Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poverty Is All It's Cracked Up To Be

I spoke some in yesterday's post about a time in my life that was difficult on several different levels. I struggled on different planes and each one unique in it's problems, the way they affected me, and my reactions to each.

This particular period in my life lead me on a strange, but interesting and life changing journey. It took me down a path I'd never been before in terms of the kind of people I met, the kind of work I did, my living arrangements, and the way I made money. All of it truly came out of the blue and hit me square in the face when I wasn't looking.

My situation of an unfortunate 'avalanche', if you will, came about simply because my car crapped out. Out of the blue one afternoon on my way home from work with no prior warning, my car starting making awful noises, spewing stuff, sputtering on the freeway, and ultimately dying on the spot...never to operate again. My car engine literally blew up and that was all she wrote.

Aside from the sheer exasperation and frustration of this disaster, I had no idea what other feelings and emotions were in store for me as a result of this single action. It set off a chain reaction to every other aspect of my life, and life would never, EVER, be the same for me again.

When my car blew up, it was detrimental to my existence, period. I lived 40 minutes away from where I worked. I knew no one else to hitch a ride with that went that same direction. Taking the bus was not an option; mass transit in Charleston, SC is a joke and I lived in an out lying community of Charleston proper. The cost to fix my car was more than the car was worth and I simply could not afford it. Buying or even renting a car was out too. And then on top of it all, I lived in a rural area and it was too far to walk anywhere where true civilization existed.


As a result, I lost my job - which caused me to lose my income - which caused me to not be able to my pay rent and utilities - which caused me to lose my phone service - which caused me to lose my Internet service - which caused me to lose touch with every one and every thing. And it became very difficult to eat. I was isolated and VERY alone.

But just before I lost my phone and Internet services, I had been in touch off and on with someone I'd met a month prior at a gig I was singing at. During this brief period of time we'd known each other, we'd been talking online. Now mind you, I didn't make a practice of giving total strangers my phone number or my email address, but this particular meeting was different some how and something deep down inside me prompted me to divulge the information this particular night. We talked online a few times and as it turned out, this person ran the local Habitat For Humanity ReStore...a thrift store of sorts, dealing mainly in constructions material, etc..., with the sales from the store benefiting the local county chapter of Habitat For Humanity.

This person knew slightly of my dilemma. But just before I lost my Internet service, I'd informed him of how dire the situation had become and the fact that all my efforts to correct the situation had been futile. The very next day, he sent someone to pick me up to take me to a church he attended that had resources for helping people in need....such as I was.

These good people of this church provided me with a few days worth of food. And was this ever a hard thing for me to do. I'd never been in this boat before and suddenly I'd joined the ranks of the people I'd always just felt sorry for. But they gave me other resources too, to maybe help me find a place closer to town to live, and maybe a way to get around a little easier. Most of those things failed because I didn't "qualify" for certain funds or programs because I didn't have dependent children living with me, and I'd made "too much money" in my recent work history to qualify for anything else. All of that in and of itself became very frustrating.

In the mean time, this particular person whom I'd met, and who'd been working hard to find ways for me to function again, got my phone up and running again, and at least I had a way to communicate with the outside world...namely said person who'd "come to my rescue", so to speak. But the dominoes just kept falling and within a couple of weeks I was out on my fanny with no place live - and no way to get there.


This same person sent a truck and a driver to pick up me and my stuff and hauled it all to the ReStore where he worked. It ended up being a VERY strange arrangement for a while, but a safe one for the time being. I ended up sleeping on the "sofa's" of this thrift store at night for a few weeks. I was literally homeless just kind of hanging in the balance. No one knew about it but me and the person who ran the place. During the day, I volunteered in the store full time while looking for a paying job all the while.

The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months volunteering in the ReStore...and continually looking for other ways to work, and live, and eat, and get around. But as fate would have it, it seemed my destiny was to stay right there until an opportunity came along to become the Development Coordinator for the county Habitat For Humanity.

In order for me to take this position, and I was gonna if at all possible!, I had to become an Americorps/VISTA volunteer. What the hell was Americorps? And what the hell was a VISTA? And VOLUNTEER?...AGAIN? No. NO. Unh-UNH. NO WAY!! I needed a PAYING job and I needed it YESTERDAY. But the wheels of fate were already in motion and I started the application process for the position. All the while, the people who ran the local HFH were just sure I was sent to them by God to fill this desperately needed position in their office.

I found out that Americorps/VISTA is a national volunteer program that focuses strictly on fighting poverty in the U.S. Americorps was founded in 1965 - a division of the Peace Corps. All kinds of charities in this country use Americorps volunteers to fill positions to get the work done they need done. People who sign on to become VISTA volunteers sign on to live at the same poverty level as the state they live in. Each state's poverty level is different, so the stipend (living allowance) the volunteers receive are based on those poverty levels. When I took the Americorps oath of office, I vowed to live at poverty level for my full service year.

I became a VISTA - VISTA standing for: Volunteers In Service To America. VISTA is a leadership position. VISTA was founded by Americorps in the early 1970's to combat poverty in this country. I needed to be a VISTA in order to take the position with Habitat. So my application was pushed through and accepted. Within a month I was going to PSO in Atlanta - Public Service Orientation - and would be starting the job as soon as I returned.

PSO was sooooo great. It was four fabulous days of learning and fellow-shipping with others. It was great preparation for what I was going to be doing in my new job. But the greatest part about it all was the actual work itself. My job as a Development Coordinator was primarily grant writing. I was the one to raise the funds to build the houses. I was the the one to develop the method by which the money was raised. It was a very hard job in some respects, but very rewarding work when seeing the end result of what those funds did.

In my time at Habitat in South Carolina, I saw some deplorable living conditions. I saw families that were living without water and electricity...which means no heat in winter or air conditioning in summer...and the sweltering summer temps in SC reach 115-120 degrees with the humidity heat index. I saw families living with gaping holes in roofs and floors of the houses they lived in. Walls falling down. Exposed insulation. Houses crawling with bugs and mice and rats. It was incredible some of the things I saw. Most of those people don't live in those conditions by choice.

Most of these people have fallen through the cracks of our country's system...in every form the system exists. But some of these people DO choose to live that way in order to draw benefits from local and federal government agencies so as to not have to work. They find ways around various stipulations and draw benefits they truly don't deserve...and those are the people who push hardest to have a Habitat home built for them. But Habitat has a hard application process that involves months of interviewing, screening, back ground checking, credit checking, reference checking, and the list goes on for prospective families. From the time an application is filled out to the time a house is actually built, the time frame is usually two years. Because the screening process is so intense, the odds are VERY good that the family who gets a Habitat home is truly deserving.

There's a stigma attached to Habitat for Humanity that's absolutely false: Habitat homes are NOT built just for Afro-Americans, and those who have a Habitat home DO NOT get them for free. Actually, 67% percent of homes built are for whites (that number fluctuates from year to year)....because there are just as many poverty stricken white people in this country as there are minorities. ALL those who have a Habitat home built for them must pay for their houses.

While the house is being built, the applicant must put in 500 hours of 'sweat equity' for the down payment. 60% of that sweat equity has to be put in before the build is started. That can be in any form, such as putting in hours at a Habitat office doing office work if needed, or cleaning, or running errands, etc... it can also be in the form of putting in hours in a ReStore in whatever capacity the store needs extra bodies...and they ALWAYS do. They can even participate in the building of their own homes. It takes a LOT of work and a LOT of time to rack up those 500 hours.

Once the 500 hours have been put in, then a mortgage is drawn up on the house, usually financed through the Habitat chapter that's doing the build. The payment on a Habitat home is substantially less than what anyone else would pay for a house elsewhere. What would normally be a $800-$1000 per month payment on a brand new home of these particular sizes and qualities, a new Habitat home owner pays around $250 per month on a 15 year fixed mortgage. It's a pretty sweet deal when you see what they're getting. But they certainly don't get it for free...and they don't get it easy.

