More about the Christmas Elf Hat design that I’m developing…

So today I finished up the hat for my friend’s grandson.

I’m really pleased with it!

I’ve been working on variations for this design.  However, this started largely due to my need to tweak the shaping.

In order to get a hat that behaved more like the one worn by everyone’s favorite elf, I needed to experiment and play with the shaping.  Because there’s a big difference between how the fabric from a tiny felt cone hat on a doll behaves, compared to the fabric of a larger hat crocheted in yarn behaves.

One of the keys to its shaping is in what type of yarn you use.  And if you don’t use the right kind, you have to make up for it by changing the stitches.  So it looks like my pattern variations may be more involved than I first thought.

Which brings up something. I’ve come to realize that the way I prefer to write patterns is as teaching tools.  It’s not enough for me to write every step in terms of “Row 1; Row 2” without a holistic approach.  I want people to succeed at replicating what I’ve come up with.  Which takes some explaining when it comes to technique, yarn and tools.  And depending on your materials, it might require some problem solving too.

So that means more photos and writing.

Anyway, here are some quick shots I took of the final hat before my friend whisked it away tonight.  What d’you think?

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Crochet Patterns, NaBloPoMo

A Blast From The Past…

I got a chance to go back in time a bit today.  I learned that my old piano teacher passed away earlier this year.  Dr. McCollom was my teacher for two years in college and an advocate before that through a keyboard camp I attended at our local University. I came to him as a self-taught pianist and he enriched my life with training. He was instrumental in helping me become a college piano major at age 15.  And I remember how he’d shake his head and tell me, “I’m going to break your bad habits if it’s the last thing I do!” Because, you know, I was self-taught, et all.  He was really good for me.  And he helped get me some music scholarships too.  (Some of you might remember that a good part of my early life was spent as a musician, playing piano, composing my own works, competing in performance.)

Thinking on old days of piano and music theory brought me to memories of the 2nd college I attended and music performances on stage for dances.  And I’ve found myself listening to the work of fellow musicians I went to school with. Seeing how far they’ve come.

So, I was thinking that tonight I wanted to introduce you to some of the piano talent I know.

Meet David Michael Bilowus, my choir director from college 25 years ago.  (When I headed off to my 2nd college and spent a year in CA, I also joined choir.)  Mr. Bilowus was a great choir director for us, has always been a talented pianist and one of the kindest of gentlemen I’ve ever known.  Later I worked for the university Music Department and got to know him further.  I haven’t really seen him since those days, but a fellow college bud alerted us to his YouTube channel. 

Mr. Bilowus’ music has a nice easy style and I just can’t get over how beautifully filmed this particular music video is.  Kudos to the director and much jealousy on my part.  Now I want to set up my piano outside in the woods to play.  Only I don’t think the prickly pear around here would seem quite as romantic as his backdrop.

This next video is from a fellow student and friend I went to college with, Rachel Currea.  Rachel is incredibly beautiful and talented.  In school, I couldn’t help but be jealous of her training and obvious command of technique.  Just incredibly talented and trained.  I’m so happy to see that she has truly continued her art and performs and records her music today.  Take a listen, you’ll see instantly what I mean. Rachel impeccably stands out among the rest.  If you’re having a tough day, I dare you to listen and see how you feel after.  If you like this and want to hear more, you can find Rachel Currea’s music on Amazon.

So there you have it, I present beautiful music.  And head off to bed pondering about other fellow musicians and the repairs my two antique pianos both need.

It’s time I get those fixed and sit down to the keys again.

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes

TARDIS, Hand Mines and More…

OK, so back to the TARDIS.

Because, you know – ALL IS TARDIS.

Well, OK, maybe not.  That would be BORG, or CYBERMEN or something of the like.

But you know you want to see pics of our Halloween setup with our TARDIS!

As you might recall, last year I turned my front door into a TARDIS.  Our house is stone and blue already.  So putting the life-size TARDIS in front of our front door really fit well with the coloring.

And of course, you know I’m going to include my spiders.

And thus, the Halloween Spider / Doctor Who TARDIS mashup is born.

TARDIS and Giant Spider Web - Halloween 2015 - by Aberrant Crochet

The thing to note is -> THAT is a LIFE-size TARDIS.

My head might barely come to the bottom of one of the windows.

Knowing that, now look at my giant spider.

YES, it really is that big!

The TARDIS is really neat to see all lit up at night in particular.  Wish I could truly capture what the scene looks like at night to the human eye, but I tried to get close.  Here are a few shots to give you an idea.

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It’s a pretty dramatic and cool view!

Oh, but hey! Did you notice something lurking in the first picture up top?  If you’ll look in the lower left hand side, you’ll see a patch of something in the flower bed under the spider web.  Here’s a more angled, closer view.

Doctor Who Hand Mines For Halloween Props Next To My Crochet Spider Web - by Aberrant Crochet

Hand Mines!

If you have not seen any of the episodes from this season of Doctor Who (Season 9), then you really must go see the first 2-part episode, which initially aired Sept. 19th.  It is right during the very first few minutes of the episode that a new weapon is introduced – the Hand Mines.  I won’t spoil the story, but DO go watch the show.

We knew, the instant we saw the hand mines that we HAD to come up with a way to make some. 5 weeks isn’t a lot of time to pull something like that off, but we immediately got to hunting down hand props we thought we could cannibalize and use.  There wasn’t enough time to make as many as we wanted to, but here’s what we came up with.  All the eyeball sculpting on these that you see here was crafted by my daughter Jack. The rest of the hand props are eyeball-less and stuck in the mud with the rest to lend to the effect.

Patch of Doctor Who Hand Mines In The Flower Bed For Halloween

Of course, these hands are not as muddy as we initially made them to be –  thanks to the rain (and floods) we just experienced here in Central Texas during Halloween weekend. But you get the idea!  Just wait.  Next year we’ll fill the yard…!  hook_smiley

Stay tuned for more pics and some insight into our process.  Not to mention some details about the TARDIS you don’t yet know.

In the mean time, I need to go scour Halloween clearance for potential hand props!


