Tuesday, October 31, 2006


My daughter Bunny, always being a foresighted child, is worried about where she’s going to live after college. She’s currently a junior in high school. With Spawn in his first semester in community college, he talks a great deal about moving out, living with friends, his friends who are getting married or planning to do so, and how he wants his own life to be. My daughter overhears his chatter and wonders.

Bunny’s not so sure it’s going to be all beer and skittles, in fact, she’s pretty sure it’s going to be tough. During a Dr. Phil pause the other day, she mentioned that she thinks it’ll be pretty expensive, and she’s concerned about how to handle it.

I told her that we already had a contract with Spawn whereby after graduation or at any time he chooses to stop going to college, he will have to pay rent here if he chooses to continue living here. It won’t be as much as living on his own would be, but that if it happens, we’ll check and do a pretty good estimate as to what his expenses would be for sharing an apartment with friends and charge about the same. I told her we’d offer her the same deal. Same house rules, there will be a curfew for our peace of mind, but that she’s not going to be homeless or stuck, just expected to carry her end of the rope. She seemed to find that pretty reassuring.

This was the same deal my Dad and Stepmom struck with me and my sister, and I’ve always appreciated it. I remember when I was in junior high and my sister was in the latter half of her junior year in college. She had a class she detested; there was too much writing in it for her. My sister is a wonderful, talented artist (who has, in the ensuing years, done extremely well in a very competitive market). She hates writing, partially because she is so visually oriented that the formation of words aggravates her – she likes charts and graphs and rebuses that visually convey the information. She doesn’t even read for pleasure. She also can’t spell worth a damn. Really. It’s a family joke, her spelling.

So, anyway, there she was in this big writing class, weeping and wailing and covering herself in highly dramatic diva-type sackcloth and ashes, which of course was a burden no other before her had ever had to endure, etc. My parents looked at her as if she were an interesting specimen in the zoo while she carried on. She flung herself to the couch, dampened the pillows with her copious tears and swore she was going to quit college because of this heinous, horribly unfair burden being visited upon her innocent, talented self for whom there should be exceptions.

My Stepmom said, “Well, if you’re going to live here, you’ll need to pay rent.”

The tears stopped immediately, and my sister sat up. “RENT? RENT??? How would I pay rent?” she demanded.

“You’d get a job and pay rent,” said my Stepmom in her matter-of-fact way.

My sister got mad instead of sobbing some more. “I Can’t Believe” she said (and when she was in her young dramatic phase, all her words had capital letters) “That You Would Make ME Pay Rent For Living Here When I Take a Break From College!!!”

“Probably about a hundred dollars a month,” said my Stepmom and went back to working a crossword puzzle. My Dad had looked up from his book at the end of the weep storm, and then went back to it. He was still reading, but he said, “Yep, that sounds about right.”

My sister looked around, red-eyed with her blond hair in great disarray. It was very artistic. “OH. MY. GOD. You’d really make me pay rent?” she asked, horrified.

“And you’d need to do you own laundry,” said my Stepmom without lifting her eyes.

“AAAAAAAAARGH!” shouted my sister, then she stormed out of the room, and I heard her pick up the phone to make a call.

“Anyone want some tea?” I asked. My parents demurred.

The next day, after about 16 hours of phone calls, my sister cornered me. Now, my sister was living with my Dad and Stepmom instead of with my Mom during breaks from college because during the preceding summer, she’d been working a job as a cocktail waitress. She came home pretty late, and that worried my Mom, who imposed a 2 a.m. curfew, which sent my sister flying out of the house in an earlier flap, declaring to my Mom and the world at large that Mom had NO RIGHT to impose a curfew on her, and that she was going to go live with the people my Mom detested more than anyone else, my Dad and Stepmom, just to teach Mom a lesson. Mom got more sleep.

Anyway, my sister cornered me in the kitchen. She had just hung up the phone and was still mad, but less weepy. She asked me if I’d heard the discussion about her paying rent the other day (I was sitting in a chair 6 feet away from her at the time). I said I had. She let loose with her whole repertoire of woe at me, without crying this time, and asked me what I thought of this whole rent thing. I told her I didn’t understand why she wanted to quit college anyway, which, of course, gave her cause to leave the room in a visually appropriate snit, declaring that “No One Understood” her. She came back again a few minutes later, as I was eating some carrots. It was time for some sisterly honesty.

“BoS” she said, “I can’t write this paper that’s due, and without it I can’t pass this class. It’s required, and I know you’re really young, but you write better than I can, and it’s easier for you. I don’t know what to do; I’m so scared.”

“I wish I could help,” I said, “but I’m too young, sis, and I don’t know enough to be of any help. I can’t even type yet, and I’ll bet it needs to be typed, too.”

“It does,” she said, with her head in her hands, elbows propped on the kitchen dinette. She took one of my carrots and chewed thoughtfully. “I’ve already asked all my friends for help, and they can’t because they’re swamped with their own work. When I called Mom and told her about the whole rent thing, she said that sounded like a good idea.” She started to cry again. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said.

“Did you ask Dad and Ellen for help?” I asked. “Ellen can help you type it, I’ll bet, and she’s a good reader, so I’ll bet she’d be able to help you with, like, editing or something.”

“But they want to charge me RENT!” she declared, and the weeping restarted.

“That was only if you quit college,” I said, “they want you to graduate and get a good job, too, you know. I’ll bet they’d help if you asked.”

She looked at me, the tears receding from her eyes. She got a calculating look in her eye. She sat up straighter. “Oh,” she said, “you’re right.” And she left the kitchen.

I was not a party to any decisive discussion, however, about a month later, when I came over for a weekend visit, my Stepmom had her manual typewriter on the dining room table and was typing furiously, her half glasses perched on her strong nose. My sister was sitting at the other end of the table, a firestorm of yellow notepaper flung decorously around, editing aloud. “Rending, not rendering?” she asked.

“Rending,” said my Stepmom as she typed, “rendering would be reducing it or delivering it, not tearing it.”

“Gee, and rendering sounded right,” said my sister as she scribbled away on the paper in front of her. My Stepmom shot me a glance and a wink.

“How many pages are we up to?” asked my sister.

“Sixteen,” said my Stepmom, and her typing paused, “Is this ‘eupho-something?’“ she asked.

“‘Euthanasia’,“ replied my sister.

“Ah, good, that fits,” said Ellen, and the lightening speed typing started again.

My sister got a decent grade on her paper, graduated from college, and spent a few months living with my Dad and Stepmom along the way between jobs. She paid rent, did her own laundry, and covered her own expenses including long distance phone, transportation, clothing, etc. when she lived there.

Sometimes, paying rent isn’t at all about the money. Sometimes, it’s a form of motivation.

Oddball Word of the Day

telic (TEL-ik) adj. tending toward a particular end

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Last year I went to a large gathering for a group I belong to. I don’t belong to a lot of groups. I am not a group type person. Large crowds tend to annoy me, I find many conversations repetitive and boring, and I don’t drink. In a crowd of adults, the fact that I don’t drink automatically makes me an alien. However, last year, I had a nice time at this particular annual large gathering. This year, I felt like an alien. Sigh.

I had looked forward to it, with moderation, all year. I was not lusting for the event, but I was thinking, “oh, hey, that’ll be nice.” Instead, I got the BoS version of a series of unfortunate events. If I were required to sum it up, and I’m not, I’d phrase it as:

“It was probably a bad choice for an acrophobic, teetotalling, lactose-intolerant, coffee-loving, smoking, dedicated Mom with periodic back trouble to go to a Large Group Event in a hotel undergoing renovation.”

There were problems. I blame myself for some of them – I got lost on the way there and wound up spending an additional hour in the car, stopping and starting through rush hour traffic in order to turn around and get back on track. I got over that fast enough, but it put a hitch in my plans – I’m a listmaker, and when I have to cross off something on my list undone because I’m stuck in traffic, it ticks me off momentarily, until the Zen Mother within me kicks back in and I decide to enjoy the radio programs instead. Parking was good, and the hotel was doing it’s best to make the renovation as unnoticeable as possible, also good. My room was fine, just what I asked for, near the ice machine and quiet.

And, before anyone blows me snot about claiming to be a smoker AND a dedicated Mom, let me advise you that I quit smoking while pregnant and for the first several years of my kids’ lives. I don’t smoke in front of babies. I will stand in poo in a cesspool before voluntarily smoking in front of babies. I don’t do it. It’s like smacking them, to me, particularly if there’s a reasonable alternative.

That being said, when I when to the smoking hospitality room, not only was everyone there already on their way to being drunk to the point of dangerously stupid, but there was a baby. I held off smoking, thinking, in my egocentric way, that the baby and its people would leave soon, not wanting to have a baby around smokers for too long. I was wrong. The parents decided to watch a baseball game on the TV (for FOUR hours) while the baby wandered around, eating food off the floor, and pulling stuff, including beers and hot ashtrays off tables, which led to a whole group of snockered adults, and my teetotalling self, into having to baby-safe a room which seemed to ME to be clearly intended for adult use. The parents had a reason – they didn’t get the smoking room they had asked for, so this was their only option. I can understand that, BUT…

So, I lit up, and the mother of baby decided to tell me her life story in 5 minutes or less, and I will have to say that it put me into a state of perpetual shock. Just because, and I blame myself here, I have not spent a lot of time around communities of People in Perpetual Trouble. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic, I am. It’s that when I have other people to look out for, I become UltraPrudent Woman. So, my nasty cigarette kind of locked to my lips as I listened to a recitation which included five kids removed from her because of her drug habit which she has overcome in the last five years, a current pregnancy (while watching her sozzle beer), and a long list praising the baby’s delightfully gregarious behavior because he had spent so much time of the first year of his life at parties just like this one – where he was cruising around, eating food off the floor, etc., and being in danger at every moment of being stomped into the emergency room by an oblivious drunk. And she was obviously in her early twenties. I kid you not.

