Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dexter and Nocturne

This is your cat...

This is your cat on drugs...

Any questions?

This is your dog...

This is your dog destroying his Christmas toy in 15 minutes...

This is your dog looking at your reproachfully after you've taken away the bone he was destroying because he was throwing coconut fibers everywhere...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I know that the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I know that Advent is the time of preparation before the coming of the Messiah.

I also know that Jesus wasn't born around this time of year and that his birth began to be equated with December 25 because in the 3rd century, Christianity was trying to figure out how to get newly-converted pagans to stop celebrating the solstice. They failed, and so they co-opted the date, associating it with the birth of Jesus rather than with the solstice event itself.

One could argue that they succeeded quite well.

I argue that Christianity made a giant fuck up.

The birth of Jesus should be celebrated. Jesus, as much or possibly more than any other historical figure, shows us how to live a life full of meaning. I'm not arguing that Jesus isn't a big deal.

I am arguing that Christianity made a mistake by not recognizing how important the summer and winter solstices are to all of humanity, Christians included. We should have picked another day to celebrate the birth of Jesus and found ways to celebrate the solstices within our religion.

Today is the Winter Solstice, and it is dark. I write by the light of candles and the lit tree--ancient solstice-y decorations.

On this darkest day of the year, I remember that while darkness is part of the natural order of things, today is as dark as it gets. Tomorrow will have more light, and the day after will have even more. It's a beautiful metaphor for the darkness in each of our lives, and it makes me more tolerant of my own dark places.

Merry Winter Solstice, everybody.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Saturday we went to Grandpa's for Christmas. We were joined by Andrew's immediate family--mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle--as well as Grandpa's deceased second wife's oldest child, this oldest child's soon-to-be ex-daughter-in-law, and three great-grandchildren who were in serious danger of being pummeled by me if they said, "There's nothing to do here. I'm so bored. When can we go?" one more time.

You know, the usual crowd.

Sunday we went to an aunt and uncle's for Christmas. We were joined by Andrew's immediate family (see above), great-aunt who is also the widow of Andrew's other Grandpa, seven first cousins and their nine children. (I feel the need to point out that six of these children belonged to one cousin and her husband. Granted, it's a blended family, but they've recently had a sixth child--their first together. I am flummoxed.)

Here's the thing: We both have wonderful families. I mean, they're dysfunctional, but you show me a family that isn't and... well, I can't complete that thought. Until someone shows me a functional family, I'm not going to bother coming up with a reaction.

Lovely as our families are, it can't change the fact that Andrew and I are introverts in a big way. BIG. It isn't that we don't like people; it's that being around people, however charming, saps energy from us. People are energy-sucking zombies.

I know. You don't mean to be. We don't blame you.

Yesterday while we were walking the dog, Andrew said, "I feel like a robot. It's ridiculous how tired I am." I then began daydreaming about having Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons walk Dexter so I could go take a nap. Sadly, she did not materialize.

If it's true that most people in our species are extroverts, then perhaps it's important for us introverts to explain ourselves. Extroverts gain energy when around other people. Introverts expend energy when around other people. It's like human interaction is an exothermic reaction for extroverts and an endothermic reaction for introverts.

That's exactly what it's like, actually.

So, we love you, but you make us tired. It is possible that we will need a nap in the middle of the festivities lest we become unglued and start screaming, "Get away, you soul-sucking zombie! Let me be!"

Rachel, who gets me, sent me a link to an Urban Dictionary entry.

Christmasochist - Someone who continues to subject themselves to Christmas activities -- Secret Santa, carolling, etc. -- despite feeling painfully awkward at the event.

So true. So very true. It's a shame we don't drink more to take the edge off the season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Stockings Complete!

Now I don't need to feel sheepish (get it, SHEEPISH?!) that the pets have handknit stockings and the humans don't.

Friday, December 18, 2009


It's the Muppets' fault.

I read about a video of the Muppets performing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." We looked it up, and, lo, it was funny.

I sent it to friends via e-mail, and one of them responded that it had been posted on somebody's Facebook wall last week.

They had all seen it.