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Filed under Halloween, NaBloPoMo

I’ve been working on a Christmas Elf Hat Pattern…

So, I’ve been terrible about updating anyone on what I’ve been creating of late.  And while I want to tell you more about the TARDIS, I also want to share photos of the latest crochet related projects.

As it turns out, the Christmas Elf Hat photos are more easily available at the moment to show you.  So tonight, I’ll fill you in on this.

See, a friend of mine asked me about making a red elf hat for her grandson.  Seems he’s a big fan of the Elf on the Shelf.  And he’d like his own elf hat.

I went digging across the net, but just wasn’t really satisfied with any of the crochet patterns I came across.  And, of course, who am I kidding anyway.  I never stick with a pattern I didn’t write.  I don’t stick to recipes as written, I don’t stick to sheet music without modifications and I don’t stick to any crochet patterns as written either. Often not even my own.

So, I started playing with ideas and working out how I wanted the shaping to work out.

The main thing I noticed while looking at elf hat photos for various patterns is that they don’t always pay attention to how the pointy hat slopes.  And the Elf Shelf guy specifically has a hat that’s generally quite tall and “dunce” like cone in shape.  It’s a gradual incline, and it takes a bit of doing to make sure the lines are subtle in their increase, while also having to contend with a completely different kind of material to make said hat than a little toy with a felt cone on his head.  So I wanted to pay attention to that detail while making something that will actually work on a human head.

Also, I want there to be options.  I haven’t published a ton of patterns mainly because I prefer to write patterns with variations.  There are several in various stages on my computer and in my notebooks.  I like options and I want my fellow crocheters to enjoy those options too.  So I wanted to figure out, what about a brim, what about without, what about this tall, and what about not tall at all?

Right now, I’m working on a toddler size hat.  With variations just for that size, it’s been a lot of work to bring everything together according to international yarn and pattern standards.

Toddler Christmas Elf Hat - By Aberrant Crochet

I’m also getting some help finally from a friend who is a photographer.  I don’t have toddlers at home anymore, so I need to test my design out on someone else’s kid(s).  And I need good photos, not just my cell phone snap shots.  Hopefully I will  be dropping hats off to her for a photo shoot next weekend.

Here’s a sneak peek of one of the variations I’m working with.  It’s getting there.

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Crochet Patterns, NaBloPoMo

So Just How Does One Manifest A TARDIS? – The Saga Part 1…

I’ve wanted one since I was a little kid.  A TARDIS.

But that’s not all there is to the story.

Growing up watching Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is somewhat integral to why I crochet.  Or at least why I continued to crochet as much as I did, the way I did, in my young crochet evolution.

It was that scarf.

I was fascinated by that longer-than-history, giant scarf of The Doctor’s.  A caricature of an otherwise mis-matched and uninteresting piece of clothing.

An exaggeration that taught me magic and got me thinking.

It’s what got me out of serious and into making fun and unusual styles of every day things, out of crochet.

“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”
– The 4th Doctor (Doctor Who)

I mean, after all… The 4th Doctor’s scarf is just as useful as a whip is to Indiana Jones.

But while I could make a scarf, a TARDIS was hardly within reach back then.

Today, I’ve become more and more interested in making a TARDIS of my own.  Though I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to learning about building with wood.  It was my brother who gained knowledge of such things from my father and grandfathers, not me.

Not to mention, uh, a certain number of tools that I am missing.

So, I do what I do well.  I seek.

I’ve read forum after forum and gathered ideas and saved pics and links.

TARDIS Builders is actually a really useful forum for people who want to share details about their projects. Similarly, the Dr. Who Scarf Support Group on Ravelry is also a great place to go for help in recreating The Doctor’s scarf.

By the way, I do want to point out a distinction.  It isn’t “Dr. Who.”  It’s always “Doctor Who.”  He’s The Doctor, not a Dr..  Long time fans know this.

SO.  Back to the TARDIS.  How does one manifest something so geeky, and for that matter, something rather uncommon – that simply isn’t just lying around for one to pick up and take home?

I knew I could build one (at least in theory), but I haven’t the skills, tools, time, shop, etc. right now.

Occasionally I see one at A-Kon or the like, but even that is not common place.

But I wanted one so bad.  I mean bad.

Then TechShop happened.

TechShop is a beautiful entity borne of The Maker Movement, and straight out of Maker Faire.

Btw, if you haven’t heard – Barnes ‘N Noble is hosting a Mini-Maker Faire event this coming weekend, November 6th – 8th.  If not a world-wide event, it’s nation-wide at least.  You should totally check it out.

And you might remember that I participated in the first two big Maker Faires that came to Austin back in 2007 and 2008.  Along with a Mini-Maker Faire in my area in 2013.  My people, I tell ya.

Maker Faire is all about the joy of simply making things on your own.  And TechShop is a membership based community workshop – complete with workspace, classes and industrial grade tools for you to make just about anything you desire with your own two hands.

Literally, anything is possible if you have TechShop in your corner.  Just ask Jack Dorsey, who made his first prototype for Square – at TechShop.

So what does that have to do with my coveting of a Time And Relative Dimension In Space machine?

A man named Paul Spracklen made a TARDIS at TechShop in Austin.

Jack n TARDIS - at TechShop AustinAnd it just so happened that he decided to silent auction it off for charity at the 3rd Anniversary Open House for TechShop in our area.

And it just so happened that the kids and I were at that open house, helping out.

And it also just so happened that I won that silent auction.

Because after all, there are a lot of things I could spend a couple hundred dollars on.

But just how often does a TARDIS cross your path, looking for a loving home?

I feel like a proud adoption parent.

More to come….


Filed under Artist Information & Notes, NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo And Halloween: And So It Begins…

It’s that time of year, when the Halloween Universe collides with the NaBloPoMo World on my blog.

Both hold such special places in my heart.

And this year, a Crack in the Universe allows the Time Lord Reality to bleed through more than ever before.

I’ve been dying to post pics and show off what we’ve been up to, but I didn’t dare spoil the surprise for our friends who were coming over this weekend.  Though agonizing at times, the decision paid off in spades.

One day, it will come.  And I will be ready.

The season started off for us pretty much as usual.  The yard began first with a trickle of spiders and webs.  Hubby and Dear Son got creative with the webs as we got closer to the big weekend.