I am heinously guilty of projecting my ideals onto others. I reminded myself of that as I felt the blood drain from my face while trying to maintain a friendly and positive demeanor, because, God forbid that I should say something that would throw her back into abusing drugs or feeling inept, since she clearly did love the kid, she just didn’t show it the way I would. No one elected me the final arbiter of diddly nor of squat, but I did need a few deep breaths in order to maintain a detached equilibrium.

I decided I’d be doing my smoking in my room for the most part from thereon, simply to remove myself from the stress. Which is, in itself, another bummer, since the hospitality room crowd, when not preoccupied with baby-safeing a room, nor too drunk, can be a lot of fun.

Traipsing to programs became another adventure in WTF. Normally, my back does not give me too much trouble, but that changed for the quarter mile walk to the different facilities this time (my fault, not anyone else’s), which made attending meals and events more of a chore than I’d have liked. All that stuff had to be moved to the far end of the facility because of the renovations. Most the events were down a flight and a half of stairs, with an open area next to one side (hence the acrophobic in me coming out for a little play time along with the back ache), and I elected to attend either as much in one fell swoop as possible or nothing more at all. I wound up going to one event on the lower level, which was, again, completely my choice.

So, I figured a nice cup of coffee and a few minutes sitting down would help. Last year, the coffee was good. I’m picky about my coffee, so that was really saying something. This year, it tasted like dishwater, and instead of using real half-and-half, someone chose to offer flavored half-and-half (aaaaaargh) and put milk in a squirt bottle to fake the rest of us out. I can drink half-and-half because I don’t need much of it to lighten the coffee. Milk is a whole different story. So there I was, drinking diner dishwater, lightened with the alternative of plastic cow, trying to recover from the baby and its parents that were in the hospitality room, listening to people talk about what a great time there were having, and it dawned on me that I was an alien again. In a group of people not known for being conformists in the first place, the fact that I really didn’t want to spend time with a startling parent, an ignored baby, drunks, or madly clutching a railing while chanting a mantra to avoid thinking about heights, I’d become an alien again. It reminded me, sadly, of all the insurance conventions I’ve been to with hubs, where if you’re not drunk and still drinking and yelling “TATER” across the ballroom, there’s something genetically wrong with you.

So, I went back to my room, with better hopes for the next day. I didn’t get enough sleep, which didn’t help, my dinner out was a cluster fuck, including a very high quality piece of prime rib and potato that were both so cold that butter wouldn’t even melt in the potato, and I got back to the hotel in time for the last half of the one event I really, really wanted to see, and when I went to get a brownie and hand off my free drinks coupon to someone else, I ran into a crowd of already half-sozzled people, and two hairy white men fighting over the last two pieces of coconut cream pie, which was all that was left of a “desserts” table.

I mentally whacked myself on the head for having chocolate expectations, went back to my room, lit up, opened a book, and bitched aloud at myself for a while until Practical Me showed up and said, “shut up and order something chocolate from room service,” which I did, along with a pot of decaf (due to the late hour), and it showed up promptly, of the appropriate temperature, with half-and-half, and it was the one reasonable pot of coffee available all weekend, despite it being decaf, which I normally hate. I put it down to desperation.

I did give the smokers’ hospitality one more try and wound up stuck in a social tesseract of boredom between Person Running for Some Office, Annoying Pedant, Exhausted Person, and Person Who Simply Holds Forth With the Same Story Four Feet Away From Where They Last Told It Very Loudly while watching the cooler reloaded with alcoholic drinks. So, I gave up.

I saw Smoker’s baby and parents in the lobby later; baby was flushed, glassy-eyed and apparently running a fever.

When I finally went to have breakfast before bugging out early, I wound up having to explain why I had quit an electronic group list that had become TechMasters and NetNannies – hence my departure. They disagreed, and I clamped my mouth shut from yelling, “that’s because you’re one of them,” disengaged, and cheerfully headed for my car.

I didn’t complain about various things because the whole event weekend is run mainly by volunteers, and I have this thing about not complaining unless I’m willing to do it myself, and I’m not. I don’t go to regular meetings for several reasons, there are no local events within the area that I think is reasonable to drive to, and this one event was the one thing I felt it was worth trying out. I haven’t written it off entirely – there was too much that was situational, and I’m not willing to write off the whole possibility because of one bad experience. But… … … I’m an alien again.

Oddball Word of the Day

gelid (JELL-id):adj. icy cold or frozen

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Converting Flat to Circular

This is really not nearly as complex as it might seem, in fact, I think it makes knitting easier. The main idea is to think of the project as a whole, rather than individual parts. I like to take a sheet of regular paper and lightly sketch out the pattern, as it is written flat, then work through the same measurements and dimensions circularly, even drawing a tiny picture of the item along the way, if I think I might get confused. I keep this page around until I have finished the item.

Items knitted easily in either method: mittens, gloves, sweaters, vests, hats, or drop me a note if there’s one I missed.


Hats are the perfect, and I mean PERFECT, thing to learn to comfortably work in the round. I make a zillion of them because they are so easy, and they are also small enough to be the perfect “canvas” for trying out new stitches or color work on a small scale. The secret here is getting a 12” or 16” circular needle, so that it’s on one needle. It can be done on dpns, but sometimes, particularly with a tam or beret, there are a lot more stitches, which require more dpns, or they fall off, which is totally annoying. You will need dpns to finish the hat, though, but that doesn’t last long.

You will really only need one marker, and that’s if you are doing spiffy stitches or colorwork. This marker tells you where the next row begins so that you can make any changes for stitchwork or color work start.

Put a marker on the needle, cast on all stitches as for flat knitting, and knit happy until the shaping needs doing. Decrease same as for flat work, and when the stitches get strained, switch to dpns, finish shaping and end up your hat.

Once you get used to doing hats on circs, they will fall off your needles like magic, truly.

Gloves and Mittens

I really prefer these done circularly, since all those seams can be abrasive. If you have a particular pattern you like that’s flat, just work it round by putting at marker at the spot where the seamline would be, or each seamline if you have several, and knit up to the end of the thumb gusset, if you have one. Put thumb stitches on a holder, cast on a suitable number of stitches over the gap, work to the tip and shape as usual, rounds instead of rows. Go back and work the thumb (and or fingers) in a wee little circle.

Sweaters and vests:

1. Prep work: make a little diagram or chart indicating at what measurement you’ll be making changes for armpits, yokes, necklines. If you think this through thoroughly before starting, the rest is easy – you’ll just be following the pattern YOU just wrote!

2. BODY: For the combined front and back, add the stitch counts together. This works for cardigans, vests and pullovers as well. First put a marker on the circ, then do HALF the casting on, add another marker, cast on the remainder and knit circularly up to the next change point. These markers tell you where the side seams would be if you were knitting a flat, pieced garment.

For open-front garments, you won’t need the first marker. Instead, you will need one at each seamline (1/4, and ¾ of the way around) AND, if you so desire, a tactile “warning” marker before each button band, if you are knitting it as you go, which would equal four markers. If you are knitting the button band separately, you’ll only need two markers.

3. ARMS: Work the arms individually up to the armpit point. For circular arms, you will use ONE marker, at the beginning of each round, so you know where the seamline would be. Knit them in the round, usually with dpns at first, or whatever means you prefer, increasing as per the flat pattern, using, of course “rounds” instead of “rows”. You will be leaving two stitches (for example, see below) unworked or cast them off now, on either side of the marker to correlate to the armpit ease on the body.

4. Back to the body: at the armpit, which is, conveniently, usually where you start neckline stuff for V-necks also, refer to the directions for knitting flat for the number of stitches to cast off or put on a holder for the pit. For example, if the flat pattern says, “cast off two, then decrease one every fourth row” – for raglan shaping, then two stitches BEFORE your seamline marker, you will cast off two, remove the marker, then cast off two more. Knit to two stitches before the next marker and repeat.

5. Adding in ARMS: When joining the arms to the body, after you have cast off for both armpits, you will knit across the front or back (depending on which direction you are knitting) up to your first armhole gap. Knit across the sleeve stitches; do NOT knit the pit stitches; those remain loose for now. This is usually where people think they have done something wrong because, frankly, it gets bunchy here and your needle may feel strained. You are not doing anything wrong, this is just happening because that wee underarm ease area is making your needle pinch in that zone. Knit the other side (back or front) and repeat on the other side.

6. NECK: If you also need to begin neckline shaping here, carefully count your front side stitches (and if there’s a difference, I put a safety pin in the front side so I remember which one it is), place a marker in the center and work the shaping the same as you would for flat knitting for the front, since you now have, really, a front side and two sleeves on the same needle as the back, but they are no longer joined. The neckline breaks the join.

As soon as you have begun working the neckline, you have in reality one very large flat piece of knitting. Markers are extremely handing for reminding you of shaping spots, but you are now working back and forth across the first side of the front, the sleeve, the back, the other sleeve, and the other side of the front. It is usually helpful to develop a system to record or remind you of when you were supposed to be decreasing or shaping and how often.

