The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lead Me Not Into Temptation, I Can Find It For Myself

Dear Yarn Company (you know who you are):

Thank you so much for the (road to hell) catalog that you sent me, along with notification of your giant, end of summer sale. While I'm certain that you are (rubbing your hands gleefully at the thought of the money that will flow your way from my pathetic, unresisting hands) pure in intent, I feel that I need to inform you of my little malady.

There was a time when yarn was, to me, simply yarn. It was pretty enough but I noticed it peripherally at best, and then only if I happened to walk by that section in K-Mart (read my post on trailer trash, and this will become clearer to you). Around the time that I was feverishly unravelling a pink mohair thrift store sweater while riding an exercise bike, and CERTAINLY while I was attempting to pull the mohair out of the gears of the bike, I realized that that innocent time was gone. I could no longer take or leave the yarn. I had become powerless over my addiction.

What I think you do not understand is that words like "Elsebeth Lavold Angora, $3.99 a skein" is to me what the words "free beer" are in that aforementioned trailer park. Likewise the phrases "up to 70% off", "limited time only" and "closeout". I am weak, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

It gets worse, though. See, you and I both know that I have no use whatsoever for 2700 yards of safety-cone-orange yarn in mismatched dyelots. However, offer it for $2.57 a skein, and the idea of a knitted safety vest with gently graduating shades of orange will suddenly seem logical--even appealing to me. I don't have a baby, and I don't have any friends with babies, but put the baby yarn on sale and just watch me stock up on enough yarn to outfit every kid in the cabbage patch. Twice.

I would need to adopt a family of barefoot centipedes in order to make my shamefully huge sock yarn collection seem logical...but I see you have some sock yarns on sale and I'm starting to wonder if the centipedes have any cold-footed cousins. I dislike boucle yarn, but show me a sale on Artful Yarns Legends for $4.79 a ball, and I can see myself in a boucle sweater...even if all you have left are two balls in lime, three in cat puke color, and one that was dropped in the toilet.

It's a sickness, I'm telling you. Lately they're saying that they may make video game addiction a legitimate diagnosis; I say I could take one of those pasty, puny, couch potato teenagers without even trying--but just let him try to come between me and my discount angora blend.

In any case, I have one favor to ask you: I will send you a photo of my yarn stash, now not only accumulated to beyond life expectancy, but well beyond the life expectancy of elephants, blue whales, sea turtles, and even twinkies. Please circulate the photo to all yarn companies. You won't even need to send along a note--it will become apparent that I should be immediately cut off. No responsible yarn company would let me knit in this condition--much less sell me more yarn.

If you cannot do that, then please send me the following:

5 skeins of the Kimono Ribbon in the pink/sage/cream colorway
20 balls of Filature di Crosa Baby Kid Extra in assorted colors
Several of the yarn grab bags
A carpenter and architect to help design and construct the new yarn room on my house
A winning lottery ticket so that I no longer need waste valuable knitting time working
Three extra sets of arms so I can knit four garments simultaneously
Some new foam to fill in my assprint on the couch where I like to knit
400 hours worth of books on tape to listen to while knitting so that I can pretend to be improving my mind (feel free to put trashy novels in covers describing them as some sort of "important" literature)
A maid and a cook to further free up my knitting time
A washer and dryer that will actually fold the clothes and put them away
100 cold, naked people (preferably friendly and fond of knitwear)
Some sort of cure for the need to sleep

Thank you so much for your attention to this matter. I remain

Your addicted knitter
Ms. K

p.s. You're all bastards.
p.p.s. Can I through some of the Nashua Painted Forest onto that order?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Toes Go In First

When I was a child I remember seeing a cartoon where a man of questionable intelligence had his shoes labelled TGIF--for Toes Go In First. I thought it hysterical at the I'm starting to wonder if that wasn't an eerie glimpse into the future of my country. For you see, I was making a pasta dish this evening, using some pre-packaged fresh pasta and I happened to glance at the directions in order to be certain of the cooking time. It was then that I saw the following: "Directions: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan (I guess there goes my idea of cooking it in a teacup). Remove pasta from package....." and so on. I admit that there is such a thing as boil-in-bag food, but this was a plastic BOX. And the frightening thing is the realization that this had to be put on the label because someone somewhere tried to cook the damned pasta in a plastic box and couldn't figure out what went wrong. See what I mean? Scary stuff. These are the people who share the road with me each morning when I go to work, after all.

It made me wonder what I'm going to see next. For instance:

  • Underwear: Place one leg in each of the smaller holes. Do not attempt to place them in the holes simultaneously. Pull up until crotch of garment is as close as possible to anatomical crotch. STOP PULLING UP.

  • Fork: Pierce desired food with pointy end. Place carefully in mouth. Do not pierce tongue. Stop pushing into mouth if you begin to gag.

  • Disposable Diapers: Place on rounded end of baby with permanent vertical smile and no eyes. Fasten securely. Change when damp or smelling foul.

  • Couch: Place rump on cushions. Lean back. Do not attempt to cook while using.

  • Toothpaste: Dispense small amount onto brush designed for the cleaning of teeth. Rub back and forth on teeth only. Do not brush eyes or nostrils. Do not attempt while driving. Do not use to marinate lamb.

  • Telephone: Pick up receiver. Say hello. Wait for response.

  • Rake: Place pointed bits against the ground. Pull towards you with gentle pressure. Stop if you feel a sharp pain in your foot. Lift rake off foot, place against ground, and try again. If pain returns or blood appears, stop using rake at once and try to find someone with two brain cells to help you.

  • Knife: Place pointed end against food to be cut. Push or saw carefully. Do not store in couch cushions or toy box.

  • Keys: Insert in lock. Turn. Open door. Repeat as necessary.

  • Shower: Turn handle until water comes out of shower head (big silver thing up above your head). Step under it. If a burning feeling in the skin is observed, step out and turn knob until water is no longer scalding.

  • Milk: Pour into glass. Bring glass to lips. Tip glass up while opening mouth. Swallow. Repeat. Do not mix with bleach, hair dye, nuclear waste, algae, or ground glass.

  • Pen: Place against paper. Move hand to make lines. Do not shove into ear.

  • Paper Bag: Open bag and stand it on a flat surface. Place items inside bag. Pick up bag and carry to desired location. Do not use to transport live fish, battery acid, tuna casserole (unless in a dish), flaming swords, electric eels, used hypodermic needles, barbed wire, or carpenter ants.

  • Coffeepot: Pour hot coffee into mug. Do not drink directly from coffeepot. Do not pour coffee into lap as this will cause painful burning of crotch.

  • Mixer: Place in food to be mixed. Press "on" button. Move mixer around until food all looks the same. Do not attempt to lick beaters until machine is turned back off. Do not use to style hair.

  • Socks: Toes go in first, one sock per foot. Placement of both socks on one foot may result in sweating of one foot and chilling of the other. Putting heels or knees into socks first may result in damage to the sock.

  • Buttonhole: Push through buttonhole directly opposite button on the same garment. Do not button skirt to sweater, as this may result in partial nudity when neither garment is properly closed. Manufacturer not responsible for indecent exposure arrests.

  • Pom-Pom: Wave around while yelling enthusiastically. Do not set on fire. Do not dip in sauerkraut. Do not stitch several together and use as a bra.

  • Car radio: Push "on" button. Listen to music. Sway, sing, or bop around as desired. Musicians and disc jockeys are not really in car--do not attempt to convince them to perform only songs that you like or try to get them to sing it your way.

  • Scissors: For most people, just put them down and walk slowly away from them.
I told Gussie about all this....she says she's not a bit surprised, as she always knew cats were far superior. As far as she's concerned, the cat food bag reads: "Find human. Meow non-stop for as long as necessary to get them to feed you. Under no circumstances appear grateful in any way."

In addition to bemoaning the state of future America, I did get some knitting done but it looks the same as it did in the last pictures only a bit bigger so I opted not to put more pictures up just yet. I also did some sewing and produced this scrub top of my own design:

The picture was taken at an odd angle--I promise the pockets aren't crooked even though they appear to be. The trim is ribbon in sparkly turquoise and light blue, and the top is pale blue although it appears nearly white in the photo (my camera apparently doesn't have clear enough instructions). I'll be putting a label in it, of course:

  • Place over head and put one arm into each sleeve. If choking sensation occurs, check to be sure that v-neck is in front. Do not wear without pants. Do not allow breasts to hang out of v-neck. Do not rub with tuna and walk through alley full of cats. If it repeatedly bursts into flame, stop wearing it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Free Range Mind

It dawned on me when reading your comments--besides that you all are the coolest people I know--that it probably seems like I am visited on a terribly regular basis by the bad-day fairy. Not true--although it IS true that my face was attacked by an evil-minded virus bent on ugliness and I DID iron my fingers and the deer absolutely munched down on my coral bells (the apples on one of our apple trees, too, but I don't mind that so much--we have lots. You just always have to remember to check the apples at the Knitingale house for deer spit .), I really didn't have all that bad a week. It's just that "I'm enjoying my job, I have a great hubby, and we sat in the hot tub every night this week" just doesn't have the same humor potential as ironing one's fingers. I figured I ought to own up to that, lest you think a black cloud the size of Romania was hovering over the Knitingale house.

