Thursday, February 28, 2013

Horrible Books, and How Much I Hate Them

Two nights ago, I was reading a novel in bed with my handy-dandy booklight, and I put it down and went to sleep not because I was falling asleep or because I had finished the book, but because the book was annoying me to death with its banal predictability.

At that point, about 20 pages from the end, there was only one logical, ethical conclusion, and it's one that I've grown weary of:  the sudden death of a character which makes everything all right.  Blah, blah.  It can be pulled off, of course; I've seen it done well.  But I've also seen it done really poorly, and nothing in the book up to that point gave me much hope.

What's the book, of course you ask?  Never mind.  It's a British light theoretically romance novel that I picked up in the English-language section of an airport, I think Cairo but maybe Paris, and I'm not sure it's even published in the States.  Normally the Brits are quite good at light romance in a Bridget-Jones sort of way.  Many of them also involve excellent cooking.  They're a fine way of spending your last bits of foreign currency while giving you something untaxing to read on that long plane ride home.

Anyway, when I stopped in disgust I really did have only 20 pages to go, and so, last night, I went ahead and finished it.  Normally I don't finish books I dislike unless I'm being paid to read them (I write book reviews for a literary magazine), but in this case I wanted to see if I was right about the ending.

Nope.  The ending was even worse than predicted.  Instead of a character dying to make everything right, he didn't die, he didn't change, and yet we were to believe everything was all right, because, you know, that's what the author told us to believe.  Such a waste of trees.  There wasn't a likeable character in the bunch.  Most of the action happened before the book began.  The writing was meh.  The plot veered inconsistently.  And the end was garbage.  Trite, unethical, stupid garbage. 

I hate it when two characters have three chance encounters and are suddenly supposed to be violently in love.  You can pull that crap off if you're Shakespeare.  Otherwise, give us some development, please.

Everybody write this down:  you--as the writer--you are the God of your little fictional world.  You decide what happens.  If it's stupid, inconsistent, or boring, FIX IT. 

Thus endeth the lesson.  Thank you.  I'm off to write some crummy fiction of my own.  But I will edit it into something better before I foist it off on an audience.  Swear.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What Happens When 69 Churches Work As One?

It's a thankfully slow day here at Bristol Faith in Action, so I thought I'd post some data from our 2012 annual report.  Please note:  the total population of our service area is approximately 50,000.  Clients may come in every 6 months at most for financial assistance, and up to monthly for food vouchers, diapers, or personal supplies.

In 2012, we assisted 3,394 households with a total of 7,565 people.

We gave $173,755 in direct financial assistance (we pay the utility company or the landlord, not the client.)

We gave $55,400 in rent assistance, $102,224 worth of electric bills, and $5,275 toward household water.

We gave out 1,363 vouchers for the Bristol Emergency Food Pantry.  These supply clients with an average of three days' worth of food.  Many other organizations in Bristol distribute these vouchers.

We gave 554 bags of food from our small in-house pantry, to clients who had already used their monthly eligibility for the main pantry or who were otherwise unable to use it.

679 personal care kits, which include shampoo, soap, deodorant, and toothpaste.  572 packs of diapers.  454 bags of household cleaning kits.

Though we get individual donations, as well as grants from many places, including the United Way of Bristol and Speedway Children's Charities, over half of our financial assistance money comes from our member churches.

And these are our member churches:

