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Not Enough March 30, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
5 comments

For a long time, I’ve known how to say “not enough” in sign language.  I saw it in a movie or a TV show ages and ages ago.  In it this guy is breaking up with some girl and I don’t think she’s deaf, which makes it even more odd in my brain that when he tells her he loves her but not enough, he signs the words “not enough”.  God help me, I wish I could remember why.

It’s not enough information to Google, even.  I know.  I’ve tried.

It must have been the fact that the character signed the words that made the moment more poignant, and I think it’s why the expression “I love you, but not enough,” has stuck in my head for all these years.  You know how sometimes you hear or see something and only a little bit of it gets stuck, but it gets stuck in a way that it comes up again and again at random intervals?  Yeah, like that.

One time, it popped into my head so I wrote a story around the idea.  Isn’t that what everyone does when a line of dialogue from a movie they saw half a lifetime ago and barely remember at all comes into their heads?  No?  Weird.  Happens to me all the damn time.

Unfortunately, I can’t post the whole thing here because even with a parental warning it’s still not suitable for any impressionable youths that might stumble upon my blog, and come to that, it’s probably out-of-bounds for a lot of the adults.

And again, seeing this Madhouse topic on the list made that line pop right up again.  “I love you, but not enough.”  Since I can’t think of anything else to write on the subject, I’ll just share the last scene of the story, since it’s the part that’s pertinent to the topic, and the only scene suitable in any way for sharing.

There’s no message to this, by the way.  It’s not based on any personal experience and I’m not sending out cries for help or anything like that.  It’s fiction.  I totally made it up.  Writers do that.

Relax.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Rick woke and opened his eyes. The sun had risen full in the sky and was shining brightly into the room, so he closed them again. Unsure if he’d been asleep for ten minutes or two hours and not caring either way, he stretched luxuriously in the sun like a cat in a windowsill.

“Hey,”  Paige said softly, and he turned quickly, expecting to see her still in bed next to him. She was sitting in a chair by the window, dressed, with a small bag by her feet. “I was wondering when you were going to wake up,” she said.

“How long have you been sitting there,” he asked.

“Awhile, I guess.”

He looked down and saw the bag. “What’s that?”

She stood and crossed to him and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’m going to go stay at my mom’s for awhile,” she said, and he sat up. He started to speak, but she put a hand on his arm to stop him.

“Just listen,” she said. “I have some things to tell you and it’s not going to be easy, so just let me get it all out, okay?”

A cold, hollow feeling formed in the pit of his stomach. “Okay,” he said, but the word got stuck in his throat, and he swallowed hard.

“I’ve been feeling this way for awhile and I didn’t know how to tell you. I think part of the reason I kept pushing you away is that I don’t feel the same way about you anymore.” She paused and took a deep breath. “I kept telling you ‘it’s not you, it’s me’…” He nodded. “Well, it’s not entirely true. I love you, but the truth is that I’m not in love with you anymore.”

The honesty of her words–an honesty that had been absent for so long between them–hit him like a kick to the chest.  His mind raced, confused.  Why didn’t she say something sooner…if she had only been willing to admit this months ago…years ago…why did she wait until there was nothing left to repair…why now when it’s too late…why tell me now if there’s nothing I can do to fix this…

He looked into her eyes and searched her face for answers.  He saw the hurt and sadness there, and he knew all at once where it came from. Not anything he had done, not anything he hadn’t done, but only what they had finally become.  He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, not sure where to even start.

“I swear, it’s nothing you did, or didn’t do.” He nodded in mute agreement as she spoke the words he was thinking. “And I promise you, I tried. Here,” she said, gesturing to the bed, “is where we’ve always clicked.  But it feels like a lie, and it has for a long time. I’ve been sitting there thinking about it and I think the other part of why I’ve been pushing you away is because it’s so hard to pretend to feel something I don’t. Not anymore.

“I know a lot of couples get past the whole fireworks part and settle into a close, loving partnership, but I don’t think I’m one of them. I think I need the fireworks. Maybe I’m just in love with being in love and when the ‘in love’ part passes, I get resentful. I don’t know.” She shrugged, letting her hands fall in her lap.

“One thing I do know is that you deserve more. You’re a good man,” she said, tears filling her eyes, “and you’ve always treated me better than I deserved.” He took her hands in his as the tears streaked down her face. “You’ve been kind and patient, and you are the sweetest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. No one can say you didn’t give it everything you had. But in the end, while I do love you, I just don’t love you enough. You should be with someone who can love you with everything she’s got.”

Rick sat and held her hands while she cried softly. His throat was tight and his mouth was dry, and the hollow feeling had become a dull ache that was spreading all through him.

She stood up and leaned over him, kissing him softly on the lips. She picked up her bag and quickly walked out of the room. She stopped at the doorway and turned over her shoulder. Through her tears, she said, “I’ll call you in a couple days, okay? So we can really talk.” He nodded mutely, and with no words at all from him, she was gone.

He lay back heavily against the pillows that still smelled of lavender and their lovemaking. He turned his head to her empty side of the bed and saw where she had left her simple gold wedding band on her pillow.

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Welcome to the Jungle, Baby. March 28, 2011

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
5 comments

If you have kids, you already know what I’m talking about.  The second you decide to spawn, you’ve put your feet on the battleground.  You’re fighting a war, make no mistake about it, and it’s not against diaper rash, sleeplessness, or stretchmarks.  You’re fighting the most formidable opponent the universe has ever known.  You’re fighting The Mommy Wars.

There’s no use in denying that Mommies everywhere are at war against each other, or to blithely deny that you would never be part of such ridiculous divisions and arguments about the best way to rear children.  We are at war, and like it or not, you’re part of it.  You don’t choose war, it chooses you.

From the moment sperm meets egg, you are forced to find your allies early and choose them carefully.  You will seek out like-minded women who share your ideals and plans, but to do that, you’re going to have to outline your parenting philosophy from your stance on circumcision through who should pay for the wedding.  Your entire parenting philosophy is going to determine where your battle lines are and help you plan your defenses and mount your own counter-attacks.

There are factions within cadres.  Militant Mommies wage war from both sides of the barbed wire, and they have millions of minions in countless sub-batallions who are united on some fronts while in-fighting at the same time.  From the moment you throw down (or up, as the case may be), propagandists will be out to win your for their army.  You will have to sort the lies from the half-truths and the opinions from the unsubstantiated rumors and decide who to trust a when it comes to your child’s well-being.  Know that whatever Mommy Manifesto you support, whichever gospel rings true to you, you’ve made enemies before that infant has even drawn breath.

Unfortunately, as it happens in war, you will believe things that aren’t true because you like the person that said them.  You might find yourself getting swept up in a cause or intrigued by a lifestyle that is foreign to what you’ve always known and understood and were comfortable with.  Whichever way your parenting proclivities lie, you will adopt philosophies in pregnancy that no longer fit when the baby is on the outside, and you will be branded a traitor by those whose opinions you once held dear back when the baby was merely hypothetical.

You will have divided loyalties.  Motherhood pits sister against sister, mother against child, and best friends will find themselves staring across hostile enemy territory.   The ground is littered with landmines, and one misstep in any direction can blow alliances apart.

You won’t know it at first, though, because the battles are, for the most part, fought quietly and with great civility.  Advice is offered with a smile, and interrogations come under the pretense of being interested in your new baby.  You will ignore it at first, perhaps dismiss it as casual conversation, but you’ll soon enough come to recognize when you’ve encountered a volley of hostile fire.

“Are you going to {insert parenting choice}?  We only ever {insert parenting choice} because studies show that kids who are {insert parenting choice}-ed wind up {insert list of mostly imagined positive traits bordering on superpowers}.”

“In my day we never/always {insert parenting choice} and our kids turned out so much {insert superlative}.  I don’t know what’s going to become of this new generation…”

“I read that {insert parenting choice} can cause {insert list of mostly imagined maladies, ailments, illnesses, and crippling physical and/or emotional disorders}.”

“I can’t believe you don’t {insert parenting choice}.  I’ve never been more happier or more fulfilled as a Mommy as when I {insert parenting choice}.”

“Oh, well you know those Mommies who {insert parenting choice}.  They’re all batshit crazy anyway.”

Maybe you’ll only realize how involved in the battle you are when somewhere down the road you stumble across a “debate” on a Mommy Blog about some parenting choice or other and you realize that the fairly innocuous pointing out of your differences in parenting style is all part of a huge battle being waged across a huge field.  In point of fact, seeing parenting choices argued over on the Internet is like watching a Civil War battle unfold from a distant hilltop.

