Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Back to Life....back to reality

Hello fearless readers.

So, I've found out something about myself. When stress and bad things hit, my desire to cocoon and not talk to anyone apparently extends to blogging. However, in the interests of making sure my Secret Pal is in the loop, and in response to those readers who've sent me "Are you OK" mails, I thought I'd best overcome that desire to be mute.

Two weeks ago, we put the second (and last) of our two cats down. Tora was a wonderful companion, soft and gentle and full of purring mischief. She was a beautiful cat, with Siamese colouring and turquoise eyes. (In fact, she was a Tonkinese ) She was from the same litter as Mya, who we put down just after Christmas. We had hoped that Mya's problems were medical and Tora's were just, pardon the pun, copy cat peeings. But when Tora was clearly following the same patterns, with the same beginning signs of pain, we decided that we couldn't put ourselves or another cat through the stress that we'd been through with Mya. The decision was made much more difficult by the fact that Tora seemed far healthier than Mya had. Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do. We are now catless, or catfree, depending on how nostalgic I feel for cat-pee soaked clothing, furniture, or flooring. My asthma is better than it has been in the five years we've had cats. The house cleans more easily. The knitting doesn't tangle. I miss her.

On June 2nd, my uncle Chuck passed away. Tumours in his spinal cord were an ongoing problem in the last few years. Last year he went from an active go-getter to a wheelchair bound go-getter in just seven weeks. Through the whole ordeal, through pain meds that sent him into microsleeps and pain meds that didn't work at all, through building a wheelchair ramp with his whole community to building lasting memories with his family, Chuck remained positive, joyful, and full of life. When the same tumours showed up in his brain, he chose not to endure any more surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. His example of courage breaks my heart and makes me so so very proud.

Finally, my wife's recent visit to a hemotologist has lead us to worry. There is a chance she may have von Willebrand's disease, or haemophilia. This puts our plans for children into a bit of a bind. Luckily, I have a womb too, and adoption is an option if all else fails, but the idea of a disease, especially a genetic one, is scary.

While trying to NOT say any of these things, I omitted writing about smaller joys.

I walked in the Relay for Life in Ottawa - an overnight 12 hour relay to raise money for cancer research. This year I halved my lap time compared to last year. Next year I hope to halve it again.

The yearbooks were delivered, and the students at my high school were overwhelmingly positive about them. Next year, I'm doing it again, this time with experience!

Our contract is about to be settled, meaning I don't have to worry about strikes for the next few years. I have opinions about teachers striking, but rumour has it that bloggin such things can set the union on you, so that shall have to suffice.

I haven't finished a single project in knitting, but I HAVE acquired a cheerful friendly Secret Pal, who emailed me Sunday to say a package was en route. Today the littel Canada Post notice arrived sayign that the package was in town, but also that it would not be available for pickup til tomorrow after 1. Secret Pal, this blog entry's for you.

Furthermore, the secret pal I'm sending stuff to is a lovely lady, and both I and my DW are having fun trying to assemble neat stuff for her.

I have THREE entries into my blog contest on weirdest teen trends. Prizes will be sent out the 16th, but it's not too late to join in.

DW's job has realized that she's simply brilliant. They've made a suggestion that she write her own job description in a way that will make her most happy and most useful to the largest number of uber-managers. That was smart of them.

Please note: this is not an "I-love-her" exaggeration. My wife is almost freakishly bright, but very quiet and modest. It therefore takes most folks by surprise that she can look at a problem, tilt her head, and develop a solution before you've blinked twice. The last computer consultant at her company that she interacted with said only "But...but...you can't DO that with Excel!" for a period of several hours. HE was supposed to be the expert. SHE was just the person recently promoted from the warehouse. The lady is SMART and competent and a very hard worker, and works for a company that recognizes and rewards all three.

My final exams are written and in the vault at school. My Drama class is proving themselves more talented than they thought they ever could be, and acquitted themselves brilliantly in front of an audience. My other class is taking responsibility for their decisions, even the ones that cause about a quarter of them to fail.

This is a positive sign. A student who says "My work habits need work, but I really enjoyed the course. I learned a lot." is a success in my heart, if not on paper. One who passes, but says "I got a low mark because the teacher hates me" is not a success in my heart. My job is teaching, but the curriculum, while very important, isn't the only thing teachers teach. If I send a kid out into the summer with no credit because he was working the 4 pm-2 am shift and simply never managed to hand in essays or assignments (even after months of extensions), but that kid goes from my class to the library to take out a book on something that intrigued him, then he's becoming a learner and a thinker. Any kid, with enough push from parents and sufficient money for leisure, can learn to "play school". Kids who learn to learn impress me.

So there you have it. The bitter and the sweet. Sorry that it took me so very long.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Secret pal 5 Answers

Normal blogging will return soon. The contest (see the last entry) is still open until June 15th. Diane, right now you win the prize, by default. Cross your fingers no one will read me?

I feel semi-guilty answering these questions, but I understand that they may be useful to Secret pals and RAOKers alike, so here goes:

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?

I am a bit of a yarn snob. I adore natural fibres, but I don’t mind super soft arcrylic for baby stuff. I detest ribbon yarns, thick/thins, and anything that squeaks on the needles. I’m always open to trying new things though.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?

