Posted in holidays, personal thoughts

So, I’m still around …

The latter part of a calendar year and into the next year is usually a crazy time for me.  Nano in November, Christmas knitting, holidays, the usual after-holiday knitting burnout, end of the football season, etc.  I’ve been MIA four nearly four months now.  Shame on me, but hey, life happens.

Since that last post, I have accomplished a lot:

  • Though I didn’t actually finish one novel, I did work on five different stories I have going and managed over 100K words total for the month which is my highest ever for a November Nano since starting in 2013
  • I finished all my Christmas knitting for the nieces/nephews/my son, AND even managed to figure out how to make coasters out of polymer clay for the adults which I think genuinely surprised them as well as a welcome gift
  • I survived Christmas 2K19 which essentially was a family reunion at my Dad’s house; I even came away the acknowledged winner at Scrabble this time, much to the disgust of my brothers (both English majors in college where I was a history major)
  • I’m still writing nearly every day
  • I am currently attempting to kick the post-Christmas knitting blues by making something for myself with some lovely yarn my brother and his wife picked up for me in Italy last year
  • Kiddo has successfully gotten underway with his second semester of school

So, yeah.  Busy time, somewhat relaxing maybe?  Football is now over, and I’m praying the regular tv stations start picking up more hockey games I can watch, but I know they won’t.  I’ll have to manage for a couple of months until baseball season starts and I’ll be able to get both the Cubs and the White Sox on local tv (gotta love living close enough to Chicago and not having your own pro baseball team!).  In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to get back to knitting for myself, keep on writing, perhaps a bit of reading, and maybe catch up on some tv series I missed out on before over on Hulu (which is new for me – it comes with our new mobile phone service, I guess?).  Anyway, I’ll be around and, hopefully, finding things to post about!

Posted in personal thoughts, writing

The Muses Are What They Are …

I think my preparations, at least outline wise, for Nano are complete.  At least, as complete as I can make them.  I haven’t touched it in over a week, maybe closer to two now.  Most of the past few weeks has been spent on a fanfiction story that I’m close to finishing – just 14 chapters to go!  I’m trying to at least get a draft of each of the last chapters so all I have to do is touch them up right before posting them.

Now, a lot of people look down on fanfic writing, but I’ve found it to be a great way of developing my writing style.  Ever since high school, I’ve loved to write.  However, a very bad case of writer’s block hit from my senior year of HS through college and then grad school, and even while teaching HS, so that I discovered when I moved here in 1996, ten years had passed without writing.  Oops!

Surprisingly enough, being in a new place and leaving so much stress behind helped.  Before I knew it, the writing muses were back and with a vengeance!  I quickly learned a number of things.

  1. Don’t try to stem the flow.  To that end, I now carry notebooks and pens with me everywhere I go – in my backpack, in my purse, etc.  I’ve been known to pause in the middle of grocery shopping to write down an idea, a character description, a plot point I don’t want to forget, etc.  Just the other day, I had kiddo pull out a small notebook I keep in my purse to write down a name for a character for a future story.
  2. MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC!!!  I am, by nature, a visual person.  It’s the best way for me to learn.  Secondary to that, I’m an auditory person as well.  A sound, a tone, a voice, the way the wind blows or someone breathes, the sound of screeching tires just before a car hits another … you get the idea.  Certain sounds will trigger ideas for me.  Same goes for music.  Whether it’s the latest song on the radio, an old classic, or even instrumental, it’ll move me.  (to that same end but on a more visual level, I tend to load up the live camera at Old Faithful on my computer when I’m doing something that doesn’t require the computer to complete, because I find having that in the background to be inspirational, too)
  3. When the muses are on game, they’re on game.  When they decide to head for holiday in the Caribbean, well, just wish them bon voyage and don’t panic.  I’ve had writer’s block show up again a time or two since way back then.  Once it lasted about four months.  More recently, I went almost an entire year.  It was difficult to just let it be, especially when I wanted to write, but couldn’t make the words work.
  4. After this last battle with writer’s block (the year long one), I decided that I would come back and focus on one story at a time.  (yes, I have a multitude of stories, some are complete, some aren’t, and I was working on them all at the same time)  This current story is the one I chose to start with.  It’s part 2 of a 3 story series.  The outlines have been loosely plotted out for several years now, but last spring I focused on firming those up.  The first story was 40 chapters.  This second one is 70.  The third will be 100.  Apparently, I like to increase each story by 30 chapters???  (fanfiction = newer games = more writing ideas/material, I guess).  This series is important to me for a number of reasons (and some of my readers who encouraged me to publish it in the first place), so I will finish it.

