Friday, October 30, 2009

Strength, Weakness, Greatness

Awright, that’s it. I demand that the horoscope writer for The Record admit that s/he is totally stalking me. This is today’s: Remember when you used to draw? There’s something therapeutic and anciently human about putting a seen or imagined picture to paper. Scribble for fun. It will release your playful nature.

Now I suppose it is just coincidence that I have a drawing-related rant yesterday, and this is my horoscope today?!

I. Think. Not.

(Also, I apparently think the universe revolves around me and my blog, which is possibly just a hair on the arrogant side of me.)

Well, Mr(s) Smarty Pants Horoscope Writer…I was never much for drawing. The painful truth is, I really can’t draw.

So, uh, neener-neener?


Actually, the can’t-draw thing is one of those things that has always bothered me a bit. I mean, I am one of those creative-types. I play several instruments, I dye, I craft, I will take on fiddly knitting projects, I love color and scent and texture and have that artistic way of finding myself floored by something like…the glistening perfection of a single drop of dew on an unopened rosebud.

I can stand there and stare at something like that in a timeless place, just imprinting the perfections and flaws into my mind. I can call those images back to me. I can see, hear, taste, smell everything from that moment, including what it was that drew my eye to it in the first place.

But I cannot then draw that out on paper.

I was actually told in high school that I had better just give up because, well, I believe the exact words were something to the effect of, “In over twenty years of teaching, I have never encountered a student I couldn’t teach to draw simple shapes, until now.”

It…kind of stung. Sometimes that moment will come back to me (in vivid Technicolor) and, thirty years on, still make me blush. Everybody else in the class had what could be recognized as a three-dimensional box on their paper.

I had…lines that looked like a kindergartener’s attempt at drawing a box. Flat, out of proportion, utterly unlike the box I had been staring at while drawing it.

It was a shoebox – you know, a rectangle?

I didn’t even get that part right. My lines made an off-kilter square.


We humans tend to hold onto our hurts more tightly than we do our triumphs. That same year, I was in a creative writing class. My teacher submitted some of my work to various magazines and newspapers, and three of the pieces I wrote in her class were for-real published. I also produced a four hundred page novel (on a typewriter, because I didn’t have a computer with the ability/agility to handle word processing software).

And my teacher learned that she’d better put not only a minimum number of pages, but a maximum as well on her assignments.

Also, I was receiving all kinds of awards for my mad skilz on the piano. I was doing honors stuff, and passing the Certificate of Merit stuff, and performing all over the place in all kinds of venues for all kinds of reasons – most of them relating to having gotten a rating of “outstanding or better” during recitals.

I ran track and seldom lost. I played basketball and was MVP. I played football with the boys, and I think they were shocked to learn I was a {gasp!} girl.

That actually got to be very unfortunate, because when I started developing crushes on boys and junk like that, they were blithely unaware of the fact that I was, you know, date-able. Also, one of my crushes one time turned to me and said, in the tone of one who has just made a Great Discovery, “Wait, you’re a girl! What do you think I should say to Other Girl Who Was Not Good Enough For Him to make her go out with me?” I could have killed him. Which would have been unfair because I was so firmly entrenched in boy-like behavior that naturally, he never would have seen a sudden fit of actual female behavior coming from me.

The first time I wore makeup in high school, it practically made the evening news. Student long thought to be ‘one of the guys’ turns out to be a girl – film at eleven!

But I digress.

Through the years, I’ve been stunned to discover that I’m not the only person who does that. Sure, nobody likes a boaster and everybody knows somebody who can’t stop blowing their own horn every eight seconds… “I’m so great! I’m so knowledgeable! I’m going to stand here and pontificate, showing off my incredible skilz! Look at me! Listen to me! Admire my greatness!”

They’re really annoying, and nobody wants to be that person, and I think it leads us to downplay our talents and assume they aren’t as big a deal as the other guy’s talents.

After all, he’s the one with the new show in the gallery, right? She’s the big track star. Me? I just doodle around on the piano a bit now and then…

But at the same time, we are amazing. What a species we are! Each individual unique, with their own blend of interests, skills, talents, and dreams. We’re all similar in so many ways, and yet…not at all.

You can draw. He can paint. I can knit. She can do a continual whistle.

We are funny, we are passionate, we are playful.

We are sad, we are fragile, we are lacking.

Our strengths and weaknesses forge a uniqueness that cannot be replicated. Nobody else is you, and nobody else is me, and praise be for it. Flawed beings that we are, we need each other’s strengths to fill in our own weaknesses.

I can’t draw, but that doesn’t mean there is no fine art in the world. Others step in and provide what I lack, and I then do what they cannot and lo…the world is made a better place, a lovelier place, a place full of things that give us those moments of surprised delight.

Wow…I never would have been able to do that, never would have even THOUGHT to do that…

The world would arguably be a duller place if each of us could do everything anybody else could do.

Which is what I’m going to keep telling myself, as my little ones continue producing better drawings than I could ever hope to achieve, and occasionally provide the brutal truth to me in their usual innocent way…Whoa, mommy, is THAT supposed to be a snake? You really can’t draw too good, can you…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In which The Captain is annoyed

SEE, thing is…last night? I took a Sharpie away from Captain Adventure, who was happily coloring in his room with it.

IN his room…ON his room…I mean, really…paper is made from trees, walls are made from trees, so if you really think about it, the difference would be…?

(The answer to that one would be something like, “The number of cuss-words Mommy says in the average 24-hour period times the square of how many Magic Erasers it takes to get Sharpie off the wall to the power of the cost of a can of primer and two coats of blue paint.) (I don’t know how high that number really is because my calculator can’t display that many digits. I also don’t know how a number would relate to a wordy-type question like ‘what’s the difference between a wall and a sheet of paper,’ but then I’m still a little frazzled by the whole Sharpie-on-walls-AGAIN thing.) (Seriously…I buy washable crayons and washable markers and even washable colored pencils, but what implement does he always, always! seem to find to rub all over the walls? Frickin. Black. SHARPIE. “The Undisputed King of Can’t-Be-Washed-Off-ANYTHING-Ev-AH Markers.” ARGH!!!!)

Captain Adventure came home a little tired today. Probably had a busy recess schedule plus also did I mention that he was up late last night decorating his room with a lovely Sharpie mural? I did? Did I mention that it goes from floor to as high as his little arms can reach when standing on the furniture? No? Yeah. That too.

ANYWAY. So he’s already a bit grumpy and not feeling too happy about much of anything…except maybe snack and more coloring!

So first thing after wolfing down his afternoon snack, he came into my office (where I am busily printing out enough paperwork to deforest the entire Amazon because everything relating to my new job needs my actual physical signature emblazoned on it on account of because now that we are in the Computer Age, there is no longer any need for physical docume…oh…wait…) and raided the paper tray in my printer.

This is why I never put more than a few sheets at a time into any printer around here. The boy doesn’t want to color in a coloring book, which is too limiting for an artist of his talents. Nay, forsooth, he prefers the wide open possibilities of the plain white copier paper, and could go through a gross of reams in a single sitting if you let him.

Ask me how I know.

ANYWHO, he got the paper and then turned his attention to getting a coloring-implement, seeing as how his irrational, mean, horrible, rotten, crummy, no-good-lousy-evil-overlord-of-a-mother had snatched away his Sharpie last night, which was Unfair and also Wrong.

Did I mention that he also “improved” his lampshade, bed frame, and my laundry basket?

FINE. So he starts to go drawer-diving in my office, immediately coming up with a non-washable thin-line pen designed for scrapbooking. Which I might actually get around to doing someday. No, really. Right after I finish shearing the cat so I can spin cat-thread with which to weave clothes for the garden elves.

NEVER MIND. (Obviously, it has been a looooooong day around here.)

I snatched the pen away from him and launched into the “what did we talk about last night” lecture, which I’m pretty sure sounds like this to him: “Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah will this woman never shut.UP?!”

He stared at me thoughtfully for a moment, then went back into the drawer after the pen again.

I caught his hand and held it firmly (he hates that).

“No. Pens.” I said, very slowly and calmly (but possibly with a slightly wild look in my eyes). “Look, here’s a crayon. You can have crayons. But no. pens.

He averted his eyes and slowly, dramatically, dropped to his knees. I do not acknowledge your commands. I do not acknowledge YOU. You do not exist. I say “LA LA LA LA LA” inside my head in your general direction and defy you with my absolute silence and refusal to look at you…

There was a long moment of silence as he pondered his options.