All shaping is worked the same as it would be for a piecework sweater.

When the shaping is complete, all you’re missing is the neckline ribbing or finishing, and you can leave your existing stitches on the needle live, pick up around as indicated, and finish off.

Graft or sew the armpit stitches, work in ends, Voila!

With a vest, as soon as you cast off for the armpits, you are working two flat pieces, the front and the back, so these are just worked exactly as they would be in the flat pattern.

Hope that helped. Let me know if you have questions.

Oddball Word of the Day

Star Chamber:
1. in Tudor England, the Privy Council sitting to try civil and criminal cases, especially those affecting Crown interests, until its abolition in 1641 for being arbitrary in its judgments,
2. any tribunal, committee, or the like whose methods are unfair

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My God Went Missing

We were talking about religion in my women’s group today. We’re all middle-aged, grew up in the 60’s, and someone has stolen our God, our religion, our churches. We think it’s selfish, power-mad men who’ve absconded with all the good stuff.

One gal was saying that she no longer feels close to God, that the spiritual joy she had in her life has just, POOF, gone missing and she can’t figure out where it went, that everyone in church seems so mean or so narrow or so rigid now that she no longer finds happiness and peace in church, so she doesn’t go much any more.

Another lady said that she had always felt very connected to God up until a few years ago, but somehow that just deserted her. Sure, there were other problems and complications, and she still felt she had faith, but that the religious support just evaporated somewhere between a serious crisis in her life and now, and she misses it.

I have always been a skeptical Christian. That may seem like a contradiction in terms, but my skepticism is directed at churches and organized religion, rather than at God. I may trust God, but I don’t trust those who claim to channel him or to speak for him. I just don’t. I suppose a better way to think of it would be to say that I’m a thinking Christian.

I suppose I’ve had too many encounters, from my childhood onward, in which the person who considered himself (and it’s usually HIMself, not herself) anointed, has problems with being a control freak more than a Jesus freak. And the net effect is that I can no longer enter a house of worship with an open mind; I go in defensively and on guard against nutburgers and power freaks, against superficial Christians and people who really need psychoactive medication rather than to go around bludgeoning others with their infallible, glassy-eyed, static faith.

I never thought of God as being overwhelmingly dictatorial. The God of my childhood had infinite forgiveness, infinite love, a few loose rules about being kind to one another and trying to be the best person you could be, and some outlines on trouble spots to avoid. He never threatened me with fire and brimstone on a daily basis; rather, he tempted me with warmth, understanding, and compassion.

I remember the Southern Baptist church before it went nuts. The church I grew up with supported families – not by telling them how to be, how to love, how to treat each other – but by providing an accepting, nurturing environment for spiritual growth, with potluck dinners, Christmas pageants, Vacation Bible school that was SANE and NICE, bible study meetings, Sunday school, and Sunday services where we could meet other nice, ordinary people who were trying to live decently and be kind to one another.

Our pastor was a soft-spoken, well-read, thoughtful man. The choir leader didn’t have magnificent ambitions, was patient and considerate of everyone’s ability level. The children’s Sunday school teachers understood small children’s attention spans and that most little kids were not going to go out and be warriors for God; we were too busy trying to tell the truth, be nice, not wet our pants when we got scared, and remember not to be greedy about treats. We also learned to share, to be patient with others, to engage in community service work, and to help out around the house because it was the right thing to do.

Sometime around my middle 20’s, the self-anointed and publicly known religious decided to involve themselves in politics and national policy making, to return to a repressive, regressive, barbaric patriarchal view of dominance and submission. The PromiseKeepers cult evolved and provided an excuse for those with little vision but a great need for vicious dominance to begin taking hostages in their own homes. Organized religion decided this was a great way to be and supported the subordination and abusive dominance of women. Further angry, abusive cults have evolved, wormed their way into mainstream churches and religious philosophies, and now all kinds of cruelty and perversions abound on every street, in every church, getting louder and meaner and shriller and narrower and more exclusive of those who need Christ the most.

I don’t recognize American Christianity anymore. It is no longer the God of my fathers that is being worshipped; instead the gods of power, dominance, control, and psychological abuse are being worshipped, pursued, exhorted and required of church-goers, and I can’t find my God anywhere in those houses of worship.

I don’t want to hate gays, I want them to have good lives filled with happiness and good works and love, just like heterosexuals. I don’t want to hate anyone. I just want folks who choose religion to strive to achieve their personal best without stress, without self-disgust, without yet another excuse to beat themselves to death emotionally. Heck, I don’t care if they’ve got religion or not, I think that seems like a universal good thing.

I don’t want to hate “liberals” because I am one, and so was Jesus; he was the most liberal of all! I don’t want to hate Republicans, I don’t want to hate taxes or Democrats or universal health care or Muslims or big cars or little cars, and I don’t understand what all of that has to do with my relationship with God. What ever happened to “render unto Caesar that which is his…” etc?

I thought that meant that things of the temporal world belonged to that plane of my existence and that matters of my spirit, i.e. my understanding of God and my relationship with my deity of choice belonged to God. I thought it meant that they were functionally separate, but that as a Christian I could, if I chose to do so, use my own understanding of the Ten Commandments, my understanding of the wishes and example set by Christ, to add compassion and depth to my priorities and choice matrix, but that overall, I would still be a Christian, still be a GOOD Christian, and still be a person striving for personal growth regardless of how that worked out.

I don’t hear that from religion anymore. What I hear is anger, control, vicious, divisive, restrictive abdication of choice and personal responsibility to the self-anointed and loud. I think that’s wrong, and I’m not alone.

I think people like me are in the majority. I think we are the new Silent Majority, who think that spirituality never had, nor should it have anything to do with controlling others or forcing them to do what WE think is right. I think spirituality has to do exclusively with controlling and adapting ourselves in the direction that we each, as individuals, believe to be an improvement, and that it should be done with compassion for ourselves, with a desire to understand the lessons of the Bible, not just follow them blindly, and to achieve a higher state of understanding which will naturally and organically lead to a state of grace over time, with patience and forgiveness and faith in the infinite love of God.

Where the heck is the church for us???

Oddball Word of the Day

arrogate (AIR-uh-gayt) v. to seize without right

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Rules

It’s cold today here, below freezing, and strange things are happening to my brain.

I was at the dentist’s office today, while my daughter had a cavity filled. Oh, and because the dentist is over-booked, a thing I LOATHE about modern dentists and doctors, we were there 2.5 hours. Anyway, I usually wait well – I read the scandal mags and catch up on the Jennifers – Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Simpson. And I was thinking that every so often a name should be banned. Like Bill Maher’s “New Rules,” I think I should get to make new rules whenever I feel like it, with just as much authority to see that they’re followed.

NEW RULE: If your name is Jennifer, you have to pick another name to use according to the following formula: take the first letter of your LAST name, add the first vowel from your middle name, and then make it sound Russian. You only have to use this name for two months, starting on your birthday and ending 60 days later. This way we’d get names like “Lariskina” or “Funiskovka” out there in the ozone, rather than another thousand Jennifers. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Jennifer, I’m just kind of tired of reading and hearing it. I also propose, as a corollary, that if there’s a name you’re tired of, you get to make the same rule for that name, only use a different formula for changing it.

NEW RULE: If a doctor makes me wait for more than 20 minutes in order to be seen, he has to give me $20 cash for each additional 10 minutes I wait, as soon as I get in the examining room. Same thing for waiting for an appointment for my minors. Sitting around IN the examining room, doing nothing in a paper robe, waiting for him/her to show up is also considered waiting time. My time is valuable, too, and I’d like to be compensated.

NEW RULE: If cops can stop you for driving 2 miles over the speed limit, they should be required to check the air pressure in your tires and fill them if necessary. We all know when it’s quota-filling time for those lovely tickets, and I’d like something for my time and money other than to be the target of a stern expression from an armed 8 year old with a buzz cut.

NEW RULE: The Republican party owes me $64 million dollars, plus about 8 years worth of interest. This is how much money they spent prosecuting impeachment for Bill Clinton getting a hummer. It was a waste of my money, and I want it back. Sure, it was sleazy, inappropriate, and a host of other unpleasant words, but it wasn’t $64 million dollars worth of sleaze. I could personally buy a lot of sleaze for that amount of money, all of it nastier than a b.j. In return, I will cease sarcastically using the phrase “stay the course” for a period of 2 years. They have to pay me right away, though.

NEW RULE: Advertisers are no longer allowed to use animation to shill for prescription medication. No more Moths of Death, no more Beez to prevent the Sneeze, uhn-uhn, no, no, no. I want to see real people snorking down a pill, belching, scratching their butts or whatever it is they are going to do, and no more of this asinine kiddy TV crossover crapola.

And, the final…

NEW RULE: News channels with tickers across the bottom are required to indicate, in that ticker, when the talking head or heads are speculating, rather than reporting factual occurrences. That should cut down on a lot of peripheral dizziness, and really straighten out the people who watch Faux Newz.

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog trolling.

Oddball Word of the Day

prolix (PROH-liks) adj. unnecessarily or tediously wordy; of such a speaker or writer

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Everyone Needs a Humiliator

When Spawn was a preschool aged tot, he liked to talk. All the time. He’d use words that were far beyond the normal range for his age, and he’d challenge himself, attempting to use words that he wasn’t quite sure of, but he wanted to give them a test drive. Most of the time, he did pretty well at using them correctly, but there were a few spectacular failures.

