Category Archives: Editorial

The World Needs More Letters…


Here’s an inspiring TED video I wanted to share:

The above video is about the world needing more love letters.  And well, it struck the romantic cord inside of me.

It’s been awhile since I made a point of writing letters, but I used to.  I used to write letters every Saturday to my friends at college who waited to get mail from home.  Even though it was a small and close-knit theology school, going to college there was sometimes a lonely place, where you wonder if everyone you ever knew back home forgot about you once you left.  You work so hard, have little money, live in a strange world with people you don’t know and many feel the vacuum left behind without the nurturing comforts they were used to most of their life.

Trust me, letters and care packages from friends were nearly as welcome back in my college 20 years ago as they are in the military.  And not everyone had loving family and friends back home to write them for them.  Little handwritten Saturday notes with goofy cartoons and stickers were a way to brighten someone’s week.

Later I wrote letters for cancer victims and children.  Again, it’s one of those things people forget about doing anymore.  Sometimes at the very onset, people get a flood of attention and well wishes, and a bunch of greeting cards with little more than a name signed.  But come 6 months later?  When things are still scary and no one remembers anymore?  There’s not even that signed card.  Three months, 6 months, a year after a loss, a trauma, a triumph: these are times people need encouragement most of all.  And yes, we need them after triumphs too.

You could send them an e-card, perhaps.  And that’s something.  But there’s nothing like the power of a handwritten note that says, “I’m thinking of you.  I’m still here.  And I’m proud of the fight you’re putting up.”

I also used to keep hand-written journals.  In spite of being a dysgraphic adult I far preferred journaling by hand than by computer.  I have ever since reading Harriet The Spy when I was a kid. Unlike Harriet, I wasn’t interested in writing down what people did when no one was looking, but I did very much enjoy the meditative process.  It’s something I haven’t done in a long time.  But today, I can still pick up one of my handwritten journals from 4th grade and immediately travel back in time.  Flowing through every stroke of the pen, every stroke that I made, I reach back in time and hold the hand of that child I once was.  Remembering what it was like to be that kid.  Even from so long ago, the connection is so strong I almost remember the stroking of each entry as if in the moment.

The handwritten word is so very powerful.  And it’s a wonder that a dysgraphic person like me ever learned to love it.  Even if I do struggle with it to this day.  It’s too easy to take the art for granted.

I have tried to collect letters and recipes in the handwriting of each of my family members possible, alive or dead.  Even my grandparents had trouble understanding my desire for hand written recipes.  They wanted to type them for me and I kept saying, no.  Please give me recipes in your own handwriting.  Because that’s unique.  And when I touch the letters, it’s like reaching out for your hand.  I want my own grand kids to know you, some way, some how in a way that can’t be done so personally.  What better way than through food prepared and written about by your own hand?

Handwriting is an art form and it carries more emotion in the formation of each character than anything typed.  There’s simply more voice in the strokes of the hand-written word, vs. the print of the digital.  And I must admit, like my Grandma Dot, I have saved every single real letter I’ve ever received since childhood.  One of my favorites contains advice that a group of out-of-state high school friends collaborated on and sent me, trying to help me with a stalker situation I didn’t know how to handle.  Each one signed their names.  I have no idea where any of them are today.  But I hang onto their letter and hope to see them again someday.

I can’t think of the last time I’ve received a handwritten letter myself.  I think this weekend I will challenge myself to hand-write a letter to someone.  Maybe roll the dice or draw a name and just do it.  Even if I might have to do some recon to find a mailing address. Maybe just write something to leave out in the world somewhere for someone else to find unawares. But just sit down and for once, write a real letter.

What do you think?  How about you?


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

Or perhaps it’s simply that we cannot hear ourselves…


“[The musician]… said that he felt just about everyone could train to be a decent singer, but the main challenge was that people don’t hear themselves the way other people hear them, so their pitch is off. They hear one pitch in their heads, but what they’re actually singing (and what other people hear) doesn’t align with what they think they’re singing.” ~ Steve Pavlina

The above quote is from an article on the Law of Attraction by Steve Pavlina (see link above).  I wanted to share it tonight, because it struck me that this analogy is a good reminder about life in general.

What are the messages that we project? Are we really in tune with that?

In my line of work, in charity work, in the education system, in local business – I run into people every single day who think they’re professional, but don’t project it. Who think they are loving, but do not project it. Who think they are thoughtful and considerate, but do not project it. Who think they have life figured out, but they don’t project it. Who think they are kind, when they absolutely are not.

And we can say well… they are doing the best they can.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it’s simply that they cannot hear themselves.

If Buddha, or Jesus, or Krishna, or another spiritual master were in our presence. Perhaps Mother Teresa? What would we reflect and sound like in their presence? Would our song suddenly be in tune?

Why should it be any different with our fellow man?

It strikes me as one of the lessons of Job (as in the man from the bible). That great wonderful person we think ourselves to be? You know, how supposedly we have committed to being something greater than the sum of our molecules? That spiritual life we wish to embrace?

Are. We. Really. That?

Do we really mean it when we say we are committed to the service of the greater good? Because we cannot serve others very well when we cannot get past ourselves.

So when there’s a little squeeze, when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, do we show the world something different? Do we project being a good and kind person?  Or do we say, “The energy’s off,” or “That person’s not right.” Do we say, “It wasn’t meant to be?”

Do we write off, or worse yet – harm, a fellow child of God because we do not (or wish not to) hear that it is we who we are the discordant ones?

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

The Spider Invasion Has Begun!


Part 1:  Or…  “My Supplication To The Gods Of Seasons,”  As It Were….  Is that a change in the air…?

We had our first actual taste of fall weather here in Austin the day before the fall equinox.  And I do mean taste.

Not just that metaphorical brief fleeting experience of an amazing flavor. But that thing you experience: when the air you breathe outside has more than just essence, but a distinctively fresh flavor to it. And it’s a breathful taste that I find invigorating.

