Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One of my fav blogs....LOLCats

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's on the Needles at the moment...

I knit. A lot. With needles, on machines, looms and frames.

But mostly, of late, on needles -- or round looms when I'm in a hurry. In fact, hats and scarves make up so fast on round looms that it probably takes longer for me to blog about them (take the pix, process them for on screen, put them up, write the text, arrange them artfully, etc., etc.) than to actually finish the project!

And I do like using the looms for very bulky yarns, such as Lion brand chenille Thick & Quick.
Really plays to my need for 'quick fixes,' LOL.

However, (because some members of my family feel that my activity might be getting out of hand) I decided to take some pix of works in progress (WIP) that are currently littering my living room around the glide rocker. I'm not listing the ones in the bedroom, on my crafts table, in my purse, in the car, or in the woven hamper that sits behind the glide rocker.... (That's too many pix!)

First, a very plain, garter stitch scarf, in Lion chenille Thick & Quick.Good for meetings, bus stops, doctor's offices, any waiting time, as I don't have to actually look at what I'm doing very much. It has been finished since I took this pic.

A baby blanket in basket weave stitch, using a thick luscious chenille which I bought in bulk on eBay. It came without tags, but could be Lion brand.

The Besotted Scarf. Not working so well in Jiffy, because the Xs don't show between the Os. Darn. May end up frogging it and doing something else with this yummy, bulky, soft yarn. The pattern was intended for worsted weight wool...

A magic scarf, on needles, in Lion FunFur. Doesn't knit up nearly as fast as the large round Knifty Knitter loom pattern, and I don't know if it will be as magic. It has more stitches...

A laptop bag working in corn stitch -- a variety of afghan crochet using double pointed afghan hook sold as CrochetKnit and KnitCrochet, depending upon brand. The yarns were from a yard sale bag of tagless wool skeins that I think were meant for rug hooking. Sturdy, slightly harsh wool, which may felt up nicely. Or not. Either way, it will make good padding for a new MacBook.... Worked flat, folded and sewn.

A dish rag, with squirrel picture, Sugar'n Cream 100% cotton worsted weight yarn. Dish rags are new to me, but am I hooked! They work up very fast, in less than 2 hours -- if my hands would allow working cotton that long at one sitting. Cotton has no 'give' in it, so makes hands hurt. It is endlessly entertaining watching the pattern emerge. And when knitting a mystery knitalong (KAL), you are searching each row to see if you can figure out what the design is going to be. Much fun!

Two dish cloths at once, with the instructions for each cloth on the same row. Don't try to figure it out in your head! Just do it, and then it makes sense, LOL. So far, one of them has two flowers and the legs of what might be letters. The other has one flower and the letters E N D. The way the KAL works is that about 10 rows of knitting instructions are posted each day, so you can knit along...

The beginnings of yet another DoRag. These little roll-brim hats in mohair/acrylic fingering yarns go fast, are knit flat on large needles, sewn up, and have a cute little tail on top that you tie in a knot. I've made a bunch, using up odd bits of skeins left over from my sister's stash. (That means the yarn is more than 20 years old!)

The pattern is from a book of easy knit projects for teens, which, naturally I can't remember at the moment. Looks too lacy and insubstantial to be warm, but boy, are they hot! 87 yo MIL uses hers to keep her head warm at night.

Oh my, I'm sleepy! It is past my bedtime, but Blogger is a bit slow tonight. Probably everyone in the world is online, seeing as it is Thanksgiving's Eve eve. No school tomorrow and most people are leaving town. Whole 'Net is slow...


Thoughts on Second Life...

Well, of course, those of us who have passed the climacteric are already in our third life -- 1)childhood, 2) childrearing, 3) maturity (er, hopefully)...

I finally went to see what all the talk was about Second Life, which is a multiuser online game setting that has 30,000 folks and more playing at any one time.

[For those of you unfamiliar with multiuser, real time gaming: Second Life provides a venue driven and designed by the participants, for the purpose of living out their fantasies -- to one extent or another. That can seem to some of us like a chance to get a bit out of hand, perhaps, but it's probably a lot safer than acting out in Real Life, LOL. What is particularly exciting about this kind of game is that thousands of people can interact in many ways that would not be available to them in RL. To see a video presentation go to this page, and click on 'video'...]

Friends, relatives and online correspondents have been chatting up SL for a long time. (3 years in the computer world being practically an eon) I went and took a look at the beta release several years back, but opted out largely because it cost a monthly fee in the beginning. Now, of course, my MAC is too old to run it; but one of our younger PCs will play. And, it is now FREE for basic playing.

