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So, let me just cut to the chase: about six weeks ago, I got the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with cancer. Moi? What the what?!? Okay, so after I picked my jaw up off the floor, cried a lot of tears, and experienced a lot of scary thoughts, I tried to look on the bright side.

  1. It was caught super, super early. That’s awesome. I’m not dying. I’m living.
  2. I have really excellent doctors, whom I trust. Trust is so important, I think. I mean, sure – you always want “the best” when you’re dealing with something like this, but wouldn’t it be awful if you didn’t feel confident in “the best?” If you didn’t believe they were being straightforward, they didn’t listen to you, they didn’t answer your questions? Well, I lucked out on that score because my doctors are “the best” AND I trust them.
  3. I believe I now possess the ultimate trump card.  A friend has a bad day at the office?  “Aw, that sucks for you,” I say.  “But guess what?  I have cancer, so shut it.”  I kid.  I would never exploit an illness like that…
  4. Depending on how things go, there may be some awesome wigs in my future.  I was talking to my sister (and potential wig-shopping partner) about this, and we agreed that this might be the ideal time to go platinum.  As in blonde.  I’m digging it.
  5. I’m getting at least a few weeks of rest out of the deal.  Sure, I’ll be at home recuperating from surgery, but this is a “bright side” post, folks.  So picture it:  I’ll be at home, catching all the “Law and Order” reruns I can stand (because you know how much I love that show), and I won’t be expected to “fob in” or look at a Blackberry.  Those of you in the business know how it works when we’re on vacation:  we say we’re “on vacation,” but we are constantly checking email.  It really is an addiction.  So all in all, I’d say this is a pretty sweet set-up.  Sure, I’ll be in pain but that’s why Big Pharma exists.
  6. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Suddenly, I’m not so replaceable at the office.  (cackle, cackle).  😛
  7. The downtime will allow me to start some new knitting projects.  A definite upside for me, but maybe not for the unsuspecting recipients (victims?) of my craft.  My poor niece.  Her poor mother.
  8. And – most importantly – I see a pink t-shirt in my future.  Those of you who know me have probably heard me say this many times:  I’ll pretty much do anything for a t-shirt.  Run a 5K?  If there’s a t-shirt involved, sure.  Paint over graffiti on Earth Day?  Just hand me my t-shirt first.  Mud wrestle a pig?  Well, no one’s ever asked me to do that, but I would definitely consider it if the t-shirt was super-cool…and free.

So, upon further consideration I’d have to say yeah – there’s definitely a lot of upside here.  And not just for me.  You get an upside too.  Since I’ll be out of circulation for a few weeks (you know – shopping for wigs and such), you won’t have to read my silly musings.

Oh, and one more thing:  I hereby promise not to turn this into a cancer blog.  Nothing wrong with people blogging about their cancer (or other illnesses); it can be therapeutic.  That’s just not what I want to do.  I will definitely get back to commenting on all things metro DC, with a few minor changes.  Going forward, I’ll make sure to make it clear that I visited the Washington Monument…with cancer, or went to the Kennedy Center…with cancer.  I kid, I kid!  Seriously, I’m joking.  I would never do that.  Unless I also happen to be rocking the platinum blonde wig.  And a pink t-shirt.

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Happy New Year!  So, I’m a little late in getting my “year in review” post out there – as if you haven’t already read a zillion of them in  your local newspaper, weekly magazine, or favorite gossip website.  Whatever, I’ve been busy.  So sue me.

Anyway – fair warning:  this is not your standard “look at what all the celebrities did in 2011” year in review.  This is about my year in review.  Along with some topical, public domain, infotainment, real-deal history stuff because I need to snark a bit and I gotta do something to attract more readers.  Hee.

