Edna on Bravery

Beginning rows of a lace-weight cape.

Superhero capes often have humble beginnings.

It’s the wearers who give them their powers.

110,080 Tiny Stitches

Six shades of undyed lace-weight yarn knitted into a large, striped stole.Some projects are so large that it’s almost counterproductive to sum up the parts. This undyed stole is one such item.

I started this little (huge) enterprise in January knowing that it would take some fortitude to turn nearly 2000 yards of lace weight yarn into a rather large rectangle on rather tiny needles. This project required a pretty long cast on — nearly 350 stitches — but the hardest part of the whole process was coming up with more than 40 stitch markers that weren’t already committed to a WIP (yarn-speak for Work in Progress).

The nice thing about the pattern (if you can call it that) is that once the stitches are on the needles, it’s just a matter of switching knits and purls at the markers until I either run out of yarn or forget where I left it. This stole has become my favorite project to work on while talking or reading. Even so, I go entire months without so much as glancing at it. Luckily, we have one of those friendships where you can go ages without talking and then pick right up where you left off.

The yarn is an undyed alpaca-bamboo blend that  is lovely to knit. I’m currently working on the 6th of what will eventually be 8 different stripes. The subtle, natural shading — three shades of gray and five shades of brown — adds to the zen quality of slowly working along each of these long rows.

73,272 stitches down. 36,808 stitches to go.

You know, if you’re counting.

Just keep knitting. Just keep knitting. What do we do? We knit. Knit.*


*With apologies to Ellen Degeneres.


“Does this count?”

Bernie's Sprite in MetalAs we’ve walked this homeschooling journey there are a handful of questions that have become kind of predictable.

Most often it’s the “what about socialization??” one we get from folks. Whole books and blogs have been written on this topic. So I’ll leave it with my standard, short answer: I still get the shakes when I recall my 5th grade teacher, Ms Everhart, screaming, “We are not here to socialize!!!”  Homeschoolers definitely socialize and we don’t scream at our kids for doing it.

Other questions we field regularly are about testing or curriculum or state oversight — you know, how does this work? I get those questions about 3 times a week and have standard answers for them, too.

The really hard homeschooling questions come from my kids as we work through this process together.

Their favorite questions? “What’s the plan?” and “Does this count?”  The first one I can answer pretty easily — in the moment if not for the long-term (eek!) — by handing them an agenda or telling them the schedule for the day. The second one is tougher because it kind of breaks my heart a little.

See, my kids have spent enough time in public school to know that there are endorsed activities — the work you get credit for — and then there is that other stuff that you are welcome to do on your own time, but which “doesn’t count” toward your grade.

I get it. It’s the way school currently works. The teacher has a rubric passed down from on high. S/he comes up with an assignment that meets some part of that rubric, gives it to the class, collects it, grades it, and puts a check mark in that box.  Next.  S/he may really want to see the kids do fascinating, creative stuff, but there really isn’t a place to put that into the rubric, so s/he smiles and says, “Cool*” and moves on.

But it doesn’t count.

Gosh, this seems backwards.

In my kids’ jargon, this whole scene is an epic fail.

When I walked into my studio this morning, Gillian had just clicked send on her daily homework email. She’d gotten up early, completed her core course requirements, and emailed me her scores and written assignments for my responses. She looked up and said, “Good morning, Mama. Does my scarf count as art?”


Sigh. I would love for my kids to know in their marrow that whatever they do counts. I don’t mean that they should expect a grade for everything they do. I want them to get the bigger view; to recognize their contributions and experiments and dalliances and projects as meaningful whether or not I’m going to give them some kind of officially-stamped educational credit for it.

But she didn’t want a lecture on my learning and life philosophies. She wanted to know if what she was hoping to do next merited doing by whatever yardstick we measure homeschool credit.

So, here’s my kid who got up early, and did her assignments without my even having to ask (and, incidentally, taught herself to knit on a loom, designed a whole series of scarves she wants to make, and found all of the materials to make those scarves) questioning the value of what she’s going to do next.  What do I say to her?


“Of course it counts! It counts because it’s absolutely an artistic expression, it demonstrates competency in a skill, and produces something you find valuable and beautiful. But, Gillian, you need to know that even if all it did was interest you and you want to check it out and there was nothing to show for it or to grade or admire at the end, it would still ‘count’. It would be just fine to do.”

We went on to discuss colors and yarns and designs and patterns, but the conversation stuck with me all day.

As I snapped a picture of Bernie’s metalwork sign (above) and Gillian’s scarves in progress (below) and watched their minds work through the problems of creating these artistically-interesting and technically-challenging expressions it really hit me how lucky — is that the right word? — we are that we, as a family, get to decide how to spend our days and what to study and, yes, what counts.