Yep, the web is that big.

Yep, the web is that big. And he’s 5’10”.
Want one? Click the picture.

For here in Central Texas, we don’t often finally get to taste fall until later in the year. You know… closer to winter.

We’re always behind the rest of the world in our spring and fall seasons.  And when the seasons do arrive here, they are generally more like speed bumps in the switch between two main seasons of hot and cold.  A veritable two-week tribute to spring or fall, but so rarely a full court press of the real thing.

Never the case with summer though.  Never with summer at all. Do you miss summer where you are?  Come visit us in July and get your fill.  You’ll never miss it (or us) ever again.

So to have that first taste of fall arrive here on the actual equinox is like some sort of amazing blessing. Nay.  It’s more than that. It’s a sign.  A bright sparkly one.  The seasonal gods have smiled upon us this year.

Miniature snowman scraped together off the truck.

Miniature snowman scraped
together off the truck long ago.

Dear seasonal gods:  While we have your attention, could we maybe have a snow day this winter?? With real snow to play with and not just wet ice?  I mean, if you don’t mind and all. After all, it’s been years.  The kids are teens now. And well, we want to make snowmen together again, even if only miniature ones. Oh! And snow ice cream too.  …oh please, please, please…

But please also make sure no one has to get out and drive in it though. No one here knows how.

At the first hint of “the taste,” I immediately threw open all the windows. Fresh air in the house, it’s so wonderful. And it whispers to me. Not only were we blessed with an actual spring this year (lasting more than two weeks), we’ll be blessed with an actual fall too. 🙂

With October finally here, the most wickedly fun of all holiday months (and dear hubby’s and my birthday month), I’m feeling more alive. Even if more in spirit than in body.

And that’s saying a lot. Because I haven’t felt myself since breaking my right ankle at the end of the summer road-trip adventure that I took with my teens. It’s been two months + 11 days of blurred trauma, surgery, and complications. :/ As of today, I’ve only just been walking about 3 weeks.. ish.

There’s definitely an interesting story to tell there, and one I want to share with you, as I’ve learned quite a bit too.  But it’s a story that will have to wait for now.

spiderwebinafternoonsunWhy?  Because the spider invasion has begun at our house, and it demands adoration. Its story refuses to be put off.

Well, at least not after tomorrow.

Stay tuned for part 2….


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Filed under Crochet Patterns, Editorial, Halloween, Writing

The Story Of The Face-Planting Yellow Bird


I am way behind on blogging lately.  So black sheep of me.  And it’s not because I’m not writing.  It’s because I am, elsewhere and in other ways!  Life is amazing and crazy, but I’m totally enjoying the ride. I haven’t blogged about our new house or anything since writing a review for Andee’s book!  Our new home is simply totally awesome.  I can’t explain it enough – where you live matters.  Even when the changes seem small.  It matters.  This place is so good for us right now.  It’s not too fancy, but it feeds the soul.  And isn’t that what we all could use more of?  I must get some good photos and try to show you some of the amazing things happening in my back yard.  I have tadpoles!  TADPOLES!  😀  Can you believe it?  I love it!

And school will be out for the kids soon!  Which even as a parent, I dearly look forward to.  Summer’s when the kids and John and I finally get to just connect as a family, without all the crazy running and stress because of this assignment or another, or because of club or school events, etc..  We think of a 40-hour work week as full-time work, but most kids, most good students, spend far more time than that on education every week.  It doesn’t seem to be until summer when we can just be ourselves and pursue our own interests individually and as a family together. And just honestly get some well deserved rest.  And me? I tackle some more focused work and planning done during that time too,  ‘cuz I work from home anyway.  Summer is my time to get ready for holiday shows.  And I’m adding a book to my work load as well.

Well, there’s a lot of news to share with you!  Including a couple of awards this blog has won (even while I wasn’t writing), how my daughter started her own blog (she has a quirky personality online and off) and how we’re getting ready for A-Kon in Dallas next weekend.  You should totally see Jess’ tail coat that she designed, then created a pattern for and then made, with some expert guidance from Paula, an amazingly talented seamstress in our town.  I am so incredibly grateful for her, because she knows how to help Jess with her far-too-advanced-for-me ideas.  Oh, and my son is in the middle of doing “flower-sack babies” for health this week.  It’s been rather comical watching him juggle “McGregor” his flower-sack baby AND his cat.   And of course there is much writing taking place.  Articles, books, etc..  I’ll have to tell you about them as I can/am allowed.  Oh yes, I will keep you in the loop.  (And hopefully, all this points to an income.)  Plus our high school Spain trip with EF Tours looms ever nearer, and we are fundraising like crazy suckers trying to get our funding together.  So much.  So much.

Well, I thought I’d start up on the blog again by telling you about an interesting experience I had yesterday. It involves a little yellow bird…
So I’m sitting outdoors with my laptop to work yesterday morning, enjoying the shade and pleasant temperatures. I know that later it won’t be this pleasant and I’m soaking up as much of my new backyard as possible. When suddenly a little brown and yellow bird plunges (falls, not lands) from above into the little flower bed next to me. At first glance, I thought it was a larger sized humming-bird with its slender beak. Then I see the color, size and shape and realize not at all. It looks like a warbler or a bunting, but not sure. Brown top, bright yellow breast.  The beak was totally different from I would have expected and the bird had white stripes on the side of the head on either side of its eyes. It looked kind of like a cross between a sparrow, chickadee and the yellow part of a goldfinch, with the beak of a hummingbird. Really slender little beak.  [Update: beak and yellow color looked a little like this prothonotary warbler! But with striping and such.]

At first I really thought it fell out of a tree.  Then I thought it was diving after a bug in the mulch, but I noticed again that it was leaning heavily to one side. Suddenly it falls forward and does a total face plant!  With its tail straight up in the air and its beak straight down into the mulch! “Are you OK?”  I speak to it, then get up and come over when it stays still. It’s not dead, but it’s obviously exhausted somehow.

