Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Writers and Knitters

Writers and knitters have something in common: they are very generous in spirit.

When we lived in Athens, I was sort of a permanent member of a mystery-writing class. We lived there for six years and I attended every quarter. I loved it. One of the best things I learned was that experienced writers very much want newbies to succeed. One of the customs of the class was that each person could read his or her own work aloud in class and get critiques and suggestions from the other members. This terrified me at first and it took about four weeks to work up the nerve to read my stuff, but when I did everyone in class was very effusive with their positive comments. I was elated, and encouraged to read more often. Pretty soon it got to where you couldn't shut me up.

The Harriette Austin Writers Conference is held in Athens every year. Professional writers, agents, and editors come and meet and greet the attendees. Attendees have an opportunity to have a sample of their work read and evaluated by a professional, and quite a few conference-goers have now been published (I'm not among them, unless you count this blog; but that's another story altogether). The professionals are very generous with their time and listen with real interest to the wannabes.

Knitters are like that as well. This past Saturday I went to Cordele, GA, with my friend Theresa and two other women to a meeting of the Purlin' Peaches, a group organized on Ravelry. We met at a truck stop with an attached Arby's restaurant. We commandeered a couple of tables in Arby's and commenced to knitting. People stared at us, but we kept on knitting.

We had a show & tell. Nicole was there with her three-month-old son, Simon. What a cutie! She was making a pumpkin hat for Simon. Kathy was making a yoga wrap, one of the most sophisticated and feminine garments I've ever seen. It is off-white with a leaf border. Very pretty. Kathy brought along a baby blanket she'd made for Simon. Adanya, a very charming Mexican woman, was crocheting hats -- without a pattern. She just started in the middle and zipped right along. She showed us several she had made for her young daughter, and they were adorable. Theresa, bless her heart, usually spends most of the time talking, but she did show us some socks she'd made and a ball of hand-dyed wool which she gave to Nicole, as it was dyed in her school colors. Violet was working on a crocheted pink snake. It was for her daughter. She was crocheting it as a tube and stuffing it as she went along. Hazel, a prison nurse, was knitting away on the sleeves (two at a time) of a silky cotton sweater. Suzi showed off a beautiful green triangular scarf that had silver threads in it. Li didn't knit because she couldn't stay, but she was wearing a sweater vest that she had made. She's very slim and the vest looked great on her. I was knitting on a sock-yarn scarf. Nicole asked me what pattern I was using and I had to confess that I was making it up. I started out doing two by two ribbing; I did that for about an inch and then I switched to garter stitch. When I get to the end, I will put another inch of ribbing. (See picture below.)

I'm knitting on my Harmony laminated wood needles (from KnitPicks) in size 4. My wonderful husband bought me a whole set of the Harmony straight needles for Christmas last year. I may never knit with metal needles again. I got my sock yarn at Main Street Yarns and Fibers in Watkinsville, GA. Wonderful store.

The women of Purlin' Peaches treat me as if I am as accomplished at knitting as they are, which I am not. They are all that generous, and I'm sure if I have a question of any kind, they will be just as generous at helping me.

An Aside

After knitting for a while and drinking a diet Coke, I needed to go to the restroom. So, I inconvenienced Hazel (our table was against one wall) to get out (she was very accomodating) and went looking for the facilities. When I got to the convenience-store side of the establishment, I saw a sign in the familiar blue & white so I went that way. I was led down a hallway with numerous doors, all numbered, all locked, and all with "vacant" signs beside the doors. I tried a few door handles to no avail. I was confused. Did I need to go ask the cashier for a key to go to the bathroom? That's not very convenient. I stepped outside the hallway to double-check the blue & white sign, and saw that it really said "showers!!" I was trying to get into the truckers' showers! I looked around and spotted the real restroom sign and finally accomplished what I'd set out to do. If I had been younger, I would have been mortified at my mistake, but at my age? Who cares? It was a good story when I got back to the table. Theresa said she was putting it on Facebook (but she didn't).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yet Another Five Things List

Today's five things are the the last things I did, divided up into categories. I can't tell from the FB prompt if I should list five things in each category or if the five categories are the five things. Oh, what the heck, I'll just do it my way.

1. The last five things I've EATEN: (1) A hot ham & cheese sandwich (ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, mayo, & Italian dressing); (2) A bag of Miss Vickie's Simply Sea Salt potato chips; (3) Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cinnamon Streusel flavor, with skim milk; (4) A blueberry muffin, made by Richard; and (5) A char-grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A (chicken, whole-wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles, & mayo). (Did anybody see any real veggies in that list???)

2. The last five things I've DRUNK: (1) Unsweetened iced tea; (2) Diet Coke; (3) Milk; (4) Water; and (5) Caffeine-free Diet Coke. (Sorry, no mojitos, gin & tonics, or fuzzy navels; I'm a boring drinker)

3. The last five things I've LISTENED TO: [These are all from the same CD: Greatest Hits by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band] (1) "Roll Me Away" (at top volume, of course); (2) "You'll Accomp'ny Me"; (3) "Hollywood Nights"; (4) "Old Time Rock & Roll" (also at top volume); and (5) "We've Got Tonight." (I do love Bob Seger. I went to one of his concerts when I was living in Charleston, and it was the absolute best concert I've ever been to.)

4. The last five things I've WATCHED: (1) The road on the way to work (it didn't do anything special; I just wanted you to know I try to be a conscientious driver); (2) A video of a cat climbing a policeman, on I Can Has Cheezburger?; (3) The Weather Channel; (4) Ask Food Network; and (5) My computer crash (I clicked on something I shouldn't have and infected my computer with a virus. It got fixed without losing anything, and I got warned, "Don't do that any more!")