I waited.

His displeasure roiled through the room, silent yet palpable. Really, the irrational stifling of his talents is too much to bear…

Still refusing to even glance in my general direction, he got up, went down the hall and returned with a pair of safety scissors, which he used to methodically cut a few sheets of paper into tiny squares with his back to me while he thought things over.

Then he got up.

He opened the drawer.

I tensed.

He looked at me with profound disgust.

Then he carefully dug through the pencils, pens, phone numbers of people I meant to call back and other detritus, picking out all the crayons – broken or whole, with and without wrappers, brand new or saved from the vacuum cleaner or recovered from under the van bench.

He is mightily annoyed…but managing to work within the unreasonable constraints of his barbaric jailor. He has so far produced a ballerina pig, three robots, an anaconda, a train and an entire page of the letter ‘s’ with little dots around them.

And while he is thus engaged, the barbaric jailor must now take alllllllllll the verboten drawing implements out of her drawer and find somewhere else – somewhere high up – to keep them.

Which means that when I go to actually sign all the documents I’ve been printing out for my “onboarding” process (which makes me feel like I’m catching a train or a boat rather than going to work)…well, I’ll bet you a burrito right here and now that I will have absolutely no memory whatsoever around where I relocated all said writing implements to, because if I didn’t have short term memory issues before I had kids, I SURELY HAVE THEM NOW.


It’s gonna be a looooooooong evening, isn’t it.

Yessir. A long, long evening…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now that’s just kinda creepy…

This morning, I sat down with my cream of wheat and fresh hot tea ready to enjoy what is about to become a rare ritual: Reading the entertainment section of the newspaper over a leisurely breakfast.

It’s like my reward for getting all the Denizens to school with a hot breakfast in their tummies, lunches in their backpacks, and fully clothed. Which is not as easy or as automatic as you might think – one of my girls managed to go to kindergarten one day wearing a skirt and no underwear, which I found out when her teacher called in a state of near panic to tell me all about it.

It was her first and last year teaching kindergarten.

I think we broke her.

ANYWAY. Here’s my horoscope for today. And I swear I am not making this up:

A twist in the course of recent events leaves you scrambling to change your strategy. Thankfully, you are fleet of foot, quick of wit and good with computers, so you’ll be fine. Nimble is a good word for you.

Now, is it just me…or is that like… ‘the person who does the horoscope column at The Record not only reads my blog, but is enough of a stalker to know that I am an Aquarius’ levels of eerily accurate?!

What’s funny (in a stomach-roiling, rollercoaster-ride kind of way) is, I really am scrambling. I wasn’t technically looking for work, so I didn’t have any kind of plan for when I got a job.

What’s also funny is that this always seems to happen to me. The minute I say, “Fine. Whatever. You know what? Those grapes? They’re probably sour anyway. I don’t want them after all!”, fifty pounds of the things will spontaneously drop right off the vine onto my head.

That’s how I got my husband. I swore off the entire male species after one horrific date too many (boy, could I ever pick’em, let-me-tell-you), then met Himself not six months later.

I swear off even thinking about getting a job, and this thing falls into my lap four months later.

Wait, did you hear that? Some kind of…deep, chortling laughter coming from the Universe…?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Money Monday (Tuesday): October 26, 2009

Yesterday was all about money – which is why I didn’t have time to post about it.

After a few weeks of trying not to get too excited about it, I had an interview yesterday. A very long interview with a lot of different people. We had a rockin’ good time, too, and spent more time just sort of talking about things than, you know, interviewing. It’s a fun office, with a very youthful attitude and energy but a core passion for the work that I find to be an extremely pleasant blend.

Also, just about everybody wears jeans. Which, you know…{swoon!!} No dry cleaning! No high heels! No spending the whole day worrying more about spilling something on myself than working! Comfort! Not to mention that I tend to get fewer approaches from bums when I’m in jeans than I do in “corporate casual” clothing!

I walked away from it feeling really kind of depressed because it went really well.

I know. That makes no sense. But then, let’s look back over the fairly recent past, shall we?

I’ve felt really good about a few interviews in the last eighteen months. I’ve felt good about the job, excited about the prospects, liked the team, thought they liked me, had assurances that my skilz were not only mad, but precisely what they wanted…and then what happened?

Nothing. They went away, forever. In some cases, even increasingly frequent pestering couldn’t get an answer from them one way or the other – I don’t know if they hired someone else, dropped the position, lost funding, died in a horrible wreck…no idea.

All I know is, no offer actually arrived.

NOW. I don’t have an offer or a contract on my desk right now. I don’t have anything in writing, least of all a paycheck…so I’m trying to, you know, keep cool and remind myself that until I’ve got my backside in a chair in their office, nothing is certain.

BUT. Last night, just as I was telling myself to quit being such a Gloomy Gus and to give things a chance, after all, they had other candidates, they had a couple positions, they were still interviewing, don’t worry so much…I got a call from the Hiring Dude.

He proceeded to tell me that after much discussion (some of it a little heated), it was decided that I would fit best into Team Y, which bums Team X out rather severely BUT Team Y sold the logic better, So! There is it. (OHmygah, I haven’t had men fighting over me since, uh…ahem, yes, well, probably kindergarten and then only because I had Oreo cookies in my lunchbox, but perhaps we should move on…yes, let’s move on now…)

I’d be getting a call from the HR company and I’d have to set aside a day this week to come on in and do the paperwork thing and bring my Proof of Citizenship stuff and get fingerprinted and do the background check thing and that would be a good time to bring in the direct deposit paperwork and probably they’d email or fax me all that good stuff so my time in the office could be limited, OK? And they’d start getting my laptop, air card, VPN access [because OF COURSE, you get to choose a floating telecommute day each week] and login credentials going which usually takes about two weeks but that’s OK because the background check usually takes that long still! The sooner we start, the sooner you can be onboard takin’ care of business so! Can’t wait to get you started in a couple weeks here, let me know if you need longer, OK! Have a great night!

I was so giddy with surprise and delight that it was only through sheerest chance that my brain kicked in long enough to ask the one question I’d been afraid to ask the whole time: What rate should I expect to see from the payroll company?

This was it. This was The Moment.

I felt absolutely sick inside.

I was waiting to hear some ridiculously low rate, some hideously “you’ve GOT to be kidding me!”, childcare-NOT-covering rate and then I’d have to put on my stompin’ boots and print out charts proving that median was more than TWICE that and then, ooooooooh, then they’d be all, “Well, we can’t pay that, goodbye” and I’d be left wondering if I was the crazy one…except that seriously, how unfair is it that my husband gets median rates (or better) without even asking, while I have to fight and argue and kick and scream and provide glossy charts and graphs from third party sources proving that with Experience X, Education Y, Responsibility List Q-AA and considering that we are in Zipcode 94104, I should be making $$$, not $?

It’s one of the areas where I become enraged on behalf of my whole sex. I loathe the “twin peaks discount” (as we refer to it around here), and have been known to not only get onto my soapbox about it, but refuse to come down for several days even when enticed with chocolate.

And then he gave me a rate that was…not just good…it’s grrrrrrrreat! Spot-on the median, and I didn’t have to produce a single chart, or fax a five page printout, or map line items on my resume and the job description to the report in several different shades of highlighter for their convenience?!


NOW. Like I said, I don’t actually have the paperwork yet. I don’t have that figure in writing, and there are many a slip between cup and lip and all that…but if nothing horrible happens over the next week or two…


I’ve got a job. A real, live, honest-to-goodness job. A well-paying, debt-blasting, savings-account-building job, doing something that I rock at doing.

Lord, I hope nothing derails this. I could repair so much damage in so little time with this – including a gap that was getting way too long in my work history. That’s another whole money post in and of itself, but I really want to keep my resume gaps to a minimum.

A lot can happen in life, and until we’re at a point where we really are retired-retired, I do not want to find myself in the position of being, say, a widow with four children who hasn’t held a job of any sort for eight years, but who used to be pretty good with SQL.

That won’t be the time to be back to “starting over” pay.

And I’m going to stop myself right there because otherwise, this is going to turn into a thirty page post and friends?

I have things to do.

Two weeks is a long time if that’s how long your kids are out of school bouncing around screaming that they’re booooooooooored, but when it’s how long you have until you’re going to be devoting eight hours a day, every weekday, to a new employer?

