Saturday, July 20, 2013

Knit 1, Purl 1, Curse 8

Earlier this year, I took up knitting.

The local librarian kept inviting me to come to the Tuesday morning Knit Us Together sessions at the library, but I didn't know how to knit. I went anyway. I sat and observed the ladies who were knitting on round looms as well as with needles. The looms looked easy enough, so I figured it was worth the minor investment in a set of Loops & Threads looms at Michael's to see if I could do it. Then, I watched a few YouTube videos and in a couple of days I had knit a scarf. Not bad for a novice without needles. So I knitted another scarf. And then some hats. And then some slouchy beanies.

And then I got bored. The loom no longer interested me. I wanted to branch out and learn how to knit with needles.

My friend Valerie said she would like to learn how to knit as well, so we asked the shop owner at Ewe & Co. if she would teach us. We found out we could learn in two easy lessons how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off for a small fee, and a knitting booklet, needles, and yarn were included. We were in.

After the first lesson, I went home and finished the assignment: knitting a pair of fingerless mitts. I wasn't crazy about the cotton yarn we'd gotten in class because I kept  splitting it with my needles. So I ripped it apart and started over with some cheap camo yarn I'd bought at Michael's for $2.99. Then I knitted another pair with some good yarn and had two completed pairs by the time I returned to Ewe & Co. for Lesson 2. Glenna Butts, the shop owner, pronounced me an "overachiever." I told her, "Blame it on my mother."

Mothers are always good to blame, and, more often than not, are the reason we succeed in life.

After the mitts, Glenna said I was ready to make a baby blanket, which was excellent timing because I had just discovered I was going to be a grandmother for the first time. The blanket pictured at the top and bottom of this blog is is what I made for my granddaughter, who is due a week after my 61st birthday. It was made with a lot of love, perseverance, and laced with a good amount of profanity.

I shan't bore you with everything I've knitted since March, but I don't feel right lying down and not knitting. I can't help but think my Auntie Anne, who was an expert knitter, would be proud of me, God rest her soul. Here we are in the dead of July, and I am a knitting fool.

Knitting also has afforded me the opportunity to bond with mother, who also is an expert knitter, and we share photos of projects we are doing.

Glenna also has taught me to be, in her words, somewhat of a "knitting snob." That is, to opt for natural and unusual fibers over the cheap acrylic yarn that is in most craft stores.

Surprisingly, knitting is a lot like writing. It teaches patience and perseverance. If something isn't right, you can't be afraid to edit your work and do it over until it is correct. In the process, you will increase your vocabulary and learn cuss words you never knew existed. In addition, you will learn knitting jargon, and that with just two basic stitches, the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Friendship, Back in the Olden Days

Friendship is something I take seriously. I keep my friends for life. What bothers me most about social networking is the casual definition of "friend." That is, some people take the attitude that they will be your "friend" until you do or say something that makes them hate you, and in the process deny themselves of forging real relationships in an age when it should be easier than ever.

Back in the olden days, when I was a girl and I had to walk three miles through 6-foot snowdrifts to get to school in 120-degree heat, being a friend meant something more than being just another face on someone's list. To me, a true friend doesn't care how you think or what you think. A true friend accepts you for who you are, no questions asked. A true friend appreciates your differences because that is what makes you unique. A true friend will pick up where you last left off no matter how much time has passed since your last contact. A true friend is there through thick and thin. Period.

Recently, a local musician who had asked to be my "friend" on Facebook told me he had thought about blocking me after he'd read my book on Buck Owens. Why? Because I had told the truth about how Buck had lived his life instead of perpetuating common fiction and folklore. He was angry with me because the book had come out after Buck had died and the singer could no longer defend himself. Never mind that truth is the greatest defense in a court of law and there was not much Buck could have done to defend his fiction beyond denigrating me and my work. My alleged "friend" said one female singer, who had been friends with Buck back in the day, had told him my book was the honest truth while another male Nashville musician denied that it was. I said, "Well, (insert four-letter name here--really, he has a four-letter name), who are you going to believe? Someone who knew the man in Bakersfield and had a personal connection with him or somebody here who had nothing but a passing professional contact with the man?" As I pointed out to my "friend," it is my responsibility as a professional journalist to tell the truth because I would prefer people think of me as an asshole with principles than an unprincipled asshole any day.