I was fortunate in my service year with Americorps and Habitat in South Carolina to see some of these houses to completion. I followed the chosen families from start to finish in their process. I witnessed these houses being dedicated and the families take their first steps into their brand new homes. I witnessed a lot of happiness...and a lot of pain and tears. I saw what the fruits of my labors accomplished. I learned that there is sooooooo much more good in life than bad, including my life.

My sweetie and I each completed our service years with Americorps as VISTA's. Yes, he was a VISTA also and that's how we came together...and worked together, and struggled together, and cried together, and laughed together. He was the director of the Habitat ReStore I volunteered in for so long. He was the one I met at the gig that night and he thought I was Stevie Nicks to 'enth degree'. He was the one that hauled me and my junk to the ReStore when I had no place else to go. He was the one to see in me the potential to do good for others in the capacity in which I have done. He is the one I've chosen to spend the rest of my life with.

I lived that service year at poverty level. It was tough, but not like what I witnessed when researching some of the Habitat applicants. I didn't live in deplorable conditions, or suffer in the way so many of those people do. In my 'poverty', I found immense riches in the forms of a new family in Habitat and Americorps, and in the satisfaction in the work I was doing, and...I found a new me in all of that.

My life became a pretty sweet deal when my car blew up. But there was no way to see that at the time. That's what's been so great about all this. I discovered it's about the journey. It's never about the 'stuff' you have. It's never about the next thing you're trying to buy. It's never about how much more money you can make. It's never about any destination, in any capacity. It's about the journey. The journey is the destination, and the prize. In the ride, there is curiosity, and discovery , and joy and pain, and tears and laughter. In the ride there's growth and the gaining of personal strength and integrity. In the ride there's healing in brokenness. In the ride there is peace.

My sweetie and I are seriously considering doing another service year with Americorps. We really and truly can't see our lives without it right now. We can't see ourselves not doing this kind of work in this capacity. President Obama signed in an act (Serve America Act) a few months ago expanding the number of Americorps volunteers creating endless opportunities for volunteer work that is sooooo desperately needed in this country. You can read more about it at www.americorps.gov/ . It's a ride I'll take as many times as I can as an Americorps/VISTA. I love what I do. I love what it accomplishes. I love the sustainability my work achieves.

It's worth throwing a job in corporate bull to the wind to do what is truly God's work: taking care of those who can't take care of themselves by giving them a hand up. It's worth every poverty driven stipend penny, because yes, I do make a difference. And poverty is all it's cracked up to be...and then some.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Colorful Monday, Even Though It's Gray Outside

<------ Don't forget to feed the fishies! They're ALWAYS hungry ;)
(For feeding instructions, see yesterday's post)

Today's post comes with a fair amount of excitement about the stash of sewing, knitting, embroidery, and crafting supplies I have slowly been building for several months now. With it comes a lot of reflection of where I've been in the last two years and the realization that life truly is good for me now.

I'll start with this picture of my little stash of embroidery and sewing stuff.

This is so exciting for me because it's been two years since I've had access to anything like this. I used to have rooms full of this stuff not so long ago from years and years of sewing, quilting, knitting, and crocheting. I've been putting this together little by little over the past few months. It has grown to a nice little wad of stuff to keep me busy in the creating department...aside from the knitting

I've gotten most of this at JoAnn Fabrics (I prefer Hancock Fabrics, but it doesn't exist in New England). I shop A.C. Moore and Michaels too. I used to do the vast majority of my fabric and notion shopping at WalMart, but since the pea brains who now run the company have decided to do away with the fabric department in their stores (Mr AND Mrs Sam Walton are rolling over in their graves), I have been forced to resort to shopping the fabric and hobby stores who use hiway robbery tactics to run their businesses. They don't have Wally World for competition any longer, so they've jacked up prices on EVERYTHING where needle craft of any kind is concerned. But if I look hard enough and long enough in these places, I can find some pretty good deals on a few things here and there. I don't do online shopping for these kinds of things, especially for fabric and yarn because I need to be able to see and feel for myself what I'm getting before I plop any money on anything.

I do like A.C. Moore though. I've shopped them for years in conjunction with WalMart...and they've always been competitively priced with WM, in the areas where they both carried the same items. I can always get better yarns there - as WM has never really sold anything but cheesy acrylics...and still does. A.C. Moore is a lot like the Hobby Lobby's I used to shop in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas years ago. Lot's of stuff for every interest at 'fair to middlin' prices. They don't sell fabric though. But they do carry a pretty good supply of sewing notions and quilting supplies.

My little stash of stuff here represents the rebuilding of my life in the last two years. As these tiny little bits and pieces of crafting materials have been slowly building over time, so have the tiny little buildings blocks of my life.

In the summer two years ago, I made a decision to do away with every material thing I owned...and I do mean EVERYTHING. I was divorced - again. The last one of my kids flew the coop to go to college...and then move back to Tennessee from where we lived in South Carolina a year earlier. I was alone, in a big house, full of nearly thirty years of stuff and memories.

Depression had gotten me down sooooooooooo badly that I literally couldn't function in daily life. I was sitting at home, trying to recover from two colon surgeries that were only three months apart. When I started feeling better from the surgeries, then the depression of where I was in life set in. I spent a whole year doing nothing, but laying in bed, eating, watching TV, and sleeping. And I preferred to sleep more than anything else. It got really, really bad.

Then one day out of the blue, a little light went on in my head about it all, and I forced myself to get up one evening, get dressed up, and go to my favorite karaoke bar. Well, had been my favorite when I was still married and we used to go there together a couple of times a week to sing and throw darts. But it dawned on me that what I loved to do more than anything, or used to love, was singing. I did it for a living for a lot of years. It was time to get out and sing again. That seemed to do the trick and I was up and about and functioning again and participating in daily life.

But a few months later, I was struggling financially. The job I had didn't pay enough to make ends meet and soon I had to move out of the house to take a place that was much smaller and less expensive. I had to give up the dogs and the cats in the process...which I still don't cope with today, because parting with them was literally one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

When I moved out of my house, I gave away quite a few things, donated a lot to Goodwill, and put the rest in storage for a year and a half. I struggled to pay the monthly storage fee, but did keep it afloat until a time came when I decided it was time to part with it all. I sold every last bit of my belongings out of storage, save for a few carefully selected bits and pieces of memorabilia, like photos, and a very minuscule amount of knitting and crochet stuff...mainly my hooks and needles - and my books. I kept a few keepsakes my kids had given me over the years - and my clothes...well, the clothes that were fairly current. I donated the rest to Goodwill. That's all I kept. The rest was sold off and I haven't really looked back.

I realized somewhere along the way during that period of "coming back to life", that material possessions weren't what really made me happy, nor were they what mattered in life. I realized that material possessions weighed me down. Seriously weighed me down. I had years, and I do mean YEARS of stuff I had worked so hard to accumulate. Stuff that I thought at the time was giving me joy and fulfillment to the max. It truly was like "he who dies with the most toys wins". But it was all just stuff. That's it. Stuff. And 'stuff' doesn't matter.

I fretted for eighteen months about how to pay my storage bill each month to preserve my 'stuff'. I fretted all those months trying to have a place big enough again to put all my 'stuff'. I worried that I would never be a whole person again without all my 'stuff' around me. I swam in a world of 'stuff' and all it did was make me sick. I felt physically ill from worry about it. The stress of trying to keep up with it all messed with my head. It just flat made me ill and wore me out.

In the time since I relinquished most of my earthly possessions, I've bottomed out in my life in a lot of ways. Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Was literally homeless for a little while. Was without a vehicle for that period of time also. But what I did have was people around me who cared. Total strangers in fact. Strangers who reached out when I had no where else to turn...strangers who found me. I didn't go looking for them. It was a scary time. But also a phenomenal life changing experience.