It’s a blink of a hummingbird’s eye. (Hmm. Do hummingbirds even have eyelids? Wow, there are so many things I don’t know out there in the world…) (I’m so excited. Hummingbird hearts don’t beat as fast as mine right now. OK, they probably do. But eeeeeeeee! I wasn’t even technically looking for a job, and I get this?! What the heck, Universe?! “Oh, since you don’t ask, here! And you can wear comfy shoes while you’re at it!”? Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but…I think my teeth actually fell out of my head in shock there, bro…)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday and I’m waaaaaaay behind

OK, try to act surprised, but…I didn’t get nearly as much done this week as I would’ve liked. This wouldn’t be so common if I didn’t keep making these HUGE lists of things I want to get done – but then when I don’t have aggressive goals, I do That Thing where I start just sort of wandering around being ADD and nothing gets done.

It’s a cruel, cruel conundrum.

But, I did make up for some lost time on the Every Way wrap. Check it out…here’s the front:

Every Way wrap - front

…and the back…

Everyway Wrap Back

Reversible cables are sooooo cool.

Knitting straight from the cone is neat in terms of fewer ends to run in – but it’s also a bit of a drag when it comes time to take the project on the road. The cone is a bit big, heavy and awkward to drop into your bag, you know?

It’s also fraught with peril in terms of not knowing what you might run across as you get deeper into the cone. I don’t know how many folks have dealt with bulk yarn and its occasional foibles – but one of the things that happens with just about every cone I get is that there is some net loss due to things like knots, frays, weird things being spun into the wool (I swear once I found Easter grass in some sock yarn!), black grease and so forth.

In the last shipment I got, the sock yarn in particular had a lot of loss due to knots and an issue where the wool and the nylon appeared to have been spun at different rates; the nylon would be bunched up in little loops, and there was just no way to fix it. The cones averaged around 1,000 grams each, which should have meant I’d get between eight and nine 100 gram skeins to dye – I ended up with between five and six.

Worse, I didn’t even end up with many 50 gram skeins – another acceptable put-up for sock yarn. Ooooooh no. The knots / slips / fuzz / weird crap came not at 100+ yard intervals, but…five yards. Ten yards. Maybe twenty.

And an awful lot of it was just trash, which is kind of upsetting. Usually when I have to cut out a partial due to knots or other weirdness, I just set aside the whatever-yard skein to make into a finished product for the booth – scarves or mittens or hats or whatever.

But when there’s Easter grass spun into the wool? Not gonna become a hat. Or when the nylon and the wool are mixing like oil and water? Can’t fix that with good blocking techniques.

So, into the trash it goes – dead loss. And then you weep, because it had such potential!

But I digress.

In a lot of ways, the fact that I got a lot of knitting done probably tells you that the rest of the week…didn’t go according to plan much. I spent a lot of time waiting rather than doing - waiting in offices, waiting by the phone, waiting for emails, waiting for kids, waiting for meetings to be over.

There are times I wish I had a convincing bobble-headed manikin of myself that I could take to these things, set it up and let it just sit there nodding pleasantly while people went “blah blah blah” and I went on my merry way to actually do something.

After all, they seldom actually want me to voice an opinion or anything, you know? I’m just supposed to sit there, nod a lot, and then write a check. Seems to me a manikin should be able to handle that.

Still…we had the annual IEP for Captain Adventure this week. This is a long meeting where we talk about progress, lack of progress, goals for progress, and other things around trying to get our little guy closer to “average” for his age. He’s come a long, long way in two short years, and is doing well during his mainstream time in the regular kindergarten class – so well, in fact, that his teacher is hoping to up the amount of time he spends there to include some of the actual academic stuff as well as just circle time, stations and recess.

And while I can’t pretend talking about my kids is one of my favorite pastimes, still – basically, that took the entire day on Wednesday. Mostly because for me an “entire day” is only 9:00 to 2:00, so if you drive for an hour and have a two hour meeting and then get lunch, well. Call in the dogs, folks, the day is done.

Two of the Denizens joined 4H, which means more paperwork, emails, meetings and oh yeah, now we have Animal Projects.

Two cases of Chicken, and one of Rabbit to be precise. Sigh. Oh well, at least we’ll get eggs and a handful angora fiber out of the deal. And according to theory (ho ho ho), the girls will be responsible for feeding, cleaning, tending and otherwise pampering the feathered and furry beasts.

Stop laughing. I’m sure they will faithfully uphold their duties.

Seriously. Stop…laughing…

Anyway, I’ve got to figure out coops and hutches and where the heck to put them.

And, I still haven’t put away the laundry.

You know…someday? I’m going to have a productive week. Someday, I’m going to be on top of everything, and it’s going to be awesome.

But it isn’t going to be this week.

Next week doesn’t look good, either.

(How about never? Does never work for you…?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Every way but right

OK, I don’t have a picture yet – but I finally started a project that isn’t, you know, one of those “ummmmmm…” projects. I cast on Every Way Wrap from Interweave’s Fall 2009 magazine – it’s for a friend, and after hitting her with, like, forty-thousand-billion suggestions, I found a cone of my own “raw” Merino worsted (the same stuff I used to make this).

Ahem. Yes. We could buy yarn for it, or, we could use my yarn. And then you don’t have to pick from somebody else’s palette, I could totally dye it whatever color you want.

As this friend is thoroughly Irish – guess what? We’re leaving it “Aran Natural.” Much as I like playing with my dye pots sweating over the finicky work of getting feltable Merino dyed Just So, I think it’s an excellent choice on her part. She’s right about that natural color going with more things, but also it shows off the cables splendidly.

Which I’d love to show you! So, why do I have no pictures yet? Funny story! Where “funny” equals “not at all funny, and I really am in the mood to HIT something so aren’t you glad you aren’t actually physically HERE?!”


What really irks me about what happened is that I had already realized that I needed to pay very close attention to detail on this project. SEE, at first, I didn’t realize it was a reversible cable knitting pattern. (I know. That took a breathtaking lack of attention to detail.)

But I did realize something wasn’t quite right with the chart. I’ve done a lot of cables in my time, so I knew right away that when they said I should be slipping 2 to the back, purling two from left needle, purling the two from the cable hook…uh…no…that can’t be right…oooooh! Wait! This is one of them-thar reversible cable patterns! Kewl!!

…mmm…still doesn’t feel right to me, but, well, never really done the reversible cable thing before sooooooooooooooo…

Two rows later, I stomped upstairs and Googled the pattern and sure enough – errata published.

And how many times must these sorts of things happen before I Google “$PATTERN_NAME errata” before I’ve put a whack of time into something that doesn’t feel right? Or even (dare I suggest it?) before casting on in the first place?!

The world may never know…

So, with the chart fixed (the problem was that the symbols and their descriptions were offset by a column) (yes way) (have you ever had one of those moments where you thought oh, that sounds like something I’ve done in the past…glad it wasn’t me THIS time, though…? yeah, me too), I cheerfully began working away at it.

And it began to grow beneath my skillful hands (Pride-Fall Alert! Pride-Fall Alert!) at a very satisfying clip indeed. After so many projects worked on teeny-tiny needles with fingering weight yarn, it’s a joy to be working with worsted on nines! And after having done that stocking in Red Heart, this Merino is like a salve to my hands!

I am in love, thoroughly in love. I may not give it to her when it’s done. I might tell her…it got destroyed in a fire! Or stolen! Yes! It was stolen, right out of my car, by wool thieves…!

I worked on it while watching the news. I worked on it while sitting in the pickup lane waiting for Denizens thrice daily. I worked at it with my morning coffee. I worked at it instead of eating lunch because this is what knitters do when they have a new project in their hands.

And then…this evening…I was sitting there petting it…and looking at the pattern and kind of flipping it over to look at the back and then to the front and remarking to myself that seriously, reversible cables are COOL when…


I. Saw. It.

A single cable where there ought to be a twist. Right there, about ten rows back…

For one wild moment, I thought, No, no, it’s OK, that’s how it’s supposed to be, look! The one right below it is that way too…

But the one below that? You know, the one fifty-four rows back?

Double twist.

My stomach demonstrated the way the cable was supposed to have twisted back around itself as I realized that I’ve been skipping rows thirteen through sixteen for two full pattern repeats.

…eleven…twelve…seventeen…geesh, no wonder I was burning through the pattern repeats so fast!!!!