One of the attractions for people who have talked to me is the freedom to wander about and strike up conversations with anyone who looks interesting. (By moving the cursor over their avatar, personal profile info is available, such as screen name, age, interests, etc.)

Many people do not feel safe, for whatever reasons, to just wander into a crowd in real life and just start talking. Particularly if the person they are considering talking to happens to be dressed as a giant purple-striped white tiger! Or a Goth queen. Or a tatoo-covered giant in black leather and chains. Or even a gauzy green fairy, complete with wand that shoots sparkles...

Or simpler, yet -- how many would be willing to stroll about in a strange neighborhood or landscape, just looking at the view? Or walk into someone else's house, garden or shop, just to see how it was designed. (In Second Life, if the owner/creator didn't want you to, it would be private and you wouldn't be able to, as I understand it.)

No, it appears to me that SL has indeed taken on a life of its own, growing hourly as business, politicians, religions and educational institutions begin to set up shop. (Linden Labs, the source, presently has 30,000 servers, and still experiences periods when too many users want to be there and it slows things down or crashes altogether.)

What is the point of all that computer power?

Say you had always wanted to be a pointy eared waif of a female, who could dress in veils and maybe even have wings? Design your avatar and think up a name and away you go.

Always wanted to open a coffee shop where poets could hang out, maybe have jazz concerts on a few nights a week? Design it and they will come: the customers, the poets, the musicians...

Real life musicians, poets, and speakers of all kinds (as well as wannabes who are practicing their skills) are visiting and/or setting up shop in SL. Real money is changing hands, here, in such large amounts that it boggles the mind (millions of US dollars a day). Politicians will no doubt frequent the place, as the election draws nearer, and there has already been one debate, at least.

However, while I can see the potential attractions, especially for trying out new behaviors, learning new things, interacting with lots of new people who might live across the planet -- and, of course, the potential for negative stuff, as well, is no different from any other medium --

For me, Second Life just doesn't click. Yet. I have been trying to figure out why for a couple days, and this is what I think so far:

Firstly, maybe I don't need a second life for socializing. I mean, I already wander about and talk to anyone who looks interesting, LOL. It never occurs to me that I shouldn't stop to admire someone's lovely garden, or interesting house. Or beautifully tricked out old Dream Machine (motorcycle) in the mall parking lot! Or even the puppy who is walking his person through my neighborhood.

Perhaps I'm not exactly in the norm...? I don't know, except that I do remember seriously embarrassing my teenage children (you know who you were) in several past episodes...

Like that time outside a restaurant where two great big gorgeous red motorcycles were parked in shining fingerprintless perfection. One of them had a yellow rubber ducky stuck in the chrome spokes of its front wheel. Well, you know I hung about and asked the middle-aged biker dude what that was about!

The other problem I have with the game is that its graphics, however superb and steadily improving they are, still aren't as detailed as real life. I end up feeling sensory deprived. Not only are the incredibly complex levels of natural substance missing, but the density of information is only about 1-2% what it would be standing on the beach in RL.

Here's a screen shot Uploaded to Flickr! on November 17, 2007, by Andromega:It is stunningly beautiful, one of the best I've seen, but not yet the norm.

And here's another outstanding one, Uploaded to Flickr! on November 20, 2007, by Wildstar Beaumont

But here is real life -- a gate to the Matthaei Botanic Garden on a sunny, summer day:

Or, how about this Christmas amaryllis, smiling on all comers?

Apparently, I use a lot of different senses to collect information about the world around me, especially when having a conversation. The SL avatars have improved tremendously, but they still can't show the level of emotion and non-verbal cues that make me feel comfortable.

So, I guess my heart isn't broken that my old (4 years) MAC doesn't handle the game. By the time I upgrade, I bet Second Life will be even more mind boggling in its growth, in its technology, and in its community.

Meanwhile, it is rainy day, 20 degrees warmer than yesterday, full of fresh scents and cool mists and the last of the leaves falling off the trees and painting the lawns and streets in yellows and reds and oranges and four kinds of rusty browns...

I'm gonna go for a walk around the neighborhood and talk to people who are out doing the same thing, or else raking leaves on their tree lawns!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rethinking yesterday...

Much of my stress and distress about looking back at my life, the decisions I made or didn't, the goals I achieved and didn't, not to mention how all material things change and otherwise laugh at our attempts to make them permanent -- comes from perspective, I think.

Well, it's an epiphany I had this morning during prayers and meditation... That maybe I'm looking to the wrong things for evidence of success.

My husband's blog has an article today that really hits home:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thoughts on the View from 'Over the Hill'

I've been putting together my will and testament lately. The will portion is done, essentially, being concerned with just the material things, and therefore pretty straightforward.

