Monday, May 30, 2005

Since today is Memorial Day,

I thought I'd share this photo of my Dad. It was taken while he was serving in the Pacific during World War II. My Dad never made much rank, but he was proud of his service in the Army. I can't remember what outfit he was in--he and his cousin were in the same group stationed out of New Mexico, I think. It was made up mostly of kids from Texas and Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, like so many others, Dad carried the scars of fighting in a war with him for the rest of his life. He had polio as a child which weakened his legs. He still went into the service, but long periods in cramped quarters damaged his legs further. I can't remember a time when he wasn't hurting or having trouble walking, but it never stopped him. He worked both our farm and my grandpa's and rarely missed a day, even when he had to drag himself out of bed before dawn every day to do it. He also worked other jobs at times, including working at the bank and for the County Election Board--whatever it took to take care of his family.

He never talked about the war much; apparently my mom didn't want him to, and I'm sure there were many things he wanted to forget. My cousins told me most of the little I know. I remember him showing me a picture in a book that he said was him on the beach in Hawaii, but I never knew if he was telling the truth or teasing me.

Anyway, I love this picture of him. My mom probably hated it, but she tended to be a fun-sucker, if you know what I mean. It's hard for me to think of my dad, who was 60 when he died (I had just turned 17), as being this young and, well, just being a guy.

So, here's my dad, hopefully with a hot date:

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When I was little, we called Memorial Day "Decoration Day." My grandma (my dad's mother) and I would cut fresh cedar branches with little blue berries on them and put them with artificial flowers bought at the Kress Store in Guthrie and tie them up with ribbon. These were our flowers for the graves. I thought it was fun--I didn't realize until I was grown that we made them because we couldn't afford anything more. Even today, when I put flowers on graves, I tend to make my own rather than buy something.

My aunt would take us to all the cemeteries--two in Meridian and one in Luther. When we went to Luther, we would always stop at my great-aunt's house. She lived outside town, and her front yard had these wonderful shade trees. She would make us tea and we would sit outside under those trees and visit for hours.

I haven't gone to the cemeteries in a while. I used to go every year, but it got to the point where one year I went to six cemeteries in Kingfisher, Luther, Perkins, Guthrie, and Meridian (and that was without going to the ones in Arkansas), and it was just too depressing. So I remember my family and friends in my head and my heart and tell myself that they're with me all the time and that they don't care if they have flowers or not.

During the Vietnam War, because of the POW/MIAs, many people wore bracelets to remember these soldiers. They were silver medal, they turned your arm green, and each one had the name and date of capture on them, and you were supposed to wear them until your soldier came home. I wore one for several years. Now that I'm an adult, I can't believe that my Mom would allow me to wear such a thing--she didn't like anything controversial that would draw attention to oneself. I now realize that my Dad probably kept her from making me take it off. I think he probably believed that wars were sometimes necessary but not always the right thing to do, and I bet he thought that this was a way to both honor our troops and protest what the government was doing overseas. I think he would think the same thing about Iraq and Afghanistan today.

By the way, I saw my soldier walk off a plane when the war ended. Many bracelet-wearers weren't that lucky, and some are still waiting for their soldier's return.

I have two links for today. The first doesn't need any explanation. Remember.

One of my favorite writers on the internets is William Rivers Pitt. Here is an exerpt from something he wrote for Memorial Day:

What do you love? What do you fight for? What would you die for?

This is Memorial Day Weekend. Better men than I am or ever will be marched off to fight and die for the best ideals this nation has to offer. This weekend, millions of assholes will stuff themselves into cars and ram down Routh 3 to the Sagamore Bridge for a hoped-for weekend of sunshine on cold Cape Cod beaches. Why? Because they got an extra day off. Sure, they'll maybe get choked up during the ballgame when the extra-special 'God Bless America' gets sung, but hell, Normandy was more than 60 years ago, and sure, Dad fought in Vietnam though he doesn't like to talk about it, and sure, the sister-in-law of the neighbors who moved last year might have had a son who was supposed to get shipped off to Iraq...what was his name?

