Goodbye Melba

Dear Readers,

Today’s post is a sad one. If you need happy reading, or don’t have a box of tissues handy, I suggest you read elsewhere.

Chiweenie asleep on a lime green blanket

Melba sleeping on her favorite blanket.

On July 28, I said goodbye to Melba forever.

The best, sweetest little dog had been carrying around a tumor for over a year, and at the end of July, it decided it was going to take her over.

Chihuahua mutt with one eye in the back of a car.

Old dog, one eye. Found near 7th Ave and Roosevelt. Go pick him up at the County shelter.

Since shortly after I found her, she had toughed out a variety of ailments. She spent a lot of time with the wonderful people at the Blue Cross Veterinary clinic, and they were her fan club. She was no stranger to the Cone of Shame.

But then she would come back.

Small brown dog wearing a clear plastic cone.

She helped me move into my apartment.

Chiweenie asleep in a partially assembled bookcase

She modeled in photoshoots.

Chiweenie in a coat begging to be picked up

Girl carrying a smal dog.

When modeling a sweater, bring the dog. If the sweater’s horribly wrong, the dog will salvage the whole thing.

Girl kissing a small, one-eyed dog

Kisses for the best photo prop ever!

Melba was not the dog you took running. She was a lap dog. When we were together, everything was good. When everything was good, she slept.

She slept on so many projects in progress. Clean laundry was also good. And books, and notebooks, and my laptop…

Melba the chiweenie asleep on a knitted shawl

Priceless knitted heirloom or…puppy blankie.

Ginger dog smelling gray cat hair drying on towels.

After a thorough rinsing in hot water, the fuzzies were clean enough to pass inspection.

Crocheted bath mat with a small ginger dog sleeping on it.

Melba approves of the bath mat.

Small brown dog asleep on a book

Melba exhausted herself tromping around the lawn.

When we first found her, we though someone must be frantically looking for her, so we took her to the humane society, who turned her into the pound (at the time, they were only taking surrenders). As we walked into the humane society lobby, I tucked her under my arm like a football, and she settled right into the crook of my arm. I felt like the worst person in the history of the universe when we handed her over. For the next week, I looked frantically for her on the pound’s website.

After I got her home, she chose me as her person. I like to think she remembered me holding her. If Querido watched her while I was at work, lining a comfy armchair with a blanket for her to sleep in, carrying her out and in, she would be the picture of despondence until I came home. My sister sat for her once: Melba was excited to hear her at the door until she realized it wasn’t me. Then she walked away and lay down pitifully in front of the slider. One of my best friends and her usual dogsitter, the one who would snuggle with her on the couch for hours while they watched TV: Melba gave her a mess on one of my shoes for a welcome.

That much love is a powerful thing. Humans love one another, but they don’t forget so easily, carrying around old hurts and unspoken expectations. If a friend or a family member had a really bad day, I would know it would take a lot more than me just showing up to make them feel better. But when Melba heard me walk in the door, she totally forgot that she’d been abandoned with Querido in her blanket-lined chair. She was ecstatic, crying with joy and tail whipping, and everything was right with the world. I don’t know what I did to earn so much love, but I tried very hard to be worthy it.

She wanted to be with me, and I with her, so she came with me to as many places it is possible to bring a particular little dog who doesn’t like other dogs. Everywhere we went, I carried her around like a football. Up until the very end, when nothing was comfortable, that’s how she liked to be carried.

Woman in a green knitted vest holding a chiweenie in a pink sweater

She came with us on car rides and road trips.

Melba the chiweenie in the driver's seat

Melba drives.

She was no stranger to Flagstaff when we lived in Phoenix, and not only did she make it to Kansas, she made it through a Kansas winter.

In July, when she started to decline, the hardest thing was admitting that this tiny little dog–who walked across a six-lane road in morning rush hour, survived two bouts of cancer, and attempted to fight every large dog in my apartment building–that she could be dying.