It doesn’t struggle much when I pick it up from its face plant and it opens its beak wide. One of its eyes droops closed a bit. It does not look like a baby to me, but I sense extreme exhaustion and hope he isn’t dying. I take it to the waterfall in my yard and get a drop of water on my finger to give it. Then I carry it to my bird feeder to pick up some seeds. I open my hand and it sits quietly in my palm, leaning slightly to one side, letting my fingers support it. I notice some tiny “ruffled” feathers on its neck. Which I then reach to smooth, wondering if it’s injured.

At that touch, after being so calm all this time, the little bird freaks out as if it just woke up and suddenly realized I was there, chirps at me and flies away, landing on my neighbor’s roof.  I watched for a while, it didn’t roll off.

I wonder if one of the neighborhood cats took a swipe at it? Or maybe a grackle or hawk? I looked for a nest above where it fell, but did not see one.

What a curious experience! I wish I could have gotten a photo!

Well, so that’s my latest little backyard adventure story.  I shall have to catch you up on the rest of life, my mis?adventures with a snake in my pond and maybe wrangle a few decent photos somewhere.  Until then, be well.  Stay safe.

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Filed under Editorial, It's An Aberrant Life

Book Review and Giveaway! Texting Mitts by Designer Andee Graves


booklet cover LA websiteWell everyone, you’re in for a treat this weekend!  My crochet buddy Andee Graves has a new crochet book out called Texting Mitts!  And not only do I get to be a part of her blog tour celebrating the book’s release, but you have a chance to win a copy too!  If you can’t wait to get your “mitts” on it (see what I did there?) you can find the book at JoAnn stores and Leisure Arts website.  Which is good, because as of this writing, Amazon is temporarily out of stock!

So Who’s On The Tour?

Well I’m the last stop on this week’s blog tour, but if you’d like to catch up on the others, here’s the whole list of us.  A great list of crochet designers and enthusiasts you should consider checking out if you don’t already know us.

As the last stop on the tour, I was trying to think about how I could really add to the blog tour for you and for Andee with my post.  And of course, rebel that I am, I gotta do it my way anyway.  And if it ain’t honestly informative, lively or fun, it’s not really my cup ‘o tea.  So Andee, readers, et all, hang on for the ride – I hope you like it.  Gritty or not, here we go.

First, let me share how I know Andee.

I guess Andee and I actually initially met online in the Crochet Liberation Front group on Ravelry.  But getting to know her really soared later when we finally met in person at the Crochet Liberation Front’s 1st Ever Crochet At Cama Retreat.

Andee_and_Julia

Andee and Me!

She was funny, laid back and we’re both October babies!  So we were both enjoying the crochet retreat as part of our birthday gifts to ourselves.  Hers near the beginning and mine near the end.  🙂  I liked her immediately!

I discovered Andee to be an enthusiastic crochet designer, and excellent teacher as I watched her interact with people.  She has a deep background in massage as well, and she demonstrated a lot of understanding about making the most of crochet while minimizing damage to your hands and wrists and more.  She gave an excellent talk at the retreat addressing carpal tunnel syndrome and other issues many crocheters face, which of course as someone fascinated with hook shapes and hand holds, I found fascinating too.  Plus Andee carves hooks at home too.  These aspects to her of course add to her foundation in design.  The importance of caring for our hands is a subject near and dear to her heart.

Onward For The Tour: Fingerless Mittens – Why I Like Them And You Should Too

Chunky Vs Mitt LAAlong those lines comes Andee’s most handy book full of fingerless “Texting Mitts” designs.  (I couldn’t resist.)

Let me tell ya – fingerless mittens are a must for me.  I’ve been in business for myself for 10 years now.  I started out doing shows and selling my finished goods.  And many of those shows were local outdoor festivals.  But while everyone else was suffering in the chill, I wore my wool cape and fingerless mittens and muffatees that were an asset to me “in the field.”

Diamond Back Mitt LAAnd today, while I use Square to accept credit cards at shows and use my smart phone for commerce, even at chilly indoor shows during the summer fingerless mitts can be an essential tool because smart phones don’t work without skin contact.   (It happens – Central Texas where we sometimes over compensate indoors for the heat outside!)

So if you’re looking for a useful kind of gift, that isn’t really limited to just winter use, definitely consider fingerless mittens.  I know folks who use them for typing at work too.

So What About The Book?

So what do I think?  Well, let’s start with first impressions.

It’s been awhile since I looked over a Leisure Arts crochet book.  And reading over Andee’s new book involved a colorful and visual experience I hadn’t remembered before.  So, being who I am, I had to make a trip to my local craft store to thumb through the books and see if it was my imagination or not.  Sure enough, I found that books more recently published by Leisure Arts were sporting a whole new design approach not found in my mother’s or grandmother’s books.  It threw me a bit at first, but in analysis, I actually think it’s good.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

2013-02-15_20-26-00_-2.0Ev-1Colorful and color-coded text.  A definite visual plus.  If you like to use highlighters and colored pens in your notes, you’re going to be surprised when you see that a lot of the text is already color coded in helpful ways.  One such helpful note is how all the size variations are printed in different colors in order to make them easier to find quickly when you’re working.2013-02-15_20-26-14_HDR-1

Visual Icons.  Wherever you see a little video camera symbol like this one, it means you can go to the Leisure Arts website and watch a video demonstrating that specific stitch or technique!  Now ain’t that about time!

2013-02-15_20-31-00_HDRShopping Lists.  I suppose this is something most good patterns already sport, however I do like the way they put it together, highlighting it and making it very easy on the eyes to read, complete with universal standard yarn symbols for the weight.

Easy To Read Stitch Glossary.  These back pages are pretty well laid out, with clear sections, making it easy to read and find what you’re looking for.

