Friday, May 27, 2011


Turn and face the strange.
Don't want to be a richer man,

Just gonna have to be a different man,
Time may change me.
But I can't trace time.

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen and run across some pretty useful (and some useless) information on the Internet. One day I read a ‘tweet’ talking about a project called ‘Knit-a-Year’. I was intrigued. The instructions were easy; cast on some stitches, knit at least two rows every day using a color that fits your mood or feelings that day. You could journal or blog, as a kind of documentation of your feelings. I chose to blog.

When I told people about the project, more often than not I got a blank stare. Why would you want to do that? What is it for? What are you going to do with it? There were a few who thought that it was a fun, interesting and even cool idea. I guess, on the whole, it’s a little ‘out there‘ for the average person, especially if the person doesn’t knit or worse, isn’t creative.

I started on April 1, 2010. I finished on March 31, 2011. I made it through the whole year! As I look back on the year I ask myself some questions. Why did I do it? Why did I stick with it? Why did I bother to finish? What did I learn? What now?

I chose to participate in this project because I thought it sounded interesting. As is often sometimes the case, I didn’t follow the instructions exactly. I can call it creative license. Yeah, that sounds good. Instead of one long continuous strip, I chose to break mine into ‘seasons’. I have four strips, one for spring, April through June, summer, July through September, fall, October through December, and winter, January through March. It doesn’t quiet go along with the seasons but it’s close. The stitch the original project called for curls in on itself. The result would be a very long skinny tube. That didn’t appeal to me at the time so I made mine wider and chose a stitch that would create a flat fabric.

I never found this project to be a chore. At first I made it a point, no matter what, to knit on it each day. But I travel for my job and carrying a bunch of different yarn with me didn’t work. I wanted to stay with the spirit of the project and choose something that portrayed my mood at that time. So I couldn’t pack some red, yellow, green, etc., because I might not have felt red, yellow or green during the time I was gone. Instead I would record how I felt then pick the yarn when I got home. If I did have a color in mind I’d make a note of it as well. I would usually knit when I was alone, at night after everyone went to bed. It was a peaceful time and I could think (or worry) about whatever crossed my mind.

Perhaps the hardest thing was to find the yarn I wanted to use. I have quite a bit of yarn. Probably too much, depending on who you ask! At the house we did some rearranging and I got some cabinets to store all the yarn in. To get it from the upstairs room to the downstairs room required putting it in boxes, bags, or whatever was available. Some of it is unpacked but quite a lot isn’t. I’d want a certain yarn and wouldn’t know where it had been packed. That frustrated me. In the beginning I decided I was not going to duplicate the yarn used. I could have done that easily. But the packing and not being able to find things plus trying to keep up with what had been used changed my mind. Instead I made sure that each strip never had repeats of the same yarn.

The journaling was optional. At first I went into a lot of detail about why I chose the yarn for that day, what it was, and why. Later I cut some of the detail. I decided to write a blog and as I wrote sometimes I wrote too much before I even got to the knitayear. That part was for me anyway. I didn’t figure too many people really cared why I chose purple boucle or not! I did find out I enjoyed the writing and will continue to blog.

Here are some interesting observations I made during the year and after completing the strips. • The first strip is the longest but the last strip is not the shortest. The shortest one would be ‘fall’, with Thanksgiving and Christmas included. I think it was a time thing and I just didn’t add as much on each day because there were a lot of other things going on.
• I tend to be influenced by the color of the season. The fall strip, especially at the beginning had a lot of oranges and browns. There’s a block that’s got a lot of red and green and white in it. The spring strip had a lot of bright colors, cheerful, which reminded me of spring.
• The same color didn’t mean the same mood. For instance there were times I used blue when I was happy and times when I was sad. For the most part though, if it was really a bad day there’s probably some really dark yarn, like black or brown included. I couldn’t really determine a ‘happy’ color except that it was bright.
• I like variegated yarn. That means it’s one strand with different colors. I can’t help it. When I look at yarn those jump out at me. I think maybe it’s to do with holding my attention. When the colors change it keeps things interesting.
• I like bright colors. It doesn’t seem to be a particular bright color because I have a lot of all of them except possibly yellow. My mother always told my sister and I we couldn’t wear yellow so I shy away from it. Turns out it was her who didn’t like and couldn’t wear yellow but I was already conditioned!
• I like texture. I have a lot of novelty yarn, fun furs and the like left over from the scarf rage a few years ago. But I also have a lot of ribbon, thick and thin and boucle yarns.
• I don’t make socks but I like sock yarn. There are beautiful colors in sock yarn. The knitayear didn’t always capture the changing colors because it was such a short section of knitting.
• Looking back, if I had left the strip as a tube I could have wound it into some kind of rug. Oh well.