Addilyn Memorial United Methodist.  Aldersgate United Methodist.  Anderston Street United Methodist.  Antioch Baptist.  Avoca Christian.  Beech Grove United Methodist.  Belle Meadows Baptist.  Bethel View Baptist.  Bradley Street Baptist.  Calvary Baptist.  Celebration.  Central Christian.  Central Presbyterian.  Cold Spring Presbyterian.  Covenant Fellowship.  Discovery.  East Bristol Baptist.  East End Christian.  Emmanuel Episcopal.  Euclid Avenue Baptist.  Faith Baptist.  Faith Lutheran.  Fellowship Chapel.  First Baptist.  First Christian.  First Presbyterian.  Freedom Baptist.  First United Methodist.  Full Gospel Fellowship.  Gethsemane Baptist.  Grace Point.  Heritage Baptist.  Higher Ground.  Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox.  Holston Valley Christian.  John Wesley United Methodist.  Judah Church.  Lee Street Baptist.  Liberty Baptist.  Lime Hill Baptist.  McIver Memorial Presbyterian. Meadowview Presbyterian.  New Hope Baptist.  New Grace Baptist.  Northstar Baptist.  Parkway Baptist Worship Center.  Redeemer Lutheran.  Reynolds Memorial United Methodist.  Sacred Cross Assembly of God.  Shakesville Church of Christ.  Shiloh Baptist.  Sinking Springs United Methodist.  South Bristol United Methodist.  St. Anne Catholic.  St. Luke United Methodist.  State Street United Methodist.  Sugar Grove Baptist.  The Bridge Assembly of God.  Trinity United Methodist.  Victory Baptist.  Victory Bible Fellowship.  Virginia Ave. Baptist.  Virginia Ave. United Methodist.  Walnut Grove Presbyterian.  Walnut Hill Presbyterian.  Weaver Union.  West Hills Christian.  Windsor Ave. Presbyterian.  Woodlawn Baptist.

Whew!  What a list!  I'll tell you, we couldn't even begin to agree on doctrine.  But we can all agree on caring for our neighbors.

What've you got in your neighborhood?

Sister Sarah's Excellent Adventure

My dear friend Sarah, one of my oldest and best friends, my only daughter's godmother, lives in Haiti.  She's an Episcopalian nun (yes, Episcopals have nuns, otherwise she wouldn't be one.  Dur.) and also, because her order thought it would be useful, an ordained Episcopalian priest.  She's one of the smartest people I know, and also one of the better educated, with a bachelor's degree from Yale, master's in French from Vanderbilt, and then her divinity degree (she got that in Boston, but I don't know where).  She's fluent in English (well, mostly), French, and Haitian Creole.

She's been without electricity for a month.

Nobody knows why.  That's Haiti: sometimes the electricity works, for as much as a few hours per day, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sarah lives with her fellow sisters in a rented house in a "good" section of town, as their convent near the Episcopal Cathedral in Port-au-Prince was, like the Cathedral (and the Catholic Cathedral nearby) flattened in the earthquake three years ago.  Their house has electricity perhaps more often than usual in Haiti, but it turns out this isn't very often at all.

The nuns have a small gasoline powered generator.  Because gasoline is so expensive, the only time they've used it, in the past month, has been when they've needed to run the pump that fills the water tank on their roof.  Usually, while the pump is running, Sarah dashes to her computer and sends out a few emails and Facebook messages to her family and friends.

They use the rooftop water for showers (cold, as there's no way to heat the water other than on the stove) and for washing their clothes.  They buy drinking water that has been purified.  Much of the water in Haiti isn't safe.  Even the most impoverished Haitians buy their drinking water; they risk cholera otherwise.

Haiti doesn't have regular mail service.  When I want to send Sarah a letter, I send it to a service called Agape Flights, in Florida, and they fly it to Port-au-Prince.  Someone lets the nuns know they have a letter at the airport, and one of them goes to get it.  I actually usually send Sarah emails, as they're far simpler.  When I send a package it's a little more complicated.  I weigh the package, then write a check for four dollars per pound.  I put the check in an envelope and tape it to the side of the box, then mail the whole thing to Agape.  They get it to Sarah, except that, because it's a package, it has to clear Haitian customs first.  This has been known to require bribes. 

You can imagine, then, that anything I want to send to Sarah has to be weighed against this extra four dollars per pound.  Really good coffee beans, the kind she delights in?  Absolutely worth it.  Instant chocolate pudding and Kraft mac-n-cheese, the only things she's ever asked me to send?  If you say so, girlfriend.  Canned soup?  Absolutely not.  For Christmas I sent her art supplies, as she loves drawing and painting the gorgeous Haitian landscapes. 

