhood. The food is very plain (the absolute best item on the menu is the spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, although the fried zucchini comes a very close second), the wine choices are table red and table white, soda comes in a can with a water glass, the decor is red and white checked oil cloth with decanters of olive oil and vinegar on each table. It's the kind of place people bring their young kids, even though they don't offer crayons or coloring pages. And it's really inexpensive. And at the end of dinner, we enjoy sharing a cannoli. (With the cutest mini chocolate chips!) And the wierd thing is that it's in the heart of a really posh area - brick sidewalks, little "cafes" with overpriced sandwiches and coffee, fancy offices with fountain courts, exclusive restaurants where a dinner is more than a full day's wages for me. And tucked into a corner, the only decent Italian food for miles.

My previous post

I've been thinking on that post I made earlier this week, and realized that it was incomplete. Once, when I asserted that the only way I saw a possibility of bringing Bush to repentance was not to go on anti-Republican/Bush/neo-con/whatever diatribes, but to figure out how to call to that within Bush that knows what he's doing ain't right, I was informed that the last thing Quakers need is to become more mealy-mouthed.

First of all, um, while I am interested, and have attended Meeting, and am trying to be true to the Light which calls me, I am not in touch much with mainstream Quaker thought. (Hint: read my post in the first month I began writing this thing where I talk about heading off onto deer paths on a frequent basis. I'm not sure that my exclusive identification with any religious group would be good for either of us at this point in my life.)

Secondly, I don't think it's a weak position to be looking for the best way to engage with someone, to let them see my truth, and try to understand theirs, so that we both have a better understanding. Do we expect to change drug addicts by merely shouting at them that they are in the hands of Satan? Why then is this the approved way for power and oil addicts? *sigh* It doesn't work. If it did, I'm sure something would have changed by now.

I am angry, deeply so, as even the most superficial reading of my last post reveals. I am furious that my father is being sent to a war that our leadership puts so little faith in that they do not send their own kin. But I also know that until we can sit down with our neighbor, until we can understand how to reassure our neighbor (and that doesn't happen overnight, or without a whole lotta listenin' goin' on), until we can understand their fears, and they understand ours, there will be no peace.

Recently, I read Thud! by Terry Pratchett. The book is set in a fantasy world, where dwarfs and trolls have been at war for centuries, always hearking back to a battle long in the past where each side maintains the other set an ambush. A watch commander is concerned at the rising tension in his city, and ends up visiting a back room at the invitation of a troll, where he discovers dwarfs and trolls, peaceably playing games of Thud - a strategy game that requires one to be able to "think like the enemy" in order to succeed. The troll is hoping that the seed he is planting will germinate, and that the two groups will come in time to understand each other. In the end, the reader discovers that a previous such seed had already been planting during the mythical battle and that there is hope.

I would call on everyone who reads this to think deeply about what it means to love one's enemy, about what it means to call to redemption, about what it means to work for peace. And to rethink the timeframe. War and hostility are unlikely to die out in my lifetime, but shouldn't we be planting seeds now?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Daughter of Solder Seeking Peace

If I were to sum up my life in a headline, that would be it right now.

Sometimes when I'm really angry, I wish that Bush had pictures of his daughters in the situations that I have pictures of my dad in - standing next to a truck with obviously improvised armor, in a hugely long line for Thanksgiving dinner - wearing green armor that sticks out like a sore thumb against the desert background. Or listened to stories like I did when Dad came back, stories of people injured, dead, trying to understand who they were and why they were there. I want him to look in the eyes of people he loves to see how they've changed, to know what he's done to me and mine. I want him to have to think about vacations carefully - picking places without the chance of loud noises. I'll never forget the heartbreak of watching my dad visibly flinch when a truck passed outside the restaurant where we were having lunch. I want Mrs. Bush to have to bite her lip when she sees a headline that another soldier has died, to wonder for a moment. I want them both to know the stomach-churning worry that I know, that Teddy Roosevelt knew when Kermit went to the trenches.

And now he's going back, and it's worse this time, because this time I know what to expect. And it will be longer. Once again, I'll be afraid to go out to dinner anywhere with a television for fear that I'll catch sight of a soldier, a tank, a hummer, and want to cry. Once again, I'll be on the phone with Mom, being her support so she can be Dad's. Once again, holidays won't feel the same, and we'll wait hopefully for a cell phone to go off, his short call the totally inadequate substitute for his presence.