There is, however, a largish cloud hovering over the clinic where I work, or perhaps the f*&%-up fairy has a fondness for their electrical equipment, because the second refrigerator since I've been there went crazy yesterday and froze a bunch of the antigen. Since our shotroom gives allergy shots with that antigen all day long every day, and since freezing it ruins it, this was a problem. The guy who works in the shotroom spent all day going through it and identifying what had to be replaced; I volunteered to stay after work and help him mix down new stuff. The strongest mixes didn't freeze, so we could inject it into bottles of diluent to make new mixes of the weaker stuff. We went through all 150 bottles of diluent bottles we had in stock going alphabetically through the shot patients.....and got through the L's. Amazingly, writing labels for 150 bottles, drawing up thick antigen, injecting it into a bottle, drawing up some of that and injecting it into the next bottle, and so on for 2 and a half hours is actually not as fascinating as it sounds, which means the Knitingale mind got to wander freely for that time period. I know--me, with a free-range mind for 150 minutes. It's worrisome. But, if you have the courage to read on, I offer you:

News From the Mother Goose Morning News Show (don't ask....the path to this bit of weirdness is very convoluted indeed--but it's far more entertaining than a description of the assorted antigen stains on my new pink scrub pants):

"The Bear family today reported coming home today to what was apparently a home invasion in progress. The perpetrator, seemingly exhausted from her food theft and vandalism, had fallen asleep in one of the beds but fled the scene upon awakening to the sight of the Bear family gathered around her. She had been muttering something in her sleep about hard chairs and soft beds.

Mrs. Bear had this to say: 'I don't mind so much about the porridge--although, if she was hungry, I wish she'd just asked. But my son's chair is in pieces and that was a family heirloom!' The chair in question was hand carved from maple and was, it seems, too small for the bottom of the vandal. Police have no solid leads at this time, but believe it to be the work of the criminal known only as 'Goldilocks', due to her flowing mane of blonde curly hair. She is suspected in a number of home invasions, including one with a boy believed to be her brother in which they stole candy off the outside of a home while the owner was present, and then pushed her into her own oven. The owner, a practicing witch, survived the incident but was quite shaken. She installed hurricane fencing the next day.

'Goldilocks' is said to be about 4'9" tall, with blonde hair and a fondness for sweets. She seems to prefer to work alone, but may be in the company of a small boy. If you know anything about this criminal, you are asked to contact the Mother Goose Police department.

In other news today, the giant has reported another theft of his golden-egg-laying goose, right after spotting a strange new plant in his garden. He states that a boy appeared to be using the plant to gain access to the giant's home where he went on a robbery spree, stuffing thousands of dollars worth of gold coins into his satchel and escaping down the plant with the goose under his arm. The police received an anonymous tip from someone living next door to a man named 'Jack'--the caller has observed Jack jumping over candlesticks nightly and believes that he may have been practicing for the leap from the plant necessary to access the giant's gold. Jack has not been seen since the theft took place, and the neighber believes he may have fled the country.

Picketers surrounded the home of Snow White today, bearing signs and shouting slogans related to what they perceive to be her lack of moral character. One picketer said this: 'She lives there with seven little men! It ain't right, I'll tell you that. I don't even want to let my children walk by this house! What am I supposed to tell them?' Snow White insists that she is employed by the men, and only serves as a live in housekeeper, but neighbors aren't so sure, reporting seeing dancing and hearing music at all hours in the little house. Some of you may recall that Miss White entered our city under a cloud of suspicion, when her stepmother mysteriously died immediately after Snow awoke from a persistent vegetative state. There were rumors that the vegetative state was the result of poisoning by the stepmother and that this provided motive for the murder, but no evidence was ever found that definitively implicated Miss White.

Humpty Dumpty is recovering in Mother Goose Memorial Hospital this morning, after tumbling 7 feet from his garden wall. Hospital spokespeople report that Mr. Dumpty suffered multiple fractures and is listed in fragile condition. No word yet as to what might have led to the fall.

Finally, in lighter news today, Princess Sophia is said to have found a frog today that spoke to her and asked her to kiss him in order to turn him into a handsome prince. The Princess declined the offer, but kept the frog as a pet, pointing out that 'this kingdom is lousy with princes--but a talking frog? Now THAT'S cool.'"

I's scary where my mind wanders to, isn't it? I'd try to explain it, but one of our heads would probably explode.

Happy knitting to one and all. It's the weekend, and I'm going to try to sneak in some time with the needles myself--but no ironing. Definitely, no ironing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mr. K Can't Figure Out How I Ironed My Fingers

I told him it was a virus. He didn't believe me. Personally, I think that's a very suspicious attitude to have and I think he'll feel quite badly when he realizes I was telling the truth all along. See, it all started like this:

Monday, when I went to work, I looked more or less normal. Or, at least, as normal as I ever look (a clause the phrase "I looked normal" that carries no small amount of weight, given that I am currently wearing a scrub top with children's crayon drawings all over it, including one of a camel labelled "two lump camel" which I find nearly unbearably hilarious). I continued to look like whatever I usually am pretty much all day. And I went to Knit for Life. And I drove home. (I know--wildly exciting day, eh?) On the way home, I noticed a sore spot at the corner of my mouth. It felt like I might be getting a pimple. Nothing more. By the time I got home it had revealed itself to be a nasty, throbbing, pulsating cold sore the size of George Bush's ego, which had gone from zero to "I look completely hideous" in about 12 minutes. I don't think that's fair.

Cold sores are, in my humble opinion, nature's way of saying "You don't need to go out in public anyway, do you? I mean, you have a computer." But I have to work for a living (still no luck getting that job as yarn tester--another thing I don't understand. I'd be TERRIFIC at it.) so I went to work yesterday and hoped against hope that NO ONE WOULD NOTICE. Because, you know, how would anyone ever notice a giant red neon sign at the corner of your mouth saying "I'm infested with dread disease!", right?

I tried looking away from people all the time...but for some reason it seems that trying to do pin-prick skin testing of 24 substances on an arm while looking away does not inspire enormous confidence in the owner of the arm in question. Picky, picky, picky. I thought of wearing a bandaid and saying I cut myself shaving.....while sighing sadly about some strange, made up hormonal condition. I decided that would be no less embarrassing, though, so I gave that one up. Then I thought of saying something mysterious and cryptic like "Well, the circus will have to pay my medical bills for this injury, that's all there is to it. I told them it was crazy to use a piranha, but would they listen? Nooooo." or "Nothing like fire walking--at least, right up until you trip." or "Did you know that snakes don't like to be kissed on the lips? How come no one told me?" or "Don't ever drink tea right out of the kettle. Even if you're really, REALLY craving tea." Sadly, most of those things would imply that I was an adventurous spirit and, since I look about as adventurous as a pat of butter, that was unlikely to convince anyone that I was anything other than quite delusional. Mind you, people tend to stay away from delusional people, so maybe they'd stay far enough back to not see the hideous lesion that used to be my lip.

I thought of wearing a veil and telling people I was trying out a culture a week until I found one that really flattered me; I thought briefly of learning to walk backwards and hoping people would warn me before I ran into anything. I thought of bandaging my whole face for awhile and claiming that I'd had plastic surgery...but I figured they'd expect some type of improvement once I removed the that won't work. All in all, I thought long and hard about this thing and came up with oodles of solutions, all of them absolute crap.

Finally, I decided in a moment of Pollyanna-ism that made even me a little nauseaus that I would find something wonderful to wear to work today that would be so interesting and lovely that no one would notice the enormous supturating wound on my face. Turns out, though, that the one I wanted to wear needed ironing.

I should point out here that this "interesting outfit" idea came before I realized that the only thing I could wear that would distract anyone from the leperous looking hole in my lip was perhaps nothing at all....except a bag over my head. And honestly, if they didn't air condition the office so enthusiastically, I'd probably have tried it.

So, even knowing that ironing and I get along about as well as flying insects and large trucks, I hauled out the iron again (it's been a banner week for the iron--I've since had to put it away for a rest) and went to work on the perfect "don't look at my face, please" outfit (or next to perfect, right after pasties, a thong, and a bag). Since we know I love ironing almost as much as I love trimming my eyelashes with an electric hedge trimmer, I opted to turn on CSI in order to have something to look at. Turns out I should have looked occasionally at my hands--I certainly did once I ironed over two fingers. Pity I didn't look just a tad sooner.
So see? It was a virus that caused me to iron my fingers. Absolutely incontrovertible. And you know, I think a week that includes facial lesions and ironed fingers and a local deer inhaling half of a new coral bells plant as if it were the relish tray at Thanksgiving dinner and the turkey was going to be another two hours--

Well, that week ought to include copious amounts of chocolate. Truckloads.