The giant webs are up - Aberrant Crochet - Halloween 2015

How many spiders do you see?

But we wanted more.

So much more.

Because – you know.

I manifested something Doctor Who - Aberrant Crochet - Halloween 2015


And October’s Dear Hubby’s and my birthday month.

So I manifested something….

I’ll resist the urge to explain every backstory here.  Just click the links to get filled in on the years long back saga of what is my Geekdom.

And stay tuned for new back stories.

‘Cuz we gots some catching up to do.

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Filed under Halloween, NaBloPoMo

Social Media Is Sharing…

Life is rich.  Life is risks.

And sharing it with others, even for a brief moment on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere online, helps remind me of that every single day.

It helps me stop and “smell the roses” as it were.

To slow the moment down and savor it just a little and celebrate it with the kindred spirits I’m blessed to know.

Some say that the virtual social world is a fake one.

I don’t think so.

In some ways, it’s a lifeline for me, in a daily schedule that even a chiropractor would not keep.

We get out of the social experience what we want, what we put in, and how we choose to see that world.

I would argue that you get an authentic experience when you invest one yourself.

But if you’re the kind of person who prefers to put on airs, to alter the tune before you let anyone hear, then that is all you’ll see in the people “around” you too.

Today, thanks to social media…

My day was made because…

  • a 19 year old kid doesn’t have cancer
  • a toddler I used to babysit got married
  • a mom is getting a well deserved vacation
  • a fellow artist met her goal with selling a clever t-shirt campaign
  • and a family reports that their local water park really is the bomb

And so I’m smiling….

     Life enriched…

            And getting back to work, late as it is…

…with gratitude in my heart.


Social Media Is Sharing - article and graphic by Aberrant Crochet


Filed under Random Thoughts, Writing

A Mother’s Surreal Moment #5847…

“Oh!  Mom! Mom!” my sophomore son says to me.

“I forgot to tell you! Today in PE, Coach was frustrated with the little kids, so we got to rip the squeakers out of their rubber chickens.”

I blink at him.  My kids attend a K-12 school and often help out with the lower grades.

But the phrase “rip the squeakers out” presents a picture of some rather strange carnage.  Maybe even some mayhem.

“PE? Rubber chickens? Why do the little kids have rubber chickens in PE class?”

“I don’t know, to wave around or something,” he says to me, clapping his hands and grinning mischievously from ear to ear.

“And look!  I got to keep some!”

He whips something from his pocket and holds up a fist full of white tubes.

“And guess what?!”

He declares more than asks.

“I figured out that they all make different notes. So I labeled them and…”

And while I’m still blinking at him, he holds the tubes together in his hand like some sort of modified pan flute and…

…begins to play Smoke On The Water.

With squeakers stripped from the necks of rubber chickens.

That, my friends, is metamorphosis.

And my musically talented son.



Rubber chicken squeaker pan flute - graphic by Aberrant Crochet


Filed under Conversations From the Passenger Seat, Friends and Family, It's An Aberrant Life, Writing

To Hold…

The birth of a child does funny things to a parent.

The instant they are part of your life, you can’t image life without them.

It’s like it always was

and was always going

to be.

Those first years are the time you get to know your child in a special way.

One that they will never remember and will never see the way you do.

As they grow up, gain confidence, mature, and remember this or that about their lives, those are the years and triumphs you will always secretly know better than anyone.

You will always hold their beginning.

– Julia M. Chambers

Mothering, from the beginning.

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Filed under Friends and Family, Writing

Hold Coffee Dear To Your Heart And It Will Prop You Up

Aberrant Crochet Coffee - Sunshine In A Cup

Once upon a time, I used to do the right and proper thing by coffee.

Putting it in a travel mug when I needed to drive the kids to school.

But not anymore.

Coffee has tamed me enough over the years, that we can now travel together in peace.

Clutched to my heart, I ride today with my favorite morning beverage in a mere mug.

I think it tastes better that way.

What a visage I must be, pulling up to the school.

Hunched over the steering wheel.  In my plaid pajamas and winter coat.

Mug clutched to breast bone.  Crochet hook pinned back in my hair.

Thankfully neither my kids nor their friends seem to mind.

Piling out of the car I call to them.  “Have a good day!”

“I will endeavor to try,” my daughter smiles and wryly returns.

“There is no try.  There is only do!” I say.

“Ugh! Go away Mom,” she giggles.  “I love you.”

And off she goes, books in hand, chopsticks in hair.

I love you too dear.

Coffee pressed to breast, I pull away smiling.

A little more alert and with a full heart.

I’m such a geek.


Filed under Friends and Family, Random Thoughts, Writing

Happy New Year Everyone!

Well, it’s 2015.

19 years and 2 weeks ago, John and I got hitched.

I can’t believe it.  ::sniff::

Life flies too fast y’all.

Hug your babies tight.

Savor every second.

Don’t let a day go by that you don’t appreciate something and invest in one more memory that matters.

And don’t get so sucked into survival that you hold back from living.

Happy New Year everyone!

Plan to have a spectacular New Year!


Filed under 'Tis the Season

It’s The Principle Of The Thing…

It’s the last day of NaBloPoMo, and our internet has been out all afternoon.   The cable company’s automated message still says the same thing now that it did when I first called. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Our technicians are working as fast as they can. Our account representatives don’t have any further information.”

Those who don’t understand might just say, “See? So you can’t get your post done. It’s Sunday night. Why stress yourself out about it? You got all your other posts done on time this month. That’s good enough. No one would blame you.”

But that’s just it. This was never about anybody else. This was always about me and my commitment, to myself,  to get it done. To write and post every single day without fail. 30 days straight of blogging and posting and writing without reservation, regardless of how smart it sounds, and without quitting.

It’s true that nobody else would hold me to the challenge. No one else would judge me for my circumstance. But I know where there’s a will, there’s a way. And as long as there’s a way for me, there’s no way I can give in. As long as I haven’t tried everything I know to do, then I haven’t won. I haven’t won a thing.

It doesn’t matter what somebody else knows or sees.

It matters that I know.

So I’m outside with my cell phone and my WordPress app, standing underneath my giant trees. I’m using the Christmas lights we just put up today to see what I’m doing and poke away at my keyboard, while seeking a better cell signal. I’m not very good with these phone keyboards, but I’m hacking away at it anyway.

