Going Going

I got up today (I’d say this morning if I believed for a second that 4:30am was morning) and staggered back to the airport, where I was seated in the chair that they’ve engraved my name in, I’m here so much. (That is totally not true but it’s got to be coming.) I was only been home for a few days this week, just long enough to talk to my family, snuggle a grandson, go to a Bike Rally meeting, nail a deadline and wash my clothes and put them back in my suitcase.  I like travelling, I really do, and for the most part I’m good at it. I sort of like hotels, and airplanes are good for knitting on, and I’ve always liked restaurants. (People bring you food and clean up afterwards. What’s not to like?) I don’t really get all that jet lagged, compared to some people I know, and there are usually interesting people and knitters and yarn when I get where I’m going. I know all this, and I can tell you that I am a professional and tidy traveller,  absolutely who you want to be behind in the security line, and I can make 9/10 border agents smile. I show up to the airport early so I can be the nicest person in the joint, and I amuse myself very well during delays.

Speaking of amusing, other than on instagram have I shown you what I’m knitting? It’s Autumn Lace – by Nancy Marchant, of course – and I’m charmed to no end while knitting it, I tell you that.  Two colours of mohair/silk, the green is my old friend Cracksilk Haze in Jelly, and the other is a Cracksilk Haze substitute, Debbie Bliss’ Angel in some brown colour that today I’m calling “ball label in suitcase”.

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I’m having a ton of fun knitting it, and the only thing that I don’t quite love is that every time I get off of a flight I’ve got so much greenish mohair stuck to me I look like I murdered a muppet.  In any case, It’s been me and this fluffy extravaganza on flight after flight after flight, and despite being really good at travel and mostly being cheerful about it, this morning I had another human just about spoil a 5 hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver (one more flight to go, and I’m almost at Port Ludlow) and I have absolutely no recourse but to tell you about it.

I got on my flight, and assembled my knitting, got out my headphones, selected a show, and established my craft zone.™  Everything was fine when buddy comes down the aisle, masquerading as a normal person, and plunks himself in the seat next to mine.  I nod politely, headphones in, and proceed to properly and studiously ignore him. Over the course of the next 5 hours, the following occurs.

  1. Before we take off, dude taps me ON THE LEG and asks me while I have my headphones in, if I have internet (I do) and if I will make a hotspot for him so he can text his sister. I am so stunned by this that I do so. I still can’t explain this.
  2. Dude interrupts me about a billion times (all while I have my headphones in which I thought we had all agreed was the international signal for not going to chat with you) to ask me separately, and always preceded by the tap on the leg –  the following. A) Where do I live?  B) Do I like that place? (This question comes 15 minutes after the first, as a separate interruption. C) Where did I get my glasses? (He has recently learned he needs glasses and is considering Walmart. This is not where mine are from.  D) Do I like the show I am watching? (You may all infer the internal answer.) E) does it bother me that it is a sexy show.  (It is The Handmaid’s Tale. It is not sexy, it is actually sort of the opposite.)  F) Do you have to purchase meals on this flight? G) A thousand other things.
  3. He manspreads his legs so wide that I have little room to exist, even though I am not very big.
  4. He leans towards me, shouldering into my space and forcing me to either cuddle with him or flinch against the plane wall. (Naturally, I choose the latter.)

Finally (although there was so, so much more) he tells me that his mother used to knit, and he thinks he could too, and then (holy cats I swear this is true) he proceeds to explain to me how many things he could make if he knew how to knit, and relates in intricate detail – all absent any actual knitting knowledge, how I could make a sweater if I wanted to. He tells me I would need a front piece, and a back piece, and some sleeve pieces, which I could “sew together” to make a sweater. He draws the shapes of these pieces on his tray table. He says he thinks (like he is probably the first to consider it) that you could likely make many things this way. Making shapes with knitting, and then fastening them together in various ways. He waits, at the end of this speech, for me to thank him (I do not, and it is a little awkward) before he tells me more about his knitting theories, and how many things he knows about it, because it is “common sense” that this is how it would all work.