Obviously, he chose to believe the man in Nashville because both he and his wife "blocked" me on Facebook. Do I care? Not particularly, because I would just as soon not be "friends" with anybody who denies the truth. Any truth.  

The bottom line is: Don't ask to be my friend just because you think I am "somebody" unless you want a friend for life. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Attitude Is Everything

I remarked to my fiancé this morning that I needed to blog about negativity because a lot of my friends have been in a bad place of late. Shortly thereafter, I got an email from a friend with the subject line: "positive thoughts and feelings." She had a quote from Maya Angelou that kicked off her message that said: "Don't bring negative to my door."

Do I hear an amen?

Pardon my French here, but afuckingmen!

Do not bring negativity to my door because I sure as hell am not going to open it and invite it inside. Lately, I've heard several people I know complain about what a sorry state their lives are in and how unhappy they are with the way things are. One even blocked me on Facebook because I happened to be in a happy place, which usually I am no matter how bad my life gets. In fact, when I see a status update where someone is whining and complaining, I will not comment on it because there is no sense in feeding that monster.

If you think negative, and hold a perpetual pity party for yourself, don't expect me to party with you. No thank you. Nobody but a hypochondriac likes or wants to be dragged down to a place where Paxil is the only answer, and I am no hypochondriac even though I've had health issues beyond my control.  

Nothing is a bigger buzz-kill than somebody in excellent physical health with a great job moaning about how downtrodden and pitiful their life is, especially when they are the ones who chose to get a fancy house with a big mortgage while I live in a small one, which I chose to buy so I wouldn't be saddled with a mortgage.

Yes, sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control, such as poor health, that will affect life and how we view it. I know, because I've been there, but being the eternal optimist I am, I've always looked at things as though the glass, the bowl, and the plate are half-full and everything is up from here. If you think positive, good things can and will happen, and they do. 

Hope is everything.

It is true that positive will attract negative, and vice versa, when we are dealing with the electromagnetic field. When it comes to people and life, positive attracts positive, and vice versa, because attitude is everything.

I learned a long time ago that only you can change things in your life. So if you don't like your life. Take the necessary steps to change it for the better. You will find that as your situation improves, so will your life and you will draw people who want to be around you.

Now quit your bitching, and buck up. Hear?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crime Pays, Rats Play, and Nobody Cares

A friend pointed out to me yesterday that I hadn't posted a blog since February 20. There's a reason for that: I usually only blog when I feel I have something to say. Of course, I do have thoughts running through my head all the time about various topics and think about writing them down but don't for whatever reason.

What I've been thinking about lately is the death of newspapers and the effect it has had on society. It is harder to know what the important stories of the day are now that there is no print product to speak of to pore over while having breakfast or coffee. In the early 1970s, I lived in California. The favorite part of my day was reading the Los Angeles Times, where I did my writing internship in college. At the time, it was considered one of the top four newspapers in the nation. The others being The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. I was lucky enough to spend a decade as an editor at the latter.

With that being said, I guess I could be considered somewhat of a news junkie and am not a fan of what is considered "news" in the 21st Century. That is, I don't really care how much Botox or how many implants the Kardashians get or how many kids Brangelina acquires. I care more about news that matters. And, of course, I care about news of the weird. You know, those outrageous stories that make you sit up and say, "What the hell?!"

For example, earlier this week, a friend in Florida told me about a law a D.C. councilwoman had passed two years ago to save rat families from extermination by relocating them. Virginia officials worried they would be sent over the Potomac River to infest their state. I Googled the story, as I am wont to do, and sure enough, my friend was correct. Honest to God. I thought it was just a bizarre enough tale of how screwed up local government was that I had to post on my Facebook wall. I thought for sure my friends would be commenting like crazy on that post, but none did. I posted it three times only to get one "like" on it by my niece's fiancé.

