social distancing: week 2 report

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This past week was the start of online teaching at my university. Because I teach a mostly-international student population, and also have students whose homes do not have reliable internet connections, I’ve been working to create “asynchronous” modules for them to complete when they can. And I’m “homeschooling” my kid. It’s…a lot.

Working on midpoint portfolio feedback while M lounges and reads her new book. Office/guest room combo is pretty great :)

This daybed in our guestroom/office is pretty handy!

I thought I’d try to make weekly posts every Sunday recapping what we’re up to during this weird time, but it turns out that’s maybe a little too much to add to my already overflowing plate. So this one’s a day late!

I’ll start with the knitting progress: I finished the back of my Wardie cardigan!

Finished Wardie Back!

This was my first time doing cabled decreases, and I’m just so delighted with how “fancy” they look:

fancy cabled decreases

I feel like this pattern is the perfect balance between “mindless stockinette” and “interesting enough to keep me wanting to knit” right now. There are new techniques to learn, which I love, but once I’ve learned them, I can use them over and over in a very predictable way. That’s perfect for where my brain is right now.

As for what we’ve been up to otherwise, well, we’ve been trying to get outdoors a little bit, when it’s not raining. Spring is still springing, despite everything going on in the world!

Spring is springing!

My daughter has basically inherited my Baa-ble hat – she’s just so stinking cute in it!

She’s so stinking cute in this hat. It has basically become her hat at this point!

It’s been lovely, too, to see the messages our neighbors have been putting out in chalk:

A lovely chalk message from our post-dinner walk.

This weekend, it was even warm enough to let some fresh air into the house while we baked and cleaned!

It was warm enough to let fresh air into the house!

My daughter had her first Zoom-based violin lesson:
First Zoom-based violin lesson!

And we were able to get an exercise bike set up in our basement so that we can get a little bit of exercise even though the Y is closed:

Now we have an exercise bike!

Here’s one other good thing that happened this past week: remember the situation with my former department that I mentioned a couple years back? On Friday, the university settled with my friends and former mentors who brought the lawsuit for $9.4 million dollars. I’m so relieved that this ended with a settlement in favor of the complainants, because they were so very right to raise the issues they raised, and this settlement proves that (the university can say whatever they want about how they’re not admitting any fault and their insurance is footing the bill…I still don’t think you settle for nearly $10 million dollars when you think you’re going to prevail in court). But I’m also relieved because it means that I can’t be compelled to testify in court; unfortunately, the settlement happened late enough in the game that the university’s lawyers did have access to the signed witness statement I gave to the lawyers for the complainants, which is…a really weird thing given that they’re also my employer, so it’s not like I got to stay as anonymous as I might have liked even without it going to court. But it was important to me that the truth get out and that I corroborate everything I could, because the university was going out of their way to frame my friends and former mentors as liars, and I *knew* that they were not lying – that toxic environment *was* my grad school experience. The truth was worth the risk, but I’m just so glad it’s over.

So, that was our week! I cast on for the first of the two fronts on Saturday, and am already past the pocket section – I’ll share pictures of that next week!

Beginning of right front.

Stay safe, stay well!

social distancing: week 1 report

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Well, in my last post, I said I thought we were headed towards school closures, and indeed, we were. So we spent last week holed up in our house, all three of us; my husband I were working from home, and our daughter was schooling from home. It was…a lot.

Running a writing workshop via Zoom. I’ve got them in “breakout rooms” right now, doing an activity in pairs. I can’t see my notes on my slides when I do screensharing, so I’ve got my laptop perched in front of my monitor so I can see presenter notes.

Running a writing workshop for grad students via Zoom

I’ve been working to set things up so that my classes can still work online, given that my students are now literally scattered across the globe (I teach a mostly international population) and with highly variable internet access, etc. All the while the university keeps emailing out new policies – it’s REALLY hard to plan when the ground is constantly shifting under your feet, but I realize that’s basically the situation that ALL of us are in, because this is an ever-changing unprecedented global pandemic.

Wardie Cardigan Back in progress

At least one of my plans ended up working out: the plan to knit a Wardie cardigan! I’ve had to sit through a LOT of Zoom-trainings, so I’ve actually knit more than I expected to – I’m now past the back decreases and just need to knit straight for quite a few more rows. Straight stockinette is pretty much what my brain can handle at the moment.

garter stitch selvedge

The pattern calls for knitting the first and last stitch of every row to create a garter stitch selvedge. I’ve never actually done this before, because I don’t tend to knit sweaters in pieces very often, but I can already really see how it will make seaming easier!