But how rare is that?

How many cool, wonderful ideas and opportunities pass us right by because we aren’t getting graded/paid/congratulated/noticed for doing them?

As Mary Oliver (1992) asks in this excerpt from her lovely poem The Summer Day,

QuoteI do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Indeed. So, get on with it because you, my dear, get to decide what counts.

* or whatever it is that the kids want to hear these days

Oliver, M. (1992). New and selected poems. Beacon Press: Boston, MA.

Gillian's colorful scarves on looms

Happy Traveler and Doctor Blue

Blue Variant Scarf Started
I finished up Gillian’s Season 12 Doctor Who scarf over the weekend, but not before Berns asked for one of his own. He didn’t want a Season 12 like his sister’s. He wants a Blue Variant for the 6th Doctor.

Of course!

What’s that?

I’ll save you some research.

The 6th Doctor — evidently — had a pretty wild costume. When they revived the character for an audio show in about 2002, someone decided it would be tons easier to tone his costume down from a bunch of bright colors to several shades of blue for the adverts.

(Silly me, but, after they’d already invented the multi-colored version and sewn it in real life as a costume for an actual person to wear, this seems a little lazy. I’m sure this thinking puts me into some kind of Whovian Interwebs Battle. Let me go on record to say that I don’t want a vote if someone’s keeping score.)

Okay. But what kind of scarf did he wear?

Best I can tell, he didn’t.

Of course!

Thank goodness for Tara Wheeler and the fact that she thinks of everything. Yes, there is actually an official unofficial, non-canon blue variant scarf pattern.

But Berns didn’t want that one. He wanted a Season 12 in Blue.

Of course!

Are you following?

So, I gathered 7 shades of blue wool — well, 4 shades of blue, 2 shades of turquoise, and a medium gray — and went back to the Season 12 scarf and decided which color of blue would substitute for each of the canon colors and got started. I’m making the stripes 2/3rds the size of the original Season 12 scarf. My goal is to make it 7-8 feet long. We’re calling it “Dr Blue“.

Of course!

Why in the world would I spend weeks of my life making garter stitch scarves based on a TV show from the 1980s that I didn’t watch at the time and have only seen partial episodes accidentally since?

This is why:

2013-09-08 16.30.57


Yes, she’s wearing it without the fringe and with the unwoven ends dangling in the back. She couldn’t wait.

Of course!

Self Care Day on the 6th: September 2013

Sept 6

When I launched SCDot6 two years ago, it was inspired by my frustration over the “awareness” games on social media that did little to actually help folks and whole lot to frustrate the folks who were actually dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

People I know and love are actually getting these diagnoses and undergoing surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy. Some of them are having great success at regaining their health. Others have lost their lives. One is in hospice as I type this.

In just the past month two of my dear friends have had bilateral mastectomies. A third has one scheduled soon. A fourth had a less invasive surgery, but doesn’t get to skip any of the “fun” post-op cancer treatment. All within a month, folks.

This is not a game. Cancer officially sucks.

That said, there are things we can do to take really good care of ourselves.

There are some breast-cancer specific items that we can put on our To Do lists. Self exams are important — I do mine on the 6th of the month, thus the monthly SCDot6 — as are mammograms. But that’s just a start.

I’ve recently learned that for those of us with dense, fibrous breast tissue a follow up ultrasound to a mammogram may be the only way a tumor will be spotted. Two of the women who were recently diagnosed had invasive tumors (with lymph node involvement) that did not show up on the mammogram and that couldn’t be seen that way even after the docs spotted them with ultrasound and put a marker on them. The only reason the tumors were spotted was because they insisted on an ultrasound after they received “clean” mammograms.

The rest of our bodies, minds, souls deserve some self care, too.

What are you doing to take really good care of yourselves? If you’re dealing with a diagnosis that has rocked your world — either personally or as a caregiver — are you going out of your way to refill your cup? Are you reaching out to folks who can help sustain you through whatever comes next?

Seriously. Self care is the furthest thing from “selfish”.

Do it.

Season 12 or Knitting an Iconic Scarf

Season 12 Scarf Begins

All of my children seem to be fully immersed in all-things-slightly-or-even-extremely nerdy.

I can’t imagine where they got this inclination. Ahem.

At any rate, my youngest daughter screwed up her courage and asked me for a Dr Who scarf. (She’s my child who hates to impose and really doesn’t want to be seen as part of the off-beat crowd, but who could quote the entire script of The Holy Grail as a preschooler.)