The Mommy War is a close-contact battle, but the biggest damage is done by the snipers, long-range bombers, and WMD’s.  In hand-to-hand combat, the hostility is subtle, perhaps implied, or encased in a warm womb of goodwill.  But when you step back you can see the organizational structure better: the large groups that crop up to provide support for {insert parenting choice} and the vocal and visible gurus who espouse the {insert parenting choice} lifestyle.  They encourage the foot soldiers, directing the ground battle and providing ammunition.  There are politicians on both sides, currying favor with governments to adopt public policies to support {insert parenting choice} and using all manner of dirty tricks, deceit, and downright lies to do it.  History shows that the popular parenting tide turns time and time again as the decades unfold, and today’s favorite {insert parenting choice} is tomorrow’s misguided folly.

In the midst of it all, there are the Mommy Peaceniks.  They hold signs and hands and beg and plead for the end to the war.  “It doesn’t matter if you {insert parenting choice} or {insert parenting choice}.  It’s all good!  We need to support each other!  We have to stick together!”  It’s a lovely sentiment, and God bless their naive hearts for thinking that we can or will ever support what our fellow parents are doing, but the truth is, in as much as we may pay lip service to the idea that “it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it works for your family,” we all think on some level that the other side is foolish and deluded for doing whatever it is they do.  And we sit around imaginary campfires with our Mommy cronies and pity them in their ignorance.

I believe that no matter what happens, there will always be Mommies that piss us off for some reason or another.  It doesn’t matter if they are blindly devoted to their cause or just blindly devoted to their child, there’s a legion of underground guerrilla Mommies who are violently opposed to being blindly devoted to anything and will tell you so in the most polite way they know how, then go on their {insert parenting choice} message board and rail against the enemy with their Mommy fist raised high in righteous indignation.

Welcome to the jungle, baby.  No one wins the Mommy wars.

Describe Me! March 25, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
1 comment so far

Not me, personally.  I am indescribable and you damn well know it.  What I need is help coming up with a clever description of these lovely fingerless mittens.  I know what I want to do, I’m just having trouble doing it.

The working name of this listing is "Man in the Boat Mitts" if that's any help to you at all.

As you probably know, or should have figured out by now, I’m a HUGE fan of Regretsy.  HUGE.  I love that site.  I consistently laugh out loud at the captions April (Winchell, aka “Helen Killer”) writes.  I would freaking KILL to be featured on Regretsy, but I don’t think I can knit something ugly enough to qualify without being ironic and April can smell irony a mile away.  She’d be onto me like a duck on a June bug.

Anyway, when you make a living tearing to shreds the things people have posted on Etsy, you’re bound to make a few enemies over there.  One Etsyan chided April for making fun of people and being mean, and then started a Facebook site called (get this) “Regretsyisforfatugly Jealouslosers”.

Hypocritical much?

She goes by the name…well, I can’t really retype it because she does that hipster/teen/goth thing of capitalizing half the letters to make herself…I don’t know what.  Edgy?  Hip?  Whatever.  I just call her Chlamydia.  Chlamydia heads a team over on Etsy.  Etsy teams are groups you can belong to and I think the main purpose is to help each other increase sales and stuff.  I don’t really know because I’ve never felt the urge to join one before.  Anyway, she was somehow tying her team into that Facebook page and some of the members of her team got mad and left and then told April about it and…well, more fuckery ensued.

Some Regretsy frequenters retaliated and formed an Etsy team called “April’s Army” which I promptly joined.  Here’s what April says about us:

April’s Army is a team on Etsy comprised of over 700 buyers and sellers. These are people who just want to make and sell high quality things, and are united in their affection for whatever the hell it is I do over here. It’s now one of the biggest teams on Etsy, so naturally people want it to go away. In fact, it’s already been targeted by a few angry sellers, who have started forum threads to close it down, and are now filing bullshit reports of “harassment”.

It’s especially maddening, because this group stands to raise thousands of dollars for needy Etsy sellers, and other people in this community who are facing really difficult obstacles.

So I just want to say this. People will be watching you very carefully and coming up with any flimsy reason to shut you down. Don’t give them any ammo. Play nice in Happytown, and come here to vent. There are rules there. There is booze here. They have cupcakes. We have pain killers. You know what I’m talking about.

I’ll post a thread over there tomorrow about what I envision as the charity aspect of the team, and I’ll be talking about all that less and less over here, since most of you just come here for the fuckery.

One of the things April does on Regretsy is she’ll let us know if an Etsy seller is having a hard time financially and promote his/her shop on the site.  She gives to charity and encourages all her readers to do the same, because as she says, “I’d rather talk shit and do good than talk good and do shit.”

I can get behind that.

So, as a card-carrying member of April’s Army, now over 1,000 members strong and I think the biggest team on Etsy, I’m taking part in the first Charity Listing event in (appropriately enough) April.  I’ve knit these fantastic fingerless mittens as my contribution, but I’m having trouble coming up with a description of them for my Etsy listing.

I think this post from Regretsy called “It’s the Great Wall of Vagina, Charlie Brown” sums up my feelings about vulvae and the womyn who find them the center of all…oh, whatever the fuck cooter hangups they have.  I don’t understand it, never will.

The Illustrious Snatch, however, renders beautifully in cables and bobbles, so I knit some.  Well a couple.  Two snatches, one for each hand.  I think of these little pink mitts as a sort of companion piece to the “Ribbed for Her Pleasure” mittens I listed just a few days ago.

If you can make these Man in the Boat Mitts sound pretentious while making it clear that I don’t think a woman’s wizard’s sleeve is any more mystical or magical than it’s neighbor, the much-maligned balloon knot that is the asshole, you will be my hero.  Oh, I don’t know if I mentioned, but these mitts will sell for 20 bucks and all the proceeds will go to charity.  (We’re still in discussions, but so far all the charities suggested are great choices.)  And we’ll be donating one item a month in this fashion.  I just want my debut item to be Killer and for my listing to be a masterpiece of Whimsicle Fuckery.

Genitals amuse me. I may write a book of knitting patterns someday called "Clit One, Purl Two" or something like that.

WTF Friday: Your Band Kid Could DIE March 25, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
3 comments

I read this the other day and was so bowled over by the whatthefuckiness of it that I have to share.  My dissertation on “Why I Love Charo” will have to wait another week.  It’s a short article.  Go on and give it a read.

Your kid’s crusty clarinet may be harboring germs.

I don't even want to think about what kind of perv diseases you'd get from that clarinet.

First of all, YOU THINK?

Listen to this:  ““We swabbed the instruments from the mouthpiece end all the way to the bell and we also collected what was expelled from the bell and looked at the instrument cases,” he says. “And we were absolutely shocked by the results.”

You mean to tell me that fucking SCIENTISTS, one of whom is a microbiologist, were absolutely shocked to find out that instruments–in this case two clarinets, two oboes, two saxophones, two mellophones, two trombones, two trumpets, and one cornet–had bacteria on them?  Seriously, guys?  Any mother in the room could have told you that.

One of these uber-geniuses has spent THIRTY YEARS “researching the disease-producing germs lurking on common objects such as toothbrushes, dentures, athletic mouth guards and pacifiers.”

Thirty years to find out that THINGS YOU STICK IN YOUR MOUTH GET GERMY.

Can I just tell you how much I’d like to kick the “journalist” who wrote this in the vagina?  I mean, let’s set aside the fact that she wrote an article about two “scientists” who “discover” germs on things that people put in their mouths and failed to mention how much money was wasted paying people to discover things we already knew.  But okay, let’s say we let that one go.  After all, I suppose someone has to be in charge of reporting the painfully obvious.

But then there’s the part where she gives the article some punch with some nice, juicy sensationalism.  It’s the Today show, so you can see where she’s going after the Mom Demographic.  She details the diseases your kid “may” get from a dirty instrument.  They “could get” staph infections.  There’s an “increased chance” of corneal infections.  They “have the potential” to cause food poisoning.  Endophthalmitis.  Brain abscess.  Asthma.  And kids are more at risk because their immune systems are still developing.

WHY WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

What it doesn’t say, and what would be helpful information to have, is how many kids have actually contracted an illness from a band instrument.   Something tells me the statistics are less than staggering, even in places where kids have to share instruments and do a potentially shitty job of cleaning them.  If the numbers were bigger, I imagine the headline would have been more like “Crusty clarinets caused 150,000 staph infections last year.”  Or 1,000 reported brain abscesses.  Or even 10 cases of pink-eye.  As it is, a more accurate headline would probably be “Sharing a dirty clarinet is why your kid has had a cold all winter.”

