Update on My 2012 Goals

We are almost 25% of the way through 2012, so I thought I’d update us all on how I’m doing towards accomplishing my twelve goals for 2012. So I’m copying and pasting my original list here. Then I’ll mark what’s complete and what’s not. And I may even amend a few goals.

  1. Finish reading Middlemarch. It’s a carryover from last year, but this year I’m going to do it. Sorry, George Eliot, but you will not be on my 2013 list. Anthony Trollope will be replacing you. DONE! (And it has been for a while.)
  2. Make six shawls this year. I made four pairs of socks last year, and I’m determined to do something awesome this year. To be entirely honest, I don’t know why I’m so fixated on this, but I am. So, six shawls, here I come. (If you’re wondering why I switched from socks to shawls, it’s because I use sock yarn to make shawls, but I like shawls more because they’re accessories you can really show off to everyone…even if they don’t notice.)
  3. To find a real job-I think this is self-explanatory.
  4. Take the GRE…so I can go to grad school and, ya know, get a PhD in English literature
  5. Figure out which schools I want to apply to for grad school…and maybe apply this year? I might put that off another year. It depends on how a few other things play out. I really want to apply to the University of Pittsburgh. 
  6. Go to Iowa for a week and see The Hunger Games with Jenn. DONE! And I’m more than willing to tell you how much I loved The Hunger Games. I loved it. I laughed. I cried. It moved me, Bob
  7. Make Katie a sweater for her birthday…I know, I said I was going to do this last year, but I’m really going to do it this year.  She picked a pattern and a yarn today. It’s going to happen. And it’s going to be a design I create. I already have it in my head. 
  8. I want to make myself six sweaters this year. And I want the Ravelympics to help me to this goal. (NB: These six sweaters do include the two cardigans I currently have on needle from 2011. They do not include the tunic I am frantically trying to finish right now or the two short sleeved shrugs I’m planning to make in the next week or so.) I have two done and two on needle. The tunic died in the dryer but that’s another story. 
  9. I want to sew more of my own clothes. There’s something that I love about looking at a piece in my wardrobe and knowing that I created it. I value my homemade (both knit and sewn) wardrobe pieces more than I value store-bought stuff. Working on this…
  10. I want to have an adventure this year. I’m not entirely sure what that means, and based on the amount of uncertainty in my life at this point, I’m fairly certain that some sort of adventure is inevitable. Life is an adventure. 
  11. Spent more time praying…and actually finish reading both of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth books; I’m thinking that I need to accept that having a cup of coffee with God in the morning or a mug of tea with him in the evening is actually acceptable-and good for me. I finished the first Jesus of Nazareth book last night. And Momsy gave me the second one this morning so I can find out how it all ended. Don’t give me spoiler alerts. 
  12. Last year, my final goal was to become more patient. This year, I have the same final goal but with a slightly different approach. I want to find some form of meditation that will help me to achieve some sort of peace/patience in my life. The prayer to St. Michael is helping me with this, interestingly enough. 
 And that’s all for now. I am making progress on these goals, and it is nice to see how I’m accomplishing things.

This is how a knitter travels

Last night, I arrived home from a weeklong trip to Iowa. Naturally, as a knitter, I had to take a few projects/planned projects with me. This is the stashlette (def: mini-stash) that I took with me.

I took two skeins of KnitPicks Stroll yarn and one skein of Malabrigo sock in Impressionist Blue, which I didn’t use. I also took two partial skeins of Malabrigo sock in Ravelry Red.

I took the red yarn and a US size 5 circular needle with me on my flight to Omaha. I cast on a Storm Cloud Shawlette Wednesday before boarding the plan and finish the shawl around 8pm on Sunday. The shawl, which is currently blocking on my bedroom floor, is an Easter gift for someone who (I think) reads this blog occasionally, so she will have to wait until Easter to find out who she is. (And any mistakes I made in the knitting can be blamed on the two hours when I was working on it in a movie theater while watching The Hunger Games. BTW, the movie was fabulous.)

I also took about half of a skein of Malabrigo sock in Abril with me. Using a US size 6 needle, this became an Afternoon Tea shawl. (This is for me.) Now, I have to say this. This pattern is wonderful. It’s well-written and very easy to follow. I did modify it a bit, but I’ll explain that a little more when I get some modeled pics of the shawl and write a finished object post for it.