It's not all bad news, though. Hiding out in the house as much as possible so as to avoid frightening the children does afford one some knitting time. Witness, the back of the blue birthday sweater:

and then the birth of the Celtic Jo sock:

This yarn is soft as a kitten, by the way. Jo, can you be a love and tell me what it is? Honestly, it's the most wonderful stuff.
Oh, and I also found out where kitties come from. I know, you thought it had something to do with a mommy and daddy kitty, didn't you? Not so--they apparently grow right out of the ground:

Ed's at the front, then Tippy behind him, and way further back near the top of the photo is Miss.

I'm off to go find a paper bag. And maybe some pasties. Then I will attempt to knit with the unburned fingers. Does anyone know where I can GET a truckload of chocolate?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dear Friends, Green Guilt, and Wearable Disco Balls

First things first, though--the dear friends. Look at the beautiful yarn sent to me for absolutely no reason (other than her very dear and wonderful nature) by Celtic Jo:
Jo, I apologize deeply for my lousy photography, which manages quite cleverly to capture none of the depth of color or inherent beauty in either of these yarns. The right is a stunning sock yarn in shades of teal (Ms. Knitingale-nip, in other words) and the other a deep sage chenille, just begging to be an elegant scarf. Thank you so very much, Jo. I love them both, and I will post pictures of what they become, just as soon as I find something truly yarn worthy.
Second, the green guilt. Seattle is a green place. By that I mean that it is literally green, what with all the trees and grass and other stuff shooting eagerly out of the ground but also that it is a very environmentally conscious place to be. It is a mark of pride around these parts to have a brown, weedy lawn, because it means that you didn't waste water or use herbicides (ah...Ms. Knitingale LOVES this concept). It is also a mark of pride to have a huge recycle bin and a teeny, tiny trash bin, to carry cloth bags with you to the market, and to ride a bike everywhere. I think this is a very great thing, of course, even as I admit that I fall a bit short. Oh, my lawn is definitely brown and weedy---I have weeds to spare, in fact--but I do drive to work, I don't hang clothes out to dry because I know I'll get distracted and leave it out there until next St. Swithins day (at which point I'll no doubt be delighted to discover the whereabouts of my underwear), and I use plastic bags to dispose of the less pleasant things that come out of my cats. (Okay, fair enough. Nothing pleasant comes out of cats. They are themselves quite pleasant...but whichever end spews forth, it can be relied upon to be unpleasant. But still. You know what I mean.)
Now, about those plastic bags. See, my indoor kitties feel compelled to produce copious amounts of poo, and those little plastic bags from the grocery store are just about perfect for disposing of said poo each morning so that the house retains it's reputation of not smelling like the monkey house at the zoo. I think this is a good thing. Mr. K also thinks this is a good thing. So I get the plastic bags from the grocery stores and I feel guilty and although I know I'll never be held up by the green folk as a shining example, I also don't believe I'm on their most wanted list (which is good, as being chased by people on bicycles waving clumps of broccoli could be terribly frightening). But.
But they recently put in a Whole Foods Market at the bottom of our hill. For those sadly unaware, Whole Foods is a veritable paradise for the environmentally conscious--every organic thing available, including clothing made of organic cotton. Huge amounts of beautiful produce. Everything a person on a limited diet could want--dairy free, egg free, wheat free, soy free, nut free (and some times all these at once, which always makes me wonder what could possibly be LEFT to put in these items, but I'm probably happier without that information. One must retain some charade of innocence.) Also foods for vegetarians and vegans, and food that has no refined sugars, no preservatives (which is a fast trip to moldville in our house, but I always persist in believing that this time we'll eat it fast enough--back to that optimist thing). Point being, I love Whole Foods, and I love knowing that I can eat most of what's in there and I love that it's just a lovely, green place.
Problem is, every time I go there, they ask me the same question that grocery stores ask country wide: "Paper, or plastic?" And I need the plastic bags for the poo thing, and I know I should just say plastic...but I never can. At Safeway, sure. But at Whole Foods? It seems sacrilege, somehow. And I just know that they would think less of me. Hell, an alarm would probably sound and all activity storewide would cease, and an indignant manager wearing an organic cotton shirt would make me put back my blueberry and flaxseed granola and go to the Walmart Superstore, where I obviously belong, to purchase the off-brand Cap'n Crunch that is clearly a better fit for someone of MY ilk. So, because I have green guilt, I get the paper bags that I will never use again (the clumps from the litter box tend to soak through them) and leave myself short of poo bags. I'm a sad, strange little person.
Oh, and if you're thinking I should get the biodegradable cat litter and flush the offending poo away, you're not reckoning with Mr. K's strange bond with the septic tank and his absolute belief that life would be significantly better if nothing were EVER flushed down the toilet. I firmly believe that in his perfect world, I would be willing to attend to my bodily needs beneath a rhodie in the back yard, thus leaving his Precious perfectly pristine and innocent. Seriously, dudes--if I would be willing to drip dry so that no toilet paper would sully it's walls, I believe he might just kiss my feet or something. So no. No flushable cat waste at Chez Hairball. Like I said, just a lot of green guilt.
Now, on to the wearable disco ball. I did some sewing today. This was not the start of the problem. The start of the problem was when I went wandering around the fabric store without a keeper and ended up with two yards of black fabric with irridescent butterflies (in my defense, it was on sale) for the express purpose of making a "new and unusual" scrub top. Anyone want a job as a keeper? Please?
I sewed all afternoon with much assistance:

In the pic above, I thought she was just trying to play with the strings.
Although, it should be clear in this one that she had something terribly important to say. And in the next one:

It should have been screamingly apparent that she was prepared to throw her body between me and the sewing machine if that's what it took. But I ignored the warnings. I disregarded Gracie's wisdom, and now there's no turning back. For I have, indeed, made...

.....a wearable disco ball. With pockets.

So, do you KNOW anyone who would want a job as a keeper? It doesn't pay well....but they'd get to make fun of me. It's not like I don't provide fodder.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dragging Out the Soapbox

I was going to title this post "Dusting Off the Soapbox", but those of you who are frequent visitors here (thank you so much!) know that my soapbox has about as much chance of collecting dust as our president has of collecting brain cells--so often do I trot the thing out (which cannot, alas, be said about our president. That said, I understand he just underwent a colonoscopy, so they may have found some of those brain cells.)

But, to get to the soapbox. This particular exercise of the soapbox started with a conversation I had yesterday with woman working at a store where I was picking up a couple of things on my lunch hour. Noting my uniform and name tag, she asked if I was using my lunch break to shop. I told her that I was indeed, to which she replied happily: "Oh, well that will be good for your diet then, won't it? Much better then Atkins!" Now, I understand completely that this lady meant me no ill will at all, no insult. In truth, she probably barely looked at me and couldn't say what I looked like now if 30 pounds of free cashmere (or whatever it is that muggles want) were in the offing. No, what bothers me is that this is how our society is. We are so obsessed with something as unimportant as a woman's body size (woman--not man. I can't imagine something like that being said to my husband, or any other man I know) that it's just part of normal conversation, like "how are you?" or "nice weather we've been having". I'm an adult female--I MUST be on a diet.

Our society has been talking about this very subject for years, so I know you're probably wondering what happened to Ms. Knitingale's brain to produce such a tired topic, but that's exactly my point: we HAVE been talking about it for years. And it hasn't changed.

We say that size has nothing to do with beauty, we say that we are weary of the coat hangers with hair that pass for fashion models, we say that we're fed up with having size 12 labelled "plus" or "women's" size and having all the clothes larger than that look like an explosion in a really ugly polyester factory.....but do we mean it? That is, do we mean us? Or do we actually mean that we'll be accepting of other women in all sizes, while still beating ourselves up with ludicrous expectations and standards? Check out some of the evidence:

  • There is a new diet pill on the market called Ally. It works by blocking absorption of fat. Because of that (and I'm sorry, but this is about to get gross), the fat has to go somewhere and people who eat fat and take this product are, according to the manufacturer, going to be prone to passing greasy stools, not always voluntarily. Their website actually advises people taking it that they may want to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothing to work. Now, if we all understood that health and beauty were more than numbers, if we all loved our bodies as they were, you'd think you'd hear us all laughing as we advised the manufacturer of this wonder drug exactly what he could do with it. But, the truth is, stores can't keep the stuff in stock. It's purchased as soon as it comes in, often in huge quantities, mostly by women, and mostly by people who aren't actually all that heavy. In other words, there are women today who would rather publicly soil themselves than be perceived as "overweight".
  • I was watching TV while I ironed the other day (don't worry, it's still the same Ms. Knitingale-I was doing a half-assed job of the ironing) and a commercial came on for some other diet product. A woman was talking excitedly to the camera about her weight loss, and when she mentioned that she used to be a size 12, she said it in the tones one usually reserves for such announcements as "I woke up and I was completely covered from head to toe in fungus". 12. Now she's a size 2, and the commercial shows her happily placing her hands on the waistband of her tiny skirt, as she announces "This is a TWO!" A two? Who over the height of 5' needs to wear a size two? More importantly, why is that considered an accomplishment?