It seems to me that if kids are sharing instruments, certainly disinfecting the mouthpiece is a good idea.  As expensive as they are, I’d want my kid to have her own reeds to use.  I know the shared recorders and slide whistles at the elementary school are cleaned with disinfectant for the same reason the dentist autoclaves his instruments between patients.  Seriously, this is something we’ve known for a long time.

But most kids I know have their own instrument, and they take it apart and wipe it down at least once a week.  Bug does it when she practices as part of her practice routine.  Why?  Because she was taught that cleaning it is part of playing it, and besides that, her mother told her THINGS YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH ARE GERMY.  The scientists in the article say that taking your instrument apart and wiping it down once a week will decrease the germs to an “acceptable level.”  Oddly enough, reaching an acceptable level is unacceptable to them, and sterilizing the instrument in ethylene oxide to get rid of all the germs is what’s recommended.

I found the Material Safety Data Sheet for liquid ethylene oxide, and let’s just say that there’s a reason you don’t see it on the shelves of your grocery store next to the bleach and ammonia.  Call me crazy, but it seems to be way more “potentially hazardous” than the crusty clarinet.  I’ll take my chance with herpes, thanks.

I’m willing to bet the money spent on the study that “discovered that germs live on the things that go in our mouths” would be enough to buy every kid their own band instrument so that they don’t have to share their germs.

But then what do I know?  I’m only a mother.

How Big is a Mustard Seed? March 21, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius, Other People's Genius.
4 comments

I am a woman of faith.  But because it’s been my experience that the people who love to debate issues of faith are usually the ones least equipped for the job, for the most part I try to stay away from the sacred on the blog.  By and large, I prefer to remain profane.

I have a story that keeps getting caught in my brain on a playback loop a lot lately, though.  It gets to scratching about in there any time the very nature of faith is called into question and God becomes suspect.  I remember it to myself whenever I see hateful words thrown around in God’s name by people who wouldn’t know God if he kicked them in the ass.

I mean, I suppose any time there’s a natural disaster (or three), it’s natural to wonder where God is.  Maybe you are a person of some faith who finds himself confused as to why God seems content to let bad things happen to good people.  Maybe you’re someone who sees signs of God’s wrath in the shaking of the earth and is already preparing to be raptured, or perhaps you just reject the notion of God entirely and prefer to lean on intellect alone to get you through the night.

Whatever tickles your peach, man.

I honestly try to stay out of the fray.  Arguing about “who’s right” is a fool’s debate, and just I try to remember what is important to me and let the rest of it be the background noise that it is.   I don’t like it when others try to ram their beliefs or lack thereof down my throat, so I try not to do it either.  I’m not an evangelist, or an apologist.

So if you’re still with me at this point and you continue to read on, and I hope you will because I think this is a pretty good story, bear in mind that this isn’t my attempt to preach to you or proselytize or knock on your door with leaflets or anything.  I don’t wish to challenge what you personally believe or don’t believe so much as I just feel like offering a bit of insight as to What Makes Poops Tick.

This story is a series of events that I think about whenever events in the world get to a point that make me wonder what God could be playing at.   I reflect on it when my kids ask me in their innocence about how God works and I’m in a position to help build their faith.  I use it as a talisman in my metaphorical pocket to touch when I start to lose my faith in humanity.  Which is why you may find it curious that the story isn’t about me at all.

The story starts with some hard questions, which of course tend to come up when times are hard.

Why would a loving God allow dreadful things to happen to us if he loves us?

Why would he send earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis if it’s not a punishment?

If it is a punishment, who is he punishing, and what the holy hell did they do?

Why didn’t he save the innocents?  What about his faithful?

I’m sure there were lots of people fasting and praying for an earthquake to not hit them.  Why didn’t he answer those prayers?

WHERE IS GOD?

If you can hear me…if you are real…just give me a SIGN.

I mean, if all it would take is for a simple magic trick to make someone believe, why doesn’t God just do it already?  Moses got a burning bush, and Jesus thrilled the crowds with walking on water and the whole raising Lazarus thing.  Is it so much to ask in a troubled world that you make a mountain move?  What about something easier like making a statue cry real tears or let Christ’s wounds appear on my body?  If God is as real as we seem to think he is, you think he would give us a little something, right?

Here’s what he gave me.  It’s a true story, too.

Years and years ago, a young man named Ray was living out West, and he found himself in the Rocky Mountains, looking at the scenery and having a bit of a crisis of faith.

“Lord,” he prayed, “I don’t know what to do.  I pray, but I feel like you don’t hear me.  I feel like you don’t answer me.  I need a sign.  Help me to believe.”  In desperation he challenged God, “If you’re real, prove it.  Make a mountain move.”

Ray was no doubt remembering the gospel story where Jesus tells his followers about faith, about putting your trust in God, and how when you do that, anything is possible.  Jesus told them that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they could say to a mountain, “Move!” and it would move.  Ray sighed because he knew deep in his heart that the gigantic mountain in front of him wasn’t going anywhere.  Certainly not with his faith, which he felt was even smaller than a tiny mustard seed.

Ray eventually got sick of waiting for God to do his thing, so he got up and dusted himself off and went back down the mountain.  As he tells it, he soon found himself a lovely lady named Lauretta to marry, and they moved here to New Hampshire and started their family.

One day, some many years later, one of the groups at their church was presenting a documentary about Mother Teresa of Calcutta called Something Beautiful for God. Lauretta recalls that the presentation was poorly attended with only a few people turning up, but the show (as the show must) went on anyway.

Later that night, Lauretta woke from a nightmare.  She told Ray she couldn’t get the images of those poor people out of her head.  Every time she closed her eyes, she’d see them.  Ray comforted her as best he could, but the images haunted him too.  Night after night, Ray and Lauretta dreamed about those people.  Poor people.  Hungry people.  Sick people.  Dying people.  So many people in need of basic care, and so few people reaching out a hand to help them.

They talked about it every day to the point of obsession.  They sent donations to India, but the dreams persisted.  Finally, when most of us might have sought the help of a psychologist, Ray suggested, “Perhaps we should travel to India and see what we can do to help.”

Once Ray said it out loud, they knew it was what they had both been thinking but they were to afraid to voice.  Travel halfway around the world?  Go to the poorest and most destitute of places?  Leave the comfort and safety of their little home to walk into God knows what?

It was a terrifying thought.

They wrote a letter to Mother Teresa and asked if they might go to her in India and help her in some way.  And then they waited.

Mother wrote them back.  She asked them to think long and hard about making such a long journey.  She told them to pray about it and to make very sure that this was the path that God wanted them to take.  Mother Teresa, you see, knew a little something about following a call.

So Ray and Lauretta prayed, and the dreams and the nagging feeling that they should “do something” just continued.   They wrote to Mother again and said that while they weren’t sure what path they should follow exactly, they were quite sure that God sent them to her for a reason.

Mother Teresa again answered their letter and offered a suggestion.  She told them that her order had established a hospital and orphanage in Port-au-Prince, and would they consider traveling to Haiti instead and helping out there.   She assured them that there was much they could do to help and that they would be welcomed by her Sisters.

So Ray and Lauretta and their two young daughters took their first trip to Haiti.  They got off the plane and were so overwhelmed by the poverty around them that they wanted to turn around and go right back home.  In fact, they tried to leave almost immediately but there were technical problems and as fate would have it, they were forced to stay.

The conditions were, as Mother Teresa had warned them, bleak.

Ray and Lauretta called up all the strength they had, rolled up their sleeves and set to the work they had gone to Haiti to do.  They worked very hard with very little, feeding the endless lines of people that came to their door with the little stores they had, helping provide medical assistance with no training and few supplies, and holding the hands and praying with people who were dying, offering them comfort and care and helping them to die with dignity and surrounded by love.  By the next day, they had given no more thought to leaving early.

In fact, they visited Haiti again and again, each time bringing more supplies with them, and when they got too much stuff to carry, they shipped it.  Boxes and cartons turned into shipping containers, and one container turned into many, many containers.

For thirty years from their family home, Ray and Lauretta supplied the Sisters in Port-au-Prince with giant shipping containers of food, clothing, medical supplies, and even toys for the children.  They visited and helped and lived with and prayed for the poorest of the poor in Haiti many times.