Her last two days, I stayed home from work. We sat on the couch together the entire time. The first day, I pretended I was just getting her back on her feet. The second day, I pretended it wasn’t the last. She didn’t eat. Finally, I pulled her too-light body onto my chest, and we took a nice long nap.

Melba the chiweenie asleep

Goodbye Melba

Then I said goodbye.

Getting her clay paw print back was horrible. Getting the box back was worse. I want to have her with me and well, with more years in which I can love her, and make up for whatever put her on the street in Phoenix in 2012.

Oh Melba. Wherever you went, I want to end up there too.

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County Fair

It’s county fair season here in Kansas. My only experience with fairs is the Arizona state fair, which is more about the rides than agricultural excellence. I’ve been working a lot with agriculture documents at work, and decided that for a properly authentic Kansas experience, the county fair was the thing to do.

Even though it was raining, our little county fairground was packed to the gills with people. It was immediately apparent that there were two types of people at the fair: the farmers and ranchers who showed up in their jeans and work boots, and the city slickers sliding around in shorts and flip flops. Little 4-Hers calmly paraded around pigs weighing more than they did, while one of the city slickers spooked when the sheep she was trying to photograph decided to try and climb out of its pen on the off chance she had something edible on hand.

Sheep blurred as it climbs up on its pen

Sheep are surprisingly large close up.

Dark gray rabbit in a wire cage

The bunnies were on display nearby, and thankfully, none of them wanted to come out of their pens. If I had that many small children squealing at me, I would stay put, too. The poor little bunnies looked ready to be done with all this county fair nonsense, so I quietly took one photo and let the poor little things be.

Although I did not photograph it, we also visited the exhibit hall. Most of the work was from more hardworking 4-Hers, but there was an open category for grownups too. The quilters went all out and did some incredible work, but I was surprised at how…non-show-offish the knitters were. They did good, solid work, but there was no extravagant lace, no hundred-color fair isle, no elaborate coats designed specially for the occasion. Perhaps all the desperately attention-hungry knitters had all taken part in the “make it with wool” event earlier? I’ll admit, my own inner show-off was going crazy with the possibilities. Whether I act upon this next year or not will remain to be seen, but…I may have already gone and looked up the rules.

Funnel cake with powdered sugar on a paper plate

Last but not least, funnel cake. Piping hot and covered only with powdered sugar.

City slickers and farmers alike, what is the best part of your county fair?

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All the Garter

Patchwork garter stitch blanket on a wicker couch

So much garter stitch.
(bonus points: spot the Melba)

It’s been a hot weekend here in Kansas, with bright days of 100 degrees or very nearly. They have a nifty thing called a heat index here, which must have something to do with humidity because I never heard the term bandied about in Phoenix. As far as I can tell, it means that even if the mercury doesn’t say 100, it might as well be.

My coworkers speak of 100 degree days like snowstorms: not uncommon but infrequent enough to have their date of arrival, frequency, and severity noted. I’m still too fresh out of Arizona to fall into that camp: I know it’s been hot out, some days more than others, but it’s summer, and that’s the drill. You ice your coffee, close the shades to keep the sun out, and pass the time until the sunset with some knitting.

(As an aside, I *had* forgotten how late the sun can set. Here it’s only just begun setting earlier than nine, and the lingering dusk is quite pretty but disconcerting.)

Somehow, I’ve found myself working on two garter projects: one large blanket and one large washcloth. In starting the blanket, I got caught up in the excitement of the texture of mitered squares and forgot that a mile of garter stitch does not offer a lot of fodder for the little gray cells.

New Log Cabin Washcloth in progress

Slightly less garter.

Halfway through the blanket, I started slowing down. I’m on a deadline, so I can’t set it aside for a day or two to work on something else, and when the weather’s so hot I don’t want to lug it to a coffee shop, so I made up a knitting game for myself: two rows of a mitered square, one row of a long-running UFO. The current offender is this New Log Cabin Washcloth, which I began in a desperate attempt to move the alien-colored cotton yarn out of my stash. I had set this one aside when I realized how many ends I’d have to weave in when it was done, but now, the speed of its comparatively short rows has bumped it up in the queue.