Xst Mitt LALarge full color photos.  Many photos are a full-page in size and they seem to be very crisp to me.  If you are a visual crocheter, you’re going to appreciate these.

Three Column Layout.  I personally find three columns per page to be the sweet spot as far as ease on the eyes.  I like it way better than one or two, which is what I usually see.

The Designs/Patterns Themselves

“Texting Mitts” offers a pretty decent collection of fingerless mittens with different stitch techniques as well as design looks to try.  Whether your style is lacy, textured, casual, or tailored, you’ll find a design to suit your needs in here.  Projects range in skill from beginner to intermediate.  And all the patterns are designed for sock-yarn, or any other super fine lace-weight yarn.  I can see that the construction for all of these is geared towards flexibility and active use.  This is a plus.

If the tamer yarn color choice presented in the photos are not really your type, don’t worry, the design structure is solid for bolder, and earthier tones.

LA

Also, if you’re wondering if this book is only suitable for making gifts for women, think again.  While looking over Andee’s book my 13 yr old son leaned over and pointed to a design he’d like me to make him.  (In camo or black of course.)  So don’t knock it until you try it.  I can’t help but wonder if it would have been a good marketing move for LA to have included a male model, even a teen one?

Cabled Columns Mitt LA

The two mitts pictured here are the ones that I took a little time with to try out the patterns.  These are the Seashell Mitts and the Twisted Cable Columns Mitts.  The Twisted Cable Columns Mitts will help you exercise your foundation single crochet (Fsc) skills.  But if Fsc has you stumped, Andee has a neat little technique for you to try in the Seashell Mitt pattern.  I would like to see a little more time taken to explain the round joins and beginnings when involving the cross stitch and chain 3, as there’s a step that seems to be assumed in there that someone with less experience might not be able to figure out.  Also, the patterns use stars, () and [] , so be sure to hit the glossary in the back to familiarize yourself with their use in the patterns upfront.  And it’s clear to me that swatching is going to be important for many folks as well.  I’m a more relaxed crocheter as far as stitches, so right off the bat my no-gauge test was turning out larger than it should have with the right sized yarn and hook.  So do swatch for size.  I would also have liked to see just one advanced pattern to ice the cake with.  But that’s just me.

The Upshot?

Texting Mitts” is  an artful book with a nice selection of design variations and is full of what I consider “crochet intelligence.”  From a critical technique point of view, these designs have interest and challenge that will appeal to most crocheters.  All the patterns are fingerless mitts, but each pattern brings something new to the table in design or skill.  I encourage buyers to experiment with other colors and post their photos and their reviews.  Overall I like the new colorful and thoughtful layouts Leisure Arts has come up with for reading their pattern books, even if it does take me a little getting used to the change in colored text.  And I like the 3-column layout.  I think in the long run the attention to details like this will be very helpful both as a teaching tool, and for those who have eyesight issues.

Enough! I Want A Copy! How Do I Win, Win, WIN!?

I thought you’d never ask!  First off, this contest can only be open to US residents (I’m sorry, it has to be).  And it’s Presidents’ Day Weekend, so I thought we’d make this a little special.  To enter the contest to win a free copy of Andee’s book “Texting Mitts,” here are the giveaway contest rules:

  • First, you also must be a U.S. resident with a domestic mailing address.
  • Second, you should subscribe to both Aberrant Crochet (my blog) and Andee’s crochet blog.
  • Then, leave a comment below, answering this fun holiday trivia question: “If you could make a pair of fingerless mittens to give to any president in U.S. history, who would they be for and why?”
    (Answers do not technically have to be rational, but must include the name of a U.S. president in history.)  😉
  • Include your email and website/blog (if you have one) in the comment form. (Emails are not viewable by the public.)
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org!

My answer to the trivia question?  I would totally make a pair of fingerless mittens for President Abraham Lincoln and Founder Benjamin Franklin.  Benjamin Franklin wasn’t ever president of the United States, but he was a diplomat who traveled the world and he spent time out there in a storm with a kite! And Abraham Lincoln?  All that writing, lawyering, giving speeches and leading a country during one of its darkest times.  I bet some fingerless mittens would have been appreciated by them both.  And Abe as movie legend in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?  Wielding a pen in congress and an ax in battle?  I bet some fingerless mitts would have comforted sore hands after a long day of saving the world!  

OK, so now how about you?


PLEASE NOTE…
1. You have until Tuesday, February 19th at 2pm CST to enter…
2. That means the giveaway will close Tuesday, February 19th at 2pm CST.
3. A winner will be chosen via random.org later in the day.
4. I will announce the winner on my blog shortly after (so come back to check!)
5. Please be sure to have your email address linked to your comment or there is no way for me to contact you!
And that’s it!

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!   :D    HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND AND HAVE FUN!
Oh, and disclaimer: I have not received any monetary compensation for putting on this giveaway.  Though I did receive a copy of Andee’s book to review.  So this contest is purely for fun!  I mean, just in case you’re wondering.  They say it’s always good to be clear about these things.  So, there you have it… clear?  We love you!  Enjoy!
PS – All photos courtesy of Leisure Arts Publishing.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Crochet Community, Crochet Patterns, Editorial, Giveaway

Whazzup Crochet?


SO!  It’s been quiet in Aberrant blogging and social-media land lately thanks to our moving and helping family move.  Really, my last blog post was not meant to be some kind of prophecy.

Honest!

I had just finally reached a point where there was no way to focus on anything but putting one moving/buying/selling-a-house foot in front of the other.  Overwhelming!

Additionally, for the first time, I didn’t succeed in my annual NaBloPoMo.  And I didn’t even crochet for most of this winter!

shocking :: the horror ::

I know what you’re going to say.  That I had good reason for it.  And I did….

But, yeah.  Well.  I’ma still kicking a couple of stones over it.
But, now we’re finally at “done” point!