One of my favorites came to light one winter. In our old house, we didn’t have a built in humidifier, we had one that I had to add gallons of water to every other day in order to humidify the house. So, one day, as I was making breakfast for us, Spawn came toddling into the kitchen.

“I need some water, “ he said, “in a big, big gallon jug.”

“What for?” I asked.

“For the humiliator,” he replied.

“The WHAT?” I asked.

“The humiliator. In the dining room,” he said, and pointed his stubby little finger in that direction.

I poked my head into the dining room and, possibly due to long-term sleep deprivation, I couldn’t quite figure out what he meant. “What’s a humiliator?” I asked him.

“Dat fing. Dat fing you pour water into. It’s empty,” he said as he pointed at the humidifier.

“Oh,” I said, and laughed pretty hard. I gave him a half-gallon of water at a time and let him trundle back and forth until he got tired, filling the “humiliator”. I did eventually teach him the correct word, but I still remember his tiny little person, dressed, as my husband put it, like an educational toy, in red, blue and yellow, earnestly wanting to service the family humiliator.

Oddball Word of the Day

exurbia (eks-ER-bee-a) n. all communities constituting the totality of all exurbs

(from MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Five Things It’s Hard to Talk About With Family

1. Health problems: Everybody makes fun of their Uncle Murdock or Aunt Persephone when they spend Thanksgiving dinner yakking on about their hemorrhoids or sciatica or bothersome nose hair experiences. Surgery is hugely nauseating to many people, too. So, I understand why some people don’t want to hear about others’ ailments, particularly if there’s no relevance in their own daily lives. My husband grew up in one of those families. We can’t talk about anything health related in front of him, and if it comes up over dinner, which is sometimes the only time we foregather and hold forth, the rest of us may not know that someone’s got a chest pain or has digestive complications.

My family was never like that, and I think it may have been because we were predominantly southern. Southerners will talk about anything anywhere, anytime. It seems perfectly normal to me to spend a family holiday listening to Aunt Myrtle discuss her recent hysterectomy and offer to show me her tummy scar. I wouldn’t think of interrupting her or showing anything less than polite interest. So, I sometimes feel like I’m in an awkward spot if I need to discuss my own health with my hinky hubby. Just when is the right time to tell him that I sleep on the couch a couple of nights a week because I get better back support there than in the bed? No matter when I broach the topic, he seems to think it’s the wrong time. God forbid I should mention exploding ass boils as the reason I put a towel under my couch seat from time to time. Oh, man, that WAS gross.

But, still, these things are relevant, and, unsavory as they may be, the information is appropriate. It’s a good thing I’ve got girlfriends to talk to, and my kids are more like me about discussing health issues, so I can advise them to see a doctor or drink more cranberry juice, or put a heating pad on the problem.

2. Daffy parents: Again, I’m thinking this may be a southern thing. I still remember howling with laughter when Dixie Carter, on that wonderful series, Designing Women, said, “It’s not a matter of whether or not someone in your family is crazy, it’s a matter of whose side they’re on.” Or thereabouts. It’s so true! Every family has some touched or off-kilter member somewhere in the branches of the family tree. Sometimes it’s an elderly person who has simply not come to grips with being a resident in the daffy zone, sometimes it’s someone whose perspective has always been a little atypical, and sometimes it’s just obnoxious old Uncle Bert who will leave the room and start making phone calls if anyone talks about politics. I will also cite Bailey White’s book, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, as supporting evidence of southern tolerance for goofy personalities.

At some point, though, and this is another factor, goofy southerners will often admit they are goofy. They may ask for help, they may ask to be left alone, or it may come to the point where hard choices have to be made to keep that goofy loved one safe and unexploited. The discussion usually takes place first amongst the women folk, often over iced tea or good coffee in the kitchen, and quietly. Once a feminine consensus has been reached, the case for additional care (or merely a good talking to) is presented to the men folk, who may either agree or disagree, chose to be the family mouthpiece, or go fishing and ignore the whole damned thing. The women are rock solid in their conviction that “something needs doing” and will support each other to get it done – with as much dispatch and dignity and follow-through as possible. It’s a helluva good thing, in many cases. Maybe it’s part of being a Momma to one’s own Momma at some point.

Anyway, I’m not finding that here in the north. I don’t think it’s just my husband’s uncommunicative family because I’ve listened to my Yankee girlfriends spend hours of debate and discussion time on how to get around someone to make sure they’re OK, or spend days and weeks tending to someone who needs professional care. Somewhere underneath of it is the assumption that they’re bad kids if they don’t put their own families and health at risk to tend to the excessive needs and/or quirks of a parent or nutso family member. This is REALLY different for me, as is the social stricture against coming out and saying that Mom’s not competent anymore to look after her own needs, or that Dad’s health problems are such that he needs to be in a nursing home where there’s a professional on duty 24/7.

It’s particularly relevant and particularly sticky for me at this point because my big southern mouth has tried a couple of times to say, “Hubs, your Mom needs a conservator appointed, and whether it be you or a bank or a lawyer you trust, it needs doing.” Such a statement is never appreciated nor well-received. Funny how no one had a problem speaking up about that determination about my Dad, but his physical infirmities may have made that easier to admit to. It needs doing, though, dagnabit. The woman has no concept of how to deal with anything larger than her petty cash checking account, and she’s going to get taken to the cleaners by the next Slick Willy that saunters by, and THEN where will all these repressive Yankees and their offspring be? Honking and hooting in a courthouse to get back 1/10th of what their Momma gat swindled out of. Well, shut my mouth.

3. Watching a loved one slide into depression: Hubs is depressed. I don’t blame him. It’s been a comprehensively shitty year for him – his secretary quit to marry his best friend, he had to hire and train a new secretary and figure out how to smile and mean it when he talks to his friend, even though we all know this is going to be one of those divorce statistics in a couple of years unless some serious growing up happens for both of them. His father became ill with CJD, forgot hubs’ existence altogether, and died. His sister had a strange emotional meltdown and hustled his daffy mother into buying a house and making some questionable choices, and it has fallen on his shoulders to try to keep her from drowning herself in her own confusion. His siblings denied his father’s illness, then pretty much abandoned their mom on all counts except for sponging off of her… And our oldest started college and is being kind of a slacker, which makes him want to do some tail-kicking, if only to get Spawn’s attention.

Being the goofball I am, when I see his shoulders slump and that crabby asshole look on his face, I feel like pointing out, in an extremely perky voice, that at least his job is going well and the kids are generally OK. I know it won’t work, so I tend to distill that down to a pat on the back instead.

But depression is depression and it affects all of us when he’s blue to this extent. It’s not his first time down the dark tunnel – when the kids were small and extremely needy and his job wasn’t going so well, he went to see someone. Last year, when we were having problems, he was officially diagnosed and even took some prescription meds, which, sadly, did not work too well. It’s cycling in again. He likes to blame it on me, but, thankfully, I now have my women’s group to remind me not to take responsibility for his problems, just for how they affect me and the kids.

And this is even harder to talk about than ass boils, since it’s not something I can laugh at myself over; I can’t even bring humor into it at all. But I need to find a way to gently suggest going back to the doc and then move on with my life. Tough stuff.

4. A Kid bent on Self-Sabotage: I can smell it on Spawn. I swear, I can smell it on him. I knew he’d get a wake-up call about procrastinating and not pushing his own limits when he started college, and, by gum, he has. I just didn’t figure he’d answer that wake up call by hitting the snooze button and showing up late for his own life. Bolstered, again, by the good gals and facilitator of my women’s group, I did have as gentle and as adult a talk with him the other day as I feel comfortable doing. I reminded him of our Higher Ed Contract with him, and bills he’ll need to pay if he gets lousy grades. I then talked to him about how the first semester in college can be a real shock to someone used to getting good grades, especially if they’ve done so with a minimum of effort, and that I hoped he wouldn’t get discouraged, or give up, or think badly of himself. I told him I hoped he’d be inspired to start fresh after such a disappointment and get back in the game and work forward, not look backward.

He nodded, he agreed, he smiled, the conversation was amicable, and he promptly blew off another assignment in one of his classes. I’m having to breathe the same way I did when I pushed his big damned cranium out of my person to keep my eyeballs from shooting out of my head in frustration. “Not mine, not mine, his choice, his responsibility,” I have to silently repeat to myself to prevent smother-mothering. It’s hard, though. What I REALLY want to do is haul his skinny butt out to the woodshed and give him an old-fashioned ass-kicking, beginning with “What the hell is wrong with you?” and ending with “get that ass of yours back in the damned GAME!”

5. Chores and housework: In general, my kids and family are helpful. If I ask them. I have been asking for 25 years now with ONE of them, and between 14 and 18.5 years with the rest of them. You’d think they’d remember to pick up their own towels, and put their laundry in the laundry room, and pick up their damned socks, and empty an occasional garbage that overfloweth with an abundance of fodder, and wipe up a spill, pick up a dishcloth from the linoleum, etc. No. Nada. Never.

I enjoy nagging considerably less than I enjoy anything else on this whine list. That leads me to dumb behavior like doing it all myself and then feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated, aggrieved, and all that other poop, and I’m not going down that road again. I am considering weird behavior as an alternative to having to open my piehole again to speak forth the words, “Would you please…” I’m thinking big, neon-colored flash cards with magic marker stock phrases. I’m thinking of carrying a tape recorder around with me with a bunch of pre-recorded reminders on it, and just playing it at them. I’m pondering knitting each one of them a sweater that says, “I don’t clean up after myself, and I run with scissors, too.” Or a sock with something similar on the top of the toe area.

