…And So It Begins…

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Reversible stocking caps and removable poms

For my birthday in November of 2014 I received what is usually called a “crank knitter.” These are devices with either 22 or 44 needles which knit in a circle. While there are instructions for knitting flat panels with them, I’ve never taken the time to master it myself, but I have enjoyed making dozens of tube scarves, neckwarmers, and reversible winter hats with it.

I had already been making legwarmers for myself with knitting looms and selling the extras on Etsy—once I started making them I couldn’t stop myself!—and moving to a crank knitter just seemed like a natural progression for one who is intimidated by “real” knitting needles. I became absorbed in learning all I could about it, and even referred to YouTube videos to see how other people were using, maintaining, and inventing with their machines.

Which, dear reader, is when it began.

Margaret

I happened to be searching YouTube for ways to close the open ends of the tube scarves, and happened upon one Margaret Olander. She has maintained her channel, Sheepishly Sharing, for about three years now, and her chronicled adventures have served as a wonderful resource for this bungling crafter. One of her videos taught me how to close scarf ends with a crochet technique, and it worked beautifully!

In searching for other tips and tricks, I’ve come upon many other crafters’ podcasts, which I began watching regularly, until one day I realized that knitting and crocheting podcasts have almost completely replaced our Roku box as my primary source of screen entertainment! I eagerly await the next podcast as much as the latest Big Bang Theory episode, and being able to follow these real people—actual “reality” television—is almost like being in their knitting group. I will likely highlight many more podcasters in the coming months.

Give me a laptop, a hook, and some yarn, and I’m a happy gal.

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A simple cotton sponge

This has, of course, contributed to another phenomenon at my house, in which my husband insists that the yarn is multiplying and must be caged in a corner of the living room lest it take over the entire house. It intensified when my mother suggested I find a way to use the crank knitter to make her some cotton dish cloths, as her hands were too arthritic to knit her own—and she gave me the cotton yarn and crochet hooks to do so. It didn’t work for me in the knitter, but I did find a video—one of hundreds—which demonstrates how to crochet one. I spent several weeks painstakingly learning the simplest of stitches, my fingers tangling into painful knots. I marveled at the work of those crafters who could produce something besides a rats’ nest or a wadded-up bundle of acrylic.

Once I mastered that, I moved on to other things—wristlets, headbands, and this year my craft resolution is to learn to crochet a sweater and a pair of socks, which technically I’ve already accomplished, if you consider that my standards run more to “function” over “form.” I consider it one of those SHTF skills (which for my household is defined as “one of us has lost our job or become disabled” rather than “I’m going to stockpile all kinds of alarming things and rant about the government” kind of situation”. As my skills grew, so did my yarn stash. A year ago we repurposed our corner computer cabinet to hold the ever-growing stash, and already it overflows.

Perhaps the yarn will take over after all. Just don’t tell my husband!

 

 

Ye Know Neither the Day Nor the Hour…

Good day to you all, WordPressers.

My last blog post, “All Sorts of Changes,” was more accurate than I imagined, for five days after I posted the entry I found my mother dead in her home.

To say that it was unexpected is an understatement. Mom was one of those people who suffered from anxiety, and manipulated the world around her in ways that didn’t totally alleviate it, but mitigated it somewhat—regardless of the cost to others. She craved control of her world and strove for predictability (obedience?) from all around her, so to find her that morning was unfathomable to me.

She was a woman who organized everything. Heart problems? Fine, just watch the diet and take the meds. Bills due? Fine, just make the sacrifices and pay them. Something break? Fine, call the repairman and get it fixed. The minute something in her world went awry, she did whatever she needed to do to fix it.

So when it came time to take care of her estate, to find that she was unprepared was definitely a surprise.

I’m finding out now that people need to make plans like making sure heirs have been named on things like house deeds, bank accounts, and investments, and that a will is only a “list of wishes,” as our insurance agent put it.