5. The last five things I've BOUGHT: (1) Well, lunch today; (2) Groceries last night (OK, Richard actually pays for the groceries, but I do contribute toward the household expenses); (3) A sweater vest from L.L. Bean; (4) A book, The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White (for those of you not familiar with Charleston, "Legare" is pronounced "Legree"); and (5) Two Christmas gifts. (And a partridge in a pear treeeeee.....)

Stay tuned. I have more "5 things..." Later, friends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roarin' Bill

Carlton H. Griffin

On January 24, 1944, my father was on a B-17, named Roarin' Bill, which was brought down near Glabais, Belgium, while on a mission to Eschweiler. Of the ten crew members, six were taken as prisoners of war by the Germans, my father among them. Three others of the crew managed to escape and worked for a while with the Belgian underground. The pilot was killed and went down with the plane.

My father's parachute took him to a Belgian farmer's field where he hit the only boulder around. This was unfortunate in more ways than one. It left him with injuries that would plague him for the rest of his life. It also meant that the farmer and his family did not have the resources to take care of him and nurse him back to health, so they were forced to turn him over to the Germans. The Germans took him to a POW hospital (I don't know where) where he was cared for with compassion. Daddy drew a distinction between Germans and Nazis. He said the Germans at the hospital were very nice to him. (He was fortunate; some of the other five POWs wound up in concentration camps.) He felt that if he had been turned over to the Nazis, his POW ex
perience would not have been so pleasant -- if you can call being a POW pleasant.

Patricia Ann (Patti) Moore

Before Daddy went off to England, he met my mother in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was this cocky Air Corps radio man, barely out of his teens, and Mama worked at a war plant. I don't know where they met, but he showed up for their first date drunk and unshaven. If I'd been my mother, I would have told him to take a hike and slammed the door in his face, but she was apparently more tolerant.

During the late summer of 1944, the American Red Cross managed to get Daddy released from the POW hospital and sent home. He went into a Veterans' Administration hospital in Atlanta. Mama took a bus from South Dakota to Georgia when Daddy got home. She, naturally, stayed with Daddy's family on the farm.
My mother, who was used to crawling out of bed in the morning and choking down a cup of black coffee and a piece of dry toast, was treated to a Southern farm breakfast of epic proportions on her first day in the South. It consisted of, among other things, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and there were probably some eggs, ham, and/or bacon thrown in there for good measure. When asked if she wanted some milk, she readily accepted. When she took a big swallow, she discovered it was buttermilk, which she had never tasted. Nobody told her that on the farm there is milk and then there is sweet milk. This was my mother's introduction to the South. She survived and became as Southern as the rest of the family.

In October of that year Daddy got a weekend furlough from the hospital so that he and Mama could get married. Mama and Daddy got married and had my older sister and me. They were married until April 1993, when my mother died just about 18 months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary.

They lived in South Carolina (how and why the family moved from Georgia is unknown to me, but most of the clan moved) all the rest of their lives. When I graduated from library school at the University of Washington in Seattle, my parents and my sister came out to Washington, met some of my friends, attended graduation, and then we all drove back across the country.

Within a year after that, my father got an envelope postmarked "Seattle" but with no name or return address, nothing to identify the sender. Inside, it had a little clipping from a newsletter for former WWII POWs. The clipping was an ad, looking for members of the crew of the
Roarin' Bill for a reunion. Daddy contacted the person who placed the ad, one of his old crew members. They met in Wilmore, Pennsylvania, at the home of one of the former POWs who had been in a concentration camp. Mama and Daddy both went and had a very good and meaningful time. His crew buddies were able to fill in some of the gaps for Daddy because he did not remember anything that happened until he woke up in the POW hospital.

When Daddy died in 2000, he was buried with military honors, folded flag, "Taps" and all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Silence of the Grave

Silence of the Grave is the latest book I've read. It's the second in Arnaldur Indridason's Icelandic mysteries (following Jar City). Silence of the Grave is even better than Jar City, and I didn't think that was possible.

There are two storylines in this novel, and of course they eventually converge, but getting there is what keeps you turning pages. The first story takes place in the late 1930s/early 1940s, and the other is set in the present day. A skeleton is found buried near a new residential development in Reykjavik. Because it's buried in the dirt, with no coffin, an archaeologist is called in to help Inspector Erlendur and his co-workers uncover the body. While the archaeologist is painstakingly unearthing the skeleton, Erlendur goes about his investigation. The story shifts back and forth from the '40s to the present day.

The earlier story involves an abusive husband and father. It was so well written (and translated) that it was hard to read in places, but I toughed it out and I'm glad I did. At one point, I had to put the book down and go to another room. It happened to be the kitchen, where Richard was cooking dinner. I told him about the story, and I also told him he'd better be nice to me as I was ready to stab him in his sleep. That's how the story affected me. (I'm a great audience when it comes to reading.)

In the present-day story, Erlendur gets a cryptic phone call from his difficult, angry, drug-addicted, and pregnant daughter, Eva Lind. She says, "Dad. Help me," and then the call is cut off. He searches through the seamier parts of Reykjavik for her and finally finds her on the ground, unconscious and bleeding. He gets her to a hospital where she loses the baby and slips into a coma. The doctors tell him that he should talk to her, and while he finds little to say at first, he finally begins to tell her about the investigation and about his early life. He also talks about why he left her mother when Eva Lind was so young. It's Arnaldur's creative way to tell us lots about Erlendur.

The storylines finally come together and Erlendur finds out whose skeleton is buried in the dirt. During the investigation, the clues seem to lead in two completely different directions, and you don't know until the end whodunit.

Silence of the Grave is one of those novels that make me glad I learned to read. The story is compelling and the ending is satisfying. I no longer want to stab Richard in his sleep.

The next novel in the series is Voices. I'm looking forward to reading it.