I’m learning to spin. I have a Louet that is just lovely, but I’m not very good yet. Practice will aid that, or so the bloggers would have me believe. J

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)

Allergic to anything with hair (although I lived with two cats up until about 3 months ago, so it’s not too severe). Allergic to mold and mildew – which, of course, is everyone’s favourite SP5 gift to send. Commercial perfumes with alchol bases really make me wheezy. I seem to be mildly allergic to alcohol in general, in fact.

4. How long have you been knitting?

Started about three years ago, and promptly taught 150+ other people.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

I have an Amazon wishlist under the email orris2004 AT hotmail DOT com and a knitpicks wishlist, but I’m not sure if it’s visible to others. The Amazon list is for friends and family, so please don’t think I’d ever expect (or even hope for) some of the objects in a SP5 gift.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)

I love spicy scents like ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?

Yes, especially for hard candy and dark chocolate.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?

Honestly, very little. We live in a one bedroom apartment, which limits crafting space. Both I and my wife knit and are learning spinning, so this is severe limitation on other crafts. My wife tats, but I’m not a tatter.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

I like just about every kind of music except really heavy metal or really heavy rock, and the twangy old fashioned country. My computer plays MP3s, and functions as my stereo. Mostly I like fun bouncy upbeat music.

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?

Love deep jewel tones, and autumn colours. Not at all into neons, and pink and I can’t cohabitate happily.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

I am married (one year on June 29th – it’s legal in Ontario) to a wonderful lady who makes me deleriously happy. In the past 6 months, we’ve had to put both our cats down, so we are pet-free or pet-less, depending on how much I miss having laundry peed on that day. We don’t have children yet, but would like to in the near future.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)

To keep teaching high school, to make a difference, to own a nice home on a biggish piece of land, to keep alpacas and goats and maybe bunny rabbits, to have children – several of them – and raise them as happy-healthy-intelligence-self-reliant people instead of the pet-accessories I’ve seen so many parents keep. To travel. To learn more languages. To brush up on my Welsh, which is over a decade rusty and wasn’t beyond the point and grunt method by much before. To change myself until washing dishes RIGHT after dinner becomes as automatic as it is for my mom. To live to a ripe old age with my wife by my side, as much in love then as we are now. To make other people happy, both in person and anonymously.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?

Honestly? Fleece Artist silk/merino blend. Failing that, I love soft, sock–to-worsted weight natural stuff. I like alpaca, cashmere, and luxury fibres, but will knit happily with almost anything that isn’t bulky, boucle, or squeaky/scratchy. I’d love to knit with cobweb or Shetland fine yarn, but I’m not sure if I’m good enough to try yet, since the patterns I’d try are the kinds that are annotated “Mary So-and-So took three years to spin the yarn for this shawl, and another five years to knit it up. She’d been knitting lace for forty years when she started, and still regards this shawl as her greatest achievement.” Me? Overachiever? Well, maybe.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

See above. Scratchy, squeaky, bumpy, rough.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?

Knitted toys. Lace. Finishing something.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Lace, sweaters, shawls, hats, anything but socks, which for some reason fly across rooms and hit walls every single time I work on them.

17. What are you knitting right now?

Three socks – any of which will be “my first sock” when it’s done, a shawl, a sweater, a thrummed earband, 9 baby blankets, and a teddy bear.

18. What do you think about ponchos?

I love them, but I’m very plus-sized, so they tend to be given away when they make me look like a modern dancer who couldn’t quite squeeze all the way into the body bag.

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?

Either, depending on the project. I’ve been using a lot of circulars recently.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?


21. Are you a sock knitter?

Ummm…no. Not yet. I mean, I feel all in the minority, but I just can’t seem to finish them.

22. How did you learn to knit?

Well, my mom taught me, and I promptly forgot, having gotten frustrated that I couldn’t purl. Repeat process six more times from ages 6 to 17. In university, a schoolmate taught me to knit again, but again, no one could teach me to purl. A year ago at 28, I committed myself to teaching an entire class of kids to knit (so that I wouldn’t have to teach them to use the sewing machines…I HATE sewing, and the machines were 40+ years old and 9 different models). Overnight, I relearned knitting. Three days later, I taught myself to purl with some hep (read “Why can’t you do this? OH, you need to HEAR the instructions not see them performed”) from my wife, who I’D taught to knit a few days before.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?

Ummm…about 1 year.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?

Raccons, otters, robins, unicorns, and Eben and Snooch, the webcomic cats from TwoLumps. And Xena. Not animated, but artificial enough to count.

25. What is your favorite holiday?

Canada Day because of the beautiful fireworks. Hallowe’en for the fun, costumes, and candy. Beltaine (May Day) for the fire, drumming, and dancing.

26. Is there anything that you collect?

Dust? Other than that: books, yarn, and pretty semi-precious rocks (amber/amethyst/etc) in their raw form.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

None. I buy Interweave Knits from Chapters on occasion.

28. Any books out there you are dying to get your hands on?

Well, the whole sci-fi, fantasy, comparative religions, and knitting sections of Chapters. I love cooking too, and especially bread baking. I’m always trying new types of food.