And the worst part is knowing that my dad, even as he came back, had more mercy and charity than I do. My dad, in a war zone, found himself able to find love for the people there. My dad has never met a person he didn't like. When we go out to eat with him, before the appetizer has arrived, he knows the waiter's life story, aspirations, etc. He tells them to email him and he means it. I bet he could even find something good in Bush.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Like Thee, Hannah!, I'm having one of those days where there isn't much good to say other than my lunch is great. Plowman's lunch as sandwich- Branston pickle, reasonably sturdy bread, cheddar so sharp it's probably banned. And I even packed the pickle (a mixed veggie and date pickle spread) in one of those condiment cups I saved from the last time we ate Chinese takeout.

And carrying a discussion from The Crate, why in the world are we sticking with a size system for women's clothing that has no relationship whatsoever to our actual size? In the same issue of the express as contained the hideous silver and gold dirndl this morning there was an article on how sizing varies greatly from store to store, leaving sizing to vary so markedly that a 6 and a 14 might fit the same person, depending on what store they come from. I pretty much sew my own, so it doesn't affect me quite so much, but the very fact that there is no actual standard associated with sizes makes me even less likely to change that decision any day soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Swimsuit update

Oh, how I love the occasional dose of humor that life delivers. This weekend, it decided to deliver it via the sun-protective swimsuit project. My plan, as posted here last week, was to do something "space age" looking, and I still hope to do something like that, but in the meantime...

Plain fabric turned out not to be available in the "summer's over and it didn't sell" bin, but shiny stuff was, so instead of shiny stuff being the accents, the suits will be all over shiny. And in the extra-cheap bin, they had a little bit of swimsuit fabric printed with vintage Hawaiian postcards, which is going to make an "indoor" swimsuit (and basic underlayer for the all-over suits); along with a lot of fabric in a sort of "harlequin" pattern. So I bought it. I now have a harlequin suit suitable for diving in the tropics. All it would need out of the water would be a white ruffle, gloves, and ballet shoes.

And I'm one of those folks who puts clown white on her nose, so I am amused that this fool will truly be dressed as one while on vacation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Once again, the trivial provides food for reflection. As I prepare to head for Hawaii, I'm gathering the clothing needed. The one area I'm kinda short in is in the swimsuit department. I have precisely two swimsuits: one for indoors, a normal suit of the sort meant for swimming rather than sunbathing, and one for outdoors, which is basically a diveskin with a skirt. You see, I'm very pale and will burn in under an hour. Despite their promises, even "waterproof" sun lotions don't do much for me, and I hate smelling like a pina colada.

As a kid, I basically wore my swimsuit as a kind of undergarment, with a cotton tunic over top which at least protected my shoulders. Even then, I fantasized about owning a swimsuit made in the cut of those bulky suits from the 1890's, simply because I wanted to go out without any chance of being burnt to the point of blisters. (Yes, I get second degree sunburns.) Today, I have a suit made for me by a woman who designed some extra modest swimwear for religious reasons. She also sells the pattern. Except that mine was modified to even better sun protection with longer legs and arms. This was an expensive option, but well worth it for me. And now I want a second outdoors suit, and have discovered that another modest swimsuit company has everything on sale, some of them even half off. It's really tempting not to have to sew a swimsuit in the next few weeks - finding fabric, etc. On the other hand, they're not quite as nice as the pattern.

But completely aside from my personal dilemma, I did a Google search on wholesomewear and discovered that the Washington Post's fashion consultant and a few bloggers would rather see women wearing skimpy suits. All kinds of reasons are given for this, my favorite being that one can't swim in a dress. Well, one can't swim in most skimpy swimwear, either. The first wave to come along, and you're in violation of indecent exposure statutes. Now, I have nothing against regular swimsuits. But it would be nice to see some suits showing up with an awareness of solar radiation. It would be especially nice to see them in a variety of shapes and sizes, and made by workers paid a living wage in decent conditions.

Until then, I get to dither over whether to buy from a seamstress or make...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fallow ground

Sometimes I get frustrated because I'm not moving at the speed of a jet, solving every problem I see in the world. I wish I had more energy to do more, learn more, move more, more, more...

As though I am a factory farm with a necessary yield to be measured only in terms of ever more from ever less. Yields not good? Dump in something new - whether it be coffee or a new activity to me or a new herbicide for the farm. And yet, sometimes the best thing you can do is to lie fallow, where anything that comes up is a gift. Last night, I found myself thinking about fallow ground. A friend of mine is running herself ragged as she and her husband attempt to work a particular project - a very worthy project, but not one that can be done by two people alone on a consistant basis. I would like to help them, but I just don't have the energy to be the consistant help they need, and am afraid of further miring up an already mired down situation.

And I wonder if perhaps the help I can be is to help her find some relief in the occasional *not* doing, *not* keeping up with everything, but learning to let go of those constant expectations of keeping every minute productive, and rediscovering fallow time - time to sit and let yourself percolate, time to rediscover yourself. As my husband pointed out to me, Darwin didn't write his Origin of Species until 8 years after his trip on the Beagle. He needed time to lie fallow, to think, to reflect.

