Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Frustrated Hooker

If you've read some of my previous posts and/or follow me on Facebook, you'll know I've become an obsessed hooker--that's one who does crochet, folks--get those minds out of the gutter.

However, I have a confession to make.  I have a very hard time with patterns and all crochet projects are based on patterns..  I start them with all good intent, but am soon lost, totally confused, frustrated and frogging (rip-it, rip-it) once again.  A friend tells me it's because I've not had enough practice, which is absolutely true.  She's kind enough not to add that I'm also impatient.  And diagrams....don't even start me on diagrams. 

I want patterns to be EXACT.  Rather than have the sections in asterisks: i.e.,

Dc in next sc, ch 1, sc in center loop of next shell, * ch 1, 1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc in next sc between 2 shells of previous row, ch 1, sc in center loop of next shell, repeat from * across row, ending with 2 dc with ch 1 between in last sc, ch 1, turn.

I want them spelled out, at least for the first time through.  And the instructions for the beginning and endings of rows always seem, to me, vague at best.

Okay, I'll admit part of my problem is, with shawls and scarves, I always want them wider and longer than almost every pattern written, so getting the starting count right is always a challenge.  I don't care than I'm only 5'2" tall, I love LONG scarves and shawls that I can wrap for days.

I am a show-me learner.  I know this about myself.  What I'd really like is someone sitting by my side, showing me what to do when I start to become confused.  However, every once in awhile a pattern comes along that I can follow.  It's so exciting!!  Last night, I started a vintage pattern for the Wilshire Shawl.  I'm on the 10th row and doing fine.  I'll admit, it started out a little bumpy, but I figured it out. 

I'm not giving up.  I shall figure out how to read patterns and someday wonder why I was having such a problem.  But in the meantime, baby steps, baby steps...

Am I alone in my frustration?  Are there others who are pattern challenged?

Monday, September 26, 2011

More than just bookshelves

Far wall of the guest room
It seems I'm on a roll talking about reviewing and my bookshelves, but a comment from Jackie, a friend from DorothyL, reminded me that sometimes bookshelves are far more than pieces of wood.

The place in which I lived previously was a Craftsman house I'd rented for--good grief--21 years.  In that time I'd acquired over 5,000 books.  Actually it was almost double that, but I'd done a massive cull several years before.  However, now I received notice that my landlord was moving his kids, now of college age, into the house and I had eight weeks to vacate.  Eight weeks to pack up 21 years and find a new place to live.

I panicked, I cried, I did another massive cull  cutting my books down to about 2,500 and I packed.  In the end, there were 107 boxes, 74 of which were books.  The day came and, with the help of many dear friends and the movers, I moved 8 blocks to my new, bigger place which has lots of wall space and--ta-dah--a den.  In that 8' x 14" den, we stacked the non-kitchen, bath, bedroom boxes wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, three stacks deep.

I have always done bracket-and-board, and yes, some brick and board, shelving as it's (1) cheap and (2) provides the maximum board-feet of space for books.  I had a fair amount of materials from the old place, but it's not something easy to put up by one's self although I did get some of them up.  But here's where the "more" comes in."

Guests will always find something to read
It began with Jody and Jane.  Jody I've known since 1985.  We bonded over her allocating a home computer and modem to me from where we worked and my helping her cut down a live Christmas tree and have been good friends ever since.  Jane I met in 2000 as she was part of a vendor team working for me.  After we all stopped working for that company, we would get together or talk on the phone finding that we always made each other laugh. 

Jody had scheduled a day to help me with shelves and, when I happened to talk to Jane, she volunteered to come as well.  The three of us spend 4 hours measuring, laughing, re-measuring and putting up shelves.  Every time I walk into my guest room, I see not shelves, but the three of us putting the shelves up and laughing.  Very sadly, a couple year's ago, Janie at 62 years old developed a very fast moving cancer and was gone only two months after the last time we'd spoken promising to meet for lunch.

Long wall of the entry hall
Even after the shelves in the guest room were up, I still had at least 30 boxes of books which needed a home.  It was the Saturday before my birthday when came a knock on my door and there was Jody with a circular saw in her hand.  Okay, that was curious.  Right behind her was the perfectly manicured Georgianne, whom I've know since 1989 when I taught her needlepoint--but that's another story altogether.  They knew, knowing me, I had a materials list and dimensions for the shelves I needed all done up, and they there were there to take me to the lumber yard, brickyard and hardware store to buy me everything we needed and help me put them up.

