Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Endless Afghan - The Nineteenth Square

I am finally knitting again! Christmas is over, the office has slowed down back to normal, and Kenny’s homework is under control. What better project to celebrate "I-have-time-just-for-me-again" than the endless afghan.

This square is from the Great American Aran Afghan and was designed by Julie Levy.

It features interlocking diamond cables at the center of the square and a single row of diamonds at each of the edges.
Overall, a intricate looking square that is not difficult. And I am now one more square closer to finishing.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Christmas 2007

Last July, as Dan, Kenny, Justin and I pulled out of our driveway in Washington after a wonderful and relaxing summer vacation, Kenny gazed back wistfully at the house and wished that we all could celebrate Christmas together in Washington. During the long drive home to California, I imagined a happy family scene for Christmas, 2007:
My family is settled around a brightly lit and richly decorated Christmas tree. A cheery fire snaps and crackles as it burns in the hearth, while outside the window a lovely white snow blankets the yard. The scent of Christmas candles mingles with the aroma of Christmas dinner. Christmas carols pay quietly in the background as Justin, Kenny and Dan carefully unwrap their packages, all of which are "exactly what they wanted".
Happily deluded by my private dream, in a moment of utter insanity, I said "Yes, let's spend Christmas in Washington."
By October, reality was beginning to rear its ugly head. It started with airline reservations. Any other time of the year (except maybe Thanksgiving) I could locate tickets for $79 to $99 each way. Now, despite the fact that I was making reservations three months in advance, the cost of each ticket was roughly three times that of the National debt. (Apparently, airline companies aren't affected by the Christmas spirit.) I finally located tickets at a reasonable price but they required travel out of San Jose (two hours from our house) on Christmas Eve. Quickly deducing I was not going to be able to find, purchase, and decorate a tree in less than ten hours once we arrived on December 24th, I decided to decorate a tree during my October vacation.
In California, this didn't seem to be much of an issue. All the major stores start to display their Christmas inventory before Halloween. In fact, it is not at all unusual for many of the stores to be sold out of the majority of the "good stuff" by October 20th. But when I got to Washington, there was nary a decoration in sight. After checking ten different stores, I explained my dilemma to the manager of Scott McClendon Hardware. Wonder of wonders, they had a pre-lit, eight foot tree left over from the year before which they were willing to sell to me.
Next I had to locate decorations. After checking with local merchants (and enduring looks that suggested that they thought I was some kind of lunatic), I was finally directed to several gift stores in Seattle, Silverdale, and Shelton which carried Christmas ornaments on a year round basis. The catch was that all of the shops required at least a forty five minute drive to reach --- and all in opposite directions. Four days and seven trips later, I finally had enough ornaments to decorate the tree. I even found a tree skirt, a wreath, and a present for Dan!

Speaking of presents..............Oh, oh! The only way to get them to Washington on time was to ship them. Over the next two months, I became a clearing house for Christmas packages. I wrapped and reboxed everything, then made roughly 6,654 trips to the UPS store. Once each box was on its way, I had to track it online and notify my neighbor, Lennie, that a box was on the porch. She then retrieved the box and took it inside. Now add in the stress of the holiday season in Family Law. I began to feel like the Grinch in that Dr. Seuss cartoon. More than once I caught myself walking around and muttering "I must stop Christmas from coming!" to myself. It didn't work.

Before I knew it, it was December 24th. Alaska Airways recommended passengers arrive two hours before the flight to ensure time enough to get through security. Since our flight left at 6:00 a.m., we arrived at 4:00 a.m. Alaska Airlines apparently didn't read their own memo and didn't open Baggage Check-In until 5:00 a.m. Dan ranks waiting in an airport somewhere between having a tooth pulled without Novocaine and contracting a raging case of the flu. He paced in front of the ticket counter for a solid hour. Once it opened and our bags had been checked, we dashed to security. There is a math equation which states that the speed an airport security line moves is directly related to likelihood that you will miss your flight. Needless to say, it was close. Once in the air, there was turbulence.....lots of it. As we bumped and bounced on our way to Seattle, Kenny began to get air sick. You know, those air sick bags DO come in handy.