Do we even remember what we stand for anymore?

When was it that we were last a people governed by something besides ease, or the desire for ease; money, or the desire for money; fear, or the desire to kill what it is we fear? Have we ever been anything other than people motivated by base instincts? Of course. Can we be more than that? Of course.

What do you love? What do you fight for? What would you die for?

Those questions need to be asked and answered, and quickly.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wow, time flies . . .

Actually, it both flies and drags. This week passed faster than I thought it would, but at times I still thought it would never end. I guess I was just ready for another long weekend.

After three days of record-breaking heat, we've cooled down into the 60s and 70s again and have had some much-needed rain. I've had the windows open the last couple of days, and it's been wonderful. The birds are really enjoying the cool weather--the birdfeeder had a visit from a very vocal Bluejay this morning. I got a really good look at him, too, but he flew off before I could grab the camera. Hopefully he'll be back soon. I'm not getting very many birds, but the ones I've seen have been mostly cardinals and bluejays, so I guess they may be scaring the other birds away.

I bought a few tomato and yellow pepper plants this week. One of the tomato plants is about two feet tall, already caged and bearing blooms and fruit. The other two are grape tomato plants and are about 10 inches high. I potted them this morning. The pepper plants will have to wait until Tuesday when it's payday. Everything else looks pretty good. I think I may have lost one of my gerber daisies, though--I forgot that the planter didn't have any drainage holes, and it was drowning. I've cut it back and have poked holes in the bottom of the planter, and hopefully it will come back. My little eggplant has doubled in size this week. I can't wait to see how it does.

As for knitting, I'm past the heel and on to the leg of my sock. I need to get my shawl out and work on it for a while--I've neglected it lately. I want to try and finish the fiber on my spindle this weekend. I need to start spinning again--I miss it!

I've been reading the Saturday Morning Gardening Blog at Daily Kos this spring. Check it out--there are lots of beautiful photos from readers' gardens. There's a new diary every Saturday morning.

I've been trying lots of new wines lately. Of course, this results in trips to the liquor store where I come out with a box full of bottles and a much lighter wallet. Still, I think it's probably more healthy than just drinking sodas, right? I'm just finishing up a bottle of Tidal School Raspberry White Zinfandel. This is an Oklahoma vineyard located in Drumwright, and this is a great wine. It's not too sweet and not too dry, great for warm weather days. Another wine I think I'll like this summer is the Gallo Cafe Chardonnay. Again, not too sweet or dry, low alcohol content--I think it's a really good table wine, and inexpensive as well.

Addendum: As much as I like the Gallo wine, there is a serious problem with their synthetic corks. I've opened two bottles of this and broken two corkscrews in the process, one of them a metal one! I've e-mailed them to let them know what happened. The corks are extremely hard, and one of them almost felt like it was glued into the bottle. I may not be buying any more of this after all.

Friday, May 20, 2005

More garden photos!

Today I potted up the rest of the plants I bought yesterday. I had to make a quick run to the garden store, but I was smart this time and went at 8 am instead of 11 when it was so hot. It was a little better but not much. By the time I got home I was exhausted--AGAIN.

So, here's more pictures:

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Yes, I bought a few more plants--shoot me! The little plant in a pot all by itself is an eggplant, 'Ichiban.' It's supposed to grow well in a container--we'll see. I need to do some research on what I need to do with it. The trellised vine is Mandevilla 'Alice du Pont,' and it is absolutely gorgeous. Here's a closeup of the flowers:

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If I still have the desire, I may go back next week and get a few herbs and maybe a couple of tomato plants. My porch only gets about five hours of full sun a day--I'm not sure that tomatoes will do very well. I also need to get a few yellow or orange plants. I have a tendency to buy red and white, although I did get some purple and blue, but I need some yellow to make these pots "pop." I can tell the difference in the one photo with some yellow in it--it looks a lot better, I think. But that can wait until next weekend when it's a little cooler.