What about you all–how do you pass the hot days of late summer?

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Half the Year

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Half the year has passed in a flash: winter, then spring, and now we are speeding through summer. This midway point has inspired me to clean out closets, to pretty up the house, and to clean up my Ravelry page. Those of you on Ravelry have probably noticed that this last is a time-consuming endeavor. Rounding up UFOs for photos, weighing partial skeins, and experimenting with open windows and overhead lights to get bright, clean photos.

Some might rail against squandering time on these chores, time that could be spent on the craft itself, but I love the opportunity to take stock. As I fish around for UFOs, I invariably find them in a bag filled with needles or notions that are not needed for that project. So I clean out the bag before I replace the project. Half-skeins waiting to be weighed are usually chucked someplace random, not barricaded inside their bug-proof Ziplocs. After weighing, I take the opportunity to round the partial skeins up and stow them tidily away with other little skeins of the same fiber and weight. While I’m rooting around in my stash, I take a little extra time to check out what’s in there and daydream about future projects.

This year was going to be the year in which I didn’t buy any yarn. So far, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. There was the Yarn Barn in Lawrence, and then I bought a sweater’s worth of Sincere Sheep when I made my pilgrimage to Knit Purl while attending a conference in Portland. The Yarn Shop and More in Overland Park was tucked away in a nondescript strip mall, but inside they had every yarn gorgeously arranged by color–and their wintry Cascade Eco+ was on sale.

No new yarn at all has quickly turned into over four miles of new yarn. Oops.

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At the same time as all this yarn has been coming in, yarn has been going out in the form of knitted objects. There was the Plaidscape, which was so much fun and looked very impressive when it was done. Melba’s Dogzilla sweater, which turned out better than I could have hoped. The shawl that almost happened in a week. Lots of gifts for people celebrating big events: weddings, moves, and new babies..

All told, I managed to knit about two and a third miles of yarn in these six months. Fourteen different yarns ranging in weight from lace to bulky made up this two miles, knitted up into fourteen projects from seven different designers.

Going back over the year to date took a bit of time, but it was time well spent. Now I’m really excited about the next six months of knitting, thinking about finishing up garments in progress so I can wear them, and the projects I have lined up and ready to start.

How do you recharge your crafting energy?

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Hotdogs and History

Black and white copy of Lincoln's speeches on a red, white, and blue dress

Hi Lincoln.

Happy Fourth, all. Having just read Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s resounding cheer for Candada, I’d love to offer you something similar. Don’t get me wrong: I’m decked out in a red, white, and blue dress, looking forward to a lunch of hot dogs off the grill with coleslaw and a nice iced tea. But that whole liberty and justice for all thing, while wonderful and stirring on paper, remains problematic in implementation.

This kind of mood is best summed up by the Decemberists, who write music about this confusing country we call home with equal parts affection and exasperation. While they’re spinning on the turntable, I’ll check in with Lincoln and see what he has to say.

Fellow Americans–how are you marking this day? Those of you outside of the U.S., enjoy an uncomplicated Saturday!

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No I Wasn’t Working on That

Chiweenie curled up on knitting

Little chiweenies never ever have anything soft to curl up on.

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Summer Looks Like

Blue sky with wispy clouds

Bold blue skies and wispy clouds

I may have missed the boat on spring photos, but at least I can attempt to capture summer.

Shadow of a woman taking a photo of a small chiweenie

Sharp shadows and smells to smell

The sun is much brighter than I expected it to be, akin to that searing Arizona sun that toasts you to a crisp the second you step out in it. This is Kansas, though, so there’s always a breeze. Melba loves it, completely disregarding the heat to sit in the sun and sniff all the scents blowing by on the wind.

What does your summer look, feel, or smell like?

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FO Friday: Kansas Spring

Happy Friday, everyone–we made it!!! In a rare moment of good knitting timing, I have a FO for you this morning! Behold: the Crazy Sweater.