Yeah, weeds come up in fallow fields, but let's look at those volunteers, shall we? Queen Anne's Lace is really wild carrot, and does wonders for loosening up soil. (It also makes this really neat kinda pink jelly.) That old pokeweed I mentioned earlier this year also has its uses: some folks eat the boiled leaves when the plant is still young and the toxins aren't as strong, and of course, there's that bright pink dye you can get from the berries, and that toxin doesn't bother birds, so if they're eating poke, they're not eating all the blackberries. Grasses fix the soil in place and prevent erosion. Dandelions make delicious salad greens when young, and are pure beauty when yellow, and pretty and fun when they go to seed. Sweet and sour is a treat just to chew on. Wild onions and garlic - well, enough said. And the best thing is that you don't know what's going to be there or not, so whatever you get is pure gift, something to be thankful for, an extra. Fallowness lies in recognizing that these are gifts to be treasured while they are here, but knowing that they are temporary gifts, not guarantees.

For me, it's like the little figures I get at the end of folding origami - they're totally an extra. The joy is in the folding, the feel of the paper, the crisp lines, the very complexity of the whole thing. And afterwards, I even get a little paper thing that other people enjoy getting. Bonus. In the same way, a day spent doing "nothing" is wonderful. At the end of it, I may have a few inches of knitting, a book read, some visiting, and a recipe done, but those are all incidental to the purpose of the day, which is to relax, to not expect anything out of myself. I didn't tell myself I'll get that book read, but it looked interesting and happened to be to hand when I felt like reading. There was no "need" to knit, except that my hands felt restless. Yeah, maybe I planned that recipe, but cooking and visiting are naturals for fallow days.

Maybe I'll invite my friend out with me this weekend to come be lazy with me this weekend.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Well, I stopped by the polling place before work and found myself wondering how many trees were killed just for my district. As I walked the path into the library, numerous party volunteers pressed literature on me, each clamoring for my attention. I found myself wishing I wore hoops, making such a close approach more difficult. Now, admittedly, this year the primaries are fiercely contested, but I felt mobbed. I was very glad I already had done my homework, because I found being mobbed very disconcerting.

Afterwards, out of curiosity, I looked at the leaflets that had been thrust so aggressively at me, and noted that only two contained any information at all other than a suggested ballot (and I didn't wholly agree with the suggested ballots, either.) And both of those were for candidates that I felt were actually addressing some local issues that need work and was voting for anyway. Now, yes, one should do one's homework ahead of time, but most folks have, you know, an actual life going on and may not care to sit down and do all the research. I was appalled at the lack of information - only pretty glossy photos of the recommended candidates. Yikes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

It's official

My husband has the tickets in hand. In less than a month, I will be headed for Hawaii for a week's stay. I have *very* mixed feelings about this trip. On the one hand, I'll be headed for Hawaii, a state I've never visited, with a short side-trip to Las Vegas on the way home to visit an old friend I haven't seen for years. We will even be staying on Maui, the closest tourist destination to Molokai, which I have wanted to visit ever since reading about Father Damien as a child.

On the other, I know why I will be going on this trip, and I don't like it even one little bit. This trip only tells me more certainly that my dad is going to be sent again to war. And to confirm that, Dad has asked that we go to Pearl Harbor while we are there. Right now, I'm praying for the strength for this trip. I'm thinking of surprising my mom by asking if we can stop by a shrine dedicated to Father Damien after the Pearl Harbor trip. I feel as though I need a balance, a reminder of those who face death and destruction by bringing new hope, new life.

Why is it that a trip that I might otherwise face with joyful expectation must be weighed down by the heavy sorrow that sucks at me every time I think about the war, the soldiers, the politicians who coldbloodedly use them? I find myself unable to appreciate Elizabeth Bennet's philosophy from "Pride and Prejudice" - the one imperfection in my trip is not ensuring my enjoyment of it. It's just making me sad.


Every year, probably for the rest of my life, I will be reminded of the exact date of death of a friend of mine. It's been four years. She had been my boss when I worked for a nonprofit library and defied every stereotype of librarianship anyone would care to toss up. Stylishly dressed, with a wry sense of humor and a collection of tattoos, she loved sunny days that allowed her to ride her motorcycle to work.

She died in a traffic accident as she returned from a memorial ride September 11, 2002, when a semi lost control and turned over onto her. And I wonder how many deliberate attacks it would take to equal the death toll of our roads, of the deprivation of our inner cities, the lack of access to healthcare...