And they, like the people who had visited their own parish years earlier and screened a documentary about Mother Teresa, they put together a slide show and presentation about their beloved Haitian friends.

I’ve seen it three times so far.  You can’t see it and not be moved.  In fact, the older pictures are just Ray and Lauretta and their family in Haiti, but newer slides have more and more familiar faces as people who have seen their presentation have asked to join them on their trips.

The slide show lasts over two hours and the more Ray talks, the more you want to hear.  I only wish it was possible to capture the essence of Ray and Lauretta in this or any other article about them.  Love radiates from them.  You can feel it the second you walk into the room, in the same way you can feel the heat from a fire when the rest of the room is cold.  I don’t know of any other way to describe it.  You’ll have to trust me and my common sense when I tell you that there is something different about them that is tangible, but indescribable.

Anyway, after one of their talks at our parish, when the slide show was over a few of us were left sitting in the chapel chatting casually with Ray and Lauretta and Ray told us about that time when he sat on the mountain and asked God for a sign, for some proof that he hears prayers and answers them, and how he in his youth had so brazenly challenged God to move a mountain.

Then told us of the day many years later when he was giving an interview to a local writer, and the writer asked if Ray knew off-hand how much stuff they had collected and sent to Haiti over the years.  Ray had to admit that he really didn’t know.  It hadn’t ever occurred to him to total it up.  So he and the reporter started going through the shipping paperwork and added up how many containers they had sent over the years.

After doing the math, the writer said to Ray, somewhat off-handedly, “You know, if you stacked all those boxes and shipping containers on top of each other, the pile would be taller than Belknap Mountain.”

If you are real, God, then prove it.  Show me.  Move a mountain.

And God did.

Do you want to know where I see God?  Everywhere.  He’s in the faces of the Haitian people.  He lives in the dirt and the mud.  He is alone, hungry and forgotten. He’s sick.  He’s scared.  He’s next door at the food pantry.   He’s that woman trying to find a decent pair of gently-used winter boots for her kids.  He’s in prison.  He’s addicted.  He’s deaf, dumb, and blind.  He’s confined to bed or in a wheelchair.  He’s being beaten up for his lunch money for the third time this week.  He’s standing in the rubble in Japan, and he’s crying.

You know where else I can find him on any given day?  He’s in the face of all the Sisters around the world who continue to do Mother Teresa’s work.  He’s on the ground in Japan and Haiti in the hands of rescue and aid workers.  He’s in the hearts of people like Ray and Lauretta who do what they can, and then do a little bit more. He’s in the big family with lots of mouths to feed that somehow every week still finds enough extra money to donate a bag of groceries or two to the food pantry.  He’s spending his spare time at the nursing home building puzzles and playing cribbage with the residents.  He’s leading a prayer group at the State Prison.   She’s delivering Meals on Wheels.  He’s sharing his lunch with a kid who had his lunch money stolen three times this week.

Miracles don’t fall from the sky like manna from heaven anymore.  I rather think God gives us more credit than that.  If we want to see God at work, if we want to see him move mountains, we have to stop staring at the sky and look around.  God answers prayers alright, but he doesn’t do magic tricks.  We can go ahead and pray for a pony or a big, fat bag of cash or a cure for cancer, but we have to bear in mind that he’s not Santa Claus.

I think I know why God allows suffering to happen.  It’s so that we are always reminded that we need each other.  We are the answers to each other’s prayers.

I’m quite certain that God is trying to show us signs, but we’re too busy looking for weeping statues to see a child that is too hungry to cry.  If you need to see Christ’s wounds so that you can believe, look no further than the person standing next to you; we all carry them around with us every day.

I know in my heart of hearts that God moves mountains.  He just does it one bag of rice at a time.

 

Click the picture of Ray to read more about the Seabecks and their story of making miracles happen.

Ray and Lauretta Seabeck are still working to provide the poorest of the poor in Haiti with the basic necessities of life through donations, prayer, and by simply sharing their story.   And even though advancing age keeps them from collecting and sending the containers of material they have all these years, and their health prevents them from sharing their story as often as they’d like, the people of Haiti are never far from their hearts or minds, especially as they continue to face the new challenges brought on by the most recent earthquake.

The Insider’s Guide to Life in the 603: Part I–How to Talk Like a Native March 18, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
7 comments

I am, as I have mentioned, a New Hampshire native, born and bred. A Granite Stater.  Yes, I have an accent, and it’s a pissah.

The second place slogan lost by a small margin: "Welcome to New Hampshire. Now go home."

In the first of a three-part series, “An Insider’s Guide to Life in the 603”, I’m going to lay down the lexicon of important New Hampshire words you need to know.  I’ve included words that are (according to my research) common or unique to NH or New England in general and frequently used expressions.

Whilst similar in many ways, the people in each New England state have their own way of getting their message across.  Vermonters, for instance, have their own common expressions, and Mainers speak a dialect of Yankee that is truly not for linguists who are faint of heart.

Some notes on pronunciation

Before I start slinging aphorisms around like road salt in January, know that there is just no way you can truly appreciate the New Hampshire accent in print.  Because writing it out phonetically is a challenge to both reader and writer, I’m going to keep it to a minimum. For example, “cardboard carton” is said “cahdbo-ahd cahton”.  Wire hanger becomes  “wi-ah hangah”.

You see?  After awhile both of us will have a headache.

The first and most important key to pronouncing Yankee English is that there are no “r’s” in the middle or on the end of any words. If a word ends in an “r” sound, it’s pronunced “ah”, as in “My cah is biggah than yo-ah cah.” In the middle of word, it’s more tricky. “Cart” is said “caht” and “horse” becomes something akin to “ho-iss”, with two syllables that are run together. It’s subtle, and tricky to pull off.

The second important key to pronouncing Yankee English is words that end in a “d” are pronounced as “id” such as “wickid”, “Conkid”, or “buzzid.”

NH pronunciation is slightly different than any other New England state. Mainers, Vermonters, and Massholes all have different accents than ours. It’s subtle, but in the same way a person from Georgia and a person from South Carolina have different accents even though you’d call them both “Southern”, they’re still different.

It’s hard to give examples of true New Hampshire dialect.  The best way to try to hear it is to visit WMUR.com and watch any of the news clips where they interview someone on the scene of something.  There was one clip this past fall from coverage of The Fair that had a guy with an accent so thick that we were peeing our pants, and we’re from here.

The following words and/or phrases are for the most part in no particular order.

Ayuh

This is the grand-daddy of all New Hampshireisms. It’s used in Maine and Vermont as well but is pronounced slightly differently in all three states. The way it’s accented depends entirely in which context you use it. It’s usually used as a word of agreement, or as an assent to something, but sometimes it’s just a way of punctuating a sentence. It can start a sentence or end it, or be its own sentence entirely. The thing is, when a New Hampshireite hears someone from ME or VT say it, we know exactly where they’re from. And if someone from outside these three states says it, we know immediately they’re “from away”.

Probably flatlandahs.   Bastids.

Flatlander

Someone “from away” or not from around here. Could refer to summer folks, usually applied to Massholes and people from New York, or anyone with an out-of-state license plate.  Flatlandahs have a reputation for being pushy, rude, and condescending, not to mention they drive like fucking morons.

Wicked

This word is a source of either great irritation or endless amusement to anyone not from New Hampshire.

For a time in the ’80’s, Valley Speak appropriated “wicked” into its lexicon. We, however, were using it before, and we’ve kept on using it long after the Valley Girl phase ended.  Yes, we started it, and we’ll decide when to finish it.  I had a friend once ask me if I still said “wicked”.  The only reply to that is, “I’m still from New Hampshire.”

It’s an adverb and stands in for the word “very” but also can be an adjective all by itself, though it’s rare.

Whale on it

When you whale on something, you hit it wicked hahd.

There was quite a few cars all stove up on I-93 that day.

Stove up

Something that is “stove up” is dented, smashed, caved in, totaled, or otherwise marred in a pretty big way. It’s what generally happens after you whale on it.

“This goddamn plow lever is stuck again.”

“Well, whale on it.”

“I did, and now it’s all stove up.”

Pisser

Pronounced “Pissah”, it can be either good or bad.

“That pahty was wicked pissah last night.”  (What a fun gathering of friends!)

“Ayuh.”  (Sure was!)

Or, “Didja see where Geeta whaled on that plow lever and stove it all to cat shit?”  (Geeta tried banging on the plow lever but it got badly dented in the process.)