The weather is perfect. The lighting romantic. I can see the cable trucks on my street working away. And the neighborhood’s Christmas lights are just as pretty as ours. Somewhere above, a half-moon hides behind the clouds, and I feel blessed.

I’ve completed the challenge. The Christmas season is here. And I’m ready to begin a new week.

Thanks for tagging along on my ride. Thanks for all the support. And thanks for being who you are, doing what you do, and for being that light you are in the world.

Carpe equito y’all. Seize the ride. And maybe a margarita too. Cheers!

Talk to you soon. Hopefully with a little more planning next time! :)

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Gratitude: The Key To Saving Someone’s Life?

I was listening to part of an interview on the radio last night about Gratitude.  It was obviously planned for the Thanksgiving season, but I found this one interview compelling and honestly better than many other messages and even sermons I’ve heard.

I don’t know who the man was, but he was a psychiatrist and he talked about gratitude as an essential part of healthy Life and our human makeup.  And that it was the key to happiness.

He didn’t talk about how we should be grateful.  He didn’t talk about gratitude being essential to save your soul, or anything like that.  He didn’t even say anything about how it’s a spiritual principle in the cycle of give and receive.   Though it is.  Or that it was a bad thing to not be grateful.  He did mention that it was a key to happiness, but I thought it interesting how he explained it.

He said that gratitude isn’t just about the fleeting feelings of “YAY!” we feel when something we love happens.  He said it’s also a state of being, giving and service.  And he said that it’s the key to happiness, because that service adds value to our lives.  Not just in hey – the experience of serving was good for me.  But as in the fact that our psyches’ desire to matter.  And when we serve, our psyches’ realize – we matter.  We just mattered to someone we helped.  Even if we don’t think it’s a whole lot, our psyche recognizes this and sees value in its existence.

And that it’s important to respond to those things that we naturally feel inspired by, or appreciate the value of.

He mentioned that one of his primary methods to treat depression and suicidal thoughts was to give his clients the homework of doing good deeds for others.  It didn’t have to be big.  It could be making a point of thanking someone, or making someone smile at the grocery store, or buying a cup of coffee for the fellow behind you.  The point wasn’t about worrying how or anything like that.  The point was to just simply start doing it.  And then increase to more and more times per week.  And soon, that person who once saw no value in their life and no reason to live, no longer felt the same.  And often no longer needed medication.

I thought it was really interesting.  Because it wasn’t about guilting people into service.  It wasn’t about shoulds and sins and the oft spoken clichés of how good it is to see the misfortunes of others so you would appreciate what you have more.   It was simply a matter that our psyches CRAVE to be of value.  It’s part of our very makeup.  Whether you believe that makeup is ordained by God or not doesn’t matter.  And in order to correct the malfunction of devaluing ourselves and our lives, the answer is to show our inner selves that we do have value.  And if what you’re doing isn’t convincing your inner self of your value, then you shift to doing what will.  The key was to do something that you could see made an impact.

I thought this was really interesting, because I think this bleeds into so much more.  Not everyone is suicidal, but many of us live lives we don’t feel are of much value or aren’t satisfied with.  We throw money at things without getting involved, which often removes us emotionally and physically from the experience.  We get too busy and cut more and more out of our lives.  And while we need a balance in everything, it seems that we only value that which we invest our souls into.  Including our communities, our country and ourselves.  I can tell you from personal experience that every time I go through dark periods, I throw myself into service somehow.  I hadn’t really analyzed it too much, but it’s always given me light when I needed it most.

I don’t know.  It’s not like this subject isn’t talked about in so many ways.  And it isn’t like the thankfulness clichés aren’t trotted out every single November.  I’ve heard and studied and parroted these things again and again myself.  But somehow this struck me a little differently this time.  Maybe because there was simply a tremendous lack of judgement in the whole way this guy presented his thoughts.  It wasn’t about right or wrong.  It wasn’t about whether we’ve lost our way as a modern civilization.  It wasn’t about depression being a disease to manage or Thanksgiving being an important time to be thankful.  It wasn’t about sadness or saving the world.

It was simply a loving statement of fact.  We humans need to be of value.  We need it like we need sleep and nourishment.  It’s a need that we are responsible for feeding ourselves.  No one else can give it to us.  It drives what we do and who we are.  And without it, we’ll never be healthy, happy or prosperous.

Know Thyself.

As a man thinks, so is he.

We’ve been told these things all our lives.

Do we understand what they really mean?

Gratitude: The Key To Saving Someone's Life - Aberrant Crochet - NaBloPoMo


Filed under NaBloPoMo

Feel Good Movie Recommends

This weekend, we’re making a point of spending some time together as a family.  And also, we’re making a point of having some fun together.  Part of that fun has been watching fun movies, and of course, I’m attempting to finally get some crochet done too.  It’s been weeks, so I’m starving.

We’ve enjoyed some really great, family, fun movies recently with the kids, so I thought I’d share with you.

The first recommend is the
Disney back story called Maleficent

While the critics were not all that nice about it, our family really enjoyed this enchanting movie.  The music and cinematography were well done.  Angelina Jolie’s performance was impeccable.  And let’s put it this way: I was all set to get some crochet done during this movie  – and got no further than two stitches.  There are many nuances that you don’t want to miss.

Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the viewpoint of the “villain.”  It sets out to answer the questions behind the story.  Why does Maleficent, a fairy, not have wings?  Why is she so angry that she’s willing to curse a baby?  Who does that?  How did she come to be the fearsome creature in the childhood story we know?

It’s beautifully done, with mirth and lessons.

The second movie I recommend
is Pitch Perfect

Especially for any musician who’s performed or competed on stage before, and even more especially for anyone who’s performed in a voice group.  I have done both, and find this movie incredibly hilarious and satisfying as entertainment!

Pitch Perfect combine’s a rebel’s story with that of music geeks, based around college a cappella groups and the competitions they square off in.  If you have a love of the weird and geeky, and a lot of hilarious moments, then really, this is a movie for you.  It’s PG-13, so keep in mind the age of your kids, but overall, this is a really fun, sweet movie.  And the music and performances are a whole lot of fun.