Sarah loves Haiti, loves it deep down in her bones.  Over and over she writes not of the deprivation and poverty, but of the incredible beauty there.  We Americans can't fathom the poverty--80% unemployment, a full 5% of the population orphaned children--but I wonder, if we were in Haiti, if that isn't all that we would see.  Sarah sees with God's eyes.  I try to be more like her.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Writing Vs. Not

Yesterday I started my new Egypt novel.  (It doesn't have a name.  I usually go way down the road toward actual publication before my books get titles.  I send manuscripts to my editors with titles like, "Kim's New Book."  I really do.  And also, I won't tell you more details about the novel except that it's an Egypt novel.  Talking about my stories before I've fully written them messes me up.)

ANYWAY.  It's gonna be that kind of a day.  Yesterday I started my new novel, and today I need to change everything.  Some of the dialogue is okay, but the setting, I think, needs to be different.  I need a real fictional character to bounce my main character off of, not just a little cardboard cutout sitting in a chair.  (He needs a NAME, for one thing--but he also needs a personality.)  My main character needs more definition.  What sort of person is he really?  That's important, because it's going to be the driving force in the book.  Like many of my novels, I'm going to take something real that happened, insert a fictional character, and go from there.  I know the ending.  I'm really happy with the ending.  The trick will be to get there in a way that carries some emotional heft.  Because if you don't resonate with the ending, you're gonna throw the book across the room.  At least, that's what I usually do.

So.  Sounds like I need to go back to work, doesn't it?  After all, as Mark Twain famously said (or maybe not, my daughter told me after trying to look it up), "Ninety percent of writing is the application of the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."

But that does mean ten percent is not.  Some days, I'm better off letting the story sit in its own juices for awhile.  For example, this opening scene I did yesterday--it's clearly where the book should begin.  The setting isn't right, but the scene, the setup, is excellent.  But I do need to figure out my main character, and I also need that second character--the cardboard one--to be a reflection, in some ways, of another of the main characters we're going to meet later on.  I need my main character to want to emulate the second character--this will set up a future conflict. 

But--the main character that comes later is a Real Historical Figure.  So I've got to get him right; I can't make him something he obviously was not. 

See the issues?  That's a lot for four pages of manuscript.  On the other hand, it took the four pages of manuscript to get this sort of analysis going in my head.  If it all ends up in the trash it won't have been wasted.  I've spent a solid hour this morning in targeted research, figuring out some very specific things, and now, I really think the best thing will be to settle in with my more general research for the rest of the morning.  Not because I'm shirking, but because sometimes the smartest way to write a novel is not to write at all.

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Did I Stop Being Catholic?

When I was in Ocala, I went out to dinner with some new friends I like very much.  Conversation flowed easily--my trouble is rarely that I talk too little--and we all had quite a bit in common.  One woman and I compared our experiences attending Catholic high schools.  Then she leaned across the table and said, easily and without condemnation, "So.  When did you stop being Catholic?"

There's a question I'd never been asked before.  "I didn't," I said.  "I'm still Catholic.  I always have been."

She was cool with that, but it got me thinking.  I'm probably not the most orthodox Catholic, but I'm far from the least.  I'm not closeted about my faith; in fact, since I live in the Southern Baptist Bible belt, I probably talk about it far more than I did when I lived in a predominantly Catholic midwestern town.  (Yes, we Catholics do consider ourselves Christians.   We do believe Christ died for our sins.  No, we don't worship Mary.  We really don't.  I don't know where y'all got that idea.)