He stops just short of patting me on the head and says that he could knit if he wanted to, but for (of course) that he has a job to do, and thusly, could not knit on planes, but maybe “some other places” but that most likely he doesn’t have time. You know. I somehow magnificently manage not to point out that he’s done absolutely nothing for the last 5 hours except bother me. Not read a book, not watched a film. Not napped or looked at the inflight magazine for the love of wool. Nothing. NOTHING I almost scream, and then I notice that I’ve been shedding green mohair all over him and for one perfect second, I hope he has an important meeting, and I am quietly happy.

 

Sock about town

Here I am, in London. (I know. Trust me, I feel really lucky.) Here for a bit of work, a bit of play, and a bit of a family visit – Joe and I are getting really good at combining those and making the most of opportunities like this, and that’s what we did yesterday. Long story short, after stomping all over the city yesterday, including a visit to a yarn shop (Knit with Attitude, lovely spot) while Joe went to the Imperial War Museum (not quite my thing) I found myself with a little time to kill before dinner. I consulted my map, realized that the British Museum was right around the corner, and really, how do you miss an opportunity like that?

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The front of that place is fenced off, and you have to pass through security as you enter, and they search your bag. As with most things here, the process is efficient and polite, and in no time at all I was standing in front of the guy, and plunked my largish bag on the table in front of him.  He greeted me nicely, and – waving a hand at a chart of nasty looking things like knives and such, asked me if there was any chance I had “anything like that” in my bag.  I replied that I certainly did not, and he started to poke around in it.  First he moved the two skeins of yarn I’d got at the shop, then pulled aside the scarf I’m knitting, and then the sock that I have for when it’s too dark to work on the scarf, and then said “Yes, looks fine. Just this lot of knitting.”   I smiled, and said “Sorry, yes – it’s quite a lot I know” and knitters, he looked right up, smiled a broad and cheerful grin back at me, and said “Yes, does seem to be a bit more than the national average.”

“I’m Canadian.” I said, not sure why I felt like that explained everything.

“Right.” He replied, and it seemed like he thought that too.

I was emboldened by that, feeling like it was really okay to be a knitter here (even if I’m a little bit more than the National average) and so the next part of my plan was easy. With Canadian grease (that’s “excuse me, so sorry, pardon me, apologies, sorry”) I squeaked my way to the front of an exhibit, whipped out my sock, held it aloft (“sorry, just a moment, thanks so much”) and voila.

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A sock and the actual, real Rosetta stone.

I can’t be the first. If you’re in town, do me a favour and nip down there will you? Let’s get that National average up.

Making Hay

Since last we saw each other, my pets, this little life I’m trying to lead has been on fire. I’ve been trying to “keep busy” since Mum died, and I’ve certainly succeeded, though almost all of this was planned before that – it always seems when I’m booking these things that it’s going to be fine if I just keep it together. Stay organized. I tell myself.  Make a list. I tell myself. Well, I am and I do, but it’s still sort of madness over here. The day after I posted last, I hopped on a plane and went to Knit East, I taught for two days – lovely students, good company, hard to beat the Bay of Fundy for a view, and to ice the cake I got to see Denny and Megan. They’ve both moved away from Toronto over the last few years, and it was such a pleasure to be together like the old days.

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I came home and the sweet little owl button’s I’d arranged for Elliot’s sweater had arrived, so our little guy got his finished sweater. Elliot has just learned to sit, so new and exciting poses are possible for this up-and-coming sweater model.  Here, he attempts a thoughtful, pensive approach…

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…then wonders if it’s what I was after?  (Sweater: Gus. Yarn: Regular old Cascade 220, but indigo dyed by Judith on afternoon we were together at Strung Along. Buttons, Jennie the Potter)

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Three days after landed I was out the door again – this time for the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival – and wrapped up another pair of socks.

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They go with all my pants.

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Yarn: Mudpunch in “Ambitious Apiary” Pattern: My Good Plain Sock.