But I'm finding the testament to be challenging. I'm stressing over what have I to testify, after all these years I have lived, so far.

(Wipe those smiles off your faces! Your time is coming. Soon.)

It is never a comfortable thing to feel one's life might have been spent largely in vain -- but there you are. It has taken me this long to wonder about how successful I have been at whatever it was I figured life was about!

Not that the things I've done were the issue -- no matter that I thought they were -- though there are, of course, some that I regret. It is more that my motivations need to be examined. And -- perish the thought! -- may have been faulty...

Good deeds -- or bad ones, for that matter -- are colored by why we do them. At this point in my life, I'm questioning this issue much more than ever before.

Never let it be said that I am a quick study...
Perhaps menopause provides (forces?!) time for reflection. It's very hard on the ego to realize that all that deep thinking I thought I was doing, wasn't. That maybe I wasn't such hot stuff as I believed? (Or worse, that everybody else knew it before I did!)

"Time makes all men poets," some famous person, whose name escapes me, said. If poets are people who help the rest of us see what hardly anyone else had noticed (or admitted to), then I can see the pundit's point. Because I've had lots of time recently, since I can no longer fill my days doing a million things at once. This can be a major problem for someone who has evidently defined herself by what she was doing...

The truth is that I have never been much for poetry. Stuff never made any sense to me.

Until lately?

Not that I have developed 'eyes to see,' or anything so profound as that -- but lately some poets seem to be speaking to me directly. "Killing me softly, with his song," to quote Joanie Mitchell.

Baha'u'llah, 19th century Prophet of the Baha'i Faith, said that, "True loss is for a man to live his life in ignorance of his true self."

Looking back, it seems to me that I have spent a good deal of time and energy trying NOT to see my true self. Which is very hard on the ego, since I think -- thought -- I was so well developed and knowledgeable...

But denial takes energy. And even for redheaded supermoms, the energy eventually wanes... "We are not pleased," to quote queen Victoria. (Wasn't she also a redhead??)

True, I've spent much time and energy trying to be good -- or, at least, do good -- but looking back forces me to wonder at my reasons. And whether those reasons are worthy. Not always a very comfortable contemplation.

Why is it important to me that I do good, for instance? Well, on those occasions, of course, when I have managed it!

Did a good deed happen as the natural consequence of being good? Or because I wanted the world (and specific people) to think me good?

Was my intent to please God -- or some more temporal authority -- or did I actually have loftier goals? (And does it matter? I mean, this self contemplation thing might just be avoiding the chores this morning...)

Maybe not even saints are completely free to be good for goodness' sake. Maybe we are all still being and doing good mostly to please someone else. Certainly, that is how as children we learn to be and do everything. What does a two year old know of tooth decay and street traffic and how disorder in one's life causes depression?? They have parents for that.

No, the desire to please, the need to be loved, may eventually transmute into habits that are good and good for us -- at least as parents we hope this for our kids. But it looks to me that as adults, much of what we do may still be based on old habits of thinking and doing. We can hope these are beneficial, but we haven't actually thought them out.

How much of that basis is still just hoping that our parents will love us? Or, for the religious, that God will love us? Having been raised by humans does pretty well train us that to be loved, we must be "good," however that is locally defined.

True religion teaches that we are already loved by our Creator, and the purpose of being good is found elsewhere. (False religion teaches us that we have to do things to please God and receive the reward of being loved.)

So, if we are loved, in all our imperfections, then why worry about being/doing better?

Maybe because we remember -- and grow -- better if we discover truth for ourselves? From my own experience, that is certainly true! I never paid much attention to 'The Oldies' giving me advice...I mean, they were OLD!

And should I expect you, my children, to listen to me? Even if I put it in writing that you will have to read at least once, after I am gone from this temporal life.

I love you all --
the one I birthed,

those acquired by marriage,

the fosters, and the many others in looser arrangements --

all those who have come to me over the course of my life.

I want you to have lofty goals, to succeed, to be healthy and happy. There are things I managed to learn (mostly the hard way) -- stuff about how it works, stuff that I can see and that maybe you don't -- that I'd like to share.

The question I now have is about how much I can guide, how much power I might have to help or dissuade from errors, or even to point out road signs. Not only where I might prevent some pain --

But also whether prevention is either necessary or good. It is a mystery.

What if, like me, people have to fall in order to believe the advice to watch where they are stepping?

There! See how easy it is for me to get off topic? So much less threatening to worry about someone else than to examine myself further.

Nope. This blog is supposed to be about me and about helping me see where I am right now (which requires some looking back to see where I've been).