My neighbor David drove up as I was working outside. He was excited about the plants. He says gardening's "good for the soul." All I know is I'm tired, a little sunburnt, and a lot poorer, but really happy to be able to play in the dirt and watch things grow. I'd forgotten how good it feels to get pick out plants and get my hands dirty. There's a great sense of accomplishment in growing things.

As for knitting, I am working on another sock:

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This is Fortissima Colori #9069 and is my first attempt at using self-striping yarn. I LIKE IT! The toe is a little weird--because I'm doing a toe-up pattern, one side is black and one is blue. I also forgot to tighten the stitches after I took them off the provisional cast on, so there's one row on the blue side that's all wonky. I may be able to fix it, but if I can't, that's the back side!

After at least six attempts that I had to frog, I've finally made it to Row 37 of the Leaf Lace Shawl. I don't have any photos of it, because I need to pin it down to take a semi-decent picture. This is another first for me--knitting lace. I love the Shimmer yarn, and it will be a beautiful shawl if I ever get it done! It takes a lot of concentration for me to follow the pattern, but so far, so good!

Anyway, these two days off work have been fun--can't wait for next week's three-day vacation! WHOOO-HOOO!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

In honor of my mother,

who died six years ago today, Thursday was gardening day.

(Quick story about this photo--this is my mother's college freshman yearbook picture. She was the only one in the 1938 College of the Ozarks yearbook who had her photo taken this way. The reason why--she had been kicked in the right side of her face by the family mule! Her face was so bruised they couldn't take the photo any other way. I think it's an absolutely beautiful picture, but a funny story.)

My Mom was a gardening whiz. She could make anything grow. Every year I would have to haul her to every nursery and garden store we could find just so she could find the perfect tomato plants. She also grew everything else you could think of--okra and corn and peppers and potatoes and onions, and on and on. She loved her red geraniums, and we always had to buy several of those for the planters she had on her front porch. She also loved to can, so we always made trips to the orchard to buy apples and peaches and all kids of things so she could make jelly or preserves. She had a real talent for that kind of thing. I inherited her green thumb to a point, but I've never had a vegetable garden of my own. I guess I'm just too lazy--and I hate the heat. But she loved it--couldn't wait until spring every year. I miss those trips. Having a "garden" of my own reminds me of those times.

I haven't had any outside flowers in several years, and I couldn't stand it any more. Every time I drive by a garden center or flower stand, they call to me--"Don't you want me? Aren't I beautiful? I'm not much trouble, honest!" My hands have been itching for days to get dirty, so today I went shopping.

Now, in my world, there is a formula to shopping for summer flowers. One MUST have the red geraniums--this should be a standard for any garden. Likewise with red and white petunias, and you get extra points if you can find the red-and-white striped or red with white edging (you must look for these early in the planting season, because there are never enough and they sell out very quickly). You must also have some of one or all of the "mosses"--Spanish moss, rose moss, portulaca, whatever you want to call it. There are several different types that I heap into the "moss" category, but you must have some in your garden.

After this--it's a free-for-all.

I guess it's still early in the season, because I found a lot of things that I absolutely love that I couldn't live without. One plant here, half a dozen there, and I had a car full of goodies.

Then you have to come home and unload it all--and in my case, haul it up a flight of stairs.

Obviously, I'm too old for such exertion. And with the warm temps and the high humidity, by noon it was unbearable. After I collapsed on the bed under the ceiling fan to cool off and catch my breath, I did what any savvy apartment dweller would do--I brought everything inside and proceeded to plant my flowers under the air conditioning. Yes, it makes a mess, but what are vacuum cleaners for?

Here are some very quick shots of the results:

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There is one last rule for gardening at Casa Katya--one must always buy too much. I still have to find a home for this:

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However, I'm not doing anything more today. Right now I plan on having a very cold, refreshing shower, and then taking a nap. I'm very happy, but very tired.

To paraphrase our Fearless Leader, "Gardening is Hard Work."