Okay, so I'm in the healthcare industry, and I know that many illnesses are associated with obesity. But I also know that the medical guidelines are far less onerous than the public ones. I am 5'8" tall, and my doctor told me I could weigh up to 160 pounds without her feeling any sort of concern or considering me to be overweight. I weighed 172 in high school, and I worea size 160 would make me probably a 14. See what I mean? The health argument only goes so far. The public would call me fat if I was a size 14, even though my doctor would call it perfectly healthy.

I used to have a friend who was about 5'4". She weighed around 170 pounds, and she had wild, frizzy red hair and a gap between her front teeth. She was also one of the most beautiful women I'd ever met, and every man who laid eyes on her thought so, too. That's because she KNEW she was beautiful. She wasn't arrogant--don't get me wrong--but she loved her curves, celebrated her full hips and thighs, even dyed her hair redder from time to time just because she liked it. Flying in the face of every woman's magazine ever written, she refused to wear clothes to conceal anything, but dressed in things like pencil skirts with fitted sweaters and belts to show off her curves. Men adored her. In a room full of women, it didn't matter what the rest of them looked like--people flocked to her. Which goes to show you that we get to decide what's beautiful....she did. So then, why are we deciding on impossible things that make us unhealthy and miserable?

I'll let you in on a secret: when I am at a healthy weight, I have big thighs. They are rather doughy, and they touch at the top in a way that can have uncomfortable consequences in hot weather. This is true no matter how much I exercise. If I get thin enough (as I am now, due to trying to cut my fat intake--and yes, I'm working hard to reverse that) to actually have slim-ish thighs, my chest will be bony and my ribs will show. That's just the way I'm made. And I'm tired of being ashamed of them. I'm tired of tugging at the legs of my shorts to hide my thighs and I'm tired of dressing to hide them. This is my official decree: I am done abusing my body emotionally for not looking like someone else tells me it should. I love my thighs. Because of their strength, I can hike and ride a bike and all kinds of really wonderful things. I love them.

I hope you'll join me. I hope you'll all look long and hard at all the things that make you beautiful--and I read your comments and your blogs so I know just exactly how beautiful you all are, and it's enormous--and know the truth about all the crap that doesn't matter. Beautiful really does come in all shapes and sizes...and not just for other people. For you, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

That's it, Ethel--I'm gettin' my gator!

See Monica? You've laid down a I have to keep trying to come up with post titles that will make you giggle! How'm I doing so far?

Mr. K and I met December 9, 2003, and moved in together June 12, 2004. We weren't married until summer 2005, so we showed a little restraint...much the way I show restraint in my yarn and scrub collecting. Ahem. Anyway.

Around the time we moved in together, there was a tiny article in the paper about a Florida man who, allegedly, struck his girlfriend with an alligator. True story. (I didn't have to read all of it to know there was a trailor park involved, by the way....but I did and there was. I'm not entirely sure they weren't my neighbors at some point, if it comes to that. It sounds like something some of them would do.) He also threw beer bottles at her...which was my other good guess as to what transpired here. Trailor park, alcohol, 6 foot reptile--it's a trailor trash powder keg, people.

Mr K and I kept the article on our fridge (largely because it made us laugh so hard for about a week, that we would look at one another and start snorting wildly) and there are a few things we've come to wonder. For instance:
  • the gentleman in question, likely sporting a mullet (although I have no proof of this), was apparently raising the gator in the bathtub. did this go down? How do you convince an angry woman to wait patiently while you go fish your alligator out of the bathtub to hit her with it?
  • Did he swing it by the tail and smack her with the snout? Or swing it by the snout and tail whip her? And, again, how did he get her to stand still for this? I think I'd probably take the hint and step out for a bit if Mr. K was winding up with a giant reptile in the living room.
  • How much alcohol does one have to consume before the best problem-solving idea you can come up with involves the application of an alligator directly to the perceived source of the difficulty?
  • At some point, he had to put the gator down. And I have to believe that this gator was probably not in a terrific mood, having been swung around by a drunk in a tiny living room panelled in fake oak, and then laid upside someone's head. How did this guy not end up as a pile of badly dressed Tender Vittles for Gators? Or was the alligator smarter than both of them combined (not a stretch, I'm gathering) and got himself out of there before things really started to go downhill?
  • And speaking of going downhill, how in the world would these people have escalated this particular argument? I mean, where do you go from "That's it--I'm gettin' my gator"? Did she have a porcupine on a string tucked away somewhere for just such an emergency?
  • What did the 911 call for this little incident sound like? "Yeah, the neighbors are kinda havin' a fight of some kind.....what? Yeah, I think it's serious. Well, there's some gator swingin' goin' on."
  • What was this genius planning to do with a full-grown gator? And was he ever planning to be able to use his bathtub again? And was the fact that neither of them had been able to bathe in several months without getting body parts savaged (I can only hope he wore a protective cup in the shower) part of the reason for the touchy tempers? The mind boggles.
  • Can you imagine these two in a marriage counselors office? "and how did that make you feel?" "It made me feel like hittin' her upside the head with an alligator. So I did."
  • For that matter, what would a marriage guide for these people look like?
  1. No matter how angry you are, never throw beer bottles at your spouse--unless they are empty.
  2. Use the gator only as a last resort, when telling her constructively that she's a miserable bitch and always was one has somehow failed to make her see reason.
  3. If you must use the gator, it is polite to hit her with the tail end, thus keeping the teeth--the dangerous end--pointed away from her.
  4. Set down your beer before swinging the gator. It shows respect for her when you try not to spill things on the carpet that she'll have to clean up later.
  5. Be sure to see if she's all right after you check on the alligator.
  6. No matter how mad she makes you, don't feed her cat to the alligator.
  7. Once in awhile, make the effort to be the one to clean the gator crap out of the bathtub. It shows you care.
  8. When swinging the gator, make sure you have enough clearance to avoid hitting the TV. She may not think she cares about TV, but you'll be a lot nicer if you don't have to miss NASCAR just because she wouldn't listen.

And so on. Mr. K and I can still break each other up by threatening to "get the gator". Thankfully, we have two showers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dinner's Ready When the Weenies Catch Fire

Or, What a Difference 10 Hours in Million Degree Temperatures With Woman-Eating Mosquitoes Can Make to an Otherwise Shiny Attitude

Did I mention that Mr. K and I were going to paint the deck? Yeah...sanity went marching off somewhere to get a drink so that we could tackle that task undisturbed over the weekend. I think if you look back at the photo of Mr. K demolishing the old hot tub, you can see that the deck was painted by the previous owners in a rather stunning shade of picnic-table red. Which doesn't seem all that awful...until you realize that the house is a very subdued pale gray. And until you stand out on the deck for awhile and realize that between the red deck and the green lawn, your retinas are taking a hike for parts unknown to let you fend for yourself.

So, because I have this whole happy-crappy, "Hey Kids--let's put on a SHOW!" thing that sneaks in every so often (the same thing that leads me to continue knitting happily on a sweater large enough to provide extra warmth to New Hampshire this winter, or small enough to leave Barbie feeling exposed), I jumped right on board with the "Let's paint the deck together ourselves!" thing. In other words, I'm an idiot. Let's not gild the lily here. But, in my defense, why do these things always look like such a cakewalk....until four hours later when you realize the cake is one of those nasty fruitcakes your crazy Aunt Helen used to make and someone is about to chunk it at your head?
ANYWAY. We definitely learned a few things over the weekend, most specifically how priorities can....well...shift. Particularly after several hours of paint fumes and giant fiery ball of sun and turning into mosquito chow. For instance:
At 10:00 am, it seems quite essential to make certain that every square inch of deck is smooth as a baby's butt, even if it takes sanding for hours with a postage stamp sized piece of sandpaper. At 9:00 pm, it suddenly seems perfectly reasonable to actually scatter grass and wood shavings on the deck, paint them down firmly, and call it "texture".
At 10:00 am, it seems important that all the paint be layed on evenly and smoothly, with nary a bubble or thin spot in sight. At 9:00 pm, it makes absolute sense to dump the paint on the deck, spread it around by scuffing through it barefoot, and call it "character".

At 10:00 am, it is essential to carefully ascertain the location of all the cats so as not to distress any of them unduly, or accidentally drop paint on them. By 9:00 pm, it actually makes sense to intentionally paint one of them and roll it in grass, to serve as a warning to the others. By the next morning, it is hard to remember why it seemed like a big deal if one of them inadvertantly glued their ass to the still tacky deck.

At 10:00 am, the idea of a warm day in the sun, alone with your thoughts and the simple rhythm of the painting seems almost meditative. By 9:00 pm you can't think of a single reason not to strip naked, for the dual benefit of dropping your body temp to a mere 200 degrees, and also traumatizing your neighbors because it would be entertaining to watch their faces. And, if the cat WERE to glue its ass to the deck, you wouldn't mind too much because it would be a captive audience and someone to talk to. (Note here: Mr. K and I were working on this together, but in different areas, plus he had the sprayer which effectively rendered conversation impossible. I didn't want to glue his ass to the deck, though.)
At 10:00 am, it is a smart idea to tape off the area where deck meets house, in order to keep the back of the house pristine. By 9:00 pm, you've invented your own skater tag (grafitti, for the unitiated) and created a mural on the back of the house with the paint sprayer because "it looked kind of plain."
At 10:00 am, you really focus on getting all those hard to reach areas so that the finished product is delightfully professional looking. By 9:00 pm, you realize that anyone who is going to look at the underside of the handrail really isn't "our sort of people" and therefore can't come over anyway.