Additionally, the word “probate” has recently been added to the list of words and phrases I’d rather not hear again, right up there with “hoodie” and “lemme ax you a question.”

Even more aggravating was the notion that one’s death certificate is basically held hostage by the funeral home until the heir signs a paper stating they will pay the bill—with interest, of course—just as soon as we get the life insurance money. Granted, one cannot obtain the life insurance money until one obtains the death certificate.

Isn’t it funny how that works out?

I can’t decide whether this feels like the beginning of an end or the end of a beginning. Those who have lived with the sort of manipulation one’s parent feels they have to employ not only deal with the death of the person who knew them longest, but also with the guilt brought on by the inconceivable giddiness survivors feel when they find they are finally free.

I’m 45 years old, and suddenly, I am free to do what I wish.

I see the above in print, and I hardly believe it—not just its sentiments, but the fact that it exists in truth.

 

All Sorts of Changes!

Good day to you, fellow WordPressers! It’s been a long time! How have you been?

According to my posts, I’ve been gone for well over a year, and many things have changed. More than likely I’ll go over them all at one point or another, but for now let’s visit a few of the larger changes that have come to me over the past year.

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I have a new job at the same university I was working for. Before last May I was taking down everything everyone said in meetings that I understood less and less of and spending the next two days furiously typing, fact-and-acronym-checking, and editing those conversations. Now I am an academic advisor for the freshman class. In August I was given 100 freshmen to look after. It’s been a real trip to witness their transformations, in more ways than one. I am often struck mute simultaneously by both the entitlement of students who never had to break a sweat and the incredible dedication and work ethic of students who understand what a wonderful opportunity college is. The latter give me hope for the future, especially when I remind myself that these young adults are going to be making crucial decisions for us when we’re old, helpless, bedridden, and unable to speak for ourselves.

My husband and son and I still live in a retirement community, a block away from my mom. We just found out recently that the community looks down upon a 1967 Camaro with no motor (and precious little more than a frame, really) under a car cover in the driveway, if you call “the Bylaws state that ‘any unconventional vehicle of any description’ is not permitted” any indication. My mom has graciously offered to keep it in her garage, even though it’s that time of year when my husband is hardly at home working ballgame after banquet after concert after fundraiser and can only work on it a little at a time. She’s even named it. “Waynette” will soon make an appearance on this blog, in all her rustbuckety, primer-covered glory.

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We have resigned ourselves to the fact that we have a nervous dog. This product of the streets/shelter is scared of innumerable noises, people, and objects, seemingly at random. The elderly person she accepts scritches from one day will be growled at the next, and the next day she will charm them again with her bright face and wagging tail. The one thing we do know—we will never figure out exactly why, unless one of us learns to speak dog. Every Fourth of July, every tall nephew with a full head of hair, every random gunshot or boomy noise in the distance—all are cause for alarm, and turn walks into a tug of war with no warning.

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I received a crank knitter a couple of birthdays ago, and that pastime quickly morphed into a crochet/yarn addiction that my husband firmly believes will take over the house. Instead of insipid sitcoms with vapid adults and mouthy, oversexed teenagers, knitting and crocheting podcasts have taken over my evening watching habits. It’s a great way to connect, laugh, and learn with other like-minded crafters from around the world, and I will probably add some fangirling to this blog in the way of highlighting one or more of my favorites in future posts.

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No, this is NOT part of his new job!

My husband got a promotion at his job as well, at the same university, and his headaches have increased tenfold. Suddenly we have the money to pay the bills the day the bills come in the mail, and it’s a strange feeling, even almost a year later. We can both hardly believe the lightening of both our existence and our stress levels. However, we are still dedicated to using those things we have learned, because, as my mother always says, “It doesn’t matter how much money you make; you’ll still find something to spend it on.” It is our hope that we are able to build a savings and take better care of ourselves. Perhaps this blog will provide some sort of accountability, even if it is only to cyberspace.

I hope to return to this blog regularly with crochet, garden, allergy, and frugal updates.

