Thursday, June 20, 2013

photos, memories, and knitting

Here at long last is a photo of the cowl that I've been working on since April.  It's been a bit of a struggle at times, as it's the first lacy thing I've made, but it's coming out well.  This photo was taken after I completed the second mesh lace panel, so I'm over halfway done and working to finish it up now.  The project has seen two sets of needles (started on Signature fixed circs, moved to Chiaogoo interchangeables and sold the Signatures), seen my first rip-back and pick-up (after I screwed up the first lace panel), and three flyball tournaments so far.  I really love it, and I can't wait until it's finished.

At the tournament last weekend, I got to pick up Martok's new crate tag, which is made by the same awesome person who made the other three a couple of years ago.  I decided to leave Curzon's tag on the crate and just add Martok's below it, as I'm not ready to take it down and I kind of like leaving it there as a legacy.  Martok looks so tiny in that crate...

This week I also was able to pick up our finished prints and digital images from Artis, from the photo shoot we did two days after Martok came home and nine days before we lost Curzon.  The new banner bar is the dog family shot from that session, and the one below is my favorite one of me and Curzon - I just adore how his ear is flipped up against my face.

It's also pretty amazing just how many changes Martok has gone through in the eight weeks since the photos were taken - of course I know he's grown, but the changes are so subtle it takes photos to recognize them.  Here he is last night (his sixteen-week birthday), next to one of the prints from our photo session (age 8 weeks four days) - such a difference!

Monday was also Martok's last day of puppy class, which of course he passed with flying colors.  Chris took a great shot of him with his blanket and graduation certificate - the first of many to come, I'm sure!

One of my teammates posted some photos from our after-racing hangout/BBQ at the tournament three weeks ago, including this shot of Ezri snuggling with me in my awesome camp chair.  She earned that relaxation after running a bunch of 3.9's that day!  The pattern has continued, with her running a 3.905 on Saturday last weekend in the first heat of the day and then running a 3.950 in the last heat of the day on Sunday.  Overall I think she had more sub-4 heats than not, and I'm pretty excited and happy about that!

I'm still working on finishing up the photo book for Curzon, and I've made it through 2011 in our collection of digital photos, so I'm nearly done.  I found a bunch from that year that I want to include, so I may end up adding more photo pages before I call it good.  Meanwhile, this is one of my favorite photos - taken at Lake Whatcom in 2009, where we spent our summer shutdown week at the cabin owned by my best friend's in-laws.  It was a great week.

Oh, how I miss my handsome brave boyo. It's starting to be less of a constant hole, but random moments still catch me off guard whether I expect them to (picking up the photos) or not (the way Martok curled up in my lap last night).  I'm wearing my locket every day, tucked under my shirt next to my heart, and I do take comfort in that as well as in all three of our dogs.  I'm trying to focus more on gratitude for what I have now, what we had with Curzon, and the gifts and memories and lessons that he gave to us with all of his heart.  It's a process, that's for sure, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  He deserves the best of everything I have to give him, even now that he's gone.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

learning to spin all over again

The Saturday before Memorial Day, I took a spinning class from Sarah Anderson at the Weaving Works in Seattle.  The class was billed as teaching drafting, which is something I can only do one way (short draw, sort of inchworm style), so I was very excited to learn more techniques.  I packed up my Sidekick and a lunch and went off for the day, leaving Chris to manage our farmers' market purchases and the dogs.

The first thing Sarah taught us was how to do thick-and-thin (aka slub) yarn on purpose.  The trick is to note your fiber's staple length, and then make the slubs just a bit shorter than that, so that the ends of the fiber are caught and spun on both sides.  I didn't particularly like doing this exercise, since I don't like slub yarn, but it was definitely valuable to practice paying attention to staple length and drafting and how they relate to each other to get to the yarn diameter that you want.

Next up was long draw spinning from the fold, using a soft prepared top with a good staple length.  This technique is SO COOL once you get it down, but it's also only going to work by spinning from the fold or from a rolag, which is why I didn't figure it out before.  The neatest bit is that as you draw back with your left hand and control twist entering with your right, the thicker spots will thin out to match the rest, and the result is a really springy yarn.  It's like magic!  I definitely need more practice with this technique, but I've got the basics down for sure.

After teaching the long draw method, Sarah passed out rolags she'd made ahead of time as well as offering short instruction on how to use hand carders to make your own.  I made mine in purple and lime green!  I don't plan to card my own fleece or fiber very often, but I do have a small and precious bag of Curzon's undercoat that I want to spin with some red wool to make yarn for a bracelet, so I'm glad to have gotten the practice.  Plus it's the best fiber prep option for doing the long draw method for a springy woolen yarn, so knowing the trick is pretty neat.