OK…  Well, so I’m not totally unpacked.  (Not even much.)  But I expect that to take a while!  And we are moved out of our two big storage units now too!  Whew!

Trivia fun (make me feel better): How many boxes do you have yet to unpack from your last move?  And from when was that?

Stay tuned because I get back to blogging this weekend!  Starting off with a cool award I won and reviewing a friend’s new (her first) published crochet booklet!  A suite of great projects y’all!

And I have stories to tell!  (BOY do I have stories to share with you!)

So stay tuned and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Do something fun with great people this weekend and don’t forget the chocolate!
(Make mine dark!)


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Filed under Editorial

Talents and Weaknesses – Crochet Ruminations


Something to keep in mind is that talents and weaknesses often go hand in hand. Sometimes if you look hard at a weakness, a talent (part of the solution) will show its face.

Not everything is completely as it seems. There are hidden gems and opportunities everywhere. We have but to look.

What about you? 

Meditation for the day:  What weaknesses do you see in yourself or in the world that can be turned upside down to find a strength or talent? 

Share your experience below!


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Filed under Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

I Never Set Out To Sell Crochet – Crochet Ruminations


It wasn’t in the plan.  Really.  I crochet because I can’t help but do it.  It’s very meditative for me.  Like playing piano, or writing, it’s something that helps me stay that nice person most folks like. 

We neeeeeds it, gollum! 

And even when the whole family has been gifted out of their minds, I still crochet. It’s just one of many ways that I express my inner geekery. 

I say we all have a madness in Life and crochet is just one of mine.  Which stands out just a little in a climate that’s rarely cold.

There’s always a new idea in my head somewhere and I never tire of thinking on a different angle for this or that when it’s crochet.  I have about 40 different unfinished projects going at a time, so there’s always something I can work on.  If I’m feeling less than benevolent to a particular project (and some projects do end up in the “dog house” for awhile), I put it aside and switch to something else so I can come back with a fresh attitude another time.

When it comes to conversations, even then I can’t shut up about crochet.  I find myself drawing analogies to the artistic process involved with crochet design, or industry quirks, marketing tools or a myriad of other crochet related micro-conversations that I find myself tying to more common life scenarios.  And there I’ll be, with folks staring at me going – did you really just relate that to crochet?

Uh, yep. Yep I just did.

It’s more perfect than you think.  Like “Zen And The Art Of Crochet” and “What Crochet Taught Me About Popularity” kind of material.  That’s the way it is for me.  And I’ll argue there’s nothing wrong with it either.  Substitute “cooking” in place of crochet and most folks would hardly blink an eye.  We all have our ways to explore the inner workings of self, business, relationships and world.  There’s nothing wrong with mine.  Whatever gets your attention.

But selling crochet?  That started out because I’d crochet while waiting on my kids.  People started noticing what I was making and wanted one too.  Before I knew it, “I want one! I want one!” and I was in business.  The fact that anyone wants to pay money for my expertise is just awesome.  It helps pay for my madness!

How about you?  How did you get into crochet related business?  And if you’re not yet, what do you think might get you to or why would you not want to?


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Filed under Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

What You Like About Me Is Owed To Grandma Dot (Advice That Changed Me) – Crochet Ruminations


As far as advice that changed me?

The first thing that comes to mind for me are words from my Grandmother when I was a child, after I showed her a crochet sculpted hockey puck I made.

You see, a thought occurred to me as I was learning to crochet: that I could do more than what everyone around me was doing. That I didn’t have to just make doilies and afghans. That I could use a hook and yarn to sculpt, kind of like clay. So I set about to prove my theory.

As silly as it might sound, showing Grandma and hearing her words was a pivotal and freeing moment I have never forgotten.

“Well look at that clever thing! See there’s nothing you can’t do and bring into reality when you set your mind to it. If you want it, and work for it, you can do it.”

That was all I needed.  I’ve never been the same since.

As an adult, I realize those words may seem clichéd, but that tiny young moment contained so much power for me. Something huge shifted inside of me. I have since heard stories from others who were criticized for not doing things “correctly,” even having their hands smacked with rulers when they messed up, and other stories!  And no wonder as a result they never really picked up the art of crochet. None of my family ever did something like that to me.  And Grandma Dot always took time and marveled at my ideas.  She made me believe.

You never know what it is that will make a difference for someone.  How about you?  What piece of advice changed your life?  Who was it in crochet that made a difference for you?

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Living On The Edge…


Home Front News?

We are ever closer to closing on the sale of our home, and we have found another house to put an offer on.  It’s exciting, and scary and ever more I begin to understand why selling/buying/moving is supposedly ranked up there in stress level to divorce and death of a loved one.  Though I still say the latter two trump since they tend to be rather permanent in nature.  I spent 7 hours on the phone Friday alone, just working on details and filling out virtual paperwork, asking questions, etc..  I wish I loved all this paperwork, legalities, accounting, making all the arrangements, etc., but I do not.  Still, I am the one most able to carry out all that needs be done for our family to make this move.

Additionally in news this week, our daughter was inducted into the Nation Honor Society at school.  Yay, applause for her, we’re so proud of her hard work to get here! 🙂

In spite of the crazy schedule, my blog has managed to stay fairly current lately due to the fact that I have spent a lot of time writing – ahead of time – working on posts and ideas to schedule for publishing later.  It’s the secret any good blogger knows – always be working on several things, so you always have something you can finish up and publish.  Though in my case, I don’t tend to plan too far out, unless working on one of my research pieces.  I’m not much for stale conversation and prefer to get most things I’m thinking about now, out sooner than later while it still seems relevant to me.  Only makes sense?

Anyway, the truth is even while some posts went to print this week, I haven’t had time to sit and write much at all.  And it really shows through my Crochet Hook Challenge.  After all, the last post has been a bit too long ago.  My Challenge is living up to its name!

But stay tuned, Mrs. Maplesworth is ready and coming up next!

