Wednesday, January 31, 2007

missing you...

Through a series of various events, I got in touch with a person from my past yesterday. Memories upon memories came flooding back from college, where I had the pleasure of knowing said person as well as a number of other great people through Riverview Church. As we caught up, I heard all the news about the group from back then, where they are now, who has how many kids, where everyone lives, all that jazz. And, man oh man, the more I thought about it, the more I realized -- I miss those guys (as a gender-neutral term)!

The last time I saw them was in August of 2000. I attended my friend Sara's wedding, and just about everyone with whom I'd grown close in the final year and a half of college was there. The next day I packed up my car and moved to Pittsburgh. And...that was it. Some would say we all "fell out of touch," and to some extent that's true, but there is usually a reason for falling, and in this case, I think it had at least something to do with my laziness and my incapacity to appreciate the value of others and my extremely focused view on myself and all the new, exciting things in my life as I started graduate school and worked myself into the new city. I can't say those dear friends didn't try to get my attention; I can say that I did a really bad job of letting them know I appreciated it, and I probably truly did not appreciate it as much as I really should have. The old song lines come to mind: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Over the course of the past year or so, I've been increasingly convicted that I need to invest time and serious effort in building and maintaining friendships. I've been quite ungood at this for a long time, and it's taking me a while to become at all willing to actually do this. However, by making a conscious effort to call or email or have dinner with various friends old and new, I've been amazed at how much there is to know about them! In addition, I've been surprised by how happy most of them were to hear from me or to spend an afternoon together; I'm not saying I was surprised that they enjoyed being with me - I don't have that low of self-esteem (and, I also am not as conceited as that statement may sound) - but I guess I hadn't realized just how important communicating, "I pick you to spend time with!" is to certain folks. I often assume it's only me who feels this way! :)

So, today a few questions come to my mind...
  • Is it ever too late to re-start a friendship? It feels exceedingly weird and semi-embarrassing to type up an email and say, "Er...hi...I know I have totally ignored you for the past four years,'s are you?" Is it sometimes better to just say, "Ah well, I guess that's over?"
  • Should one put a limit on how large his/her circle of friends becomes? I mean, if you have 30 friends, and you call or spend time with one of them every day, you still only have contact with them once a month! And what if that number grows to...365? You'd either have to host very large parties, participate in conference calls, or lose your career and start being a professional friend!
  • In light of that last question, let's assume a person chooses to limit the number of friends he/she actively pursues. Then, how does one decide which individuals to "keep around" and which ones to leave by the way-side? Is there any logic to this, or is it completely emotional? For example, I can immediately make a mental list of the top six people I'd like to keep in my "friends group," and three of them are because I've known them a long time, two are because how deeply well I am known by them, and the other is solely because I am highly attracted to the particular individual! Are those legitimate reasons? What about the value of the friend who has wise advice for me or who helps me stay the course when work gets annoying or who always has the addresses of the people I can't seem to keep track of?
I sure don't know. But I'm feeling rather nostalgic right now and unusually lonesome! The farewell we'd always toss around with the Riverview folks was "If I don't see you soon, I'll eventually see you in heaven," but that really doesn't seem good enough right now.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Rack another point up there for "unique experience in my life!" I love to collect experiences, and thus far the collection holds things like playing an alpenhorn, having my hand not-cut-off in a magic show, and being a movie extra. This weekend I added modeling to the list.

To raise awareness about the upcoming Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, the organizers put together a fashion show to highlight a number of the designers and vendors who will be represented at the Festival. When I heard the call for volunteers to "model" the garments to be displayed, I stepped up. What I didn't know was that in addition to wearing some sweet fibers (a silk and mohair twin set; a wool and angora sweater -- the softest thing EVER!) during a show emceed by a former Pittsburgh Steeler, I'd get the chance to wear some garments that were more art than clothing.

A nice man from Ohio, T.J. Horst is a high school art teacher and was inspired by felting in a course during his masters work. He quickly adapted, modified, and transformed the techniques he was introduced to in the classroom into his own style of fusing wool together to form garments! He now has a line of women's fashion and has pieces on display at various museums. He and his work were featured during the second half of the fashion show, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate - and that meant I got to wear some pieces that Horst himself stated he would never sell. I had never really thought about clothing in that way - as purely a work of art.