Now, if you are the least bit familiar with the show, you know that these iconic scarves are known to be rather large and very colorful. What you may not know is that they are also highly scrutinized by Fans who can tell by the (originally, randomly placed) stripes the exact episodes each scarf appeared.

Gillian asked for a Season 12 scarf — the first one, Baker’s original, not the one from the second half of the season, of course! — which, according to the numerous patterns and photos available, is about 19 feet long and made up of seven colors of random stripes of varying widths.

Um, okay. Happy to do it. Let’s do some stash diving and see what we have on hand.

Luckily we came up with 7 shades that suited her in spite of the gray being a little too blue and the brown being more dark chocolate than cocoa and the green being more olive than kelly…

You get the picture.

I offered to take her to the yarn shop to select the exact-right colors. And, guess what? She refused!

I was amazed. Rather than stick with the “Are You Mad? This Is The Official Pallette And Nothing Else Will Do!” protocol, she decided to go off-map and to add some things to her scarf. She picked out a pumpkin orange and a deep turquoise — her favorite! — to add to the other 7 nearly-official colors.

She also requested that it be a “reasonable length” so that she wouldn’t trip over it. I find this rather practical (and a gigantic relief as I wasn’t looking forward to 19 feet of garter-stitch knitting) and enthusiastically support her decision.

So, I’m sort of following Tara Wheeler’s sequence, but cutting the counts down – the biggest stripes by half – and adding in the extra colors, and hope to end up with something between 6 and 7 feet long. I went further off of the actual scarf pattern by narrowing it by nearly half and adding a slip-stitched faux i-cord edging to tidy it up a bit.

We’re about 20 stripes into this project and it’s going pretty well. Gillian gets rather giddy when she comes to check my progress.

I do admit that it makes me laugh that we take haphazard, randomly made items and turn them into iconic patterns. I’m sure there is a life metaphor in there somewhere.

I’ll just leave you to ponder that with an image of my current progress on Season 12.

Season 12 Scarf Halfway Completed

Hot Tea and Wool Season

Knitting a Henley

It’s the time of year when it’s starting to get a little chilly and things like hot tea and wool call to me. As you may or may not know, I do a fair bit of crocheting all year around. What I don’t do is knit. Well, I have knit things along the way. But the reality is that when I’m knitting I’m thinking about the fact that I could have finished 4 crochet projects in the time it takes me to knit one.

Even so, I get the urge from time to time to knit something. This time it’s all Kristen’s fault. While she does a fair bit of crochet, she also knits, sews, and quilts beautiful things. I was successfully resisting the urge to follow in her footsteps until she posted her version of this sweater. Twice.

While out on a date-date with Ned Andrew on Friday night, I talked him into taking me to the yarn store to purchase new circular needles and some yarn. You know, because nothing in my room-filling stash was exactly what I wanted to use.

Okay, so on Saturday I was about 12 rows in and was pretty pleased to report that my stockinette stitch was knitting up even. I’d even call it gorgeous. My increases were a nightmare, though. In the place where I was supposed to be making a new stitch I ended up making a new hole instead. Near tears, I put the needles down and vowed to go to my local yarn store first thing on Sunday.

As luck would have it, Bliss wasn’t open when I got there and closed before I could get back. I was with the family and we had an outing all planned, so I thought all hope was lost. But a dear lady and yarn-lover, Pam, saw my cries for help, took pity on my soul, and invited me to her house for a demonstration of Make Ones. She also magically ended my twenty-year frustration with the continental purl stitch in about 45 seconds.

Once I got home last night, I ripped the whole thing out and started over. So far– 23 rows in — I only have one hole and I’m actually having fun! This is a miracle… seriously.

Add to that the first official day of hot tea season, and I’m a pretty happy girl.

I heart Autumn.

Hot Tea Season


Self Care Day on the 6th: November 2012

November 6

It’s November 6th! And you know what that means, right?

Well, if you live in the US, it’s Election Day. Which means it’s time to vote if you haven’t already participated in early voting. I’ll spare you the rest of the monologue since — unless you’ve been on a long safari — you’re full up with this election. I certainly am, and I actually love this whole process of researching candidates, making my choices, going to the polls, and voting.

So, let’s assume you’ve voted or have that worked into your schedule for the day (or happen to live in Tanzania and aren’t scheduled to vote until 2015) and move on to the self care portion of the program.

Cool? Great!

Even if you aren’t running for elected office, the beginning of November can be a wee bit anxiety inducing. Lots of folks see this as the start of The Holiday Season. You know, once the Halloween candy has been collected from all of the neighbors and the stores are unabashedly stocking the shelves with every possible flashing red, green, and gold item the marketing folks can dream up, we start to tense up a little (or a lot) knowing that the calendar is officially going off the rails any minute now.

