Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Memory of Melissa Valles

I've hesitated for many months to write this post. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I did not want to write something about someone with whom I'd never met or nor have a connection. I can't even remember how I first learned about The Mother's Day Project almost a year ago. Participants agreed to embroider the name of a woman who had lost her life in the war in Iraq and return them to the designer who would stitch them into a fitting memorial. The concept seemed simple enough. A few weeks after registering, I received a little piece of mostly naked fabric save for the name "Melissa Valles".


What was I thinking? I hadn't embroidered since college and wondered if I could do her memory justice. I meditated long and hard on that fabric before, during and after I finished the simple stitches in a lovely variegated metallic thread. And then I mailed it off, thinking that her name would become a faded memory. But here as another Mother's Day has passed and Memorial Day fast approaches, the name Melissa Valles still floats around in my head and weighs heavy on my heart.

On July 9, 2003, Army Sargeant Melissa Valles was the second woman to die in the Iraq war. She was only 26 years old. At 26, I had just given birth to Thing 2 and our family was finally complete. It saddens me that Melissa never had that opportunity. One of the hardest things to read about her was that her family was stunned to get the news about her death because they believed that "the war was over". Though her death was ruled accidental, her family is still trying to get more information on exactly what happened. I am eternally grateful and humbled by her sacrifice for our country.

I'm no stranger to military life. My dad was career Navy and was at sea on 3, 6, 9 and even 12 month cruises most of my childhood. Memorial Day on a military base and in a military church is a very different observance than in the civilian world. Most in attendance have either lost friends and family to war, are serving in the military, are retired from the military or are military families or friends. But growing up with the military doesn't make it any easier to accept or even begin to comprehend the concept of war. My brother's army reserve unit was activated over two years ago and I pray regularly they they won't be stationed in the Middle East. I'm a nervous wreck that in a few months Thing 1 will have to register with selective service. What if he's called into service? How does a mother prepare for something like that? How did Melissa's mother handle the news when her daughter enlisted in the army? From what I've read, she's still devastated by her death.

During the oddest times, I find myself saying her name out loud. I think its because I don't want to forget it. Ever. I can't help but look into her eyes and see pride. I don't know why, they just speak to me. I will be personally thanking Melissa, her family and the many thousands of military men and women who have died for this country this Memorial Day. And no matter how I feel about war, I will remember that freedom truly isn't free.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wild Kingdom of Southwest VA

Does anyone remember watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom when they were kids? I guess it was the precursor to the Discovery Channel. Between Marlon Perkins and Jacques Cousteau, I was riveted to the tv to get my nature fix when I was a youngster. However, its not so fun to live it if you're a city girl at heart. Over the past couple of weeks, many different birds have converged on our home, making nests in our dryer vents and pooing all over the deck and the cars. I love nature but it has been hard listening to the constant squawk of baby birds til all hours of the night and their skittering in the vents if we wake them up by accident. One nest has flown away and the others are slow to leave. For the second morning in a row, a woodpecker decided to knock on the windows next to my front door and greet me when I opened it as if I was expected to give him something. Do I look like Dr. Doolittle?

The scariest brush with nature was Sunday when a coyote ran through our front yard and disappeared into our neighbor's across the street - all of this in broad daylight. Thanks to the many skunks, deer, foxes and turkey buzzards, I was already skittish about going outside but now I have to worry about coyotes? Mavis was always nervous about going outside at night and perhaps she knew something that we didn't. People, I live in the burbs, albeit adjacent to a golf course which I understand is the culprit. Every year we live here, a new woodland creature appears. I wonder who's next.

Last week, I was in Charm City - Baltimore, Maryland - for a conference. It was nice to be away for a few days without cooking and cleaning duty. I got to see Cal Ripken, Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, eat fabulous food, network with 1800 of my colleagues and visit quite a lovely city. I did some knitting during workshops but sadly only finished this one afghan square for Rae's blanket our fiber group is making. The yarn is the Kaffe Fassett Regia sock.

Rae's blanket square

As usual, I had visions of finishing many squares and am not quite sure why I'm always so delusional about how much knitting I can get done in a short period of time.

My favorite part of visiting Baltimore? Getting to visit with Ei and H for the second time in one month. We did ate, drank some great wine, did some spinning, and had lots of laughs. Its so wonderful to pass on a craft. They are far better spinners than I ever was when I first started. I'm so impressed with what they're able to crank out. I worked on spinning up the rest of the 5 oz of the Ruppert's fleece I washed a couple of weeks ago and started plying it last night. I'm thinking of spinning up a bunch of it to make the Drops version of the Hanne Falkenburg Mermaid Jacket. I love the turquoise and blue version but the ivory is so very pretty too. Perhaps I should keep spinning and swatch before I settle on what colors to dye the yarn. I'm not entirely sure that the yarn will have enough drape to showcase the pattern. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Memorial day is fast approaching. I'm looking forward to lots of knitting on the beach, grilling and spending quality time with family and friends. Hurray for warmer weather!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Random Fibery Goodness

Flashing ya some pictures on the fly. I've been on the road quite a bit for both business and pleasure. Attended yet another wonderful, rain-free Maryland Sheep and Wool. Bought some hand cards, ordered a Robins custom wheel (3 yr waiting list so no photos yet), a Woodstock WPI tool (it was his final show before retiring), some yak/merino and yak/silk and BFL from The Fold (sorry not a STR fan so none here) and scored this gorgeous fleece from Rupperts Corriedales (which happened to have a couple of the prize winning fleeces in the show this year).

Rupperts Corriedales Fleece MS&W 08

4.8 lb. Fleece (It's so clean, it brings a tear to your eye)

Rupperts Corriedales MS&W 08

Close up of its crimpy goodness...

Spinning Rupperts Corriedale Fleece

Spinning it up into yarn...

After starting her over a year ago, I finished Sahara just in time to wear her to church for Mother's Day with MacGyver (Mom) and Ebayman (Dad)

IM, Sahara and Mom

The Rents, IM and Sahara

Cast on for the Swirl Shawl that was also purchased at Sheeps this year...

IM Swirlie Shawl

Busting the stash of some Malabrigo laceweight in the color Brisa (yummy stuff)

Praying hard for those suffering from natural disasters in Myanmar, China, the many tornados that continue to ravage the US (Virginia has been hit many times over the last couple of weeks) and our local knitting friend, Rae, who lost her home and beloved kitty in a fire last week.