Anyway, my point with all of this is that these past few weeks, the muses sort of took over to get those chapters rolling.  I now have 11/14 chapters drafted (we’re talking at least 30,000 words here – more than halfway to Nano – all accomplished in less than a week).  Only three left to go!  I believe I’ve tied up all the major plot holes, though I might have just added a new one (time will tell) to deal with in the next story.

But today, however, I can’t seem to focus on the writing.  It’s a weird sort of reprieve, I suppose, and God knows my knitting needs attention.  At the moment, I’m sitting at work, bored out of my mind because I can’t seem to focus on either, and I’m not quite sure what to do about that.  I may pull out my outline for Nano (just 15 days until it starts!) and glance through it, see if I’m inspired by anything in any way.  I may try to work on Christmas gifts (knitting) because November is a heck of a time to write and try to get all the gifts done!  All I know is I need to find SOMEthing to do because this boredom is driving me mad …

Posted in Crafting, personal thoughts, writing

Where have the last three weeks gone??

Somehow, I lost track of time and THREE WEEKS have gone by since I last posted!  How does that even happen??

Well, life is busy – we all know that.  Between the job, the writing, the knitting and kiddo in college (not all in that order), it’s easy to put something like this to the side, I suppose.  Add in the gaming groups or just sitting around and watching football on TV, and I’m gone.  No really, I am – I’m a suck for sports, especially if I can knit at the same time! lol  No wonder this is usually my most productive time of year for knitting!

So, I discovered right after my last knitting update that I blew it.  I forgot to adjust the pattern.  For some reason I was thinking the yarn I picked up was fingering weight, like the MadelineTosh I used for mine, but it’s really DK.  I got to a point where I was about to start the headband and  I realized it was waaaaaaay too big!  Math is not my strongpoint, but I managed some (limited) measuring and calcuating and essentially pulled out about two inches in length.  It worked out fine; I can still get the last of the charms in there where I intended to place them, but I’m starting up the ribbing the row after that!  Yikes!

So, the ribbing is done, but the project is sitting in time out until I get to the same point with the other.  Why, you ask?  Well, there’s this stretchy bind-off that was suggested, and I want to do it for both.  I figure if I wait until I have both ready to go, then I can do it without having to go hunting up the HOW part on Youtube more than one time.  So, I started up the second Hatdana and it’s now moving along nicely.  (I’ll post pictures next time)

In the meantime, I’ve also ordered the yarn for the nephews’ and kiddo’s Christmas gifts.  I also treated myself to a couple of new patterns I spotted on another blog I follow, and found that the yarn used in that was relatively cheap at the yarn website I like to use, so I ordered some of that as well.  (socks and fingerless mitts, my fav!)  So, I should have plenty of knitting to accomplish over the winter!!!  In late August or so, I ordered my birthday present for myself – some gorgeous gradient yarns from an Etsy shop I discovered during the KAL I did in January, and those arrived a month sooner than expected, so I have them to knit up as well!  ALL THE KNITTING!!!

My outline for Nano is pretty much set to go.  That took about a week, maybe ten days, to get sorted out.  Not only that, but I was able to sit down and sort of loosely plot out future installments to the series, too.  I think starting with April’s Camp Nano I’m going to really have to focus on editing and getting book #1 ready to go.  If I end up self-publishing, so be it, but this series now has me pulled in so deep, I just HAVE to get it out there!  Plus I have a couple others I’ve worked on over the years that I really want to share.