Later in the afternoon we tried spinning cotton for the first time, using these punis (basically cotton rolags) that Sarah made ahead of time using silk noil blended with the cotton.  We spun these using a similar technique to the long draw learned that morning, although with much more twist to accommodate the shorter fibers.

It was interesting to spin the cotton, and it was definitely a lot of work even with the "ease" added by the silk noil that helped bind the short fibers together.  I can see why there are so many specialized cotton spinning tools available (tahkli spindles and charkha wheels), as it was not easy to spin these well on my Sidekick!  I don't think this is something that I'll do much of in the future, but I'm glad that I got the chance to give it a shot.

The end of class was left with the option to work on whatever we wanted, including carding either wool or cotton, spinning with the additional fibers, flick carding wool locks, or playing with the luxury fiber Sarah brought along.  The brown is prepared camel down roving, and the silver is the most gorgeous extra-long-staple alpaca I've seen.  I really enjoyed spinning them both, especially the alpaca which was so long that I could spin thread nearly effortlessly.  It was also nice to enjoy spinning camel down, as my only experience with it so far was in a mixed batt and the camel down bits were horribly neppy and ugly and not at all pleasing.

The instructor also brought all of the yarn samples she spun for her book, The Spinner's Book of Yarn Design, and left them out on the table for us to examine throughout the class.  There are a lot of neat ideas and a ton of work incorporated into that table, and I enjoyed touching and learning from the different samples (even if I still think beehives are ridiculous).  Overall, I really enjoyed this class and I'll look to take another one from Sarah if the opportunity presents itself.


It's been five weeks and four days as of today, and I still want Curzon back so badly it hurts.  I've been working on the photo book I'm making for him, and last night was the first time I could do it without ending up crying at my desk while looking at the pictures.  I've been going through our photos one year at a time, last night going through 2009, and then putting them in the book and into an album on Facebook as well.  We decided to add more pages to have more pictures, so interspersed with the story pages are solid collages of pictures of that wonderful boyo.

Martok is continuing to be a comfort, even as he shows personality traits that he could have learned from Curzon, which both make me smile and want to cry at the same time.  He's such a bright and inquisitive little guy it's amazing, and the way he throws himself into everything (often literally) is a delight.  I so wish we could have had more time with both of the boys together...

Monday, June 10, 2013

all about the puppy


Yesterday was Martok's second time going to the therapy pool to learn how to swim, and he was a very tired little boy when we came home!  Of course, flyball practice in the morning followed by an hour of wrestling, chase, and bitey-face with his brother Sirius helped in that regard as well.  I took the tack that I used to teach Curzon how to swim, and had a whole bowl of cut-up cheese weiners as my ammunition to bribe Martok into coming into the water.  I did have to pull him into the water with me the first few times, then had him follow me around swimming to get more weiner bits.  He still didn't want to come in on his own, until I started taunting him with a flyball "reeeeadddddyyyyy?" call and a couple of toys, and after a bit of whining and shrieking he launched himself right into the pool!  After that first leap, he was good to go - fetched toys to me then turned around and swam away to get another, got out of the pool by himself and jumped in again, it was great!  Apparently he likes jumping into the pool more than going in by the stairs - perhaps a secret Curzon told him in their short time together?

Martok's had a few challenges in his short time with us so far, including his first ER visit two weeks ago after a friend's dog (who hates puppies for some reason) snuck up behind the gate and eeled through it as it was opened to go after him.  Martok had a nice puncture wound on the bridge of his nose and a few other abrasions, so off we went to the ER for three stitches and antibiotics and painkillers.  He did very well, including being smart enough to run away after the other dog was pulled off him, and was very good at being treated for his wounds both at the vet and at home.  He did so well that his stitches were popping out early and we had them removed...only for him to kick the incision open again the next day.  Crazy puppy!  A little superglue fixed that right up, and it's all healed up now and we'll just have to see if his fur comes back to hide it.

Sleepy puppy from Friday, twelve days after the bite - you can hardly tell!  Once the superglue and scab bits came off, there's not much left to see and it looks great.  Martok spent a few days being sensitive about other dogs not his sisters or brother, but he's doing fine now and even wanted to play with the brother of his attacker on Sunday (who looks very similar) so we're pretty sure he's going to pull through with no lasting damage of any kind.  Of course, we'd prefer it had never happened, but it was an accident and he's doing just fine, so we're moving right along as if nothing had happened.  And hey, all Klingons have to have battle scars, right?