At 10:00 am, it is easy to keep in mind how lovely the deck will be, and how much enjoyment you'll get from using it in the months and years to come. By 9:00 pm, it seems like a really good idea to burn the entire deck down and tell guests going out the back door to "watch that first step."

At 10:00 am, you imagine yourself cleaning up in only a few hours, and then concocting a lovely and healthy dinner to eat in the back yard, caressed by the warm summer breezes. By as early as 7:00 pm, you find yourself firing up the barbecue that's sitting in the grass so the deck can be painted (and so as to create the greatest possible fire hazard) and uttering the line above without even seeing the humor in it: "Yeah, yeah, I'm making dinner. It'll be ready when the weenies catch fire."

All that said, I never did get to the point of thinking the picnic-table red was actually fine as it was...which tells you something about how bad it looked. Here's how it looks now (the buildings in the background are Mr. K's two metal shops....filled with the male equivalent of yarn and patterns--tools and metal):

Here, with blue sweater:

And here, with sock of similar hue to deck:

Yep, I'm photographing everything on that damned deck. If I could take it everywhere with me, I'd do that, too.

Ed even approves of the deck, now that he's not glued to it:

Lastly today, a couple of photos of Ms. Gussie, doing her best to help me blog. She was in my lap when I took these and yes, I did look like a total dork contorting myself to take them, thank you.

"There must be one square inch of this chair that I haven't smeared my nose on...."

You probably can't tell, but that thing she's draped over? My forearm. While I'm typing. Determination, thy name is Gussie.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Odds and Ends

Ms. Knitingale herself being, unquestionably, one of the odds; and one end being supplied handily by Ed himself, who seems quite determined to have my entire body labelled "Property of Ed" and, as such, has made it his business to smear cat snot over 98% of me thus far, in a semi-even film without ever ceasing in his attempts to shove his tush in my face. I feel like a garden with slugs in it.

I got such great comments about my trashy background--you all made me howl with laughter. Monica, Babe, you're killing me over here. I think you grew up country, rather than trashy (which makes you at least 47% more respectable than me) but, fortunately, I can contribute there, too, having spent a bit of time in each of these very special worlds (do you think we might be related?). For instance, you might be country if:

  • you have a female relative who tried to kill a mouse in the barn...with a shotgun.

  • that same female relative once threw a coffeepot at the horse her teenage son brought into the kitchen one night.

  • your father tells fond stories about Saturday nights tipping over outhouses....while they were in use.

  • you have been chased by a bull while walking home from your grandmother's house.

  • you have a relative who had a pet turkey.

  • you have a relative who used to sit out on the porch and let a crow steal bologna off his sandwich (am I the only one out there, by the way, who has to sing the Oscar Meyer song to correctly spell bologna?)

  • when the family reunion was at a campground, you easily found your group by the child urinating in the middle of the road in front of it

  • your cousin once got bored and stuck an entire, home-canned peach in his ear.

  • that same cousin had to be pulled out from under the house naked because his mother told him he'd better not go under the house and get his clothes dirty again...or else (I suspect that could happen in a non-country setting, too...but it was so funny I wanted to put it in there).

  • you could get 30 recipes for apple cobbler, meatloaf, or pot roast with a single phone call, but not a one for mojitos or sushi.

  • there's a funny family story about someone getting her hair caught in the wringer of the old washing machine. And that machine was around a lot longer than the semi-bald relative.

  • you know exactly what an electric fence feels like. And you knew it each of the next 15 times you touched it, too.

  • you once had to restyle your hair to cover where the horse chewed on it.

  • you have eaten so many jell-o salads in church basements that the sight of a jell-o mold will make you bow your head in prayer (and not just because of the canned peaches and miniature marshmallows, either).

  • when your grandma passed away, no one was surprised to find home canned fruits and veggies from 20 years before

  • there was the living room, and the "company" living room. The latter had plastic on the furniture "to keep it nice".

  • anyone in your family has been injured by a broody pig.

  • or stuffed a pig headfirst into a boot in order to castrate it.

  • "checking the mousetrap" meant making sure the cat was still alive

That was my dad's mom's was the other one. Imagine the mixture. That said, Mr. K spent some time in farm country and can offer this one: if you've ever held onto a cow's tail and gone skiing behind it in the cow manure.....yeah, you might be country. Behold, Mr. K at age 20, engaging in just this sport:

Lastly, Mr. K and I are repainting the deck today; I'm taking a break while he replaces a few boards (in my defense, I spent the last few hours scraping old paint off with a small tool and using appropriately bad language). On the list of things I'd rather be doing, the broody pig is starting to sound pretty good. So is the cowshit ski trip. Wish me well. And send wool if I start to become faint in the heat or overcome by paint fumes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ms. K's Trashy Roots

I admit it. I grew up for some of my life in a trailer park. We had a decrepit old Mercury for awhile, in a peculiar shade of pinky brown and we eventually had to pay someone to come take it away. He charged us $40 sight unseen. I suppose Jeff Foxworthy would say you can bet you're a redneck if you ever had to pay anyone to take your car off your hands. I don't think we were really rednecks...but we might have been trailer trash.

The radio station I listen to (trust me, I'm going to tie these two paragraphs together--just hang in there) has started asking people "What behavior or thing best exlempifies trailer trash to you?" And that, of course, has opened up a whole bunch of things in my busy little brain. To paraphrase Mr. Foxworthy, I think that being trailer trash can mean "a glorious lack of sophistication" rather than a cruel label--so please don't take offense on anyone's behalf. Seriously, there ain't no one trailer trashier than we were, so if I'M not offended.....(yeah, yeah, I'm the one writing it....let's just let that slide for the minute, shall we?). These are almost all firsthand knowledge, by the way....

You may have some trailer park in your blood if:

  • You have ever inadvertantly purchased something back that you gave to the Goodwill (and if you refer to as "the" Goodwill, that's an extra clue)
  • You have ever gone to the grocery store in a bikini and flipflops, after the age of about six. Extra points if you were towing about three small children with you, and still more if you were there to buy beer.
  • You have ever screamed at your children in Walmart. Bonus points if you did it without ever taking the cigarette out of your mouth(Note, I said I'd experienced most of these things--I haven't actually DONE them all)
  • Your mom had a different little cigarette pouch to match each of her strapless, terrycloth dresses for the summer.
  • You thought "salisbury steak" really was steak until you reached adulthood
  • Your dad ever sat on the bed in his underwear, firing rock salt through a slit in the window screen at the neighbors yapping dog (yes, he really did--never wake my dad up prematurely from a nap)
  • You thought the next door neighbors were terribly sophisticated because they kept twinkies in the freezer and made sandwiches on Wonder Bread
  • You had the entire TV schedule so well memorized that you could look at any television anywhere and immediately know the time to within half an hour.
  • You had a whole set of matched glassware, or did until someone broke the one with Speedy Gonzales on it.
  • Your mom ever went out to an anniversary dinner with your father wearing curlers in her hair (yes, she did. She wanted to look nice for her doctor's appointment the next day.).
  • Your mother could smoke and sunbathe at the same time--with her top untied to avoid strap marks
  • You had pets with names that could not be repeated in polite company
  • You ever went trick-or-treating dressed as Minnie Pearl (yes, I really did).
  • Your most prized piece of jewelry for many years was a teeny tiny Pepsi can on a faux silver chain. Extra points if it turned your neck black.
  • You ever wore a Budweiser T-shirt to school. Especially if you're a girl.
  • You know what I mean when I say "scrunch up the foil on the rabbit ears a bit more--I can't see 'Hee Haw'!" LOTS of points if anyone in your house ever said it.
  • The 6-year-old next door used his middle finger as a pointer finger, and swore more than anyone you knew...except your mom.
  • You ever owned a pair of high heeled, calf-high, denim boots. With belt loops and pockets. AND thought they were the height of sophistication (yes, I did that, too. In my defense, I was 14 at the time).
  • You ran over the mailbox while learning to drive....and it didn't really look any different. (yep...that, too.)
  • You ever set the fake grass on your grandma's porch on fire with a sparkler (I know--I really didn't have to go much beyond the "fake grass on the porch" bit, did I?)
  • The snooty neighbors were the ones with a double wide--and their garbage cans had lids, too.
  • You or anyone you know had their porch fall off
  • You or anyone you know regularly wore a halter top with a regular bra. Extra points if the brastraps were held up with at least one safety pin.
  • You've ever had to move the cars off the lawn to mow it.

It's all true, folks. It's kind of odd, isn't it, that I've never attempted to make and wear a knitted bikini? To the grocery store? At the age of 40+?