I have already tried living with it, to the point where I’m embarrassed to have anyone over. I’ve tried putting the fruits of apathy on their beds (dirty dishes left around, nasty laundry that the dog brings me because it was under a table or on the floor, unwanted mail that’s been opened and just left sitting around). I’ve made cheerful reminder posters and stuck them up. I just don’t know. I’ll take suggestions on what’s worked for you (or ON you) if you have any. AAARGH!

Well, this has been cathartic for me. I know that there are some things that I’m going to have to say, and I’m more OK with not saying other things than I was when I started this.

Here’s wishing you a weekend filled with open, free communication, and a few giggles over the quirks and oddities of us GRITS!

Friday 10/20 Bonus Round: German Idiom

etwas an die grosse Glocke Haengen: to bandy something about, to broadcast something

zB: Dass er ein Toupet hat, sollst du nicht an die grosse Glocke haengen. Er will nicht, dass andere von seiner Glatze wissen.

auf Englisch: Don't bandy it about that he's got a toupee. He doesn't want anyone to know he's bald.

Origin: from the practice of ringing church bells to proclaim important news.

(from the Guide to German Idioms, by JP Lupson)

Oddball Word of the Day

taboret (TAB-uh-rit):n. 1) a stool, 2) a stand or frame for embroidery

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

BoS’s Plain Knitting Patterns

I don’t buy a lot of patterns with cables and lattices and fancy colorwork. More often, if I buy a pattern it’s because I don’t have one in my library for the basic dimensions or approach to making a certain item. Over the years, I’ve found that works best for me – if I have the basic shape and size, I can adjust everything else according to my personal preferences at the time I make the item. I use gauge (after the all-important swatching), pick my own color or colors, my own texturizing stitches, my own yarn weight and fiber, and have at it. Most of the time that works out.

When I was a new knitter, I didn’t trust myself in the slightest, and rightly so. I hated swatching – it was hard enough just to knit, and I felt so successful when something came out and looked even with no obvious gaping holes or errors. I hated frogging stuff, too, since it had been such an accomplishment just to get it made, even if it was made with an error. And double-pointed needles, holy Moses! Circular needles, I could understand those, although they were a little unsatisfying and didn’t fit my mental image of what the act of knitting should look like, I didn’t have a problem using them.

Back then I needed a pattern for everything except potholders. And, as I’ve previously discussed, purchased patterns were, more often than not, really disappointing due to errors, omissions, and bad designing that had been cunningly camouflaged by good photography. Plus, if my gauge was off, I didn’t pay attention until the thing was finished and had either ape arms or an unwanted ruffly bit.

I cook that way, too. If I don’t have sage, I might smell my poultry seasoning and see if that smells like it’ll work, or if I’m short on buttermilk (and who other than my mother actually buys buttermilk for anything other than cooking!), I make my own with some regular milk and lemon juice. I like to substitute for what’s called for, in both patterns and recipes, with what I have on hand. Maybe that’s laziness, maybe it’s creativity, maybe it’s resourcefulness. Whatever it is, it’s part of who I am.

I started knitting when I was 16, during a long, boring, shut-in kind of summer in a new neighborhood where I didn’t know anyone, and we were the first people to move into our new development, so that there wasn’t anyone there to get to know anyway. My sister had had a knitting class in high school home ec, abandoned her needles and yarn and was in college and gadding about in general. So, I adopted the stuff and just started poking away, trying to make my stitches look like the ones already in existence on the needles. I already knew how to crochet, so I had some yarn sense.

It was pretty interesting, really, and a little bit of a challenge. I did learn, and I did finish a vest, in 1970’s loud pink, screaming green, and some modest gray. It was just broad stripes, but I was very proud of it and wore it gladly and with satisfaction. Later that year, I scraped a few bucks of my allowance together and bought a Coats and Clark “Learn to Knit” booklet. I found out I had been doing it wrong, according to them, but rather than change how I knit, I spent time understanding how to do what was in the book, but my own way, as long as the results were the same. It did help me learn how to do a long-tail cast on. Perhaps that was the genesis of my “substitution” mentality.

Anyway, now, thirty years later, I’m one of the old hands, experienced knitters that you see who watch TV while knitting, one of the ones who can fix a cable, a lace item, do Fairisle in my sleep, and design my own aran sweaters. If you’re new, this probably pisses you off. If you’re an old hand, you’re probably chuckling and going, “yeah, so what? It’s easy!” So, to get back to my original premise, I don’t buy a lot of patterns which are only re-hashes of stuff I already know or obvious plugs for overpriced yarn.

I’ve developed a lot of respect for designers and knitting authors who understand those of us with “substitution” minds. When I chose to buy a knitting book, I want one that is an actual resource, containing a wide variety of new information, or old information in a form that is accessible and practical. Lots of people admire Elizabeth Zimmerman, and as a creative, architectural knitter, she has no equal. I could live without the pontificating, though, and I will probably be struck down by her adoring fans, stabbed to death with circs and mummy-wrapped in merino wool, for saying so.

If I were starting out as a new knitter all over again, I’d still get that Coats and Clark booklet. Working my way through it was challenging without being impossible. I’d also pick up a couple of friendly stitch guides, like a BH&G guide which covers the technique of colorwork, some different techniques for finishing and joining, and enough fancy stitches so that I could embellish plain sweaters or even create a beginner’s aran.

What I’d add in this time, though, early on, are the pamphlets from Cottage Creations on “Community Knitting” – of which I think there are at least two. They have patterns that finish quickly (very satisfying for new knitters), are forgiving of a monstrous number of substitutions, not particularly gauge dependent, and which can be used over and over, revised, revisited, embellished, and used to finish up oddballs. They are useful, practical, straightforward patterns. They’re extremely affordable, too, and for those of us whose budgets tend more towards Red Heart than silk and cashmere, that’s a Good Thing.

And, with those three or four books, it would be a long time before I really felt I needed to move on the next level for knitting books. The next book I’d get would be Jacqueline Fee’s Sweater Workshop. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had had this book (probably before it was even written) after I had gotten more confident about my knitting, and faster, too. It would have saved me so much time and emotional energy AND actual cash that I feel, in retrospect, was wasted on buying unsatisfactory patterns and snotty books with more attitude than information. The Sweater Workshop is a gentle, friendly, methodical, well-illustrated guide that is so liberating, so enlightening, and so damned useful for those of us who will always have knitting in their lives, I just can’t say enough about it.

Oh, other good investments would be Ann Budd’s nice resource guides, although those are screamingly gauge-dependent basic patterns, and maybe a really excellent, comprehensive guide on Norwegian knitting, too. New knitters who are swatch-resistant, though, are going to have to get to the skill and speed level where swatching is no longer The Most Annoying Thing In The Universe before those books will do them any good. There are a lot of scarves and hats and drop shoulder sweaters in between being new and not minding swatching, though.

So, what really prompted all this was a little blog crawling I did the other day. There were a whomptillion variations on Fancy Stitch Scarves, Socks With Itchy Looking Texture Patterns, and Yet Another Not Quite Right Hat With Too Much Crap Going On. I started to feel a little inadequate, since all the free patterns I offer are straight up plain vanilla, until I realized I am not the only chronic substituter out there, and that lots of new knitters are like I was – looking for something basic that they can twist, turn, and make their very own, and another fancy stitch pattern is not what they are necessarily looking for, maybe they just want to know how to make a damned hat! So, I quit feeling inadequate and went for feeling content instead.

While I may show pix of loverly sweaters, intricate doilies or whatever that I make, I’m probably not going to put those up as patterns. For one thing, that’s too damned much typing, and for another, at a certain point in your knitting career, your creations need to be born within you and express your unique taste and creative choices, and the best I can hope for is to offer you a skeleton pattern upon which you may hang your magnificence.

Knit on – in whatever danged color and breath-taking combination you want!

Oddball Word of the Day

amour-propre (ah-MOOR-prawpr) n. self-respect

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Vote Your Fears

Yesterday, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which “says the president can ‘interpret the meaning and application’ of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts.” (from a Yahoo article) Also, “ ‘It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court,’ Feingold (of Wisconsin) said. ‘And the new law would permit an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony and even allow someone convicted under these rules to be put to death.’ " And, further, “The legislation also eliminates some of the rights defendants are usually guaranteed under U.S. law, and it authorizes continued harsh interrogations of terror suspects.”

And, now, I am afraid. I am afraid of my own government, which is no longer democratic, no longer respectable or responsible, which no longer even tries to maintain a façade of decency or humanity or reason or logic. We have become a fascist nation.

Wikipedia has the following to say about fascism:

[Paxton further] defines fascism's essence as:

1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; [terrorism, 9/11, and constant drumbeat political spin of “be afraid, be very afraid”]

2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; [abrogation of the Geneva convention and most of our Bill of Rights

3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; [as George W. Bush has appointed himself]

4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; [further demonstrated by the loss of civil rights we’ve endured since Bush’s inauguration in 2000, the invasion of Iraq, and the treatment of POWs] and

5. fear of foreign `contamination." [“if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, interpreting dissent as unpatriotic behavior or as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists]

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism summarizes fascism as:

The term is often used to describe individuals or political groups who are perceived to behave in an authoritarian or totalitarian manner; by silencing opposition, judging personal behavior, promoting racism, or otherwise attempting to concentrate power and create hate towards the "enemies of the state".

Which pretty well sums up the current state of affairs in the White House and Congress, I think.

