Thursday, February 26, 2015

UFOs No More

Every knitter has a few unfinished projects shoved in a closet. We lose interest, or maybe it's just not turning out right and we can't bring ourselves to unravel the damn thing just yet. So we shove the thing away and never look at it again.

Some knitters wisely go through their UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and deal with them every now and then. But, as with everything else in life, most of us die with unfinished projects. Our loved ones don't know what to do with them either, and so the UFOs remain stashed away somewhere.

Until decades later, when some poor knitter inherits it all along with ancient yarn and needles and notions. This knitter also leaves the UFOs untouched for years because of course no one ever stores the patterns with the damn things, so it's impossible to figure out what it was supposed to be.

Then one day, the knitter screws up her courage and discovers that some of the things are close to being finished.

So she finishes them.

And this is how I was able to give my brother and sister-in-law baby shower gifts from both our grandmothers.

One died 20 years ago, the other 40 years ago. The state of yarn being what it was in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, the acrylic projects are better suited for doll clothes than baby clothes, but I have no doubt my impending niece will be subjected to them for a brief photo op. 

More importantly, my super surprise mystery gifts* made people cry. I win! I win at presents!

* My mother had seen the patterns for the things I knitted from scratch, but no one knew the grandma presents existed until they were unwrapped.

And now the pictures:

My maternal grandmother (who died in the 90s) made this. All it needed was the button band. There was also one (1) baby bootie with it and something that was almost a hat, but not quite. Since I couldn't figure out how to finish the hat, I repurposed that yarn. Buttons are from Grandma's button stash. I gave them the bootie too since they have slightly more use for a lone bootie than I do. The cool that ends up wearing the sweater can also wear the bootie.

A baby bikini! Made by the same grandmother. Apparently, it's not the only one she made. Because why make one baby bikini when you can make 3 or 4. It was finished except for the weaving in of loose ends. I lengthened the ties because they seemed a little short. It's acrylic, so I can't imagine the baby comfortably swimming in it. But I can't stop picturing this outfit on a teddy bear because it would be so wonderfully wrong.

My paternal grandmother, who died in the 70s, set out to crochet a tablecloth.  I've stopped crocheting since you actually have to look at it (as opposed to knitting, which can be done by feel most of the time) and my poor vision just can't deal with it. This work is so fine that I'm relieved to know better than to try to continue it. She stopped when it was about baby blanket size. It's cotton and machine washable, so why not wrap a baby in it? All I had to do was finish off the one live stitch, weave in the end and throw it in the washing machine. Booyah.

Grandma #1 also made this weird random thing. The council of aunties determined that it was an egg cozy, meant to be placed over an egg on Easter. The ears don't stand up on their own, so until very recently, I thought it was a sheep. But it's a bunny.

My brother and sister-in-law beholding the wee tininess of the wee tiny sweater. Just like I did every time I picked up the sweater while I was working on it. 

BTW, this was not at the actual baby shower, but at the pizza dinner the night before. They live in Texas, so NY pizza had to happen. I gave these gifts early because I'm not an asshole. How is anyone supposed to follow up, "Here's a handmade gift from your long dead grandmother," with "hey, I bought you some onesies"?

There was, of course, a diaper cake at the baby shower proper. The addition of little cardboard baby feet made it look like the diaper cake was eating babies. Because a diaper cake isn't weird enough on its own. I had a picture of the whole diaper cake, but my phone seems to have deleted it because that shit's just freaky.

This one I made. It's the rainbow chain carriage blanket, made to match the pictures, not the pattern since even the corrected pattern doesn't match what the designer actually made. I made it with dishcloth cotton for maximum color choices and maximum tolerance for being spit up on.

And this is Anouk, a clever and adorable pinafore designed by Kate Gilbert. I've wanted to knit this since I first saw the pattern 10 years ago. It's open on the sides so that the baby has room to grow. It starts as a dress and can be worn as a tunic as the baby gets bigger. I used vintage butterfly buttons I bought at a shop in St. Louis.

Now I really need to go through my own UFOs. None of them are worthy of Gift From the Great Beyond status. And no one should be stuck figuring out what to do with the partial child's vest I stopped knitting because the yarn was just too awful to force anyone to wear. The pieces may work as microfiber cloths for cleaning up the kitchen counter. And no one is going to do that with the knitting of a dead woman.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy Otherversary

I just got an email from Fitbit telling me my most and least active days least year. Which, I really don't care about. I got the fucking thing to help me gradually increase my activity level and not overdo it because too much exercise can trigger a migraine. I'm really trying not to pay attention to the stats because I'll get crazy and overdo it just to reach a round number.

