Black Lives Matter

It’s been a while but I felt the need to speak up as have so many protesting around our nation and the world.  I don’t have anything profound to say but I would like to share some of my experiences with people of color.  Some of these were learning moments, others were random acts of kindness that I have carried with me.

Ms. Johnson was my first grade teacher in Detroit Public Schools.  Our first day in class, she looked us over and said “You WILL learn to read in my class”.  Black, white, she terrified all of us equally, we knew she meant business.  I learned to read from Ms. Johnson.

Lisa, one of my classmates in that  same first grade class taught me a new phrase.  We had a disagreement and I was ready to continue the fight when she looked at me and said, “lets make up”.  I didn’t know the meaning of these words so I agreed thinking that our conflict would escalate, smiling she grabbed my hand and shook it.

Britt was one of my tenants when I was an apartment manager in Palmer Park in Detroit. He was a young working man with a family.  He took the bus to and from work, every day he had to cross Woodward Ave. to go from the bus stop to our building.  He related to me that when he would cross the street at the light he could hear “click click click” as people would lock their car doors at the sight of a young black man crossing in front of them.  He taught me what racism felt like.

Mr. Smalls owned the plaster repair company that worked on our building.  As it was an old building we saw each other fairly often.   Whenever he saw me he would put his arm around me and with a smile on his face  introduce me to his employees as his daughter.

One of our tenants invited us to one of her house parties to thank us for installing some new tile in her kitchen.  It was the mid-eighties and it was the first time that I had ever heard the phrase “shut up!” as a response to hearing something surprising.  I must have had a puzzled look on my face so she gently tapped my shoulder and said “Oh it’s just an expression.”

Paula Lord, a Trinidadian girl was my manager at a leather shop in St. Croix.  When ever I was slacking she would look at me and say “Mahjree, why you don’t have a duster to your hand?”.   We would smile at each other and then at the end of the day we would take turns going down to the drug store to grab a beer and sip them with a straw behind the counter.  She taught me the value of work.

Sheila was one of my co-workers at a Deli on St. Croix. We had a crew of people from what seemed like every island in the Antilles chain.  One day we had a tourist from the states, a black gentleman who was requesting more information about a particular cheese, I told him that I didn’t have the information but that I would be more that happy to contact the company in New York and try to find out.  He scowled and said “Oh, you just don’t want to find me the information because I’m black”.  Within what seemed like less than a second Sheila picked up her 18″ sandwich knife and started walking towards him and waving it in his face while stating, “You don’t come in here with that color SHIT!  I don’t care if you’re black, brown or PURPLE!”  She was suitably intimidating to where the customer backed up to the door and apologized.  She stood up for me.

When my marriage was falling apart we went to counseling through an agency.  Both of our counselors were young black women.  Lisa was the first person in my life who in a moment of complete exasperation and brilliance barked at me from the top of her lungs “What do YOU want, what do YOU want out of your life!”.  No one had ever asked me, I thought that pleasing everyone else was how I was supposed to lead my life.  She changed that.

When I was at a low point in my life I would take walks at our local park to decompress.  I was sitting on a park bench facing the water when a young man probably in his mid-teens sat down next to me and said “I know it’s real peaceful here and everything but I wanted to make sure that you were alright”.   I was taken by surprise that a total stranger let alone someone so young could be so perceptive.  I assured him that I was and thanked him for his kindness. Recalling this moment has brought me to tears many times since.

I was in Detroit coming home from work one day and as I turned the corner from Gratiot to Mack a car was coming at me from the wrong direction on a 2 lane road.  I believe that they were trying to go around a block of traffic.  I hit the brakes and had the thought that someone was going to come around the corner and rear-end my car.  Sure enough that is exactly what happened.   I stopped, the car that hit me stopped and a young man stepped out, walked up to me with his arms in the air and said “What the FUCK!”.   I stepped up to him with my arms up in the air and said “What the FUCK is right, did you see that jackass going the wrong way?”.  I explained to him what happened, he said he had just gotten his car repaired and this was the last thing he needed.  I said I was sorry for that but I didn’t really have an option but to hit the brakes.  He said he understood and then repeatedly asked if I was OK and made sure that I was before we parted ways.

These are just a few of the people and encounters that come to mind.  I am grateful for how they changed my perspective and my life.  I’m not going to say that I’ve been without bias or prejudice in my thinking, but I’ve tried to understand, I’ve tried to listen, I’ve tried to be a better person.  I think we all have that in us.