Woman wearing a brightly striped sweater top

The only “front” view where I was not making a weird face

It is the Tiny Shoots pattern from Kate Heppell, and I would just like to say I think she did a fine job of designing this sweater. If she’d added a small manual on how to substitute appropriate yarns, and then a small encyclopedia on how to modify a cap sleeve when you have only the faintest idea how that whole sewn-in-sleeve things works, it’s possible I would have had less trouble with the design, but a small note reading “If you totally mess up the sleeve shaping because you substituted yarn and changed both stitch and row gauge, that’s your own darn fault” might have been helpful too.

I finally got the sleeves right enough, and all of my coworkers have sworn up and down they can’t tell there’s extra fabric around the armholes where I think I was supposed to be doing a decreasing thing and didn’t.

About the yarn…it’s Noro sock yarn, one skein won in a blog raffle, the other purchased so I could knit a little top. I purchased the pattern at a fundraiser discount, so they seemed like a good idea to put together. Erm. The Noro is very grippy, which I believe is entirely different than the BFL called for in the pattern, so maybe that wasn’t a great choice. But the pattern is a nice simple canvas for this shout-at-the-top-of-its-lungs color scheme.

Woman wearing a brightly striped sweater top

The color scheme seemed a bit over-the-top in Arizona. Normally, I like natural colors: leaf greens, browns, and dark blues. But when I picked the top up again after the wedding, when Kansas was leaving winter behind, I started to realize the electric lime and magenta could be natural colors too.

Contrary to the endlessly, bitterly freezing winter I was promised, winter wasn’t so bad. But once Spring decided it was coming, it came with a vengeance. Electric green buds popped up on all the trees, making the pines on the hills look darker. Farmers set their fields alight (still can’t get over the fact that that’s legal), and they glowed magenta at night around the town. The fields were black for a while, but then they came back more green than ever, and all over flowers were popping up in yellows, whites, and every shade of purple. The sky became intensely blue, and the squirrels and robins popped out of nowhere to industriously hop about, rooting around for all the things they nibble on and exhibiting to anyone who might have any lingering doubt that spring was here.

I went back through my photos to see if I had any properly representative pictures of this time, but I didn’t. I couldn’t think why, until I remembered that the best view I had of spring doing its crazy dance was when I was driving around town, and crested the top of the hill above town. From that one spot in the middle of the road, you can look out across the river valley and see all the trees, and the fields, and the hills beyond this valley, and in spring, that view was to die for. But I never decided to actually take my life in my hands to capture that view, so I will spend the next few seasons scouting around for places where it is possible to take photos without causing a six-car accident.

Lace detail at the neck of a brightly striped sweater top

We have left spring behind now for a slightly moody summer, but that flat-out mad dash from cold blah winter to ALL THE SPRING is still vividly imprinted in my memory. I have renamed this sweater Kansas Spring.

Woman wearing a brightly striped sweater top

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Three Years and a Day

Small dog wearing a white cone
Three years and one day ago, Melba’s and my paths crossed. Literally: she was walking out onto a busy surface street in Phoenix as Querido and I drove past. Querido got her across the street and sacrificed the burrito I had packed for his lunch to keep her in one place until I could get the car around. We adopted her, and she became our bestest girl.

Melba in her Dogzilla sweater

In the past year, she has put up with a move to The Place Where Toes Get Cold and Wet…

Tabby and chiweenie snuggling on a green blanket

Snuggle buddies

And survived living with all the cats, all the time.

I wish she was celebrating her anniversary in health, but this is Melba. In three years, she has built up a chart as thick as a novella, and just last week was found to have an icky eye infection. Although she has made sure I know how pitiful she is by going to great lengths to get her cone stuck amidst the kitchenette table and chair legs, she has not been turning down the new treat delivered at twelve-hour intervals, Wet Food Balls with Crunchy Centers.

One-eyed chiweenie

Keep being you, Melba. You’re the best.

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