Most of the pieces Horst brought along (in the trunk of his Chevy Cavalier, incidentally) would fit just about anyone - they tie on, and the felt flexes to adjust to the wearer's body for the most part. I wore I think three pieces. The person taking photos for me didn't really get many of me, but nevertheless, browse...I'll also make a social comment about models in general. You know the stereotype of female runway models - tall, anorexic, gaunt. I thought about this while dressing and undressing with the two actual models that Horst brought along (one is his wife!). These ladies were as tall as me but probably weighed about 50 pounds less and worse about 10 pants sizes smaller (woah...that makes me feel really fat, which I'm not!). But as I thought about it, I realized that I could never look like them, unless someone went in and restructured all of my bones, replaced my entire pelvis, and shrunk my organs. The way their bodies are put together is completely different than mine! I thought to myself..."Modeling is what they would be really good at! They're made for it!"

...Now...with my big hips and healthy body, I'd venture to guess I'm made for having kids. ...Can we get to that part of life soon, please? :-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

don't know what i want

For a variety of reasons, I've been thinking recently about what I want to do with my life. I want to move back to Grand Rapids...I want to get a postdoc overseas...I want to work at the NIH...I want to teach...I want to settle down somewhere and raise children... It's hard to prepare for the next phase of life when I don't have a very clear grasp of what that's supposed to be.

The thing is, this confusion has worked its way into my everyday life. Every day I'm faced with many decisions, and of late I've been having trouble making those. For example: I want to finish this little thing at work...oh, no, actually I want to go home; I want to eat an, actually I want to eat ice cream; I want to go running...on second thought, I'd rather sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing; I want to sleep (I need to sleep!)...but no, I really want to knit; I want to call someone...maybe not now; I really want to go hang out with somebody tonight...but I want some time alone.

Of course I cannot choose: I don't even know what I want!!

This week seems like one of the longest ones I've ever lived, and it's only Wednesday... Being indecisive and waiting for Something Magical (I don't know what, but I think that's part of what's causing my anxiety) to happen.

Monday, January 22, 2007

a numbers game

It's interesting the way some numbers stick in my head and others totally don't.

Last Thursday was "CK Day" - don't even ask what it stands for, because that involves a long story. CK Day is the birthday of the guy I had a crush on throughout high school. I think I will probably think of January 18 with that title for many, many years to come. It is so ridiculous - why in the world should I recall the birthday of a guy who never so much as had a conversation with me ever and probably couldn't pick me out of a crowd, but I don't remember the birthday of a particular dear friend with whom I not only had long and meaningful conversations but also dated for a while?! That, Ruth, is a little bit ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, I watched Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet on Friday night. The movie is not ridiculous (it is one of my all-time favorite movies!), but I was quite struck by how ridiculously quickly Romeo and Juliet fell in love and decided they should get married. Heck, the boy was kissing Juliet after having merely an intense exchanging of glances and about three minutes of flirting. That is really not grounds for falling in love, in my humble opinion. Of course, we all know that, but it struck me intensely on Friday night and reminded me the lesson I keep being taught: relationships, of any type, take time and work. Ugh. It would be so much easier if it happened quickly, but...then again, look at what happened to the poor star-crossed lovers... I guess that's not really the future I look forward to for my husband (whomever he might be) and I.

And, in case you're wondering, Amber - yes, I started yelling at Romeo and throwing popcorn at the screen as soon as he jumped in that car in Manchua... I hope my neighbors didn't hear me yelling the rest of the movie... ...Stupid, stupid guy... Maybe you should invest in a mailbox or something!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

the sad saga of sheamus

I don't think Sheamus will be a part of my household for much longer.

A few months back someone suggested to me that the beautiful male betta I call Sheamus was probably too cold in his water, and that explained why he was quite listless and no longer made funny fish faces when at me when he wanted food. He got moved to a few warmer rooms, but I saw no improvement. I tried keeping a lamp on him to make sure the water was warm enough. Nothing. By this time, he wasn't even eating food, really. And the worst part was that he seemed to be losing control of his balance. He kind of "bent" in the middle at times. Plus he was constantly at the top of his bowl, which was weird.

I finally decided it was high time I give up on the "water's too cold" diagnosis and seek help from a qualified fish person. The folks at Elmer's Pet Store (they have about 7 billion fish there. Not really. But there are a lot!) said it's mostly likely a bacteria or fungal infection and to use some drops to fix it. So I've been using them, doing water changes every day. I even moved Sheamus from the regular bowl to some new containers ( they're Tupperware...) in case the bowl had some sort of residual infectious material that was adding to his problem.

Still...after a week, I saw no change. In fact, he seems to be getting worse. His lovely flowy fins are getting sort of frayed, and he's losing the brilliant blue color in his scales. I cannot recall the last time he ate - it seems like it must have been months ago! (I don't quite understand how he can till be alive if this is the case, but I am positive it's true! Perhaps the cold blood makes it possible.) I went back to Elmer's, and all they could say was to keep using the drops. They also convinced me to try feeding him live food, which meant buying a bag of brine shrimp (a.k.a. "sea monkeys"), which cost something like $1.72 and I got about 75 thousand shrimp.