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What Gripes Me (Crochet Hook Shapes) – Crochet Ruminations


The inconsistency of the shaft and work space issue is exactly what gripes me about many hooks being sold on the market today, and it’s present in wood hooks as well a metal. When I give lectures/demos about hooks, I talk about this. That widening of the shaft causes a lack of consistency in the stitch loops, which besides causing strain on your hand, also causes changes to your stitch appearance.

I don’t know why this is happening in hook-making today, but I suspect it has to do with the time involved in making the hooks and in the case of metal hooks, strength. (And perhaps lack of knowledge?) So many of the older hooks I find are just better made. The quality of the metal is better. My favorites metal hooks have hand-machined and cut heads. The shafts are strong and they will flex, not snap or permanently bend like modern hooks will.

And you know what it reminds me of? How good knives and swords are made.  Good knives and swords are strong and will flex with pressure, but not break. And especially in miniature crochet, we put a lot of torque on those hooks.

Perhaps part of all this points to the possibility that metalsmithing and true metallurgical knowledge is not what really goes into our metal tools anymore?  

What about you?  I’m intrigued to know.  What quirks do you notice about crochet tools that get under your skin? And what can we do about it?


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The New Frontier – Crochet Ruminations


Crochet Ruminations – The Start Of  A New Thing

There are times when I have a series of thoughts and mini-conversations running through my head.  And when those “attacks” come, I don’t always have time to explore them.  But I’ll go ahead and draft the musings up in preparation for a deeper blog post to savor later when better time and exploration can be dedicated to them.

And sometimes they do turn into much more and get published.  And sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they never evolve and really are just shorter capsules of ideas in the moment – tasty tidbits of ponderings and half-eaten conversations that honestly don’t have anything more to do, or become, right now.

In looking over my list of possible blog posts, I’ve realized that sometimes one of those posts is only supposed to be just a few “deep thoughts.” Just some occurrences of ideas to fling out there for consideration and/or discuss amongst peers, if anyone wants to engage.  And that’s just that.

So in that spirit, instead of saving a zillion drafts every time something crosses my brain (my list of drafts is getting too long to manage!), I’m launching a series on my blog simply tagged Crochet Ruminations.

With that intro, here’s the latest….

The New Frontier…

Technology has brought us to the beginning of a new frontier in the world and we’re the pioneers laying the groundwork for what is to come, for ourselves and for future generations. History is literally being made.

How this new frontier works for crochet is being driven by the people actively in it. People like us, anyone who is willing to move to uncharted territory and figure it out.

The same is happening in other fields too. The internet is the “new land” to settle.  There’s no reason why anyone who has the will can’t figure it out and benefit.

The thing I find extremely important to register in our heads though, as Laurie points out (a.k.a. Fearless Leader from the Crochet Liberation Front), it takes working with others, not shouldering the responsibilities of the world alone, or shoving everyone else out of the way. That is not to invalidate the need for personal hard work and responsibility.  However, it is said that successful business people know at heart what school doesn’t teach us. That life is not a closed book test, that we don’t succeed by cutting others off, that the only way to succeed is to do it with the help of others.  And that often a sign of a successful person is one who continues to train and learn and someone who recognizes and values the expertise of others. 

We walk a fine balance of working hard on our own, but also benefiting from the help and insight from others.  Whether we hire them, or we accept help from a friend.   Trying to go it completely alone, making sure everyone knows we did it by ourselves and without help, does not work outside the classroom.  It is not a place of balance, nor a sign of success (and neither is the opposite).  In reality, no one expects you to perform alone in adulthood – only on standardized tests.  And those who believe they do not need advice, training or learning, who only boast on “did it myself” laurels, surely exhibit signs of impending implosion.

Coaching, master minds, discussions, hiring experts, studying, training, practicing, learning new tools and technologies, comparing notes with peers, understanding that old ways don’t always work today and that some old things never lose their effectiveness and sometimes what works for someone else is not right for you – all these things are important.  Settling the West was not born on the shoulders of one person.  In fact, to try to do such, was almost certain death.  People had to come together with their varying talents and work ethics to form the foundation for something great.

In thinking about this, what things do you see as it affects the crochet world that we should be mindful of?


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I realize my life is more interesting, but you still need to get one of your own…


Ever have one of those lives….?

“Is there anything you don’t do?”

These are the words I have heard over and over again the last couple of months, from completely unrelated directions.  From folks who do not even know each other.  Whether it’s the crochet hooks I carve, the piano tools in my truck, the two-week gluten-free paleo meal plan I wrote, the charities I support, the new kids’ robotics group I’ve embraced, the books I’m writing or the tech event I’m going to help the host with – these words have recently popped up everywhere.  And I’m not even touching on all the mom hats in my life.

I can make one of these for you if you like it.            $1.50, free shipping and my thanks!

On the one hand, the question is a bit confusing and absurd.  Of course there’s plenty I don’t do.  What kind of question is that?  Wait, am I supposed to answer that?  Still, the repetition from all directions was getting my attention.  And I had to work hard not to suddenly stare at the speakers when the words popped out of their mouths, as if I was caught on the set of Twilight Zone or Doctor Who (oh if only).

So the question has been repeating in my life and now inside my head.  “Is there anything you don’t do?”

The words were expressed each time with amazement and shared as a compliment.  Which I found a bit embarrassing with each broken-record-exact-quote-repeat. I nearly found myself ducking, as if catching some ball out of the corner of my eye that had been chucked at my head.  Yaaaaahhhhhhh…….!  Where’d that come from?  I didn’t say anything to warrant the statement.  It came out of no where.

Sure, I have a lot of interests and have done a lot of things.  A lot of people have.  And I’m a pretty open person.  But I don’t generally tend to talk about every facet of my life, except as it relates to someone or a conversation.  Maybe if you ask a question or get to know me, but there’s no need to talk about unrelated facets when we’re trying to get something done.  It’s just not logical to do that.