Now that's an image no one needed....= )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Organ Recital, and Other Scintillating Stuff

Okay, I lied. The last time I said it was hot? I was lying through my hot, sweaty teeth (if you doubt that teeth can sweat, come sit in my upstairs with me for a few minutes. Monica is right--no air conditioner.) Today it is hotter than a truckload of $5 Rolex watches--over 90 degrees in Seattle, land of the liquid air. The cats have melted over the furniture in hairy puddles, looking for all the world like the clocks in the Dali painting. I am busy wondering if it is sick to shove a bag of frozen green beans down my scrub pants, in lieu of the ice cubes I keep forgetting to purchase the trays to make. Probably is. I may do it anyway. Point being, of course, that it is an abomination against nature to be scintillating in this kind of heat and you'll have to put up with "vaguely upright and sort of coherent".

First things first: Angie, dear--I'm so sorry to worry you. I can't say "don't worry" because I don't know yet if it's worth worrying about, but I promise I'm in good hands. It's not a very interesting story (feel free to skip ahead--there's a wonderful story about a child coming up) but it goes like this: remember a few months ago when I was pissing and moaning about my doctor doing that weird little "estimated" test and saying I had to have a truckload of tests to be sure my kidneys were okay? Well, I went to a kidney specialist who completely and utterly agreed. She said she was sure I was fine and agreed that the truckload of tests were unnecessary and just had me do one that would tell us one way or the other. And it did.

It it told us that I've lost nearly 50% of my kidney function. It should be a number over 120; it's 65.

We don't know why. We don't know how. We don't really know much of anything. And, since we know that the numbers can't be brought back up--kidneys being sort of a "lose 'em and they're gone" kind of thing--we're just "watching and waiting" right now (I like that phrase from my doctor almost as much as I like "Now, this might be a bit uncomfortable..."). And keeping me on a diet low in fat (kidney patients typically die of heart issues long before their kidneys finish failing, so we have to keep my heart extra happy--you know, bring it all the half-naked slave boys it could possibly want, feed it grapes...), low in salt, low in protein, and low in potassium. All of which should give my kidneys the organ equivalent of a vacation in the Bahamas...with or without half naked pool boys. In November, we'll test again and see if the numbers stayed the same, or strayed into kidney disease territory. There's really not much to do in the interim but knit. Especially since eating my body weight in ho-hos is apparently right out.

See? Boring. Enough of the organ recital and on to the good stuff.

I'm finally at the point where I not only don't hate my job, but actually enjoy it most of the time, and have moments of real love for it. One of those moments was today, when a 7-year-old asthmatic girl came in. Bright girl, and very confident and chatty. I liked her at once. At one point, I had to do a test on her to see how well she was breathing. It involves blowing into a tube and you have to do it a certain way, so it can be tricky for the little ones. I explained it to her carefully; then, when she said nothing, I said "That's a lot of directions, isn't it? Is it too much to remember?" Imagine my delight when she turned a very solemn face up to mine and replied, "No, it's not too much. I read books, you know."

Well, of course.

In spite of the horrid wet-army-blanket-for-air weather we've been having, I have persisted in knitting my blue birthday yarn sweater, mostly by throwing open the exercise room windows at 5:00 am and knitting on the exercise bike. Who says knitters aren't incredibly adaptable? I'd show it to you, but it hasn't changed all that much. Picture it the way it was last add about six inches.

By the way, I feel that it is quite possible that the weather is my punishment for thinking that I could tempt the gardening fates who, apparently, are every bit as temptable (read: nasty little bastards) as the knitting fates. Because it turns out that there is nothing a bunch of new plants enjoy quite as much as a heat wave with no water--and they demonstrate this enjoyment daily by laying their limp little heads down on the earth so I can panic when I get home and try to water an acres worth of plants at once and inevitably soak my scrubs and grind mud into my pristine white nursing shoes into the bargain. 'Cause, of course, nothing improves your standing in the neighborhood quite like running around the yard like a soggy, mud-footed, pajama'd lunatic, shouting things like "Oh, for wool's sake! Stand up and grow a pair of roots, will you???"

I'm thinking of putting Cialis in the plant water. If the ads are true (and Mr. K used to work for the company that invented Cialis, so I'm pretty confident that they are), then all my plants should be perfectly perky and upright for at least 48 hours.

Or, you know--"whenever the mood is right".

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today's Scorecard

The house won today. I should know by now that the house always wins but, you know, we've talked about that whole "knitters = optimist" thing. Why else would we stockpile enough yarn to knit a pullover for Sweden and mittens for everyone in the free world when we have exactly three minutes per week of uninterrupted knitting time? Optimism, I'm telling you.

But today was 7/7/07--supposedly the luckiest of all lucky days--and I thought that perhaps just this once.....well, no. The house won again. Here's how it breaks down:

Laundry: 6 piles, plus one of ironing. House (with the help of my guilt) score 1, Ms. Knitingale and her dreamed of knitting time, 0.

Car: Having been parked all week in the park-and-ride across from my work place, and said park-and-ride having been planted all around with nasty, evil trees that stalk around the parking lot all day throwing little dabs of sap at cars (okay, I have no photographic evidence of this event, but seeing as how the car felt like a car-shaped braille telephone book by the end of the week, I am considering this to be de facto evidence), car wins one hour of my time for washing, plus one more for forcing me to be out in plain sight in a pair of shorts and a bikini top. Score for the house(for I consider car washing to be a house chore) now standing at 3; Ms. Knitingale and her knitting time, still at 0. We won't speculate on how the neighbors tally up having to watch me wander around in the yard with blinding white thighs that vaguely resemble bubble wrap under great pressure.

Bushes: The bushes in the front garden having grown to giant, hulking behemoths that have been arm-wrestling one another for such trivialities as sunlight and water, they managed to win another two hours of my time with a power tool and a hastily muttered prayed--knowing, as I do, that power tools and I rarely come to any sort of good end. After all, they smell fear. This one was a nasty, toothed gadget that jittered and shuddered in a terrifying fashion while throwing limbs aside like so much green kleenex, and while I danced about in a most disturbing fashion, utterly convinced that I was seconds away from chopping off one of my own limbs. Or cutting through the power cord and giving myself that perm I could never get my mom to give me in high school--this one with the added benefit of a good scorching. In this case, the house scored another point (now at 4, if you're keeping track), and the bushes escaped with their lives, although they now look a lot like Edward Blenderhands might have had a go at them, and that slightly cool, bullying behemoth vibe has been replaced by a sort of pitiful, shredded green mound vibe. Ms. Knitingale's knitting time, still 0. I'm seeing a pattern here....and sadly, it is not a knitting pattern.

Lawn: In spite of many attempts to starve it, dehydrate it, stomp it to death, and otherwise force it into one-inch high brown submission (if I lived on your block, you'd have a fast track to "greenest lawn ever"), the lawn once more reached its little green arms skyward in order to force me behind the wheel of the Exxon Valdez of riding mowers in order to snick them right off. It also tossed up a few thousand dandelions, naturally enough, and some mole hills so big that I found a stranded hiker on one of them. Seriously, I keep expecting to go out there one morning and find a mole the size of a gorilla, stretched out reading my paper with his feet propped up on my porch and demanding a cup of coffee. Score for the house, 5; score for the Exxon Valdez 1 (it did, once more, force Mr. K to swear and tinker around with tools before sullenly agreeing to gulp and chug around the yard, threatening the whole time to hurl oil around, belch smoke, and then sit in the middle of the yard ignoring everyone. A bit like my Uncle Al at a family reunion, if it comes down to it...but that's another story.) Score for Ms. Knitingale and her craved knitting time...yeah. Another goose egg.

Cooking: Having been told by my doctor that I must eat a low fat diet for health reasons that I will share at some point (although I will share now the irony of being told that I will be required to eat a very limited diet for the rest of my life....but I must be sure to keep my weight up while eating foods that taste like cardboard, leaves, and the occasional dash of ick), and further having been told that a bag of peanut-butter m&ms and a slice of cinnamon bread do not actually have a place on that diet, I was forced to face all manner of HEALTHY stuff over a hot stove because God knows it wasn't hot enough up here in the Pacific Northwet with a huge fiery yellow ball in the sky and water masquerading as air. Since I was stuck in the kitchen, I think the point goes, once more, to the house---6 points now, while I and my knitting time are still at a resounding 0. (I'll admit very reluctantly that the lean pork gyros with fresh tsasiki sauce were really quite good...but I'll deny it if you tell anyone.)

TV: The TV in the living room has actually really outdone itself. I do not watch all that much television but I'm sure you'll understand when I say that I like to have it on while knitting, just so I can ignore something and be fairly certain that it wasn't worth watching anyway. Now, however, and out of a clear blue sky (with blazing hot ball), the TV is showing a black screen when set to cable...but with the menu for the cable on it. No picture or sound, but a tempting list of what I could be ignoring if the TV would let me. No clue as to what happened...but, since the hotness mentioned yesterday is still gathering for meetings in the upstairs bedroom where the other TV is.....yeah. House is up to 7 and it's a win with a total knock out, seeing as how sweaty yarn cannot truly be said to knit up well.