I spent about an hour in angry denial. Slamming cupboard doors, growling at Denizens, resisting an urge to break down in wild weeping…but eventually…welllllll…

A knitter’s gotta do what a knitter’s gotta do.

I frogged it all the way back to just below where I’d started going wrong. And then I picked it all back up, very carefully because the only thing harder than picking up a cable is picking up reversible cables (both of which are approximately 10,000% easier than picking up lace, mind you), and then I knit one (1) row to make sure I had all the stitches present, accounted for and facing the right way.

And then I put it down, very carefully and gently.

And now, I’m going to bed.

Because really – there is only so much a knitter can take in a single evening. And if I do something stupid on this thing again tonight…well.

$DEITY only knows what might befall our little world.

Besides. I’m pouting. I hate it when I do something stupid and obvious, but don’t cotton on for many, many hours worth of work.

It peeves me.

And because it can’t fight back…I blame the knitting. It should have been more obvious about rows thirteen through sixteen. I mean!! Really!!!! How could it sit there and maliciously hide the fact that it was missing double cables right there that way?

If it really loved me, it would have said something sooner.


It would have.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Money Monday: October 19, 2009

OK. I can do this. Here we go. Ahem. {clap! clap!} ‘kay, Announcement! I finally got some of the handkerchiefs and yarn that has been waiting to be listed and/or relisted up into my Etsy shop.

There. I promoted. OUT LOUD!

I’m so proud of me. Yay, me!!

(Somehow, I am not thinking I am going to be making the top 100,000 Etsy seller list any time soon. Lord, how I stink at self-promotion.)

ANYWAY. These last few weeks, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about my little project around here. And by “thinking” I mean “wishing I’d never gotten into this mess, what was I thinking this is crazy, even for ME and furthermore…well…Normal People™ do not DO these things to themselves!”

I went to Costco last week and was stunned to find myself still doing this bizarre kind of shopping cart square dancing routine around the store. Doe-si-doe, around the aisles we go…pickin’ ‘em up and lettin’ ‘em go…I grabbed a box of Chez-Its.

Hang on, you’re going off-project! my Puritanical side barked.

Shut up! It’s just a lousy box of crackers! It’s only six bucks! Besides, who’s gonna know, huh? It’s not like we’re on TV and there’s a camera following us around…! I retorted.

It’s SEVEN bucks, more like seven FIFTY after tax. And WE will know. Put it back.

Meanwhile, the cart has pushed onward and picked up (all by itself, I swear!) bars of cheap soap, bags of cheap spaghetti, jars of (not so) cheap spaghetti sauce, a flat of boxed mac-n-chez…and then the cart circles back around and each thing goes back on the shelf…

I was exhausted, mostly from all the inner arguing. (And the fifty pound sacks of flour and sugar. Those’ll take it out of you, too.)

Then I got home and swept into the whirlwind of Denizen Pickup and then all four of them were jumping at me like cocker spaniels yapping, “Snack! Snack! Snack! Snack! Snack!” and I looked around the kitchen I had…absolutely nothing.

Not a darned thing that could be simply dropped on a plate and shoved under their quivering little noses. I had eggs, milk, and flour, sure – the basis for all kinds of snacks.

But in terms of ‘take off the lid, produce the food’ – I had bumpkus.

So I made pancakes, which are some of the fastest from-scratch snacks in my arsenal. I made a double batch, packing away enough in the freezer for a quick breakfast later. (They microwave beautifully.) (Homemade waffles are better if you microwave them just a bit to defrost, then finish them in a toaster or toaster oven.) (This has been “how to feed your children frozen breakfasts without buying them [the breakfasts, not the children] that way,” another fine Chaos Production.)

And then I sat down and tried not to weep because guess what? It’s 4:30 in the evening, and the fact that I have bumpkus for snack right now means that I will also have bumpkus for lunches tomorrow…unless I get off my backside right immediately now and get busy making stuff.

These are the times when I can envision every last detail on a box of Ritz or Chez-It crackers, my friends. My powers of meditative recall rival that of the finest guru in India. The image of that box will hover before me like a mirage, gleaming and oh-so-real looking…and yet, when I stretch out my quivering hand…nothingness…

I know. So the drama. But see, I also had to produce dinner from scratch? And it was going to involve stomping through a very muddy backyard to pluck out some carrots and bok choy, which then had to be washed and I’d probably notice something that needed to be re-staked or thinned or whatever while I was out there because hello, Delta Breeze, and by Breeze I mean Whoa Nelly What A Wind! Plus we were out of bread as well, which is like being out of oxygen around here.

Meanwhile, soap wasn’t getting melted and poured. I wasn’t plotting out what blanks I need to get to stuff the Etsy shop and craft booth with Thanksgiving-ish goods, followed by Christmas-y stuff. I’m also not getting the invoice put out to the client (oh yeah, that whole arm of the Enterprises, the one that makes the kind of money that keeps you out of foreclosure).

Now, on the one hand…this is the point where saner people say, quietly, “Honey. Sweetie. Go and buy a box of Ritz crackers, for heaven’s sake! One person cannot possibly manage all this all by herself, and furthermore may I just point out that Ritz crackers are definitely cheaper than antidepressants, which is where I think you’re going to be headed in a minute here?”

But on the other hand, I feel more as though I’m in a transitional period – at a point where I’m either going to break through and start finding this thing is easier all around, or where I’m going to give up and backslide into former habits, either for a while or permanently.

Whenever you change something about your lifestyle (and with bonus points if it’s giving up something “fun” or “pleasurable” for something {ugh!} healthy), there’s a period of time when your psyche seriously resists that change. It wants to snap back into the way things were before. Everything from before is “easy,” everything from now is “hard.” Too much bother. Too much work. Not fair. Everybody else gets-ta, and nobody else has-ta.

You know that part of the diet where you say, “This is STUPD!! I’m hungry, and dammit, I wanna burger!!”…and then there is an exquisitely painful moment where will to succeed at what you truly want does battle with the easy pleasure of a Giant Wallop Burger, large fries, deep-fried apple pie (maybe two, since they’re always two for a buck) and a coke, conveniently available not two blocks from here which will make all that pain in your stomach (and heart) disappear like magic…?

I’m in that moment. I’m torn between the vision of what I could have, someday, and what I’d like to have right this second.

Right this second, I’d like to be able to open a box and dump a bunch of food-like-substance onto a plate for the Denizens. Just like that. :pop!: - shake - eat. Done.

When I look forward through the next year, though, I really want to get us back to much more stable ground. I’m hating this unstable period, the up-and-down income, the way we make some headway on the bills OOPS, no wait, some fool thing or other happened and now we’re back where we started…with a little extra on the platter for our trouble…we’re fine, we’re fine, we’re fine OOOOOOOOOOH! Client says nix on the new project! OK, 35% of our income just went down the crapper and now we have just enough to pay the bills which means that if we want to eat…helllllooooooo, credit card!!

Getting out of that kind of situation, into one where we have cash in the bank and extremely low needs overall…that’s really, really important to me. I’d give up a lot of stuff to have that stability back.

Even Chez-Its.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ah, mornings in the Den of Chaos...

NORMAL households probably are having coffee and cereal. Maybe they're talking - quietly - amongst themselves about soccer practice, or what to wear.

Here in the Den, well. NATURALLY...everybody is doin' the Macarena.

All four kids, in perfect sync. (Well. Captain Adventure goes a little free-form now and then...actually, right now I think he's doing the Death Spiral Bi-Plane...)

I live such an...interesting...and LOUD life...

(Omg, now Boo Bug is using my broom as a guitar...I'm gonna get a stomach cramp laughin' over here...)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SO over it now…

But alas, it is not over me.

Well. Actually, it is over me. Hanging over me. Like the sword of Damocles.

The housework.

The dreaded, flippin’-flamin’ housework.

The laundry, the ironing, the cleaning and scrubbing, the weeding and vacuuming, the dusting (lord, the dusting)…the floors so filthy that the water turns black before I’ve gotten three square feet mopped…


Ya know, I’m, like, an artist and some junk?

Uh…housework messes up my chi?

I’m too…transcendent?...for vacuuming?


Y’all know what’s really eating me, right? That’s right. I have had NO time for knitting for, like, THREE DAYS!

Except that I did finish this.


It’s a Christmas stocking! Only Halloween-y!

I know. I’m not sure why either. Except that it tickled me, and also it kept me busy at the fair last weekend – which kept me from getting too antsy about how not-busy I was.