We went out for a post-lunch walk while A was in a Zoom meeting. It was really nice to get a little break from my desk upstairs, where I’ve been almost non-stop for the past week. Gotta figure out a way to fit these breaks into our work+school from home d

Out on a socially-distanced walk with Cherry the Red Panda

We did get out of the house a few times – I took M out on a walk around our neighborhood while my husband had a Zoom meeting, and we’ve also tried to make a post-lunch walk part of our regular routine.

She found a heart-shaped rock on our walk today!

A heart-shaped stone. Sending LOVE to everyone!

This week also held our 15th wedding anniversary and the Spring Equinox. We’ve never been big on going out to eat or things like that even when there isn’t a pandemic, so we pretty much had our usual quiet at-home celebrations. We are taking social-distancing very seriously, because my lungs were damaged by the pneumonia I had from late November through January, and we really, really do not want to risk exposing me to COVID-19. I can’t help but feel a bit scared every time my throat feels sore, or I feel extra tired, or have a low-grade fever, especially given that my lungs don’t ever feel great – but those things are also things that happen to me when I’ve been stretched too thin, and the combination of working from home, while parenting, while dealing with ever-changing policies from my university…well, that has certainly stretched me too thin. I’m trying to take care of myself the best that I can in these strange, challenging times, and to remember that even though working from home while parenting is HARD, we are so very lucky to be able to socially distance like this while keeping our jobs.

knitting to stay sane

Stay safe, everyone. Be well. Knit on.

I have a new sweater! (And everything else is chaos.)

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Finished Gridlines!

It turns out I did finish my sweater over Spring Break, as predicted…though nothing else has gone according to plan. My university has told all of the students to stay home, or go home, and we have been thrust into online teaching in order to contribute to flattening the curve through social distancing. It was absolutely the right call to make, given the pandemic we are facing, but wow, it is sheer chaos to try to convert 4 different classes, all of which are heavily dependent on in-class discussion, to online format…especially when your students are going to be scattered around the globe, with variable internet connections. It’s overwhelming, and I suspect we’re headed towards an even more challenging scenario if my daughter’s school closes. Teaching a 4 class load from home while also homeschooling is going be an adventure, that’s for sure!

I’m having a pretty hard time with all of this, emotionally, and I suspect it’s because I already had 6 weeks of being cut off from the world while I battled pneumonia from late November through early January, and I haven’t even fully worked back up to my pre-pneumonia levels of socializing, and now I’m headed for another 6 weeks of being cut off. I know it’s the right call to make both for the sake of the community, and for my own sake (I’d be in the “high risk” category for COVID-19 due to my pre-existing lung issues), but for my mental health? It is not so great. I am someone who really loves planning, and planning has become completely impossible for the moment, and that alone leaves me feeling really unsettled, before we even get to all of the worries about what this pandemic means for the people who are already vulnerable, for our fragile and broken social safety net, for our economy, for…everything. It’s a lot.

So here, how about some more nice new sweater pictures?

Finished Gridlines!

It grew a little bit with blocking, especially in length, but I’m fine with it – it’s got a lovely drape!

Finished Gridlines

I really love the way it looks with this dark pink cowl, too…but the neckline is also nice sans cowl:

Finished Gridlines!

I’m pretty pleased with myself for having knit an entire sweater out of sock yarn – that’s actually a first for me!

Back to the topic of planning – I mentioned in my last post that I was debating what to do for my next project, and while I’m still not completely decided, the recent post on Ysolda’s blog has me leaning towards knitting a Wardie cardigan. I have a cone of Bartlettyarns Sport in a nice natural shade – quite a contrast from the bright colors I’m wearing today! But if the gauge is right after I block this swatch-in-progress, I’m pretty sure that Wardie will be my next sweater – I could use a really basic cardigan like that. Will I actually get much knitting time in the next few weeks, while I desperately try to help my students get through the end of the semester without actually seeing them in person? Who knows!

Planning my next project

Wish me luck?

 

Finished Gridlines!

Giving myself a hug, and sending virtual hugs to everyone who needs them!

Spring Break, heartbreak, c’est la vie.

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It’s “Spring Break” for my university, which means that I can work at home all week. If you thought “Spring Break” meant “not working”, you clearly don’t know any professors! But it will be a bit more chill, which I’m super grateful for, because goodness gracious, I could use a break.

Nearing the end

I’ve finished the first sleeve on Gridlines, and am actually nearing the end on the second one. I’m still really loving this sweater. If my face doesn’t look like the face of someone really loving her sweater, well, that might be because I’m also still really angry and frustrated and just straight-up heartbroken about the fact that Elizabeth Warren is now out of the race for the Democratic nomination.

Still frustrated and angry that this lady is no longer in the race.