“Ayuh. Pissah.”  (I saw.  Sucks to be him.)

Chipper

A chipper is a good ole’ boy, hick, yokel, or rube. He is delightfully unsophisticated. A chippah drives a truck with a gun rack, a stainless-steel tool box, or both.  The truck in question may be a total “beatah” that’s held together with Bondo and primer, or it may be brand new, full of muscle, and have every chrome bell and/or whistle they make and he’s spent more money on it than the home he lives in.

A chipper wears t-shirts (or flannel shirts in the winter), jeans, and steel-toe work boots, and at least 2/3 of his wardrobe bears the Carhartt label.  He has a can of chew in his back pocket so often that there’s a permanently bleached circle in the fabric, and in his other pocket you’ll probably find a jackknife.   He likes drinking Budweiser, watching NASCAR, owns at least one snowmobile (or “sled”), and has a plow route.

Buzzard

Only a native or a social anthropologist could probably tell the difference between a chipper and a buzzard.  As a type of person, they’re practically interchangeable.  However, to refer to someone as a “chipper” is slightly less derogatory than to call them a “buzzard.”

Buzzards are decidedly lower on the food chain.  You would call a chipper you don’t like a buzzard.  And you probably don’t like him because the qualities that make a chipper a generally likable guy have in some way come together in a negative way in a buzzard.

I do too and So don’t I

These are interchangeable and both mean “Me, too” or “As do I”. They are examples of very bad English, unless you’re from this part of New England, in which case they might be taught in English class as proper usage.  (Don’t quote me on that.)

The midway at the Deerfield Fair. I want a fried dough so much right now it hurts a little.

The Fair

Any one of a number of agricultural fairs held around the state, most between Labor Day and Columbus Day. They all have names based on where they’re held, like the Sandwich Fair, the Deerfield Fair, and the Hopkinton Fair, but a native will just say “You goin’ to the fay-ah this weekend?”

“Ayuh. Got my tickets for the tractah pulls already.”

His buddy will know exactly which fay-ah he means.

Cellar

The cellar is the under-part of some houses.   Newer homes have basements that are made of concrete and are usually finished to some degree. Old houses, like mine, have cellars that might have dirt floors and walls made of stacked field stones.

Basements are useful. Cellars are scary. You might make a nice family room in the basement. You hide bodies in a cellar.

Go downstreet

Downstreet is simply what other folks call downtown. We used to ride our bikes downstreet to Harp’s Market to get some candy for ourselves, or some cigarettes for Grammy. We were told not to go to the Greek’s because he’d gyp you. (Do other people say “gyp” or is that a New England thing too, I wonder.)

Bang a U-ee

Execute an illegal u-turn in traffic to reverse direction. If a native does it, it was probably for a good reason. If a flatlandah does it, it’s because those bastids don’t know how to drive.

Can’t get there from here. Least not ‘fore dark.

This is the phrase that flatlanders will use when they want to make fun of a quaint accent they otherwise lack the skill to reproduce.   It is to northern New Englanders what “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” is to Bostonians.

Notwithstanding, we use it among ourselves as a way of saying, “Dude, that’s a long ride and the roads are shit between here and there.”

I believe this phrase comes from the fact that in NH there are the three main highways that run through the state. The rest are secondary highways or town roads and can be tricky to navigate, depending on the time of year and one’s innate sense of direction.

So if you ask us “Where is such and such a place?” and we tell you you can’t get they-ah from he-ah, it means that you’re going to have to get off the highway and you may get lost a couple two three times.  You may also encounter dirt roads so rutted that your back fillings will fall out or frost heaves the size and shape of a whiskey barrel.  And the directions are going to involve instructions like “…take a left at the big maple tree that is shaped like a profile of Dean Martin if you look at it in the right light, then keep going a ways until you pass the Levesque’s little brown log cabin…we play cards with them…when you get to the house where the lady that has the llamas lives, you take a left, but stick to the right hand side of the road ’cause it gets pretty gummy this time of year…”

Trust us.  You can’t get there from here.  At least not before dark.

A couple two three

Another way of saying two or three, more than one, or a few. If you are of French Canadian descent, you would say “a couple two tree”.

Side by each

New Hampshire has a high concentration of people descended from Quebec. Canadians from Quebec who come down to visit seem to prefer to be called “Quebecois” and consider “French-Canadian” a slur of sorts, but to those of us of Quebecois ancestry, we don’t much mind French-Canadian at all.  Tree- quarters of my family tree came here via Quebec. You used to hear French accents a lot more around here than you do now. It’s mostly the old-timers that still have French affectations in their speech, like pronouncing “three” as “tree”, or “third” as “tird”.

To that end, “side by each” is one of those old-timey French Canadian expressions that younger generations only use for effect but not so much in every day usage. It means “side by side.”

Pied-de-sous

I only learned how to spell this a few years ago. In our family it’s pronounced “pee-shoes” and it means “slippers” or “house-shoes”. Other French-Canadian descended people pronounce it differently, depending on where you are.

Piton

Another French word that refers to a little knob or thingy or button that sticks out. If you’re a guy and a woman refers to your “piton”, she’s not being kind.

Faire-do-do

French again. The spelling and pronunciation of this vary wildly from family to family and region to region. It means “go to sleep” and it’s something your Memere (grandmother) would croon to you while rocking you. In my family it’s said “fuh-de-doo.” I’ve whispered it and sung it to my own wee babies to lull them to sleep.

Rig

A rig is a thing that defies any other description and has many applications. The first is describing something truly fucked up, or over-the-top ridiculous.

“Did you see Geeta’s new truck?”

“Jesus, what a rig that is.” (It insinuates that Geeta’s new truck is either tricked out eight ways to Tuesday and they’re jealous as shit, or that it’s a piece of crap that they can’t believe he spent money on. Context is everything.)

You can also look like a rig if you’re wearing clothing that is grossly mismatched, doesn’t quite fit, or makes you appear mentally ill. “Can you change Emma’s clothes and run a comb through her hair? I’m taking her to Wal-Mart and she looks like a rig.”

Frig, Friggin’, Frigged

Frig, friggin’ and frigged don’t refer to something sexual, unless that’s what you’re talking about specifically. It’s like a softer version of “fuck”. If you frig with something, you might just be messing around. If you fuck with something, you’re either doing it maliciously or very badly. If something is all fucked up, it’s on the verge of being a total loss if it’s not already. If it’s just frigged up, it’s just a mess that can be fixed with some time and effort, or possibly by whaling on it.

Hard telling, not knowing.

It means “I don’t know.” You’d say it when it’s pretty obvious that you have no way of knowing the answer to what someone is asking you. “You think we’re going to have a snowy winter?”

“Hard telling, not knowing.”

Rotary

What you probably call a traffic circle. They are generally despised. Apparently the rest of the world took to calling them traffic circles but it never caught on here.

Notch

What you probably call a mountain pass. We have several up in the White Mountains and if you ever get a chance to take a car tour of NH, I recommend visiting them. If a local asks you if you’re “goin’ through the Notch,” that’s what they’re talking about.  Usually.

Pocketbook

A purse. This was more my grandmother’s generation, I think. She always carried a pocketbook and if I was to come across one of hers in a box today I’d still call it a pocketbook. Yet I refer to my own handbags as purses.

***After careful consideration and much discussion with my fellow locals on this matter,  I believe the consensus is that a pocketbook is an old lady’s purse, and you are officially old when you refer to your own handbag as such.***

No-suh and Yessuh

Literally, “No sir” and “Yes, sir.”   This one, like “ayuh”, is all in the pronunciation and the context. It’s one of those old Yankee expressions that in the hands of a non-native speaker just does not work.  It defies imitation.  You can’t do it.   Leave this one alone.

I'm not saying the Leaf Peepers don't have point, though. Yes, it really is this spectacular.

Leaf Peepers

Flatlanders that pile into their cars and come north to see the trees change color. They start appearing way up north in mid-September and don’t leave until mid-October. Then we get a break from them until ski season starts.

Elastic

We call rubber bands “elastics.” As in, “Will you put a braid in my hair? Here’s an elastic.” And yes, Gary, it is also what you use to hold your underpants up.

Clicker

The remote control to the TV. Does anyone else call it a clickah?

Sugar snow

I think this is New England-wide. When the days are above freezing but it still drops below freezing at night, it’s “sugaring” weather. The sap in the maple trees starts running and maple syrup producers get to work boiling and producing the year’s maple syrup. Because it starts in early spring, you can’t rule out the occasional snowfall, but because temperatures are warmer, it doesn’t accumulate very much (if at all) and the flakes are big and wet. We refer to this as “sugar snow”.