I never dreamt I’d be afraid of my own government to this extent, but I am afraid of the megalomaniacal C-student who doesn’t have the wit to understand what he has wrought, running the country. I am afraid, as I have not been in the 5.5 years before this, of the toad-eating, goose-stepping, rubber-stamping Republican Congress, which is devoid of all sense of responsibility for upholding and protecting the constitution, the citizenry, and the country, and which is rife with greed, spinelessness, corporate special interests, and corruption to a degree which literally takes my breath away.

I am afraid for myself – that speaking out might mean my being thrown in jail on trumped up charges at the president’s whim, afraid for what it can mean for my children and their right to a bright future of hope and possibilities, and I am afraid and ashamed of what this administration has done to my country. They have morally raped us, beaten us, abused us, and left us to die, while they wallow in war profiteering and Orwellian doublespeak, with nary a care for the American people, our constitution, our history, our legacy, our responsibilites, or our rights. They are all traitors, the likes of which we have never seen before, and they have made themselves untouchable and unaccountable for their behavior.

I am appalled beyond words, ao I am borrowing those of Pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984)…

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
after all I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
after all I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
after all I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that we are a heartbeat away from seeing our friends, neighbors, and children hauled away for no greater reason than dissatisfaction or dissent, by our toxic administration. I am not generally a political person, and I hope this is the first and last occasion I have to say anything of a political nature. But, Bushco has finally succeeded in convincing me to vote my fears. I will be voting, and urging everyone I meet, and possibly standing in the parking lot of the polling place urging other voters to follow my lead. I will be voting for anyone BUT these traitors, and I can only hope and pray that they will be stopped, that they will be held accountable, and that there is still time to undo this horrible damage.

Oddball Word of the Day

squassation (skwo-SAY-shun) n. a form of or device for torture or punishment in former times, in which the victim had his arms bound behind, his feet heavily weighted, and was jerked up and down on a rope passing under his arms.

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Small Town Boobies

People look in my windows. I’m not kidding. I think it’s a small town thing. When I lived in a big city, as far as I know, only anonymous people might have looked in my windows. Even in suburbs, people don’t admit they might look in your windows, or they draw their blinds so neither one of you can see each other. Here, they call me to tell me to stop wasting my time on the computer, try a different shampoo (since this one seems to be making my head itch) or that my kids are staying up too late.

I got a call from my neighbor lady one day, asking me what was wrong with my boobs. I had been sitting at the dining room table, scratching my tit under my bra (ladies, you know how that is), thinking myself alone and unobserved. Then I felt a middle-aged hair nub, looked at my boob to confirm it, and went to the bathroom to pluck it. By the time it was plucked, the phone was ringing.

“What’s wrong with your boob? Got a lump?” asked my neighbor lady.

“WHAT?” I replied.

“I was driving by and looked over at your house and noticed you were looking in your shirt. Are you OK?” she answered.

“Ohmygod. It was a hair; it itched.” I replied, with great embarrassment.

“Oh, thank God,” she said, “my sister just found out she has a lump, and lumps were on my mind.”

It’s not so bad having everyone else in my business if my kids have been acting up somewhere off my radar, that I suppose I need to know about, but I do kind of feel weirded out by the idea of being watched through my windows. I suppose I have a mental mindset that windows are for looking out of, not into, since I don’t look into any windows other than shop windows. I would make a lousy spy and an even worse peeping Tom; people would have to be doing stuff on their front lawn, and loudly, for me to notice.

Oh, well, me and my well-harnessed rack are off to do chores in front of windows. Then we might lollygag behind a blank wall, just in case.

Oddball Word of the Day

persiflage (PER-sih-flahzh) n. light banter

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lessons from Little Old Men

I went to see my Dad yesterday and to take him some cold weather clothes. He was sound asleep, and if I hadn’t seen his chest move, I’d have worried. I sorted through his clothes and realized that he has way too many, and I’m going to have to tell my sister not to buy him any more shirts – for any season. With him being in a nursing home, he just doesn’t put that much wear and tear on anything unless it’s a struggle to get in and out of it, and, even so, he’s not strong enough to put much pressure on any seams or fabric.

I’ve noticed that when people are old and feeble, the types of clothing they can wear changes. It’s harder for them to raise their arms and wiggle into pullovers or pull-on shirts unless they fit very loosely. Snaps are good for shirts and dress fronts, and buttons if they’re not too shaky or nearsighted, work, too, although the clothing does have to be larger than one would expect because bending their arms back to slip into the clothing is harder for old folks, too.

My Dad has not walked in four years. Before that, he could walk short distances with a walker, and that necessitates different clothing for his lower body, too. He can, and does, paddle along in his wheelchair, but he really can’t deal with clothes that zip or button or have hooks in the waistband – it’s elasticized pull-on pants that he gets the most use out of. He can’t dress himself either, so everything needs to be easy for the aides to put on him.

He has intension tremor, which makes his hands very shaky, and which has fooled more than one health professional into thinking he has Parkinson’s. He doesn’t. It’s hereditary, it’s been pretty much the same since he was 58 years old, and is one of the reasons he took early retirement. He has to suck soup through a straw (or wear it), and on really bad days, he needs help eating or the food will fly left and right and then he gets to cussing at himself because he’s so annoyed. He still has his pride, so he is terribly embarrassed by his shakiness, and that makes him mad, hence the cussing. Fortunately, he’s such a sweetie, all the aides fight over who gets to help him eat. Or, maybe they just want to sit down for a while!

His vision is going and he doesn’t read the way he used to. His hands are so weak that he has trouble holding books for very long, so I think I’ll get him a bookstand for his table for Christmas. I don’t know if he’ll read more, but it might help. And, I think his hearing is getting bad – we got a call from the nursing home last week that he’s been falling asleep, holding the remote for his TV, and leaving the TV on. That irks his roomie, so they wondered if we’d pick up a cordless headset for him, which we did. Hubs installed the necessary thingies on the TV yesterday and made sure the whole set up worked.

He forgets things, he forgets names, but he always remembers me, the kids, and our names and our relationship to him. He knows we love him, and he knows he loves us. He’s been old for a long time, now.

My stepmom wasn’t old for long. Chronologically, sure she was old, but mentally and physically, she was fit, peppy, and able right up until a few months before her death. So was my father-in-law. I’m sure they both wanted to go quickly, as they did, before they spent too much time being and feeling old and feeble and needy. It is very different from merely aging.

I have long since grieved the father of my childhood. He retired 23 years ago and he and Ellen moved to Portugal, so they were out of my daily life for many years. He and Ellen moved back to the States about 10 years ago or so, but we still saw them only rarely. When Ellen was taking care of him, he didn’t seem so old, and he wasn’t.

It’s the same way with my mother-in-law. When her husband was alive, she just seemed kind of dependent on him, somewhat needy and a little, oh, I don’t know, irksomely herself, if you know what I mean. Now that he’s gone, she’s old, and my husband is having to adjust to that, and what that means for him as the geographically nearest son.

There are things that old people can’t do any more – they are not able to reason their way through knotty problems and often become frustrated and peevish, when before they would have brainstormed and problem-solved. They don’t learn new things, no matter how many crossword puzzle books you give them, how often you show them how the remote control works, or how simple you make using the computer, they don’t, won’t, and don’t want to do it. They have stopped learning the harder things. Math and memory become problems for them – not just needing to look things up, but also the concept of what it is they’re looking for begins to escape them. Their lives become smaller, simpler, and they seek to keep them manageable. And that makes perfect sense.

They feel embarrassed, recalcitrant, reluctant to ask for help, angry that they need to ask for help, and hang on, quite ferociously, to the few things they can still do for themselves. Sometimes they get paranoid about any number of things, odd things sometimes, like whether or not they’re unpacking the same groceries they thought they bought, and at some point, they will admit to one trusted person that they are not as they were, that they have moved on to being old and needy.

I know about Alzheimer’s; I’ve been to the websites, I’ve read up on the medications, I’ve watched people decline quickly, and slowly, from it. I also know the difference between the normal abilities of someone who’s 62 and someone who’s 82. There is, without question, a significant difference in what’s normal. And one way or another, there is one consistent theme in aging – the precarious nature of dignity.

I’ve learned a lot from my doddering old father, and it’s helped me to help my husband deal with his mother. His siblings are in denial about their mother’s becoming old, as much as they were with their father’s illness and death, and that’s another hurdle for my husband to cope with. Watching my Dad learn to be old has helped me become a better parent, too, and to take better care of myself.

No matter what our lives are like, no matter what shortcoming and failings we may believe we have, and no matter what miserable things we may have done or seen or been, we are all deserving of dignity. If it means a little assistive technology, then that’s what’s needed, no question about it. If it means doctor appointments, do it. If it means taking a break, giving yourself or a loved one a break, or walking away from someone else’s stress in order to maintain your dignity, then that’s what needs doing. If it means backing away from a child’s science project or homework so that their accomplishments, and the pride that goes along with them, belong to them alone, then that’s what needs doing.

And, if I need help from someone in order to live with dignity, then I need to remember that asking for it is the right thing to do, not obscuring and covering up and doing without to avoid asking for help. Asking for help is not demeaning, it is liberating. Thanks to Dad, I do understand that maintaining my dignity and acting with grace, on an ever-shifting beach of life’s challenges, is far more important than going it alone.