I make no secret of my political leanings here on this blog, and I haven’t made any secret of the fact that I was an ardent Elizabeth Warren supporter, and a pretty dedicated Team Warren volunteer. I’m so thankful to Elizabeth Warren, for everything. I don’t think I’ll ever “get over” the misogyny and erasure, but I will also never stop fighting for the things that made me want to be involved with Team Warren in the first place. But my heart hurts, and this feels very personal to me – I’ve watched the politician I most closely identify with, the politician with whom I share so many traits in common (intelligent, obsessed with planning, dorky, joyful, professorial, feminist, compassionate, etc) be either erased, or treated like absolute garbage by the media and the people of this country in which I live. That just hurts, ok?

But I’m not *surprised*. How could I be surprised? I’ve been a highly intelligent female-identifying person my entire life. It’s never been lost on me that when intellect comes in a female body, it is despised, that I live in a culture where *I* am despised…how could I not notice that? It’s never been lost on me that in order to gain recognition, women have to work twice as hard and be twice as prepared as men, and once we get recognition, people will resent us, and as soon as we start to seek power, the people who used to like us will start to see us as “nasty” even when we haven’t changed one bit. Those dynamics aren’t a mystery to me, and they probably aren’t a mystery to anyone who identifies as a woman. I see how things are – I’m just stubborn enough that I want to try to change them, as Sisyphean a task as that may be. Nevertheless, I will persist.

On that front, this is really, really good. It gets at what is so pernicious and frustrating about sexism in the context of elections…of course there are an infinity of factors that contribute to a candidate not winning, but that doesn’t mean that sexism isn’t one of them. And I guarantee you that sexism colored voters’ interpretations of even those other factors…male candidates are permitted mistakes and imperfections in a way that female candidates simply aren’t. But because it’s complex, we can’t “prove it”, and many people are happy to gaslight us about it. And because we hide behind our worries about *other people’s* sexism, and code it in terms of “electability”, we never have to face it. But dammit, I want us to face it. And it’s not just in elections, it’s everywhere. So many people are so eager to explain why something you faced wasn’t *actually* sexism. I’m just so tired of the gaslighting.

The day Warren dropped out of the race, she and Roger Lau made an all-volunteer call at 6pm, so I had my phone on speakerphone at the dinner table to listen in. She pretty much said what she said in this Medium post, but it was still just lovely (and heartbreaking) to HEAR her saying it (with a few additions), and to hear from Lau, too. But what I want to remember is this: My daughter saw that I was tearing up, so she reached over and squeezed my elbow, and kept holding it until the call was over. Oh, my sweet child! She’s sad about Warren dropping out, too – we were hoping she’d come here, and that my daughter could meet her and make a pinky promise with her. But I’m so glad she could listen in, and see her mama care so deeply about something, and that her impulse was to give her mama a loving squeeze. All those little girls who made pinky promises with Warren, and the little girls who wanted to but didn’t get a chance…they’re going to do amazing things. I just have such immense gratitude to Warren for showing what a better path could look like, for being a woman who is unapologetically smart, angry, and passionate about her plans, for modeling the kind of accountability, openness, listening, learning, intersectional thinking, and ownership of mistakes that I think is necessary if we are to have a healthy government (and healthy relationships, in general).

Almost there...

I know, I’m touching my face – but I’ve been a very good hand-washer!

Right now I’m also trying really hard not to panic about COVID-19. The thing is – I keep hearing about how it’s only really dangerous if you’re elderly or have a compromised immune system or an underlying lung or heart condition, and while I’m not elderly, I do check the other two boxes, and my spouse checks one of them, too. I’m thinking that the odds of a student bringing the virus back with them from Spring Break are about 100%, so I’m thinking about what I will need to do to continue teaching while also keeping myself as safe as I can. These are such strange times that we are living in (and oh, how I wish we could have chosen someone as competent and prepared as Elizabeth Warren to lead us through them!).

But anyway, back to the sweater. Alternating yarns for the sleeve remains as annoying as I said it was in my previous post, but I’m powering through, and I’m really excited to be able to wear this sweater as the weather begins to warm towards Spring-like temperatures. (We may still get a blizzard, though, because this is Western NY we’re talking about…you just never know!) I kinda did my own thing with the decreases, decreasing a bit more rapidly at the upper arm and then at the rate recommended by the pattern below the elbow; I didn’t want the super-loose sleeve fit that I saw on some of the finished Gridlines on Ravelry, and that seemed to result in a good fit for me, at least. I also finished the first sleeve with an i-cord bindoff, just like I used at the neckline, because I love the combination of garter stitch with an i-cord edging.

Almost done.