But I looked up the most active day in my 5 year journal to see what I was doing that day. It was the 11-year anniversary of HA and me becoming a couple. Which you'd think I'd remember from the date, but apparently we're an old married couple so not so much.

Our dating anniversary (aka, what was "our anniversary" before we got married) comes a couple of weeks after our wedding anniversary, but we still celebrate it. We didn't try to schedule the wedding closer to our existing anniversary because it was too close to Thanksgiving, which is not entirely a coincidence. 

You see, HA went on a date and I drank and talked way too much, because nerves. He did not feel the love. But we became friends, and a few months later it seemed like we'd been doing a lot of stuff together, so I invited him to Thanksgiving with my family. Not to trick him into meeting them, but to have someone to keep me company while my family drove me crazy. (And don't even, Mom. You know what I'm talking about.)

So I invited him to Thanksgiving by e-mail, and he replied that he had a rule about never going to someone's family occasions unless they were engaged. No joke - his parents forbade him & his brother from inviting girlfriends to stuff because it ruined the pictures and videos to have random exes in them. Going to the girlfriend's house and ruining her family's pictures was allowed, so HA was incorrectly invoking the rule, but it gave me the opening I'd been looking for since all that hanging out together seemed to be leading to something more, and it was driving me crazy thinking that it was all in my head.

So we go out to dinner every year on our Otherversary, and I make HA retell the story of how we got together from his point of view so I feel like he's here voluntarily. But for some reason (probably all the fucking migraines), we totally forgot about it last year.

We did a lot of walking that day because I was having a good day and we decided to do a bunch of errands. We dropped off some of my old work clothes to Dress for Success, then walked past the restaurant where we usually go for our Otherversary. At which point, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and exclaimed, "It's our anniversary!"

Married people are the worst!

So we went shopping like we'd planned, and had an early dinner at our usual restaurant. Which had changed their menu from BBQ to Southern which was a massive disappointment and we'll be trying someplace else next time.

Menus changes, but love endures. Or something.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marital Discussion - Supermarket

This kid is paying way more attention than our cashier.
The Keyfood was super crowded. The cashier was rushing through checkout, not giving the bag guy enough time to finish bagging one order before she started scanning more stuff and shoving it at him. 

Maybe she was in the zone. Maybe she hated the bag guy and refused to help him bag. Dunno, but I stopped her when she started on our order. 

Which is when the bag guy discovered that the customer ahead of us had left his cookies because of the chaos. The bag guy ran after the guy and HA bagged our stuff. I swiped my credit card and then waited for the cashier to enter the total or whatever goes on when the thing says Wait for Cashier because she'd completely stopped paying attention to what was going on.

Maybe she was pissed off at me now, or maybe something really interesting was going on across the room or maybe she was just over everything that her job involves. (There was a sign on each cash register that said "No cell phones at work." Is the manager an asshole? Are the cashiers really such jerks that they need a sign in their face reminding them of basic rules?  All of this is to say that I feel this woman's pain, but fuck almighty, it was hot and crowded and come on, lady just focus.)

When we left the store, I bitched to HA about how she zoned out mid transaction. 

Him: People are the worst. 

Me: Yeah, I hate people. 

Him: That's why I don't return their calls. 

Me: That's why I have them blocked on Facebook. Wait, why would I go on Facebook when I hate people?

Him: Excellent Question
Me: I'm there for the mahjong.* 

*I really enjoy playing mahjong solitaire. The social versions have all these different layouts but they want to make it hard and frustrating to make me buy boosters, so they add a time limit. I don't care about beating a time limit. I just wanna play mahjong solitaire. The time limit stresses me out when I'm just trying to relax. It bugs me, but the predominant business model will change again soon enough.

Also, I don't like to use boosters because it feels like cheating. I'm one of those lunatics who has to prove to themselves that they can do it the hard way. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Notes From the Road

I just got back from visiting the in-laws in the great Midwest. Since plane travel is so ludicrous these days, I had many thoughts that I wanted to tweet. But I didn't because you're not supposed to advertise that you're out of town because burglars.