Invasion of the civility snatchers…

Washington DCI’m back, sort of. There hasn’t been much in the way of knitting or spinning, come to think of it there hasn’t been much in the way of anything.  I’ve been in a funk, a mind numbing, stop you in your tracks full on funk.  How long has this been going on?  I think I can pigeon hole it to around October and certainly after November 8th.  I know what some people might think, “It’s over your candidate lost, suck it up snowflake”.  It’s not the losing, someone had to lose, it’s happened before, I was disappointed and I carried on, this time is different.  What I’ve lost, what we’ve all lost is civility and a connection to our fellow citizens. I don’t feel kinship to those who support the current administration and it’s policies.  There is a cruelty not only to the legislation they are trying to pass but the language used to try and pass it.  There is cruelty in marginalizing the most vulnerable among us, whether it’s an immigrant, the elderly, women, the handicapped or the LGBTQ community.  Pundits and politicians alike are using their public forum to create divisiveness with a sneering condescending rhetoric towards anyone who doesn’t fall in lock step with their ideals.  I’ve heard the flip side to that argument, that “libtards” and the “Hollywood elite” want to shove their tofu loving lifestyle on to the everyone without regard to their moral compass.  Granted, as a progressive I feel that we can accomplish more thorough inclusion than exclusion.  When people feel as if they have a stake in their communities they are less likely to resort to violence to make themselves heard. Building a wall and banning certain groups from entering the country only creates and us versus them mentality, it’s divisiveness, it doesn’t work.  I am saddened by what our country has become, that our policies are dictated by late night Twitter rants and that what was previously unacceptable behavior has been excused at “locker room talk” or even outright lied about.  What baffles and disappoints me the most are the women who excuse or even support such rhetoric.  They’ve taken self-loathing to a whole new level and have sold the rest of us out in the process.  At present, I am in a permanent side-eye mode with pretty much everyone I encounter, I don’t feel like we have each other’s back, there is no longer a commonality.  It seems that everyone has an agenda and we cannot reach common ground.  I’ve tried to have discussions, civil discussions, unfortunately things have often deteriorated in to name calling and the dreaded Facebook “unfriending”.  The reality is that we all want the same things, better jobs, better wages, better healthcare, we might differ on how we want to achieve these goals but it seems like there isn’t any room for discourse and discussion, rationally.  Where do we go from here?  Do we let hot button issues distract us from real progress or do we try to come together and create something worthy of our legacy.

I’ve been knitting corner to corner dishcloths and this………’s all I can handle right now.

Seeking Normal

All of my resolve to post more regularly went out the window when I returned to work after my surgery. It’s been an uphill struggle to get back to normal. Of course I’m not really back to normal, my energy levels are pretty much what they were but I’m still dealing with swelling and that pulling feeling in my abdomen. I have returned to working out at my exercise studio again. It feels really good to be back. I’ve missed my kettle bells. Other than that, life is pretty much status quo. Nothing ever really changes it’s like being a hamster on a wheel moving forward and not really getting anywhere. I’ve been looking back on a lot of things and it seems like by the time we figure out why we make the choices that we do it’s too late to do anything about them.  Perhaps this is the reason I compulsively knit, it’s the one part of my life where I actually have some control over the process and results.  

  I’ve made progress on quite a few of my knitting projects. I managed to finish a number of small items recently and a large Sontag shawl. It’s so cozy and warm. I have also been attempting to expand my skills by learning how to brioche knit. I’ve been doing an online class on Craftsy, it’s very detailed and the instructor explains things well. I finished a sample swatch but that’s about it. I really need to go through the rest of the course work because I want to make a brioche hat. I figure that will be a good starting point. My ultimate goal is to make the “Askews me“shawl from Stephen West. Of course we all need those instant gratification projects as well, lately mine has been making little ear bud cases. They are super cute and a great way to use up leftover bits of sock yarn.  

 As for spinning I’ve decided to reattempt chain plying. I have a couple of bobbins halfway full that I intend to jump in and make it work. I think it would probably be a good idea to check out some YouTube videos first. It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted doing this. I also spun 6 ounces of mohair and Coopworth blend with glitz. It’s a really beautiful magenta color, photos cannot do it justice. I’ve been perusing Ravelry to find the perfect project for it. It’s fingering weight, about 400 yards.  

