Riddle Me This

Have you ever noticed that some sock patterns are fast? Not just that they seem fast, like when a patterns so entertaining that you get invested and time seems to fly… but when it’s actually fast? Empirically fast?

I’ve noticed it with the Leyburn socks. I sit down to knit for a regular block of sock knitting time, and when the time’s up, I’ve got way, way more sock than is normal for me. I feel like I could bang these out a mile a minute, and I practically am.

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That’s a sock and some in about 2/3 of the time that I would reasonably expect to spend getting a sock and some. (The picture also shows the rather dramatic and fierce swelling of my left ankle, kindly disregard. My ankles are usually as fetching as the one on the right.) Admittedly, having to sit around with my foot up (it is wearing so thin already) is granting me a little bit more knitting time than usual, but I swear that’s not all it is. There’s voodoo in this pattern. Fast voodoo. I had the same experience with the Monkey pattern, and Loskins is darned quick too. You would think that a patterned sock would be slower than a plain sock, since all that stitch manipulation has just got to be slower than churning out the knit stitch, but it just doesn’t seem to be true. The intelligent part of me says that it’s that I’m being charmed, and the charm eggs me on, but I have been charmed before.. this is knitting after all, and it can’t just be that.

What makes these patterns so fast? Do you find any fast? Which ones? Why do you think it is?

Thoughts?

Geeky on a Monday

It’s been a fairly quiet weekend here, except for in the comments – holy cow, am I ever flattered by how much you all like that little cowl. I’m working on the pattern, and I’m getting it to test knitters…and then I’ll figure out how to get it to you. (Patience please.) Most of the quietness was enforced by a little gift I’ve gotten from the planet, in the form of what appears to be a stress fracture in my left ankle – although the x-ray isn’t back yet. (Joe says I certainly have had enough stress to fracture something, so maybe he’s right.) I took up running a while back, and perhaps I did a little much a little soon. (Going too far, too fast would totally be in keeping with my personality.) The treatment for said fracture is apparently something called “staying off it”, and I’m finding it hard. (That is also rather in keeping with the aforementioned personality.) The only thing keeping me down (as much as I am able) is knitting and the tv, and I’m combining the two rather brilliantly, I think.

I know that it’s probably no big secret that I’m a huge geek. A Sci-fi geek, to be painfully precise, and if you’re a Sci-fi geek, then you have to be knowing that this is a big week. On Friday, the final few episodes of Battlestar Galactica will finally air, and I will be watching, and hopefully, I will be wearing socks to match. (I know. Huge geek. I already copped to it.) When I realized that this is the week, I went through my stash until I found this skein

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which is from Sereknity (Sereknity – get it? That’s even geekier.) and it’s called (drumroll for the geeks)

Eye of Jupiter! (If you’re a BSG geek, you’re going to totally get that.)

(Note for BSG geeks -wound up like that, doesn’t it look like it did on Starbuck’s wall?)

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(Sereknity’s “Classica” yarn in the Eye of Jupiter colourway, in the clever and lovely Leyburn pattern that’s so perfect for busy yarn.)

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I’m knitting it up just as quickly as I can, and frak it all, I will be wearing these by the time the series finale is on, if not sooner, and I know there’s just got to be another BSG knitting geek out there who will join me. I dare you. (If you do it, send me a picture, will you? Joe thinks this urge is odd as fish. I could use a few normalizing comrades.)

I know that revealing that I am a geek of this magnitude will be shocking to some of you, and reassuring to others. Think what you will. You can’t hurt me with it. To quote Blaine in the X-Files “I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.”

Geeks unite.

Pretty Thing

Very recently – about three minutes before I cast on this project, I got a skein of yarn for Christmas. It was a yarn that I’d seen a friend knitting with, and I’d fallen head over heels in love with it. This friend is the clever and generous sort, and I was so clearly and instantly smitten that she’d procured a skein for me and made a present of it.

