Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Do no harm"

My students turned in their first assignment: a short essay offering a "portrait" of themselves as writers. Reading them, I find myself both fascinated and frustrated. Why? Well, I am extremely interested in my students' stories—one primary purpose of the assignment is for me to get to know them—but, so far, I haven't written any comments on the papers. I am hesitant to begin.

These essays are testaments to the diversity of students' perspectives on writing. Many talk about how they like freedom in writing. They enjoy free writing and wish they had time to keep a journal. Other students lament that they lack the creativity necessary to be a "good writer" and talk about how they prefer to stick to clear formulas for essay organization and development.

My students come from different social and cultural backgrounds. Many of them are bilingual (One talks in her paper about her frustration with juggling three languages—Spanish, Chinese, and English). They are interested in all sorts of subjects and have a variety of different majors—business, biochemistry, history, film, computer science, etc... After each essay I find myself with more questions.

Through my own experience working with student writers, and my experiences as a student, I know that teachers can have a striking impact on their students' writing practices. I keep thinking about my advisor's axiom for teaching writing: "The first rule is to do no harm."

It reminds me of knitting. I originally learned out of frustration with writing during my first year in college. Knitting offered clear progress. Something tangible. Substantial. Writing seemed illusive. I never knew when I was done, and everything could always be better. I hope that my students aren't driven to learn knitting for the same reasons I was.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Happy, happy...

What can I say? Here in the Birthday aftermath, things are looking pretty good: there was a lovely breakfast with lovely company; the butterflies subsided after my class (which went fine, thanks for the well-wishes); and the day ended with a festive evening of good friends, bowling, beer drinking, laughing, and delicious cake!

I even got some knitting related goodies:

Yes, that is a luxurious skein of 400 yards of soft, silky cashmere. (Oh, Holly! Thank you! You have such good taste in yarn!) The brilliant Sabrina found the beautiful embroidered bag on her recent trip to El Salvador. Although Sabrina herself doesn't enjoy the art of playing with sticks and string, she did have my knitting-obsessed ways in mind when buying the bag. (Thanks so much! It will be perfect for a knitting project and a book!)

Really, thank you to everyone who celebrated with me and made my entry into late-twenties lovely and memorable.

Of course, I am terribly silly. My exciting new camera (thanks to Dan, Niko, et al.) was in tow at the bowling ally, but I was so overwhelmed with the general revelries that I completely forgot about it until after the cake was eaten, the games were played, and my lovely friends were putting their shoes back on. Thus, no pictures. Oh well. Just imagine colorful shoes, big smiles, wacky bowling technique (2 of the players had never bowled before ever, and several of the rest of us, including myself, really have no technique to speak of), a few pitchers of beer, and a gorgeous strawberry cream cake.

One last note: goodbye dear borrowed camera. Thank you for putting all 1.3 of your mega pixels toward my bloging efforts. You are a trooper, duct tape and all.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I am very nervous/excited/eager/hesitant about Monday. What happens on Monday? Well, that is the first day of my class. When I say that the class is mine, I mean that I am the instructor... the sole instructor. Thus, I am fully responsible for the class. I am nobody's assistant. I am in charge. This is both thrilling and a bit terrifying.

I feel significant pressure, in part, because this is where my life has been leading for many years. In high school many of my teachers predicted that I would teach someday. Since then I have had copious amounts of education and worked as a tutor, workshop provider, teaching assistant, and grader/reader. Yet, Monday will be different. I feel like now is when I'll find out if this is really what am supposed to do with my life.

Breath. Think calm thoughts.

How about knitting?

Well, I keep knitting fishes, and I'm afraid that anyone reading this blog is probably getting a bit bored with the fishes and starting to wonder if I am capable of making anything else.

(An aside: I spoke with my Dad on the phone yesterday, and he suggested that a fish obsession may run in the family. He used to have an aquarium cleaning business (when he was about my age?), and my sister's first word was "ish" meaning "fish," probably because my parents sat her in front of the aquarium to entertain her when she was very little.)

Perhaps, I will wrestle up some more original knitting content by combining the two themes of this blog entry: teaching and knitting.