What is time?  Am I right?

Anyway, suffice it to say, I’m still around, I’m still knitting, I’m still writing, and Nano and Christmas are just around the corner.  I’ve no doubt the next few months will go by far too quickly for my tastes!

Posted in Education, history, personal thoughts

The Things That Stick With You …

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I attended the University of Wyoming and received my MA in Medieval History there.  (I’ll save the jokes about accomplishing that out in no man’s land for later!)  I am, at heart, a perpetual student.  I’ll admit, when I was in high school I didn’t really care for history (we called it ‘social studies’ at the time), and when I first got to college, I was terrified that I’d have to take a history course for a semester or year to fulfill requirements.

My freshman year I managed to avoid it, thank goodness, but then I switched to a different school and BOOM!, Sophomore year I had to take either World History or US History.  I opted for World.  And my life was forever changed.  I can’t recall the exact name of the class at the moment, but I remember Dr. Patricia Howe.  For the first couple of weeks, I sat in class and took notes and … I was bored.  I didn’t want to be there.  I didn’t hate history – far from it – but it didn’t appeal.

Until one day when she gave a lecture on the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era.  WHAM!  All of a sudden, it made sense!  History was a STORY, and stories were fun and addictive!  From that moment on, I took every single course I could from her, and a few created ones to boot!  (as a side note, I lost touch with her after I left school because she changed schools as well, and I only recently found out she lost a battle with cancer in 2012.  It’s disappointing, to say the least, but I have very fond memories of her in the classroom that will never, ever leave me.  That’s something, at least!)

FAST FORWARD three years to the spring of 1993 in Laramie, Wyoming ….

I (successfully) defended my MA Thesis – a process I swear took more out of me than facing classrooms of students later that fall (I taught high school social studies – go figure! lol).  I had my graduate advisor, another history professor, and then one out-of-area professor on my panel.  I had no real idea what to expect for that going in, and by the end I’m sure it was more than a little obvious that I was relieved the whole ordeal was over (I hate public speaking, though I don’t mind teaching, but my brain hadn’t sorted out the difference between the two yet), and my out-of-area professor came over to speak to me.

Dr. Susan Aronstein is a professor of English (I think she’s still at UW), specializing in the middle ages, if I remember correctly.  My mom was taking a class of hers (on the way to a second MA in English) and suggested I select her for the panel.  I did, and when she approached me afterward, we had a brief discussion about my thesis topic: the history of Amesbury Abbey.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit, it has a history that lends itself to stories!  Founded by a queen who was supposedly responsible for the death of the king, her stepson, so her son could rule only to be re-founded 200 years later by King Henry II in an effort to atone for his involvement with the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury.  Because she, my advisor and I were all fans of the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, Susan suggested I consider writing some medieval mysteries, or at the very least fiction, set in Amesbury.

FAST FORWARD to NaNoWriMo, November 2018 ….

For years, since that day, I’d thought about her words, considered the possibilities, but nothing really grabbed me for ideas.  Not until I met my Ex-husband (another history buff) who not only encouraged my writing, but was more than willing to toss around ideas and such with me.  Sometime back when we were married, I started a rough idea for a plot of a book.  It eventually (still while married) evolved into ideas for something like seven books.  The plots were/are all a loose collection of ideas, but at least I got something down on paper/computer.  Mostly, it was a binder tucked away with those pages in it, something I’d pull out once a year or two and touch up on the idea but never really making progress.

About six years ago now, I started participating in Nano, the idea being that you write 50,000 words in the month of November, and by the end you have something resembling a book that just needs some editing, etc.  Not exactly how it works, but that’s the idea.

The first year I did it, I wrote fanfiction because I had no idea how it worked and I wasn’t about to stress myself out over the whole situation.  (that story is still sitting on my computer waiting for editing, etc.)

