29 November 2012

Scrapping: a different kind of book...

Forgive my absenteeism, dear readers.  I've been doin' other stuff!

Yes, I am writing a book.  One that will never be published.

You know, some people see all the lovely books on my shelves at home and remark, "Wouldn't you rather have a Nook or a Kindle?"  Why, no.  They see me knitting sweaters, socks, hats, scarves, and ask, "Isn't that difficult?  Doesn't it take you a very long time?"  Why yes, it does.  People puzzle over my love of scrapbooking.  "Wouldn't it be easier and faster to just do Shutterfly albums?" Why yes, it would.

These three activities have a lot in common.  They are TANGIBLE.  They take TIME.  And in the case of knitting and scrapbooking, the end result is artful and one-of-a-kind.  But they aren't so much about "product" as "process."

The parlor at the Eagle Mountain House -
a step back in time, no?
The weekend before Thanksgiving I went away with girlfriends to a bi-annual "Scrapbooking Getaway."  The woman who organizes it nearly always holds it at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire.  It's like stepping back in time.  Built in 1879, it's on the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The view is breathtaking.  The food is amazing at their restaurant.  And it's fun to go away with girlfriends.

I REALLY LOVE the process of actually cutting and pasting printed photos and fancy paper, using stickers, special pens, stamps, and all the other doodads and geegaws of scrapbooking.  (Yeah, that's real "cut and paste," not Control+C, Control+V.  BTW, there's no Control+Z.) And I especially love to scrapbook WITH someone else, especially my friend Beth.  A "crop" is fun because we chit-chat non-stop, and we share ideas, gadgets, supplies, Cricut cartridges, and a few glasses of wine in the process.  Reading is solitary, knitting is mostly solitary, but scrapbooking is very social, at least for me.

One of the 14 pages I made at
my most recent getaway.

Want to know something very strange?  The part I find the most difficult is the "journaling," the seemingly-simple business of writing a few sentences on each page about who is in the photo, what's going on, etc.  If you've ever looked at a vintage photo album, not knowing who you're looking at, what year it was taking, why this moment is special - you know why journaling matters.  And so that big blue square in the lower right corner of the scrapbook page you can see there?  Yep, that's waiting for my journaling.  I take too long thinking of EXACTLY the right thing to say, when the right thing to say is to just say SOMETHING.

Similarly, with the holidays nigh, it gets a little more challenging for me to get over here and say SOMETHING on Blogger.  Oh, but I'm still reading.  That never goes away!

15 November 2012

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

"On the train, you get to know people. On the train, kids wave at you, and you wave back. Tracks stitch places together; freeways tear them apart." Taras Grescoe's Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile has had a profound impact on the way I think about my car.

See all those Post-It flags? 
Each one was "something very interesting."
I've never been especially enamored with owning/ maintaining/ driving a car.  It's a nuisance, mostly.  I've chosen to live in Maine, but in arguably the most densely-populated neighborhoods in the state. Despite that, there aren't a lot of truly great alternatives to a car. But Grescoe has convinced me that it doesn't have to be this way.

13 November 2012


"When you put [a deep love for animals] and [science fiction] together - reality and fantasy, animals and monsters - you can't get much closer than rabies."  Charles Rupprecht, chief of the rabies unit at the CDC

Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy's Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus  is FASCINATING.

First, until the end of the 19th century, getting bit by a rabid dog was a death sentence until Louis Pasteur himself developed rabies vaccine.  It was very dangerous for him and his team to develop (the researchers actually had to keep rabid dogs in cages in order to sample their saliva for the virus they needed to work with).  It was a miracle cure.  It also led to the development of other vaccines for viruses, including whooping cough, diptheria, and the flu shot.

Second, much of the classic horror tales of the 19th century, have, somewhere in their pedigree, echoes of the fear of rabies within them.  Before the widespread acceptance of germ theory, people believed that a mad dog bite passed onto the human victim the dog's madness.
In his book Knowing Fear, the horror scholar Jason Colavito charts the nineteenth-century rise in literature of what he calls "biological horror," featuring fully corporeal malefactors that "embody in their beings the struggle of humanity to re-imagine its relationship with the animal kingdom and the natural world."  Thus the emergence of the monster, the no-man man, "a bizarre liminal creature poised somewhere on the continuum between man and beast." (Rabies, p. 105).
Madness was contagious in the thinking of the Victorian era.  Think Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bram Stoker's Dracula, the madwoman in the tower in Jane Eyre, the vicious dogs in Wuthering Heights.  In the 1980s and 90s we feared AIDS; today we fear the zombie apocalypse (Madness caused by bath salts? Actually, it wasn't, but it was the first thing we considered, huh?).