This time in my life was a time of total stripping my life of the old. Stripping me of the old and making a way for me to start my life anew without years of baggage, materialistically, and emotionally. It was a VERY hard time, but also a VERY good time for me. I met someone who I'm crazy about and we make a life together now. I've moved to a part of the country I've never lived in before, but always wanted to at least visit someday. I was given the opportunity to do some phenomenal, life changing work. I've been given the opportunity to start life again with different kinds of 'stuff', but this time it's with 'stuff' that matters.

My very first post to this blog was mainly about my love for yard sale-ing. I made a big 'to-do' about how I looooooooove this particular activity. I made a big deal about some of my finds at the first sales of the season. And that's all true in this respect: I do love to yard sale and similar activities. I always have. But this time it's different because I'm doing it for the 'need' and not so much for the 'want'. There's a big difference there. The need comes from needing to furnish a new home now. Yard sales, thrift stores, estate sales, and the like, are necessity now more than anything. Don't get me wrong here. I still looooooove the thrill of finding such great deals on great stuff. But the thrill is even bigger now because the need is great and the funds are limited. So it's a challenge trying to get the things we need on the budget we have to do it with. But it's soooooooo much more satisfying now knowing I'm being truly productive with my shopping and creating a home that's both functional and comfortable.

The goal of my shopping these days is not to buy a lot of stuff, but to select what's necessary to life and the extra things that come along once in awhile are so much more of a treat today. I don't aspire to have a house stuffed to the rafters with 'stuff' ever again. I just want what's needed and the few little extras that make life fun - like my little stash of sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet supplies.

For years and years, I had two extra bedrooms and a den filled full with all my crafting stuff. I used to move ALL of that stuff with me all over the country, which was often. And accumulated more each time I lived in a new place. Now I wonder what I thought I ever needed so much of that 'stuff' for. I'm so happy with my little stash...and perfectly content to keep it that way. It all fits in my sewing box, and my knitting basket, and a small box in my bedroom closet. My sewing machine sits in a corner in the dining room. I've no need for anything else. And the projects that come from this little stash of 'stuff' will be that much more rewarding. The rest is gravy.

My need to create is always strong. I've found that I can't completely do without something in that regard. That's why this little stash is so exciting. It gives me the opportunity to do a few of the things I love to do most in life. This little bit of 'stuff' doesn't make me who I am though. My house filled with great finds from thrift and junk stores, yard and garage sales, estate or any other 'sale' of any kind DOES NOT fulfill me, make me truly happy, or make me who I am either. Simply the precious people around me, and my critters, and the opportunities I'm given to do good for others is fulfilling and makes me happy and content. The ability to create in so many different ways is God given and I choose these days to do it to benefit others.

I look at my little stash of stuff here and see how colorful it is and the sacrifices and hard work it represents. The colorfulness and the cheerfulness of it matches my life today. Small things. In small amounts. A little at a time. And how colorful it makes my life today...even on a gray, wet, gloomy day as today. But gray (grey) is a color too. It can't be all that bad then.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Feed The Fishies!

See the little fishies swimming around in the upper left hand corner of the page? You can feed the fishies!

1. Move your cursor to the fish tank.
2. Left click your mouse or tap the pad on your laptop to dispense food. (You will see little orange dots of food start to appear)
3. The more you click or tap, the more food the fishies get.
4. Watch the fishies rush to the food to chow down!
5. Wherever you move the cursor to dispense food, the fishies will follow!

Now how fun is that? And you don't even have to clean the tank !! ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Found My Thrill...On Blue Berry Hill

For the past two weeks it has done nothing but rain here in New England. It's been gray, sometimes a little too cool, and terribly, terribly wet. Ideal conditions for baking really - the gray and cool part that is. But today was beautifully sunny and warm - 80 degrees. And VERY humid.

So today it was VERY warm. It's REALLY humid now with the heat. A steam bath when you walk outside...and I decide to turn the oven on and bake. Will wonders never cease where my brains are concerned? It IS in constant state of fart ya know .

But the thing here is yesterday my sweetie's mother gave me a half pint of fresh blue berries. Beautiful, big, plump, juicy, sweet, fresh from a local grower's garden blue berries. I knew immediately I wanted to make muffins with them (well, really muffin batter in a cake pan instead of muffin tin), but was busy yesterday and didn't get to it. So this morning I decided that at some point today I would defintely do the deed. But my schedule was jam packed this day also.


I decided to do them this evening when things slowed down some and it had cooled off a little too. Around 8:30 pm was good enough for me and mix up a batch I did. It did heat up the house a little, but the pay off was worth it.

Gawd! did they taste good straight from the oven with a big 'ol hunk of butter. Summer never tasted better.

And to all you lovely peeps out there in bloggy land; here's my recipe for fab, light, fluffy, juicy-berried, perfect for summer snackin' blue berry muffins:

1 1/2 Cups Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder (make sure it's fresh)
1/2 Cup Vegtable Oil (I use Canola)
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Milk
1 Cup Fresh Blue Berries (a half pint = 1 cup)

Topping (optional)

1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Butter, cold and cubed
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.
Grease muffin pan (or cake pan, which I prefer).
In medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
Place vegetable oil in measuring cup.
Add egg and milk to fill cup.
Stir lightly and add to flour mixture.
Fold in blue berries.
Fill muffin or cake pan.

Mix together topping ingredients with fork.
Sprinkle on top of muffin mixture.

Bake 20 - 25 minutes. (30 - 35 minutes for cake pan)

Eat warm from oven with big 'ol glob of butter.

Now ain't that easy...and tasty y'all?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Knit Pickin'... An 'Ode To Granny'

When it comes to crochet, I love the classics, especially the iconic 'Granny Square'. The granny square has been used throughout the generations for everything from afghans, to dresses, to toilet seat covers...and then some. See http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/ for some fab examples of the craziness grannies get thrown into. It's versatile indeed. But it gets a bad rap too. The poor thing.

I know there are some out there who don't care much for the granny square. I see it in other blogs I read from time to time. It's made fun of in sitcoms on TV. Even some monthly crochet publications aren't too crazy about it. And I must admit, there are some things I think the granny square should NEVER be used for. But no matter the verbal beating it takes, it still endures as a classic in the world of crochet and is the almost always the very first pattern learned when learning how to crochet. I taught it to all of my daughters when they wanted to learn to crochet. It has been my favorite my whole life, and I have been crocheting for 41 years.

My first memories in life of the granny square comes in the form of an afghan my mother had. It was the traditional black 'patch work' with multi colors thrown in and was made by her mother when my mother was a child in the 1940's. It was always draped over the back of our couch. It was made of wool and I remember it being somewhat scratchy to the touch. But I loved to look at it and run my fingers around the different bright colors in each square. It was a staple of my mother's living room decor for years and years. Eventually it became rather thread bare in spots and my mother retired it to her bedroom to preserve what was left of it.

When I was six, I remember coming home from school one day to find my mother sitting in the recliner in the living room crocheting. She had a laundry basket on the floor next to the chair being filled with what I thought was numerous pot holders! I remember asking her why she was making so many pot holders. She didn't correct me at the time and told me "just because". Later that evening I would find out why she was closed mouth about her project as I exclaimed to my grandmother that "mama was making a LOT of potholders!" Turns out, my mother was making an afghan for my grandmother for Christmas...and as my sister and I both had BIG mouths and could never keep secrets about anything, mama was content to let me believe she was making an endless amount of pot holders. But that didn't keep me from getting smacked in the back of the head for my announcement either. She did tell me a little later on what she was doing and threatened me to within an inch of my life if I told. So I never told and my grandmother was moved to tears that Christmas Eve with my mother's gift to her.