I think my favorite part is this i-cord braid around the top.


I saw something similar someplace on something (I know, I am soooooo specific), and as the whole project I kind of made up as I went along – well, I sort of made up a way to do this i-cord as well: One row of K2tog, yo…second row plain knit…third row K2tog, yo.

Then, make two i-cord braids long enough to lace all the way around the band. Put it through the top one, skip to the kitty-corner bottom one, and back up to the top – skip one hole, put it through the next one. Then do the same thing with the alternate color. Ta-da!

The only thing I’d do differently another time would be to use three colors for this band – so that there’s more contrast between background and braid.

Unfortunately, finishing this didn’t mean I actually had time to sit down and knit anything – I was all done except for grafting the toe, running in ends, and braiding the i-cord through the holes. Which took all of fifteen minutes, and it aggravates me how hard it was to get that fifteen minutes together.

I hate housework. I hate it so much. And I rather resent the way it just keeps needing to be done, no matter how many times you’ve done it in the past. Also the way it punishes you for not doing it by taking three times as long if you’ve given it a miss for a week or two.

Right! Glad we had this little chat! And now, I have to go finish (by which I mean start) cleaning the front room. The husband is having his quartet come here for rehearsal tonight, even though the whole of the Den is pretty much a shameful sight that should be kept completely secret from the world.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I hate paperwork…

There is one of those Big Storms going on outside my window today. It’s an unusual storm for this time year – usually, rain-wise, October “storms” in my neck of the woods are, you know, a drizzle of rain, maybe a quarter inch all told.

WIND, on the other hand – wind, we get in spades. It’s not unusual, in October, to have fences and trees falling down all over town, your patio furniture ending up all the way across the yard, things like that.

But this storm is packing those big winds and a real, honest-to-goodness soaking kind of rain. They’re predicting up to two inches in a six hour period, which has a lot of us pretty nervous – the trees haven’t lost many leaves yet, which means that they make great push-toys for the wind as it is. NOW add in a sudden, thorough soaking of the ground and the toppling could be epic.

Now ordinarily on a day like this, I’d like to be curled up in my chair with a hot pot of tea and a knitting project.

But oooooooooooh no. Not today! Because today, I have to deal with all the paperwork that has been piling up on my desk these last few days OK, weeks.

The tax board claims I didn’t pay my sales taxes – which I did, too. But instead of just saying, “Did too!” and having that be sufficient to punt the ball back into their ‘couldn’t find their own backsides with both hands and a road map’ court, I’ve got to scan and fax and email and snail mail whackity-majillion things proving that they DID. TOO!!!! take five whole dollars via EFT from my business checking account.

That’s right. They’re threatening me with Doom and Dire Consequences over five. measly. bucks.

Last of the big-time operators, that’s me. (Although I do wonder if it isn’t that they didn’t receive my return, but rather that they don’t believe my return. “Surely that’s missing a zero or two, right?” they are saying to each other around the office. “Yeah, gotta be missing a zero or two – hit her with the delinquent notice and get that other $495 from her…”)

I’ve got $780 in medical bills waiting to be paid for services ranging from well-child checkups to ear infection checks to whaddya know, it WAS an ear infection after all!. I’ve got reimbursement paperwork to be submitted to the husband’s new client for transportation expenses. I’ve got contracts that need to be renewed (or not). I’ve got insurance forms filtering in for general and professional liability insurance – you know, in case our coding brings down the entire global banking system or something?

…I only wish we had the kinds of gigs that could theoretically do something that big… “Now, do you want this data input form to be the dark blue, or the gray blue…”

I’ve got enrollment paperwork for the 4H, permission slips, reminders about movies and luncheons and field trips and network policies at the school.

And, of course, I still have to enter the sales from Witchapalooza into my accounting software – all five of them. (Kidding! There were eleven!)

Worst of all, once I dig down to the rockbed, guess what? It’ll be time to trundle all those packages and payments and whatnot down to the mail drop – where I will also have to pick up the mail that has come in.

Whaddya wanna bet the box will be stuffed with things like Chamber of Commerce forms, inquiries from the state about our payroll, demands from assorted charities to give them money or be a very bad person indeed and a business with no community spirit (I’m just waiting for them to start threatening to publish not the names of donors, but the names of non-donors. The ‘be a good corporate neighbor’ pitches are getting pretty intense around here…), overdue notices from people I did actually pay and so forth and so on.

However, there should also be a check in there from one of our clients for his September invoice, so, you know…it ain’t all bad…

(Just really not feeling the love for this today…which is part of the problem, of course, because you can only decide to put this stuff off ‘one more day’ so many times before it turns into what it turned into, which is a kind of man-eating paper dragon sprawled out all over every flat surface in the Den of Chaos, through which we wade like desperate adventurers trying to escape the Anaconda of Technicality Death…file by no later than October 12; requests received after October 12 will not be processed…@^&@*^&@!!!!!!!

Gotta admit there’s some logic there…

Captain Adventure walked into the room where I was working to ask for a snack. It was an involved request that started with crackers and escalated into a five course meal with wine pairings and puff pastry dessert with Grand Marnier chaser before winding up back at crackers again.

As we were walking out of the room toward the kitchen, he quite deliberately dragged his feet through the laundry I had been folding on the floor, scattering it all over the place and irking his mother no end. This kind of thing is altogether too common with him – he’ll kick and stomp things on the floor no matter what they are, from toys to his sisters.

It’s destructive and annoying and it has gotta stop.

“Hey!” I barked. “Huh-uh, no way. You don’t go kicking things just because they’re on the floor!”

“Welllllll, den,” he replied without sparing me the slightest glance and still heading for the kitchen. “You shud-ent leaf-it tings on da fwoor. (You shouldn’t leave things on the floor, for those who don’t speak Autistic Five Year Old.)”

“WHAAAAAAAT?!” Oh no, he did not just diss me in my hour of disciplining…I swung him around to face me in my all my wrathful glory. “Captain. Adventure. You do not!!! go around kicking my nice clean laundry like that! You know better!!”

“Wellllllllllll, you shud-ent leaf-it tings on da fwoor, a-cause I might swip! And fawl dow-nuh! (You shouldn’t leave things on the floor, because I might slip! And fall down!)” he informed me, with only the slightest tinge of guilt.

You can imagine how hard it was to keep a straight face and reiterate that stomping / kicking / scattering the laundry was not OK.

Eventually he agreed not to do that anymore, although I suspect his ‘OK, I not kick da fings on da fwoor – sowwy, mommy!’ was more about getting me to shut up already and get my crackers, woman! than any actual intention to not go around kicking anything he sees on the floor or repentance for creating extra work for his poor, long-suffering momma.

Oh my stars and garters, that child is smart and stubborn and so deliciously cute that it is almost impossible to stay mad at him…even if he did get muddy little shoe prints on my freshly washed sheets…

Monday, October 12, 2009

Money Monday: October 12, 2009

Wellllllllll…I’m going to be using my husband’s paycheck for those jackets and long-sleeved shirts and pants that don’t come halfway up the Denizen’s calves because Witchapalooza was not what might be called a big money maker.

In fact, financially, it was a net-negative. For a few hours I thought I had grossed just over my booth fee, but when I sat down in some peace and quiet to actually total up receipts…nah. I was twenty bucks short of the booth fee – and that’s gross, not net.

So I’m actually at less than half my booth fee in earnings overall and that’s an oh, FIE! kind of deal.

I can, however, take comfort in the fact that everybody had receipts that were somewhere between “WAAAAAAH!” and “meh.”

I mean, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!, that’s super-deep-freeze cold comfort, but still…it wasn’t me or my goods. I actually got extremely good feedback from the customers and some great ideas for other things I could put into my booth for future events.

The problem was that the gate was nowhere near what they anticipated. The official target was 30,000 people, but what we actually got was closer to 1,000.

As in, one thousand. Not ten thousand. One.

The consensus is that we simply had too much competition. The ski resorts opened earlier than I can ever remember them opening before, Apple Hill, pumpkin patches galore, SAT testing, soccer season opening, homecomings – there were just so many other things siphoning people away, and since this was a brand new event we really took a hit when the people were spoilt for entertainment choices.

Toss in a rotten local economy and you’ve got a recipe for rotten sales.

Still, we were all really surprised by just how low the turnout was. Granted, I didn’t expect anything like 30,000 people to show up, but still…wow. It was so empty that the vendors outnumbered the customers most of the weekend.