It was this lovely bit of business…

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Roving Winds Farm 2ply cashmere, in what they call a “soft grey-brown”. (No. She’s my friend and you can’t have her. I’m not even telling you who she is so you can’t suck up to her.) There’s about 375 yards in that wee 60g (just over 2oz) skein, and each of them is a lovely, lovely thing. I wound it up straightaway, and began to cast about for a pattern to make with it, so smitten was I with it’s comely nature. I knew I wanted a cowl, since the thought of that softness by a neck was so perfect, and I perused the internet and ravelry madly to that end. I saw many great cowls as I travelled, but it turned out that I was having that pattern problem again. The pattern problem happens to me all the time, and I bet you’ve done it. It’s where I’ve already made up my mind about precisely what I’m looking for. I know exactly what it is that I want, how it looks, how much yarn it takes, what needle it’s knit on, and I end up not so much searching for a great pattern, as trying to locate the pattern I can see in my head.

Now it turned out this time (as it does a lot of other times) that nobody had written the pattern for the cowl in my head, and so I decided that maybe I would try to write down what I saw, and hope for the best. Now, I’m not a designer, and the occasional good idea doesn’t make you one, so this -despite being a good idea – at least the way it looked in my mind – doesn’t always work for me. Usually I end up with a really horrendous kindergarten level interpretation of what was in my head, because my head cares nothing for reality or the rules of knitting.

Not this time. This time I knit a tiny swatch for gauge, called Denny to see how big she thought a good cowl was (Denny is experienced in the ways of the cowl), consulted a few stitch dictionaries to see if my brain was even remotely on the planet, worked up a chart (thank you, knit visualizer) and started knitting.

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Several dreamy hours and 61 rows later (that’s a lie. The chart is 62 rows but I knit 74 because I had to rip out a part and change it because I was knitting a series of strange beak like structures into the thing.)

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I love it. It is exactly, precisely, 100% what I had in my head, and considering the sort of place my head is, that’s a miracle. The edges swoop the way I thought they would, the middle pulls in the way I wanted it to.

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It’s delicate and strong, feminine without being wildly princessey, and warm without bulk. I’m really, really thrilled with it.

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The best part (beyond a 61 row cowl, which is pretty darned good) is that the cowl weighs this:

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And the leftovers….

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weigh that. Dudes. I can make three from one skein! (This makes me want to walk into a yarn shop like it’s a local pub and shout something along the lines of “cowls for all my friends!” I may do that, actually.)

I may not be a designer (actually, I’m really not) but this wee cowl was definitely one of my better ideas. What a pretty thing.

Over, all

An odd thing happened here, all of a sudden. In the middle of a series of escapades that felt to me like they would never end at all (and indeed, I’d rather accepted that there would be no end at all) it all came to a peaceful and thorough end. My goal for the Christmas knitting (which I had fallen rather behind on) was to finish it all by 12th night… and I did. Tuppers socks are done and will be off to him in the mail in short order.

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The pattern is from Classics in Kroy (Patons #922) , a wonderful booklet that I’ve had for years. My copy is seriously ratted up, but my google-fu failed to find anywhere that this was still available. Anybody know?

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The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy (and it really is smooshy) and there was some serious competition for this colourway, particularly amongst the men in the family who think it’s tremendously masculine. (I can’t wait to tell them it’s called “Cocoa Kiss“.)

While I was on a roll I finished Susan’s scarf…

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Another beautiful Just Enough Ruffles, and I think that this time I found the perfect yarn, in Blue Moon’s “Luscious Single Silk“. (This colourway is, most appropriately, Winter Solstice.) It’s soft and drapey and I am struggling with the fact that I’m putting it in the mail, but I am.

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A scarf for Kelly got finished. This is alternating 1X1 rows of Blue Moon’s Labrador in “Jewel of the Nile”, and Silk Loops in “Bejewelled” and the colour is more accurate in the top picture. (Tina says she’s replacing Labrador with another yarn she likes better called “ThickieThin”. Tina also tells me that these yarns aren’t on the website right now (which would be why I couldn’t find them again) but will be on Monday.

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I finished at night, about 20 minutes before I gave it away, and so the colour is wildly off in this last one.

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I did 1X1 stripes by using 10mm Swing Needles (there’s a “how to use them” tutorial there), but you could do it with ginormous dpn’s or even a circular needle, where you pushed the work from one end to the other. It’s a fun trick to do with two wildly different yarns. When I learned it, I immediately figured out what most of the novelty yarns in my stash were for.