For a moment, I thought, "Why didn't anyone send me the link?" Then, with horror, I realized I'm like one of those people you have to call to tell them to check their e-mail when you send something because they only check it when they're expecting a message. I'm like one of those people who have an answering machine instead of voicemail and so you try to return a call and spend all evening getting angrier and angrier at their busy signal.


I joined Facebook. I feel so dirty.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Stocking

In 2009, I joined the Rockin' Sock Club, the sock club put on by Blue Moon Fiber Arts. It's an investment, by I choose to think of it in terms of dollars per hour rather than dollars per yarn shipment. In terms of time, it's cheap entertainment.

I've knitted the January,


and May shipments.

I wasn't a fan of the July pattern (sorry), but I love the yarn and will certainly knit it up into something lovely. (I'm thinking these.)

I've started the September socks but became sidetracked with Christmas knitting, and I'm thrilled with the November shipment.

I'm in love with this club. I love that there are patterns that push me to do stuff I wouldn't otherwise do. I'd never knitted with beads before the January socks. The March socks were tricky enough that I had to look up a Youtube video to see how the rose was made. The May ones were fabulous but complicated. I plan to do them again in a plain color. September's socks will be my first knit by Cat Bordhi, and November's socks were designed by Cookie A. I have no idea how they get such famous designers; I'm guessing Blue Moon Fiber Arts has dirt on them all... or bribes them with yarn. That would totally work for me.

With the November shipment came a bonus pattern. While I think Blue Moon's yarn is fantastic, it's also pricey--as good yarn usually is. Since I'm not going to put this bad boy next to my skin, I decided to buy cheap acrylic yarn instead. I present to you:

Anna Zilboorg's Christmas Stocking.

This one is mine, and I'm starting Andrew's today. Before you tell me I should have knit for him first, he has yet to settle on what order he wants his yarn colors. He picked the same variegated and white-ish colors, but is using a sparkly red and sparkly purple instead of the plain red and yellow I used in mine. I'm optimistic that I can get it done before Christmas, although this knit does require charts and thinking. Short rows are hard for me.

I am relieved to be remedying a problem we have in our household: The dog and cat both have knitted Christmas stockings while Andrew and I have store-bought red ones. (You can catch a glimpse of the red stocking in the photo.) It's embarrassing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grateful II

I don't know if I'll see Lynn before Christmas, but she is one of the things for which I'm grateful, and her friendship is something I'm going to focus on during rough patches in the holidays.

I met Lynn when in a madrigal singing group in college. (Shut up. Madrigals are cool.) She was a madrigal sage, in terms of singing, costumes, and writing. She's the only person from college with whom I maintain regular contact.

Lynn's the person with whom I'm most likely to talk about the Big Issues. If I say, "I was talking to a friend about [insert personal growth topic here]," more than likely I was talking to Lynn.

She gets (or pretends to get, which is just as good) extremely excited about any successes in my life. She's the person who is responsible for me thinking about what I would do if I knew I could not fail. She sets Goals, and I love Goals.

I'm jealous of Lynn's musical ability. She probably knows three different parts to more songs than I know. She has an excellent memory for music, both lyrics and notes. She knows a ton about period costumes and is willing to make Damn Blue Dresses for an entire production.

Lynn's the most likely to get righteously indignant with me. She's also the most likely to understand what it's like to be terrified and yet move forward anyway.

I want her good karma to make the rest of her life full of rainbows and puppies. Wait, Lynn is allergic. Full of rainbows and buttered scones.

The best word to describe Lynn is Wise. In a Magical Kingdom (not THAT Magic Kingdom--the kind without cartoon characters), she would be the one in a glittery dress with stars in her hair. She wouldn't need a wand, she could do magic with her mind.

I am grateful for Lynn. I am blessed to have her in my life.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The Christmas gatherings are drawing nearer. Today is our white elephant exchange and Hanukkah lunch. I look forward to our Hanukkah lunch for weeks. It's SO YUMMY.

Saturday is Christmas with Andrew's dad's extended family.

Sunday is Christmas with Andrew's mom's extended family.

Christmas Eve and morning will be spent with Andrew's immediate family.

The 29th will be with my immediate family.

The 30th will be with friends.

January 2nd will be with my mom's extended family.