I decided that people did not want to click on any links that directed them to any sort of news stories and tested that theory again by posting a link to a story about a convicted murderer in Los Angeles who had drawn more than $30,000 in unemployment checks, which his family cashed and put into an account for him. Again, I thought this was an outrageous example of how a bureaucracy can make a major mistake that goes unnoticed. And again, the only people who noticed or even cared about the story were two cousins of mine in Minnesota. One even pointed out what I was thinking: Why wasn't anybody commenting or getting outraged about this story?

Post something about Ashley Judd's chipmunk cheeks, though, and everybody is all over that story in a heartbeat.

I'm sorry, but I grew up in an era when we had the Huntley-Brinkley Report on television and we had the Vietnam War for supper every night. Our young men were being killed over there and we cared. In recent years, the same thing happened in Iraq, but nobody seemed to care. Supposedly, President Obama announced the end of combat in Iraq and started bringing troops home in December 2011, but does anybody know that?

So, I am wondering when did things change? When did people stop caring about real news? Where is the outrage?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Something From Nothing

My painter friend in New York, Billy, is the reason I'm writing this blog. He even thought of the title. Normally, I wouldn't write about how to save money, because I am no expert in finances and/or the economy. I have always been good at surviving and getting by in tough times, however, so I am going to offer some tips on how to get by on more for less in a time when prices rise by the minute.

For years, I have saved every receipt, even for sodas at the Mapco, to track how I spend my money. I also keep a spreadsheet on sales tax so I can see how much my local governments wrench out of my pocketbook in addition to property tax. In 2011, I spent $1,200 on sales tax alone and $928 on property tax. 

Yesterday, I reviewed my monthly expenses for February, and realized I had spent $94 for gasoline and only $11 on food. What is wrong with this picture? Not to mention, the higher cost of fuel translates to higher food costs.

When you make as little as I do, you don't have much wiggle room and when the price of something such as gasoline rises, something has to give somewhere. In my budget, groceries are where I cut.

Billy wanted to know how I could get by on spending so little on food in a month that is almost over, so I told him a few things I do to make my food budget stretch.

First, I make my own bread, which can cost around $4 a loaf. I can buy a five-pound sack of bread flour for almost $4 and I can get at least four loaves out of a sack. I'm no good at math, so I'll let you do it, but I know I am saving some money by baking my own bread instead of spending it. I also make my own pasta with a hand-crank pasta maker from time to time. And I can tell you this much, there is nothing healthier or tastier than homemade bread and pasta.

Second, I have always been a stockpiler of staples, canned goods, and food I can freeze for use during the lean months. I shop at wholesale places such as Sam's Club and Costco to load up on things I use a lot, i.e. ground chuck, pinto beans, rice, dog food (for the dogs, not me), coffee beans, toilet paper, bottled water, heavy whipping cream, onions, potatoes, and so on. Any meat I buy, will be divvied up into Ziploc bags and put in the freezer to use later.

Being single and somewhat on the smaller side, I am not a huge consumer. I don't waste anything. Any leftover food that I don't eat goes to the dogs. I know, I know. I can hear some of you screaming that I am not supposed to give dogs people food, but I ask you: What did dogs eat before dog food companies invented kibble? Well, there you go.

Third, I am mostly vegetarian and learned to cook working in a vegetarian cafeteria. I do not eat a lot of meat, but when I do, it is chicken, Black Angus ground chuck, flank steak, chuck eye, and chuck roast. These are versatile cuts and although chuck may be fattier than other cuts, all you have to do is cook it until the fat reduces down to nothing, which doesn't take long.

As for eating, I tend to be conservative there as well, preferring a small breakfast snack with a cup of black coffee over a full breakfast and a snack of an apple, raw carrots, pickled beets, and/or green olives at suppertime. My main meal is midday, around 1 or 2 p.m., and it usually consists of something healthy with beans, lentils, soy products, or one of the aforementioned meats as a protein.

These are the three main things I do to save money at the grocery store. At present, my home is paid for and I am debt-free. My biggest expenses are health care and, of course, the ever-rising cost of gasoline.