Gifting — listing, financing, buying, wrapping, sending, unwrapping, thanking, storing — is just one of the activities that deserves recognition as a varsity sport.

Then there are the parties and the concerts and the rellies and the Nutcracker and the cooking and baking and cleaning out the guest room for Aunt Molly and the non-stop merry-go-round travel among commitments far and wide and someone forgot the apples for the Waldorf Salad, so the whole thing is ruined.

Well, whoa. Who says?

While I’m as sentimental as just about anyone I know, I finally pushed pause on this whirling dervish of holiday hell and rethought the whole thing several years ago. Just like any other “project” in my life I took a long look at it and asked some of those really powerful questions that Helen Sanderson and her crew taught me to ask. Fair warning: These queries are magical.

What’s working?

What’s not working?

What do we love and want to keep?

What do we dread and want to toss?

Knowing what we know now, what will we do next?

So how do you work this magic? It really is up to you.

Maybe you like sticky notes. I know I do! So, when I did this, I went through each question, putting one item on each sticky note so that I could look at it in isolation and really think about how that aspect of the season impacted my joy — positively and negatively.

You may want to do this exercise alone or you may want to involve some (cooperative) folks from your planning committee — er — family in this conversation. Or you may want to do it by yourself first and then invite comments.

Got your stickies? (Or your notebook or your pictures from last year or a word processor document open or a template from Helen or your steering committee and graphic facilitator?)

Good. Now, go through each question one at a time.

What’s working? Make a list of all (or a sticky for each) of the things, people, foods, traditions, and Traditions that really make this season meaningful for you.

What’s not working? Make a list of all (or a sticky for each) of the things, people, foods, traditions, and Traditions that really make this season dreadful for you.

Then refine them with the next couple of questions. What do we love and want to keep? What do we dread and want to toss? What might we combine or change or rethink or move around?

Be fearless! Really think about what it is you want out of your — YOUR — holidays.

One of the things I changed was gift giving. There came a point when it just wasn’t fun anymore. I was spending weeks hunting down and buying stuff off of lists that my family exchanged in September and shipping it all over the country or schlepping it there along with the apples for the Waldorf Salad, only to have all of that stuff get lost in the piles of wrapping paper and gift overwhelm.

Now, we tend to give everyone (except the wee kids) on our holiday gift list exactly the same thing. It’s different each year, but it’s the same gift for everyone — teachers, Mom & Dad, cousins, friends, siblings, co-workers. One year, we made popcorn kits that included paper bags, kernels, seasonings, recipes, a movie and a lovely glass bowl. Another year everyone got a hand-made scarf. In slim years, we’ve given out ornaments or baked goods. We save the specially-picked-out-just-for-you gifts for birthdays or sussies*.

I’ll admit that this practice may horrify you — and I’m cool with that — but it makes me a very happy camper during the season of lights.

I have friends who have stopped visiting far-flung relatives and stay at home, volunteer at a shelter, cover the office for their co-workers, and save their travel for when the traffic is a lighter. Some folks give a donation to a charity they love and forgo the gift exchange. One large family goes to a state park and rent cabins so that no one has to clean their house and host 30 cousins for a week.  Still another has their big gather-the-clan celebration at Thanksgiving and does their Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations with their immediate families in their own homes.

No offense intended to the memory of Oscar Tschirky — aka “Oscar of the Waldorf” — but I am pretty sure we could even find a way to be joyful without a bowl of chopped apples, celery, and walnuts doused in mayonnaise.

So, what will you do to take care of your self during the holidays? What are you keeping? What are you tossing? What are you reinventing? I’d love to hear all about your favorite traditions and Traditions — old and new!


*a word my dear friend, Tracey, taught me for gifts sent just because

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings

How to Be Blissful


If you’ve known me for more than 8 minutes, you know that I love Susan Kennedy (aka Susan Arial Rainbow Kennedy or SARK) and her juicy, happy, free-flowing style of loving herself and life (and naps!)

From time to time, I treat myself to a SARK book or one of her online gatherings. They’re always colorful and fun.

Then I started adding other other online courses and support systems. They’re all great — full of information and enthusiastic people — until I hit the saturation point. I couldn’t call in to one more tele-webi-simul-confer-nar..

So when I got the invitation to SARK’s Creative Clubhouse, I deleted it. And the next one. And three more. And then I got the wild hair to go ahead and look at the information. And then I deleted that one, too

Until Tuesday when I decided, you know what? I really like her stuff and I’m in need of a balance to GiTheWriQua (Gina’s Thesis Writing Quarter — my nod to NaNoWriMo). So, I signed up and semi-reluctantly called in. (Ned Andrew basically grabbed my plate from me and sent me to my studio with seven minutes left before the call.)

