February 02, 2009

St. Brigid's Day

In honour of St. Brigid, patron saint of poetry, today is Silent Poetry Reading Day in the blogosphere. At the risk of sounding like a slavish Oprah devotee, Maya Angelou is one of my favourite poets. Although "A Brave and Startling Truth" is my absolute favourite, not least because it was written for the 50th anniversary of the U.N., I was thinking of this one recently - specifically, on January 20th, when President Obama was inaugurated. Although I can't fault the President for choosing to grant the honour to another, perhaps less well-known African-American woman poet, wouldn't it have been great if Dr. Angelou had read this poem on that day, instead of at the Clinton inauguration?

Spoken at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993.
(sourced from here)

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
- Good morning.

(If you would prefer a non-silent poetry reading, you can watch a video of the inauguration here).

February 01, 2009

teh crazeeee

It has been a crazy nutso couple of weeks, y'all.
On the 21st, I got a phone call offering me the government job in Ottawa that I interviewed for in early December. I had a feeling this was coming since I found out (by accident) that they were checking my references, and also HR had been in touch with me about my security clearance and French test results. My supervisor wanted me to start right away, but we settled on February 9th as a start date because I would have to move. I started looking for apartments right away, and let me tell you there aren't a whole lot of places available at this time of year. I decided to just try to rent a room for now and find a bigger place some later, that way I wouldn't have to move a lot of my stuff.
The following Monday I got a call from a medical writing company I had submitted my resume to waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy back in the fall. They had been in touch briefly before Xmas, but I wasn't sure if I was ever going to hear from them again. They offered me some freelance work for a couple of weeks, which I accepted. On Tuesday I also got the go-ahead for a project for a private writing client of mine. On Wednesday my partner and I drove to Ottawa to look at some temporary accomodations for me, which was quite the adventure since that was also the day we got 20cm of snow.
So basically, I have gone from having no work to having two big contracts to complete while trying to organize a move to another city for a job. I am soooo stressed out. Not to mention pretty upset. Everyone I have spoken to is so enthusiastic about me getting this job, and there is no way I could turn it down given my financial situation, but the prospect of moving back to Ottawa is making me pretty miserable. I feel like I'm taking a giant step back in my personal life. My partner and I had a long-distance relationship for four years while I was in law school, and when I graduated I was so thrilled to finally put that behind us. It is extremely upsetting to realize that it's not behind us after all.
Plus there are all these little things that keep kicking me in the teeth - like how my old apartment in Ottawa was a 20 minute walk from my new workplace, or like all the potential job opportunites I passed up because I was so sure I would be living in Montreal. It is really, really frustrating.
Now I'm scrambling to get ready to go while trying to fulfill my professional commitments, and all I want to do is crawl into a vat of wine and stay there until it is all over (not an approved coping technique, I think). So I'm knitting.
The limenviolet sock marathon starts today and I have already cast on my first pair of socks - Interlocking Leaves from this past fall's Knitty. I'm using some Handmaiden Casbah in what I've decided is an odd dye job that sort of looks like Nova Scotia or Rainforest, but without the lime green:

I don't care so much that it is apparantly an oddball, since I love it - and hey, I am kind of an oddball too!

This yarn was purchased on a celebratory/consolation trip to Mouline - celebratory since I had just found out I would have a steady source of income, and consolation because I did not get into the Loopy Ewe sock club. I also got these:

Tanis Fiber Arts in Lagoon, and Alpaca with a Twist Socrates in Dress Blues (which I think actually looks kind of purple, but whatever).
I picked up some rosewood sock needles as well, and promptly snapped one in half while trying Judy's Magic Cast On for the Interlocking Leaves socks, which use a toe-up construction. Stressed-out people should maybe use metal needles when trying new techniques.
Speaking of which, I should really get back to...well, one of the multiple tasks that need to be done in the next week. Wish me luck!

January 19, 2009

Sock Marathon!

I've joined the Limenviolet Sock Marathon for 2009 (Ravelry link)! I'm excited mainly because it gives me an excellent excuse to ignore my other projects and concentrate on sock knitting for six months. Here is my accumulated sock yarn, just under 3 miles:

Not a whole lot compared to some of the others in the group, but respectable considering how limited my income has been since I learned to knit socks last spring (i.e., about the same time I finished school and became unemployed). I am also hoping to win a spot in the Loopy Ewe Sock Club (spots are awarded by lottery), sort of...I have wanted to join a whole bunch of sock clubs but can't afford the $200-$300 hit on my credit card. I rationalized putting my name in for this one because 1) I might not get a spot so it's not like I'm definitely signing up to shell out the money (strange logic but it works for me) and 2) it is pay per shipment, not pay up front, so I can pretend that I will be in a better financial situation by the time the first package ships in March. That doesn't mean that I won't feel a bit guilty about spending money on sock yarn when the time comes - I probably will, but my sock yarn lust outweighs it.