But that November in 1968 was when I learned to crochet. I beeeeeeeegged my mother for months to pleeeeeeeeeeeese teach me how to crochet. I wanted to learn so bad. My mother didn't have patience with us as kids and she never really wanted to give in to a lot of the stuff we wanted to do, mainly because it meant her having to clean up immense messes we made from whatever it was we were doing. And it also meant her having to answer endless stupid questions about every little thing...of which she was not a fan. But eventually she broke down and showed me the basics. I think probably just to shut me up and quit bugging her about it. But no matter, I was gonna crochet !!!

I learned to thread crochet first. She dug through her crochet stuff and found a ball of crochet thread she didn't really have plans for and a hook and set me to chain stitching. I thought I was something and somebody brother! I was making miles and miles of chains and it never stopped. But there came a time when I tired of the chain and wanted to make "pot holders".

My grandmother was the one to teach me to double crochet and turn that into the granny square...and make the transition from thread to yarn. She had MUCH more patience with me than my mother and loved the teaching process for both me and my sister. She would proudly display our crooked, ratty looking little attempts at grannies everywhere. She would even take them to work with her and show them off to the little old ladies in the nursing home where she worked.

These little old ladies who sat in their rooms all day and crocheted, turning out afghans like they were being rolled off a toilet paper roll, would send home granny squares they had made for us for inspiration. They would also send home doll blankets and doll dresses they'd made for us. From time to time, my grandmother would take me and my sister to visit these sweet little old ladies and they would make such a fuss over these two cute little girls who were crocheting their hearts out. It was great fun, and I know for me personally, what these little old ladies did all day was great inspiration for me...and still is today.

Over the years, I've made several versions of the black patchwork afghan. I wanted one of my own that was like the one my mother had on the couch for years. I've done different variations of it also. I did the 'mile a minute' strip afghans when those became popular back in the 80's. I've done ripples and log cabins and pineapples and the list goes on and on. But I always come back to the granny. It is 'home' for me where crochet is concerned. It will never fail to fit in wherever I happen to put it in the house. I made granny square afghans for all my babies when I was pregnant with each one. I've made a few for the grand babies too. It is truly a classic, and no matter what anyone says about the granny square, it will always be a classic. It will never go out of style.

I finished the knitted green scarf I was working on this past week and picked up an afghan I started back in April. I'd put it down for a while because the itch to knit became overwhelming -again. But am determined to finish the afghan before I take on any more knitting. And, gawd! I have scads of knitting projects in my head I want to get to. But finishing the afghan is priority right now
The pics you see here are the current project. This is my 'Providence Rose Garden' granny. It's about 3/4 of the way done at this point. I hope to finish it over the weekend. I needed something red when I started this.

Believe it or not, this is actually going to end up in an old rocking chair that sits in the corner of my dining room. Sounds dumb I know. But this chair needs something and the room needs some color, so this is what I've opted to do. My kitchen and dining area have little bits of red here and there and this will brighten up the corner quite a bit where the chair sits...and make it a little more inviting to sit. I love to sit in this chair. This will be perfect come winter time with the granny to put over my lap. In the meantime, while it's too warm to snuggle, it will add a bit of life to this corner of the room.

My sweetie is from Providence, RI. We live 30 minutes from there in SE Massachusetts. The inspiration for the afghan came from what I've seen of the the history of the city and the place where he grew up. Brown University is in Providence. Beautiful campus with lots of flowers. The oldest Baptist church in the U.S. is here. I've seen the house where my sweetie's dad was born on Federal Hill. The old textile mills and the thousands of old Cape Cod style homes that are built on the hill sides of the city are a sight to behold. The Rhode Island State House and it's grounds are beautiful. The neighborhood where my sweetie grew up is old and homey and beautiful. The Water Fire festival that's held here in fall and summer will be an inspiration for another afghan down the road.

I just wanted something that commemorates my sweetie's home and the beauty it has to offer. So 'Providence Rose Garden' was born. I hope it will be a staple of my home's decor for many years to come.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Cats In The Cradle"

My mind has been in a muddle since last weekend about some family stuff and I've not been able to concentrate on much of anything else. I've not done any writing during this time, nor have I done much knitting. I've kind of let my current life fall by the wayside while I've dwelled intensely in the past.

I caught up with my brother (finally, after four years) a week ago and he gave me the news of my step dad's passing a little over a year ago. I'd not known of my dad's whereabouts either for a good many years, but I was not surprised to learn that he is now gone.

Without going into detail, I'll just say that my relationship with my stepfather was not a good one through the years. He was a real son of a bitch when we were growing up and it caused a HUGE rift between me and him, and me and my mother...and caused me to literally run away from home at the age of 15 - never to return to their house to live again.

In later years, my mother apologized to me for all the crap that happened during those growing up years. We mended fences and got an opportunity to have a real mother-daughter relationship the last ten years of her life. I think it was God prepping us for what would be difficult days for her...and for us in her final year here on earth.

It's strange that the news I got about my step dad's passing comes only three weeks away from the eleventh anniversary of my mother's passing. She died July 5, 1998, the day before my youngest child's' eleventh birthday. And this coming Tuesday, June 23, would have been my mothers 68th birthday.

This news this week has put me in a place I haven't been for a very long time. I've been in a world that existed long, long ago, reliving in my head a lot of my child hood and the later years when we had better relations. I've relived the time my mother was struggling with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), to which she eventually succumbed. I have also been struggling with immense regret and time lost for so many of those years. Time that I should have taken to be more attentive to the family of my youth instead of working so hard to put all that behind me and move on.

My brother and I have talked several times this past week. We talk about what we are doing today and eventually the conversations end up being about the way we spent our childhoods. This is something we've not done much of through the years really. We've touched on it here and there, but always end it at just touching on it. Now that our dad is gone, it's almost like we have permission to talk about this stuff now. Before, we tip toed around certain subjects almost like we were afraid he would find out we were talking about these things. And to some degree, I felt ashamed of running him down so much because I knew my mother would never have approved of such hateful talk. But what was always said was never anything but the truth...and still is today.

I think what I have the most regret about is the fact that I didn't have sense enough back all those years ago to realize that if I didn't pay more attention to others instead of myself so much, maybe things would have been better back then. Youth is most certainly wasted on the young.

For some reason, God saw fit to not give young 'uns a lick of sense about anything in life. Instead, He gave us this cocoon of self centeredness and rudeness and stupidity that we're supposed to break free of, and in the meantime, we create all this shit that eventually causes huge amounts of regret. I think if kids were given some wisdom and a little common sense at birth, maybe there wouldn't be so much turmoil in the parent-child relationship department. At the very least, kids should be born with a smattering of 'respect your elders' so that all hell doesn't break loose that to which inevitably leads to losing precious time with family...whom does eventually pass away.

Thinking about the old days and comparing it to where am today is a hard thing to do. The way I grew up has had immense influence on the way I've lived my life since I left home. For some people, if they've had a lot of bad during their childhoods, they try hard not to do those same things as adults. Some take the good of their growing up years and carry it forward. In my case, I've done everything. In my early adult years, I did only the things I knew...which was mostly bad, unstable type things. As the years rolled by, I learned through trial and error, and lots of mistakes that there are much better ways to live life than what I knew as a child. I'm still learning.

Today, I'm a lot different than I was back then. I think the biggest difference in me between now and 25 years ago is that I've learned to forgive and to forget. I used to harbor a lot of hate and resentment towards my folks...especially my stepfather. That hate and resentment spilled over into other areas of my life...and as a result, I lost a lot of people and a lot of things that were precious to me.

I figured out, the hard way, that harboring hate and resentment doesn't do anything. It doesn't accomplish anything. It doesn't solve anything. The only thing it does is turn one inside out with twisted, debilitating, anger that ends up ruining a person, inside and out...sometimes for life. And in turn ruins those around them because it can't help but spill over onto everything else that person touches.