It’s a phrase we use to remind ourselves that it’s snow but not the “real” kind that we’ll have to deal with in any way. It’s sort of how we encourage ourselves to get through it, because by March and April, we’re pretty goddamn sick of snow.  Saying “it’s just sugar snow” is how we handle seeing snowflakes well past the point where less hardy folks would have become suicidal.

It shit the bed

It broke or died or stopped running. It gave up the ghost. It’s had the radish. It’s toast.

“What happened to the skiddah?”

“It shit the bed.”

“Did you let Geeta frig with it?”

“Ayuh.”

Just giving a little shout out here to my friend Geeta.  He’s had that nickname since high school though I’m damned if I can remember why now.  Of all the nicknames of all my friends, I chose  his to use because it’s wicked awesome and just rolls delightfully off the tongue when you’re talkin’ Yankee.

New Hampshire Superlatives

It’s not enough to say that someone is stupid, useless, fat, or ugly.  We must qualify exactly how stupid or useless with a colorful turn of phrase.  These are the ones that my family uses all the time, though I have heard literally hundreds of them and everyone has their favorites.

Homlier than…

…the south end of a northbound cow.

…a cartload of assholes.

…a hedge fence.

Hotter than…

…a four-balled tom-cat.

…the hinges (hammers) of Hell (Hades).

Shaking like…

…a dog shitting peach seeds.

…a 20-dollar set of K-mart tires.

Colder than…

…a witch’s left tit in a brass bra.

Harder than…

…a whore’s heart.

Dryer than…

…a popcorn fart.

Darker than…

…a pocket in a union suit.

Slower than…

…cold molasses running uphill.

…molasses in January.

Tighter than…

…the bark on a tree. (meaning cheap or frugal)

…a bull’s ass at fly time. (meaning really tight or stuck shut)

Wound up tighter than…

…a nine-day clock.

Rougher than…

…a cob.

…a whore’s dream.

Useless as…

…tits on a bull.

…tits on a nun.

Hornier than…

…a forty-peckered roadrunner.

Dumber than…

…a box of rocks.

…a bag of hair.

If any of my fellow NH natives can think of any regionalisms I’ve forgotten, or if you have different ones that you use in your family or part of the state that differ from mine, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in my next installment of “The Insider’s Guide”.

Be sure to tune in for “An Insider’s Guide to the 603: Part II–How’s Your Grinder?”, uploading on April 18.

It’s gonna be wicked pissah.

WTF Friday: Property of Poops March 18, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
1 comment so far

There was a time, gentle reader, if you stole from someone, you had the good sense to be cool about it.  You kept your crime quiet–stayed under the radar.  If you told anyone what you did, it was probably another thief, knowing that there was honor among thieves and there were penalties for ratting out a fellow criminal.

One would think that the Internet would have made all that harder, right?  It’s a world-wide public forum.  There’s a reason no one says “What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet.”  Everyone is a potential rat.

Suffice it to say, I’m sick of dishonesty.  And not just your run-of-the-mill stealing, but the blatant in-your-face stealing.  The kind of stealing where the deck is stacked entirely against the victim and is to the point it’s at because even dumber than shit criminals know that there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to them that won’t make it worthwhile.

What the fuck is up with that?

I love Regretsy.com.  Besides being funny, I think in a lot of cases the site does a service to the etsy community at large.  At one time, etsy had the potential to be something great.  It was supposed to be a place that celebrated things made by hand.  There are some amazing artists selling over there (like me!  Click the booties on the sidebar!).  Unfortunately, to find them you have to weed through thousands of listings by people cleaning out their garages.  People are gluing pipe-cleaners to flowerpots or decoupaging porn magazines to ballet flats and calling it “art,” and Regretsy calls them on it.  Regretsy wants you to think about it for a minute before you decide to sell house slippers made out of maxi pads.

But more than that, Regretsy wants you to stop importing cheap shit from Asia and selling it as something you made yourself.  The maxi-pad slippers are ugly, but at least someone put them together by hand.

Yesterday I think was just one straw too many for this camel, and for thousands of other camels as well.  The Regretsy post that set me off, for those that don’t feel like linking to it, shows the picture of a t-shirt that designer Jess Fink created and sells over on Threadless.com.  You can also see the shop of one “glitterbiscuits” where she not only sells a blatant copy of that same shirt, but admits as much right on the page.  She even changed her store banner to brag about stealing the design and encourages everyone to keep sending her hate mail because she enjoys it.  Oh, and she’s sold out of her counterfeit t-shirts, but she’s making more!

I have a t-shirt for her, right here.

Regretsy encouraged all of us reading to flag her shop and get  it shut down.  I read the original post on Regretsy at 8:30 last night and by 10:00 they reported that 26,000 people had complained to etsy about her.  As of this morning, the cuntwaffle otherwise known as “glitterbiscuits” still has a shop and her new store banner is, while admittedly more subtle this time, still making it obvious that she knows she stole, she doesn’t feel bad at all about it, and what the fuck are you going to do about it?

I feel for Jess Fink.  You can read her blog post about how many times she’s been plagarized here, and not just by this worthless cow.  It’s pretty easy to see that being creative makes you a target, and it makes me wonder why coming up with the next great idea or design is even worth it.  If it’s good enough, someone is going to steal it anyway, and it seems that the only legal avenues the victim has are not worth it in the long run.  Well, maybe Jo Rowling has the money and the attorneys to go after people pirating her novels, but for the little guy?  Someone like Jess who has cute ideas and a modicum of success as a designer but is in no way equipped or funded to go after everyone trying to make a buck off of her.

What the fuck makes anyone think it’s okay to use another person’s designs and call them her own?  The law.  It’s set up so that it’s ridiculously hard and expensive to get justice for the victim, and the thief gets away with it because they can.   And not just gets away with it–continues it, brags about it, and no doubt escalates at some point because the rewards of selling her knock-off t-shirts at craft fairs and flea markets to people who don’t know better is clearly lucrative for her.  And that’s wrong.

Maybe Jess’s story just rubbed me the wrong way because I feel like a walking target myself lately.  Maybe it’s the fact that I had a roofer steal money from me.  Maybe it’s because even after the court ruled in my favor, they did nothing when he failed to pay me, unless you consider telling him he could make monthly payments as “doing something.”  Maybe it’s because so far he’s not made one single payment on time.  I just filed papers yet again to bring him back into court so that he can explain how broke he is to the judge.  It’s bad enough that they’re making me treat the theft like some sort of interest-free loan to this fucking dirtbag, but they don’t even enforce the payments.  Why not?  Because that’s not how the law works.  The deck is stacked against the victim and no matter what I do or say in court, the judge has operate within the law.

What the fuck makes him think that he is entitled to my money?  The law.  The law has made it impossible for me to get my money back from the guy who stole it.  And that’s wrong.

Maybe Jess’s story rubbed me the wrong way because I’ve had stories that I posted online to a story-sharing site stolen and re-posted on another site under another writer’s name.

It was a word for word, cut and paste job.   Heinous, but if you’re the type of fuckwit that gets off on accepting praise from strangers for something you didn’t write, what kind of sad existence do you have?  If you need to copy my stories from one free site to post them on another free site–for free–just so that other people can tell you how good they are, you’re fucked up.  What kind of jackass takes credit and praise for something they didn’t do?  Nevermind.  Don’t answer that.

It was only annoying until stories from that site started showing up in self-published Amazon books.  I haven’t yet found any of my stories published for sale illegally yet, but I took everything down I posted and ordered the other sites do the same, and they seem to be all down.  For now, anyway.   Getting unearned glory is one thing, but getting paid for something I wrote?  Fuck no.

As a blogger I’ve made it a point to read up on Fair Use laws just to be sure that when I’m using quotes or pictures or whatever that I’m not violating anyone’s intellectual rights.  And you want to know something?  Fair Use laws as they apply to the Internet are pretty damn generous.  How anyone could feel the need to go that step beyond what is already a pretty generously written clause and brag about the stuff they admit they ripped off from the Internet is beyond me.  When did it become cool to steal things?

But the truth is, whenever you post something to the Internet, consider it a gift to the world.   Even if I pay to copyright all my work before putting it up, I could never afford the lawyer I’d need to enforce the copyright, and even then, is it worth the time, effort, and gobs of money it takes to pursue it?  Is the slap on the wrist going to be enough to keep that thief from doing it again and serve as a warning to others who’d follow the same route?  Yeaaaaah…no.