The new crate tag that I ordered is complete and we'll pick it up at the tournament this coming weekend.  I'm planning to put it on the door below Curzon's nametag and leave them both in place, at least for a while and possibly permanently.  I still have a bit of a hard time sometimes putting Martok to bed in Curzon's crate, especially when the oval bed was in place - looking into the crate, all I could see was my boyo.  Martok doesn't like the oval bed very much right now and kept trying to sleep next to it, so I pulled it out this weekend and set it aside for the time being, and that is helping us both.

Martok is a champion traveler so far, with two tournaments under his belt involving trips up to Canada and a third scheduled for this weekend.  He is behaving very nicely with the girls in the back of the truck, usually curling right up for a nap and snoozing with Ezri while Jadzia does her anxious dog thing over by the window.  He did figure out he could jump the baby gate in the RV, which is where he had to stay because he hadn't had his shots yet, so we'll have to work on showing him how that's unacceptable.  He got his first puppy shot last week (at 14 weeks and 17.2lbs), so he may be coming into the facility with us this weekend to get exposure to the tournament atmosphere.  Or we'll bring a crate, one of the two.

And to wrap up the post, Ezri's new custom collar came in the mail last week - it is from Ella's Lead and is the "Dragon McStolly" design with three dragon settings and purple rhinestones, all set on a thick deep maroon leather with a bright purple suede lining.   It's a beautiful collar and is perfect for my princess, even if her fur hides some of the pretty factor - when he's full grown, assuming he stays smooth coated Martok will have a collar from the same maker and show it off to even better effect!


Chris had to work an overnight manager shift on Saturday, and for the first time I didn't have my boyo there to sleep with me and guard me in the night.  Ezri took care of that job for me, and I love her but it just wasn't the same - Curzon would wait for me to settle, then lay down and snuggle up against me, but Ezri doesn't do that.  I miss him so much, and I'm still getting stabbed by this deep need to have him back, and this tiny belief that he isn't really gone and that I will have him back again some day.  I don't know if that's right, or if that's the desperation in my brain talking, it's all so confusing and upsetting in general.  I've been wearing my locket every day and that helps some, but it's not the same...even holding his collar or touching the box of his ashes isn't enough and it never will be.  It's all I have now, however, so I will just have to continue to learn how to deal with this as best as I can.

Friday, June 7, 2013

the magpie strikes again

Last year I learned how to spin, and quickly picked up several spindles and a wheel.  As I have magpie like tendencies, and some disposable income, this collection has grown quite a bit.  I'm up to about a dozen spindles, and yesterday my third wheel arrived - a Schacht Matchless double treadle, in the cherry special edition released this year for Barry Schacht's 70th birthday.  I'm a serious sucker for pretty wood and anything marked "special edition," and I'd been looking at a Matchless since last fall...and that's that.


Jadzia supervised the photo session after I was done playing with it for a while.  You can also just barely see Martok in the background by the patio doors, he was very interested in the wheel and nearly got his nose clipped by the drive wheel prior to this photo!

Special edition medallion - it says Special Edition - Barry Schacht - 2013 - 70th on it.  With a sheep!

The treadles had to be attached to the wheel when it arrived, which while not difficult was definitely interesting.  The wood of the treadles even has a bit of chatoyance, which can be seen when I'm using them to drive the wheel.  Really pretty, even in indoor lighting!  Also, those are dog toys on the floor behind the wheel, because we've got a house that's classy like that.

View of the back of the wheel, showing more of the beautiful wood and fabulous craftsmanship that went into the wheel.  The leather portions of the footmen needed oil already, so the break-in period is well underway!  I'm glad that I got "free" fiber with my purchase, however, as the double-drive wheel is definitely going to take some getting used to before I'm good to go with it.  I saw improvement with just a little time yesterday, as the wheel breaks in and I get used to working with it - plus, if it turns out I don't like double-drive, I can always switch it to Scotch tension.

Another shot of the back of the wheel, with more detail on the beautiful wood.  So, so pretty!

And finally, a shot of the serial number - which indicates that the wheel was made on May 16, 2013, and it was the 2nd Cherry wheel made that day.  Very cool!

Another miracle happened yesterday - Ezri let Martok lay down on the same bed that she was occupying, and even stayed there long enough for me to grab my phone to take a picture!  She's slowly starting to warm up to him and accept him, although he's still got his puppy annoyance moments where I'm pretty sure she wants to knock him through the wall.  She played tug with him a few days ago, and he was well tired last night without any energy to be annoying, so she let him snooze next to her.  Martok and Sirius both had their first shots yesterday (parvo vaccine), and they got to play together for about five hours worth of tug, bitey-face, chase, fetch, and running, so both boys were very tired by the end of the evening!