Today, as the president of the United States of America uses the tragic death of thousands to justify the deaths of thousands more, I will remember how afraid I was that day. I remember worrying that my husband might have been in the subway under the Pentagon at that moment. I remember being afraid that my Muslim relatives in New York wouldn't be safe. I remember the terrifying silence in my apartment, punctuated by the sound of jet fighters. I remember calling my family to reassure them that I was fine.

And I remember the relief of September 12, 2001, as I found something useful to do. Some friends of mine picked me up and we headed to a Red Cross donation point, where we distributed donated food to the donors, helped create lists for the Red Cross workers, and kept people entertained. I learned how to make balloon animals, we face painted using grease paint from a theatrical supply store, made up puns, and did what we could: juggling, balancing, that kind of thing. I felt a little like the juggler of Notre Dame - I couldn't do anything big, but I could make balloon animals, face paint, balance, and tell silly stories. I could make dolls out of scraps lying about. I could make announcements for the staff. I could smile and help other people to do the same.

In the same way, I can't bring Ann back, but I can remember her.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Naalbinding pamphlets

For those interested, the link to Naalbinding! over at the side is the page of my friend who is teaching me naalbinding. She's written a couple of instructional pamphlets, which I bought from White Wolf and the Phoenix, suppliers of hand woven goods and crafting supplies and books. "Nalbinding Made Easy" and "The Asle Mitten Stitch" both by Sigrid Briansdotter (Anne Marie Haymes).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Craftiness abounds

As my job gets back into the swing of things and the election heats up, I find myself taking more time to sort out my yarn stash. Thus far, I've found a pretty blue flecked with rainbow bits, and several heathers I'd forgotten I had. Now, I know there are plenty of folks that will feel the need to ask me, "Fool, there are important matters that must be decided. Why are you fussing about your wool stash when you could be paying attention to the election?"

And my answer is that I already know how I will be voting on Tuesday - for the local folks most likely to get me my light rail locally, and so forth. Further fussing will only upset me to no particular purpose. This morning, on the radio, some reporter was commenting that those of us in the greater DC area do not appear to be fussed enough over the possibility of a disaster. Well, I have enough food and water for a few days in my apartment. I have plenty of yarn, which will keep me from being bored. And I still have our "reenactment box" which contains the stuff necessary for comfort while living in a tent for up to a week. Above and beyond that, there's really not much more fussing to be done.

On the trains, the busses, we are encouraged to worry, and yet we seem to be going about our daily business without panic over the possibility of a disaster. This is a good thing, folks. Even those who drive themselves are not immune from the warnings. Unless there is a major traffic problem to occupy them, the electronic signs on the Beltway often encourage motorists to report suspicious activity to the authorities, and the radio news is always full of disaster. Meh.

In the meantime, my naalbinding is coming along well. My friend who has been doing this for years was impressed that I had taken my memory of what she had done and turned it into a sock- and a striped one at that. (Walk softly and make loud socks, says I.) So she taught me to actually make a better stitch for making socks. Cool. Before long, I was merrily binding away, and I think my husband is in for a pair of gloves, and I am in for a pair of striped socks...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's been a long week...

Sorry, folks. I know I usually update more frequently than once a week. This week, I've been scattered and scrambling. My job got busy pretty much overnight, and of course, it's been wet, wet, wet from Ernesto. And yesterday on my commute, I got literally soaked to the skin while waiting for the bus to my job. Had this been the first bus, I'd have headed back to the apartment and changed into dry clothes. Unfortunately, it was the second bus, so I spent my day wishing I could have a hot bath and fresh clothes.


And yet, this weekend has had some pretty sublime moments, as well. As I came back from the Metro station on Friday afternoon, I saw a young boy standing in the parking lot of my building with his hands held out in front of him, and his face turned up to the clouds. He was grinning happily, as the drizzle continued. His dad came out of the car, with bags in his arms, saying, "I don't know. He just likes the rain." We talked on the way into the building, with the child practically dancing in the rain, and I had to admit that I was also enjoying the rain. I enjoyed it perhaps even more by getting the chance to see it through this kid's eyes as well.

And I finally got knitted moss stitch right. This may seem like a small thing, but I hate to perl, and I got moss stitch right, which involves a lot of perling, and not only that, but frequent switches in what one is doing, and I did most of the band on my bus commute. I know a woodworker who makes custom knitting needles, and I'm considering asking him to make me some really short ones, like 5 to 7 inch needles, for use in making narrow scarves while commuting. And I'm also thinking of making a bag for my knitting and crochet projects for commuting with, that will allow me to keep the ball neatly attached, with perhaps a grommet or some other opening through which the thread can pass to the outside, where I'll put a pocket for quickly tucking the work while making connections or whatever.