Friday, January 28, 2011

New Blog Site

I know, it's been ages! That's because I have been blogging elsewhere and had forgotten my password so I could let y'all know about it. If you used to follow me here, thank you! Scoot on over and continue where I left off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Comfort Food

Today was a roller coaster of emotions. I started the day by attending a suicide prevention presentation on post. The presentation was up my alley: four actors played out different scenarios, then a facilitator interrupted at various choice-points and discussed different ways soldiers could react in the scenario, and what the possible consequences would be. I found out about the presentation last Friday when I saw Killer Joe at the Hyde Park Theatre in Austin (Capital T produced the show) and met one of the actors who also does the suicide prevention show.

I found the show to be pretty effective; while the scenarios kept the soldiers awake, their attention turned rapt when the facilitator told his own story of his time in the Army, and his close calls with a .45 before he sought out help and support. When he asked how many soldiers have broken a bone and not sought medical treatment, the number of raised hands astonished and educated me. Asking for help takes a kind of courage that they are not used to employing. Secrecy, stoicism and denial are traits encouraged by command and peers alike.

This afternoon, I was notified of a death on post. Suicide likely.

I wish these men and women felt like they could ask for help more easily. I wish I knew how to make it easier, but I know that's an idealistic, narcissistic fantasy. An entire culture is changing, and a tortoise moves more quickly. All I can do is be here when one of them is ready to come in.

So tonight I sought out some comfort food. Now, I love to travel and experience new cultures - including the local food. But I'm also a high-maintenance eater, dealing with allergies to gluten and dairy as well as sensitivities to sugar, caffeine, eggs and soy (oy!). Back in the 90's when I spent a year and a half on the road, I quickly learned the "Starbucks factor" - the simple comfort I could find knowing that, in any North American town, I could walk into a Starbucks and know that my latte would always be made right - no cow's milk to stuff up my sinuses or caffeine to ruin my slumber. For someone with so many food restrictions, it is an incredible comfort to know what's okay to eat without too much thought.

So I hiked it on over to Harker Heights tonight and found my favorite fast food, Chipotle. Not only do I know that the food is safe for me, but I can also rest easy knowing that the food has been locally sourced and naturally raised. The locavore in me gives a big thumbs-up!

My longtime mentor and friend, Bob, told me that a military installation would be the "realest" place I'd ever spend time, and he was right. Life gets distilled. Comfort comes in simple packages, met with gratitude.

Friday, July 31, 2009

On The Needles


I'm in a mode of not actually getting a lot of knitting done, but wanting to knit almost every pattern I see. I think it's because my current OTN (on the needles) project is this cute Scroll Lace cardigan, which requires more attention to detail than I'm used to giving. It's really fun to knit - don't get me wrong - and I'll be so excited when it's done. My first pieced FO (finished object)! That means that the back, front halves, and sleeves are all knitted in separate pieces, then sewn together. This summer when I was at Squam I took two days' worth of classes from Sally Melville (I am not a person who gets easily starstruck, but she did it for me) and she talked about how seamed garments hold their shape much better than those knitted in the round, because they have the seams to act like a skeleton to the garment. Made a lot of sense, so I'm giving it a go! I hope I can actually see it through and sew all the pieces together. It's not like machine sewing at all - each piece is hand-sewn with yarn and a big tapestry needle. It's tedious, but I think I can make it work for me. Find a rhythm and sink into it.

My eyes are popping to knit this sweet coat for my niece; the pattern is "Roo" by Kate Gilbert. Isn't it pretty? At first I thought I might make it out of the 3 skeins of Cascade Yarns Eco Alpaca I have, but now I think it won't be enough - plus I'm not sure that giving alpaca to a child is a good idea care-wise. Now I'm thinking I'll go with some Cascade 220 Superwash, which will produce a warm woolen, but washable coat. I bet she would love it in a prim winter white, or her favorite color, pink. My niece, by the way, is the craziest 4-year-old fashionista I have ever met. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she grows up to be the next Kate Spade...mostly I'm a little jealous that she can put together a better outfit than I can.

My awesome friend Lisa turned me on to the Twist Collective website, by the way, and that's where Roo and this next one are available. I haven't read much about them yet, but it sure sounds like a cool way to go into business for yourself. I like the idea of collectives, which is why I am naturally sort of steering the theatre company in that direction. After several years in private practice, I relish and so enjoy the camaraderie we have created with the theatre, especially our weekly staff meetings which I really miss out here in Tejas.

Back to knitting...the other pattern I'm salivating over is Mr. Boy by Cristina Shiffman. This one will be for my nephew, who has up to now been the unfortunate recipient of only one FO, my first knitted gift - a button-on scarf made in stiff, itchy Debbie Bliss Donegal Chunky Tweed. Poor kid. I'm trying to make up for it with this one, which I plan to make in either a cream like in the picture, or a forest green. Because he runs hot, I am going to follow the pattern's recommended yarn and use cotton, or maybe a cotton-linen blend. I looked at CotLin by KnitPicks, but wasn't thrilled with the palette so I'm going to check out the LYS (local yarn store) that I found last weekend in Austin, Hill Country Weavers. I'm trying to frequent the LYS's as much as possible to support the local businesses. In this economy, my dollar is my best political voice, my best social and environmental soapbox. Which is why I've gotten much more strict with myself about what I buy, and where I buy it. But that's probably a subject for a whole other blog entry, so for now I'll leave this as-is. Next time, more about my time in (but not really) the Army culture, and maybe a bit about how the depression - sorry, recession - is changing me, for the better and hopefully for good.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life On Hold. In Texas.