Everything you need to believe as a Catholic is summed up in the Nicene Creed, here.  It's a lovely profession of Faith we recite every week at Mass.  I wouldn't call Catholic social teachings optional, but I would call them of lesser importantance.  After all, while the Pope speaks infallibly on matters of Catholic doctrine (on doctrine only--he doesn't predict the weather.  I don't know where y'all got that idea, either.) the last time he did so was 1968.  Popes have come and Popes have gone, and they've written and said a lot of stuff, most of it prayerful and much of it interesting, but none of it infallible since the year after I was born.  I figure, if the Pope doesn't have to be infallible, neither do I.  It's such a relief.

That said, I believe that while the Vatican seems to be a hot mess just now, the Pope emeritus and most priests are truly good men.

I abhor the coverup of pedophile priests with all my heart.  I grieve for the people who were hurt by them.

I love Christ's presence in the Eucharist.  It floors me.  I love the Eucharist as the center of my faith.  I love going to Mass. 

I'm against abortion and the death penalty.  I support the use of most contraceptives.  I believe gays and nongays should have equal civil rights, including civil marriage.   I don't really have a dog in the fight, but the idea of a married lesbian priest consecrating Eucharist doesn't bother me at all.

I believe Jesus meant it when he said that the two greatest commandments were loving God and loving each other.  I believe he also meant it when he suggested that only those without sin should start chucking stones.  I believe Jesus probably does not hate all the same people I do, and I believe I've got enough work to do on my own self that I don't have extra energy to devote to judging everyone else (though of course, sometimes I still do.  I'm working on it.)

I believe in social justice.  I've been known to get a little carried away talking about poverty issues, but then, I've also gotten carried away talking about the history of refrigerators, so maybe that's not saying much.  When you look around the developing world, some really amazing social ministries come from the Catholic Church.  I'm proud to be a tiny part of that.

I also love the community of my faith.  Yesterday at Mass, we had a new cantor, a young woman with a clear true beautiful voice.  It took me a moment to realize she was one of my daughter's classmates.  I've known her since kindergarten.  Meanwhile, the two tween sisters in the pew in front of me kept poking each other, irritably, until I ready to whap them upside the head on my own.  But at the sign of peace, they pushed past their mother and went out of the pew and across the aisle to shake hands with Mr. Carrera, who's in his 90s and wheelchair bound.  They offered him their left hands, knowing that his right hand doesn't work well anymore, and he took their hands and raised them to his lips, and that was grace enough for the rest of my day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Most people don't understand.  "So you're going down to Florida for some big competition?"
"I'll compete a little, yes," I say.  "But just to test what I've learned. Mostly I'm going down for lessons."
This doesn't make sense.  "What's it called, the show you're going to?"
"I'm going to the farm where my friend is staying.  I'm taking lessons."
"So--it's some big thing?  Lots of people there?"
"Quite a few people stay at the farm."
Lessons.  I'm. Taking. Lessons.  Riding. Lessons.

Really, the only people that get it are fellow riders.  I count many riders among my good friends, but most of them don't live anywhere near me.  Among my neighbors and family, the only people who actually get it are my aunt and uncle, because--wait for it--they ride horses, too.

"So, you're going down to ride in a clinic with Angelica?" my uncle said, a couple of years ago.  He rides hunters, not eventers, but he likes eventing and follows it.  As I said before, Angelica is a Big Name in Eventing.

"Ah, no," I said.  "She just invited me down to take some lessons."

He snorted, because he was impressed.  As he should have been.  Angelica gets the same 24 hours in a day as the rest of us, and if she declared herself open to all students, she'd be swamped.  She's invitation-only.  "How'd you pull that off?" my uncle asked.

"Who knows?  She likes me."  We're friends, oddly enough.  I sometimes refer to myself as Angelica's Token Dilletante, her only student who has absolutely neither the interest nor the ambition to ever ride at the Olympic games.  (Never mind the talent, natch.)

This year was my fifth trip to Ocala.   I actually keep my horses with Betty's horses on a farm next to the farm where Angelica stays: we can ride back and forth.  I take a lesson every day, from either Betty or Angelica, as their schedules dictate.  I learn a ton.  Then I go back to my little corner of upper east Tennessee, where I'm the most advanced eventer in town, and I try like heck to remember everything they taught me.