Third, even to this day, there is NO CURE for rabies once an animal or person exhibits symptoms.  That's right, if you are exposed to rabies, and you don't get the series of rabies shots you need to stay well (and no, they aren't given in your stomach), you will get sick and if you don't die, you will have life-long, severe neurological damage.  One person is known to have survived symptomatic rabies in 2004, through an experimental treatment called the Milwaukee Protocol... but really, you don't want to go there.... get the shots.

Fourth, today we may have many disagreements about health care, about parents who do or do not vaccinate, but we would not likely DENY children of any socio-economic level a simple life-saving measure.  In 1885, four children in New Jersey were bitten by rabid dogs.  Pasteur had already successfully treated rabies patients on the Continent.  However, it took a Newark physician's public plea to raise enough money to send these working-class children to France for treatment:
If the parents be poor, I appeal to the medical profession and to the humane of all classes to help send these poor children where there is almost a certainty of prevention and cure [France].  Let us prove to the world that we are intelligent enough to appreciate the advance of science, and liberal and humane enough to help those who cannot help themselves. (Rabies, p. 142) 
How sad that nearly 130 years later, we are still wrestling with access to health care for all.

Rabies remains with us; tens of thousands of people die of it every year in developing countries.  Even in the United States, and even though we are legally required to vaccinate our dogs, not everyone does. It is still spread by mammals, especially small ones, and MOST especially bats!

Pet dogs test positive for rabies in Maine

Raccoon attacks dog in Bath, Maine; third confirmed case there in 2012

A rabies vaccine - a great gift for your pet!

The CDC recommends STRONGLY that if you wake up and there is a bat in your home, or if you find a bat in the room of a child or an infirm person, consider that person EXPOSED to rabies, and seek treatment promptly.

Rabies vaccine is affordable and available for pets.  Does Fido need his shots?  Here's a handy list: Upcoming Rabies Vaccination Clinics for Pets  Then, head over to the Town or City Hall and get that dog license.  In my city, it's $6.00, and it's due each January.  It protects me, my neighbors, and my dog.  As the city clerk said to me one year as I was renewing his license, "It's the best Christmas present anyone can get their dog."

09 November 2012

Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan...

I just love The Writer's Almanac.  It's like a daily dose of literary vitamins.

I need to read this
sooner than later.
It's Carl Sagan's birthday today.  I absolutely LOVED his novel Contact (I liked the film too, but not as much as the book).  I did not know that Dragons of Eden won the Pulitzer Prize.  I've had that tattered paperback at home for ages.  High time I read it.

But in addition to loving the stars and the planets, he loved books too.....
What an astonishing thing a book is. It is a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts, on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person. [...] Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. Books are proof that humans are capable of working magic. - Carl Sagan
I loved NOVA Carl Sagan specials on PBS when I was a kid. Speaking of which, does the WGBH Boston fanfare & logo animation drum up any childhood memories for you?

Billions and billions of birthday wishes, Carl, wherever you are.....

05 November 2012

VERY cool shout-out!

I wrote to Lenore Skenazy today, the self-proclaimed "generalissimo of the Free-Range movement" (LOVE it), because I am seeking additional opinions about my recent obsession interest in my son's grades via Infinite Campus.... and my question has been featured on her blog today!

Free-Range Kids

Lenore is my total hero in terms of parenting strategy.  I feel honored to be a special part of the conversation!!!

If you haven't heard of it yet, Free-Range Kids is "fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, Ivy League rejection letters and/or the perils of a non-organic grape."

So.... do you consider yourself more of a "helicopter" parent or a "free-range" parent?

02 November 2012

Knitting and repurposing - what's old CAN be new again

Just when you thought I was a one-trick-pony, now for something completely different:

Goodwill Industries of Northern New England has an outstanding, popular blog.  A significant portion of the content is about "crafting" or "repurposing."  They invited me to post about a craft project that I completed earlier this year with "reclaimed yarn":

Now, in this case, I did make a shawl, but really, you could choose to turn the yarm from an old sweater into a new sweater.  Or make hats, mittens, scarves - pretty much anything you can knit, you can knit from reclaimed yarn.

I've mentioned a few times in the past that Goodwill is my favorite bookstore.  Lately it's also my favorite yarn store!  AND the fabulous clothing I've bought there - to wear as is :-)  Skirts & pants from Ann Taylor or Ann Taylor Loft, Eddie Bauer, GAP and Banana Republic and just a few of my favs  (in fact, the pants I'm wearing today are courtesy of Goodwill, thank you very much).

If you're interested in the process of reclaiming yarn, I hope you'll head over to the Goodwill blog and read about it.  My post includs helpful links (I wish I could say that the concept of reclaiming yarn is my own, but it's not ;-) with tips for yarn-y success.  And many other posts there give tips for reclaiming all KINDS of materials (fabric, buttons, zippers, etc) for crafting!