The three of us measured, cut, stained and by the end of that day I had shelves on both sides of my long entry hall plus a coat rack.  By the end of the weekend, every book was unpacked and I stood there stroking their spines--you have to be a reader to appreciate that, 

And then there's my friend, Linda, from my mystery group.  Since I hurt my back having my car(s) rear-ended twice in one month, reaching isn't always easy.  That means books don't always get shelved as often as I'd like.  Linda, bless her, periodically comes over to help cull, and shelve, and then we crochet/knit and chat.  She says she likes looking at my books, but it really is a gift.

So you see, my bookshelves aren't bookshelves; they are living memories of the love and kindness, and blessing of friends knowing just how much doing these things would mean--not just on those days, but every day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Love and Collection of Books

My cleaned-up desk
Recently, I wrote a post entitled "A Reviewer's Conundrum" for my friend Kaye's blog Meanderings and Muses and is also on my friend Wendy's blog.   In several of the wonderful comments my article has received, people stated they enjoyed seeing the three pictures I included of my den; or more specifically, the books in my den.  Those photos only show a portion of my collection.  So here they are: my books or most of them.

In spite of practical parents who, my whole life, reminded me that I love going to the library, I have always been one who bought books.  After all, what if you want to read just that particular book at 3 a.m.?

It would be impossible for me to have kept all the books I've bought/acquired over time.  There have been times where I have sold/donated huge numbers of books.  There just isn't enough room for them all.   Even so, there are some books that stay with me. 

The wall behind my desk.
See the T.A.R.D.I.S.on my monitor?
On the wall behind my desk are books on history, including the Will Durant series and many books on the Vietnam War; plays, poetry, biographies and autobiographies and many reference books.  It is also the beginning of my collection of have-read, keeper mysteries.

Across from my desk
These continue to the other wall opposite my desk, one entire wall of my entry hallway, and four long shelves in my guest room.

So who are the keepers?  It's a long list comprised of police procedurals, PIs, historical mysteries, traditional mysteries, gothics, Golden-age authors and contemporary, almost equally split between male and female authors. 

TBR left; keepers right
 Speaking of the front hall; opposite of the have-read keepers on the right are most of Mount TBR (to-be-read).

They start here, continue to an above-dresser bookcase and then to two shelves in my bedroom.  They are also on top of my bookcase with every book by Agatha Christie which is in the hallway, on my desk, on my  bedside get the idea.

Part of the guest room
The guest room, in additional to mystery keepers, also contains novels, fantasy, science fiction and a large collection of romances from a time when I was sick for several months and had the attention span of a gnat--romances were perfect then.  If you come to stay at my house and can't sleep, I guarantee you will find something to read.

Trust me, this is not all of my books.  I think it does, however, given you an idea that fellow readers always smile when they walk in the door.  Non-readers always start by saying "Have you read all these books?".  Then they look at Tigger and T.S. Elliot and say, "Those are BIG cats." 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Silence; sort of

Silence is something I cherish.  I'm not one who needs music or television or something in the background.  I love silence.  Now I know one really can't achieve complete silence, but we're talking in relative terms here so, perhaps, I should instead say, quiet.

I live in an urban environment where houses are close together.  In the mornings, I hear birds waking up quite nosily, dogs barking for hours, neighbors talking, coming and going, sharing the sounds of bodily functions (sneezing, coughing--my least favorite--hawking, spitting, being sick), etc.  But every day, around 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., things are...okay, if not silent, at least quiet.

Other than the sound of my own typing, I can hear my wind chimes in the trees outside my windows--yes, those are security bars and the driveway of the building next door being 4' from my den and bedroom; the joy of living in a city--squirrels scolding my cat who's sitting at the screen door, the ticking of my collection of key-wind clocks and the white-noise of traffic in the distance. 

I treasure this time of day.  If I'm working on a contracted project, this is my sweet time to work best.  I can think, write reviews, read books for review, even nap, should I be so inclined. 

It's a bit sad that it doesn't last generally more than these two hours--sometimes, the idea of living completely off the grid appeals to me greatly--but they are two wonderful, peaceful hours.  And then surrounding life seems to switch back on again. 

Ah well, one must always be grateful for every little gift one is given.