I held a lot, and I do mean a lot of hate for my stepfather for too many years. But in the last few years of my mothers life, he ended being a pretty stand up kind of guy. He quit drinking. He quit smoking. He quit physically, verbally, and emotionally abusing his own children. He learned to truly love and cherish my mother the way she deserved. And in turn, she learned to love him the way she knew it was supposed to be. They were happy in their last years together. It completely broke my dad's heart when she died. He never wanted anything else in life but her. Once the alcohol and the tobacco and the hatred were gone, he finally saw her for who she really was, the way she really was, and pampered her the rest of her life. When she was gone, he was gone too.

Two months after my mother passed away, my step sister, my step dad's first born child and daughter died from complications of colon cancer. She was only 40 years old. She truly was my dad's baby and loved her like no other. She was special. She was born with cerebral palsy, but lived the most phenomenal life. She went to college and got her degree in language arts. She married and had two sons. She was my best friend during our growing up years.

He lived almost ten years longer than my mother and his daughter. It really is a shock to us all that he lasted that long...because of the horrid life style he lived his whole life..and because of the heartbreak he suffered from losing my mother and his daughter. He spent his final years with my step brother in Arkansas.

I don't know the details of what kind of life he lived those last ten years. I can only hope they were comfortable. I'm pretty sure the bottle became his best friend again during that time. I guess he felt like that's all he really had left in life. He was crippled with severe arthritis and couldn't do much of anything. He had emphysema the last 20 years of his life. He and I only spoke with each other three times after my mother died. I saw him only once during that time. I kinda wish now I'd have made more of an effort to keep up and keep in touch. More regret for me to wrestle with now.

I made my peace with my folks long ago about all the crap we endured during those growing up years. I made peace with myself about all of that too. I let go of all the hate and the resentment and the horrid memories from what should have been an innocent, joyous time as a child. I've moved forward and done things to the best of my ability to be a respectable human being. But mostly I've let go. Let go of so much bad and made room for the good. There's so much more good to life and to people than there is bad. It's so easy to see the bad. It's harder to find the good sometimes. But it's there, and it's there in immeasurable abundance. We just have to be willing to see it and accept it.

I hope my dad is at peace now. I hope he is finding the rest and the joy and the comfort he sought all his life...and I hope it's with my mom. May they both rest in peace.

Knit Pickin'

An update on the green scarf:
I should be done with this by now, but I've not done much knitting this past week. Have been pre-occupied with other stuff and this has fallen by the wayside as a result. I picked it up again yesterday and made a serious dent in it's progress. I hope to finish it this evening. Tomorrow at the latest. Am ready to move on to other things. This is about 3/4 of the way done right now.

I have an afghan partially done that needs finishing and want to do that when the scarf is finished. I started crocheting the afghan a couple of months ago, and put it down to delve into more knitting projects. It's time to finish up unfinished projects.

That's my head though. I get started on a project, and then all these other ideas for other projects flood my brain and suddenly I MUST start something else. It drives me batty because I'm slow to finish projects to begin with: I'm not the fastest knitter in the world...and don't aspire to be. Or the lack of money slows me down. Can't get to the next batch of yarn. Or I get side tracked by something completely unrelated to crafting.

So, first I need to learn to be more disciplined in 'finishing what I started' before I move on to the next thing. And that's such a haaaaaaard thing to do. I always want to do more, and halfway scared that if I don't 'do them all RIGHT NOW', I'll lose my inspiration for some of it and THEN WHERE WILL I BE? I shudder to think.

Oh well. One thing at a time. It's all good.

Have a knit pickin' good weekend, ya'll!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Motion Sickness While Knitting? - Youbetcha!

I spent all of this past weekend sick. It kind of came out of the blue. I had a bad case of the trots and a very queasy stomache to go along with it. At first I thought it may have been caused by some chinese take out we'd had the previous day. But it lasted too long for that. I finally concluded that it was a bug of some sort and it was gonna have to run it's course...while it had me running to the bathroom every few minutes for the better part of 72 hours. It was not fun.

I hadn't been ill like that in quite some time. It took me by surprise and really disrupted my normal daily routine, if you can call what I do a routine. But the fact remains is that it sucked... and it screwed up my days for about three days.

In the interim, I tried to find ways to keep on top of things that still needed to be done, like the shopping, and errand running, and figuring out meals, and taking care of the critters, blah, blah, blah. I did the bare minimum of those things....yes! the critters stayed fed and watered, so don't even say it. The rest of the time, I would plop on my bed (mainly because my bathroom is only 5 feet away) and try to ride the waves of ill that would wash over me.

Normally I knit a few hours every day. I do stuff online each day too. I write the blog...and read a bunch of others also. There's always the daily email bull shit to sift through. I respond to those worth responding to; the rest get trashed. But as I tried to wrestle with being physically miserable, I also wrestled with this stuff . Reading wasn't doing it for me. The TV was of no interest. Listening to music didn't wash. Doing computer stuff was pretty much out altogether. Eating was TOTALLY out of the question. Attempted sleep would be interrupted by running to the bathroom every few minutes.

The only thing I found myself half way wanting to do was knit. I was still working on the alpaca scarf and wanted it finished sooner than later...as I have a gazillion other projects in my head I want to get to also.

I attempted to knit several times over the course of this 3 day 'puke and shit' fest. Each time I would pick up the knitting and start to find my rhythym, waves of horrid nausea would wash over me. When I put the knitting down, the nausea would subside. I did this 3 or 4 times in the course of one day and deduced that I was getting "motion sickness" from knitting.

It all had to with the rhythmic clacking of the needles and watching those needles go uuuuup....and dooooooown. Uuuuuuup.....and dooooooown. Uuuuuuuup....and dooooooown. Now mind you, I don't really knit as slow as those waves of "ups and downs" make it seem. But for some reason, while knitting, it felt like I was doing it in slow motion...on a slow boat to China.

In reality, I get horrid motion sickness while reading in any kind of a moving vehicle. I CANNOT do it. If I do, the driver will eventually have to pull over so that I can jump out and "toss the poverbial cookies". Knitting or crocheting, not so bad while riding, but I do have to limit it some what or I end up with a banging headache. But this whole getting sick while knitting thing was just fucked up.

Apparently my brain equated it to 'reading while riding' whilst I was sick. The cross hairs in my brain short circuited about halfway between my hands and my stomache and decided that this was "toss the cookies" time. It didn't straighten out until the bug had run it's course. I gave up on knitting altogether during this time and was rendered 'useless' on all counts.

Once the bug had past, I settled into finishing the scarf I started a few days earlier and knocked it out in a couple of evenings.

Moral to the story: Chinese take out - good. Knitting - good. Slow boat to China - OK. 'Puke and shit fest' combined with all these things - BAD. Never knit and shit while on "slow boat to China".

Knit Pickin'

I finished the alpaca scarf I was working on last week. It only took a couple of days to complete the project. This was an enjoyable thing to do. It's an abbreviated version of a cable knit. I like the soft tucks as they twist through the length of the scarf. It's heavy and perfect for the harsh cold that can exist here in New England in the winter months. It goes into the stash of things that are going to be offered up for sale later this year.

I started another scarf yesterday. This one is made with Naturally Caron 'Country' merino wool blend. The color is 'green sheen'. It's wonderful to work with also. This will drape and hang beautifully on a coat/ jacket or alone as an accessory to a blouse or a casual dress. It's being done in the same abbreviated cable but with three columns instead of one. It should be pretty
nice when it's done.

I think this one will take a little longer to do because the ply is much smaller. It is a twelve ply cable and looks like really big embroidery thread. But the stitches are nice and I can tell it will shape nicely when it's finished.