Andrew and I are both hermits by nature. These things wear us out. There's all the politeness and smiling and chatting with people we haven't seen since the last major holiday.

We talked last night about the fact that most of the Christmas shows focus on the awkwardness of spending time with family. (We watched The Big Bang Theory and Accidentally on Purpose yesterday.) There's a reason the writers focus on that: It's what resonates with the viewers. For the most part, we're all in the same boat. We all have awkward relationships with someone we are related to, and being with them over the holidays makes it stranger because we have an internal picture of how the holidays are supposed to be that never ever ever matches reality.

So, in an exercise aimed to reduce the crazy, I am going to try to focus on the things for which I'm most grateful. Today I'm going to talk about the friends because it's easiest.

We have the most amazing group of friends on the planet. The core of it are people who went to high school together, and we've added others as they came along. We have a history, which is nice (most of the time) because it helps us to understand one another. We all still genuinely like one another despite the fact that we're not at all the people we were when we met.

Brandy is honest and loving and not afraid to laugh. She is most like the kid at Christmas--excited and sure she's opened the most fantastic gift on the planet. She's also the easiest for whom to shop. I can't tell you how many times Andrew or I have seen something, turned to the other, and said, "Brandy would love this." It's usually followed by, "Yes, she would. Too bad we've bought her presents for the next several gift-giving occasions." It's extremely difficult not to buy her a gazillion gifts, and we only partially succeed at that.

Rachel is the only mom in our group, and she gives me hope that our species isn't screwed. She's such a good parent that it's dizzying to me. She's also the most fun to knit for because she believes knitting is magic, and that makes me a sorcerer. She loves food in a way that makes me remember that food is sometimes more than just food. She's the one I called when I was having a freak-out about turning 30 because I knew she'd talk me down from Crazy Town. She did.

Kyle is my oldest and dearest friend. We went through ten years of 4-H together ("I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world." I tried to stop typing and just put an ellipsis, but I couldn't.) He was the one I called at three in the morning the day after my dad died because I couldn't sleep and the world was spinning. He's the friend most likely to whoop up a table so it resembles something out of a magazine. He's a fantastic cook. He's also really laid back, which is a blessing considering I'm.... well, not.

Holly is my next oldest friend, although we got off to a rocky start due to her winning a Captain Crunch contest in second grade. I was extremely jealous. Holly has the best sense of style, and I sometimes find myself dressing up a bit around her. (I once wore heels with jeans around her. It was odd.) She's the most adventurous and the one who is most afraid of math.

Franklin is Rachel's partner in life and my partner in vegetarianism. He's much less annoying about his vegetarianism than I am, and I strive to be more like him in that way. He's also a religion nerd, so we're connected in that way as well. He's the poet in the group, and also the only one to watch wrestling.

There are a couple more people who are recent additions. Tom is smart and funny and kind and loves Holly to bits. I always enjoy hanging out with him and wish he lived closer--although I admit this is partly because I think I could wear some of Holly's clothes. Dan is a science nerd, which I love, and loves baseball, which I also love, and is completely obsessed with Star Wars, which I love making fun of.

Andrew finishes up the group, and he's my favorite person on the planet. He's smart, kind, and steady as a rock. (Damn that commercial for ruining a good phrase.) He loves me despite the fact that I'm a very different person that the one he started dating 13 years ago. He is the person I would most want to work with on a project. He's a computer genius, which has come in handy more times than I can count. I often realize how lucky I am to be with him as we are weird in much the same ways. I love him more than I love knitting and chocolate put together.

I am grateful. I am so lucky to have these people in my life, and I'm going to hold on to these thoughts when I'm having an uncomfortable conversation with a cousin or aunt or sister's ex-husband.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

I have a paperweight with that question engraved on it. About a year ago, I was talking to a friend about it, and I suddenly knew what the answer was.

I would do three things:

I would become a vegetarian.

I would train to run a 5K.

I would meditate daily.

On Saturday, I checked off the second one:

Em and I completed the Jingle Bell Run/Walk. It took us nearly three times longer than the fastest runners. I was, with no exaggeration, passed by both speedwalkers and a woman with a prominent limp.