Plus, there’s a much awaited sequel coming out May 2015.

Both of these movies can be enjoyed
over and over again.

I don’t say that lightly.  I’m often bored with movies once I’ve seen them.  But these rank up there in the cult classic range, in different ways, but nonetheless.  Maleficent is a dark, thoughtful re-imagined fantasy, with only a PG rating.  I’d put Pitch Perfect into the So I Married An Axe Murderer category of just flat out fun.

Check them out; tell me what you think!  Y’all enjoy your weekend!

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Filed under NaBloPoMo

Worried About Paying For College? I Might Have Some Help…

With my kids ( a sophomore and a senior in high school), the reality of college funding has loomed on the horizon for us for some time.

With multiple deployments, layoffs and medical emergencies, just the thought of college for my kids has been depressing.  They have amazing grades and goals in life.  They both have big plans for useful careers someday.  John and I were Liberal Arts majors.   And neither of us work in any field we studied.  What were we thinking.

Our kids?  Much more practical.  They both want engineering.

The Sophomore

Our son has built complex machine structures since he was 18 months old.  I remember the day he built his first.  We had just found a thick plastic version of Tinker Toys (for toddlers) for him.  And in the living room floor, our toddling baby built a giant complex geometric-like structure with every piece in the box.  Even demanding to be picked up to be able to place the last pieces – you know, because the structure was taller than him.

John and I just gaped and stared at him and each other.  “Oh my god…” we quietly whispered to each other with worried expressions.  “What do we do?”  Having competed in national mathematics in middle school, and having a father who’s a genius in electronics, I can kind of follow our son’s brain, but only a bit.

And that was only the beginning.  On into his school years, he was the kid the teacher was frustrated with – building spaceships out of paperclips and pencils, instead of paying attention to the lesson.  Thing was, he really had a knack for it.  They really did look like spaceships.  Every oddball scrap of something he found could become a part for some creation of his.  “But Mommy,” he’d complain when I talked to him about paying attention in class, “the pictures in my head won’t stop.  I have to get them out.”

Legos came along and they became his next go to for invention. And while he’d sometimes build the kits as they were designed, usually he instead turned all the parts into new things, generating ideas I would never have thought of.  Occasionally I’d get a note from school – he’d been caught with Legos in class again. The pictures in his head didn’t stop and his inventions became more and more detailed and complex. He’d run out of parts before he could get a new design completely down.  Scrapping other brilliant designs he’d already made, he’d recycle them for the sake of whatever kept him awake at night.  I tried to get photos, but he’d claim they weren’t perfected enough, or he’d recycle them faster than I could try to get to them.  I’d scramble to find garage sales and eBay lots where I could get him more pieces cheaply enough.

I knew something amazing was taking place for him, but for a long time I worried my son would forsake the ideas of college for Legos.  I even called the Lego company in desperation once, when he was 11.  I asked them if they had scholarships or programs for kids, or SOMETHING.  Because I wasn’t sure my son would ever go to college if Lego wasn’t involved somehow.  They didn’t know how to take my queries.  As his friends stopped really caring about Legos and building models, his interest only deepened and intensified.

And then I met a local adult Lego enthusiast group, made up of engineers who all love and build with Lego.  They often get together to share creations, do charity projects and build giant structures for events like SXSW.  And I learned that some engineering classes actually teach with Legos, and that apparently it’s a great way to help think about building complex structures.  That some people prototype with them.  And I heard a bunch of other stuff that went over my head.  I remember the first time we attended one of their gatherings and I watched my son speak a whole different language – with people just like him.  They understood him perfectly!  They spoke on the same level!  He’d found his people, his tribe, and they were excited to meet him and see his ideas.  “Do you have any idea how brilliant [his creation] is?” one of them commented privately to me once.  Yeah, I think I do.  That kind of thing has kept me awake at night for years.

I stopped worrying about him after that.  In fact, I think he’ll love college.  And graduate school.

The Senior

Our daughter…  she’s ambitious.  She loves drawing, writing and costuming, as you’ll know if you follow her blog.  She volunteers, works as a teacher’s assistant, studies martial arts.  She’s the kid who first makes every new kid feel welcome.  She’s the comic who breaks the tension in the room, loved by little kids and teachers alike, and coveted by everyone who gets to work with her. Since she was born, people have been drawn to her sunny disposition.  “Do you have any idea how different your daughter is?  How capable and talented?” people would ask. As if I had no idea and wasn’t appreciative enough.  Yeah.  I think I do.  That’s why she’s in an accelerated charter school environment.  So they can keep up with her.

But her main goals in life?  Well… Engineering.  She was angry when the NASA space shuttle program was cut.  She wants to design machines that solve problems, put together teams of geniuses to change the future and own her own space company some day.  She also figures she might hire her brother some day, if he ever stops teasing her.  She’s the kind of kid who’s always taken education seriously.  From the time in 2nd grade when she decided to pull out a higher grade science book to study instead of doing her math assignment in class, because she felt the assignment was boring, pointless and a waste of her time.

She’s carefully orchestrated her direction in education for the last 10 years on her own.  I’ve never pushed, except to organize her time when we had family things to worry about.  She’s strong in all her core subjects.  And school has always comes pretty easily to her.  Studying has come easy to her.  I was considered a genius kid, but I hated studying.  It was an unpleasant necessity for me.  But my daughter’s religious about it – and enjoys it.  Religious about her papers.  I remember when she was invited to take high school language classes early because her grade performance was so high in middle school.  And she came home with an 84%.  She’d finally found a subject that was hard for her and she bawled for hours.  It was not the kind of emotional upset I ever expected to deal with as a parent, let me tell you.

You see my dilemma…

It’d be one thing if my kids had no goals or direction in life or hated school.  If they had no idea what they wanted to do and be when they grow up.  But that’s not the case.  They’ve always been pretty clear on it.  Even strategically choosing their high school classes based on their future goals – without our input, I might add.

What’s a mom to do?  Getting into college, much less funding it, is way different from when I was going to school.  And I’ve struggled with having the time to help them figure any of it out.  I work every spare hour I can.