But you know, hey. These things happen. It’s nobody’s fault, really…and believe it or not, I’ve actually had worse fairs that didn’t have the excuses this fair did.

And honestly, we had fun. The other vendors around me were great folks, and we entertained each other all weekend long. (And to answer a question: Yes that’s how you manage a potty break when you’re all alone in a booth – your neighboring vendors keep an eye on things. If you don’t have good neighbors at an event, well, limit your liquid intake and learn to hold it.)

It’s a shame more people didn’t come. There was a lot of really good stuff being offered by really nice people.

Now on the one hand, it stinks that my maiden voyage back into working fairs was basically the Titanic – not merely ‘not good’ but actually ‘in the red.’

But on the other hand, I got very nice feedback from the customers. With a better gate (or smaller booth fee, or hey, how about both?), I think I would have done rather well.

This is what is known in the financial world as a setback.

They happen.

Sometimes they happen because of things outside of our control – your kid chooses the day after the health insurance expires to break his arm, the car that gets you to work every day yaks up its carburetor, you go to work one day and find the building locked and all your (now former) coworkers are huddled around the radio listening live as the (former) boss is arrested for fraud…that kind of thing.

Sometimes they happen because you made a mistake. Sometimes it’s a small mistake like a slight mall-related accident involving flirty dresses and kicky shoes. Sometimes it’s pretty epic, like, “Hey honey, how was your day and oh by the way, I bought you a new Audi! Happy…uh…Wednesday?”

Sometimes, well, they just happen. You make the best decision you can based on the facts you have before you, and it still all goes to hell in a hand basket on you.

That’s just life. You take what you learn from these things, and move on.

But it doesn’t mean you should give up. Not for just one setback. (Continual setbacks may indicate you need to reexamine your plan, though.)

So, undaunted…I’ll be unpacking, photographing, describing and uploading my inventory into my Etsy shop this week (I know, it’s like a wasteland in there at time of writing here…I was holding off on relisting until after this event because, you know, if we got even half of the estimated 30,000 attendees, I probably would have sold an awful lot of what I had…and then I would have paid the $0.20 per item for no reason because I’d have to go in and un-list them, see?) (there was a method to my madness on that, is what I’m trying to say).

I’ll be thinking about the feedback I got from customers and other vendors, and seeing what suggestions could fit into my skills and interests.

And I’ll be refining what exactly I really hope to accomplish with all this. What-all falls under the category of ‘household need’, which is therefore hoped to be paid for by ‘household endeavor’? Just how far does that go, and hey, here’s another thought: Are we willing to give up what we can’t provide for with the household endeavors? And just how far would we be willing to go with that, pray tell?

If I want “as much as humanly possible” of my husband’s paycheck to go into stomping out the debts we’ve acquired these last two years, are we willing to do without cable? Or Netflix? What about trips to Grandma’s house, or (for extreme example) electricity?

This is a project that could easily grow heads, you know? It sounds so simple to say that the goal is to have household endeavors pay for household needs…but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I may well have created a monster.

Or, I may have created a lifestyle we’ll all come to really love. Thing is, if we could take it to that high a level…then we get an end-date on having to work outside the homestead. The time will come – and rather quickly come – when neither of us “has” to commute anywhere for a living.

If what is made here at home can provide for everything we need at home, well. The cash-needs become very small indeed, right? Which means that if my husband wants to stop producing databases and start, say, making fine furniture in his own workshop instead? Even though his annual income will plummet to something a high school student finds laughable?

Welllllll…he could.

Or, he could keep on working and we could pack away cash like a pair of Fall squirrels.

OR, we could pack away the cash and then slap it down on a real homestead, with acreage and zoning for the animals and an on-farm marketplace and all like that.

A lot becomes possible, when you aren’t spending every penny as it comes in on This, That, and The Other.

I’m a little bummed that for now, I’m going to have to go out and get those new things with paycheck-dollars…but I’m also profoundly grateful that those paycheck-dollars are there, you know?

And, I find myself thinking that the garden isn’t the only place seeds are being planted; and it isn’t the only place where time is needed. I can’t go from zero to profitable business in a single fair, any more than I can throw a seed on the ground and then bend over and pick up a carrot.

Seems like anything worth doing takes time, huh? Tough luck for those of us who are patience impaired, but there it is.

Anyway…speaking of things needing time…I’ve got to go start the next batch of bread. Takes three hours to go from raw ingredients to on the cooling rack, and it’s not getting any earlier around here…

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Time's up!

I’ve got fifty pairs of cotton socks still curing that will need their triple-wash tomorrow, but other than that…it’s done. Over. Finished. What isn’t already tucked into the big old plastic totes and ready to go, ain’t going with me to Witchapalooza this weekend.

In a word? Whew.

It was a fun challenge and it got me going, but I don’t want to operate like that again pretty much ever. It’s hard to keep your colors fresh and different when you’re doing twenty or fifty of them in a single session!

Also, ohmygah, but is my house ever a wreck. Mind you I’m hardly held up at a paragon of housecleaning virtue in the first place, but I’m thinking a fire hose might be in order for what has resulted from me being busy with dye pots and ironing boards all week.

I knew I was perilously close to burnout when I found myself thinking that I could hardly wait for next week, when I could spend some time doing housework. Help, I think I’ve been abducted by aliens! My thoughts, they are not my own anymore! Who IS this stranger inside my head?!

In addition to the yarn that I haven’t relisted on Etsy yet (I’m holding off on listing all of this stuff until after the show – I don’t want to list things then have to un-list them because I sold them at the show) (or worse, sell the same thing TWICE – no two of these are exactly alike), I’ve got stuff like this.

Circles Scarf
Silk circles scarf

This one was fun to make. A little fiddly (each circle was, of course, hand-tied before dyeing), but it turned out neat. Which makes all the fiddly worth doing. This is a short scarf, the kind that hugs your shoulders.

Swirl scarf
Silk wrap

This is probably my favorite of all the things I did this week. My favoritism is partly driven by the fact that it did exactly what I wanted it to do: Big center swirl, smaller swirls at the ends, ‘starburst’ pattern between the three.

Not everything was so obliging.

Silk samples
Oodles and gobs of silk hankies, over 140 of them

Usually, you see this kind of thing in a fancy department store (or a wanna-be-fancy one) in the men’s department – they’re the kind you fold up and tuck into that top pocket on a man’s suit.

They’re just plain beautiful (if I do say so myself, and I do). They’re done with acid-wash dyes (the ‘acid’ is vinegar, by the way…I don’t do super-heavy-duty chemicals around here) – a process that requires “cooking” and all that groovy jazz. The colors are rich, and the way the silk takes the dye is just…well. It has a sheen and drape and grace that is hard to describe even with pictures. When you hold one of these in your hand, it just feels good. Light like cobwebs, but strong at the same time.

And the colors, when seen by a human eyeball in person rather than in a picture taken by a pretty inexpensive digital camera, have shimmering layers of depth in them.

And you know what else? If you’ve got a long-running cold and your nose is sore? That silk feels like a dream.

Of course, it’s easy for me to be all “you should totally use silk if you’ve got a cold, it feels good.” I have a front-loading washer that can handle the cleanup afterward for me (along with my bras and those frilly little dresses the girls are so fond of which I totally don’t get because even as a child I pretty much wore jeans, jeans and nothing but the jeans so help me God) and clotheslines not only in the backyard, but one I can string across my upstairs bathroom as well in less than thirty seconds when I need it.

I imagine if I had to hand-wash them in my bathroom sink and drip dry them over the towel rack (while my towels went…uh…hmmm…on the floor, I guess?), I might be a little less enthusiastic about them as a daily-use hankie.

Whiiiiich brings me to the workhorses of the group: The cotton handkerchiefs. These are nice BIG kerchiefs, which has the added bonus of giving me lots of room to play.

Classic Cotton

Swirlie Cotton
Classic, with a twist…

The ‘you know what would be kewl? If I folded it HERE and THERE and then did THIS’ model…

Rocket flare
This one makes me think of a rocket trail through space.

There are 186 more of these, so, uh, let’s just stop with the pictures now, ‘kay?

Now, the other thing I’ve got on offer are socks. I started dyeing plain white machine-made cotton socks because the Denizens wanted these fancy expensive tie-dyed socks (five bucks a pair) they saw at Gottschalk’s (before they went out of business, wah!) and I was all, “HAHAHAHAHA, yeah right!”