But we finished, jogging the whole thing, even through the ice slick that was created when the fast people threw their water cups on the ground. By the time I got to the water station (who needs a water station for 3.1 miles?), the water had frozen.

I'm not really a runner, but I'm someone who can look at a runner on the side of the road and understand why she's doing what she's doing. I'm someone who wants to try for something a little bit longer and wants to go a little bit faster--someone who wants to see if I can push myself to be a little bit stronger. I'm someone who makes a crazy goal and follows through.

We're looking for a 10K.

I think I'd better figure out a time to start meditating.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crafty McCraftermeier

I love etsy. I love that people who enjoy crafting but only have so many people in their lives who want sequined toilet roll covers can sell them to people who desparately need sequined toilet roll covers but aren't crafty.

The sad thing about etsy is that people sometimes decide they don't want to sell anymore. This happens immediately after I find them and decide their stuff is brilliant and I want to buy it all for myself. Bam! Seller is gone the next day.

Using Amazon's universal wishlist button, I had put a needle book on my Christmas list. The purpose of this little felt miracle is to store all those needles that end up in the bottom of your knitting bag--the ones you need to weave in your ends and finish your knitwear. Nonknitters know not of what I speak, but knitters understand. I've lost whole days digging around in the bottom of my knitting bag looking for a blunt needle and cursing.

Andrew tried to buy it for me and, well, Bam! Seller gone.

I couldn't find anything else like it, probably because other people don't see the need for a needle book. At some point in my online search, I realized, "Hey. This is made of felt and thread and glue. I could do this. I make sweaters out of string. I can cut a piece of felt."

So, I did.

It's kitschy and obviously handmade. I love it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


You know those bugs that, once they infect you, take over your life for several days? When you emerge on the other side, you are shaken and a little shocked at its intensity.

I've just survived the Christmas knitting version of that.

It started out with a ball. Then there was this:

They were so cute that I immediately cast on for these:

And when I found the pattern for this, I knew I had to make it for a friend:

By this point I've lost the will to fight against the compulsion to make tiny ornaments, so these follow:

And a few more balls for good measure:

I have a different ornament for each of eight friends with whom we get together around the holidays.

I waver between being thrilled and being horrified. I realize I've become Aunt Bonnie who knits weird ornaments instead of just sticking to the list. I wonder if people who don't knit and don't necessarily appreciate the time and care that goes into knitting will like these, or if they'll become something they want to throw away but feel obligated to keep because someone made it for them. The key, I know, is to not care--to just knit for the enjoyment of it and give gifts to show your love.

And I know of nothing that says love like a knitted Christmas ornament.

The bug has left, and I've moved on to my first pair of Cat Bordhi socks.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We Interrupt This Wrapping

I wrapped a lot of Christmas presents this weekend. I had wrapped one of Rachel's gifts in tissue paper but hadn't wrapped the box when I stopped for dinner.

Here's what happened:

I wrapped other things until she woke up so as not to disturb the princess.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Christmas time in the city...

I've become slightly obsessed with the idea of knitted Christmas ornaments. (Insert joke about not getting out enough here.) The cabled ball is the first one. I have plans for many more, including, and I am not making this up, knitted poop. Someone not only wrote a pattern for a knitted poop ornament, but they first wrote it for crochet and then rewrote it for knitting. It's a strange and wonderful world.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Schoolyard bully

Yesterday we had the whole evening at home, and I was determined to be productive. I worked on entering addresses for Christmas card recipients into a spreadsheet while Andrew walked Dexter. We ate our frozen meals and then did bills. I was getting things together to continue work on Christmas cards when I noticed Andrew futzing around with the remaining treadmill piece.

By "remaining treadmill piece," I mean the main bulk of the treadmill. We had carried the other few pieces upstairs the night before after a comical pick-up in which the sporting goods employees couldn't find the key for the truck on which the treadmill was loaded and then the treadmill box was larger than the dimensions listed. Andrew drove it home squished between the (ever slowly sliding downward) box and the driver's side door, and I sat on top of the backseat squished between the box and that door slumped over so I wouldn't bang my head on the roof every time we hit a bump. We were grateful we live close to the sporting good store... and that we didn't get pulled over.