Overall I’m glad I participated and after thousands of stitches I’m pleased I completed this project. I got personal satisfaction from it. I know for sure that I can stick to something and get it done, especially if it is important to me. I enjoyed the time I had to set aside to think about the day. I might even do it again, or something similar anyway. If I do I’ll plan a bit more. Maybe make something specific that was big and would take a lot of time. At one time there was talk by the originator of the project, of an international display of some sort. If that comes about I will take part.

I’m still not sure what I’ll do with the strips. I could use the strips around the top of the wall as a border or just hang them on the wall as some kind of weird art. Or I might just put them in a box and stick it somewhere so it can be thrown out when I die! I could sew them together and put them across the bottom of the king size bed like hotels do with that little piece of cloth. I’m not sure how well that would go over! I’ll just hang on to them until I decide.

Color is an important part of our lives. What we choose is not random, even though putting it all together, side by side every day looks abstract. Color holds individual meaning to us. The colors we choose give personal insight about what is going on inside, our innermost feelings and emotions. That’s really what the knitayear was about. Knitting was just the way I chose to express it.

Still don't know what I was waiting for,
And my time was running wild.
A million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I'd got it made.
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me.
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker.
I'm much too fast to take that test.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What A Way To Wanna Be

I don't wanna wear that.
It only makes me look fat.
Time to tone my thighs-- gotta lose another size, yeah!
What a way to wanna be…

Being female, I know that one of the things we worry most about is how we look. I used to get a kick out of that Special K cereal commercial where all the guys were saying the girl things. The guy rises, reaches behind him and looks back and says, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” Towards the end of the commercial a screen comes on that says: Men don’t obsess about these things. Why do we? I don’t know. But we do.

Personally, I think men worry about looks just as much as women do but stereotypically women are portrayed to worry more. I know both men and women who worry about their weight and how they look. Really, how can anyone avoid it? We’re a society obsessed with looks. Almost everyone worries at one time or another about how they look, especially as we get older. There’s the thinning hair, wrinkles where there once were none, bigger hips, no waist, sagging body parts, and the list goes on and on.

Because I am one of those stereotypical women who worry about looks, I decided to see what I could do about it. I glanced through some magazines and searched on the Internet for some tips. With what I found, already knew or had been told, I was ready. I read if you pull your hair up and back tightly at the sides it will act as a mini facelift. So I tried it. Besides having two weird looking pony-tail type things on each side of my head I got a headache. It may have pulled my sagging skin up but it also made my eyes a different shape. Scratch this idea.

Maybe I can just take out the wrinkles around my eyes. Someone told me to take two sardines and place one under each eye and leave for 10-15 minutes or longer. I can also place them on my eyelids to reduce the wrinkles and tighten skin. Sardines? Really? Do you know how sardines smell? What do you do with the rest of them? Eat them? Feed them to the cat? I think I may have to skip this procedure. Besides, I read that Preparation H hemorrhoid cream dabbed under the eyes will do the trick. You just can’t use too much because your eyes may close to little slits and you won’t be able to see at all. But your bags and wrinkles will be gone. I may just have to keep my baggy eyes.