It has done nothing but rain here for the last two weeks. There's really nothing to do but sit and knit. Yard sale-ing has been a bust because of it. I get out and walk every day but I think am gonna have to keep it in today. Just too damn wet. BUUUUUUT.....the upside to the down trodden weather is that I do get to knit...and knit...and knit. Even Cat and Dog allow me to do so as they just sleep when the weather is like this. Dog goes into 'rain mode' and won't go outside 'til it dries up. She'd rather explode than have to go outside to pee-pee and risk getting her feet wet. Wish I had a bladder of steel like she does. The rain just makes me have to go pee-pee...every 30 minutes. It's ridiculous :p Cat just sleeps in his little bed under my bedside table. It's cozy and sometimes I wish I could stuff myself under there and snooze the day away too.
Well, back to the knitting for now. Am still vascillating about whether or not I wanna get out and walk today. I go around noon or so. That's about an hour from now. Maybe I'll get lucky and drift off into 'snooze land' myself whilst I knit. Yes, I think that will be the plan for the day after all. The rain ain't so bad ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Playing the Quiet Game

Life can get pretty noisy at times. Most times it's hard to hear the silence. With all the things there are in today's world that cause noise, it's a wonder we aren't all deaf.

In 1968, at the age of six, I was in the first grade. My teacher then, Mrs. Ballard, had a hard time with noisy six year olds. She was always having us play the 'quiet game'. I guess it was her way of keeping us in check and keeping herself from losing her mind amidst the chaos.

The quiet game always consisted of us having to put our heads down on our desks, not looking at our neighbors, and not making a sound until she told us to raise our heads. Those quiet games felt like an eternity to me. As a six year old, I don't think I had any real concept of time, but those 'quiet games' felt like they lasted a life time. I'm sure, thinking back on it now, they couldn't have lasted more than five minutes. But five minutes to a fidgety, rambunctious, having the attention span of a flea six year old might as well have been a life time. And it never failed, I always got a case of the giggles...which I ALWAYS got in trouble for.

The giggles came from two sources: 1. The class cut-up, a boy, who always disrupted class for whatever reasons, found the quiet game prime opportunity to show off his greatest feats of shenanigans, usually in the form of smelly bodily noises...on purpose. Those times were hard to keep quiet when such fabulous performances were offered (fabulous to six year olds). The whole class would have the giggles and therefore we would all end up with some type of punishment...usually in the form of a note sent home to parents, or not getting to go outside for recess that day. And the instigator almost always got a paddling out in the hall.

2. I hated the quiet game. I couldn't take the silence. The giggles seemed like a good way to break the silence and it let me know there was life still in the room. I couldn't stand the quiet. It was a scary thing to me. For some reason, silence felt like death all around me; there was nothing alive to make noise and it literally freaked me out.

As the years rolled on, I always needed some sort of noise around me. In junior high and high school it was music. Whenever I could, however I could, I listened to music. I was not fortunate as a teenager to have a record player, or my own radio as a lot of my friends did. So finding ways to listen to music became a creative thing in itself. But usually my folks had the radio in the kitchen on until late into the night, listening to Bill Mack, The Midnight Cowboy, on WBAP (AM radio) out of Fort Worth, Texas...and I would have to settle for that. I couldn't go to sleep at night without that radio being on. My mother was an avid TV watcher and when my dad worked nights, she had the TV on most of the night. So that became a source of comfort also...listening to Johnny Carson and old movies as I lay in bed hoping to fall asleep before midnight.

When I left home and got married, I couldn't go to sleep at night without the radio beside my bed being on. I had a clock radio and I would put the music on just enough to hear it without it disturbing my newborn babies. During the day, I would always have the stereo on playing my favorite records or my favorite radio station. If the stereo wasn't on, the TV was. And it was almost always on sitcoms and cartoons. I had to have bright, colorful, happy, positive, noisy programs to keep my spirits up and to ward off the feeling of doom and gloom. My kids grew up with loud music and LOTS of cartoons.

My world was noise in some form or another 24/7. It was that way for years and years. When I married a second time, that changed to some degree. My new husband couldn't sleep with the radio or the TV on...and for the longest time, I slept on the couch in order to listen to music as I went to sleep. But the separation was awful and eventually I learned to sleep without the music at bedtime. I wanted to sleep next to my husband and so in turn, I forced myself to bear the silence. Eventually it became the only way I could go to sleep and still is today.

Throughout all the years, I've always sung in one fashion or another. Sung in church. Was always in choir in school and usually cast as lead vocalist in school musicals in high school. I've been in bands for years. I ran my own karaoke company for years. I worked as a KJ for other karaoke companies for years. The music was ever present...and always loud. I loved loud, full sounding music. I loved MY music loud. I wanted others to participate with me in loud music.

When my babies were born, loud music didn't seem to bother them. I listened to lots of loud music while pregnant, so I truly believed they were accustomed to it by the time they were born. They would sleep through it all. And when they were fussy, the music seemed to sooth them back to sleep, or to a place of contentment. Loud music was a way of life for me nearly my whole life.

Later on, when I entered the job market, computers and cash registers and over head music and noisy customers and announcements over head and the constant chitter, chatter, clang and bang of the retail world was all part of normal for me. When I got home in the evenings, all that was replaced with the music or the TV. The noise of traffic and sirens screaming and garbage trucks at five a.m. never bothered me. It was all a part of life. It was alive and death didn't loom because the noise was life.

About a year ago, out of the blue one day, it hit me. Hard. About just how noisy my life really was. I had been experiencing a very tough time for a while and it had me living and working with someone I didn't know. We spent 24/7 together for months. The place we worked was a thrift store of sorts. He ran the place. I volunteered full time, not by my choice really, but because the hand of fate dealt me the circumstances and I truly had no choice in the matter.

This store was busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. And noisy. Lots of customers. The phone always ringing. Other volunteers constantly chattering. The music over head always on. The traffic outside constantly hustling by. Someone was always bitching about too much work or cranky customers or about someone else who worked there. They all bitched about something...every single day. Merchandise constantly coming in and in need of sorting, pricing, and displaying...which was noisy in and of itself. The constant 'soap opera' of other volunteer's lives was ever present. There was never a quiet or dull moment in this place.

After the days business ended and the store closed, the person who ran the store...and with whom I was living with at the time, would sit. and talk. and drink. and listen to loud music 'til way late in the night. There was lots to talk about. Lots of reasons to drink. And the music and the alcohol blew off the days commotion. When the music went off, the TV came on...and stayed on all night.

During these months of hard times, there were always people coming at me from all sides telling me what they thought I should do with my life and how to go about it. EVERY ONE had an opinion. There was CONSTANT noise in my life, about my life. In addition, there was the constant noise inside my own head about my life circumstances (like I didn't think about this shit all the time as it was and what they were telling me was news to me? I don't think so!) and all that was around me every minute of every day. It was noise and commotion surrounding me and costantly churning in my head round the clock. It never shut off.

After a few months of struggling to get on my feet with my life, an opportunity finally came to get my own place. It took some wrangling and some wheeling and dealing, but finally a deal was worked out on a nice apartment and I could start the trek of finding some normalcy again. By this time I was romantically involved with the person I'd lived with and worked with all these months and we moved into the apartment together.

As we settled into a different place and a different kind of life together, amidst the continual playing of an Eric Clapton CD...and very noisy neighbors...and a very noisy neighborhood...and the constant chattering at me from outside sources about what other directions my life should take - I snapped. Out of the blue one evening I just couldn't take the noise any longer. It had never dawned on me before how much noise there was in my life, but here I was in all this commotion for months and months and months and something inside me gave way and said NO MORE NOISE. Period. I had a breakdown of sorts, I guess.

It was a shock to me when this happened. I was astounded at the fact that music was now an annoyance. The TV was rudely disrupting. People talking to me, about anything, was a huge intrusion. The phone ringing was apalling...like "how dare anyone even think of calling me". The very things I took comfort in my whole life were now alien and nerve wracking. I was horrified. But the only way to deal with it was to dwell in the quiet and seclusion and hope to find my way back to at least some of it someday.