When we got it home on Tuesday, there were... difficulties getting it out of the car. We persevered, and we managed to get everything upstairs except the main bulk.

I just couldn't carry it. I had visions of us getting halfway up the stairs and then my body giving out and one of us dying a comically tragic treadmill-related death. The box was listed at 200 pounds, and nearly all of that was in this piece.

Although we desparately wanted all the pieces upstairs because that's the kind of OCD people we are, we acquiesced to reason and called a friend. His plan was to come over last night after work and help us haul that bad boy upstairs.

I don't know how to put this. Our friend was called out on a Bow-Related Emergency. Seriously. Bows as in those things made of ribbon that adorn festive packages. Bow-related emergency. It was a valid emergency; it had to do with a live musical production, not a package for Aunt Gertrude, but I did mock him a tiny bit.

So, back to the story. I'm labeling Christmas cards and Andrew is futzing with the hideously heavy piece of treadmill. I ask him what he's doing, knowing the answer. "I really want this upstairs."

..."Do you want help?"


I laugh. "Right. We'll just nip this upstairs. No problem. What would you like me to do?"

"Get on the stairs and steady the top. I'll lift from the bottom and sit it on the first step. You keep it from tipping backwards and killing me. I don't know how difficult that will be."

"No problem. Lift with your legs."

The next thing I know I'm flat on my back on the stairs with a 200 lb. treadmill on me.

"Huh. That was unexpected. Maybe I just wasn't ready for the weight. Let's try this again."

The next time I landed on my bum with the treadmill on top of me. I considered this progress.

I also realized that I had been pushed down and sat on twice by a 200 lb. schoolyard bully. In those situations, struggle is futile (the bully is bigger) and laughter is the only option (as it shows you're not scared of a bully). So I started to laugh. Uncontrollably. For a really long time. While Andrew kept asking, "Are you okay? You don't seem okay. You're laughing like you're in pain. Are you in pain?"

Once I regained control, We lifted the treadmill back up and reevaluated our strategy. We ended up scooting it on its side up the stairs, and we were successful in the end.

Today, my bum and the back of my head hurts. I believe getting healthy is trying to kill me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It Keeps Coming Up

There is a very good reason why the topic of keeping the holidays (Christmas in my case, but pick your festive poison) simple and sane comes up every year in magazines and news stories and conversations:

Nobody had figured out how to do it, and everybody wants to.

You may say this is an exaggeration and that your holiday season is filled with quiet nights by the tree with loved ones sharing reasons why you're thankful. If that is the case, please bite me. I mean that with love.

And teeth.

It's December 2, and I'm riddled with anxiety. It's the usual list:

Christmas cards
Knitting gifts
Four hundred thousand commitments which make it impossible to do the previous items

I admit that I'm really, really prone to working myself up over stuff that doesn't justify it. I also recognize that the luxury to be anxious over buying people I love presents is a luxury most of the people on this planet don't have.

Those realizations only serve to make me more stressed. Now I've got all this holiday stuff to do and I'm a horrible, self-absorbed person. Fabulous.

I wish I could figure it out. I wish I could convince myself to cut something out, to decide not to put up all the decorations or send the cards, or to just buy Visa gift cards for everyone and be done.

But I can't. And I won't. And so I'm trying to figure out how to get out of a spiral of tinsel-coated stress of my own making.

And, unsurprisingly, I can't figure it out. This is because I have made choices I'm not willing to reevaluate, and those choices mean that I have a lot of shit to do in December.

Sue Bender talks in one of her books about hiring an organizational consultant to help her clean her office. After several hours of justifying why she needed the paperwork the consultant was trying to throw away, she paid her to leave. Bender said that someday maybe she would find someone who understood that the paper was part of the process. I'd like someone find someone who understands that all the stuff on my to-do list is necessary and yet still be able to help me figure out how to do it and not be stressed out. I believe this person will have the ability to Bend Time.

I think that the issue is not How To Have a Stress-Free Holiday. The issue is How To Convince Yourself That You Don't Need To Do The Shit You Think You Need To Do. It isn't quite as catchy on a magazine cover, but everyone who is honest with herself would read the article. The problem is something I create myself, and yet I do it every year.

I have no answers. I have to go address Christmas cards.