 

 

What I’m NOT Doing

Whenever I come back to this blog after an absence, I feel compelled to throw an explanation into the ether about where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing—in much the same way as I catch up with an old friend in the grocery store. You know how it is—a quick listing of my recent activities, how the family’s doing, where I’m working now, etc.

Instead, I’ve decided to tell you what I didn’t do.

These past few months, I did not:

Spend too much on Christmas presents.

Worry about the size of Tom Brady’s balls.

Worry about the condition of my home. I live in a condo with two big guys, an active, happy dog, and a cat. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my home will never be “company ready,” and that’s just fine, because, like the introverts we are, we never have people over anyway. We both work full-time, and we do what we can, when we can. It’s been rather liberating, actually, and easier to look at piles of yarn or books and cluttered end tables as “works in progress” rather than “a mess that needs cleaned up.”

Comment (as much) on the news. People are going to make bad decisions, and news sources are going to report on, promote, and even celebrate them because they’ve nothing better to do. It’s been tough! So far I’ve bit my tongue through:

  1.           “Taliban aren’t terrorists;”
  2.           “We’ll send several officials out in the middle of Ferguson’s violence to encourage further race-fueled looting and pillaging of black homes and businesses, and killing, but not to France to stand united with the world” (not to mention “Let’s send an aging 70’s musician to sing a song to France instead”);
  3.           “Yeah, it’s winter and we live on the coast, but we’re not going to prepare during the warmer months for disaster so we can gut the stores and buy up all the bread, milk, and eggs hours before a blizzard arrives because who doesn’t need French Toast during a weather emergency?”;
  4.           Various photoshopped images of contemporary “celebrities” in ridiculous poses that either skew everyone’s perceptions of physical “health” or send the world’s perceptions and expectations of women screaming back to the 50’s (usually both simultaneously);
  5.           “That deceased, highly decorated, Navy Seal sniper was a coward of the highest order for protecting our troops and our country and doing what he was told;”
  6.           “The unemployment rate is decreasing (just don’t mention that they’re mostly part-time jobs and they’re still underemployed);”
  7.           Anything Dennis Rodman has to say about relations with North Korea; and
  8.           “Seth Rogen and James Franco are geniuses and their movie should be shared around the world! It’s a cinematic masterpiece! About that ‘hacking’ thing, that’s really not a big deal.”

You can see how tough that would be to ignore, don’t ya?

It’s getting easier as I go. I can concentrate on keeping up with what’s important in my little corner of the world—

Helping my son, who recently lost his father and who may end up paying for the funeral with the handfuls of nickels left over from his part-time, fast food paycheck because the life insurance company has denied the claim his employer said his father qualified for;

Getting my already exhausted husband through the last month or so of basketball season (his busiest time of the year), in which he has no scheduled days off;

Ironing out the particulars of some new opportunities related to my volunteer work on campus, which will hopefully become a paying enterprise (if I can keep from getting frustrated with the “speed” at which the university works);

Designing and building a new, more permanent cold frame on the garden table to house seedlings and early spring crops;

Paring down the rest of the container garden and eliminating the smaller herb containers in favor of my newest experiment, dwarf blueberry bushes, as well as continuing to grow the green onions and tomatoes that do so well on our porch;

Rearranging the pantry and the kitchen cabinets to accommodate and organize our slowly-growing store of food and paper goods;

Continuing to prepare for disaster (basically, one of us losing our job) by stocking up on essentials a little at a time; and

Continuing to contribute to savings, even if only a little at a time, and try to forget it’s there.

As you can see, there’s enough to do without worrying about what everyone else is doing…

The iPhone 6 and the “Teddy-Tickle-Me-Cabbage” Generation

I’ve become increasingly aware lately of the sheer mindlessness with which we spend money. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back in my awareness landed a few days ago when the iPhone 6 came out. Thousands of people worldwide were camping out in front of Apple Stores. A simple Google search revealed that people pitched tents in Boston, Houston, Chicago, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Manhattan, and Dayton, just to name a few American cities.