That’s the Afternoon Tea shawl blocking on my floor last night after I got home. I showed it to Momsy this morning and she declared it lovely. She also told me that she wants to learn how to make something like that. You may call me a knitting evangelist if you like.

My final traveling knitting project was my on-going Magrathea shawl. I started this about three weeks ago, and it’s going steadily. I love it and I’m looking forward to having this shawl finished…in a few weeks, I should think.

One of the interesting things about this shawl is that I’m using Malabrigo sock in Abril for it. This is the same yarn that I used for Helen’s storm cloud (see a post from a few weeks back) and for my Afternoon tea shawl. But I bought the two skeins of yarn a week apart, and according to Malabrigo’s website, Abril is a colorway that has a tendency to vary in colors not only between dye-lots but even in the same dye-lot. The two skeins I bought are different dye-lots, but the variance between them is incredible.

Magrathea is on the left, Afternoon Tea on the right. The picture isn’t the greatest, and I’ll have to try to remember to get a better picture of this when both shawls are done. But Mag is much lighter than Afternoon Tea. Jenn recognized a picture of a shawl on Rav as being the same color as the tea shawl, but she didn’t recognize Mag and A.T. as being the same color.

Anyway, I decided to be a bit daring and make Mag my traveling project for my trip home. I put the pattern PDF on my kindle and put the kindle and the shawl in my purse.

Then, I went to the Omaha airport and continued knitting while I waited to board my plane.

Then, I boarded the plane and kept knitting until we really started our descent into Detroit. It’s really hard to follow a lace chart (or just generally knit lace) while a plane is landing.

And now, Mag and I are home. I’m a little over halfway through the body chart. And then I have to work the edging. My goal is to have it done by the end of the month after which the color is named…Abril.

Hopefully, I’ll have some good finished object pics of my two finished shawls to share in the next few days.

The Common Good

“Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.”

-The Manhattan Declaration

If you’re not familiar with it, the Manhattan Declaration is an ecumenical declaration in defense of life, marriage, and religious liberty. It was openly released on November 20, 2009. Among its signers are Dr. Peter Kreeft, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Chaput, Chuck Colson, and numerous other religious leaders from many denomination-Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical etc.

I’m bringing this up today because our constitutional rights to religious liberty are being challenged. Regardless of how you feel about contraception or abortion, the Constitution promises every American freedom of religion.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This right is being challenged. Our Founding Fathers may not have been Christians, but they believed that every American has the right to follow their own religious beliefs. They promised us the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They promised us freedom of religion.

And this is being challenged.

So why am I blogging about this? Right now, in my hometown of Ann Arbor, there is a rally going on in front of the federal building. There is another rally going on in front of the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit. And there are rallies in 118 other cities across the nation today. Each one is being held at noon.

The purpose of these rallies is to protect religious liberty. Christians (and in some cases our Jewish brothers and even people without religious affiliation) are gathering to pray for our nation and to remind our nation’s leaders that we have a right to religious liberty. We have a right to protect our consciences. It is a God-given right. And we must fight for it.

I realize that is controversial. I realize that people disagree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception and abortion.

I am not asking people to change their minds. I am not asking people to convert to Catholicism.

I’m asking them to recognize our constitutional right to religious freedom. We have a right to protect our consciences.

Knitted History

As I’ve mentioned before, every Sunday after Liturgy, my church has a coffee social where we sit and eat and socialize. And I knit.

Today, I was knitting (a cardigan, if you care) on a circular needle when one of the older ladies in the parish came to talk to me. Alice is originally from Ramallah, but she’s lived in the United States for many years.

Today, we were chatting and she told me that she used to knit. She doesn’t knit anymore, so she offered to give me all of her knitting needles. I (of course) said yes. I mean, who is going to turn down free knitting needles? (Other than a non-knitter, of course…)

But then she told me the story of how she learned to knit, and I was so intrigued by the story that I had to share it with the world.