I got home from the Columbia Gorge on Monday night, and since I’m leaving again tonight, I made the 48 hours at home count.  I carved a pumpkin with the (grown-up) kids.

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Meg and Alex dressed him up as an Ewok and we posed him with the pumpkin…

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and the leaves.  Just to be seasonally appropriate. (Meg would like you to know we didn’t let him eat the leaf.)

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I finished a hat for Elliot. (Tiny Lumberjack)

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Then we all had a great big family dinner for Joe, because today is his birthday.

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And now I’m leaving. I’m staying organized, and I have a list.

Randomly on a Thursday

1.

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Two days ago Joe and I got on a plane and flew to New York City for a little bite of the Big Apple

2.

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He had work and me too, but we still had the time to make the most of it. We went to the park, and the Met, and the Guggenheim. (I have no idea why those pictures are blurry, they aren’t before I upload them but I don’t have time to figure it out.)

3.

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I knit all of those places because I’m me.  Nobody minded.  As a matter of fact I wasn’t even the only knitter at the Met wandering around with a sock in hand.  (I think it was a sock.)

4. They were on their way to Rhinebeck, which I am not.

5. I know. I’m bummed about it too, but this year I had a conflict, and I’ll be at Knit East.  It will be the first time in more than a decade that I won’t be with my usual crew, but duty calls, and Knit East is awesome, and there will be a whole bunch of amazing knitters there too. Life is long.  Next year will be Rhinebeck, with my wool as my witness.

6. The only problem remains that I usually buy a years worth of soap there, so I’m going to need a solution. (Makes note to self, arranging cross-border soap mule.)

7.

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I’m on my way home now, with a quick turnaround to St. John in the morning. I’m literally putting down one suitcase, sleeping, and picking up one I pre-packed before I left.

8.

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I almost went to a yarn store in NYC, but it was closed for a class. (One knitting teacher to another – I’d never interrupt your class. Not for anything.)

10.

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I ate at Dirt Candy. It was amazing. I had a tiny grilled pea taco. (And a lot of other stuff too.)

Fibre in your diet

Socktober is still a thing over here. I had a brief dalliance with the beginnings of a shawl at Knit City, but it didn’t quite take hold, though it might have stood a chance but for Megan. My mum loved clothes shopping and did heaps of it for all of us, so I was trying to be a good grandmother, and asked her what Elliot needed. She answered that he could use a sleeper or two, and that she likes the ones with feet. I went shopping, and had trouble finding footed ones that would fit him. (Being of average weight for his age but of a rather diminutive stature, our wee lad is a bit of a square.) I bought the one footed one I could find, and two that didn’t have feet, and forked them over to Meg. When I did, she mentioned that the reason she likes the footed ones is because his little feet get so cold at night and then she said maybe he needed more booties or socks or something like that and I felt a feeling that must be exactly like the way sharks feel when they pour the buckets of chum in the water.

I went the knitter equivalent of bananas. It was all I could think of. Babies are enough to set me off, but the thought of a cold baby who could only be saved by knitting? Lunatic. I was a lunatic with wool. My grandson had cold feet and I was unstoppable. Hours later:

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One pair with ribbed cuffs and a stockinette foot, and another pair where I kept the ribbing going on the top of the sock, and gave way to stockinette on only the bottom. (No pattern, though you can find lots on Ravelry if you look – wait, I did it for you. These ones by Kate Atherley look perfect.) The good news is that not only are his feet warm, they fit just fine:

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Maybe a little big, but he’s growing fast, and they are apparently delicious.

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The green ones especially.

Vegetables are important

Thanksgiving came and went this weekend, and we all magically got through it. Our first holiday without her, and there were moments that were just fine, and moments that were awful and we missed mum so much our hearts were fit to break. I’m finding this grief like that. Everything will be completely okay or completely horrible, and then something swings it the other way, and there’s no predicting what it will be. I’ll be standing there, and I’ll see Elliot learning to sit, and think my Mum would love that was happening and then cry for her so desperately, or realize my mum would like something else and then laugh out loud thinking of how she’d enjoy it.