Why lessons?  I already know how to sit on a horse.  I will, however, never stop learning how to ride.  Every horse is different.  This year, for the first time, I had my new mare, Sarah, instead of Gully, my beloved longtime partner in crime.  I knew Gully so well.  I still miss riding him so much.  (He's got a chronic lameness I can't fix.  He lives on our farm and I ride him at the walk sometimes, but we won't compete again.)  I've had Sarah since August, and while I enjoy her extremely, it was only in my second week at Ocala that I finally felt we were on our way to a place where we had the same goal and the same idea of how to reach it. 

It was the most fabulous feeling in the world. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesdays: The Day Jesus Whaps Me Upside the Head.

If my happy little posts about taking my horsie down South to play with my friends for a few weeks haven't tipped you off, I live a financially secure life.  Lots of safety nets.  I make choices, sure, but they're along the lines of would-I-rather-drive-this-unsexy-but-reliable-car-another-few-years-so-I-can-afford-a-new-horse type, not, would-I-rather-feed-my-children-today-or-tomorrow.  Believe me, I know the difference.  I know it in my head, and I know it in my heart.  It's part of the reason that I park my butt at Faith in Action each Wednesday, rather than writing them a check and pretending I understand the issues in our community and in the world.

Today was a killer.  I still don't know why.  Today we had people whose safety nets disappeared when they made one bad choice a decade ago.  One bad choice.  Ever made one?  Yeah, me too.  How about your children?  Yeah.  Mine too. 

Today we had a person who'd quit her job so that she could stay home with her elderly, dying parent until he died.  Hospice stops by a few times a week.  Parent can not be left alone.  Client has worked hard her whole life at a job that never paid enough for her to save much.  Right now, if her parent lives longer than expected, she'll be evicted.  Would you want to pray for your parent's death for financial reasons?

Then we had a client who started to cry in relief when I told her that we had tampons to give her.

Ponder that.  Go ahead.  Ever been unable to buy a tampon when you needed one?  Me neither.   You can't get them with food stamps, either.

Girlfriends, if you're reading this, do me a favor.  Next time you buy feminine hygeine supplies, buy twice what you would normally get.  Drop the rest wherever you drop food for the food pantry, or what have you.  Or give them to me at book club.  Or find the Faith in Action equivalent near you.  It's important.

Post-menopausal women:  adult diapers.  Chew on that.

Joy, joy, joy.

Eight years ago, I fell into a bout of major depression.  I fell to pieces.  For awhile my family's world shrank as they huddled around me, keeping track of all the pieces, keeping me safe in the cocoon of their love.

My children were frightened.

Before that time, I couldn't have articulated any sort of life philosophy.  Afterward I began to.   Before my depression I tried very hard to keep my life, and my family's lives, on a sort of stable, even keel.  It was exhausting but I felt I had to do it.  Afterward I saw that we live in worlds which are constantly in motion.  It seemed to me that the space I lived in could either contract or expand.

It contracted when I fell apart.  It had to.  But it didn't have to stay that way.

So we went to the most remote part of Costa Rica, and we tramped through virgin rain forest there.  We saw snakes and crabs and lizards; a four-foot long iguana swam in the pool.  We woke to the call of a toucan that liked to sit on our cabin roof.  We ate things we'd never considered edible before.  Monkeys threw sticks at us.  We kayaked through mangroves.  We went to Easter Mass in a church where no one else spoke English, and my daughter's blond hair stood out like the sun.

And we felt better.

Little by little my husband and I took steps to expand our world, not with duties, but with joy.  We both see our work--he's a surgeon--as vocation, and know we are lucky in that.   We try to listen and do what we feel called to do.  But we also make room for joy.

This is a roundabout way of explaining why I don't feel guilty that I just spent two weeks riding my horse down in Florida.