I finished the last (for now) of the Noro two row stripe scarves, this one for my mum.

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(Noro Silk Garden, #’s 284 and 47)

Then, using cashmere to cope with disaster, I knit a wee and very, very pretty cowl, but I’m going to show you that tomorrow because all this doneness in one day is too overwhelming- because also?

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The plumbing is done, the drywall repairs are done and (finally) I can use the new washer again, as it was so cruelly removed from my grasp by the great soil pipe disaster of ’09. It’s great having a new soil pipe, but I think that I’d love it if the next renovation on this house was a) voluntary b) less pricey, and c) VISIBLE.

Still. I’m not complaining. There’s a lot to be said for being able to flush at will.

In which my optimism was appropriate

Never let it be said, my friends, that I am not a coper. I cope fine. I have a multitude of skills with which to cope at my disposal. I am basically a good natured person. I am an optimist. I knit, which takes the edge off of a multitude of bad situations, and I am not opposed to a good stiff belt of whatever it takes to get through just about anything. (That said, I do believe that I am to be commended for my relative sobriety throughout this entire vexing couple of weeks.) Fear not for my sanity.

This morning the plumber arrived, and brought with him the very nice gentleman who cuts up houses. I’d emptied my cupboards last night in preparation for whatever the hell was going to go down, and they draped the kitchen in plastic and began cutting up the house and shining lights into walls and making their diagnosis.

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They spent quite a bit of time pondering what could be done, what should be done and what must be done, and at the end of this period of examination – during which I obnoxiously lurked around annoying them and asking questions (“Is it all right? Is that my pipe? How many holes do you have to make? How do the joists look? Why are you making that face? When you say “son of a *&^%$#$%^&^%$#&…. is that negative?”) the verdict was in and it was all good. Great even. They said a lot of things. Amongst the gems like “What the *&^% is that pipe doing there?” and “Whoa. What the hell is that?” and “Why do you think that’s not attached?” I gleaned the following relevant points.

1. Because the maniac who installed our plumbing a century ago did it funny – they only need to cut up one cupboard, not two.

2. As that same maniac put an exceedingly strange join in the pipe, they don’t have to cut up the ceiling, just the bulkhead over the cupboard.

3. There is NO structural damage of any sort at all. None. Zip. Nada. Apparently the gallons of water that have been falling down beside the pipe when we drain the tub have been cascading straight down the outside of the cast iron pipe and falling on the sandy soil in the crawlspace behind the washer and dryer and have (mostly) been absorbed by the ground. This explains the small mudslide we found behind our dear departed Sir Washie (which was a mystery that troubled us for days) and gives us an odd sense of celebration for the fact that we don’t have a proper cement floor (or walls) in that space. Who knew that an improperly finished antique cellar would pay off?

4. As the connections to the waste pipe are as bizarrely placed as a muskrat in a mirror store, Larry the plumber (a god walking the earth as man) can, in a strange and miraculous pipe dance of alchemy, totally replace the top part today and the bottom part tomorrow – which means that except for between 9 and 5 both days (and maybe a part of the third day) we can use our house. The kitchen will be out of commission the whole time, just because of the mess, but that’s why we’ve been blessed with the great and modern gift of pizza delivery.

5. That doesn’t mean that it will cost less, but does assure that it won’t be a penny more, which is so freaking great that it made me want to kiss him full on the mouth – which I didn’t do, although I may have confessed the urge.

I’ve retreated to my mother-in-laws house to work, where I can use the toilet at will, and although I’m still a little upset, I’ve pulled out the best coping skill I could find.

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Cashmere. One small and precious skein that was a gift from a very nice friend this Christmas. I’ve started to knit it up into a cowl of my own devising, and I think it looks wonderful.

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I intend to knit as much cashmere as it takes for the pipe to be replaced, my kitchen (both sides) to be repaired and for the extremely uncomfortable stress related spasm in the left side of my upper back to stop trying to shove my shoulder blade into my ear.

See? I’m a coper. Thanks for the good vibes for the kitchen. I think it worked.