Life was easier when the bad guys just snuck in and stole the TV.

Craftvincible March 16, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
4 comments

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you’re right.” I’m reminded of that every time someone browses my hand knits at a craft fair and remarks, “I could never do that.”

Just mittens, not magic.

Part of me wants to disagree because that’s nonsense. It’s not magic. I’m not casting spells or pulling a rabbit out of my ass.  It’s a couple of pointy sticks and some yarn. It’s a skill like any other.  Did you always know how to write your name?  No.  There was a time a pencil was just a pointy stick, but then someone taught you how to make scribbles with it, then more carefully formed shapes, then letters and words and before you knew it, you could write.

The other part of me agrees entirely. You know what? If you look at something and say “I could never do that,” you are probably correct. Not because you don’t have the ability, but because you lack the desire to learn the skill.  I used to get all “you can do it!” with them, but now I just hand the “I can’t do it” folks my business card and tell them to stop by my Etsy shop, and to be sure to shop early and shop often for all your hand-knit needs.

I do understand the “I can’t do it” mentality. There’s lots of stuff I can’t do, not because I don’t have the ability or because I truly think it’s out of my grasp as a human being, but because I don’t have the desire to put the time in to learn it. I’d love to be a musician, and I could be one if I didn’t hate to practice. So when I say “I could never be a musician,” it’s not because I lack musical skills or the manual dexterity to play the instrument, but I just don’t have the drive or the desire to practice.

I’ve never felt that way about crafts, though. I don’t know what it is about my genetic makeup that makes me craftvincible, but I am. There is no craft I cannot become proficient at, and if I enjoy it enough, I will.

My cousin JoAnne thinks it’s sheer stubbornness. When I was working at the fabric store, she came in one day and we got to chatting about crafts in general. She is a crafter too, a furniture upholsterer by trade for many years and an excellent seamstress. She said the reason she got into re-covering furniture in the first place was because someone once told her she couldn’t do it. She learned it out of spite. But she added that when it comes to stuff like that, it never occurs to her to think for a minute that she wouldn’t be able to do it.  She simply refuses to accept that she can’t.

I’m that way about all crafts. I haven’t tried them all yet, and some will slip through the cracks, either because they don’t interest me or I’ll just run out of time and/or space.  But I can do any craft I put my hands to because I refuse to accept that I cannot master it.

However, I have crafting ADD. I will spend hours and hours with my latest craft craze, buy all kinds of supplies to do it, produce so much stuff that I have to give it away and then start selling it to get it out of my house. Eventually, I get tired of it, though. I box up the supplies and store them in the craft closet and move on to the next thing that’s caught my fancy.

The nice thing is that I never lose my ability to do the craft I’ve packed up and put into storage, and I’ll often incorporate different but related crafts in one item. Like the embroidered baby booties. If you look at the pink pair that serves as a link to my Etsy shop, you can see knitting, embroidery, and beading combined.

I should do more beading. *makes note*

What was I saying?  Oh yes, crafting ADD.  I don’t know what makes the bloom go off the rose for me.  Why one minute I’m sitting at my kitchen table surrounded by paper scraps, thousands of dollars worth of rubber stamps, and a stack of lovely handmade cards, and the next minute I’m standing in the bead aisle at Joann Fabrics buying up all kinds of stuff to make…hell, I don’t know what.

I love beads.  Shiny…

Alas, I have but one small room for all my craft needs.  Well, it’s not a room so much as a closet.  I have a bunch of built in shelves along one wall and three of those plastic stacking drawer units.  There’s a small dresser in there and the rest stores in bins and boxes stacked on the floor.  What I really need is a dedicated craft room, and I’ve got it planned out.  Someday when I’m back to work full time and we have a second income rolling into the coffers, I’m all over it.  Of course, I’ll be working full-time so I don’t know when I’ll have time to craft…

An example of "quilling". It's the art of curling thin strips of paper into designs. Yes, I can do this.

Anyway, I’ve tried my hand at sewing (of course), I knit, crochet, spin, do rubber stamping, quilling, quilting (two different things and not a typo), I can draw and paint a bit, I’ve done beadwork–both sewn and jewelry-type–tole painting, calligraphy, candle-making, I own an actual Bedazzler, have

Pysanky, or the Ukrainian method of decorating eggs using a wax-resist process. Yes, I can do this, too.

enjoyed origami, covered a lot of wood with decoupage, am adept at pysanky, can make friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss and friendship pins with seed beads and safety pins.  I am good at crewel embroidery, needlepoint, counted cross stitch, and petit-point, I have done ceramics, tie-dyeing, regular dyeing, woodburning, glass etching, and…

Well, you get the idea, right?

I don’t know what significance any of this has, to be honest.  I know that someone like myself who loves and is skilled at this kind of stuff should be able to make a living with it.  One would almost think so, right?

Short of becoming a home-ec or art teacher, I’m stumped.

I wonder if beads are on sale this week at Joann’s…

I Love You. That Is All. March 14, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
9 comments

God help me, I love you.

Poops went out on Saturday night for what started as an innocent dinner with some friends.  Said friends bought me several margaritas because apparently it’s really funny when the already unreliable don’t-say-that-out-loud filtration system in my brain is completely disabled by alcohol.

I got up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning to pee and I was still drunk.  Don’t judge me.  You know you’ve done it too.

I got up at 8 to get the kids ready for catechism and I thought my head was going to rupture.  I drank enough water the night before to float an armada.  I took a handful of Tylenol before bed.  I drank a cup of coffee before heading to church and nothing even touched it.

Auntie Mame was HUNG.  Despite downing the can of Coke that Fr. Albert keeps around the church for just such emergencies (I assume), I never did get rid of the headache which alternated between mildly annoying and throbbing intensely depending on how close my Tylenol were to wearing off.

I have no idea why I was suffering for that long.  I hardly ever get hung over, and when I do, it’s because I drank like a fish and was absolutely gooned when I went to bed.  Now, I didn’t feel all that drunk when I went to bed, in fact, I felt fairly sober when I turned in, so there’s no reason I can think of that explains why I should have felt drunker at 4 in the morning than when I went to bed.  Unless Hornitos is now a time-release tequila.  (I’m not complaining but it would have been nice to know earlier, you know?)

Or maybe Patrick’s wasn’t giving me the good stuff but serving me the cheap shit.  My Mama taught me to never drink cheap booze because it’ll give you a headache.  They better not have been charging for Hornitos and giving me El Pepe brand tequila.  Fuck.

Maybe I got some bad ice.  Heh.

I hang around with the greatest group of enablers friends you could ever wish for.  I would love to talk about them and some of the truly scandalous fantastic times we’ve had over the years, but we have a pact of Mutually Assured Destruction.  It’s a shame, too.  Because I know who built the giant snow penis on the front lawn of the school and it’s a terrific story.  Alas, I can already hear the shouts of “GUACAMOLE!” in my head and I’m reminded to stand down, lest my own secrets get spilled.  (“Guacamole” is our safe word.  When one of us starts getting to close to entering a ten-digit launch code, the safe word reminds us all to take our fingers off the button.)

And, if from time to time I drink a tad too much while under their influence, I guess it’s a small price to pay.  I seem to be okay this morning.  No worse for the wear.

While I sat there yesterday, nursing my hangover and contemplating the sheer awesomeness of my friends, I found myself musing on what exactly constitutes friendship.  How do I define the word “friend?”  How does the world define it?

My husband’s SIL thinks Facebook and any parts of the Internet that aren’t devoted solely to the praise and glory and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins are the scourges of humanity.  Social networking?  A fallacy.  A fraud.  You’re fooling yourself.  “You can’t have online friends,” she said.  “If you can’t sit down in the same room with them and have a conversation, make physical contact with them, you can’t connect.  Not really.  They’re just words on a screen.”

I don’t know how to explain to the uninitiated what it’s like to have dear friends that I’ve never seen in person, much less bent an elbow with.  I imagine that people who are not part of an online community of any sort forget that behind the screen names are flesh and blood people.   Their lives have touched my own in the most profound way I can think of: with words.

They’re just words on a screen.

"Just words on some crinkly, yellow paper."