 I will leave you with a photo of Rocco. He is another sticking point in my life. No progress there, he still not “my” dog. I don’t think he ever will be.  

Stay warm. 

Frogging back to zero

To say that there’s been a lot going on lately would be an understatement. I guess it all started back in July when I went to my gynecologist and she found some abnormal cells on my cervix. I went from being clear as of a procedure two years previous to a level 2 dysplasia. At that point she referred me to a specialist, I gynecological oncologist. I did not like the oncology aspect of it but the reality is that I had a precancerous condition that would require surgical intervention.  After a month of treatment the doctor performed a couple of procedures to prepare me for my hysterectomy. He went old school with the surgery, as a friend of mine said he was like a bear in a dumpster he didn’t want to miss anything. I was in the hospital for a total of five days. The first few days were the worst, I couldn’t even roll over without yelling out. It’s been a difficult recovery, I developed a hematoma that has caused me a great deal of swelling and pain. I have gone back to the doctor twice to have my incision opened and drained. This has caused me to have setbacks each time he’s performed this procedure. I am three weeks post surgery at this point and I’m hoping that if I stick to my activity orders that my recovery will start to go a little bit smoother. The bottom line is that I have avoided full-blown cancer.  Even with this in mind, I am not a good patient. I don’t enjoy the sick role, this is not who I am.

I would liken this experience to my recent knitting disaster. I started the “tattered” shawl only to end up frogging the entire thing back after I started binding  off. I realized halfway through the bind off that my stitch count was off and because of the drop stitches there was no going back. I restarted the project about a week after my surgery and kept picking away at it until I finished it two days ago. My plan was to do a “walking dead” themed shawl with “blood” stains randomly placed. I think I nailed it. 

 It would seem that the running themes of my life lately are mistakes, pain, starting over, and going to Plan B. Knitting is a metaphor for these experiences. 

I am now plucking away on the “vanilla” scarf from “jumper cables” on Ravelry. It’s a nice simple no-brainer of the pattern that is making a very small dent in my stash of sock yarn. 

 As for real life, Maude has been relying on her neighbors to keep her groceries stocked and bring her a hot meal every now and again.  She’s lucky to have them. Mr. Larj  has been working at his job for about four months. He hates the production aspect of it but he likes the drive and his afternoon shift, as do I. The only downside to this job is that they’ve been having him work a lot of 12 hour shifts, sometimes six days a week. The only positive to this is that with me being on a leave of absence the hours have come in handy. It is what it is, with the printing business doing the slow swirl he’s lucky to have work of any kind. 

My fall canning plans have also slowed down to a crawl. Obviously with the surgery I haven’t been able to do much. I braved going to the farm market today. My plan is to fill some jars some time this week. I don’t plan on doing as much canning this year as I did last year. Mr. Larj simply does not enjoy home canned goods as much as I do. I plan on doing a little more salsa, pickled beets, apple sauce and possibly some bread-and-butter pickles.

I’m hoping for life to return to normal, whatever that constitutes. Stay healthy. 

 My bodyguard. 

Summer Staycation

It’s been a bit of a strange summer, the weather has been all over the map it’s been either hard-core rain or hard-core heat especially this week. I had a bit of a staycation this last week, I was off for six days. My week started out with the wine and wool festival at sandhill crane vineyard. It was nice, despite the heat. I was able to catch up with a lot of my knitting friends that I haven’t seen for quite some time. Of course I did a little damage the fiber wise and wine wise.  

 I ended up with a nice little kit with a bottom whorl spindle with green skulls, a fantastic sugar skull bag from Chasing Acorns and some lovely green fiber along with a couple of hanks of roving. Of course I had to come home with some wine as well.  

I also had the chance to take in some music that was a bit of a change from my usual. I went to Meadowbrook to see Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga perform together. It was an amazing performance by both artists

My other mission this week was to do some deep cleaning around here that has been neglected for far too long. My main targets were Eric’s room and the basement. Hard to say which one was worse. It feels great to look around and know that it’s done.  

Another item on my agenda this week was to get Rocco to the vet for his yearly check up and a pedicure. Needless to say he wasn’t very happy about either one and per the vet techs he was horrible for his nail clipping. I need to find out a better method although I’m not sure what it would be. 