Do you know, that in as much as my mother was a completely reasonable person and frighteningly bright, for some insane reason, she would never, ever put out more than a single can of corn for 14 people at a family diner.   A few years ago I told her that it was time for the unreasonable and inexplicable corn rationing to stop. Perhaps when we were little, a single can cut it -but now we’re all grown and she has grandchildren and I pointed out that corn is cheap and Erin really likes it and that Erin could eat practically a can herself, and that the single can system was being mocked pretty openly.  “Loosen up mum, buy more corn” I told her, and she did. Mum very reluctantly bought two cans, doubling the number of kernels each person could have to a whopping nine or so, and nothing on this earth would convince her to so much as consider a three can solution. Things were already pretty out of control, to her way of thinking. Three can’s would have been MADNESS.

When I arrived at Erin’s on Sunday, she hustled me into the kitchen, lifted the lid off a very large pot, and proudly showed me a veritable vat of corn. “Holy Cats” I breathed, rather awestruck. “Eight cans” she said, and her face shone.  “Mum’s gone. We can stop the madness now. Everyone can have all the corn they want.”  At the end of the night (and despite having 16 people for dinner) the leftover were corn, corn, some corn and about three more or less incinerated Brussels sprouts.

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(Photo emailed to the family the next morning as the reality of how much corn Erin had began to sink in.)

We stood there – looking at all that corn, and agreed that while mum hadn’t been right, we guessed we weren’t either. We still don’t have the magic number. It’s somewhere between two and eight cans though, and I can’t tell you how much Mum would love that.*

*Truly, I’ve been the model of restraint, because I have not emailed my sister 47 recipes that use corn, or started a pinterest board called “Too much corn” and sent her a link, and neither have I suggested several craft projects using laminated or dehydrated leftover corn – although really… That’s what mum would have done.

I think I joined up

You know, unless they’re darned fancy, I never really think of socks as a “project.” I mean, they’re sort of peripherally always there, and I work on them when I’m walking, talking, waiting, flying, taking the bus, waiting for the subway… and they just… get done. I think of them like they sort of fall off me. I’ll turn around and whoops, there’s another pair. This last weekend I went to Knit City (what a lovely event, and such a gentle re-entry to the world of the working) and I had lots of time that I was travelling, walking, listening, waiting, and the very first three minutes I was on my way there I had one pair of socks all done…

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Pattern: I faked it. Yarn: Must Stash, in the fab colourway “Happy Snowman”. Needles 2.25mm.

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and turned my attention to the next pair. I knit the first one on the plane,

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On the bus,

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when I took myself out to dinner. (I ate in three really good vegetarian restaurants this time)

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I started the second while I was walking.

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On the flight home…

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when I was walking downtown,

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and voila. Another pair fell right off me.

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Pattern: I faked it again. Yarn: String Theory in “Trifolium.” Needles: 2.25mm

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I just started another pair, and I suddenly feel like I’ve properly signed up for Socktober without even thinking about it. Let’s see… shall we?

one heel

I would have predicted that yesterday would have been okay.

Most of the days have been okay, or okay-ish. I have been going to the gym, and I have been sort of talking to my friends and doing my work, and I have been… okay. I went to a bike rally thing, and I answered some of my email, and I have been knitting this pair of socks, and all they need is a heel.  It’s an afterthought heel. All I have to do is snip a thread, pull out the stitches in half a row, pick them up and knit a heel. It’s easy.