That I might help or entertain others in the process is not supposed to be the focus.

But how many of my posts reflect "me" avoidance? Surfing the Web for neat stuff is more fun! Further, sharing current events and family history is probably way more interesting to you kids than my ruminations about self discovery.

I am hoping, however, that some of you must surely be more self aware than I have been all of my life. Perhaps my experience will save you some time...

Or maybe only give you some insight into why I might have done some of those things you thought peculiar!

Admit it! There have been times when you wondered what I could have been thinking.
And I don't mean just when you were teens and found your parents deeply embarrassing.

(Although, looking at the picture albums, I really did justify that sometimes... Who was that woman, anyway?! Like me and the friendly (library) gopher snake here...or me and mini skirts there.)

That's what I need to figure out in order to finish my will and testament. The testament being where one gets to say a bunch of things nobody wanted to listen to while one was alive...LOL.

A testament is a way of bridging generations, of making certain that nothing is left unsaid. Like explaining one's successes and failures, one's goals and the progress made on them. Being sure to tell loved ones that they are loved, were always loved, (or not) and specifically why.

Especially why. I was so busy surviving day to day with a dying husband and an unfinished house and two businesses and 5 kids under 16, that I missed a lot of your teens. I didn't tell each one of you just why you are so special, and how proud I am of you.

Or what a bounty it was to have you in my life.

Before I can write a successful testament, I need to go back and really look at that life. Explaining to you all is helping me to figure it out.

You can skip the ramblings and just look at the pix if you want.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Done. Well sort of, mostly. Maybe...

The display house at Matthaei Botanic Gardens has been closed for most of the summer, replacing the roof and temperature control systems and mechanicals. The promise was for September 1st reopening, then October 1st, and finally November 1st.
We survived the wait with many acres of spring wildflowers and summer annual and perennial plantings.

Only the tropical and temperate zones are open, but it is clear that even those areas are still in process of renewal and refurbishing. Doesn't look like this at the moment:
This 50 year old green house has both permanent and rotating displays (fed from several other succession areas). Some of the trees are -- were -- at the roof. It is the mainstay of our 'natural' exposure when the weather is inclement, or we aren't feeling up for the hike around the miles of gardens and paths.
(Like this meadow at the edge of a Michigan wildflower planting in an open woods, which is a quarter mile walk from the road.)

The weather being definitely Fall yesterday, complete with cold wind and rain/snow showers (meaning only in the air) MIL and I went to check out the greenhouse project. There was some anxiety over what state we would find the permanent plantings.

She hates to weed or prune living things -- which is largely why her urban acre plus in the middle of Cleveland suburb is all gone to woods:
This is the front yard. When they bought the property 50 some years ago, it had one little oak tree, a couple rose bushes and two spindly cherry trees...

And this Pennsylvania farm of nearly the same age is no longer farmable, LOL.

Much cheered to discover that the $5 entrance fee has been rolled back to 1968 price of $3 (even tho MIL doesn't have to pay because she has reciprocal access due to being member of several botanic garden associations) we soon found our worries were mostly for naught. Having the extra couple months has allowed for much regrowth from the extensive pruning away from the work areas. The new ceiling includes roll back shade cloth, which effectively lowers it several feet. There will need to be a lot more regular pruning to keep the trees from interfering with the mechanicals.

It looks like the loquat trees will recover, but not fruit for a while, which is probably okay, since Michiganders don't know what they are! The Zapotas and some of the larger palms are gone completely. Not to mention several enormous Euphorbs in the desert section. They will be missed! Guess the loss is more noticeable there than in the tropical and temperate zone plantings...

The orchid display is just starting, and the chrysanthemums were in full swing:
A cascading mum (more than 4 feet of cascade!). The sign explains that staff and volunteers work all summer to train these plants into this shape. The thick woody stems make it look years old!

Ditto the bonsai mum. Apparently, this is a great plant to start with if one is interested in learning the art. You can see your results in a single summer.

Do not lose heart! This is one of their 'instant' gardens. All these mums were grown in pots in the succession houses and carefully arranged together for the show.

There were so many varieties and colors! Here's a close up:

In the temperate house there is a dripping fern wall above a sunken pool inhabited by some koi who are seriously filling it! They have grown considerably since we saw them last. These are the two biggest ones, about 27 inches!
There are 4 others almost as big in this 10x4x3 foot puddle...none the worse for all the construction over their heads.

And there is more work to do and plants to grow and regrow. We will not be bored this winter, as there will be progress to observe every week.

It is so nice to have such a garden show to visit when one's own plantings are sleeping over the winter! And even with gas prices rising, it is way cheaper than going to a movie...probably healthier, too.

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