I did not get any yarn for Xmas, because I didn't ask for any. I chickened out when it came to revealing my total geekiness (even though my cousin who lives in Seattle could totally have brought me some STR since Blue Moon is in Oregon...oh, just because I didn't ask doesn't mean I didn't think about it). However, my aunt did give me this:

A basket to hold my knitting! I think it is from a food gift basket but it has been successfully repurposed. The sheep is actually from Bath and Body Works, I couldn't resist, it was so cute (and only $5).

And on a rare trip to Wal-Mart, I bought myself this:

I have seen several people use these foam mats as blocking boards, and since my 2009 to-knit list contains my first shawl, I thought it was time to invest in a real blocking surface (as opposed to a stack of towels on my dining room table). That is 16 square feet of surface, which should be plenty. Yay!

Finally, progress on my belated Xmas gifts:

I am 2 1/4 inches away from starting the decreases for the toe, and then (oh-please-let-it-be-over) I will be finished with this sock.

That is about 3 1/2 feet of scarf. I will finish this up directly after I finish the sock, then put them in the mail and do a little dance of joy.

That's all for now...Fingers crossed for me for the sock club, and also for the government job that I still don't know about!

January 14, 2009

Dead Blog Talking

I didn't realize it had been quite so long since I'd posted here, almost a full month! Maybe I've been subconsciously putting it off because I am reluctant to admit publicly that I am still finishing up Xmas presents. Yes, still. All but one of my knitted gifts were given on the needles (except the single sock, but that still doesn't count as finished). I did manage to finish one coffee cup cozy, from this KnitPicks pattern, and gifted it to my cousin with a Starbucks gift card as I had planned. One win out of five - not great.
Progress? I have turned the heel on the Giant Blue Sock and am working my way through the gusset decreases. I have knitted to the end of the first skein on the My So-Called Scarf and need to wind up the second before I can continue on it. My sister's Druid Mitten, plus yarn and needles, are in a box back home, as I forgot to bring them back with me - she is supposed to send them along so I can finish them up but so far they have not arrived. My partner's Selbu Mittens are in my knitting basket beside the couch (since I no longer have to keep them a secret) and have barely been touched since we got back last week. (See original Xmas post for pictures and linkage).
The holidays were about as stressful as I had anticipated, although it was still nice to be with my family (which was the reason I had decided to head home in the first place, despite the crazy drama). I'm glad to be home now. Really, really glad.
That's enough for now - next time I will share my recent knitting-related acquisitions, and daydream some about what I am going to make after I finally, finally finish these gifts.

December 16, 2008

Dear Christmas, I hate you. Please go away now, kthxbye!

So, Christmas knitting is not going so well. I finally finished one sock of the pair of the Giant Blue Socks of Doom, and have finished the ribbing and about one inch of the leg on the second sock. Just to show you that I am not kidding about the giantness of these socks, here is a picture of the giant sock side-by-side with a "normal" (women's medium) sock:

Yeah. I am maybe a little crazy.

I cast on a My So-Called Scarf with the pretty Peruvia Colors I picked up last month, and have managed a couple of feet so far. I had to rip this back and start over more times than I care to admit, but I finally seem to have gotten the hang of this pattern. I actually really enjoy it.

I have made next-to-no progress on any of my other Xmas projects, including my partner's mittens. I am so screwed.

Besides the knitting-associated stress, I am just not looking forward to the holidays this year. My mother died around Christmastime (four years ago this January), and though it has gradually gotten better over the years (meaning I generally don't burst into tears at random moments), I still miss her most around this time of year. There is also some Family Drama going on at home that I don't want to be dealing with. It stresses me out. We are not a Family Drama kind of family, we actually are more of a repress-all-your-feelings-and-pretend-everything-is-okay kind of family, so I haven't had a lot of practice dealing with this kind of conflict. Unlike my partner, who seems to regard family in-fighting as normal and can't figure out why I am so bothered by it. Oh, well.

Anyway, here is a cute cat picture to make everyone feel better (please ignore my ghetto toenails in the background)!

Hope your holidays are shaping up to be cheerful and conflict-free!