I'm on a new adventure, and have been wondering how or what I'll blog about it. The adventure is this: for six weeks I am living in a hotel in Killeen, Texas. During the day I work at Fort Hood, available as a counselor to soldiers and their families. I've been brought here as part of a "surge team" to tend specifically to those who returned from Iraq within the last six months, because now's about the time when the honeymoon period wears off, real life kicks in, and memories aren't as easily kept at bay.

It's very interesting and rewarding work, and I'm the kind of person who sort of enjoys culture shock (I love learning new cultures - see all previous posts about my obsession with Ireland and the Irish language - and no, the Irish don't call it Gaelic, they call it Irish) and I'm getting a two-fold shock. There's Texas. That's a whole culture in and of itself, and I'm sort of glad that I'm stationed in a place like Killeen where the Texas in people is full-strength, as opposed to my current Emerald city of Austin, where people are a lot more like me.

When people say that everything is bigger in Texas, they are dead serious: so far I've noted that parking spots, bathroom stalls, portion sizes, and houses are all bigger here. Last weekend I had dinner with my sweet friend Barbara-Anne, at The Oasis on Lake Travis. This place is a study in Texas Big...and, probably, Texas oil money. The restaurant seats about 2,000 people. No, you read that right. It was crazy. I don't remember the last time I ate at a restaurant with a gift shop and crafts bazaar on the premises. In Killeen, if there is a tourist site it's probably the Fort. Or the mall. I imagine that the monster truck show is a big draw here, and I don't mean that at all tongue-in-cheek. It's a rough-and-tumble town, heavily and publicly Christian, with a fairly strong anti-Obama sentiment. None of that visits me at the Fort - political discussion is strictly forbidden there (it is against military law to speak out against a commanding officer or elected official, and Obama is both) and my focus is on my work, which is much more real, black-and-white, life-or-death than the latest Obama blunder. Kind of refreshing.

I've tipped over into the second culture-shock, which is the Army culture. I did not grow up in a military family or with any close military ties, so learning about the military culture has been fun, interesting, intimidating at times, and it will probably be many more assignments before I feel comfortable with my level of understanding. The soldiers here are fairly tolerant of me, but every time I make a mistake (such as when I called First Sergeant C. "Sergeant" on my way out the door) I know that it's a chance for them to dismiss me as ignorant of their life and therefore not a worthy person to open up to. It's a tricky balance, to be a civilian - but an educated civilian - on post.

For many reasons, I won't be able to blog about my work much. I need to maintain confidentiality not only of my counseling work, but I think there is an unspoken rule that what happens on post, stays on post. We are not allowed to take any pictures on post except at the museum; our contract holds us responsible for "proprietary information" that we learn on post, etc. So since I don't know what's okay to talk about, I'm going to revert to the subjects I usually talk about on here anyway: food, craft, love. And culture. Today I've done my fair share in the culture department, so I'll leave it at that. But I'll share what I have on the needles and in my fridge, and what it's like to be away from my beloved for an extended period of time. Be back soon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When It Rains It Pours

Another month has gone by since my last post...well, if that's what I get done, that's what I get done. I'm hitting a pretty zen patch these days, learning that everything truly is just fine and perfect as it is. Learning to see success in every moment, regardless of whether or not my ego likes it. So, for now, my blog-posting frequency is perfect.

I find myself getting creative all over the place, though not where I would have expected it a couple of months ago. My art supplies are still in the box that my 3-year-old niece so beautifully packed for me on moving day, and the sewing machine remains in its box under the desk. But I have four creative projects to share, and that rare proliferation is so exciting to me! Here goes.

I had a rich, lovely month of rehearsals for the current musical, and opening weekend was a great success. I find myself enjoying performances, but grieving the end of the fertile creative process that rehearsal was. Sure, there's much to mine in performance, but the rehearsal process is that place of pure...process. It's where you find and try and stretch and fail and dive deeper. I love it, and understand more consciously the pull to get right into another show once one opens. I imagine it's much like the impulse new parents feel to "do it all over again". Well, some parents. I hear.

There are two raised garden beds behind the garage at my new home. There are so many things I love about my beloved, but from the very start I must admit I coveted his raised beds. He graciously gave me carte blanche to plant the vegetable garden of my dreams, and all of the tender seedlings went in last weekend after a few days of letting the new amended soil settle and cool off. In went onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, pole beans, acorn squash, chard, and nasturtiums. I got really excited to finally try out my dream of planting morning glories and moonflowers side-by-side on a trellis to cover the garden shed. I hope this works, and I can experience gorgeous palm-sized blooms both night and day come summer.

In Craftland, two projects came off the needles. After 13 months and much cursing and fist-shaking, my first sweater was born. This was a late birthday gift to my guy, and I'm kind of proud of myself for making a couple of modifications to the pattern that actually improved the fit of the sweater for him. Doesn't he look handsome? The pattern is "Cable Guy Sweater" found in Debbie Stoller's latest book, Son of Stitch'n'Bitch. The yarn, Andean Silk from KnitPicks in Pitch, was pretty good to use although it does shed like crazy. But the softness and sheen are lovely.

About ten days earlier I worked a "Children's Cotton Hat" from the fabulous book Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. This hat was a gift for Pixie's beautiful baby girl, and I couldn't believe how quickly it came off the needles. After much tossing and turning one night, I got up at 1:30am, put on an episode of Cast On and said, "Okay, I'll just get started on it." Four episodes later, I finished the hat and fell asleep as the clock ticked 6:15am. Kind of thrilling, actually. It's a beautiful color and texture thanks to Mission Falls 1824 cotton yarn in Lemongrass.

All in all, it's been a rich month. It's not long until Squam now, and I am beyond excited. Until then, though, I am on the lookout for all the unexpected places where creativity finds me these days.