Alice is one of nine children and the oldest of the six girls in the family. Life in Ramallah being what it was, they had to make all of their own clothes. So when she was about five years old, her mother taught her to knit. She made all of her own sweaters (and sweater for other family members as well).

But the part that I found really interesting was that after the elbows of the sweaters wore out, they would unravel the sweaters and hold that yarn double with another yarn and make new sweaters.

I found it utterly fascinating to learn about how knitting was used in another culture, in a place where it was more of a necessity rather than a recreational activity.

Two Storm Clouds

If you know me, you know that I love to knit. And I knit in public. Often. (Is there a stronger way of saying that?)

After Liturgy every Sunday, our church has a coffee social. We drink coffee. We eat food. We socialize. And I knit. To some of the older folks in the parish, this is just about the coolest thing ever. And it has helped to endear me to two lovely older ladies, Helen and Mary. (This is NOT the only thing they like about me. But since they’re both knitters, it doesn’t hurt anything.)

Anyway, a few months back, I was sitting and knitting a purple shawl when Helen came over and commented on how lovely it was. After she walked away, I looked at my mom and said, “I’m making her something. A shawl, I think.”

Momsy thought this was a great idea and told me to make it purple. Purple is Helen’s color. (I approve of this since it is also mine.)

Then, I took it into my head to make a shawl for Mary as well. I don’t remember my reasoning behind this other than the fact that I wanted to do something to show these two lovely ladies that they are loved.

And then, I decided that I wanted to do this during Lent as an act of prayer (you know, one leg of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.). I would make them shawls and pray for them-a sacrifice of time, energy, money, and love. So, I picked yarn-Malabrigo sock yarn, one of my absolute favorite yarns on earth-and a pattern-the fantastic Storm Cloud Shawlette pattern. I cast on the first one (Helen’s, in the Abril colorway) last Wednesday and had it done by Saturday afternoon. And then that evening, I started the second (Mary’s in the Impressionist sky) and had it done by the end of yesterday. I blocked them. And today, I took advantage  of the GORGEOUS weather to take the pictures of them in the backyard that are scattered throughout this post.

(Quick note: I finished Helen’s shawl on Saturday but I hated the bind-off job I’d done, so I tore the binding off this afternoon and redid it with a picot bind-off. I like that one much more. Mary’s shawl has always had a lovely picot bind-off. The picot is time-consuming but gorgeous. I endorse it.)

I really love this pattern and I’d like to use it again. And again. And again.

I hope that these shawls show these two ladies how much I love them and how much Christ loves them. I’ve spent quite a bit of time praying for them while knitting the shawls. And on Easter…or maybe earlier, I’ll deliver these. And I have a feeling that they’ll be well-loved and used often…as they ought to be.

The photo above is Mary’s shawl blocking. I’m showing this picture off because it shows (what I think is) a really awesome way to block handknits. I spread two towels on the floor on my bedroom floor and then pinned the shawl to the towels/carpet. It’s an amazing blocking mat. And no, I didn’t come up with this idea on my own; I stole it from Melynda of French Press Knits who blogged about it back in December.

I’m looking for a new Lenten knitting project now since all of the knitting I currently have on-needle (or am planning on casting on today) is selfish knitting. But I’m sure I’ll figure that one out soon.

And I need to go bask in that gorgeous sunshine. Maybe I’ll do some outdoor knitting and reading? I also need to make some more progress in my Lenten goal of reading Jesus of Nazareth before Easter.

For the Record

Let the record state that I have finally accomplished a longtime goal of mine…and this time I did it WELL ahead of my deadline.

I have finally finished this book.

I bought Middlemarch shortly before Christmas 2010. I decided that one of my goals for 2011 was to read this book. With this in mind, I started reading this book about a year or so ago, stuck the king of diamonds from a deck of playing cards that I found in an end-table somewhere around page 34, and stopped reading it until about ten days ago.

Needless to say, I failed at completing that particular goal for 2011. So I put it on my list of goals for 2012.

Now, if you know me, you know that I’m currently working as a substitute teacher. Being a substitute teacher, I have an hour or two of downtime during the day that is the regular teacher’s planning period(s). The regular teacher has to work to do during this time; I don’t. So I bring books with me and read. (Or I go and observe other teachers in the building…in a very specific circumstance, but that’s another story that I’m not quite ready to share.)