The only exception is really this blog, where I tend to write about whatever crosses my brain and the keyboard at the same time.  Sometimes it’s analysis I find interesting, want to record and think others might enjoy.  And sometimes it’s simply analysis that I myself am in need of, and work out in writing. Sometimes I’m even experimenting or actively exercising my writing skills.  It’s a blog.  It’s fluid like that.

Still there was no logical reason, not even from my own behavior, to warrant the repeated question.  These people don’t even read my blog that I’m aware of.  But I find that when the Universe repeatedly throws something in your lap, especially from seemingly unrelated directions, perhaps it’s begging a second look.  What are you hounding me for Universe?

And I’ve begun to wonder – what is it that I don’t do?

I mentioned this repeated message to an acquaintance a couple weeks ago.  They suggested that perhaps what I’m not doing is getting rest and taking care of myself.  That I’m doing too much and not saying no enough.  This is not too unlike a conversation a good friend of mine and I had about 8 years ago.  About how when people are so amazed at your super-human ability to accomplish and handle so much, that it probably should be a sign of being out of balance and how it’s not healthy, nor necessarily something to be proud of.  That no one is meant to keep up that kind of pace and not pay a dear price.  If you care about your kids and family, pace yourself and invest in your quality of life so you can stick around and be a good parent and mate, not a crabby-cranky-exhausted-sick one.

Truthfully, I must admit that I’m not sleeping enough this week since the kids went back to school and because I’ve stayed up late to get work done.  Even tonight I’ve been wrangling with cleaning up an audio file for hours.  However, I also know in my heart that rest and downtime is not what this message is about.  I’m pretty anal about that already.  No one knows better than I the importance of pacing your life.  It was one of my life’s biggest lessons and nearly cost me mine.  I literally woke up one day and could not get up.  Umm, been there done that, got that bat right between the eyes.  And that’s not it this time.

So back to the question, only this time slower, with a grin, a twinkle and a sly tone….  What is it that I don’t do?  Hmmmm….

The interesting thing is that though it took me by surprise and now has my attention, this experience does not feel like a warning.  No… I’ve felt that warning before. 

There are new things afoot in my life…  This time it feels like an invitation.

And perhaps one to play a game I haven’t tried before.

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

Saving Vision…


Not everything is about money.  Being wealthy doesn’t always mean stock piles of cash.  Living abundantly doesn’t always mean you never have worries.  And being rich doesn’t always mean it’s at the expense of others or that you don’t care or donate or serve. There are many ways to measure happiness and wealth and I have always been a proponent for getting outside of the media box and ancient/out-dated religious outlooks on these things.  Money is not evil.  People who have money are not necessarily evil or happy for that matter.  People without money are not necessarily unsuccessful or for that matter poor.  “Money” is nothing more than a tool.  Many people really don’t realize where their beliefs come from and I often challenge them.  Believe what you want, but life is always better when you choose your beliefs, eyes wide open, deeply with thought and without emotional fervor, instead of falling into them.

However, there are times when money is the only barrier between you and a calling, between what’s right and what’s wrong.

As a mother I am at one of those impasses.  There are a few things right now that only a monetary income can help me with.  I’ve fought a great fight, I’ve been a good person and parent and I’m very successful in many, many ways.  That said, finances remain a concern and it’s time for me to grab the bull by the horns and get more serious about marketing myself online.  And if I’m really in business, to get out there and ask for that sale.

What’s changed?  Why am I suddenly ready to wrestle with this less gently?  My children need me.  Even if I can’t succeed for myself alone, I have to for them.

It’s my son.  And my daughter too.  It’s a lot of things.  But right now, something big is in my focus.  Though we’ve managed to get far with our son’s vision therapy, managed to actually improve his eyesight, we still need more funds to finish his treatment.  Funds we don’t have and that insurance apparently no longer covers.   Managing insurance petitions, etc. has been a full time job alone.  And I just cannot express how entirely stressful and discouraging at times.  Insurance we pay for, but that will not help my son with funds that will give him back the vision he needs to succeed in life.

So it falls to a mother to find a way.  When the future can be changed, when your child doesn’t have to live the life of someone legally blind enough not to be able to drive, when you have found the right doctors and the right treatments, when 90% of his vision issues are correctable and he doesn’t have to struggle through the rest of his school years for comprehension just because his brain and eyes are different – how can a mother not do everything in her power to find the money to make it happen?  The difference between right and wrong.  If you know someone needs help who cannot help themselves and you turn away when you could make that difference, how could you live with yourself?  And how much more so for a mother?  Blame it on the government; blame it on God?  Whine for fairness but never act?  These are not things I understand. I don’t have the time or the luxury.

I imagine in 20 years this kind of vision recovery treatment will be easily insured, just as it took time for chiropractic care to receive any respect or medical coverage.  It’s just too new to be there now.  His type of vision deficiencies too rare.  But the treatment is effective and life altering. The great news is that we have proof – our son’s vision has already drastically improved!  But we’re not done and the funds we managed to gather thus far have run out.  The tool that I need is currently missing.  His present growth could cause him to back-track if we don’t stick with and finish the therapy.

Medical bills, deployments….  There have been no extra funds in a long time.  (Were there ever?)  Smart, frugal decisions have kept us going along with a lot of hard work.  But sadly, hard work and a good heart doesn’t seem to be quite enough right now.

So it’s time to turn up the business a notch.  I’ve had to pass on local shows I would normally work and rely on for income, because most of my “studio” and supplies are necessarily packed away while our house is on the market.  Business goals for the year are having to be postponed to make room for other foci.  I had thought we’d be set with the sale of our house and able to start the next segment of our son’s therapy by now.  Instead, we’re having to wait.  And school starts in less than two weeks.