December 09, 2008


I often refer to coffee as the sweet brown elixir of life, and there is a reason for that. Like so many, I am literally non-functional in the mornings until I get my first cup, and if I go without I get the classic withdrawal symptoms (headache, fatigue and general crankiness). However, my relationship with coffee goes beyond the physical – I have a deep emotional attachment to coffee. It is so much more to me than just a simple caffeine source (of course, decaf is still blasphemy, or as Letterman put it “useless brown water”).
My love affair with coffee started very young. When I was small, my mother would let me (after much begging and pleading on my part) sip coffee from her cup with one of those tiny McDonald’s spoons with the long handle (does anyone else remember those? The bowl was about the size of my pinky nail). I genuinely liked the taste, but there was also the excitement of being allowed access to something so adult, and the pleasure of sharing something with my mother, despite her warnings about it stunting my growth.
Mom herself was a fellow devotee, starting most of her mornings with an extra-large from Tim Horton’s, picked up on her way to school (she taught first grade). I guess that’s why she never put up much of a fuss when I started to get serious about my coffee habit in high school, taking a to-go cup on the bus with me each morning and hanging out in coffee shops with my friends on weekends (hey, we couldn’t go to bars). Actually, I distinctly remember introducing her to the glory of the mochaccino with whipped cream one afternoon at the mall, likely during one of her epic Christmas shopping trips.
Coffee provided me with an income the first summer I lived away from home. I worked in a coffee shop in one of the downtown malls in Calgary. The pay was crap but the coffee was free! I think I did irreparable damage to my stomach and kidneys that summer, actually, and also my lungs since the shop was one of the few places inside the mall where smoking was permitted.
Coffee was my constant companion through my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and fuelled many a late-night study session in law school (there was a brief flirtation with green tea in there, but I rapidly returned to my true love). Coffee was also there on dates, and at meetings with friends. Even when I was at my sickest, and was told to stay away from it, I still couldn’t cut out that one cup in the morning, just that cup and five minutes to relax and organize my thoughts for the day ahead.
Coffee is a ritual. Grind the beans, pour the water, push the button – so simple I can (and probably do) do it with my eyes closed. Sharing it can also become a ritual. On Sunday mornings, I would make a pot and bring my mother a cup before leaving for church (I put in some time in the choir – I’m not religious but the choirmaster is a friend and desperately needed some sopranos who were not eighty years old). I love that we shared those casual, intimate moments, that without really thinking about it I found a way to show her that I cared about her and appreciated all that she did for me. I hope that’s the message I got across, anyway.
Independence and familiarity, stress and relaxation – these are all associated with the taste and smell of coffee for me. But most importantly, it is a tangible connection between my mother and me.
My mom loved coffee too.

December 04, 2008

Interview Preparation By Numbers

2: Number of eyebrows plucked
7: Number of times wondered whether I wanted a job where eyebrow pluckage would be important
1: Pair of pantyhose purchased
11,000: Number of times worried that hair would look "stupid"
2: Number of hours spent deciding what knitting to take for the bus ride (4 hours in total)
0.5: Number of hours spent actually knitting on the bus
3.5: Number of hours spent napping on the bus
0.5: Number of hours spent actually preparing for the interview

Actually I think it went pretty well. It is a government job and therefore the interview process is very structured - a lot of situational questions, and some reading and analysis, which I am good at now thanks to four years of law school. So I have gone straight from worrying about the interview to worrying about what I am going to do if they offer me the job, since it is in Ottawa and I live in Montreal. Although a four-hour daily commute would give me a lot of knitting time (due to my driving phobia I would be taking the bus), it would most likely involve me getting up at some ungodly hour and dudes, I am NOT a morning person. The idea that I might have to get up before 6am on a daily basis makes me feel physically ill.
So I might have to move back to Ottawa...BUT I DON'T WANNA!!!! I love Montreal, I love my apartment (that I lobbied hard for and that my partner cannot afford on his own) and I love actually LIVING IN THE SAME CITY AS MY PARTNER OF FIVE YEARS! We did the long-distance thing for four years while I was in law school in Ottawa and it was such a relief to finally move in together.
Why can't things just work out the way I want for once? Why can't I just get a great job here (or even a decent job)? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?
Okay, seriously, there are other options. The government is pretty good about flexible schedules and teleworking, so I might be able to split my time between here and there after a few months. I still have a few friends in Ottawa so I might be able to find a place to stay for a couple nights a week, so I would not have to drag my a$$ out of bed before the butt-crack of dawn in order to make it to work at a decent time. And the promise of a steady paycheque, with benefits and a pension plan and all that good stuff, is oh so tempting to me and my negative bank balance.
Anyway, they haven't even offered me the job yet so all this cogitation is perhaps unnecessary. I should just get back to my Xmas knitting and stop with the obsessing (I can't help it, it is my nature).
Knit on, my gainfully employed friends! Knit on!