What the world has against my kitchen

So Sunday afternoon, the new dryer arrived and was placed with very little fanfare. Turns out that if you rip out your cupboard, a door, a door frame and part of the wall that appliances go down into the basement like a hot knife through butter. Much relief and rejoicing was had by all, and Joe and I both sat down there and watched laundry go around like it was the new James Bond. Thrilling, I tell you. Thrilling. Our neighbour came over and helped Joe put our kitchen cupboards back on that side and today I’m taking an unreasonable amount of delight in putting all my things back in, or at least… I was, until the plumber I called to deal with a tiny little leak that was just making a noise and wasn’t even causing any damage, dropped the bomb.

The bomb is that my “soil stack” is “20th century plumbing”. It’s a big cast iron pipe that carries all water and waste from the house, and mine has a big old hole in it just under the only bathroom in our house – up on the second floor, and the rest of it doesn’t look good either. It isn’t properly fixable and must be (IswearIfeelreallywoozyjustthinkingaboutthis) entirely replaced, from the basement to the upstairs. This will, naturally, necessitate ripping up the other side of the kitchen and render us bathroom-less for three days, beginning tomorrow – since it has to be fixed as soon as possible as the fact that a whole lot of water is running down the inside walls of the kitchen without doing visible damage is a problem. Me, I always thought that a leak not doing visible damage was a good thing, but apparently it is a harbinger of the horsemen of the apocalypse, since the water isn’t landing in the basement, but is instead likely damaging not ceilings or walls (which are – despite their cosmetic importance, not important at all – as witnessed by the way that they’re dropping like flies around here) but truly vital and mysterious things like “joists” or “electrical work” or “the support structure of the house”. (That last one ends with my tub falling into the kitchen.. I think.)

All of that makes me feel pretty badly about how long we ignored the funny little water noise… but it’s too late now so I’m letting it go, or at least I’m letting it go until tomorrow morning when they will demolish “a small portion” of the kitchen ceiling and wall and discover what’s what in there. Cross your fingers that the estimate they gave me that caused all the blood to run out of my head is the full extent of the damage. Personally, I bet it is. I mean, you can’t have a wreaked truck, eavestroughs down in a windstorm, a dead washer, a trashed kitchen, sawed up door frame, a wall off, a cracked soil stack AND structural damage…. right? That would be over the top, wouldn’t it? I agree. Bloody unlikely.

We’ll be moving in to Hotel Lovely-Mother-in-Law for a few days (and boy are we lucky to have that option), and for the next little while that we’re pinching pennies to sort out the ransack and ruination of the unexpected pillaging of our post Christmas budget, I have to tell you, I’m being enormously comforted by the stash. I knew it felt right at the time, but now I know that buying this yarn while I could was a tremendously intelligent move.

Let that be a lesson to you. Stashing is just a clever financial insurance policy, and it’s simply fiscally responsible to engage in it.

On the Tenth Day

The Top Ten Reasons I love my new Washing Machine*

10. It is in the basement, not the kitchen.

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9. Only one small part of one old wall needed to come down, and then it went down with as little difficulty as a 400lb washer can while being moved through a very, very narrow house by men who have been moving a washer for two days and aren’t really excited anymore. Turns out that Joe’s optimism was not only well placed, but necessary.

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8. It holds about 3 times what Sir Washie did. Seriously. I can do every single towel in the whole house in one load. I feel like someone just gave me my life back. When the matching dryer arrives tomorrow I expect to weep openly out of sheer joy.

7. It holds so much that if you bug a kid to do their laundry, and you finally manage to convince them to go and do it, they can do all of their laundry in one load and that means that you’re only going to have to fight with them about laundry and how people really do care how they smell once every week, not twice. I will lay down my life for anything that makes for fewer fights with my kids.

6. It has a warranty. For five years, this washer can only make bad noises rather than expensive ones.

5. It has a spin only cycle, which means that even though it’s a front loader, I can still use it to take extra water out of fleece, yarn and handwashed woollies.

4. It makes virtually no noise. I loved Sir Washie, but the sound of him running through a cycle was something that you could hear from all over the house, and a slightly unbalanced load (and like many of us in our last months, Sir Washie was mostly unbalanced towards the end) could shake windows, scare small children and was generally louder than a 15 year old stripped of a cell phone on a Friday night just after she found out that the new boy who moved in next to her friend said that he thought her hair was ” sorta nice.”