2011 was my “year of yes.”  It was my first full year back in Washington, DC after 7 years overseas and I really wanted to take advantage of my time here, to get out and explore the metropolitan DC area and to sink my teeth into the social life.  How’d I do?  Eh, there’s always room for improvement, but I think I did okay.  Let’s break it down:

January:  The Arab Spring begins in Tunisia.  Demonstrations – with varying levels of success – follow in Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, and Bahrain.  It’s an exciting time in the Middle East.  This translates into an exciting time for consular work, because you know Americans love to travel and we turn up in the most unlikely places.  I wasn’t on the ground in any of these countries helping to evacuate American citizens, but I did work on one of the many task forces set up here in Washington to monitor the situation on the ground.  Terrific learning experience for me.  January was also when I visited the National Archives with my colleagues and commented on my confusion about Trader Joe’s – which I have to formally retract.  I recently made a commitment to eat healthier – organic foods and whatnot – and I have to say, I get it now.  Although my local Trader Joe’s is a nightmare in terms of parking and the layout of the store, it is my go-to place for grocery shopping.  So, to all the Trader Joe’s fans out there:  I’m sorry.  Also, actor Pete Postlethwaite died on January 2.  I think I first saw Postlethwaite in “In the Name of the Father,” which is a terrific film.  He was also in “The Usual Suspects,” and more recently “Inception” and “The Town.”  If you are not familiar with him – shame on you.  Stop reading this article right now, get on Netflix or Hulu or whatever, and put one of his films in your queue.

February:  My introduction to punk.

March:  Japan was hit by a triple-whammy.  First, an earthquake.  Which triggered a tsunami.  Which led to a meltdown at a nuclear plant.  Yikes.  Tough times in Japan = another task force in Washington.  Another overnight shift for me.  I traveled to San Diego for a conference – I’d never been there before and thought it was a great city.  The zoo is pretty amazing, although I did experience a little bit of sticker shock.  It’s like $40 to get into that zoo!  I live in the DC area – our zoo is free!  Although, I suppose the National Zoo could look like the San Diego Zoo if we charged everyone $40 to get in.  Something to think about.  I also knitted my first hat.

April:  So, in my effort to “get out there,” I started looking for interesting stuff to do on the weekends.  In April, I went to the Kite Festival on the Mall.  Good times.  Took forever to get that kite in the air, but we finally succeeded.  Yay!  There were lots of kids and adults out there flying kites, but I gotta say:  I think the adults were having more fun.  Nothing like reverting to childhood, am I right?  In other news, those crazy “birthers” kept hammering away about President Obama’s birth certificate, so he released the long form this month.  Another royal wedding in the UK.  Which meant that this was the top news story on the networks for days.  Really?  Really?  Remind me:  why do we care about this again?  I mean, yeah – it’s great – Prince William got married.  All the best to you, sir.  But this is the United States.  I mean, we fought for our independence so that we wouldn’t have to care about this stuff.  And yet, apparently, we do.

May: Seal Team Six.  That is all.

June:  It’s June 2011 and the GOP debates begin.  God save us.  More than a year in advance of the 2012 elections.  It’s the height of the tourist season in DC.  This is a great city for tourists – everything is free!  And there’s so much to see.  My one wish is that the tourists could learn a little Metro etiquette.  Well, you know how I feel about that.  Hey, WMATA, would it kill you to put up a few signs to remind people to stand on the right on the escalators?  I also knitted a pair of socks.

July:  July 4.  Independence Day.  A terrific day for sleeping in, celebrating with friends and family, and watching fireworks.  This was the first July 4 in 7 years where I did not have to do one darn thing.  I didn’t have to attend an Embassy party.  I didn’t have to get dressed up.  I didn’t have to talk “shop” with representatives from the host country government.  It was nice to just be lazy at home.  I had the best burger of my life at Ray’s Hellburger.  Have you been yet?  If not, stop reading, bookmark this page, and get over there.  You can thank me later.  I knitted a kick-ass sweater.   I have to say, I really love it when I get crafty and the project actually turns out well.  Okay, it’s not perfect – it fits a little big – but it’s pretty darn good for a first attempt.  Amy Winehouse died.  Bummer.