Not that I think anyone is stalking me online just waiting for their chance to steal our stuff. But if someone had broken in, and I'd live tweeted the security line at the airport, I would've felt like an idiot.

So I just saved all my witty (and not-so-witty) observations for a blog post.

Because why the fuck not? It took my mind off the claustrophobia.

- Got a whole can of soda on the first flight. The low cost of gas, maybe? Though we didn't get the whole can on the second, shorter flight. The mystery continues.

- I'm considering buying a seatbelt extender so I don't have to deal with the flight attendant's hushed tones as she hands it to me, as if there's something shameful about it. I didn't design airplane seatbelts to be too short to fit the largest person who can safely sit in a seat, so what do I have to be embarrassed about?

- Seriously, who designs airplane seats? Or tests them. We took 2 planes. On plane number one I needed a seatbelt extender, but I could comfortably lower the tray table even when the guy in front of me reclined his seat. On plane number two I didn't need a seatbelt extender and the seats were wider than on the other plane, yet there was no way in the unfriendly skies that I was going to be able to lower the tray table. If only it had been a little smaller. If only some designer had realized that they don't feed us anymore so we don't need big tray tables.

- You know how people play video games on the subway with the sound turned on? Because they're the only people on the planet who actually exist or some shit. Well, someone did it on the plane. Either they stopped once we took off or the roar of the engines drowned out the noise. I don't care if it's a kid. Momma needs to mute that shit.

- I found myself getting annoyed at a French family ahead of us in security because they were a bit lost with the whole thing and didn't speak English, and so they had trouble following instructions. Of course, American air travel security rules are cray cray, so it makes perfect sense that people from the rest of the world are unfamiliar with the subtleties of the cray cray, such as which bags go in a bin and which don't.

- Hey, car rental desk guy, I totally understand your need to take your break after dealing with a family of 5, none of whom seem to understand anything about renting cars and only one of which spoke English, but the three people on line who witnessed the whole thing could really use more than one person working the desk. Couldn't you have helped just one person as a palate cleanser?

- His Awesomeness coined a phrase for non-New Yorkers - Floyim. (Derived from goyim, of course) because they live in flyover states. As in, "Floyim sure have nice supermarkets. You can actually get two whole shopping carts down each aisle."

- If a hotel has an indoor water slide, everything else about the hotel will suck. Because people with kids will put up with a lot in exchange for an indoor water slide. 

- I expected our apartment to feel tiny and cramped in comparison to every place we'd been in the past week. But after the plane trip, our apartment seems giant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dad Santa

I wrote this essay way back in 2008, in the hopes I'd be able to sell it to some small newspaper, magazine or website. But I couldn't find the right niche. A Jewish man dressing up as Santa may blow the mind of the Catholics living in my old provincial neighborhood, but  no one in the real world finds that at all unusual. Lots of Jewish Americans celebrate Christmas, so big whoop.

But I had a nice chat with my Dad researching this piece and since no one wants to pay me to tell the story, maybe you'll indulge me while I tell it for free.

I grew up in Gerritsen Beach, the Brooklyn neighborhood where my Irish Catholic mother had been raised and where my Dad was the only Jew in a fifteen-block radius.

My parents raised my brother and me Catholic, but mixed in Jewish holidays. December was marked with the advent wreath, the Hanukkah menorah and a Christmas tree. Dad’s family began exchanging gifts on Christmas before he was born. During the Great Depression, his Aunt Molly landed an office job and a Christmas bonus and celebrated the extra cash by bringing home bags of presents. The next year, the rest of the family followed suit, creating a new tradition.

My father had even gotten answers to his letters to Santa, printed on Saint Nick’s personal letterhead, produced at Uncle Morris’s printing shop.

It was only natural that they’d throw an annual Christmas/Hannukah party, where my mother, the domestic shiksa goddess, would serve dozens of latkes alongside a baked ham.

It never struck me as unusual. At the age of 9, I thought everyone’s dad was Jewish. When I was 11, I decided it was only the portly dads with mustaches.

Since Dad looked like a cartoon fireman, it wasn’t too surprising when he joined the local volunteer fire department.

Every year, on Thanksgiving morning, the volunteer fire department held the Ragamuffin Parade. The parade wound its way through the streets of the neighborhood, led by the local marching band. The fire engine, ambulance and rescue truck came next, followed by a crowd of costumed children—the ragamuffins. EMTs and Firefighters dressed as Cookie Monster or Elmo shook children’s hands, handed out cookies and signed autographs.
The star of the show was always Santa, perched atop the fire engine and merrily waving to the onlookers.