The second year however, I started on another idea I’d developed in the meantime.  That one, too, still sits on my computer, but it’s in process of editing/rewriting because I think I figured out a large part of why I was dissatisfied with it.

The year (my third Nano) after that, I started book #2 in that series – got it 2/3 of the way written (over 80,000 words) but I haven’t gotten back to it yet.

Fourth year of Nano, I started a completely different project.  This one was much closer to my heart, closer to my area of expertise (middle ages).  Again, I’m about 2/3 of the way through the writing, but I do go and peek at it every once in a while.  I’m hoping to get back to it next spring to maybe finish it.

Last summer, however, I got the strange urge to pull out my old research, outline, plots, etc. for the Amesbury story that Dr. Aronstein suggested back in 1993.  It took me 25 years, but I FINALLY fleshed out a halfway decent outline for it.  When November hit, I started to write … and suddenly, the story started to FLOW.  I spent most of that month in a Zen-like state writing whenever I had the chance.  And, save for a few small areas in the chapters, I managed to get through my entire outline in the whole month!  It needs work – a lot of fleshing out, a lot of editing, etc. – but hey, I’ve made it past the concept stage!

This summer, I thought about November and I convinced myself that, No, not this year.  Christmas is at Dad’s this year – too many presents to make.  Thanks giving.  No good plot.  Etc….

So what have I been doing the past two days?????

Well, let’s just say that I’m reorganizing my save folders, my bookmarks, etc. to separate things between Book #1 and Book #2 for easy reference.  I have a vague idea of a plot – I’m not happy with it yet, but either I will be in the next couple of weeks, or I’ll stick to my original plan not to write this year.  I’ll be honest though, my main character, Gemma Harcourt, is screaming at me for something to do.  She wants to get back at it – even if it means we’ll be working our way through monstrous changes thanks to actual historical events.  Still, if I can get a good enough grasp on a plot, it could be fun again.  Will be fun again.

And all because of Dr. Susan Aronstein at the University of Wyoming.  One of these days I may even get published, and if I do, she’s the one to thank for it.  End of story …

Posted in Entertainment, personal thoughts

Just as an aside …

I have to say that after that last post, I’m definitely feeling my years today!  LOL

As soon as I went back to edit the post, the title I used triggered the song of the same name (Moving Right Along) from the Muppet Movie that came out in 1979.  I remember seeing it at the theater the summer before entering 6th grade.  It’s amazing that all these many years later, just the words will trigger the tune and lyrics inside my head …

Posted in holidays, personal thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized

Adventures in Traveling – the Pre-Trip

So, I’ve mentioned in other posts about the family gathering happening at Christmas this year.  Well, Dad lives sufficiently far enough away that my son and I will be flying.  (My son does not like traveling for long distances/times and gets rather grumpy, even as he gets older, when we do.  The Ex and I used to tag-team drive back to my parents’ for the holidays – a trip of approximately 16 hours across half the country.  I would drive it again, except for some health issues, which I’ll mention below, and the fact even I don’t want to drive that long without tag-teaming.  Suffice it to say, kiddo and I have no choice but to fly.)

To that end, about two weeks ago, Dad made reservations for me and kiddo to fly out.  My brothers and their families made their arrangements earlier (heading into NYC and then driving up after visiting the City a couple of days, I guess), so Dad wanted to get me sorted out.  Booking flights while talking to Dad on Facetime is an adventure, let me tell you!  LOL

Let me add this here – since I turned fifty a couple of years ago, I’ve been discovering that the whole ‘It’s downhill from there!’ idea really is true.  Both sides of my family have a history of arthritis.  I played catcher in softball for ten years as a kid, and for years had an issue with my right knee because of dislocating it when I was eighteen.  I fully expected issues like this when I got older, whatever that meant.  What that ‘meant’ was, turning fifty and finally getting onto a health kick and walking to lose weight (over sixty0 pounds at the time) plus the history of arthritis equals a very bad hip.  As in severe osteoarthritis, loose cartilage, bone spurs and a torn labrum.  What does that really translate into?  Well, the doctor was trying to convince me to get a full right hip replacement at the time.