Around the world it was much the same. In London, 100 people who were camping out in front of their particular phone store were surveyed (the article made it sound like more than 100 were present!) and 67% believed the iPhone was a “good value.”

Really?

Here at home, from my cell provider (AT&T), the iPhone is $649.

If you didn’t catch that, let me type it again, longways this time.

Six Hundred and Forty-Nine Dollars.

Dollars!

I could almost make two mortgage payments with that kind of money.

Perhaps someone should have asked, “A good value compared to what?”

In Perth, Australia, the first person to purchase an iPhone, in his zeal to reveal it to the reporter who asked for a look-see, promptly dropped the thing face-down on the concrete, among the collective gasps, derisive laughter, and expletive-laden exclamations of onlookers.

I wonder if that was a good value?

David-Rahimi

At least his girlfriend has the sense to look sheepish.

In Sydney, Australia, a California couple became the first people in the world to own an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They ordered the things online and TOOK A PLANE to Sydney, simply so they could say they were among the first to grab the latest model. There he is above, in all his arrogant, Yankee glory, nostrils flared and hands raised in victory. At least his girlfriend had the sense to look sheepish.

I simply can’t fathom why that sort of thing is important to them. I wonder if they will do it again in a couple of years when the next model comes out?

How many people, I wonder, are actually buying an iPhone 6 because their current phone is wearing out, broken, or desperately in need of updating? And by “updating,” I mean they’re still using a clamshell phone, or they have one of those clunky nineties models that don’t fit in your purse or pocket or the operating system is just too ancient to work with today’s technology kind of “updating.”

It’s enough to give this forty-something wicked Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch, and Tickle Me Elmo flashbacks.

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Perhaps that’s it. This “Teddy-Tickle-Me-Cabbage” Generation grew up with it. How many of these individuals begged their parents for the latest craze until the hapless adults descended, en masse, upon toy stores and shopping malls, pushing and smacking each other to obtain the latest thing to be shoved under the bed or left outside in the rain or thrown, stained and headless, into the attic? How many of their parents bid outrageous amounts on eBay for these toys? How many parents came home without one, whatever it was, and was greeted on Christmas morning with “I hate you!”? What if they were successful in wrestling from some harried shopper whatever polyester-clad, fuzzy plastic gewgaw they were after and their children responded with “This is the wrong color!” or “I TOLD you I wanted the one with Kung-Fu grip!”?

Is that really what’s happening here? Are our spending habits stuck in the 80’s? If so, that’s rather sad, for our prices certainly aren’t. Do we (and I mean we, collectively) think we have that much disposable income that we fork over $649 without a thought because that’s what our parents did during the age of shoulder pads, enormous hair, and reckless overspending? Have we a grossly overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Where did it come from? What fuels it? It’s as if, as consumers, we’re stuck on a toy rocking horse, rocking furiously, the springs constantly whispering their chant, “There must be something else to buy! There must be something else to buy!”

I will be the first to admit to being tethered to my cell phone. Granted, I am an Android user, but the shackles are much the same. I text my husband, son, and mother regularly. I have even been known to text my son that dinner is ready so I don’t have to leave the kitchen. I read Harry Potter FanFiction. I play MahJongg. I’m even trying a 30-day trial of KindleUnlimited to see if it would be worth spending the ten bucks a month. I snap photos of the dog’s “cute-to-me-but-not-likely-the-rest-of-the-world” moments and post them on Facebook like some deranged doting grandmother.

But to purchase the next phone (read nonessential appliance) as soon as it comes out? Not this gal.

Every phone I’ve ever gotten from my provider I’ve spent $30 or less for. Most of the time they were free. In one case I actually waited to upgrade until the phone I was after was free from AT&T. It was an LG Phoenix, and for my meager purposes, it was well worth the wait.

I wonder how long it will take people to realize we’re not in the 80’s anymore. Until then, I shall simply marvel at those who continue down this road of mindless spending.