Not because I didn’t think the socks were cool or that they weren’t worth the five bucks – it was that my Denizens are about the worst little humans on the planet when it comes to Sock Abuse. They stuff them under seats, wear them outside without shoes in the rain, leave one at Grandma’s and the other at the park…it’s horrible, what those kids do to sock.

So I buy them plain white ones in 50-pair packages at Big Box R Us and growl at them whenever they complain about how boring they are.

But then I thought, you know, just for giggles…I could try dyeing some of them. And lo, it was fun and kewl and funky and the kids loved them and after all, who doesn’t need yet another addiction in their life?

Tune in next week, when Tama decides to go ahead and take up quilting! Because she obviously doesn’t have ENOUGH crafty things going on around here…

Ahem. Anyway. I’m afraid the best examples are still in the dryer (all the actual tie-dye ones, for example), but here are a couple I kind of like.

I like these because they’re sweet.

Blue wash socks
These are done by doing the spots first, then basically dipping the sock in plain water and SQUEEZING the colors together into a watercolor ‘wash’.

And I like these because they are fugly.

Ugly cute
I made crisp black and yellow stripes, then thought, “YA KNOW, if I did that squeezy-thing on this, I’d get, what, kind of greenish-yellow stripes? Ewwwww, that would be so…ZOMBIE…HAHAHAHAHA, OK, now I HAVE to do it…!!!” and sure enough – ZOMBIE SOCKS!!!!! Don’t they look like they were dipped in radioactive waste?!?!

Tomorrow is all about last-second errands and figuring out how best to load up the van. And then two days of playing working incredibly hard at a festival, and then hopefully coming home with some extra cash. (I know. I set my sights way too high.)

It feels really weird to be in this saddle again. Back in the day, I did a lot of fairs and festivals in all kinds of capacities; sometimes I was a performer, sometimes I was a vendor, sometimes I was just involved in setting up or breaking down the stages.

I’m sure things will go wrong, and I won’t be happy with my booth (because I have never been 100% happy with any booth setup, my own or anybody else’s for that matter), and I’ll spend a lot of time in the artist purgatory, wondering if my stuff is “good enough” and picking it apart and thinking of all the ways I could have made this one better or that one less ugly or why did I even bother doing that one, again?!

But I have to say…it feels pretty natural, too.

I can’t wait to find out what I’m going to forget to bring with me.

Because there’s always something, some small yet important thing that I just clean forgot to load up and bring with…

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I think I'm keepin' her

Eldest is home sick today, not because she is actually sick but rather because of the swine flu thing. She was sent home yesterday because of a headache / tummyache combo and is now in quarantine for three days minimum.

I may just keep her longer because guess what (and try to act surprised here): She is turning out to be a first-class dyer.

She wanted to try a handkerchief yesterday. So I gave her one thinking, "C'mon, don't be a grinch, you know YOU woulda been all over this too, I'm pretty sure one lousy kerchief isn't going to break the bank and besides - a dozen or so of these are for us."

Now, all the Denizens love doing art. They're all good at it too, but Eldest has always had some kind of innate grasp of how to take lines, curves and colors and turn them into art-art.

But still...I expected...well, at least a little hesitation. Some misplaced color. Some sign that an ELEVEN YEAR OLD was the artist.

She neatly folded a fan shape, applied the dye and (in the only rookie move all afternoon) immediately unfolded it to reveal a classic tie-dye rainbow.

Without a word, I handed her another one, and she proceeded to make a good DOZEN not merely 'good enough', but creative, interesting and well-balanced kerchiefs.

Then she got bored and wandered off.

This morning, she started hovering as I was getting started. She watched me do a couple socks, then made her move...

"By the way, I finished all my homework."

"Oh. That's good."

"Uh-huh. Sooooooo. I guess I could play on the computer...or I could watch cartoons...orrrrrrr, I COULD maybe do a few socks. While you go do more yarn or something. After all, I'm really good at this, right? "


Yeah, she IS really good at this...and is it wrong that I'm GRATEFUL for a pandemic that has given me an able assistant in my hour of need?!

Today on Lifestyles of the Poor and Stupid...

Tune in to see Tama mixing up and applying a bleach-based wash while wearing her only "good" black t-shirt!

(Honestly, what is the MATTER with me?! )

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hello I have lost my mind and how are you today?

Well. I did…a rather foolish thing.

I mean, it’s a great thing and I’m glad I did (am doing, will do) it, and I’m excited and thrilled and all like that…but it was also kind of…well, foolish.

SEE, my Original Brilliant Plan was like this: I was going to spend most of October and the first half of November building up inventory in the things I like to do. Dye some cotton and silk handkerchiefs and scarves, make some hand warmers and other small-ish knitted projects, make some soap and candles, and then take those things on the near-to-home road for some local craft fairs.

This is part of the ‘household endeavors paying for household needs’ thing, see. We need soap, but I make five pounds instead of one and sell the other four. We need candles, but instead of just two tapers I make fourteen and a few votives and as long as I’ve got the wax melted maybe a couple bigger pillar candles too.

We need cotton handkerchiefs, so I dye 2,000, keep 20 and sell the other 1,980.

OK, I’m exaggerating. But also, I am loving the tie-dyed cotton handkerchiefs to a point where I think my husband may be getting jealous. It’s just so…magical, the way you can fold and crease and tie or band, then dunk or spray or squirt dye all over it…then you have to waaaaaaaaaait for it [24 hour cure time], and then, breathless (and gloveless, if you are an idiot like me), you get to take off the bindings and unfold and these colors just leap out at you and it’s just so…funky-cool-cute-fresh.

And each one can be washed hundreds of times, replacing who knows how many boxes of Kleenex.

And they’re blissfully inexpensive to boot. I think the final retail price on them will be around two bucks each. I mean, seriously…environmentally friendly, fun to dye, cheerful to use, each one unique even if it was tied and dyed exactly the same way as five other ones, and inexpensive?!

Dudes. Look, they won’t replace knitting in my heart, but they are perilously close to being more fun to dye than yarn. (Don’t tell the Merino I said that, ‘kay?) (Yes. I am fickle. Tune in later this week for swooning about the joys of marbling silk.)

But I digress.

The Original Brilliant Plan would have seen me puttering around the kitchen and garage dyeing, cooking soap, dipping candles, knitting wrist-warmers and other smallish things until right before Thanksgiving – and then the frenzied rush of craft-fairs-every-weekend until right before Christmas and then I’d be taking a small wad of cash to the mall for Christmas presents.

And then a couple months sort of “off” (with “just” the Etsy shop going), and then a new kind of push through spring and summer for farmer’s markets (if we’re allowed – there are some technicalities we’d have to deal with first) and craft fairs.

Instead, well, I sort of got invited to think about applying for a fair next weekend. NEXT. WEEKEND.

And I applied. And was accepted. And I’m all excited and happy because the cold weather is starting to happen and it has been pointed out to me (repeatedly) that the Denizens need new “real” jackets.

Darn kids, always with the growing thing…so hopefully, I’ll be able to net enough profits from this earlier fair to pay for their jackets and perhaps to get Eldest into pants that cover her ankles for once and our little experiment will finally be fully underway, right? Right!

Besides, it’s awesome! It’ll be a fun venue and a great way for me to get my feet wet again on the whole fair-booth-doing-thing.

It’s been a lot of years. My skilz, they are rusty. And hey, let’s do an inventory check, shall we? Hmm, OK, well, I’ve got…uh…well, pretty much, I’ve got nothing at this point. A few of these a little of that and none of the other.

Ahem. Well. OK.

Fortunately, what I did have was a massive box of blanks ready to be dyed. And the dye, and the soda ash, vinegar, pots and pans and jars and measuring cups to get it done.

Unfortunately, they were all still in the box – they hadn’t been prepped at all for dyeing.

It’s been a frantic week around here, but the rubber is finally hitting the road. Things are happening. Final Products are being rolled off the line – the clothing line, which is the last step for them. unless they need ironing. In which case, yeah, the clothing line is still often the last step because I’m WAY too lazy to iron 200 cotton handkerchiefs, what are ya, mental?! I prefer to stick with Truth In Advertising, and after all – 100% cotton will come out of the dryer a bit wrinkled and I wouldn’t want to have my customers thinking they will stay just like this even after being washed, right?

I am so noble, I scare myself. (Ahem.)