Oddball Word of the Day

lorgnette (Lohrn-YET): n. a pair of spectacles or opera glassess in a rigid frame with a handle

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Five Things I Like About October

1. Autumn Leaves – I love the colors of Fall. I really like driving along with the leaves falling all around in a shower of color, and I like watching the trees slowly showing their winter skeletons. I love a yard carpeted in a riot of autumn colors. I think it’s so beautiful.

2. Cooler weather – Boy, is it nice to turn off the air conditioning and only need the heat every so often. I can air out the house, wear long sleeves, break out the warm woolies, and start knitting heavier items like afghans and adult sweaters.

3. Halloween – we don’t get many trick-or-treaters, since we’re off the beaten path somewhat, but I do like seeing their hopeful little faces all painted up, standing at the door. They always look like they wonder if I’m really going to come through with candy or if I’m going to be one of those ardent people who gives them a tiny toothbrush and teensy tube of toothpaste, or a damned box of raisins or a granola bar. Trust me, you come to my house trick-or-treating, you get chocolate. I’m easy.

4. Routine for school year is set – By this point in the school year, the kids have settled into their routines and so have the teachers. Paperwork is being generated predictably, everyone’s following the calendar, and this year’s round of colds and flu haven’t started up yet. I can take a few deep breaths before the onslaught of Thanksgiving, December birthdays, and Christmas, and just unwind a little. It’s a nice pause.

5. Letter Writing -- Part of my taking a little break is writing letters I never seem to have time for any other time of year. Real letters, the kind with paper and my good fountain pen and stamps. I used to be a prodigious letter writer and then I had kids. Then email came along and letter-writing became less necessary to keep in contact with friends and family. I still like it, it’s an experience and an art unto itself, and I like to keep in practice. So, before it’s time to send out Christmas cards, I like to send a real letter or funny card to friends and relatives to let them know I’m thinking of them.

Friday 10/13 Bonus Round: German Idiom

gesund wie ein Fisch im Wasser: as fit as a fiddle

zB: Trotz seines hohen Alters ist er gesund wie ein Fisch im Wasser.

auf Englisch: In spite of his great age he is as fit as a fiddle.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Oddball Word of the Day

gefuellte fish (ge-FIL-teh): boned fish shaped into balls and served cold. Also gefilte fish

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Felted Mittens for Kids -- Free Pattern

Well, it snowed a little here today, which brings up the issue of keeping extremities warm and toasty!

This pattern creates a fitted cuff in acrylic or non-felting yarn, so that the mittens don't scoop up snow when kids are out making snowmen -- like so many felted or fulled mittens do. I don't have a picture, since the kids wore our last pairs to school today, and we've given all the others away. I do have a pair ready for felting, though.

This picture shows the mittens BEFORE felting on the left, in gold and brown, as compared to a pair of normal mittens (Doodle's Double-Thick, Double Quick Mittens) for kids ages 6-10.

Felted Kids' Mittens

1 set size 4 dpns
small amt worsted weight acrylic or non-felting yarn
large ball 100% wool, worsted

CUFF: w/ acrylic. CO 36 p1k1 for 18 rows or 2-1/2 inches

HAND: change to wool. Work 4 rounds even. Increase 2 sts every third row for thumb gusset on 1st needle, until you have 13 sts for thumb. Put these 13 sts on holder. CA 2 sts over thumb area. K even until 6-3/4” above cuff ~ 50 rows

1) k2, k2tog around
2)K 2 rows even
3) k1, k2 tog around
4) k1 row even
5) K2 tog around
6) pull yarn through and tie off

THUMB: Pick up 2-4 additional sts and 13 from holder, K even 2-1/2” or about 16 rows. Decrease as for hand.

Wash on hot/cold cycle and dry in dryer until shrunk to size desired.

Oddball Word of the Day

confluent (KON-floo-ent): adj. coming or flowing together; uniting into one

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Marrying Too Young

One of the things that bothers me in my small town is seeing so many people marrying young. Sometimes it almost seems as if they are doing so because they can’t find anything else to do, because they have no hope, or because they can’t think of another way out of their current situations. I’ve faced this, sort of, just recently.

Spawn brought home a gal he dated in high school this past Sunday. She had her “fiancé” with her. They are both 19. My husband and I looked at each other, having the same thoughts, which start with “uh-oh”, and congratulated them and asked them a few questions. As usual, they have no plan, haven’t really thought ahead, haven’t set a date, etc. I suppose it’s something to say, something to give them both hope to get through the days.

I’m not really surprised at the gal. I suspected she’d be the sort who’d want a safety net. She’s unhappy at home, didn’t do well in high school, flunked out of her first semester in college, and is working as a stocker in a grocery store. She was never very ambitious and was always willing to hitch a ride on someone else’s life, she did it with Spawn, and she’s always had this fiancé in the background, and she’s doing it with him. I have no problem imagining who put the arm on whom for something more definite.

When I see a young girl like this, so desperate to change her situation but so insecure in her ability to do so on her own, I wish I were a dream fairy. I wish I could visit her subconscious and tell her that she can do it by herself, for herself, and that she will never know what she’s capable of until she tries. I wish I could help her believe that the way things are today is not the way things will be forever; that there are other options, other means, second chances, and an infinite number of choices ahead of her that don’t involve anyone other than herself. I wish I could make her believe in herself and give her the motivation to get up and try again and again. This choice on her part seems more like giving up than anything else.


I got married young, too. My husband and I discussed it Sunday night. We had a plan. We had goals, we felt definite. While we may have been opting for “somewhere else” rather than our home situations, neither of us were in such dire straits that we didn’t feel like we had no choice. Marriage was just the one we decided would be best – we had both been the youngest of several children, and having old parents was a problem for us – we wanted to give ourselves a chance to be married without kids before having any. We had common goals in education, living arrangements, etc. I could list more reasons, but I won’t. I will admit, however, that if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t marry at 21, I’d wait at least another 5 years. There are things I didn’t find out about myself, or my spouse, until the deed was done, despite dating for two years, despite thinking I had done a good job of assessing probabilities.

I don’t think there is a perfect age for marrying. And, some people are not going to learn life’s lessons alone, they need to be in a relationship with another person to do so. Sometimes that speeds up the arrival of the lessons, sometimes it delays them. I can only choose for myself, not for anyone else.

I have talked with my children, particularly my daughter, about this kind of thing. I’ve told her what I’d do differently if I could. She’s told me of her hopes and wishes and dreams for her life after high school. I hope she can follow through on them, and I hope I can help her if she needs me to do so. Same with my boys.

As I looked at that young girl on Sunday, I saw her … optimistic desperation. I can’t think of a better phrase. She had that panicked look in her eyes, along with a smile that said “please approve of me, please approve of my choice, please let me know this is the right thing to do.” I’m not the right person for that; I’m not even the person whose approval or acceptance would mean anything to her. Kids try so hard to grow up so fast, and then wind up regretting their lost and abandoned childhoods.

Underneath all this philosophizing is the mean little fact that I’m glad it’s not Spawn she’s engaged to marry. He has plans, a roadmap of sorts, and if he can stop being a slacker and start taking his own life seriously, I think he’ll achieve his modest goals. If he can be as pigheaded about achieving them as he is about not cleaning his room, he’s home free!

Anyway, one of the aspects of my husband’s job, which was also mine for several years, and which I hear about every night of the week, is that we always know who’s getting divorced, remarried, re-remarried and so on in town. Over and over, we see couples marrying very young, divorcing within fewer than 5 years, often with tiny children to take care of. The wife remarries, raises kids, divorces and marries a third time, and, not quite as often, but still pretty frequently, so does the husband. I don’t know what they’re hoping for or looking for. I really don’t get why marriage is supposed to solve whatever problem it is they’re encountering, but so many couples seem to get to the point of divorce long before they get to the point of growing up.

I guess that’s the hard part – growing up. I’m still doing it, and I’m 46 years old. So’s my husband, and he’s a little older. We grow up when we get married and find out where our faults and our partner’s faults unhappily coincide. We grow up when we have kids and have tiny, helpless people depending on us. We grow when friends and family die. We grow up more when parents die, whether they’ve left a mess behind or a tidy, neat package. We think of our own childhoods, our own lives, our own mortality. We grow up when we can no longer blame someone else for our problems and have to face our darker selves, alone, and with adult honesty. We grow up when we help a loved one through their dark times, too, and when we see how often heroism and tragedy travel hand in hand. When we see how others believe in themselves, we can believe in ourselves, too.

I suppose that’s what bothers me about early marriages. Here in small town America, kids, and adults, don’t see how many options there really are. They have no friends who’ve done things differently, their parents are all cut from a similar cloth, they haven’t traveled, they haven’t had interesting jobs, they haven’t really explored the world. They have no experience of life in the big, wide world.

It’s hard to believe that have any idea what they’re doing. But I do wish them luck. Even if they just say they’re engaged for the next couple of years and then chose alternate paths, maybe this arrangement was what they needed, when they needed it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to hide my joy that it’s not something I’m having to face as a parent. Yet.

Oddball Word of the Day

carking: (KAHR-king) adj. 1) disturbed; worried; anxious, 2) penny-pinching, stingy, miserly.

(from the MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, October 09, 2006

All Girl Saturday!

This past weekend all the twitchy guys were elsewhere. My husband and youngest son were at Grandma’s house, going through my father-in-law’s collection of crud and tools, to see what they might want to have. I suspected they’d wind up staying overnight, since I’ve seen the piles. My oldest was working a marathon shift at Pizza Hut; apparently they were celebrating their liberation from the tyrannical industrial Pork Rind known as Pepsico, and my daughter and I were here at home.