I proceeded to completely black out the bedroom windows. There was no TV in the room for a while. I never turned the clock radio on. I used the laptop for an occasional DVD if I needed mild diversion from something, but that was rare. When I occupied the room, the door was always closed. I just needed some place that was quiet. Some place to shut out all the noise. It was my place of reclusiveness because I'd not been alone, or in the quiet for months...years really. I needed to be alone, in the coolness, in the dark, in the silence. It was hard to get up and go to work each day because of all the commotion that surrounded me in the work place. My bedroom was the only place on earth that offered solitude and some peace.

Today, it's still much the same in needing to find the quiet times. The "quiet game" is something I now relish and play frequently. I still have to search hard for the quiet time. If I'm not alone in the house, the TV or the music is always on, which is OK. It lets me know there's life abounding in our home. But I've gotten to where I don't turn the TV on during the day anymore when I'm alone. There's enough noise around me as it is with the constant buzz of neighborhood lawn mowers from fanatical keepers of the lawns...and sirens screaming down the main drag only two blocks away...and 'jeep boy' who lives down the block continually racing up and down our little street with his loud ass jeep, his loud ass buddies following right behind...and their thumping music to boot. We are right in the flight path of our local airport. The dog and cat run and play and bounce at each other pretty much constantly. There's a lot of noise no matter what time of day or night it is.

What's so crazy about all this noise stuff is that I'm very hard of hearing. Have been all my life. I 'feel' more noise in my bones than I take in with my ears. I'm extremely sensitive to sound vibrations no matter what the source...and it seems like the older I get and the worse my hearing gets, the louder the noise becomes for me.

I have to read lips while someone is speaking to me to fully understand what's being said. And you wonder how someone who is nearly deaf can spend a life time singing, successfully? It's all about the feel...and yes, that translates into pitch control and singing on key...successfully. Just one of those things.

I spend a lot of my time today trying to create focus and balance in my life. I find I don't need the music so much any more...usually only when I need to fill my soul. And when I do watch TV, it's for the sheer enjoyment of it; not to fill in the quiet. I still have to have bright, vibrant, happy, positive, usually comedic type programs or music video channels to watch. Can't deal with the doom and gloom of detective, and court, criminal/forensic investigative, and blood and guts, murder, and sleuth TV has to offer. That will be something I'll never reconcile. This stuff plunges me into deep, dark depressions that are hard to pull out of. My nature is to be fed with happy stuff in that regard. I Love Lucy, and Andy Griffith, and Friends, and MASH, and Roseanne (yes, Rosanne, because I seriously identify with a lot of the content) and old cartoons and an occasional movie of happier proportions will always have to be the menu of TV watching for me. And my very favorite of all -the Greater Tuna series of plays on DVD. I soooooooo seriously indentify with this content....and laugh 'til I pee my pants.

Knitting brings me peace. Sewing and quilting bring me peace. Singing brings me peace. There's peace in the nature in my own back yard. I find peace in my relationship. I find little things everyday that bring me peace in one way or another. Focus and balance comes in the quiet moments. The quiet game has become a daily staple. It offers the offset to an otherwise very noise existence...which I think we all live in today. It's about paring down those things that cause the most unecessary noise and living in the noise that's necessary to daily life and finding tranquility in what's been done away with.

Getting freaked out about the silence and crying because I hear no noise doesn't happen any longer. The doom and gloom and death-like feeling of the quiet is gone too. I relish the times when the sound vibrations are at a bare minimum...and look forward to those moments when quiet abounds. I have learned to love "the quiet game". It's not such a terrible thing after all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Knit Pickin'

Am working on a scarf right now to add to the collection of things that will be offered up for sale later on this year. I have several knitted projects in the hopper at the moment and bounce from one to another so as not to get burned out with each particular project. The scarf you see here I have just started. It is being made with a sumptuously soft Alpaca wool from Bernat - Natural in color. I looooove working with this stuff. The softness I feel as I work with it is relaxing and soothing. It is even more wonderful to wear.

I seem to do most of my knitting and crocheting in the warmer months instead of the more traditional colder months, as most knitters and workers of fine spun goods tend to do. I think my yearn to do this stems from my childhood.

During summer vacations from school, my mother and grandmother would each find things for me and my little sister to do...to keep us out of trouble mainly, and to stay cool when it got to be too hot to play outside in the central Texas summer heat. One of the first things they would do is go through their yarn stashes, select bits of it they didn't have plans for and set us to crocheting.

I always loved digging through their boxes and bags of yarn. It was like going through a treasure chest and finding diamonds and rubies and sapphires and emeralds. The colors of the yarns were always so bright and vibrant...and my favorites were always the calicos (they call them ombre and varigated now). My sister and I made lots of pot holders and doll blankets with the beautifully colored yarns.

My grandmother preferred to knit and my mother preferred crochet, though they each did both. They were traditional cold weather practitioners of the crafts. In summer months they sewed and quilted. I'm just the opposite. Yarn calls to me when it's warm, and sewing machines and quilt frames holler at me in the cold. I believe the latter also to be because of the 'reversal' to keep us occupied during winter vacations from school. Whatever they weren't doing is what they would have us do.

So my 'bass ackwards' method of seasonal crafting keeps me busy year round and seems to serve it's purpose: the warm and wooly things I work on in the summer are ready to snuggle under and wear by the time it gets cold. The light, cottony, sewed and quilted things created in the cold, are ready for spring. Seems like a pretty good way to go about business...and scratch the itch of itchy knitting fingers for now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Expanded Bustlines, Smelly Good Stuff, and Victoria's Secret

I have a secret love affair with Victoria's Secret. Sort of by nature, I'm not much of a shopper...at least I don't much enjoy actually getting out and doing the deed. That doesn't mean that I'm not good at it when I do go shopping - I just don't "live to shop". But Victoria's Secret is my silent indulgence in the world of shopping.

By all rights, according to the industry standards set by the companies who create and manufacture beauty products and lingerie; the fashion industry; advertising agencies; the entertainment industry; the media; and the public in general, it should be against the law for me to even set foot in a Victoria's Secret. VS doesn't cater to women like me.

It's not news that VS is especially known to flaunt it products by using models who don't even begin to closely resemble the women of the 'real world'. These "angels" used to tout their products are concocted by men to capture the fantasies of men the world over...and in turn, to make women believe that if they buy and wear all these fabulous products they offer, then they will be able to fulfill the fantasies of men the world over. Hmmmfff...

I'm a girl of rather larger proportions...especially in the "housing of the girls". I'm built like my mother's family - big boned, big busted, broad shouldered, wide pelvised, tall, German women who carry a lot of meat on those bones. We were built for trodding along behind plow horses, hefting 100 pound feed sacks, carrying yokes loaded with a dozen filled water buckets for miles, and popping out babies like Pez dispensers . We are not a petite, demure, especially feminine form of the species.

I carry most of those traits. Now mind you, I'm not a line backer by any means, and the boys say I clean up good. I have my moments. I'm just not a size double 0, 87 pounds, and 5 foot nothin'.

I'm fortunate in that in my 47 years, I've managed to not look as old as I really am. If I brush my hair some and put on a little makeup, people will tell me they think I'm in my early to mid thirties. Give 'em a doggie biscuit! And I rarely stand up to correct their stupid assumptions. I just say "thank you" and move on. I so seldom get to hear the truth about much of anything these days ;). It's not something I've done on purpose through the years to try to keep a youthful look to my face...at least not labored over it. Whatever it is that floats around in my genetic make up dictates it for the most part. My mother was always very young looking for her age, at any age, and so was her mother. I got some of that and it has served me well...especially in the music industry where looks are 99% and talent is 1%...in that order...in order to be successful in a career...but I also worked my ass off to to find that success.