My memorial locket finally arrived on Monday, and it is so beautiful I almost cried.  I found the artist on Etsy, and she sets a bit of fur/hair/cremains in resin inside this small locket (it's about the size of a quarter) and then makes the nametag and crystal for embellishment.  She accidentally attached an orange crystal and is sending me a red one in replacement, as red was Curzon's color and is my strongest association with him.  It's not much, but it's something, and it's given me some comfort to wear it this week.  It's not strong enough to wear every day permanently, so I may end up hanging it next to my bed after a while and only wearing it on special occasions, but for now it's often worn all day at work.

I still miss him so much it's like a hole in my life, but the emotional gut-punches are slowly starting to fade.  The framed studio photos from about 2005 up on our hallway wall caught my eye last night, especially the adorable one of Curzon licking Chris' face, and I was able to study the photo and smile a bit without crying.  I still want him back so badly it's ridiculous, though, and I don't know if that will ever change.  *sigh*

Monday, June 3, 2013

the redhead is back!

Last weekend was the summer no-frills tourney hosted by the Dogwood Pacesetters up in Cloverdale BC, where we attended with two teams including our full A team of Ezri / Danger / Savage / Sprite.  Ezri has gone through a lot of changes in the past year, from adjusting to the loss of her sister and other teammates when our friends moved to Boston last April, to changing clubs in December, and of course the personal upheaval of losing her big brother Curzon and gaining a pesty baby brother in Martok.  With all of that listed out, it's probably no surprise that she hasn't run under 4.0 seconds since the last tournament with Indy, where she ran her personal best of a 3.84 and was part of a 15.69 second lineup.

That all changed this weekend.  My redhead is back, finally confident that she's safe in start position again, clicking very well with her teammates, and flying down the lanes.  She ran multiple runs under 4 both days, with a best time of a 3.92 on Sunday, and quite a few 3.94's and 3.97's on both days.  I got a lot of great starts, mostly in the 0.02-0.05 range with one 0.003, Ezri is so much more consistent when she's happy!  Our club even ran a new club best on Sunday morning of 16.243 over 10" jumps with that lineup - woohoo!

From left-right, Ezri, Sprite, Danger, and Savage.  Danger and Savage are littermates, and Sprite is related to them, and all three are border staffy mixes from down in Vegas.  Sprite is our height dog who sets 10" in NAFA and 8" in UFLI, and we're now considering taking a road trip to a UFLI tournament to see if we can push down below 16 seconds on the lower jump heights.  Plus, we earned second place in Division 2 both days, and made the top-seeded team work very hard to keep their position ahead of us - yeah!

I also got a new pair of flyball shoes on Thursday, as you do, these are obnoxious hot pink Merrill "barefoot style" shoes that I saw at Nordstrom a week ago and went back to buy for the tournament.  They are very light, with minimal padding/support and a wide toe box so the toes can move around like a barefoot runner, which I was interested to try after reading Born to Run recently.  As it turns out, I did run completely differently in these shoes than in my usual trail runners...and I'm sore in weird places today to prove it.  I think this is a good thing, I certainly felt like I ran faster (who knows if it's true), and my feet don't hurt at all which they usually do after a tourney on matted asphalt.  Of course, given that we're in Seattle these are not year-round shoes, but hopefully I can find some with gore-tex to use in the winter.

Several of our friends worked together over the past few weeks to put together these buttons for the tournament, in honor of our beloved Curzon.  It was incredibly wonderful to see so many people wearing them, and of course to have the chance to share good memories about the brave boyo.  Our regional director even called out the buttons and why they were around at the awards ceremony on Sunday, which was very kind.  Oh, how I miss him, especially at our first tournament without him, held in the location where he first saw and taught himself flyball at the age of five months.

Today marks four weeks since we lost him, and I'm starting to be able to breathe again.  There are situations that hit me just the wrong way, of course, and I had two of them this week.  The first was when we put Martok into Curzon's crate for the night for the first time, which made me start bawling as that was the first time his crate has been opened since well before we lost him (he was sleeping in our room for a month or so prior to that day).  And the second was Saturday night, when I was lying on my bed in the RV and looked at the fleece blanket I keep on my side, only to see all of those black hairs from when he and Ezri slept with me on our trip to Nationals last October.

This isn't easy, and really I wouldn't want it to be even if it was.  I miss him so much, and probably will for the rest of my life.  My beautiful, brave boyo, even twenty years with him would not have been enough to bask in the warmth of his bright spirit.

To not end on a completely sad note, here's a picture of Martok being crazy when he was chasing and playing with his brother a few weeks back.  He's growing like a weed, learning fast, and is generally a delight to be around when he's not being piranha-puppy with those needle teeth.  Another post this week will have more about him, he certainly deserves his own entry at this point!