3. It is a stupid crazy kind of water and energy efficient. Since we have an extremely old water supply to the house, our water pressure is sort of “limp”. (So limp that we don’t have a shower installed in the house and it takes 15 minutes to fill a bathtub.) This means that we can only have one water using thing on at a time… you can do laundry OR use the dishwasher, do laundry OR or have a bath, do laundry OR brush your teeth. Anything water efficient means more other water stuff works more of the time.

2. For weeks, we’ve been taking our laundry over to my mother-in-law’s. This means that you bundle up yourself and your laundry, walk over to her place in varying types of freezing precipitation and over a variety of forms of ice, wash it, and walk back freezing your arse all the way. This is a huge chunk out of ones workday, so we’ve been trying not to dirty clothes. Having a washer in the house means that the next time someone spills a coffee, I can mop it up with a towel, rather than scream “Drink it off the floor! Drink it off the floor! Are you Crazy! Don’t touch that towel!” like I did three days ago when the last clean towel in the house looked like it needed to be guarded with my life.

1. When Sir Washie finished a load (heaven bless him) he did nothing but lay there quietly trying to recover from the effort. When the new washer finishes – it PLAYS A SONG.** Joe thinks that the purpose of the song is to tell you that the load is finished, but I don’t think so. I think it plays a song because it’s just so thrilled to be serenely fulfilling its highest purpose and doing my laundry. I think it’s trying to tell me that there is nothing else in the world that would satisfy it more than churning away so we can have clean gitch. I think it’s delighted to be in my service and that it doesn’t resent the basement (like I do.)

I think it’s happy.

* my love for my new washing machine should in no way be taken as a lack of loyalty to the memory of Sir Washie. He was the best washer ever and can never really be replaced no matter how seriously slick his replacement is.

** The song is “Die Forelle” (The Trout) by Schubert. I am totally not kidding.

Old Out, but New Not In

It is with tremendous sadness that I write to you this bright and shining New Years Day to tell you of the passing of my dear friend, helpmate and tireless companion, Sir Washie. Sir Washie, a 30 year old Kenmore heavy duty washer of extraordinary merit, departed this home yesterday after a short illness, which ended when the 4th repair man we called laughed himself into a coughing spasm rather than come out and even look at him, saying that all he would do if he came was charge us $100 for a death certificate. (Apparently he, like the other three repair men could tell from their cars that Sir Washie was suffering from a terminal illness, which I think was rather unfair to my washer, and I told them so.)

I have spoken before about my deep love for Sir Washie, of the many magical things he has done for me… from his noble rendering of clean diapers when the girls were little, to the countless towels the teenagers have foisted upon him in his old age, he has selflessly served this family. He was patient, learning to enter into new relationships over the last few years, as Joe and the girls sought to (reluctantly) share in the joy coming to know him – gently drawing their attention to their unbalanced loads by politely thumping across the room. Even when they forgot to clean his lint filter he was understanding, and he never once spoke of the time that I clogged his pump felting clogs.

Perhaps his greatest gift to this family was that he never once, in all of the time that we were together, burdened us with a repair bill at a time when we couldn’t manage it – and even after having his bottom parts dipped in an icy basement flood he just kept on washing. He was considerate that way. Sir Washie is the only entity on this earth that has helped me just about every day without complaining, judging or expecting anything from me, and he will be sorely missed.

He will be especially missed, since as expected, his demise has created a nightmare chain of events. Joe and I went shopping to replace him (and his slacker dryer friend, who is a limping piece of crap that I don’t love at all) and we carefully chose the smallest appliances that were still full size – and that we could afford. (Did you know that there are $4000 washing machines? Seriously. If a washer is $4000 I want it to get the laundry out of my room and bring it back folded after it made me coffee and told me it likes my hair. $4000. Boggles the mind.)

Yesterday, when the new washer arrived, the delivery guys went downstairs, fetched up my dear Sir Washie and hauled him up the steps, only to discover, as we had known, that the kitchen pantry needed to be disassembled to get him out.