At least I can have smooth skin. Some lady discovered that Hellman’s Mayonnaise is just the thing for a facial. I can apply it every day or night, leave it on for 30 minutes then wash my face. The mayonnaise is also good for my hair. While I’m smearing it on my face I can go ahead and lather it on my head too. I’ll cover my hair with a plastic cap or a giant baggie if I can’t find a cap and wait 30 minutes. My hair will be done the same time my face is! Since I’m multitasking I can soften my hands while I wait too. I’ve got honey that I’ll pour into the palm of my hand. I’ll add some sugar and massage the mixture for ten minutes. I’ll have to be careful on the timing on this. If my honey sugar hands touch my mayonnaise face I could end up making salad dressing! Oh yeah, I have to be sure and wash that junk out of my hair when I’m finished. And rinse with vinegar for a great shine! Good thing I decided against the sardines. This is sounding a lot like a recipe for a sandwich filling.

Now it’s time for the rest of the body. All I need is goat’s milk. I’ll soak in a goat’s milk bath. How many quarts of goat’s milk make a tub full? Is it water and goat’s milk? Will sheep milk work? I have sheep outside. Gee…I don’t know, but I’m not supposed to rinse off when I’m finished. Yuck-o. I’m beginning to picture a walking food pyramid! I can dry off at least and after I’m dry I’ll spray a light layer of PAM all over my skin so it will look dewy and shiny but not greasy. It’s suggested I get the plain PAM and not the butter flavored/scented kind so I won’t smell like food. After the mayo, honey and goat’s milk I’m not sure it would matter.

I have makeup tips too. I’ve got a burned match to use for that smoky eye look that’s popular right now. It’s going good until my hand slips and I poke myself in the eye. Now I have grayish black streaks down my face. I guess it will be okay. It’s supposed to look a little smudged. I’m almost ready except for the Vaseline for my eyelashes. I’m going to put it on so my eyelashes will get a sexy, subtle sparkle. That is if it doesn’t get in my eyes and I can’t see. But it’s successful and I see my hair has some problems. I pour 7Up into a squirt bottle, and spray onto my damp hair. The sugar is going to give my hair grip plus add sexy texture! But there are still a few of those annoying flyaway strands so I grab a Bounce and run it through my hair. I’ll keep it in my purse for later so my hair will be frizz free all day long!
I think I’m ready to go. Damn. I can’t get the door open because of the slippery PAM on my hands. There are a couple of flies buzzing my hair. The dogs are following, sniffing. Is it worth it? I think tonight I’ll just try Pepto Bismal. It makes a great facial you know. Rubbing it on your skin makes for a better facial than those peel off masks you can buy at the store. Seriously, it can make your skin feel and look fantastic! So they say.

The littles thought this was Plastic Mamye!

Exfoliate, look great!
Feel guilty 'bout what you ate.
You're buyin' all the books
To learn the latest looks, yeah,
What a way to wanna be.

Working on the green/blue bias shawl. Again. I finished it, put beads on one side and didn’t like it. I think it was eight to ten feet long. And the beads were heavy so it pulled it more. I used number 17 needles but it was too loose. I took it out and am re-doing with size 15. So far I like it. I also finished the strips for another ball. I just have to see if I can get it together now! Wonder if knitting counts for exercise?

Moisturize, exercise, erase the
Rings around your eyes.
Cover what you can,
Get a Coppertone tan, yeah
What a way to wanna be!

Oh, why be perfect, no,
It's not worth it...