I’ll almost certainly finish this sweater over Spring Break, so I’m starting to think ahead to what I want my next project to be. The second I saw Jacqueline Cieslak’s Water Bearer cardigan, I became obsessed with it, but have been struggling to figure out what to knit it with; as much as I’d love to get a bright turquoise hand-dyed yarn like she’s using for the pattern sample, I have a stupid number of sweaters’ worth of yarn in my stash, and I’m determined to knit it down. I’m currently leaning towards using the brown Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool that I’ve had for darned near a decade – yes, it’s kind of plain, but it’s the right weight, and I think the brown might look a bit like woodgrain in that gorgeous brioche shawl collar. And I could certainly use a brown cardigan in my wardrobe. But there are so many other sweaters I want to knit, too, so we’ll see if that actually ends up being the one I knit next!

Gridlines sleeve progress!

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I haven’t had a ton of time to knit this week, but I’ve made a bit of progress on the first sleeve on Gridlines!

Gridlines sleeve progress - almost to the elbow!

It’s kind of slow going, though. I mean, for one thing, it’s a sweater knit in sock yarn, so even at the somewhat loose gauge, there are a lot of stitches in the sleeve! But also, as much as I love knitting sleeves from the top down (because I can get them to be exactly the right length), I also kind of HATE knitting them from the top down, because of how the entire body of the sweater has to twist around and around as you knit. And for Gridlines, I’m using two different balls of yarn, and alternating every other row, which means the yarns themselves are getting all twisted up, too:

all twisted up

The two balls I had left don’t quite match – one has quite a bit more white streaks in it, and I want my two sleeves to match, so switching yarns every other row is the best solution. It’s just…annoying. C’est la vie!

Gridlines sleeve progress - almost to the elbow!

Wish me luck in pushing through the annoyance to get to the finish line?

Gridlines body is finished!

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I finished the body of Gridlines this morning while working from home! Hooray!

Gridlines body!

I didn’t end up having all that much knitting time this weekend, because I spent Saturday at a volunteer training, learning how to make calls and texts in support of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign (eagle-eyed blog-readers may have noticed that I telegraphed my support for her in the post in which I introduced Gridlines). I was one of those folks in ’16 who wished so strongly that Warren was running, and I’m thrilled that she is running now in ’20! Her plans would build the future I want to live in and want my daughter to grow up in, and her entire ethos is the direction I want the Democratic party to go in. I’ve been making donations to the campaign, but wanted to do more, especially given how frustrated I feel about the way she’s being erased in the media. So I decided to be brave and put my mouth where my money is: by talking to voters in South Carolina for a few hours on Saturday. Phone banking is a wee bit intense for me, it turns out – I think texting is more my speed. Or maybe I should start writing Letters to the Editor. Anyway, enough about Elizabeth Warren…back to Gridlines! (Though it does strike me that the Hydroponic colorway I’m working with isn’t TOO far off from Warren’s Liberty Green…)

Unfinished neckline

As I said in my last post, after picking up the stitches from the center, it was pretty straightforward to knit the left side, because it was completely the same as the right side, and the pattern had become intuitive by that point. I’m thinking that for the neckline, I’ll do the garter stitch neckband that’s called for the in the pattern, but I might edge it in i-cord rather than a regular bind-off; I just think i-cord edges look really nice with garter stitch, and I’m not at all worried about it making the neckline too snug to go over my head – if anything, I think an extra-firm bind-off edge like that will give some needed structure to the top of the sweater. I think I’ll actually do the neckline first, before moving onto the sleeves.

Gridlines body shoulder closeup, with cowl

I’m still really in love with the shoulder shaping, and with the way this sweater looks with my deep pink Willow Cowl!

Gridlines body - with Willow Cowl

And I’m really happy with the fit – it’s roomy, but flatteringly so. I think it’s going to be a great layer for Spring and Fall! (Maybe not Winter – that’s when I lean towards my worsted and aran-weight sweaters, because I am a person with very poor thermoregulation and I need warm wool to help me out!)

Gridlines progress

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I’ve joined the left front and back on Gridlines, so now I can actually pull it over my head!

Gridlines neck opening!

It’s all bunched up on the needles on the left side, but it seems like the fit is going to be just what I’m aiming for.

Gridlines progress!

I’m still really enjoying the pattern. It’s really intuitive (to me, at least) and since the left side mirrors the right side, I hardly have to consult the pattern anymore because I can just consult my knitting. (Seriously: learning to read your own knitting is one of the best skills you can work to develop as a knitter!)

Gridlines progress

Isn’t it going to look great with this Willow Cowl?

I’m going to be bringing this project with me to Knitting Guild tonight (it’ll be my first time there in months, because of the lengthy bout with pneumonia in late ’19 and early ’20). It takes quite awhile to knit each row, since it’s the entire length from back hem over the shoulder to front hem, so we’ll just have to see how close I can come to finishing the left side. Maybe by the weekend?