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We sort of knew that, although it still upset me. In our family, it is tradition to tidy up on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I usually clean for a few days leading up, believing that how your affairs are when the new year dawns is how your affairs will continue for the coming year. We end as we mean to go on… and the idea of trashing the house – really trashing it on New Years Eve hit my superstition button hard. What would it mean for the new year if your kitchen was partly disassembled as the calendar hit the reset button? I’d tried to get the appliance delivered the day before just to avoid this.

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When the cabinet was empty, unscrewed, detached and removed (my dining room is full of food) Sir Washie came through the kitchen, out the back door and far away.

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I actually felt badly for him, right before – well, right before I remembered he was an inanimate object that had no feelings… but was distracted from my grief process by a developing crisis back in the kitchen.

The new washer is the same depth as Sir Washie, but about 4cm wider. This, we thought, was going to make it hard to get it downstairs, but not impossible. We may have been wrong. The cabinet was already removed (and lying in the hall) and now the new washer wouldn’t even clear the doorway. Joe started talking about how it was just the door frame that was the problem, which was no problem, because he could “make it work” and for some crazy reason, the minute he used the word “sawzall” and “prybar” the delivery guys were in their truck and gunning it out of here. Joe called in the forces. My brother Ian and Ken came to help, and our neighbour Greg provided a variety of saws and emotional support. (He may also have been watching his back, since his house is the other half of our semi-detached – and once Joe started talking about sawing anything at all near a shared wall… Greg was interested.) I should have known how it was going to go when Ian walked thought the front door and said “I didn’t miss all the sawing… did I?”

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The guys removed the facing board and tried again. Nope.

They reconsidered and hacked another board out of the frame.

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Still not big enough. They sawed another part of the frame out (seriously)

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removed a light switch (every centimetre counts) and this time,

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the washer cleared the frame,

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but would only go down the first two steps of the basement before the encountered another problem in the form of … well. A wall. A wall that can’t entirely be there if the washer is going to go down. Joe was standing in the basement with a sawzall, a crazy determined look in his eye and kept saying “I can do it… I have momentum!”

At this point it I may have flipped out and called a halt to operations while I stood in the kitchen and took stock for a minute. We had removed the door, the food, the cabinet, the door frame, removed light fixtures and sawed off chunks of the house. The house was trashed. The kitchen was trashed, there was a new washer mocking me from the back door, nobody has clean clothes, that doorway will never be right again and we were a few hours off of the New Year while my husband planned to take out a part of a wall that was in his way.

I took a deep breath and I gave a thoroughly impassioned speech about how we had crossed the crazy line. Totally crossed it. I told Joe that one of the things I love best about him is his optimism. He always believes that everything is going to work out, and I could see that Joe had decided that this washer was going into the basement no matter what it took. He was on a mission. I told him that I really love his optimism, but that this time it just wasn’t appropriate. That this wasn’t going well and that I didn’t think it was going to start going well and that the washer was too damn big and that we needed to return it right now before he sawed up anything else and we needed to pay the extra money and get the apartment sized ones that I know I said I didn’t want because I know it means I’ll have to do a load of laundry every fourteen minutes for the rest of my life but now I don’t care… because frankly – I’ve hit my limit for a SAWED UP HOUSE ON CRAZY JUICE.

And then I saw it. A huge scratch on the side of the washer. It can’t be returned. The thing now belongs to us, and as that dawned on me, I was suddenly filled with an urge to hack a hole in the floor of the kitchen and just drop the *&^%$er through to the basement, or maybe shove it onto the stairs and leap upon it with the full force of my body until it fell through, smashing whatever needs to be smashed to make it work. I took a deep breath.

The boys went home. We put the tools down. I took a load of laundry to my Mother-In-Laws so this family could start the new year with something clean, and I went for a run. (A very short run. Turns out that -20 is way past my personal threshold- but it did work off a little of the frustration.) I came back and took a hot bath and we put a bottle of champagne in the fridge.

The boys are coming back today for round two. I am going to avert my eyes and knit while they saw up whatever they have to and try to preserve what’s left of my sanity.

You wanna know the best part?

The new dryer comes on Sunday.