I was rethinking this whole "Christmas in Washington" thing when we finally landed at Sea Tac International Airport. I was relieved when we boarded the Kitsap-Bremerton Shuttle to Port Orchard, where our neighbor, Lennie, picked us up and drive us the remaining 20 miles to home.

Surprise! Lennie and her husband, Duane, had opened the boxes and finished decorating the house. Duane had hung Christmas lights on the outside of the house. Lennie had stocked our refrigerator. As a final touch, Duane had lit the pellet stove and turned up the heat while Lennie retrieved us.

This is what we saw when we opened the front door.

Kenny helped me finish up last minute issues, including folding luminarias. A luminaria means "light" or "little lantern". In New Mexico (where I grew up), luminarias are made from brown paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated from within by a lit candle and traditionally displayed on Christmas Eve. These are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays. Tradition states that the lights will guide the spirit of the Christ child to one's home.
As a fund raiser, Kenny's class sold luminarias pre-cut with a candle cut-out. I folded them, Justin added a cup of dry sand to the bottom, and finally I added a votive candle (they last 18 hours). As night fell, we lit the candles.

Kenny turned on the tree lights and set up the Ipod to play Christmas Carols. And wonder of wonders, the Christmas spirit finally began to arrive. Gone was the stress and exhaustion. Instread, we were a family happily settling down for the night.

Christmas morning was happy and relaxed. We had a wonderful time finally discovering what was in those boxes. Dan found the most adorable sheep for me.
It moves when its back is stroked and bleats. Dan said he went to over seven stores trying to track it down.

After packages, I fixed crepes. Halfway through breakfast, it started to snow!!!

And boy, did it snow! As the snow got deeper, the boys donned hats, coats and gloves and headed outside for a snowball fight.
It was sort of one sided since Justin is so much bigger and stronger. But it didn't matter, Kenny had a great time.

As I stood at the window watching (I'm no dummy -- those boys would have hurled snowballs at me if I had gone outside), I realized that we HAD had a perfect Christmas.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm Back.........

I have been on a blogging hiatus. Being a Family Law Attorney is often stressful. When a marriage is dying, divorcing couples are rarely at their best. Now add in the stressors of the holiday season and things go from bad to worse. The time period from the end of November to the middle of January tends to be a very intense time at my office. This year was no exception.
My staff and I had to prepare for and put on four trials lasting one to two days each. In between the trial preparation, I also participated in fifteen office settlement conferences with opposing counsel and our clients in an effort to peacefully settle Christmas visitation schedules between upset and angry parents, who tend to each want Christmas their way. These conference typically last two to four hours before we are able to reach an agreement. Once an agreement was brokered, I had to draft a Stipulation and Order which had to be signed by both parents, both attorneys, and a Judge. As if all this wasn't enough, domestic violence is always an issue during the holidays and this year I appeared at six emergency hearings seeking restraining orders as a result of domestic violence. Add to the mix all the clients that want to their divorce paperwork filed before the end of the year and new clients who need immediate appointments and you get a scheduling nightmare. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, seventy hour work weeks are the norm for my staff and me. By the time December 24th arrived, we were all exhausted and looking forward doing to our winter break (I close the office from December 24th through January 2nd each year).

As if this isn't enough, I still have to try to decorate the Christmas tree, purchase and wrap presents, help Kenny with his homework, attend various school plays and band concerts.

I haven't been knitting........

I haven't been blogging.......

I haven't been weaving.......

I haven't been reading........ (except for reading endless declarations and case law).

But now, finally, things have settled back down to a semblance of normal and I can now catch up.

December 17th was the 50th birthday of my sister, Kris. Before the holiday madness began, I knit her a shawl.

I used Royal Bamboo and a lace pattern I particularly like.

I finished the ends with Swarovski crystals.

This is the knit side.....

.....and this is the purl side.

I really like the color of this yarn. Too bad it is a discontinued color. However, I saved enough of the yarn to make a scarf for myself.

Dan, Justin, Kenny and I spent Christmas in Washington. I just downloaded the pictures and will post the highlights tomorrow. In the meantime, I finally cast on a new square for the Great American Aran Afghan.