A lot of mothers wouldn't do it.  A lot of my friends think (though they are too polite to say) that I'm ridiculously self-indulgent, and besides, what's with me and the horse anyhow, competing and going off for training, when I have children?  Everyone knows that adults are supposed to be wound up in their children's activities, not their own.  We're supposed to be enmeshed.  Sacrificial.  Aren't we?

No.  I stopped that when I climbed out of the hole I was in.   Joy, joy, joy.  The opposite of depression.  That's what we are called to.  Not happiness.  Joy.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2 1/2 times less popular than sock knitting! (My small beloved sport.)

American Karen O'Connor competing at the Olympics in London.  Eventing's actually really big there.

 I'd like to write some posts about my time in Ocala, but I've realized that the first thing I need to write about is my sport itself.  This is because, despite its noble history, an awful lot of people have never heard of it.  On the flight from Atlanta to Gainesville, I heard a woman in the seat behind me talking about going down to Ocala to ride.  When we landed, I asked her what sort of riding she did (there are all sorts of horse sports in Ocala).  She shrugged, almost apologetically, and said, "I'm an eventer."

I said. "So am I!"

The woman--a complete stranger to me--smiled.  "Oh," she said, "I'm Bill Hoos's daughter."

I said, "I saw him teach a pony club clinic once."  We exchanged names, shook hands, and two weeks later she beat me in the Novice Horse division at Rocking Horse Horse Trials. 

But can you see the shift?  The conversation went from, I bet you never heard of what I do, to I expect you'll know my father, a trainer of moderate reknown.  After all, there are so few of us.

At Rocking Horse, I knew the people whose trailers were parked to the left, the right, and in front of mine.  Twice while in Florida, I ran into people to whom I could say, "Oh, yes, I remember meeting you in London."  While watching eventing at the Olympic Games.  Where there were actually very few Americans.

And I'm nobody in this sport.  I'm a cheerful amateur who competes a limited schedule.  It's true that my two trainers, with whom I ride in Ocala, and who I will refer to in this blog as Angelica and Betty, because those pseudonyms amuse the living snot out of me, are rather big deals.  They've ridden at the international level; they've been part of the sport for decades.  If I gave their real names, any eventer would recognize them.

But it's such a small sport really.  One of the problems with horse sports in the United States is that they're extremely subdivided.  First you've got English and Western--and Western, what with pleasure, halter, reining, roping, penning, etc., is huge.  Then for English you've got Hunt Seat and Saddle Seat, more or less.  Take Hunt Seat and peel off the massive hunter division--probably the single biggest form of horse showing in the country--and you're left with the three Olympic disciplines, pure showjumping, pure dressage, and eventing, a sort of triathlon for horses.  (I'm not even touching upon the other world championship sports of endurance, carriage driving, and vaulting, nor paradressage, polo, foxhunting--you get the picture.)  As I understand it, synchronized swimming is simply synchronized swimming.  Judo is judo.  'Equestrian sports' is a big umbrella.

Still, there are over twelve thousand registered eventers in the United States.  Sounds like a lot--right?

I also knit.  I knit pretty compulsively, and I study knitting, and I read about it.  A famous knitting blogger (no, I'm not making that up) holds a Sock Summit every two years, in Portland, Oregon.  It's a weekend dedicated to classes, lectures, and information about knitting socks.  Only socks.

Online signups for the inaugural Sock Summit began on a particular day at a particular time.  Fifteen minutes later, the mainframe Sock Summit computer crashed, because thirty thousand knitters were logging on at once.  Yes, that's right.  Thirty thousand people were fighting to be allowed to fly to Oregon to learn more about knitting socks, all at the same time, while twelve thousand people will event in the United States sometime this year. 

We are small, but we are mighty.  More on that to come.

Monday, February 18, 2013


1.  The first thing my husband said when we got back from the airport last night, perilously close to midnight, was, "I really did water the plants when you were gone."  He said it while applying emergency resuscitation to all three of our houseplants, two impatiens my daughter got from the kindergarten class at her school when she graduated from eighth grade, and a peace lily I took home from a funeral years ago.