Friday, May 6, 2011

It’s Only Words

And words are all I have,
To take your heart away…

When I went to high school we were encouraged to take CLEP (The College-Level Examination Program) tests before graduation. Passing the test gives you the opportunity to receive college credit for what you already know. They are still available. I don’t know how many there were back then but the tests I took aren’t on the list now. I took three of them. One was in algebra, and I missed passing by a very few points. The other was for Freshman English and the third Humanities. All of these were in the requirements for a Bachelors degree at the college I chose to attend. I received credit for both the English and the Humanities tests. There was a limit of 9 college credit hours that could be earned. Because of that, I still had to take the Freshman English class on writing 500 word themes.
My magnetic Maxine words!
First of all, I don’t agree with imposing confines on creative writing and that is what the class seemed to be about. After teaching high school students though, I understand why they are necessary. A paragraph is typically a series of sentences related to a single topic instead of one sentence, as is the popular high school student belief. A 500 word theme consisted of 5 paragraphs, including an introduction, three narrative paragraphs and a conclusion.
500 word theme structure
Back then the thought of writing 500 words was atrocious. Not only would it cut into my social life but I didn’t have a typewriter. The only computers available at the college at that time required cards with holes punched in them for any action. There were typewriters available in the library but there was usually a wait. Because my handwriting was reasonably legible I asked the assistant professor if I could hand write my papers. He allowed any of us who didn’t have access to a typewriter and whose handwriting he could read, to complete our assignments in that manner. It wasn’t a bad deal except the final copy had to be perfect, meaning no scratch outs and in ink.
I liken the assistant professor to a student teacher. He had recently finished his degree and was hoping to become a full-fledged professor. He was what I considered a ‘hippy’. He had long hair and a beard, and wore a hat, at least until he got into the classroom. He had a serape or poncho that was like a striped blanket that he’d wear over his clothes most of the time and he had tall suede boots, what my mom called squaw boots, with fringe down the side. He had his pant legs tucked in, always. He was a nice enough guy and even though I remember all of that I don’t recall his name.

We would begin class with the greetings then he’d go into teaching. We’d do the lesson and on Friday he’d make the ‘big’ 500 word theme assignment. It was guaranteed to ruin the weekend. The interesting thing was how he chose the topics for the paper. He never had a planned subject on which to write the theme. He would look around the room then focus on an object. That object would become the assignment.

For some reason now, it’s easy for me to spit out 500 words. In fact most times I have to make myself stop. (He’d be so proud.) Maybe it’s because nobody is making me write. Back then though, it was torture, especially hand writing, editing, counting the dang words, editing then writing a mistake free paper on some off the wall topic that had no meaning. I labored through the semester, dutifully counting the blasted words and coming up with some semblance of a readable paper each week.

One Friday after looking around the room, Mr. Assistant Professor proclaimed the topic that week would be ‘A Chair’. Yes, write a 500 word theme about a chair. Great. Not only was it about a chair but it was to be about the classroom chair he pointed out. Great again.

Sunday night, the customary time I started my 500 word theme due Monday, I pulled out the paper and begin to mull over what I might write. I struggled and wrote, erased, wrote, edited and wrote. Finally, I was finished. That is until I counted the words. 353. There were only three. hundred. fifty. three. damn words. Ugh! I tried and I tried again and I could not stretch the theme about the chair into 500 words.

Frustrated to no end I determined that writing 500 word themes was for the birds and decided to share that information with Mr. AP. I re-wrote my theme about the chair and went on to explain that when I was finished I was finished and it shouldn’t matter if it was 500 words or 350 words. If it was legible and made sense it should be acceptable. But if he insisted on 500 words I could write 500 words on nothing or in this case on a chair, just to make the required word count.

Monday morning I had changed my mind but it was too late. I had to turn in what I’d written. I handed it to him and hurried from the room. Friday, when the previous papers were handed back and the new assignment prescribed, he placed my paper on my desk, upside down. Reluctantly I turned it over and lo and behold, I had an A on my paper! I had a smiley face and a note from him as well. The note said that I had made my point and from now on when I was finished I could stop.
I made an A in that class. Mr. Associate Professor put a little more thought into his choice of future topics or, if it was another off the wall thing, he made sure to give some explanation as to what he was actually looking for. Guess what the final was at the end of the course. Write a 500 word theme on how to write a 500 word theme. Ugh!