As for knitting, I can’t say that I’ve been doing very much of it. It’s just been too freaking hot here. Every day for the last two weeks it’s been 90° and above. Certainly too hot for spinning as well. I’ve picked away at the tattered shawl and I’m pretty close to the bind off.  

I had mentioned some health issues and my last blog post. I wish I could say that I have good news about the direction that they’re heading in but at this point I’m not really sure what the end result will be.  I’m going to have to do my homework and put trust in my doctors. Granted it could be much worse but it seems like a lot of things are going wrong at once.  Its a little overwhelming but I’ll get through it.  

Hopefully calmer seas ahead….

Knitting as I unravel

I’ve been working on a couple of projects lately. One of them is a long-term spinning project that I started a couple of years ago on a drop spindle. It’s turning into a lovely “Boneyard” shawl.  I wanted a simple pattern that wouldn’t overwhelm the subtle color changes of the yarn. I didn’t really have a plan when I started spinning so it’s all quite random but it’s coming together nicely. However it is very light weight somewhere between a cobweb and lace weight. I ended up using size 1 1/2 needles to achieve a proper fabric.  

 Given the tediousness of this project, I decided that I needed to start another less intense pattern that I’ve had in on the back burner for a while. I’ve had plans to make “tattered” and had the perfect yarn lined up. I have plans to ramp up the pattern and turn it into a “Waking Dead” shawl, complete with blood spatter, bloody handprints and if I can swing it some teeth.   

 So where on earth when I get the teeth? Well the answer to that question is… myself. As it turns out I’m going to have to have a dental extraction on August 10. I went to the dentist yesterday and he informed me that only 1 to 2% of people crack their teeth all the way down to the root. Of course I’m one of those very special people. My options are to either get a bridge or an implant. I don’t like the thought of a bridge so apparently I will be getting an implant sometime this year. It’s quite a drawn out process and pricey. In addition to my issues with my teeth, I have also been having issues with the reoccurrence  of the HPV virus requiring a biopsy and a recent flare of my interstitial cystitis after almost 25 years of remission. Needless to say this has me very stressed out which is not helping my health. I’ve been trying to control some of these issues with supplements,  I’ve  had a fair amount of success with getting the interstitial cystitis under control however I will just have to wait and see what goes on with the HPV. I think that that is the issue that I’m most upset about as I thought I had it all taken care of with the major procedure that I had done last year. It’s tiresome and I just wanted to be done and over with.

Also since my last post I had my minivacation at my knitting retreat. It was really nice this year very calm and relaxed. My sister Gus also came for a visit. My plans for Rock on the Range were canceled but I still kept my time off, I’m glad that I did so that way we could spend an entire week together.  

Gus will also be coming again in the fall, can’t wait to spend more time with her. I also have an 89th birthday party for Maude on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that she’s almost in to her 90’s. I hope everyone is having a great summer and most importantly staying healthy…. 



Allegedly, Spring is here although I can’t say that we’re feeling very much of it in these parts. The temperatures are still in the low 40’s to 30’s dipping down into the 20’s at night.  On the other hand, the low temperatures give me an excuse to continue working on knitted accessories. My two latest projects are a spindle spun cowl and a somewhat unplanned shawl.  I had a clear plan for the cowl as I was spinning up the wool, it has a really interesting nubby skinny look to it.  I worked it up on size 9 needles and it’s very light but warm.   


My next project was somewhat unplanned. I had leftover wool from  the “without moonlight” shawl that I knitted last month. I decided to make another “198 yards of heaven” shawl using size 10 1/2 needles. I figured that I would start knitting on it and see how far I would get with the yarn that I had. I got about three quarters of the way through the lace pattern and started running very low on yarn. It was time for Plan B, I spun a bobbin of wool to match the gauge, plied it and divided it into two parts.  One half of the wool was dyed to match the turquoise blue that I had been working with. The color was a shade darker but when it was knitted up it looked gradient. The other half of the wool I dyed a dark chocolate brown. I really love the way that turquoise and brown looks together. I think the end result turned out very nice and I love this pattern for its ease and beauty. 


Currently it’s blocking in the basement and should be ready to unpin tomorrow night. 