We smiled at each other a lot. We would encounter one another in between tasks and beam, saying, “Gosh, this is nice and quiet” or “Wow, I can’t believe how relaxed I am!” We decided to have a Girls’ Day – popcorn, soda pop, and chick flicks. We settled in on the couches in front of the big screen TV, popped “Chasing Liberty” into the VCR, and Hoover clambered up on a couch and fell asleep, dreaming, we generally suppose, of being King of the Turkey Wall, because his feet twitch while he sleeps.

There we were, one unconscious Labrador, two gals, a chick flick, and quiet. So, we did what a lot of other girls would do in the same situation. We fell asleep. We woke up at the end of the movie, looked at each other and said, “well, I feel rested now, how about you?” We got a good giggle out of ourselves. It was Bunny’s night to fix dinner, so she toddled off, made delicious spaghetti from scratch (ha! I taught her!), which we enjoyed. Then we gave the movie another try.

It’s not much of a movie, really. I don’t know if it’s the mere presence of Mandy Moore that turns any movie into a shallow, caricature-filled teen flick, or if it was bad writing, or some kind of nutso adolescent male interpretation of girls, or a combination of two or more of those elements. It’s just a dumb, largely insulting movie. We watched it anyway, holding forth, one at time, pointing our fingers at the screen, advising poor Mandy as to what was wrong with what she was doing. She persisted in being a goofus, despite our best efforts.

Because that’s one of the things chicks do when they’re together – they criticize dumb chick flicks and watch them anyway. We also filled in blank spots with talking about Bunny’s friends and problems and successes at school, swapping warm wooly socks (same size feet), howling over dumb jokes, and shared a bowl of popcorn. We stopped short of painting each other’s toenails, although that’s another chick thing. It was fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a girls’ night.

Mostly, Bunny communes with her textbooks during the evening or watches Law & Order, of which she is a big fan. I’m usually proctoring Doodle because his meds are on the wane and he mutates into TwitchnFidget, not getting much homework done unless he’s got a body double. Spawn is usually stomping through the house, in an adolescent conniption over something that the rest of us are clearly to stupid to understand, so he just glares at us in impotent frustration instead. Hubs relaxes by watching Bang-Clank guy TV. So, this was a special night. No bang-clank, no twitching, no teen ragefest. Oh, feel the silence, the girlish camaraderie, the pink peace!

The boys all returned in full force the next day. Bunny and I winked at each other at each new explosion from Spawn, sympathized with each other quietly when passing through the living room to hear “Dirty Jobs” or a car race on the TV, and found things for Doodle to do to keep him from twitching at us. Everything was back to normal. Sigh.

I hope we have another Girls’ night soon.

Oddball Word of the Day

acouasm (a-COO-azm) n. an imagined ringing in the head

(from MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Update and Knit Stuff

I haven't posted much this week because it's been doctor week. Either I'm taking my elderly old Pop to the doctor, going for routine doctor appointments and tests myself, or recuperating from same. I'm fine, and so is Dad, it's just that time of year for all the annual checkups. Next month looks to have a Kids to Docs week in it, too.

Anyway, this is the time of year I start thinking about sending things out to charity so that they'll have them for the onset of cold weather. So, as I was boxing knit stuff up, I made sure to keep a list handy of what's been sent so far this year (hey, the tax man will cometh, and he will seeketh documentation!), and I figured I'd share. So here we go:

2006 DONATIONS – Knitted

Guideposts Knit for Kids – (Mailed to: GUIDEPOSTS KNIT FOR KIDS 39 Seminary Hill Road Carmel, NY 10512)
10 handmade sweaters, larger sizes

Children’s Village – (mailed to: Wakanyeja Tiospaye O'Tipi/ Children's Village, Inc. 100 Main Street Box 1034 Pine Ridge, SD 57770)
39 hats
2 pair mittens
2 scarves
2 afghans
1 sweater
1 small drawstring bag

Victim’s Assistance in Indian Country – (mailed to: Victims Assistance in Indian Country, 100 Main St., Hwy 18, Behind Fire Station, Pine Ridge, SD 57770)

15 hats
3 scarves
2 shawls
1 cotton purse
1 child hat/mitten set

(There's more, I simply haven't washed and boxed it up yet.)

As I look over this list, I think it makes me look like I do nothing else all day. I do, trust me. Thing is, when I knit, 80-90% of the time, it's for charity because I have long since saturated my family with knit goods, and as the kids grow, things get passed down until the youngest outgrows them, at which point, if they're still nice, off they go to someone in need.

It might seem excessive to knit afghans to give away -- I have all this yarn, see, and these twitchy fingers. . . and we have at least two afghans for each couch and easy chair and bed in the house. My in-laws, parents, and sister all already have afghans courtesy of my twitchy fingers. The womenfolk have shawls, my daughter and I each have a wardrobe of them, and I am NOT even going to discuss the truly appalling number of sweaters in closets.

But, I still knit. I multi-task, reading while I knit. I got one of those recipe book stands a few years ago, and since I don't need to watch my fingers for simpler things, I prop a book in it, sit down at the table, and read and knit at the same time. My husband has long since gotten used to my participating in conversations, watching TV, and even having arguments while knitting. I knit while I help the kids with their homework, and I knit as a break between household chores. The yarn rolls off the needles and into boxes posted, with hope and good wishes, to those in need.

I also hope that if you knit or crochet, or craft in any manner, that you'll give some consideration to the charities seeking donations of handmade goods. There are so many of them out there, so very many, and once we've made ourselves and our loved ones warm, maybe we can look outside our homes and families for the chance to do a little good.

I've had to be selective, based on my own preferences, in choosing charities. They're listed at the above right on this blog. Others that have recently crossed my radar, which I'm considering, include the Red Scarf Project, which makes scarves for orphaned children going off to college, the Dulaan project, and a Gingerbread man project. I haven't included the links because I really need to get going with today's appointments. Please do Google some of these, see if there's something you can give, even if you don't do crafty things, and find something that floats your boat.

It feels pretty good to lend a hand.

Oddball Word of the Day

hesperidium/hesperidia (hes-per-ID-ee-um) n., pl. the fruit of a citrus plant, as an orange or lemon

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yes, You Can Have Too Many Books

And I do, I’ve decided. It’s time to cull them. I have three bookcases in my bedroom, each of my kids has at least one shelf at least five feet long, filled with books in each of their rooms, and then there’s this:

8 shelves high, 8 units wide, a total of twenty-four feet wide. It’s one entire wall in my den. I have a non-fiction section with gardening, medical reference, knitting, general reference, foreign languages, humor, and various special interest books. Then there’s the “kid” section, for those books the children have outgrown but can’t quite let go of. There’s a “classics” section – Shakespeare, poetry, enduring works of fiction. The rest are mainly fiction, and a good many of them are paperback.

The books upstairs are mainly old college texts and (gasp) romances. The scary part about that is, we still use some of my old college texts for reference, and I didn’t start collecting romances until about 5 years ago. Urk. There’s an even more boring story attached to that, which I’ll save for some poor soul with the misfortune to get stuck sitting next to me in the old folk’s home in a couple of decades.

But, back to the den and the Wall O’ Words – when I first started collecting books, I was a young teenager with a huge interest in science fiction. That’s when I started my collections of Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Poul Anderson, etc. Then I developed a taste for cozy cottage mysteries, resulting in a full set of Agatha Christies, some A.C. Doyle and later M. C. Beaton, along with a few others. Somewhere along the way, when cottage mysteries were hard to find, I started picking up suspense and horror books, the largest components of which are by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and R. Walker.

About 10 years ago slapstick mysteries written by women hit the market in a big way, so I added Janet Evanovich, Sarah Strohmeyer, the wonderful Charlotte MacLeod, Dorothy Gilman, Elizabeth Peters, and even, in very serious moments, Patricia Cornwell. Dorothy Cannell and Anne B. Ross joined the ranks, too. Then, mysteries by women authors became even more specialized, so I picked up a few with knitting, cooking, gardening, nuns, B&B innkeepers, and female professors and students (campus mysteries) as their themes.

In fact, I can’t possibly name all the genres and authors in my main library in the den. It would take me all day, and none of us wants to go through that! But, this weekend, as I was tidying up the main area of the den, organizing my knitting needles and adding new or newly discovered patterns to the appropriate binders, I looked at my library and realized it’s too big. I have read all of the books, a fact which staggers most people, particularly if I add the fact that I have read most of them several times, and I spend plenty of time reading books I’ve checked out from the library, too. I read the novels the kids bring home, if asked. And, of course, there are more upstairs.

It’s never “too much” to read, whatever and whenever and wherever I please. It is too much to keep all of these around, storing them for another “someday.” Someone else can get some entertainment or enlightenment from the ones I can part with, and so I’m hoping to start sending out boxes of used books before Christmas. My real overall goal is to diminish my Wall O’Books to the point where I can bring my Wall O’ Yarn downstairs to the den and have all my favorite things in one room. The Wall O’Yarn is also on the decline, as I inventory it and knit a boxful of things for charitable donations at a time. With luck and diligence, I’ll be able to bring them both down to a size my conscience thinks is just right within 18 months or so, but I’ll give myself a good two years, since both reading and knitting – which I do at the same time quite often – take time.

A group I belong to can handle some books, but I also found this site online:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison http://www.freewebs.com/mwbtp/

If you have any experience in dealing with this organization, I’d like to hear about it.