August:  Hurricane Irene brought a lot of rain to the east coast.  But the big news was the earthquake.  What the…?  I remember it like it was yesterday:  I was sitting in my office talking to a colleague, when all of a sudden everything started to sway.  We looked at each other, looked out the big plate glass window next to us (yikes!), looked at each other again and wondered what the heck just happened.  After the building stopped swaying, we decided it might be a good idea to head outside.  We joined hundreds of others standing on the street with our cell phones, trying to text or email friends and family, or check to the internet to find out what had happened.  Of course, it was impossible to send or receive messages:  system overload.  We eventually learned we’d just experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake.  Get out!  Kim Kardashian got married!!!!  Why do we care about this again?  Why are these people famous?  Seriously – I do not get this one.  I do not care about them, so I won’t even link to anything about them.  I’m not even going to use the name as a tag for this post!  Get a job, Kardashians.  Most importantly, the best, brightest, and prettiest niece in the world was born in August.

September:  My subscription to AFI Talk Cinema kicked in.  If you live in a city that offers this program, I highly recommend it.  Subscribers go to a not-yet-released film screening, watch it, then talk about it afterward in a moderator-led discussion.  I saw some really interesting movies that I probably never would have gone to see on my own:  “Hermano,” “Melancholia,” “The Artist.”  I also saw a few that I was kind of “meh” about (“Like Crazy” and “Carnage”), but I’m still glad I had the experience.  I may do it again next year.   People around the world started occupying various streets, parks, and other locales to protest stuff.  Ah yes, I (vaguely) remember when I was young and idealistic.  Now, I’m just a jaded crone.

October:  My birthday month!  Yay, for me still being alive!  Kim Kardashian files for divorce.  This is what you get for caring America.  And yet, there are some people out there who think that it’s same-sex marriages that will destroy us all.  Hmmmm.  And the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 7.  I haven’t watched baseball since I left Atlanta (I loved to go to Braves games), but I guess this was a big deal.

NovemberHoliday travel.  GAH!!!!!

December:  It’s Christmas.  Hope you spent time with friends and family, and remembered what the season is all about.  I did.

So, that’s my year in a nutshell.  Some things I got right:  exploring a little bit of the DC area, trying new things, and embracing my inner geek.  But there’s still room for improvement.  2012 will be “Year of Yes 2.0.”

How was your 2011?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that.  I’ve been busy!  Living my life…and stuff.  No idle hands here.

You may remember that a while back, I wrote about various knitting projects:  the first scarf, the hat, even a pair of socks.  Some of you might think those are pretty basic.  You’d be right – they are.  (Although I challenge any of you to turn a heel on a sock without making any holes).  I had some other projects in the works, but didn’t write about them because they were connected to events in other people’s lives.  I’ve since gotten permission to blog about those other people.

My sister is super-preggo – she’s due in late August.  Since I was getting into the knitting thing, I thought it would be fun to knit a blanket for my niece.  I wanted to do something more than the basic stockinette stitch, but I also didn’t want anything too complex that would cause me to pull my hair out.  I came up with this and gave it to her at her baby shower last week.  I had a little time on my hands, so I whipped up a pair of matching booties.

I know what you’re thinking:  “okay, the blanket’s alright, but it’s not that hard.  You said you were going to rock a sweater dress.”  Yeah, I said it.  And I still want to do it. But as they say in Italy, “piano, piano.”  (Slowly, slowly).  I’m working my way up to the dress and frankly, I’d like to shed a few pounds before I pour myself into a curve-hugging sweater dress.  Maybe by winter.  In the meantime, I took a class to learn how to knit a sweater.  This is a top-down raglan, which means I knit it in one piece from the top (shoulders) down.  So, suck it haters!  And check me out.

          

It’s that time of year folks!  Spring is here, the weather is fine, the birds are singing…so why am I in an emotional funk?  I have many answers and none:  career issues, age issues, relationship issues, allergies, traffic, weight gain and/or loss, the ridiculously high price of gas.  The list goes on and on.  The cause is immaterial.  The question is:  what am I going to do about it?

I am fortunate to have a dear friend whom I met in Rome.  We occasionally correspond by email, and she gave me some great advice the other day.  Without getting into too much detail, she basically responded to my whining by telling me to man up!  It’s wonderful to have friends who can cut through the BS and tell you to STFU!

Her words got me thinking.  Now, my thought process might seem a little strange but bear with me.  Man up…nut up (you get the connection, right?)…knit up.  Hmmm.