If you wanted me to offer tips on how to run either the economy or government, I would tell you the same thing: Less is always more. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

White Trash

The other day I walked Huey for the first time in a while and noticed more litter than usual by the roadside. I am not sure what possessed me to snap photographs of every piece of trash up and down the ridge, but I did. I took 59 photos. Here are a few:

At first I thought I might post a photo of everything people had tossed out their car windows, but decided against it because it would make this blog too long. Instead, I used them to analyze and profile the habits of the resident redneck litterers. Some findings such as the beer cans, soft-pack cigarette wrappers, and Slim Jim wrapper were to be expected. Others such as the pumpkin seeds and V8 juice container were not.

Here are the highlights of my modern-day archeological expedition:

  • Beer drinkers are the worst offenders.
  • Bud Light is the beer of choice, judging by the five cans and one bottle cap I found.
  • Natty Light, Budweiser, PBR, and Michelob Ultra scored only one point each.
  • Smokers are the second-worst offenders.
  • Marlboro is the smoke of choice, as evidenced by the five crumpled wrappers I found.
  • Camels are the second choice with only one wrapper in the mix.
  • Soft packs rule.
  • One empty round of Grizzly chewing tobacco.
  • McDonald's beat out Taco Bell in the fast-food category, and surprisingly, Sonic didn't have a showing.
  • In the soft-drink category, Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew tied with two showings each.
  • Two empty water bottles.
  • One BP coffee cup.
  • Minute Maid Orange and V-8 also tied at one each in the juice division.
  • In the snack food department, there was one each of Slim Jim, pumpkin seeds, a Power Bar, Snickers, a Sponge Bob patty, Doritos Nacho Cheese, and salted peanuts.
  • Under miscellaneous was a pile of junk mail under a mailbox and a phone book.
  • One electronics ad.
  • One empty live bait package.
  • One piece of aluminum pipe.
  • One strip of nylon package binding.
  • One Matchbox racer.
  • One Kong squeaky tennis ball for dogs.
  • One marker for a begonia plant.
  • Several used tissues, straws, Styrofoam cups, plastic wrap, and a dried wet nap.
Surprisingly, no condom wrappers or spent condoms were found on this expedition. Although three coat hangers were found clustered together, which hopefully were not used as methods of de facto birth control. But you won't catch me complaining if these people stopped breeding altogether.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How I Broke a Fingernail (or What Happens When a Stray Shows Up in My Yard Before I've Had My Coffee)

I realize the title of this blog is a mouthful, but welcome to my world.

The story starts out with a poor night of sleep, because I was hacking, wheezing, and coughing in spite of the NyQuil I took to keep me from ripping out sutures from a recent surgery. Suffice it to say, I spent most of the night by the fire on the sofa trying to sit up and sleep to old Frasier episodes on Netflix.

Sometime around 4 a.m., I went back to bed to try and sleep, which I was finally able to do. Then at 6, I got up and let Sally and Delaney out because Sally was whimpering. Then I went back to bed. I thought it was around 8 a.m. when all the commotion started, but the battery is dying on my alarm clock so it was more like 9, which means it was probably more like 7 when I let the dogs out.

Huey was barking and wreaking general havoc in the great room so I leaped out of bed to see what was wrong. First thing I saw was fresh blood tracked all over my flooring, from one of Delaney's claws that had broken. Out of my front window, I saw Delaney and Sally prancing about with a new dog, something that looked like a husky mix with calico cat markings. So I grabbed my iPhone so I could snap a photo of the stray and post it on Facebook and opened the door. That is when the fun began. Huey charged at the crack in the open door and was trying to burst out. I tried to grab his choke chain, but my reflexes were too slow and off he went. He ripped the nail on my middle finger (a fitting metaphor) of my right hand way down in the bed and left some nice skid marks with his claws on my left foot on his way out the door.

And they were off.

I won't tell you the words running through my head that I was thinking about the dog owner because I knew someone would be thinking the same about me because Huey would soon be in their yard chasing chickens or worse.

So I grabbed my keys and wallet and jumped into the trusty Outback to hunt down the little bugger. All this before one sip of coffee, too.

I drove around the loop twice searching for him, only to be chased by the wild pack over on the corner of Bald Eagle and Whippoorwill.

I didn't see him at either of his two girlfriends' houses or the Chicken Lady's house, so I came back home. That's when the phone rang. He was over at Bootsie's, his old running buddy. When I drove up, he came running and hopped in the back seat as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

And, of course, it hadn't.