Anyway. I actually have the wild fantasy that I will not only get all the dyeing done, but will also have time to produce a few hot method soaps (still from-scratch-with-lye soaps, but ‘cooked’ during the process so they can be used right away, unlike cold method which must cure for a good three weeks before use) and maybe even a set or three of mold candles.

It won’t happen, of course. I’ll be lucky – insanely lucky – to get done just the dyeing I’ve got on my plate right now.

In other news, my hands are turning all kind of ugly colors. I have gloves, but I have a problem with them: The ones that are long enough to actually protect my forearms and keep the dye from simply slipping neatly past my wrist down into my palm contain latex which, as it turns out, is a rash-inducer for me.

The latex-free gloves I have are wee tiny short gloves that end right at the wrist – hence, dye spillage down into the glove itself is frequent. They’re also thinner than the latex gloves and tear very easily – hence, Red thumb! Red thumb!!

But the way I figure it, push come to shove, nobody will be walking up to my little booth at Witchapalooza and saying, “Waitasecond…I don’t think YOU actually dyed ANY of this!!”

Because these hands? Are the hands of a dyer, my friends.

In related news, hey! Guess what! If you have a little tiny cut on, say, your index finger? And then you try to use ReDuRan on it?

Only thing that hurts more is pouring Krazy Glue into it.

Please don’t ask me how I know that.


ANYWAY, SO! If you don’t hear from me for, like, a week? It’s because I’m up to my neck in dye and promising that I will never, ever do anything like this to myself again. EVER. And this time, I really mean it! And furthermore, once this fair is over, I am going to take two days completely off to reprioritize my philosophy around What Really Matters and hey look, a squirrel!!!! …is that a fair application in it’s teeth? KEWL! Sign me up, I’m ready to do another one…!!!!

…just let me place an order for more inventory and yeah, better pay for priority shipping on this bad boy…

I have a theory on why I keep doing this to myself. The truth is, I was just sitting on all that inventory and ideas. I was fiddling around with knitting projects going nowhere, and doodling around with stuff instead of doing stuff. Then an opportunity floats by at just the right moment and in grabbing at it I slap an irrational deadline on myself and WHAM!

I’m energized, moving, thinking fast and sharp thoughts.

Suddenly, I’m fully engaged in my life – my actual life, what it really is in the here and now. I appreciate my family more, when I’m in this kind of crazy mode. I see their beauty, appreciate their putting up with me support more, become more aware of just how important they are to me.

Without these occasional spurts of self-inflicted insanity, I tend to drift and dream, but never do.

Every so often, I need to pull off something Crazy Big to keep myself rooted.

That’s my theory, anyway. I have to have some reason, because I do it to myself again and again and again.

Sometimes it ends up good; sometimes bad; sometimes indifferent.

But always, there has been some forward movement - whether it got the results I’d hoped for or not, that part is always good.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Red Thumb!! Red Thumb!!

Oh, OK. It’s not nearly as dramatic as ‘red rum.’

But still.

I have a very red thumb. And a slightly blue ring finger on the same hand. And a speck of red that looks exactly like an open sore on my wrist, and a lovely splotch of black that looks for all the world like a nasty bruise.


Boo Bug noticed before she even got in the van after school today.

“Mommy! Your hand! It looks wiiiiiiiicked!” she exclaimed. (They are buttering me up, because Career Day is coming and they reaaaaaaaly want their mother to show up with vats of dye and maybe t-shirts and then they would be the Most Popular Kids At School Ever.) (Not gonna happen, but statistics mean nothing to them so they keep trying.)

And then Eldest did a double take as she got in. “Did you hurt yourself? You’ve got blood on your…oh…wait…is that dye?”

I’ve thought of many things I could say to explain these things when they are noticed by the uninitiated – by, say, a new childcare provider who has no idea just how insane these people truly are but is already slightly alarmed by the milling Chaos of the house because the Denizens have all pretty much just gotten home and are in that ohmygah, I haven’t seen you for, like, A FEW WHOLE HOURS! mode.

Running, yelling, ‘mommy guess what else’…it’s noisy and bustling and I find myself saying things like, “No, there’s ‘only’ four of them…” a lot.

In other news, I don’t think that poor lady will be back. She actually melted the rubber off her tennis shoes, this is how fast she beat a retreat.

I don’t blame her. I’d run too, if I had the option.

ANYWAY. Ever since I shook her hand with a bright red thumb and then felt obligated to explain what actually happened, I’ve been coming up with Better Stories.

I thought about saying that I had recently voted for a new President of the Super Secret Society, and then whispering, “Oh no, I’ve said too much! Quickly, out the back! I’ll call the Protectionators! They must hide you, you’re in terrible danger, oh! Me and my big fat mouth!!”

Or yelling, “Curses! I told Gerbbelfleck these holographic disguises would never work!” And then I’d start slapping my chest and saying, “Star Command! Come in, Star Command! The emperor has no clothes repeat! The. Emperor. Has. No. Clothes! Why don’t they answer?!

Or I could adopt a mysterious accent (a hybrid sort of thing that wanders all over Europe, maybe) and say, “Deees thumb, deeees one? I kill a man in Reno once, wid deeees thumb! Whhhhhhhhhisssss-kah!!! Like DAT!”

Or, I could keep it simple: Hold up the thumb, waggle it at the inquisitive one and chant, “Red thumb! Red thumb!” in a creepy voice.

None of these things could possible get stranger looks than the simple truth, which goes like this: I was dyeing some cotton handkerchiefs today (strange looks begin right there – you were doing what with which now?!), and as I was mixing up the turquoise dye I noticed that my right ring finger felt wet, which it shouldn’t because I was wearing gloves.

There was a hole in the glove. Well, drat…but no problem, I have plenty of those little latex-free (because guess who is allergic to latex as it turns out? oh yeah. Guess who kinda-sorta knew that already but hadn’t had a big problem with it because she never remembers to wear gloves in the first place, except that she decided recently that she was tired of her hands being drier than the Mojave so she decided to really try to remember the gloves so she wore them for half an hour while doing dishes and then got a MASSIVE ugly rash all over the backs of her hands and up her forearms that was not only ugly, but itchy to boot?) (also, guess who is striving to maintain her status as a Champion Too Long Sentence Writer?) gloves, so I’ll just grab a new glove out of the bag!

And I’ll mix up the red dye! Which never, ever comes off anything it touches! Ever!

Then as I’m cheerfully mashing away at the stuff, my thumb started to feel a little warm.

Noooooooooo, I said to myself. Can’t be. Brand new glove. Can’t have a hole in it.

I actually resisted looking. I told myself I was being silly. Please. What are the chances, anyway? It’s not like moths would have been attracted to the not-latex gloves, right…?

Sure enough, there was a hole in the new glove as well.

And now I have a bright red thumb. And while the blue more-or-less scrubbed off with some Reduran, the red…is probably going to go with me to the grave.

Naturally, this would happen on the day a new babysitter was coming over for an interview. She walks into a madhouse, with the Denizens all talking at once and they sort of mobbed her because naturally they want to see what they’re up against the nice lady who might be watching them once in a while and then Captain Adventure got super-hyper and not only proceeded to run like a mad thing around the Den, but even grabbed an extra-large Ziploc-style bag and put it over his head.

You know, exactly like the warning on the box says NOT to do?!

Sigh. So she’s sitting there watching me slapping some reins on the Chaos and I could tell she was thinking something like, “This woman is crazy. She barks orders like a commando’s DI. There are definitely more than four children in this house. I think there are twelve of them. And I can’t pronounce anybody’s name around here. And her hands look really weird, and I’m not convinced that’s dye on there. And who the heck dyes handkerchiefs, anyway? Who even uses handkerchiefs?! And why do they have miniature fields in their backyard?!?! That’s it, I’m outta here…!”

I think chanting ‘red thumb’ at her would have been less alarming.

And it was just cotton handkerchiefs, too. We didn’t get into the silk versions, or the scarves, or the yarn, or the ‘blank’ socks piled up everywhere waiting for dye, or…

Oh well. At least she didn’t ask about my peas. Because they’re mine, mine I tell you, allllll miiiiiiiiine…

(I’ll have pictures of this stuff soon, I promise. The first ‘wave’ is curing right now, and should be washed [several times, actually] tomorrow. I’ll try to get some pictures over the weekend. I think they’re fun, and anything that gets the word ‘fun’ injected into the subject of having to blow your nose [which is seldom fun at all] can’t be all bad, right?)