And thus begins the short tangent I will go on regarding brine shrimp...

I had read long ago that this is what bettas "should" eat. Well, sorry, but I don't particularly want to care for the pet's food as well as the fish, so I stuck with fish pellets for Sheamus, which he loved. And now I am really glad I never gave brine shrimp a shot.

The night I bought the brine shrimp, I studied them closely for a few moments, intrigued by their exceedingly small but detectable bodies - black pin-prick eyes obvious against translucent little "fin" things and tails. I plunked a dozen into the water with Sheamus and noticed that there were three "types" of shrimp. One had all translucent bodies. One had a brown blob about midway down the body. The final type appeared to be two shrimp stuck together. And upon further investigation, I determined that there was always one brown-blob and one no-blob shrimp when they were stuck together. (Ah - a note here - this next is going to be the X-rated part of the post if you care to not read that...) It doesn't take a whole heck of a lot of brains to figure out that the two-stuck-together shrimp were a male (no-blob) and female (brown-blob) shrimp in the act of mating.

I confirmed this the next day by finding more information about brine shrimp online. Apparently, these suckers are quite prolific, which is why they would be such wonderful "pets" (or culturable food for pets...). the end of that day when I returned home, all twelve of the shrimp I had put in with Sheamus to eat (the thought of him eating these guys did seem a bit revolting, to be honest) were still there. So...that ruled out the possibility of "Sheamus isn't eating because his food is too boring." I didn't really want to continue seeing if I could intice Sheamus to eat - for if my efforts failed, I would merely be forcing him to spend the last days of his life in the presence of tiny invertebrates having sex, and I actually care about Sheamus enough to not do something as obnoxious as that. Therefore, I am left with a bag of 75 thousand minus 12 brine shrimp. I shan't tell you the bag-o'-brine shrimp's fate.

In the end, all I can do is wait. Wait and see if Sheamus miraculously gets better. Or wait and see how long he lives before he reaches the proverbial toilet bowl (actually, I have a little box all set to act as a "casket" for him to be properly buried in the ground - no flushing for that special guy!).

Life has been teaching me a lot lately that I just need to wait for a lot of things. I always thought my biggest struggle with patience was my inability to not freak out when people or situations got rough, and I've been getting better at that (if my self-assessments count for anything) -- but I realize now that patience comes in at least two flavors: short-term and - the one I'm finding is more difficult - long-term.

Monday, January 15, 2007

at night

I had a really bad dream last night that Blogger got all crazy on me and started charging me for every photo I wanted to post (they also were offering pictures that you could buy to post onto blog entries, I guess just in case you didn't have any of your own or you wanted to appear to have way more friends that you really did or that you had travelled to an exotic island for vacation). I'm glad that this is not the case. Not that I have a lot of photos to post right now. But still.

Speaking of dreams, I have been sleeping an incredible amount recently. I first thought this was because I had experienced some insane work hours, but even after that I found myself not being able to drag myself out of bed until 9:30 on weekends (this is not normal). And so maybe it was because I was getting to sleep later than normal - which has been true. But even so, this past weekend I found myself sleeping between 10 and 12 hours a night! And still wanting a nap!

One of my biggest fears ( a sense - hopes, because I'm lazy) of life is that I will contract mononucleosis. That would completely wipe me out. It might be a good thing for me to be forced to take it easy for several months (it would certainly be lovely to have a great excuse to not work too hard and spend much time sleeping and knitting), but it's not terribly conducive to finishing a PhD thesis. I'm quite sure that my wanting to sleep so much has very little to do with the possibility of having mono. And being that in the past couple weeks I've become sort of a hypochondriac - having worried at various times that I have broken my finger, have some kind of terrible dermatologic disorder, have a congenital syndrome, or just plain carry bad genes - I am not taking my sleepiness too seriously, because it's most likely my imagination running away with me.

Actually, the tiredness is really most likely due to psychological stress and not consistently getting up at the same time every day. These are things I know full well how to deal with!

Anyway, a few bits and bobs I had begun blogging about but never finished posting earlier in the month are related...

You'd think I would have realized when I posted on January 2 that it was knitting day, especially because one of my knitting projects had everything to do with New Year's. But I didn't. I had many other things on my mind (see, for example, the parenthetical statement in that day's post), some of which were actually causing me to lose sleep because I'd lay (lie?) in bed at night and not be able to get my brain to stop thinking about them. But...I dealt with the majority of those things by the end of the day and was quite capable of drifting off to sleep - hooray!