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Then yesterday morning, Joe left for a business trip. That’s cool. I mean, we have to have a real life – one where we go to work and earn money and pay bills and take care of the family, and Joe’s been so great at that. I’ve been sort of a mess, and Joe has given me the great gift of being steady. It’s such a good word for what he’s done over the last few weeks. He’s been steady. I’ve cried and cleaned things with a toothbrush and been as wild as a goat, and Joe has made sure that there has been food and orderly things and been so sweet to our kids – and they’ve been great too. I feel so bad calling them “the girls” or “the kids” because they’ve been so grown-up, and so beautiful, and so terrifically, fantastically sweet. Their amazing grandmother is gone, and I know they are all gutted, but there hasn’t been a word of that to me. I’ve tried to have room to feel for their loss, but I’m not sure I’ve been great at it.  They have held me so lovingly, and turned to each other as friends and sisters, and not one of them has put their grief ahead of mine, and sometimes, as I cling to the life-raft that is everyone who loves me, I cannot believe how strong and beautiful they are.

Then yesterday morning, Joe got on a plane and left, and I was going to get up, and read email, and organize things and catch up with all of it and that’s not what happened. Instead, I got up and realized that usually when Joe’s out of town I hang with my mum, and I actually reached for the phone to call her and then some rogue grief train came out of the darkness with its goddamn lights blazing and I couldn’t get off the tracks fast enough and it hit me. Just like that.

I staggered through. I went to dinner with a friend and pretended everything was mostly  fine. I spoke with my sister and somehow managed to hold her sadness in me and hear it and know it and not lose myself entirely while I said things that I hope helped. I called the tax people and found out how much our bill is, and when I have to pay it (turns out it’s last week) and I bought toilet paper and tried to figure out why the hose in the backyard that’s supposed to be on some auto-thingie that Joe set up isn’t working right and I texted a friend who didn’t text me back and called a friend who didn’t have any time, and the whole time I worked at being a grownup and punctuated it with wild private sobs, and inconvenient jags of crying during which I held that damn sock and tried to knit one stinking heel onto the thing.

I didn’t get it done.  I didn’t manage a thing. The hose is still broken. The bill is unpaid. My bedroom closet is a disaster, and I realized that I am not sure that I am ready to be without my people, and still, here I am. It’s Tuesday. Joe’s gone for a few more days, and I’m getting on a plane before that, and I’m here by myself – and it’s so weird to be at loose ends, because usually I really like this – being alone and rattling around our house by myself, and I can’t tell you how embarrassed and surprised I am that this late into my forties I cannot cope without my mother, and dammit, I really just want to finish this sock.

It’s one stinking heel. I’m going to try again tonight.

 

And lo, such a thing exists

As much as I thought it might not, time is starting to assume its normal course.  The days are starting to be the length that I expect them to be, not stretching out in front of me like a desert I didn’t bring enough water to get across.  For a while there I had to be so busy just to fill those days up. Walking, riding, swimming, cleaning, organizing… if I stopped too long and tried to do something like write or knit then I had too many of those pesky feelings all at once and had to clean out another damn closet. Now I’m mostly okay as long as I don’t think about how Thanksgiving is in two and a half weeks and I really don’t know how to manage that holiday if I can’t have it with my mother and where do we have dinner now for all the holidays and really I’m going to have to move because my dining room can’t hold everyone and… see. There it goes.  I’ll worry about that next week when it might not result in having to clean all the grout in the house with an old toothbrush after jogging 3km.

The point, before I started worrying again, was that things are okay enough now (oh man who is going to make the pies) that as long as I stay sorted, I can knit, and it feels like it helps a lot, and what’s really interesting is that this idea, that once the shock passes, that knitting is going to be a really useful way through grief… It’s not just me who thinks it. My inbox (thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful notes and letters and thoughts, I am reading them all, even if I can’t answer) is chock full (okay there are five) people who have written to me not just to suggest that knitting would be helpful (because there are a lot more than five of you who think that) but to call the kind of knitting they think would be helpful “Grief Knitting.”  These charming knitters have even gone so far as to cite the specific projects that they think would be the most helpful, and you know what’s interesting? They have a lot in common.

All the projects are challenging – challenging from the perspective of that particular knitter, for sure, but challenging none the less. They were kinda tricky for the knitter to complete, and they took up some of that scary mental energy that comes with grief. (Oh no mum always makes the turnips too.) All the projects are things that sparked a tremendous amount of joy and pride – the knitters think what they made was beautiful, and feel that they did a good job… and finally (here’s where it gets weird.) All of the projects but for one, were for babies.