I was kind of hoping "lucky 7" would mean that I would have good luck as opposed to the house winning every hand....but there you go. It's that damned optimism again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hello from Heat Prostration, USA

It is hot in Seattle. Now, we northwesterners take a fair amount of abuse for our interpretation of "hot" and "cold" and "snow" (as well as "a reasonable price for a cup of coffee or a house" but that's a whole other post), but I feel that we are unfairly maligned. Remember--while it is certainly higher by the thermometer in places like Las Vegas (112 degrees when we were there last summer...and I still found a wool shop to hang out in) or Death Valley, the air up here is quite different in that it is really just a huge blue chunk of water, pretending to be air. It is so terrifically humid up here, that some manufacturers are thinking about selling hair care products to people like me with names like "Frizz Tamer in a Drum" and "Just Give Up and Use Crisco". Most days, my hair is in a desperate battle with me to sproing up from my head looking like nothing so much as a darkish brown chunk of steel wool, all because of this so-called-air. Frankly, I think it's just a piece of the ocean sneaking around trying to be something it's not. Very unseemly.

The point, and I may have one, is that 80 degrees here lays on your skin like one of those old, scratchy brown army blankets that have been wrung out in tepid water. Forget being active--it's like walking in hot jello (which I know would actually be liquid...but work with me here). Mr K and I sleep upstairs which, as it happens, is where all the hotness runs at the end of the day to lay around on top of anything that holds still and then refuse to move. SO.
So last night Mr K and I threw open all the windows and put a fan on the bedroom chair and tried to think cool thoughts (penguins, ice cubes, Paris Hilton when asked out by someone with an average sized brain and no money) and further tried to pretend that the sheets were cool and comfortable and that it didn't feel like we were trying to sleep in hot soup. Needless to say, there was some tossing and turning going on. Also a fair amount of whining which didn't seem to help but did make me feel a bit better. Not sure what it did for Mr K.
Around 3:00, the hotness finally allowed a tiny bit of coolness in and we started to sleep for real....for about 10 minutes. Then came Miss. Miss is supposed to go outside at night because of certain...tendencies, shall we say?...that will soon become quite clear. Last night, she somehow managed to slip under our collective radar to stay in the house.
Who am I kidding? Between our two new jobs, Mr K working more hours per week than I actually thought were IN a week, the HOT TUB INCIDENT, some health issues, and did I mention the hotness?--you could have slipped a pod of whales, several tanks, and a poorly behaved monkey in an evening gown under our radar. Neither of us lately could get a clue if we were standing out in a clue field during clue mating season covered in clue musk. It's not pretty. For all I know, one of us might have been HOLDING Miss when we didn't see her to put her out.

For most of the night, Miss just sort of lumped around, doing her best impression of a land mass, and making sure no one stole the chair from under her enormous butt. All was well. Then, a little after 3:00, it occured to her to seek some entertainment, to maybe....beat the holy living crap out of Gussie. Gussie, for some reason, was not completely on board with this plan. Thus, she attacked the issue with the calm and rational thought that I would expect of her: she shrieked as if being torn asunder and then launched herself up the stairs and landed on my chest, spitting and hissing and howling the whole time, apparently thinking that I would emerge from slumber ready to save her from the maurauding land whale, my eyes and sword gleaming with righteous fury.
Somehow, it has escaped her fuzzy little brain that 8 pounds of claws and spit at o'crap o'clock in the morning has never, nor will it likely EVER, bring out anything even HUMAN in me--forget superheros. What it brought out instead, in fact, was a sort of terrified and pained grunt (a logical response, I think, to the application of the feline equivalent of cleats to my frontal boobage area in the wee hours) and a frantic pinwheeling of my arms which, in turn, caused Gussie to be smacked broadside, thus causing her to leap approximately 50 feet straight up and, improbably, then to achieve a perfect 20 point landing (5 per foot) on Mr K's chest. He didn't do well with this.
I think a day that when you begin a day in this fashion, it should be your absolute right to call in to work to tell them that "I have seen the flavor of this day and it is not to my liking. Indeed, it is not to ANYONE'S liking, and I think it best for all concerned if I build a fort out of couch pillows and sit under it and eat oreos and read knitting patterns all day." Alas, the world has not yet caught up to my brilliance and I was forced to work anyway. Even with kitty cleat marks in my boobs. Life is patently unfair.

Some small comforts, though:

The beginning of my new favorite sweater, started with the birthday yarn from Mr. K (Debbie Bliss Rialto). I was smart enough not to work on it today during my lunch break...but you know, I did touch it to photograph it. If this day continues as it appears to want to, I can safely assume that the sweater will either mysteriously unravel itself as I sleep, or allow me to complete it before revealing itself to be the size of a postage stamp. I will not be suprised by either outcome.

Another of my Coral Bells, this one called Creme Brulee. It is supposed to be that color....either that, or people are trying very hard to encourage my gardening and not hurt my feelings.

This is a newish hydrangea that I planted, having been assured that it would turn blue once it discovered the acidity of my soil. It is unhappy with the heat, and wilted quite dramatically yesterday, while it's older, wiser, and far more intricately rooted cousin....

...was doing just fine. It apparently has an underground straw leading to somewhere more hospitable. For some reason, I am utterly charmed by the blue flowers.

I'm going to go find someplace soft and padded to sit. And wait for the day to turn into a new and better one.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I've put off writing all day, largely because I never quite know what to say about July 4th, or about patriotism in general. I definitely have an assortment of thoughts--for instance, I agree with a quote I heard on The Simpsons, where someone commented on how you can "celebrate the birth of our country by blowing up your own little piece of it"--which, in fact, is what my neighbor has been up to all day and which further leads me to believe that it is not fences that make good neighbors, so much, but earplugs. And that quote came to mind yesterday when I saw a man being interviewed on the news, angry that King County (where we live) has laws banning the private use of fireworks (yes, my neighbor is a petty criminal) because, as he said "Americans should have the right to celebrate their freedom. 'Cause it wasn't free." True enough...but I'm not entirely sure that most of the people trying to blow up their yards or their children today are doing so while thinking of all the sacrifice that has gone into giving them the right to do so. Or, in our county, the right to be an ass and break the law to do so. Either way.

I also have the thought that I am profoundly grateful for many of the freedoms that I know I often take for granted. For example, I live in a country where:
it is not illegal for me to learn to read because of my gender
I can go to school...or not, as I choose
I can vote
I can speak critically of our government officials--even here on this blog in public and not be arrested
I cannot be traded like property
I cannot be legally mutilated
I can dress as I choose within reason (very little reason, really, if you look around on a hot day)
I can listen to and read and watch anything I choose
I can love whom I choose
I am unlikely to die from unsafe drinking water, or from diseases that are easily cured
I had a wealth of futures to choose from and, even now at the age of 42, I still do
As a young child, it would have been illegal for my parents to sell me into sexual slavery in order to survive
I have a life expectancy over 70 years...unlike some countries where 50 is terribly old and unusual
I can worship any way I choose, or not at all. It is my decision what sort of relationship to have with God. If any.

In other words, I live in a country that is great in many ways. I have freedoms that other people in other places, most especially women, can only imagine and dream of. And lives were lost obtaining this freedom for me, even more protecting it.

But the flip side is this. I get slightly uncomfortable every year at this time when I see the flags and the stickers and the out loud, in your face patriotism because every single time I read or hear "God bless America" I always think the same thing: what about the rest of the world? What did they do wrong? Aren't we all citizens of the same world? Aren't we all children of the same earth, struggling along the same journey? Are we really better somehow because we live within this imaginary set of boundaries instead of that one? Because they are imaginary. They exist on drawings and in our minds....but I still remember as a child the first time I travelled to another state and realized that there wasn't really a big black line where Washington and Oregon were separated.

I feel sad today because I think of all the people who don't have the freedoms that I do, and sadder still because I worry that when we keep focusing so hard on those thick, black, non-existent lines we make it so those people may never have them. We start believing that we're free because we're Americans....not because we're humans and all humans deserve basic freedoms and basic dignity. We start thinking it's magic in this boundaried piece of land, and not hard work or reaching out or working towards understanding, or even just acceptance of all those cultures and people that we don't really understand.

We also forget that freedom means different things to different people, and that freedom to do a thing also has to come along with the freedom to choose not to. That's a big one. I struggle when I think America is trying to violently recreate itself in countries all over the world instead of asking what do these people need and want and how can we help? And then providing what we can, and stepping aside to let people be their own definition of free.

So that's my dilemna today. I want to cry with gratitude when I think what I've been given--just given, as though it were a birthright. And I want to cry even more when I think how many people go to bed each night without a fraction of what I have. I am, perhaps, a confused American. I can only say this on this bright July 4th, 2007:

May whom or whatever you believe in bless America, and all the rest of the community in our tinier-than-we-want-to-believe world. I said once before that the only way we'll survive is if we hold hands and do it together. Hold hands with someone today. You are free to learn and vote and read and love and worship--and also to reach out to your fellow man and woman. To share the wealth. To recognize that it's not just because we're Americans--we all deserve to be free.

Happy Independence day. Wherever you may be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

If I End Up in Hell....