2.  I didn't think you could kill peace lilies, but it appears I may be wrong.

3.  I was gone for a whopping 2 weeks, to sunny Ocala, Florida, with my horse.  My daughter joined me for the last 5 days; my son and husband for the last three.  My husband and son spent two of those days at an event watching me and my daughter ride. 

4.  This more than makes up for their killing the houseplants.  It also makes up for the Christmas tree that's still on the front porch and for any and all sundry messes I may or may not have found in the house (especially in the bathrooms, laundry room, and my office) this morning.

5.  I discovered a camel from one of our nativity sets on the floor near the back door.  Can anyone explain that?

6.  My editor had promised me her notes on my new novel by the start of February, which meant I was supposed to have had a working vacation down in Ocala and written for several hours a day.

7.  She didn't, and neither did I.

8.  I just sorted through 2 weeks' worth of mail.  None of it was actually interesting. 

9.  Once I finish this blog, I should sit down to my manuscript for awhile, and then pay the bills from the mail pile.

10.  Instead, I think I'll chuck the peace lily and go back to bed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Thing of Beauty

I'm sure there's a way to rotate this photo.  I don't know what it is.  Just tilt your head, that'll be easiest.
So, I woke up today in a crummy mood, for no reason whatsoever except possibly that it is still winter and the high for today is 22 degrees.  And we got 10 inches of rain in January (why yes, that is a new record!) and my fields are now swamps with a thin coating of frozen muck on top.  Which doesn't make me any different from my neighbors, but it's something to complain about.

Not that I seem to need help finding things to complain about.

"I want to go to the yarn store," I told my daughter before she left for school.
"Mom, don't do that," she said.  "Not in the mood you're in."
"I just want to touch the yarn," I said.  "Not buy it."
She said, "Touch the yarn you already have."

So, in lieu of going to the yarn store (as my daughter clearly knows, for me, "just touching" the yarn is like an alcoholic taking "just one sip" of whiskey) I'm going to find joy in delighting all of you, by the photo, above, with the most beautiful thing I have ever created (barring, of course, my children, and possibly my forthcoming novel).

The pattern is called Sonneblume, and the yarn is Knitting Notions Classic Merino Lace, for those of you who care about that sort of thing.  It was the August kit for Knitspot's Fall in Full Color 2012 club.  I joined the club because I wanted to stretch myself a bit--I knit a lot of plain socks, which are excellent, but socks are sort of like blog posts--short, easy, and if you screw them up nobody really cares.  Sometimes it's time to go for the knitting equivalent of a novel instead.  Sonneblume had eight pages of lace charts, a provisional cast-on, and this dicey little bit at the beginning that I had to rip out and reattempt three times.  By the end I had something like 800 stitches on my needles; a single row took an entire episode of Downton Abbey.

When it was done, I blocked it on our spare room bed:

I wish I'd blocked it a little pointier, but I can always redo that later if I want to.

My husband came in to have a look.
"Isn't it gorgeous?" I said.
"Um, very nice," he said.  "It's.  You know.  Kind of old-fashioned."
[Translation #1: Great-grandma would have loved it!]
[Translation #2: Sexy it ain't.]
(Though our daughter pointed out that if I were to drape only the shawl over my otherwise nekkid self, he might feel differently.)

Truth is, he's right--it is old-fashioned.  I have several knit shawls, and while I love to carry one in summer when I'm wearing a little dress to church or into an air-conditioned restaurant, I otherwise don't wear them often.  They clash with my standard uniform of t-shirts and jeans.  But I didn't make the shawl to wear it.  I made it because it was challenging, and because it was beautiful, and because those two things were reason enough.

Wow.  Just writing about the shawl made me feel better.  Maybe I don't need the yarn shop after all.

Again, for full appreciation:

And thank you.