I refused.

Okay, I’m probably an idiot here, but the way I see it is, I can still get around, just not as quickly as before.  I did some research into this, and the average life of a replacement hip is about 20-25 years, and that means another one in my 70s.  Sorry, but not going to do this more than once!  That, plus I hate the thought of going under the knife, and at the moment I’m the only one in the house who drives as well as has a job.  In a few years, if kiddo’s still at home, maybe I’ll do it, but not right now.  Anyway, from that point, I was more determined to find ways to live with my issues.  And I did.  I have a few sound methods to help, and though I have stiffness/pain issues, I can essentially still get around, if much more slowly than I’m used to, but at least I’m able to do it without much extra help other than a cane.  That’s fine too, as far as I’m concerned.  Really, the biggest thing I need to factor in now is the time.  Which Dad and I did when we made the reservations.  At least an hour and a half layover, no matter what airport we go through to change.

Fast forward ahead two weeks to the holiday weekend.  I received two texts from Expedia/American Airlines announcing they’d switched up my schedule.  I was afraid of that.  I briefly worked in the airline industry for a couple of years, and I know if you book too far ahead you have to deal with the changes made when pilots/FAs bid on flights and such.  Well, in my case, it made a big difference.  Flights were cut.  Times were changed.  Now, the flight out won’t be a big deal because they ADDED time to our layover.  Doubled it, really, so that’s okay.  It’s only a challenge for Dad who has to meet us at the airport, and as he’s driving in from about two hours out, that could be an issue.  Still, he told me not to worry about it.

The flight BACK, however, became a problem.  Scheduled through Philly (I hate that airport!!  Sorry, Philadelphia!), I had almost two hours to get from one gate to another, with a chance of grabbing some food for dinner, such as it can be during a hectic travel day.  So what did they do?  They SUBTRACTED time, leaving me with a half hour to get from gate to gate, and when I fly through there, I’m usually having to go from the end of one concourse, all the way across the airport to the end of another concurse just to make my flight.  When I was at full health, this was a challenge to do.  When I have a bum hip?  No way in hell I’ll make it!  The only solution – call the airline and see about getting it changed.

The hurricane on the East coast right now and the holiday weekend made that a challenge, so after waiting on hold for over two hours and not getting through, I tried again last night.  A half hour wait on hold is a lot better than the previous attempt!  Still, I got through and spoke to Barbara – and oh, my, she was an angel!  I explained the situation, told her there was no way I’d be able to do that with my hip, etc. and she agreed.  (also agreed that the computers do a horrible job of adjusting flights in situations like that!)  End result, we are rescheduled to fly through Charlotte, NC this time and we have an hour and a half again (and a smaller airport!) which gives me and kiddo time to make our way without having to rush too much.  RELIEF!  She even made note on my flight information about my mobility issues, so hopefully that will translate into early boarding (not holding my breath, but you never know).

Now, cross your fingers we don’t have weather issues when we actually fly out there ….!

Posted in Crafting, personal thoughts

Too Much (Knitting) Time On My Hands!

Two weeks ago, I decided to pick up Mom’s Dorothy Sayers project, to see if I could finish the project for her in her memory.  I am glad to say, things are progressing well!  I found a charting program to use which will also make written directions for the charts.  These will just need a little touching up to make them easily comprehensible and, thankfully, I can copy/paste them from the format they are generated in.  Since purchasing the program, I have charted the last two squares for the afghan as well as part of the border edge.  I am currently working on knitting up one of the squares while a fellow knitter who also knew Mom through the Sherlock knitting group is working on the other.  All in all, over two weeks things have been going well on that front!