Talk in everlasting words,
And dedicate them all to me

It's only words and words are all I have,
To take your heart away.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teacher, Teacher...

Can you teach me?
Can you tell me all I need to know?
Teacher, teacher, can you reach me?
Or will I fall when you let me go? Oh no.

Guess what? The week of May 2-6 is Teacher Appreciation Week! May 3 is Teacher Appreciation Day and to celebrate, the Texas House is proposing huge cuts to education! But in their infinite wisdom they approved a tax break for those who want to buy yachts costing $250,000.00 or more. I could almost guarantee that none of those people would be teachers. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

With the current budget proposal, approximately $7.8 billion will be cut from Texas public school budgets. Four community colleges will be closed and about 60,000 students will lose the financial aid that’s allowing them to further their education. As many as 97,000 teachers and school employees will lose their jobs. And there’s $9.4 billion in the rainy day fund. If this doesn’t qualify as a rainy day I don’t know what will!

To add insult to injury, substitute teaching could cost any laid-off teacher their unemployment compensation. The reason is a clause in the Labor Code designed to keep educators from seeking unemployment benefits in the summer or during holiday breaks when they have a guaranteed job waiting. School personnel can’t get benefits during a break if they were employed before the break. It carries over to substitute teaching. It makes sense for full time employed teachers. It doesn’t for substitutes.

It doesn’t matter that the substitute services are only part-time and on an as-needed basis. The commission ruled that if a district is using someone to substitute they could very well offer that substitute full time work in the fall or after a holiday. Therefore, the way the law reads it means they can’t be paid unemployment benefits during the breaks.  Thankfully the commission is supposed to be writing new benefit explanations that will warn teachers that substitute teaching isn’t worth it! I’m sure they’ll be a little more politically correct than I am and not tell them that if they substitute they’ll be screwed.
You're screwed.
In the meantime, if you can read this you need to thank a teacher. It doesn’t matter if you learned at home or at school, someone taught you and that makes them a teacher.  You should be grateful that they took their time to help you to become a better person. And when the next election comes around…remember to read the ballot carefully and express your appreciation to the powers that be this time…by not asking them back.

Just when I thought I finally learned my lesson well,
There was more to this than meets the eye.
And for all the things you taught me, only time will tell,
If I'll be able to survive. Oh yeah.

I’m fortunate that I had good teachers, (for the most part anyway), during my years in school. My first grade teacher gave me my love for school. If I’d had someone who wasn’t devoted and caring (even though she had a loud, gravelly voice that scared me!), I wouldn’t have done as well as I did because I was a terribly shy little girl. Thank you Mrs. Martha Roberston!
One of my favorite high school teachers was my favorite because she thought I had potential. She encouraged me to explore different possibilities not only in art and craft type things but in other areas as well. She believed in me. There’s more to that story but maybe it can be in another blog post. Anyway, one time she spun some yarn and asked me to knit her a sweater. I even got to work on it at school, in classes besides hers! She did a lot for me and doesn’t even know it. Thank you Ms. Carol Klattenhoff!
Speaking of knitting, I made another ball. They are fun but this time I had a harder time getting it together for some reason. But I finally got it.

I also put the beads on the blue/green shawl. I had two on each fringe and it was too heavy. So I took one off each fringe. I still don’t like it. I think I’m going to take it completely apart and do it again on a smaller needle. I pulled out the telephone pole #17’s for this one but I think I’ll try again with a 15. I’ve got another ball going but that’s about all for now. I’m just in the mood for some no brain knitting. Oh yeah, I still haven’t blocked the crocheted shawl. I’m beginning to think I might have to hire it out!

This little guy is thankful for his teacher and so am I. Without teachers we don't have a future. And that's nothing to look forward to! 

Am I ready for the real world, will I pass the test?
You know it's a jungle out there.
Ain't nothin' gonna stop me, I won't be second best,
But the joke's on those who believe the system's fair, oh yeah.

Teacher, teacher, can you teach me?

Can you tell me if I'm right or wrong?