I was aware of VS for a few years before I ever tried any of their products or set foot in one of their stores. During those years I pretty much thought it was slutty advertising. of slutty products. by slutty women. for slutty women. I didn't consider myself slutty and therefore had no need or desire to validate their slutty efforts by giving them any of my slutty - oops, rather, hard earned money. Slutty was just something I did not do...or so I thought.

Many years ago when I was living in Dallas and singing for a living, my friend Libby gave me some VS toiletries as a gift one Christmas. She told me where she had purchased them (in case I wanted to exchange), which happened to be in the same mall where I worked part time (starving artist singers gotta eat too). I was always aware that VS was there but I paid it no never mind. It just didn't appeal to me...and I was a child of WalMart, because of budget...and ignorance.

The gift she had given me was a gift set of body wash and body lotion. It was "red apple' scented (that later I would learn was only available around Christmas time). I was a little afraid to check out the pink potions she had given me: 1. I'm sensitive to lots of stuff like that and have to be careful about what I use or I get these horrid, big ass rashes that don't go away for weeks; 2. I was a little intimidated by the fact that this was from Victoria's Secret. I shoved it in the bathroom closet and didn't think about it again for a couple of months. Fortunately, Libby never asked me what I thought of the stuff.

One evening as I was showering and getting ready for a regular gig, I discovered that I was just about out of all the things I normally used to 'clean up' with. I had just enough shampoo for one more wash, but 'nary a drop of body wash or bar of soap. I hadn't had time or energy to go shopping to restock (in those days, I sang from 8 p.m. til 2 or 3 a.m. six nights a week, and got up early the next morning...usually hung over...for my job in the mall five days a week. There was nooooooo energy or time left for much of anything else). I dug around in the closet where I kept all that sort of thing and discovered the ONLY thing left was the VS gift set given to me months earlier. I picked it up, looked at it a minute and decided that slutty or not, I wasn't gonna sing grubby. So I tore the plastic wrap off the package and proceeded with my normal shower routine.

I washed my hair first as usual. Then came the washing of body parts. I squeezed some of the red apple scented liquid in my hand, prayed HARD that I wasn't allergic to it, and set to scrubbing. As I smoothed this pail pink lotiony concoction over me, I was suddenly taken aback by just how WONDERFUL this stuff smelled. It was like cutting open fresh picked apples straight from the tree - which I HAVE done and KNOW what that smells like. No cinnamon. No spice. Just sheer, juicy, crisp apple. The fragrance alone sent me reeling. Next I noticed how silky and sensuous the lather had become. It was the softest, sexiest, most luxuriating feeling. I was in heaven. I wanted to stay in this cloud of sweet smelling deliciousness and lavish in it's sensuous layers of silkiness forever. But darn it all, I did need to speed it along some and be at work on time. So I ~reluctantly~ hopped out of the shower to proceed with the rest of the routine.

Since the shower gel was so sinfully delicious, I HAD to try the body lotion. I slathered it all over and got the same rush as in the shower, only this had longer lasting effects. The next day my skin was sooooo soft and smooth....and I didn't break out into rashiness either. This was the greatest stuff ever, and by God, I was gonna get more! I had instantly been transformed into one of the soldiers in the slut brigade...and I was gonna give 'em my slutty money!

The next day during my lunch hour at my job in the mall, I scurried down the hall to the VS I had so adamantly avoided all this time. I discovered the store was divided into two sections: one side for the lingerie - one side for the smelly good stuff. I puttered around in the lingerie for the slimmest of minutes...and then followed my nose to Nirvana.

When I reached the other side of the store, I couldn't believe what I saw...or smelled. Walls from bottom to top FILLED with potions, lotions, scrubs, perfumes, and colognes in all all sorts of colors, textures, and fragrances. I was a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to feel and smell each and every one. But my time was limited, so I asked an associate for the red apple scented products. She showed me what I was looking for and I bought three, as they were 3 for $21. I thought that was an amazing price for such rich indulgence. I had struck gold. During the remainder of my tenure as an employee at this particular mall, I went to VS as often as possible to browse and shop until I moved away.

I've moved around the country quite often over the years. Every time I relocate, there are three things I look for as soon as I get there: 1. Sonic Drive In; and tied for 2nd place: WalMart and Victoria's Secret. If those things don't exist withing a five minute driving time for me, I don't wanna live there. Just can't do it.

Fast forward to today: when time allows, I still wander around in VS. I've spent all these years shopping when I had the money, and window shopping when I didn't. I still do. No one has ever really known about my love for this place and the things it has to offer. It's my secret little indulgence I prefer to keep to myself. I love to go alone and take my time without influence of a BFF. or a boy friend. or a husband. or an anything. I even over look the baked on, sprayed on tanned, with the overly colored, processed hair, and excessively made up associates with their VS push up bra's pushing these gals boobs up to their nostrils (look up and take a breath girl!). These women still don't give me the time of day, even when I'm giving them my slutty money, because I don't "fit the mold" of the desired VS customer. But they sure don't have a problem taking my slutty money when I buy a shit load of their slutty products.

Side note here: Something that has always stewed me about men and VS is that when a man (and I've known a few through the years who pride themselves on being such GREAT gift givers and have done this very thing) is trying to decide what to get as a gift for a woman who has recently lost some weight..usually a LOT of weight...the first thing that pops into those pea sized, pricky minds of theirs is a gift card from VS. Because suddenly she is attractive enough to wear the push-ups and the thongs. "Oh please take it. Enjoy. You'll feel like a new woman because 'damn girl' you look goooood". It never even begins to cross their minds that the rest of us "tub 'o lards" might enjoy being on the receiving end of that same gift card....because "damn girl" we smell gooooood, if nothing else. Dick brains.

I can't wear a stitch of anything made from any kind of fabric they have to offer. But I sure can, love, and do wear the layers of sensuousness in fragrance and potion for skin. It's never been about hoping to be transformed into an 'angel of desire' if I use what they sell. It's always been about how it makes me feel feminine and beautiful to me. If I don't feel it, no one else will either. It's indulgence for me, myself and I. I revel in femaleness and the things that go with that. In the times I have money, I spend it in VS. In the times I'm broke, I still go browse, play, experiment, and walk out smelling like a french whore. It's fabulous.

VS has made design and layout changes in their stores over the years. The lingerie has expanded to include jeans and shoes and sportswear...all of slutty proportions of course. And they've even started to acknowledge the fact that some of the 'bigger' girls of the world would like to buy a bra every now and again. They offer sizes up to a 38DD now. That still leaves me out. The packaging and fragrances have changed too. There are some things that I used to buy religiously that are no longer available today: like the red apple. It will always and forever be my first love of the sumptuous potions. It's like your first real love of a boyfriend. It sticks with you forever and that particular feeling never surfaces again, no matter how many different guys you date...and sometimes even the one you marry. There's only one first love. It is truly special...including VS.

The men in my life through the years have never really known about my love affair with VS. Most of them (the ones I've been serious with) knew that I would buy some of their products from time to time. I've always had baskets in my bathrooms filled with VS products for my own use and for the pleasure of those who visit me. Those men have known me to be be pretty prim and proper for the most part, about pretty much everything in life. They've never really known the slut that exists within me. Even the man I'm with today doesn't really have a clue of these things about me, I don't think...and it's just as well.

No matter who we are, where we are, who we are with, how we were raised, or the modesty restrictions we do or don't put on ourselves, there's a little slut in all of us. Some of us just prefer to be particular about who we reveal it to. In this case, Victoria's Secret knows all my slutty little secrets...and I don't think she's gonna tell.

Victoria's Secret sluts of the world unite!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fiesta Ole' Salmon Anyone?

I'm feeling a little hopeful now. I planted the impatients my sweetie's mother gave me. It felt good to do a little digging and plant something for real this season....finally.

These are double impatients. The little label spikes in the pots they came in say they are "Fiesta Ole' Salmon" in variety and color. Cool. Pretty fancy name for such a small blossom.

But the simple pleasure it brings is immeasurable.........