One year, the usual Santa was unavailable, so the job passed to my father. I think they let him do it so they could rib him about how little padding he needed to fill out the costume. Besides, the gentile firefighters thought that the idea of a Jewish Santa was hilarious.
Dad thought it was a little incongruous, but it didn’t worry him. Some of the members of the choir at his synagogue weren’t Jewish. He only cared about playing the part well enough that the children would believe that he really was the big guy and not just some schlub in a costume.

That morning, Dad put on the red suit, beard and hat in the men’s restroom while someone guarded the door. Members often brought their children along to march in costume. Everyone knew the real Santa was in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but it was important to keep up the illusion.

When Dad was ready, we all bustled into the hallway to create a diversion so that it would look like Saint Nick had arrived through the back door instead of the bathroom. The trick worked so well that until I did it myself, I hadn’t realized that the back door had been chained shut for over a decade and had never been opened for Santa.

Dad ho-ho-hoed with gusto as he climbed on top of the fire engine and got settled in the folding chair resting on top of the fire hoses. Once he was sitting, I realized what a dangerous proposition this was. I imagined my famously nearsighted and clumsy father toppling off his chair onto a helpless child below, and traumatizing dozens of kids with the sight of Santa falling off the fire truck and being rushed away in the ambulance.
We gathered the costumed children and the trucks slowly set off. On top of the truck, waving at the crowd, he looked like the Pope.

Back at the firehouse, dozens more children were waiting to speak to Santa. Dad took his seat, clearly thrilled to be the center of attention and probably relieved that he’d climbed down from the fire engine with his dignity intact. The kids sat on his lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas. He soothed the ones who were afraid of him, and made sure their parents got a good photo. The little ones were easy to please and impress. Each one left with a candy cane and huge smile on their face.

When the last true believer was gone, Dad changed back into himself and we went to dinner with the family. He said that it had been like wearing a superhero costume. It had been a tremendous responsibility to stay in character all morning, and it was a relief to know that now he could belch without traumatizing a four year old.

The next year, the usual Santa reclaimed his position and Dad was disappointed. He’d never get to play the big guy again.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Marital Discussion: Not All Puns Are Created Equal

Rejoice and be glad, for season 1 of Murphy Brown is on DVD. I rented it from Netflix, and oh, sweet Berry Gordy, I missed that show. Not for the music, but because Murphy Brown is my spirit animal. It was from Murphy that I learned you didn't have to be nice to be successful as long as you were smarter and more talented and harder working than everyone else.

In my techie days, I wasn't the office bitch, but I didn't suffer fools gladly. I would've been a lot more patient with fools if someone had been able to explain to me the benefits of doing the work of 2 or 3 other people AND being nice to them. There are limits to how much of a doormat I'm willing to be, and I can thank Murphy for that.

Which leads us to:

Me: I've already forgotten why I pretend punched you in the nose.

Him: Do you want me to retell the bad joke?

Me: Yes, please.

Him: They should've done a sequel to Murphy Brown where she joins the circus, called Murphy Clown.

Me: So I'm not losing my mind. I was just blocking out the terrible joke.

Him: Yes

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wisdom of Beetlejuice

HA and I recently rewatched Beetlejuice and I realized that it contains a lot of life lessons. Such as:

Always dress comfortably because if you die, you might be stuck in those clothes forever. Imagine spending eternity in an ill fitting bra.

Never brake for animals. (If, like me, you've seen the whole movie once or twice and bits of it a bunch of times, you may have forgotten that the fatal car accident was caused by swerving to avoid a dog just moseying along in the middle of the road.)

Read the manual even if it's written like a stereo manual and makes no sense the first time. Poor technical writing is no excuse for your ignorance.

Sandworms are like sharks. Punch them in the nose and they'll back off.

Hell is other people's bad taste. Any taste besides your own is bad. 

People dying in weird ways is never not funny. As long as it's fictional of course. See also Dead Like Me

Never throw a dinner party in a haunted house. 

Can't we all just get along with our ghosts? Raising the dead is so rude.

Don't just stand there while a weird demony guy does weird demony things. Though trying to run away isn't going to help much either.

Pay attention to your kids or they'll start hanging out with ghosts.