I started taking knitting classes a few months ago, and I’ve advanced from scarves to hats to baby blankets, and my first sweater class starts this weekend.  My skills have improved, but I’ve been a bit nervous about tackling a more complex project without the assistance of an instructor.  I also find knitting to be calming – the repetitive motion, I suppose.  It’s a nice combo:  a calming effect and a feeling of accomplishment at the end.  An epiphany:  knitting makes me feel good!

So I decided to “knit up.”  No more worrying about things that are out of my control.  What will happen will happen.  I’m going to take charge of those parts of my life that I do control, and I’m going to run with them and enjoy every minute of them.  As soon as I made this decision, the fog cleared, my shoulders relaxed, and I could breathe.  Four dollar/gallon gas couldn’t touch me.  Age is just a number.  And I am not going to feel guilty about eating that Klondike bar!  I found a terrific pattern for a tank top and ordered some beautiful yarn for it.  I can’t wait for it to arrive so that I can get started!

Don’t get me wrong – this is, like, Day One of this process for me.  I know I’m not perfect.  I’ll still freak out, I’ll still have bad days, but I think this is progress.  I’ll keep you posted.

Knit up = my new mantra.

So tell me, do you have your own “knit up” equivalent?  How do you stay sane and stress free?

My friend, Joan, told me that Julia Roberts is a big knitter, so there’s hope for me yet!

On Sunday, I successfully advanced to “Stage 2” spinsterhood.  Or something.  I took a class at my favorite knitting store and created this.

My new beanie cap

It’s my new little beanie cap.  Making this one little cap involved one set of circular needles and four double-point needles.  (You knitters know what I’m talking about).  Easy for the pros maybe, but a little daunting for a beginner like me.  But I conquered.

I was so proud of my accomplishment that I had to show it off, so I went to my sister’s house after class.  She loved it!  So I went home and made one for her!

Can you believe I did it in (only) three hours?  I’m sure Julia could make this cap in, like, an hour – but I’m getting there!  Check out the cute little button on one side.

Holla!

So watch your back, Julia.  I’m catching up!  Knit-off at my place!!!!

I completed my first knitting project:  a scarf.  Not a dropped stitch in sight!

My scarf

Close-up of the seed stitch

I like to think of myself as an “arts and crafts” kind of gal – especially when I’m overseas. It’s nice to have a creative outlet, and it’s also a good way to connect with friends and colleagues.

In Albania, I was totally into scrapbooking and watercolor. In Belize, three wonderful Chinese ladies offered macrame classes to my colleagues and me. In Italy, I took a few wine classes and devoted myself to photography. Sadly, these obsessions rarely stick. I wasn’t any good at painting, got bored with scrapbooking, I couldn’t macrame a keychain now if my life depended on it, and no one would mistake me for an expert on Italian wine!

So now that I’m back in the DC area, I’ve found a new obsession: knitting. It’s not just for spinsters anymore.

I first learned how to knit when I was about 10 or 11. My mom taught me. As I recall, I produced a lot of ratty scarves and one bright pink purse. (My grandmother sewed it together for me). But I haven’t knitted since and I wanted to get back into it. I have this fantasy that I’m going to become such a proficient knitter that I will be able to knit myself a dress! Crazy? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, after a little research I found a beginner’s knitting class in Alexandria! First class yesterday.

Knitting is for grandmas and spinsters, you say? You couldn’t be more wrong. Knitting became all the rage several years ago, so although I am late to the party, I am not alone.  There are several knitting communities, stores, and classes in the metropolitan DC area.  And there are many, many websites and online groups where you can find patterns, get help when you run into trouble, and commiserate with fellow knitters.

I am not surrounded by blue hairs (not that there’s anything wrong with blue hair) in my class – this is a young sport, people!  My fellow beginners included a young mom-to-be, a couple of singletons like me, and a mother-daughter team – all of us struggling to move 20 lousy stitches of yarn from one stick to another.  That’s knitting in a nutshell.  But you know what?  It’s soothing.  It’s fun.  And I can watch TV while I’m doing it.

So if you want to call me a spinster, fine.  I’ll take it.  I’ll be the one in the sweater dress with the ratty scarf and the bright pink purse.

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