The project I forgot to write about was the Nadia hat, which I had intended to make to wear for a New Year's celebration on the dunes of Lake Michigan. Obviously, I was in Pittsburgh for New Year's...and the hat is nowhere near being completed. BUT I did in fact make it to some dunes on Lake Michigan while I was visiting my parents, although it wasn't the original destination I had planned for the hat.Mom and I went to Rosy Mound Park, which has trails through both wooded and non-wooded dunes, and if you climb up the dune and on get to Lake Michigan.I was pretty lame and didn't even have a single hand-knit item with me, but at least I got a picture of me at the beach in December!On another note, remember all those silly things I was doing? I was convinced they were because of thoughts of a person taking over my brain. However, what I did January 4 can't really be explained by such reasoning. (I instead blame lack of sleep.)

It was going to be a long day. Very long. I was up around 4 and ate, dressed, fed Joelle, packed up food and other essentials for the day, then drove to work. I worked. And worked. And worked and worked and worked. And finally, when I got home around midnight, I opened the apartment door and looked over at Joelle's cage as I normally do - she has a tendency to shake her cage when she is kept in it for a long time, in an effort to express her anger at being cooped up for so long, and I had been musing to myself on the drive home how far off its base the cage would be when I got home from the 18 hour work day.

To my utter surprise, I did not find the cage moved a centimeter from where it should be. However...

However, the door to the cage was wide open. Not only was it wide open, but it was clamped wide open, which meant that I had not ever closed the cage when I left in the wee hours of the morning, and that in turn meant that Joelle had achieved free range of the apartment for the entire long day! That is a very long time for a rabbit to destroy many, many, many things.

The first thing I checked was the lamp cords. There's only one that is accessible to a rabbit without climbing over a large object. All cords were fine.

Next, the couch. There's one favorite corner Joelle has tried to start nibbling, and I've put some blockades around it, but they're easily movable. Yet...the couch was fine.

I was getting a little scared because how likely was it that this critter truly didn't destroy anything?, and all the other things I could think of that were destructible were much more dear to me than the lamps. For Fairly Easy Fair Isle cardigan sweater, which was laying in a heap on the bathroom floor - exceedingly easy prey for a mischevious rabbit!

Nope. Fine.

Everything was FINE. I couldn't believe it! (I also couldn't believe that I had forgotten to close the cage door.) I was very, very proud of my wonderful bunny for being so responsible even when I was not. Now, I'm certainly not going to make letting Joelle run around unattended become a habit, but it sure gave me a lot of respect for her. I gave her as many treats as I could allow myself to spoil her with and told her over and over again what a good, good rabbit she was. And I felt a bit guilty when I had to shut her in the cage the next morning knowing full well that it would be another very long day...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

nothing better

It's a rainy, gloomy Saturday in Pittsburgh. Not a whole lot to do other than laundry, go to knitting/crochet group after not being there for about 6 weeks, and pop into work for a few hours. The first thing that came to my mind this morning when I woke up to the clouds and cool air outside was: have curry for lunch.

I think it is a grave misfortune that I was not introduced to curry earlier in my life, although avoiding the high fat content of the coconut milk with which it's made was probably a good thing. I first had curry when I moved to Pittsburgh, and it was home-made, and it was GOOD. It has just enough spices, it makes me feel warm inside like nothing chicken noodle soup could ever come close to, and it stays. The drawback is that the curry smell also stays - in one's clothes and hair and breath. But it's such a comforting, inviting aroma, I'm happy to deal with it.

I went to a Malaysian restaurant with my friend Jen on Thursday and brought back a large portion of my green curry with tofu and delectable vegetables like baby corn, beans, and carrots. For lunch today I made a couple servings of brown rice, mixed in the leftovers, and sat down to a delightful meal that kept me toasty all afternoon. Aah. Curry.If you have never had the pleasure of enjoying a good curry, please do try. If you want a recipe to try, visit here. I've not tried this recipe, but all I've made from this website is delectable.

Friday, January 12, 2007

i learned something new

No blogging recently; so sorry! I'm way, way, way behind on updating you with my knitting. Fortunately, there's not a whole lot to tell there, but I shall surprise you by revealing that instead of knitting, I've been...crocheting!

Don't ask me why. I tried to learn how to crochet at least two other times in the past year, but I never got it. Not that it was highly confusing, but when I looked at one instruction book and then compared it to another one, the two didn't seem to agree with each other, and I got very frustrated. However, thanks to the ladies at my "knitting group" (it's actually a crochet group, but most everyone knits) I learned that unlike knitting, there are many ways to crochet.