However, this past weekend, I started to come down with a very bad head cold thanks to the boss at work, and this week has been absolutely miserable.  I don’t usually get sick, colds included, so when I do it usually ends up being a pretty bad one.  All the usual stuff going along with it, I (and my very sore nose and aching chest from all the coughing/sneezing!) will be very glad once I’m back to full health!  In the meantime, I’ve been coming to work (because someone has to be here, right?).  My job is to answer the phones, sort through the email and stuff, and type up the things the boss needs me to do for him.  He’s been down with this thing a week longer than I have, so I haven’t had much on that last front, and the emails don’t care if I’m sick or sound like the worst frog in all the world, but answering the phone over the last two days has been interesting!  Thank goodness, most people have been very understanding!  The big downside to this misery is, however, that I can’t focus on any ‘complicated’ knitting patterns.  Lace, cables, colorwork … etc., none of it.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I need to stay engaged in what I’m doing because I hate being bored.  That said, and especially at work (when I’m not writing — which isn’t happening just now because of the very bad cold), having a knitting project on hand is the perfect solution.  I just need something uncomplicated for the short term.

That said, I finished a shawl I began last year that got put on hiatus for Christmas knitting.  It will make a lovely gift for someone this year, perhaps.  Still, most of the other WIPs I have are more of a complicated nature.  (Did I mention I like challenges that keep me from getting bored?  LOL)

I’ve had some Madelinetosh in my stash that I purchased for a different project but I found an alternative after I purchased it.  MadTosh will NOT go wasted in MY house, however!

Four Elements Shawls
Madelinetosh – Tosh Merino Light: From L to R:  Antique Moonstone (BL), Cardinal (TL), Rainwater (BR), Medieval (TR)

Several weeks back, I was looking through Ravelry’s forum threads for upcoming KALs for March.  I found one for a shawl that looked interesting, and upon further investigation discovered it was part of a ‘set’ of shawls.  I purchased the group of four patterns, under the title the Four Elements, designed by Verybusymonkey, and set it aside for something to do later, down the road.  Each takes approximately 400-420 yards of yarn, one of each of these skeins, so I figured they’d make good work/travel projects.

That moment came this week.  Having finished the previously mentioned WIP, when I was home that night I spotted the pattern and yarn sitting nearby.  A quick look assured me the nature of the first one wouldn’t be overly taxing for my mind, as muddled as it is with the cloud of the cold, and I quickly plopped both bag of yarn and pattern into my ‘take to work knitting bag.’  The next day, I started the first one listed in the pattern: Metallurgy.  I chose to use the Antique Moonstone for this shawl.

metallurgy and tea
The beginnings of Metallurgy, with bonus photo of Rose Hip Tea I’ve been drinking to help with the cold!

That was on Tuesday.  As of Tuesday night, progress looked more like this:

Metallurgy Shawl 1

The nicest part of this shawl so far is that it’s all garter stitch, with some YOs tossed in to increase stitches.  The first section is a 34 row repeat of this – the perfect type of knitting that I don’t need to focus more than a little (for the YOs) and I can do while reading something on my computer or watching the live camera from Old Faithful.  (surprisingly, watching it snow there this week has been a very soothing thing!)  This photo is approximately 10 rows in.  I’m currently up to 21 rows.  The only question is whether I’ll be able to keep focusing on it today/tomorrow, or if the cold and/or work get in the way.

Still, it’s moving along surprisingly quickly.  I love the stitch definition MadTosh gives, and this color is gorgeous!  Sadly, they’re out of stock at the moment at my favorite online site. 😦

The three remaining shawls in the group are called:

  1. Dendrology – I’ll use the Cardinal for this
  2. Meteorology – I’ll either use the Rainwater or switch to another skein I have at home called Fathom (a lovely deep blue), I haven’t quite decided
  3. Geology – I’ll use the Medieval on this one

This isn’t to say that the shawls don’t have their challenges!  Some have more patterning on them than others.  I just happened to select one that has more garter stitching at the beginning.  Which, given my constant state of sniffling and sneezing, makes it easy to pause without losing my place while I make a mad dash for the tissue box …!