....well, for one thing, no one will be terribly surprised. But apart from that, I can honestly say that I'll know where I am as soon as I see the pile of drug pre-authorization requests and the little note that says: "Ms. K, since you're so good at these....."
For those blissfully unaware, a preauth goes like this: You go to your doctor who has gone to school lo, these many years and so, hopefully, knows what is best for your condition. The doctor digs into her or his vast storehouse of knowledge and says "I believe you need type X medication" and writes you a prescription. You take it to your pharmacist who then uses a computer to tell your insurance company that they need to pay for it. And then (cue dramatic music) the cheeseweasels at the insurance company, who have a whole department on their payroll whose job it is to sit around and eat pizza and figure out new and exciting ways to avoid paying for medications (they're supposed to pay for them, of course, but they don't find the game at all challenging that way) say something like "well, we aren't at all sure we want to pay for this (like a debutate on a first date, they need a little courting and wooing...and a $120 dinner if they can swing it) so have someone from the doctor's office (yeah, that'd be me, at least until I earn my way back out of hell) call us and we'll try to figure it out." If I ever reach a real live person (questionable at best) they will then decide that they are magically qualified to practice medicine (diplomas in cereal boxes, I expect) and will tell me that the patient has to try these 12 other medications first and have them not work before the one the doctor prescribed can be paid for. Got all that? Yeah, me neither.
Thing is (like there's only one?), the recordings and the prompts and the "for this department, push this number") and so on go on for so long that by the time anyone actually picks up the phone, I'm already quite prepared to tell them in detail how I think their conception occured which never really gets things off to a good start. I think truth in advertising should apply here, because the absolutely mindless repetition of taped "Thank you for your patience. Your call is important to us, so please stay on the line and someone will be right with you" is enough to send me all the way to Batshit on an open-ended ticket. Here's what it should really say:

"Hello, and thank you for calling Soulless Insurance Company, the company with the blackest heart in the business for 50 years strong. Please listen carefully to the following options. Well, no, don't bother. Because no matter what button you press, we're going to keep you on hold until you are repeatedly smashing your head into the wall in front of you in sheer frustration. But don't worry. We'll be putting that time to good use, finding the stupidest person in the company to come talk to you. The last time we saw him, he was pushing with all of his body weight on a door marked "pull" and whimpering softly, as he had been there for about a week. We were going to call his wife to let her know where he was, but we figure if she's stupid enough to marry him, she probably hasn't noticed that he's gone. Anyhoo....good luck. The guy from the door should be with you soon as we can teach him how to use a phone."

Several minutes later: "Are you still waiting? Geez, you don't give up, do you? Okay, look. Bill the door-pusher said he was too smart to talk to someone who actually thought someone here might help them...but the guy from facilities who speaks two words of English--"Yes" and "okay"-- is available. And he'll speak them so convincingly that you'll probably tell him the whole problem twice before you realize that he didn't understand a single word of it. Tell you what--why don't you punch in the patient's insurance ID number. It won't help--the information won't get to us and if we ever get someone to talk with you, they're going to ask for it again anyway....but it will keep you busy. Besides, you might accidentally hit the disconnect button, and we get paid a bonus if we can make you hang up without talking to anyone. We'll get more if we can get you to slam down the phone in a rage, but we'll take what we can get. Have a nice day--but know that there will be a surcharge and a high deductible if you do. Tomorrow is a holiday, so the higher holiday rates apply."

Not that I'm bitter. My boss is out of town and did, indeed, sucker me into doing preauths for her while she's gone. So far I've not broken a single phone, but the week is early.
Truth to tell, I'm feeling a bit like Mr. K was when he realized that A) the dorks who were supposed to fix our hottub apparently took the word "fix" to mean "completely mess it up so that it can't be repaired ever" B)they had no intention of doing anything about it without the expensive application of lawyers to the problem and C) it would cost $400 to haul away the old, useless hottub which is now, to all intents and purposes, a large fiberglass ashtray. Or salad bowl. He looked like this:

The old hottub ended up looking like several of these:

I think it safe to say that Mr. K would rather not pay the $400 to haul away the old hottub....anyone want to argue with the man with the wild eyes and the skill saw?, neither.

Miss Gracie asked me to post another, more flattering photo of her today (Marianne, she was actually in the windowsill stretching when I tried that artsy picture...but she's concerned that I didn't catch her at her best, as she was just waking up):

Yes, she stil thinks that old plastic dropcloth is the best place to hang out in the whole world....and no, I still haven't finished the damned door. Given all the stuff that I haven't gotten done, you'd think there'd be a whole slew of things that I HAVE gotten done, wouldn't you? Yeah, not so much. I can't explain it, except to say that there is a black hole somewhere in my life that sucks time like Paris Hilton sucks up media attention. But I have accomplished this:

That's my birthday yarn from Mr. K. It is almost unbearably soft....I can't wait to wear the sweater, but I probably ought to. That inch or so I have so far isn't going to cover much.

Oh, and to those who asked, the second cat in the hottub photo (pre-skill saw and Mr. K) is actually Miss's sister, Tippy. They really are sisters, but Tippy doesn't get much camera time because she prefers to be outside. She expresses this preference by peeing on the carpets and attempting to murder Gracie. We choose to honor this preference.

Knit on...and be extra nice to whomever does preauths where you live. Bring them a stiff drink. I guarantee that they need it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Now I Know How the Muggles Feel

Okay, so I wasn't actually born knitting (and my mother is profoundly thankful for THAT, let me tell you) so one might assume that I was a muggle once...but times were different then (apart from the dinosaurs roaming the earth) and knitting was almost a dirty little secret. It was okay to do it, as long as you washed up well afterwards, to paraphrase Robert Heinlein. So it took the wife of the Plant Pusher to show me how it really is to be a muggle in a magical universe. To wit:

Me: "Well, I'm not really a gardener...I'm just cleaning out the beds and putting new stuff in. You know. So I need a couple more things to fill out the big bed by the driveway."

Plant Lady: "What do you already have?

Me: "Um....some rhododenrons, I know that. And...some other sort of bush things. And I put some coral bells in."

Plant Lady: "Good. So you have some structure. What do you have that's linear?"

Me: "?????"

Plant Lady: "And what do you plan to do to provide contrast?"

Me: (looking slightly panicked)"??????!!!!"

Plant Lady: "You'll want to draw the eye from item to item...and we get very gray days around maybe some bright yellows?"

Me: "You know...I'm not sure we're on the same page. Here's what I do: I pull out the weeds. I turn over the soil. I curse a bit. When I have a patch of plain, brown dirt with nothing in it, I dig a hole. Then I put a plant in it. Sometimes, if I'm feeling really full of myself, I'll check to make sure the plant likes the light the area gets. Mostly, though, I'm just proud when I remember which end gets buried in the dirt. Do you have anything that won't die if I forget to water it, nick it with the lawn mower, put it in completely the wrong place, or bury the wrong end?"

Plant Lady: "????!!!!"

It only got worse when she realized I planned to put the purple verbena in the same bed as the purple lavendar of roughly the same height.

She looked like she wished she'd thought to request a home study. I didn't get it until Mr. K pointed out what would happen if I worked in a yarn store (I mean, other than the fact that I'd be ecstatic with happiness every single day until I got fired for rolling around naked in the alpaca) and someone came in and asked for "yarn--just any yarn. It doesn't matter what. I'm not much of a knitter....don't really know what I'm making, in fact. I just figured I'd throw some different kinds of yarn at it. Have you got any pink?"

Other than horrifying the locals and cursing and sweating in the garden (I have no idea how a 2 acre plot of land could contain a house, a garage, two metal shops, and 10 acres of flower beds, but we live on one so clearly it can be done---nasty bit of juju, that), I've also been sewing (why I try to convince myself that there is really ANY worthwhile hobby beyond knitting, I'll never know), and considering ideas for a book. For instance, my experiences with the autobody shop have convinced me that there is a need for helpful books relating to customer service. Chapter titles could be things like:

1. How to look 10 IQ points smarter, just by spitting out your gum and not studying your nails as though the polish might hold an image of the Virgin Mary.

2. Why you actually DO have to give a crap about the customer.

3. Sighing heavily when asked to do your job may have worked on your mother; it just pisses customers off.

4. Listening, and other irritating expectations clients may have of you.

5. You and the person on the other end of the phone are the only people in the world who give a rat's tushie what Beckie said to that cute DJ the other night. Subtitle: Hang up the damned phone.

6. Engaging in a battle of wits with a customer is never wise; it is particularly foolish when you are not well armed.

7. Places where you should consider covering at least 40% of your boobs, and other tips for professional dress.

8. Make-up tips for young professionals (no trowel required).

9. Teeth grinding is not a sign that the client is pleased, and other suble conversational clues.

10. You are actually supposed to make things easier for people, and other things about your job that you may not know.

It still needs fleshing out...but I think it has possibilities. Meanwhile, some photos for the cat cravers among you (you know who you are). The first two, proof positive that a dead hot tub (long, dreadful story) is not useless to everyone:

And the last one is proof that my ideas about what might make a lovely, artsy picture are misguided at best:

Happy knitting, and do try to go terrorize some locals yourself this week. At least I won't feel so alone.