Think about that. It’s a pretty compelling bit of information, and it makes me feel better that the two things I’ve knit since my mum died are both tiny things.  First the little hat, and now Elliot is bedecked in a matching sweater.

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It’s beautiful to be sure – the yarn is Northampton, but with a bit of a twist. It was the natural colour, but I gave it to Judith to dye at the last Strung Along retreat, and it went for a swim in her indigo pot.  It’s a beautiful blue now, and reminds me of her when I look at it, which is really quite nice, and it suits Elliot pretty well.

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The pattern is Gus, and here’s where it didn’t quite fit the bill to be Grief Knitting, it was pretty easy.  The pattern’s well written – so I didn’t struggle with anything at all.  I’ll have to try something from a less competent designer next.

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I tell you this, even unfinished (which it technically is, I’m waiting for the buttons) it does spark a tremendous amount of Joy.  Part of it is that little face, and the other part?  It is the pockets. I can’t tell you how much I love pockets on a baby sweater. It gives me an unreasonable amount of happiness to think of two perfect, tiny pockets, in a proper, handy spot… all for someone who has absolutely nothing to put in them.

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Delightful.

Well that’s just unfair

Yesterday I finally shook my head clear of the fog it’s been in, and decided that it was time to get myself in gear.  I went to the grocery store. I planned a good dinner. I cooked that dinner, and I fed it to people I love.  I managed to say something vaguely supportive to a friend, and when the lady in the queue ahead of me in the shop was annoyed about how many bruises were on the apples she’d chosen, I somehow magnificently managed not to say anything that even remotely suggested that her problems were totally ridiculous to me (and should be to her) unless they involved a dead mother.

I even sat down to work for a little bit – to start getting caught up on the chaos that is my work life.  That’s right, my mum’s been dead two weeks, almost to the hour, and I just yesterday managed to acknowledge that I have to earn a living, and contribute meaningfully to the charity I’ve promised my time to, and I did that.  I sat down, thought something like “C’mon Steph, get it together” and moments later, my laptop had a complete seizure and suffered a fatal stroke. I’ve had that beast since 2011, I planned the first Sock Summit on it, that’s how old it is, and now is when it leaves me.  It’s a joke, I tell you. I can only assume that it was depressed by the goings-on around here and decided there was nothing left to hang on for.  (It was wrong. I swear I was pulling my scene together.)  I took it as a sign, a sign that I was supposed to be knitting, and set about making our wee Elliot a hat. (This is Canada. Winter is coming. Winter is always coming.) I’d had my eye on this Garter Ear Flap hat from Purl Soho for ages, and I had some MadelineTosh DK (so aptly called “Happiness”, which is just what I’m looking for) and a little math and whammo – that pattern works just fine.

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It’s sweet as pie, actually, and Meg put it on him after dinner (that’s a lie. I rammed it on his wee head so fast it made his head spin around) and we both agreed it made him look properly like a gnome, and cackled about that for some time.  (There is a very, very great deal to be said about how much a tiny person can lift spirits.)

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Suits him, doesn’t it? He’s so happy and unaffected by all that’s going on around him, and making him little things is such a balm for my heart, and Meg’s too, I think. He’s been nothing but light and sunshine over the last little bit, and for a minute or two I didn’t even mind so much that my mother and my laptop were dead while he smiled at me.

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Today was all about starting him another sweater, because I see now that he’s the secret to sanity over the next bit – and somehow trying to whip my iPad into shape to do at least part of the job of my laptop for a few days before I can figure out how to replace it.  If this entry looks weird, it’s because I’ve worked out a really odd system for getting a post up. I suspect it will be the pictures that are really strange, but screw it. Look at me! I got something done two days in a row.

I honestly never thought I’d be proud of that. See you tomorrow, if nothing else dies.