(Oh yeah, and I got my hair chopped off. Hard Work, I tell you . . . .)

And Mom, I'm still trying to decide if I should buy some tomato plants--and maybe some herbs--and I really didn't get a good look at all the plants at that last place . . . .

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Koigu socks are finished--

but I haven't had a chance to take a picture of them. I didn't quite make my end-of-April deadline, but May 1st isn't bad. I think I'll call them my April-May socks.

I've started working on a Fiber Trends shawl in KnitPicks' new Shimmer (80% alpaca and 20% silk), in beautiful Grape Hyacinth, but yesterday I ripped it out at least six times. I keep getting lost or dropping a stitch, and then I can't figure out where I am. I plan on starting again sometime later this week, and hopefully it will be better. I love the yarn--it would be a shame not to be able to make something really beautiful with it.

I have a subscription to Netflix. About once a week I get three movies of my choice. I usually watch them over the weekend while I'm knitting. Here's this week's reviews, including the Netflix descriptions (I feel like Roger Ebert!):

1) Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)--In Jean-Luc Godard's groundbreaking work that ushered in the French New Wave movement, young thug Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) steals a car and shoots a policeman pursuing him. He turns to his American girlfriend and aspiring journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg) for help, and the two lovers begin a life evading capture as they steal cars to raise money for an escape to Italy. As the law closes in, their bold behavior and desperation grows.

Usually I like most French films, but I just could not get involved in this movie. Maybe it was because it jumped around a lot, I don't know. It also could be because the characters weren't very likeable. Anyway, I can now say I've seen a classic, but I don't recommend it. Maggie gave it a big yawn.

2) The Dish (2000)--July 1969. Neil Armstrong is about to walk on the moon, and everyone's eyes are riveted to their TV screens. In Parkes, Australia, a radio dish antenna is slated to receive Apollo 11's video feed and send that historic sight out to the world…that is, if the Australian staff (including pipe-smoking, absent-minded scientist Sam Neill) and their NASA supervisor (the tense, by-the-book Patrick Warburton) don't make any mistakes!

I really liked this movie. I love Sam Neill, and the scenes of Australia were so beautiful it made me want to catch the next flight out. This is a true story, and there are many secondary characters that are quite good. Much of the musical score is classic 60s music, which is an added plus. This one gets an enthusiastic two butt wags from Maggie.

3) The Magdalene Sisters (2002)--This unflinching drama charts several years in the young lives of four "fallen women" who were rejected by their families and abandoned to the mercy of the Catholic Church in 1960s Ireland. While women's liberation sweeps the globe, these women are stripped of their liberty and dignity and condemned to indefinite servitude in The Magdalene Laundries, so that they may atone for their "sins."

When this movie was finished, I didn't know whether to throw up or throw something heavy at the TV. The physical, sexual, and emotional abuse these young women endured at the hands of "religious" nuns and priests is overwhelming. It is approximated that over 30,000 girls were imprisoned in these asylums until they were closed in 1997--WTF!!! It is unbelievable to me to think that, in this day and age, the world still allows girls and women to be denigrated and abused in this fashion, and the Catholic Church takes a slap on the wrist and goes right on. The frightening thing is that there are many people in this country right now who probably think that places like these would be ideal to punish "sinners." I recommend this movie highly, but don't expect to enjoy it. It's a real eyeopener. (Maggie didn't watch this one--not appropriate for young eyes.)

There will be more fiber content coming soon--I promise!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I have a new neighbor . . . .

I bought Maggie a birdfeeder a little over a week ago. I put it up near the window where she likes to look out, thinking that this would be entertaining for her. I've been afraid that we might not have much luck because of the cats that live around my building, but look who showed up last night and again this morning:

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Isn't he gorgeous? It's hard to get a good shot through the windowscreen, but I thought this one was pretty good. Now, if he'll just bring his friends with him next time! I plan to put some flowers out on the walkway--maybe that will attract more birdies for us to see.