The call was okay — my energy was low from worry over the storm in the Northeast — but the game we played got me engaged. By the end of the night, it didn’t look like much, but I’d captured this:

I’m a visual person, so having the instructions in front of me the next morning allowed me to take my scribbled mess and turn it into a poem I’m pretty proud of.

Wanna see?

Okay. Here it is!

How to Be Blissful -- Live without a watch -- Peace -- Follow your heart -- Ease -- Build yourself a creative play space -- Fun -- Fill it with an abundance of sparkly ingredients -- Joy -- Light a candle. Light two more. -- Breathe -- Turn up the music! Dance and sing! -- Giggle -- Express your love through yarn, fabric, words, pictures, color & sound -- Flourish -- Invite your favorite people in to play, too -- Bonus --Fearlessly do the thing you long to do --Play -- Be the person you’re destined to be -- Bliss -- Love, Gina ;~}

So, there ya go. Even in the middle of the worst storm pretty much anywhere, ever, I found a tiny space of calm.

Oh, if you wanna come play with us, you can! The Creative Clubhouse is open! Woooohooooo!


PS Happy Anniversary, Ned Andrew! I love you, sweet boy!

A Step Along The Way

A Step Along The Way CD Release

As you may or may not know, my husband, Ned Andrew, is quite the talented guy. He’s a journalist and an editor, directs leadership institutes, is a fantastic speaker and trainer, does all of our laundry and keeps us fed.

He’s also an amazingly skilled singer, songwriter and musician. One of his tunes is even part of the  Smithsonian Archives. Seriously.

Once upon a time, before internet and cell phones, he came to Nashville on the advice of some music industry folks who thought he “had it” only to pack it in 5 years later to raise some kids and work a full-time “real job.”

As the story goes, he even removed the strings from his 1971 Martin D28 for about a decade. Yeah. It was bad.

Fast forward to 2011 and the 40 year anniversary of his acquiring that guitar. We headed out on a 2500 mile road trip to visit family and friends all over the eastern side of the US. Folks were delighted that he brought along his guitar — though he was still somewhat hesitant to impose his music upon them. After receiving incredibly warm welcomes and enthusiastic responses to his tunes and talent everywhere we went, I planted a bug.

“Hey, hon, it would be so wonderful if you’d get these songs down for us. I mean, we don’t have good recordings of any of them and it would be a shame to lose them all.”

Once those words came out of my mouth, the stars began to align and talented folks started appearing from everywhere to help us out.

We have a friend in LA who owns a fabulous studio who had offered to record Ned Andrew’s tunes. I was ready to book a flight. Walking Champ one morning, we talked about how ironic it would be to fly across the country to make a recording when we could probably knock on 12 doors in our neighborhood and find 6 basement studios.

That evening we went to a house concert where we met Fett. Turns out that Fett lives on our street. And, yes, he runs an amazing professional studio in his basement. Oh, and as a bonus? He specializes in capturing live guitar and vocal. Not kidding.

So, I encouraged — er, pushed, shoved, begged, and cajoled — Ned Andrew into booking some studio time. He finally did, and over the course of this past year he and Fett recorded the guitar and vocal to 25 of his original songs. They picked out 12 that work well together, recorded background vocals on 4 of those, and mixed and mastered them into an album.

While Fett was doing his production magic, we went to visit dear friends in New York where the incredibly talented Andrew Lerman captured the concert shots we used for the album’s cover.

From there, we went into the packaging design and disc replication phase of the project. We’ve learned all sorts of cool information about glass mastering and graphic design along the way thanks to the ever-helpful folks at DiscMasters.

A rather large, heavy box of perfectly mastered, printed, and shrink-wrapped CDs were delivered to our door yesterday. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime moment! It was pretty surreal to hold this album in my hands for the first time.

Now we’re on to distribution and are working with a company to get Ned Andrew’s music available through all of those online outlets in physical CD and downloadable formats.

The whole business is absolutely fascinating.

I’m pretty daggone proud of my sweet hubby for being brave enough to pick his guitar back up at all, but I’m over the moon that he’s finally recorded this album. It really did start out as a selfish desire to have copies of his songs recorded for me and the kids, but I’m willing to share them with y’all.

At some point soon the album, A Step Along the Way, will be available through outlets like Amazon and iTunes. In the meantime, you can get a really real CD directly from Ned’s website.

It’s a truly wonderful collection culminating more than four decades of writing and performing.

My next little plot is to get Ned Andrew “playing out” again.

You’re welcome.

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