Think about that for a minute.  Think about the power that words have, that words have always had.  Long before the advent of the Internet, people wrote.  Letters.  Essays.  Epistles.  A letter home from a soldier is a piece of living history.  Most of the New Testament is someone else’s mail.  Don’t tell me that words, be they on a screen, carved into marble, spray-painted on a shop window, or scribbled in crayon, are just words.

There is no such thing as “just words.”

I don’t know if it’s the screen names that are confusing.  After all, I’ve known this bunch of women for years for the most part by their screen names:  Yorkie, PennyKarma, elizabeth, Batty, Bezzie, CBear…there’s lots of them out there and too many to name.  I wondered if you could really get to know a person without knowing their given name.

Facebook answered that question for me.  When it came along, we were able to selectively let each other into our own real-life worlds, and I learned my friends’ real names for the first time.  It turns out that it never really mattered, since I still think of them by their screen names.  I don’t know them any better than I did before, really.  And the truth is, I have people in real life that I think of by their nicknames first.  Hell, if I call Baboo by his real first name he asks if I’m mad at him.

I’m not arguing that it’s not comforting to have a friend by your side to hold your hand, pat you on the shoulder, give you a high five, or hand you a drink.  But I don’t care about you any less because you’re a half a world away from me.  Just because I’ve never held your hand in real life doesn’t mean I don’t care.  I do.  Deeply, in fact.

I think all friendships are a matter of faith, no matter what shape they take and no matter how you define the word “friend.”  The official definition is “someone you know, like, and trust.”  It doesn’t mention proximity at all in any of the definitions I could find.   I assert that all you need to get to know someone enough to decide if you like and trust them is words–yours and theirs, sent back and forth, whether it’s over a table or across an ocean.  Distances no longer hamper us.  With instant messaging, time is less a factor than ever.

It has been said that for those who have faith in God, no proof is necessary; for those without faith, none is possible.  It think it’s the same with friends.  I can’t prove to them or to anyone else that my online friends are as dear to me as my real-life friends, or to convince them that they share the same space in my heart.  But then, my online friends don’t need proof.

And let’s face it, none of them has ever tried to poison me with tequila.  I’m just saying.

Knittastic March 12, 2011

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.
1 comment so far

So, I don’t know if I blogged about my semi-recent adventures in dyeing.  I had a bunch of linen/cotton blend yarn that was all a natural ecru color and realized I’d be more likely to use it if it was in different colors.  Being a cotton/linen blend I also knew that Rit dye was my friend.

I’d used Rit all the time back in my costuming days.  We usually did it in the washing machine, but I’ve always been a bit leery about putting dye in my own washer, and I also wasn’t sure if skeins of yarn would behave in the washing machine.

I bought a box of navy blue dye and a box of a chocolate brown dye and decided to do three skeins blue, three skeins brown, and leave 4 natural.  Only I had quite forgotten what a huge pain in the ass dyeing is.  Well, not the actual dyeing, per se.  That was fine.  I used the stovetop method whereby you put some water and the dye in a pot on the stove, get it real hot and plop the fabric or yarn in.  I did it and the colors took beautifully.

It’s the rinsing that wears at your soul.  I can’t tell you how long it took to get the rinse water to run clear.  I shudder to think of how many gallons of water went down my kitchen sink drain trying to create yarn that wouldn’t run later when I washed the sweater, and that was after giving it a cold water and vinegar bath to help set the color a little better.

But finally, the water ran clear and I could hang it to dry on the porch.

Later, I wound them into neat yarn cakes.

And now they are currently being worked into a sweater for the Bug.  The body is done and I’m about halfway up the hood.  She’s said she wants elbow-length sleeves, so those will go on last.  I’m looking forward to seeing it washed and blocked.  It’s still a bit nubbly and uneven in it’s pre-blocked state. 

I decided to go with the more mature colors partly because Bug is growing up, and also because I figure if I don’t use pink or purple Dave might eventually get to wear it.  Unless his sisters give him shit about wearing their hand-me-downs.  Which they might.  Hell, I would.

It took awhile for me to get to the sweater that I’d been working on in my head because I had promised a customer a baby sweater.  She liked my offerings at a craft fair and asked if I would make her a custom knit for her impending grandchild.  I said sure, and she came by the house with a pretty easy pattern and some lovely, top o’ the line yarn to work with.  I did the sweater up for her and she liked it so much she asked if I’d tackle another one.

This comes under the heading of “quit while you’re ahead.”

The second pattern was by Sirdar and in my opinion is completely overwritten.  It’s is for a sweater that can be made with long or cap sleeves, a round or a v-neck, and size ranges from newborn to size 6.  That’s a lot of variables to figure out.  I wish I had a copy of it right here so I could give you a sampling of what the directions look like.  You wouldn’t believe it.  It required the Rosetta Stone to decipher.

It’s a gorgeous little sweater, but DAMN. 

You can see where you start at the bottom with one stitch pattern, move to the middle section and work a different stitch pattern before moving on to the third stitch pattern.  And when you start the third pattern, which is a mistake rib and doesn’t look like the picture until you’re quite a few rows into it, you also shape the armholes and neckline so there are increases and decreases all over the fucking place. I had to pull it out three times and had to go on Ravelry to see if I was the only one who thought the top was indecipherable.  I was not, and I got some really helpful tips and finally got it into shape.

I got to the sleeves and had to lie down.  I put it away for a couple of days.  Again, three different stitch patterns plus working increases up the sleeve to the top where you’ve got that weird mistake rib again and then the shaping at the top of the sleeve.

But, I finally finished it and it came out truly lovely.  And I really liked that mistake rib so much I’m planning to use it on some sweaters of my own.  Plus, I found this sweet crackle heart in my grandmother’s button box that worked just perfectly.

The lady not only bought the yarn and the pattern but she paid me for my time and effort and threw in a bunch of really nice wool (she clearly has expensive taste in yarn!) that she said she’d never get around to using if I’d like to have it.

Then I had a couple of small projects that I didn’t take pictures of but totally should have.  I made a felted pouch for a blind friend from church to carry her folded up white cane in.  And I fixed the sleeves on a sweater for another friend.  And I really wish I’d taken a picture of the baby set I made for my new nephew.  I don’t know why I forgot.  Perhaps they’ll send us a picture of him wearing it.  That’d be cool.

Oh, and the other thing I’ve been working on is gloves.  It’s no secret that I love to knit mittens, but I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a glove pattern in a worsted weight that wasn’t going to be more of a pain in the ass to knit than was worth it.  I broke down and downloaded a glove pattern that uses sock yarn and even ordered the sock yarn, but I don’t much like working with lightweight yarns.  I don’t like how they feel in my hands.  It’s hard to explain.  I think it’s why all my forays into lace knitting have ended badly.  In the end, I didn’t enjoy the process because it was a bad tactile experience.

Hey, I hate prime numbers.  You think it’s weird that I don’t like the feel of working with thin needles and yarn?  Sugar, please…

That’s why this baby bonnet I’m working on is using a double strand of angora.  I started it using it a single strand and on tiny needles but I just didn’t like it.  It was a lovely, fine, soft fabric, but just really un-fun to work on.  I doubled it and I love how it feels.  I went with a textured stitch that I think will make it warm and soft and cuddly when it’s done.

So anyway, the gloves.  I started with a pattern suggested by one of my Knitters and I got as far as the thumb gusset before realizing that I wasn’t going to like how they turned out.  Up until the body of the glove, it’s the same as knitting a mitten and this pattern had me making a thumb gusset that was going to be too long to suit me.  So I changed it to the thumb gusset I always use on mittens.  Then the way they described how to section off the fingers by putting your hand in it and measuring where to put the fingers with safety pins seemed kind of dumb.  What if you’re making these for someone else and you don’t have their hand…handy?  What then?

So I used my knowledge of simple anatomy to figure out how to divide the stitches for the fingers and long story finally shorter, I wound up chucking the pattern and just making my own.  I’ve got the medium size written which fits Larry perfectly, so I gave them to him, and I worked out the numbers and test knit one that’s smaller.   A bit too snug for me, but I have giant Man Hands.  (Could be why I don’t like working with small yarn, when you think of it.)  Once I figure out the larger size, for bigger hands, I’ll have it up on Ravelry, no doubt.

And I think that’s all there is to report.  Larry T. just called from the hospital where he’s visiting with the new baby and has reported that the hat and sweater set went over like gangbusters.

*thumbs up*

And now I’m going to make a spot of lunch for me and the boy, and since the girls are in Boston for the day with their Tanta and Larry is in Keene, I may settle in for a quiet afternoon with my needles.