I have taught many people how to knit. Here is one:

This is my friend Holly at our knitting group last weekend. (You can see the entryway to my favorite LYS, the Swift Stitch, in the background.) She is working on her second project: a knit-one, purl-one ribbed scarf that she started more months ago than she cares to admit. I taught her knitting basics last fall, and she quickly knit up a very pretty garter rib scarf. Unfortunately, her knitting was stalled when she cut off the tip of one of her fingers at work. Now, she has healed and returned to the project. I predict that she will be done knitting the scarf very soon.

I'm happy to teach anyone to knit who shows an interest. I've shown random women at parties. My 11-year-old brother picked it up from me in a snap (Cody is 12 now and leaves very sweet little comments on this blog). I taught one of my favorite baristas. I've shown classmates and coworkers. A couple of times I've helped students who approached me after class with knitting questions instead of history questions.

Maybe I should just breakout the yarn on Monday. Our first class could be a little knitting party. It will be my Birthday.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My name is Amanda, and I am a fish addict.

Behold the wonder that is 131 fishes!!! And yet, I must make more, MORE!!!

All I knit is fishes. The baby sweater stalled when I got my big new bag of fishy yarn. At this point I am so familiar with the pattern that fish just spring from my hands. I like to stack them up when I finish several of the same color. Dan caught me petting them. It's definitely addiction.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Happy Birthdays!

The many birthdays in my family this week make me think about all of the wonderful things there are to celebrate at each point in a person's life. Happy Birthday to:

My funny Apple Jack who turned 80 on Sunday!
My dear husband who is 34 today!
My sweet niece who will be 1 on Saturday!

Dan and I both found this little guy too cute to pass up, and we sent him as part of our package to little Katie.

What else am I celebrating?

A giant bag of yarn for me to knit into many, many little fishes! It's almost enough to make me forget that school starts next week, but not quite.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cameras are (not) quitters!

Today I have sad news: The digital camera I am borrowing has quit cooperating.

I also have good news: I ordered myself a new camera for my very own! (Of course, I will happily share with Dan, but I am the most excited about it.)

Thus, it looks like this may be a pictureless blog for a few weeks (I didn't pay for extra quick shipping, so it may take a while for the camera to arrive)--unless, perchance, the camera decides to be friendly again, but I am skeptical. Apparently it can sense that it has been rejected because it stopped working right after I ordered the new camera. Thus, here I am with no ability to show you the little project I have been working on instead of fishes.

But wait... what's this?

The camera mysteriously took a picture when I was trying to demonstrate how it isn't working.... Apparently it's just trying to be contrary.

Yay! You do get to see my progress on the baby sweater! I am using the yarn I showed you a few weeks ago. Despite actually being the yarn called for in the pattern (a rare occurrence), I've been having gauge issues. I'm hoping that the final product will fit the newborn sweetie. The sweater's design is rather interesting: it's knit in one piece from side to side, the sleeves are picked up and knit, and then the garment is seamed across the top of the arms and shoulders. The whole thing is closed with a tie, a kind of variation on a kimono.

Soon I will buy more fish yarn--it's on sale. Fishy, fishy, fishy.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Knitting with Dan and Conan

This week Dan and I celebrated the seventh anniversary of our first kiss. We have been together for seven years... that's over one fourth of my life! What did we do on the day itself? Well, not much because Dan worked all day, and then I went on an evening odyssey to pick up my friend Kelly and her husband from the San Francisco Airport. So really, we spent little of the day together. We did, however enjoy a pleasant lunch with Conan of Cimmeria.

Dan and I try to have lunch together whenever possible. Normally this means that I pick him up from the hardware store where he works, and then we sit in the car next to the park or beach and eat whatever we have for lunch that day. After eating, we often read to each other. When he reads, I knit.

While Conan, with his barbarian ways, is a violent and ruthless icon for masculinity, reading Robert E. Howard's stories is very entertaining. (Dan and I both agree that the stories actually written by Howard are the best.) He depicts Conan's bloody, swashbuckling adventures very cinemagraphicly, and with a philosophical sensibility which takes you by surprise. While Howard's representations of women and "the races" make me cringe occasionally, they are a reflection of the racism and sexism of 1930s United States (and the 1960s when Howard's stories gained popularity), just as Conan's brutality is a reflection of the world he lives in.

Anyway, knitting with Dan and Conan gives me something to look forward to on workdays, and I look forward to many more years of knitting and reading with my sweetie!