And today the whole process for everything’s online too, and not necessarily well-organized.  It practically feels like you need a degree just to understand all the things you need to do and when.  There’s funding available, but you have to do everything just so.  With last year’s layoff after my fall, I was afraid my kids were on their own to go into deep debt, and would be stuck over-working just to try and make it in this world themselves.  I didn’t want that.  I went through that in college. It was awful.  And no amount of scholarships I earned helped enough.  Landing in the hospital after trying to hold down 3 jobs and a full college schedule taught me a lot about limitations.  And wisdom. Not to mention long-term consequences.  I was the whiz kid with the excellent grades once too.  But I was on my own with no support system, overworking myself to survive and work through college.  It’s the opposite extreme of the coddled college kids you always hear about.  I nearly died.  For degrees that didn’t pay off.  There’s no way I’m letting my kids make the same mistakes.

I found hope and help. 

I met a guy named Ryan Thomson, whose expertise is all about navigating the college funding waters, at least in the United States.  And in many ways, he’s like a college application/funding coach.  And I can’t tell you just how thankful I am for him now.  And for the peace of mind coming into our lives.

Some of the families from our school have used him in past years and were really happy with his help. It took awhile, but we finally had a meeting with Ryan, and signed up for his help.  It’s like hiring a tax expert, only this guy has nearly 18 years of college funding expertise.  He works for people from every walk of life and income level. And he has an on staff college/career counselor too, who is so very helpful.  The dedicated attention has been wonderful for our graduating daughter who needed help finding the right places to get everything she wants – both Engineering and Business.

And for the first time, I have hope.  My kids are going to college.  They won’t be hurt by their parents’ lack of ability to financially help out.  Or our lack of knowledge about what they need or want to do.  I don’t have to worry about the funding or the process to find it anymore.

Ryan’s given us a ton of resources.  While he works on all the grant type stuff, he encourages the student to pursue whatever scholarships they can.  There are a lot of small scholarships that can help pay for some things.  And every bit helps.

Good websites to visit for financial help and more information are: (This form is pretty much required for all financial aid.) (grants) (scholarships – tons of them)

Ryan gives a lot of free advice in the consultation, as well as in free talks he gives at schools all over the Austin area.  Advice anyone can use, whether they choose to sign up for his help or not.  I like that a lot.

But if you’re like us – not sure how to navigate all the demands of college applications and funding, etc.. If you’re short on time.  If you want to be sure that your student gets good support and help to make better choices for their future, because it can matter.  Or you find that either your school lacks adequate career counseling for your student, or adequate help in navigating the process…  Then you might want to talk to our guy too.  It’s an investment that I had no trouble committing to.  Even while money is tight.  Some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

Ryan works with anyone anywhere in the US and he gives you a free upfront consultation so he can explain anything he needs to.  And between the two of you, you can decide if he can help.  His fee is reasonable and it covers the ENTIRE FAMILY – no matter how many kids you have.

Plus, I had no idea it was possible, but he can help anyone find funding for graduate degrees!!  I didn’t think that sort of thing existed.  He can help grown people go back to college if need be.  It’s wonderful.  And my kids, once they’ve finished their BA’s, they can continue with his services on their own.  I mean, it’s just almost too good to be true.  Except it is true.  It’s a really wonderful feeling knowing we have someone in our corner to help us navigate these unfamiliar waters.

So I’m going to share his info with you.  It’s worth considering, even if your kid is already in college.  If you do talk to Ryan, do tell him I sent you.  Not only will you get a discount, but it’ll help us in the future too.  After 3 referrals, the rest of our membership fees are waved.  We’re definitely down with that.

However, I want to make it clear – I recommend Ryan only because I am truly, truly impressed.  And because I think he can help anyone struggling with this like we have.   And I’m impressed with his knowledge, professionalism, and organization – as in he’s streamlined the process and created a system to make it easy for us to be organized too.  Not to mention, I’m impressed with his staff and the UNLIMITED support.

Ryan Thomson
College Funding Specialists

Go check out his site.  Get a free consult.  Learn what you don’t know.  Our school counselor had Ryan out for free talks to our teachers and parents.  And even he said he’s learned things he had no idea about before.  Even school counselors cannot keep up with the volume of students they serve, as well as the nuances and shifts in the funding environment.  Get the free info.  You can even get on Ryan’s free newsletter too.  Just let him know you’re interested. You want someone who truly is an expert, has the connections, can counsel you wisely and help you and your student navigate the waters.  And this guy gives so much with no obligation too.

So that’s it.  That’s my golden goose.  My kids are going to make it.  And I couldn’t be more thankful.


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Tape Ball / Candy Ball – A Hilariously Simple Game For Groups

Looking for fun activities for a party?  Need to kill some time or stall the kids?  Looking for some fun memories to pad your holidays?  Then I might have just the thing for you.

I hadn’t heard of Tape Ball (or Candy Ball) before a few months ago, but I wanted a simple, fun and cheap activity to add to our Teen Halloween Party last month.  And it turned out to be the perfect party experience!  None of the kids had ever played the game and they weren’t sure what to think of it at first.  But as soon as the action started, they were hooked!  By the end, they were yelling and cheering and having a blast.  It was a big hit and a lot of fun!

Apparently some people play this game as part of a Christmas tradition, but I think being mostly made of candy, it’s perfect for Halloween too.

Supplies you will need

Plastic Wrap
Clear Packing Tape
Bits of wrapping paper or other scraps paper
Torn up grocery bags work too
Other fun prizes
A pair of dice
A pan to roll the dice into

Playing The Game

Have your group sit in a circle on the floor. There’s no minimum or maximum number of people, but I think more than a classroom sized group might be too big.

Figure out who in your group is going first.  Hand them the ball.

Decide if you’re going to go clockwise or counter clockwise, and then hand a pair of dice to the appropriate person sitting next to the person who has the ball.

At “Ready Set Go,” the person with the ball begins trying to find an end of tape so they can begin unwrapping as many layers of the ball as they can, as quickly as they can. (This is not as easy as it sounds.)  Anything that they manage to unwrap, they get to keep!

At the same time, the person with the dice rolls them again and again until they get doubles. Once the second person rolls doubles, the ball immediately passes to them to unwrap, and the dice pass on to the next person in the circle to roll.