In other news, I took a few days off last week to try and regroup and relax. For the most part I was successful except for a few glitches. Of course one of these glitches was Maude, I was really hoping that she had turned over a new leaf and was softening up a bit in her old age. I was proven wrong when I went to do her shopping for her last week. She was very angry and childish. I ended up cutting my visit very short and left with my feathers ruffled. My other glitch was the fact that Mr. Larj informed me that his job will be ending in about two weeks. This of course means that any and all fun for the summer will be canceled and I will be stripped down to bare bones austerity for who knows how long. My dream of having a real vacation is slipping by me. It looks like the only way I’ll get to Europe is if I ship myself over there after I’m cremated. I managed a few moments of relaxation, taking Rocco out to Elizabeth park and lunch at the Fly Trap.  I guess it’ll have to do. 

Next on the project agenda is another “outlier” in a plum color and a secret spinning project. 

Surviving Hoth

Apparently this winter is going to drag on and on. I don’t believe that we have had more than a day above freezing since New Year’s.  We are all walking around this house with glazed faces, bored out of our minds. Thankfully I have my hobbies to keep me semi-sane. I have been working on some spinning and knitting projects. I decided to tackle in its entirety the “without moonlight” shawl from Caitlin Ffrench. Overall I’m very happy with the results and the pattern. I’ve never done a half circle shawl before and I believe I will most likely have to wear it with a pin in order for it to drape properly. I started by spinning and plying 3 1/2 bobbins of “Buster”. I then dyed it a turquoise blue on the stove top . The pattern was easy to follow and I had plenty of yardage left over.  

I would say the top picture is probably closest to the accurate color of the finished shawl. I also finished the “common bean” shawl also from Caitlin Ffrench.  

Again I was very happy with the pattern and the result. I’m really enjoying working with bulkier yarns as everything knits up quickly. 

I have also been working on upping my skills with my spindles. I’ve been playing around with my mini Turkish spindle and I feel like I finally have the hang of it. Of course that means I need a full-size Turkish spindle. I went on my spindle spinning group on Ravelry today and found a couple of links to some Etsy shops. I purchased one from Turtle Made that was made using a 3-D printer. I’m very intrigued with the idea of using a new technology as applied to an old-school skill. I am also still working on plying up the multiple singles from my free samples of roving from Knittopia a couple of years ago. It’s slow going in the and result should be… Interesting. This will either be a really good idea or a really bad idea. 

As for personal stuff, as I stated everyone in this household is going a little stir crazy. I somehow managed to get Mr. Larj out of the house twice this weekend. Our first event was a birthday party at a Cuban restaurant downtown. We had a great time hanging out with friends and the food was amazing. I desperately needed to see something green and growing so I decided to take Mr. Larj to the Belle Isle conservatory to take in the flora and fauna. We had a pleasant surprise in finding that the aquarium was open that day as well. Afterwords we checked out the Green Dot Stables restaurant. I liked it, Mr. Larj hated it. In my defense he did say he wanted to try something different. Their entire menu is a variety of sliders. I had two different fish sliders and the garlic and truffle fries. I thought it was good and would definitely go back again.

As for my work life, it is what it is and I’m trying to make the best of it. I really hate how the focus of healthcare has become more of a business model than a people first model. It seems like it’s all about the numbers and productivity.  I am still trying to find that balance between doing what I need to do for my patients and giving the powers that be what they expect out of me. I am making it work but it has definitely ramped up my stress level. Adding to that stress level is the fact that mr. Larj’s job is always in a precarious position. We never know from week to week what’s going to go on with his place of employment. Admittedly the printing field is not what it used to be but it seems that the people he works for are completely lacking in any kind of motivation to make the business work. It really irritates me when I see people that of been handed something and they just piss it away. Unfortunately that seems to be more the rule than the exception of when it comes to children taking over their parents business, although in this instance it seems that the parent is equally irresponsible and uninterested. 

I also got a really good shot of Detroit from Belle Isle looking out over the frozen Detroit River. Spring is just around the corner right?

Blogging Blocking

The bean is blocking! I always feel like I overstretch and over pin everything that I block but I know that once the pins come out it will pop back in a little bit. All in all I’m very pleased with how this project turned out. The happy surprise was the random stripy effect that came out when it was knitted.


Green Bean

2015/01/img_8914.jpg I finished the Common Bean Shaw tonight. As I was finishing I was really sweating it, I ended up with about 8 inches left over. That’s calling it close. I can’t tell you how I ended up with the semi striped effect. It was one of those happy spinning accidents. I could not re-create it if I tried. Right now it’s soaking and preparing to be blocked tomorrow.