Now, if you're astute, you would notice that I have in the past stated that there are many ways to knit. Yes, yes, but they all end up looking the same. The same is not true for crocheting, as I'm told. It seems that some teachers think you should poke a crochet hook through the front loop of a crochet chain, others think you should poke it through the back, and others through both loops. I could be wrong on this take on crocheting, also, but one thing I know was that I couldn't get it when I was trying to learn because everything I read seemed to contradict itself. Plus, either I was really stupid (I'm a PhD student; I highly doubt this) or the illustrations in the books were really bad: I couldn't figure out how the text-instructions related to the pictures that were supposed to correspond with them.

For some inexplicable reason, on Saturday I woke up after a gruelling week of Much Stress and Work at the lab, and decided, "Today I am going to go buy some crochet hooks and really learn how to crochet." Not sure what got into me. However, I did just that. I ended up purchasing a learn-it-yourself kit from JoAnn - the one made by Lion Brand. This is the same kit I'd used to learn how to knit. I was pleased to find incredibly easy-to-understand pictures and instructions, and before I knew it...I had made this:Okay, well...that's not really so impressive. It is supposed to be a granny square, but as you can probably tell it's not exactly a square... But hey - it's the first thing I made, and I'm keeping it!

I was so enamored by this new skill that I started making something else...That's much better (it's the start of a washcloth), but technically it's supposed to be about 10.5 inches...and as you may notice, it's only 6. Hm... I will have to work on the gauge thing here.

And this is also something with a bit of a screwed up gauge, but I'm using totally the wrong yarn, so I can deal. This IS a square (and it's supposed to be):...although I did have to re-do a few parts of it multiple times and finally was required to put those colored marker things in where you see them because I kept crocheting into the wrong holes over and over again and ended up with a non-square several times. BUT - the point is, I figured it out. (If you happen to know which garment this is a part of, kudos. But please don't tell anyone! Thanks.)

AND...I've decided that crochet isn't really that bad. It's certainly not the same as knitting. There are many, many items I would never, ever choose to make with crochet that I would be very motivated to knit. But, crochet is really fast! People tell me it uses less yarn to get to the same dimensions as something knit. And you can make things that you can't make with knitting.

So, that's what I've been up to. And I have been doing some knitting, too. Like...I've been working on the Brioce Bodice.And I've been swatching a few things here and there. Maybe I should just finish one of my other projects that have been on the needles for a year...! Ho, hum...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

and just like that: 2007

Aah - did anyone notice that the week between Christmas and New Year's just flew by? Woah. It's back from Christmas vacation in Michigan and on into the lab for me, with lots of fun, exciting, and stressful things on my plate at work!

And no snow. There is no snow and it is January. And I am supposed to go on a ski trip in 10 days...! It is a very odd feeling to have no snow at this point in time. I can't say I'm utterly disappointed, however. I just wish it wouldn't rain so much instead.

Rain is what it did on New Year's Eve 2006. After our other comrades all got sick or homebody-ish, my friend Josie and I decided to brave the crowds and chaos of First Night, which meant a trip to downtown. This was before it started raining much, but we did have the foresight to bring umbrellas. I'm afraid this might have been the worst NYE I've ever experienced - not that it was really BAD, but it wasn't really that great. Josie and I wandered around checking out some of the activities and displays that were around, and it seemed like wherever we walked, we cast some sort of dark shadow over the festivities.

Case in point: first stop was PPG Place to watch ice skaters and get our bearings. Then we went into the PPG wintergarden - but no sooner had we stepped inside than a guard began walking around telling everyone the place was closing in 5 minutes. Ugh (and I must note that 5 minutes from that time was not even a really logical time to close - 8:47 or something like that). So we went back outside and found that probably not long after we had passed the skating rink someone had fallen down and now everyone was off the ice and an ambulance had arrived and the EMS workers were tending to the injured skater. ...Um...did we do that? And then it really started to rain.

Nevertheless, Josie and I had a good time together, had some good girl talk, good general talk, and good warm drinks at the food court where Everyone Else was trying to be not in the rain. I learned what First Night is all about and what I should do and not do if I ever decide to attend in the future.

After the rain set in, Josie and I went back to our respectives home and welcomed the new year in a warm, dry place. Warm, dry places are quite the best, I think. Particularly if paired with a good glass of merlot.

(And if you're wondering why "D" and I did nothing for New Year's, that's a good question and I will get back to you on that if I ever find out. Just sayin'.)