The cycle repeats all around the circle, over and over, until the entire ball is unwrapped.

The Ball

Of course, first you have to make your ball.  (This does take time.)

The basic idea is that you use plastic wrap, packing tape, wrapping paper scraps, etc. and you literally wrap and tape candy and other prizes – layer by layer  – into a ball.

Start out with something in the center, like a jingle bell or a rattle or something else noisy.  The noise helps with the game.  Or, do like one family did, and wrap a set of chattering teeth into the middle.  The teeth were all wound up ready to go and scared the bejeezers out of the person who did the last unwrap.

Once you have your nucleus wrapped, add to it layer by layer with candy, socks and underwear, toys, money, weird stuff – whatever suits your fancy and that you think will be fun and appropriate for your players.  Make sure every layer has something wrapped into it.  You want each layer of tape or plastic wrap to b around 18 inches or so long.  You also want your ball to be a pretty good size, and to tape it pretty well (without being completely evil) or the game will be over too quickly.   Unless you plan to use this with little kids, then you’re going to want to ease up on the taping or it might be too hard and frustrating.

I would have liked to have made ours the size of a basket ball, which I read many others have done, but I ran out of tape and plastic wrap.  So instead it was about the size of a small kick ball.  But it was a lot of fun and with 16 or so kids, it took 15-20 minutes to play.

I used Halloween candy, yo-yos, playing cards, pennies, Christmas socks, dollar store tie, a Christmas music box button from a greeting card (it kept going off inside the ball, so awesome!), jingle bells, bottle caps, milk rings and more in our tape ball.  And when I ran out of plastic wrap, I grabbed grocery bags and whatever else I could find.  It should be pretty hefty when you’re done.

Tape Ball from

I wish that I could show you what ours looked like, but I didn’t have time before the kids started the game and none of my photos from the game turned out either!   However, here’s a pretty good photo I found on Indulgy – to give you an idea.

So there you go.  A fun, wholesome activity everyone in the family can enjoy.  Even Grandpa.

So what about you?  Have you ever played Tape Ball or Candy Ball?  How did you play it?  Any tips?  Because I totally want to take this to another level the next time we do this.  Share your stories and tips below!


Filed under 'Tis the Season, Halloween, NaBloPoMo

What’s Your Favorite Calendar Planner System?

People often think I’m organized.  But they don’t realize that’s not how I feel.

I exist in a constant state of seeking organization.  Never quite feeling like I’ve found it.  Guilty of high standards that aren’t easy to satisfy.

I’ve probably owned and half-used more calendars and planners than most people would think normal.   Even created a few. I can walk into someone else’s space and help come up with ways to organize them.  But for myself, I’m like a wandering Fool who can’t settle down.  And I’m the same way about purses and yarn bags.

What can I say?  I like good tools.  Nay, I probably even worship them.  But anything that falls short of the balance, I will drop in a heart-beat.  Either you’re saving me time and heart-ache, or you ain’t organizer-planner thing.

Toward that end, I’m currently in the middle of searching for a new weekly-monthly calendar planner for 2015.  Preferably one that does everything.  I want the bells, the whistles and the cup holders too.   And I’m not a fan of digital calendars for my purposes.  I remember things I hand-write better.  But I also use my calendars each year as records.

My favorite family calendar is the More Time Moms Calendar.  I’ve been using that one for our family for years – at least since the first time John deployed.  It has the largest squares to write in, it’s strong and comes with great little stickers to use.  Though I kind of miss some of their old stickers.  But I love the iconic use of imagery to be able to put more information into a space, that I can glance across the room and see in an instant.  It’s great.  Oh look, there’s a pair of scissors on tomorrow’s date. Haircut!

But… when it comes to business stuff, managing orders and contract work – I need something much different.

I prefer to use a full blown 9×12 size spiral planner with one week spread across two pages.  And the more boxes it has for me to use for lists and notes, the better.  Some of the planners marketed to moms are good starts, but I find many are just too small.  The kind of planners that allow you to write out a schedule for multiple people are nice, because you can use those extra schedules for projects, not just people.

Last year I found a great little weekly-monthly calendar by DayTimer that seemed to have a bit of everything I wanted.  It was called the FamilyPlus Planner.  I could organize up to 6 people or projects, multiple boxes for different kind of notes.  Some lines sections, some not lined (I like having both) and even a quick dinner menu list, which I found kinda handy.

Well, that cool calendar has apparently been discontinued.  What to do.  And I haven’t found anything else like it.

Certainly, one option for me is to find another Maker who’s doing free calendars.  They might have closer organizational needs to mine.

Or better yet, maybe I should give up and just design and print my own.  But before I take on a painful job like that, I figured I’d ask y’all.

What's Your Favorite Calendar Planner System? - Aberrant Crochet

What are you using?  Why?

What features do you value?  What’s your favorite?

Let me know in the comments below.  Links encouraged!

PS –  It dawned on me that I should make it clear that I do not want to design and make my own calendar.
I want to buy one and use it today.  That’s why I’m asking you what you like to use.  Recommendations and time saving.  Making my own would be an act of desperation under protest and anguish.  Just in case you’re wondering….

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Filed under Business, NaBloPoMo

But What Does That Mean?

People are always getting stuck on the names and adjectives and ways they come up with to describe their business, when it comes to marketing.  And it’s a problem.

On the one hand, you want to brand yourself.  You know – like I’m Aberrant Crochet.  Ain’t no other.  I put my stamp on whatever I can.  When I use this personality.  Pixie Worx goes on other stuff.  And I developed the catch phrase for my marketing of “Shop Outside The Flock!”

OK, cool.

But if I’m going to pay money for an advertising banner that barely has room for 10 words, or ad in a newspaper or even an Etsy listing title – while I might make sure that my logo or name or something is there somewhere, I’m going to be marketing key words that people understand.  Not spending all my money on my ego.

Do you know how many people ask me what the word ABERRANT means?  When I talk about being heretical, people ask me what that means too.