So, I’ve read The House at Riverton by Kate Morton and The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas by John Boyne. I highly recommend both books. I also recommend the movie of The Boy... even more than I recommend the book.

After I finished those books…and a couple others that I’m not recommending, I re-started reading Middlemarch. I was determined to finish it by the middle of March…to be ironical. Or something.

Well, I did it. I did this almost entirely in planning periods while subbing…except I read the last 60ish pages at home tonight because I wanted to know how the story ended. Now, much of this is in large part due to Senor K’s two-and-a-half hour prep period that I enjoyed on Tuesday. And the two-hour-long prep that Mrs. R had that I used yesterday didn’t hurt anything either.

But either way, I’m done. I can cross that off my bucket-list and my 2012 to-do list.

Did I like it? I don’t know. I think it is a good book and it is decidedly well-written. But at the same time, I think it’s a little too full of its own virtue. I really disliked the fact that the majority of the epigraphs where written by George Eliot herself. If you’re going to put epigraphs in your book, quote someone else. Otherwise, you sound self-centered. (Sorry, Marian/Marianne/George; that’s just how I feel.)

Nevertheless, Mr. Eliot/Miss Evans did manage to make me care about her characters. They annoyed me. They made me sad. They made me happy. Heck, I’m even relatively sure that they made me chuckle a time or two.

This is the best way I can describe Middlemarch. A few years ago, a friend of mine described the book as “literary brussel sprouts.” Now brussel sprouts have a really bad reputation, but a few months ago, I ate some brussel sprouts that were absolutely delicious. Brussel sprouts are good for you. And they can be delicious. And honestly, in the end, I liked Middlemarch.

But I’m sorry, Virginia Woolf. It is not the only, or even one of the only, novels for adults in the English language.

And now I need more books to read.

Thursday Thoughts

I’ve managed to make it to another Thursday. I still have to make it through Friday, but I’m subbing in a second grade classroom, which probably won’t kill me and even if it does, I have to drive by a Starbucks to get home, so I can probably revive myself…in an manner that is appropriate to a Friday in Lent.

  1. But anyway, it’s Thursday, and I’m still here. And it’s March! I have survived another Leap Day…without proposing marriage to anyone.
  2. Also, in making it through Leap Day, I have made it to the first (hopefully annual) March Ado About Nothing. Yes, that’s right. We are now dedicating an entire month to my favorite Shakespeare play. Next, we’re going to start throwing Henry V parties on the Feast of St. Crispin and then we’ll have Twelfth Night parties every January 5. (Side note: Google informs us that the next Twelfth Night will be Sunday, January 5, 2013. Clear your calendars.)
  3. Just wait until I figure out how to have Hamlet parties…
  4. After I’m done writing this blog post, I’m going to watch the 1992 adaptation of Much Ado. You know, the one with Ken and Emma and Ken tries to convince us that somehow Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves could be brothers. Something tells me that the charming Mr. Branagh never did very well in biology as a child.
  5. Today, I misspelled my own last name on the whiteboard. And it took me over an hour to realize it. I need to drink more coffee.
  6. Oooooh! We could have Macbeth parties and dance around boiling cauldrons!
  7. I’d like to report now that I’m a little over 5/7 of the way through Middlemarch. It’s like eating brussel sprouts while getting your teeth pulled. No, actually, it’s like eating brussel sprouts while pulling your own teeth.
  8. To be fair, I actually really enjoyed the brussel sprouts I had back in December. But no one was pulling anyone’s teeth during that meal.
  9. I’m about 1/10 of the way into Jesus of Nazareth. It goes down much better with coffee than it does without…and that’s because I’m more alert with coffee than without. But it is far more enjoyable than brussel sprouts. Or dentistry.
  10. I’m currently knitting a gorgeous shawl, a sweater, and a sweater-dress. In case you care.
  11. How would you throw a King Lear party? Please comment and tell me.
  12. And don’t forget to remember to get me birthday presents on December 16 for Jane Austen’s birthday.
  13. Or I won’t invite you to my totally awesome Henry VI (Part Two) Party where we will begin by killing all the lawyers.