Those aren’t good key marketing words for me to use in a stripped down graphic box on the internet.  Not because they’re emotionally charged, as someone tried to tell me once, but because people aren’t Googling them and they don’t know what they’ll get on the other side of that click.  People aren’t out there searching for my brand of aberrant heretics outside the average flock.  And I’m not famous yet.  So what the heck does it mean to someone coming across a graphic ad on a website somewhere if I’m not blunt about what I want to sell people?  (Seriously, someone tried to tell me once that it was unlikely that I’d ever make acceptable friends or customers with my chosen brand name. Really…. Rock on then.)

I’m going to worry less about my name and I’m going to focus my keyword marketing on “crochet” or “articles” or “graphic work” or whatever else I’m hocking at the time depending on the room I have.  Because that’s 1) What most people understand and 2) What most people are looking for.

Sure it’s good for people to see your logo.  “Ooo! Recognize me!”  But if you want sales on the other side of that click, you need to be more specific as to what you’re offering.

Which would make sense to you?  “Get Your Certifiably Aberrant Patterns Here!” or “Unique Crochet Patterns” or better yet “Largest Spider Web Crochet Pattern – Available Here.”  Can you tell what I’m selling?  (Well, OK – I did use the word “pattern” in each example, but stick with me here.)  Which would you more likely click?  Which would you more likely trust?

Aberrant Crochet - Illustrating A Marketing Point - But What Does That Mean

Illustrating A Point

Sometimes we’re too attached to our pet phrases and chosen identities when we think of marketing.  We want to cram too much information in there.  Or we just have to use our “official” certification program on the ad, instead of making it simple on the consumer.  “Experience Certified Wompamized® Technological Advances Here!”  or “Click here to improve your WordPress skills!”  Which one are you more likely to be interested in?

Just be honest with your consumer.  Stop trying to over-dress things to make them seem more impressive.  If you have a good product, then you don’t need to create vague descriptions.  It’s OK to have an amazing brand name.  But when all you have is 10 words to grab someone’s attention, make them count.

It all comes down to this.

Dude – make your marketing messages clearer.  Just like nebulous questions – nebulous marketing messages get nebulous results.

Clarity is King.

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Filed under Business, NaBloPoMo

What They Don’t Seem To Understand About NaBloPoMo…

I’ve been perusing the #NaBloPoMo posts for this year’s traditional November challenge.

And I’m surprised.

The amount of people who don’t seem to get what it is and how it works.  What the ENTIRE point of the challenge and exercise is.  And it doesn’t seem that anyone’s doing much to explain anything.

NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) was created as a blogger’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  With NaNoWriMo, the goal is a 50,000 word novel completed in 30 days – during the month of November.  NaBloPoMo’s take for bloggers (who write posts, not books) is to write and publish at least one post every day.  No banking your posts.  No catching up if you miss the deadline each day.  Write and post every single day, no matter what.  If you miss a day, too bad – you lost.

We used to revel in the challenge, create amazing new badges to share with each other, create “earned” badges for winners, donate and award prizes that you had to complete the challenge to qualify for, etc..

Both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo are not about quality.  Though for me – I prefer to limit junk posts.  After all – I might share personal stories, but this isn’t my diary.  However, both challenges are absolutely about that consistency and commitment to write every single frikin’ day.  Even when you’re dry on ideas.  Even when you feel stupid.  Even when you don’t wanna.  Even when your family doesn’t understand.

The goal is to push your writing skills with deadlines and pressure that only you can hold yourself to.  Which amazingly enough, sometimes squeezes absolute genius out of us.

Badge I earned for a different blog for completing NaBloPoMo 2009. (We used to earn badges too.)

But since BlogHer took over the care-taking of NaBloPoMo….  I don’t know….  It just seems like too many people no longer understand the point of the exercise.  I peruse all these posts and see comments like, “__ more until I catch up,” and “Here are my 5 posts for this week.”





Where are the good ‘ol days.


Filed under NaBloPoMo

On Writing For Emergence…

Back on November 5th, I mentioned how I’d committed to a group writing project, based on the theme of Emergence.

And for some reason, I’ve really struggled with this subject.  I have actively mulled it over for weeks.  And have had trouble coming up with what I felt I could write about.

To get my head around the concept, I’ve been studying the definition and history of the meaning of the word Emergence.

Initially my only concept of the meaning was essentially that of birth.  Something coming into being when once it wasn’t there.

But simply that take alone wasn’t sitting well with me on a personal level.  My entire concept of reality is rarely that there are night and day changes.  There are all these tiny steps along the way, little micro changes that always lead us in one direction or another.  And it’s the sum of those tiny steps that come together into a culmination that suddenly look – to someone outside – as something completely different.  But from my own life, I know the tiny steps I’ve made all along.  Some chosen with precision, others simply allowed.  But conscious stepping none the less.

But then I got further into the philosophy of Emergence, as a concept that’s been around since Aristotle.  I can across this definition:

“In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is conceived as a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties. “

On Writing For Emergence - Article By Aberrant CrochetAnd I realized – this is what I already see.  It’s my concept of Life.  This is about fragments that turn into collections, that turn into systems and then communities.

It’s about the catalyst inside each individual part.

Whether it’s information. Whether it’s the development of where I go in life and roles that I play.  Whether it’s the individual cells that form in the womb and some day become born.

Whether it’s the massive patterns you see in human history and natural evolution, where on the micro scale things seem sudden, but when you pull back and look at the whole, you realize – this was always coming.

Little individual pieces that once operated on their own, grouping together in tiny bits, then connecting again to more tiny bits, and before you know it, there’s a whole new energy.  A whole new life.  A whole new concept and wave-length and even a birthing of ideas and possibilities that weren’t there before the joining.

I’m not sure I can quite flesh out what I’m going to say for my part of that book project, themed “Emergence,” just yet.  But I see community this way. I see the connections I’ve purposely made or facilitated between people this way.  I’ve networked people and information nearly all my life.  I have created entities that did not exist before I came to be.  And even more importantly to me, I’ve facilitated memories.

And in that regard, I am a creator.  Working in my lab, allowing the Hand of the Muse to press upon me, connecting the patterns I see possible, putting pieces of an unknown puzzle together and then standing back to watch it take on its own life.

There’s something here in this project for me.  That I know.

I haven’t quite given voice to just what.  But I think this is where I’ll start.

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