Which means my answers have to be found in more attention to my online business presence, planning and marketing.  And perhaps even in asking for help.  I meet with my son’s doctor in a couple weeks to discuss a revamp of his treatment plan, retest for new glasses and payment terms.  Terms I have no concept of how I will be able to meet right now.  We are alone in this.  There is no family to help, no funds from elsewhere, no doting grandparents with ample wallets, just whatever self-made outcomes John and I can produce.  We are two hard-working first-born, forging our way on our own.  He’s keeping us afloat on the bills we’re paying off.  I have to figure out the medical funds.  And I have to figure it out now.

Up until now, I’ve been a successful business owner largely via face-to-face sales and public speaking.  Not enough to be comfortable, but enough to help make ends meet, time and again.  Online, well that’s a different energy somehow.  I’m socially successful online, but have as of yet to make a financial dent equal to my physical face-to-face accomplishments.

So I guess it’s time to stop putting online business on the back burner to local shows.  It’s time to switch for a while from producing physical goods to creating an effective online network and plan.  It’s time to finally take full ownership of offering my services online and getting my voice heard.

All of it? In exchange for my children.  So I can have the schedule I need to see those doctors and seize those opportunities, and so I can have the income to pay for them.  I can’t be hesitant to market myself anymore.  And I can’t be worried about how others take that either.

I have a child’s vision to save, and I suppose as well… my own.

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Filed under Editorial, Friends and Family, kids

Unconditional Receiving…


This is more philosophical/spiritual in nature, something I am exploring personally and within my spiritual circles, but thought I would share it with you.  In part, because I think it’s something many of us in the creative fields can relate to, especially many of us who are women, mothers and other servants to greater causes than ourselves.

You see, around New Years this year I had an epiphany about receiving. I’ve always been a proactive advocate about the cycle of give and receive. It’s important to value things in life. Ourselves included. We often do not value when we do not give in exchange. And as artists, we often find ourselves having to learn much about this when we look at pricing ourselves and valuing ourselves and marketing/selling ourselves and the work of our hands.  So many women and so many artists feel guilt for charging for creation.  Or guilt over asking for more.  So understanding the divine nature of the cycle of give and receive is greatly beneficial in coming to a place of balance in this.

Is it logical?  Is it balance?  Is it even love to devalue oneself?  Because devaluing oneself is not being humble.  It is not an act of giving.  And it is not unconditional love either.  It is not the same energy by far.

These are subjects many of us are already exploring and more familiar with.  But earlier this year I came to realize there was something more. An augmentation of this understanding.

We know about unconditional love. We know about unconditional giving. But we rarely hear about unconditional receiving. It’s bad enough when we put up rules about when we will give and who we will give to.  Dictating a type of giving only where we deem it is “deserved.”  However, too much of the time, we put up rules about receiving, either blocking all together, or placing parameters and requirements on how we will allow ourselves to receive. We say we will allow ourselves to receive, but only this way, or with these conditions.

Sometimes it takes us becoming downright sick or injured before we allow ourselves to receive help of any kind. As if only then we have permission. We even do this with friendship.  And we avoid delegation.

Of course, in order for someone to have the benefits of giving, there must be a receiver, but when you look at unconditional receiving, as in – no conditions, just receive in gratitude – it takes on a whole new energy. No Conditions! No judgement! No comparing to what others have or don’t. No negative views on one-self, or others! Just purely receive! Unconditionally! I am blessed and whether expected or not, whether “deserving” or not, I will accept! And I will not turn down another’s gift of giving and deny them that experience either. And I do not have to work harder before I’m finally “deserving” of it either.

It’s a continued exploration, but something that really struck to my core when the phrase popped into my head. “Unconditional Receiving.”  That conditioned receiving is not really love. And I’m pretty darn sure, we are not supposed to judge too harshly the things that flow into our lives. If I were to meet Jesus, or the Dali Lama or another spiritual master, and offer them a gift, would they judge it?  Do we reject the gifts of children when offered?  So if I desire to be love, why would I do less for another, or to God?

I’m still exploring it and what it means for/in life, mine and others. Many times in my past, receiving was either forbidden, or it meant being owned in some way. And so blocking that was a way to comply with the rules, or to be free of bondage. It was also a way to avoid disappointment and judgment. And there was all that “deserving” stuff. Being open to receiving can make you feel vulnerable. Being honest about need can make you feel vulnerable. Even being honest about your feelings, or where you came from, can leave you open to judgment from others.

But I am not in need of those views or protections now. I haven’t been for a long time.  It’s an interesting exploration. I cannot claim to have absolute understanding of this, but I can say that the exploration of this is teaching me a lot.

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Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?


Well the lack of a good apology from the USOC continues.  They seem to stand by the attitude that we have denigrated and disrespected, with no correction or word since the 2nd apology saying, “we know you clearly didn’t mean to.”

Mr. Sandusky, all you have to do really is state clearly that you and your office did not intend to imply that knitters and crocheters disrespect or denigrate the Olympics and professional athletes at all.  Simply expressing regret that the words were used only means you wish you didn’t have to deal with us.  Saying you know the we didn’t mean to denigrate and disrespect is patronizing at best, but clearly does not retract the verbiage directed at our collective cultural activities around our support of the Olympic Games.  All this may have started with a law clerk, but it’s escalated to you – and instead of seizing an opportunity, you didn’t make things better.

Bloomberg Business Week has posted a thorough article this morning on trademark protection and Why the U.S. Olympic Committee Cracked Down on a Knitting Group.  In the article they, like many others, fail to recognize that Ravelry is not just a knitting community, but also a crochet community.  But more than that, in their article they fail to recognize that the main issues Ravelers have had with the cease and desist letter from the USOC were much less about the name of our knitting/crochet games (Ravelympics) and much more about the insulting nature of the letter and our desire to see a back track and correcting statement issued about the language used.  Language which Bloomberg does not elaborate upon, but simply calls “harsh.”

Harsh is not the description I would use.

So I had to write a comment.  In fact, I’ve never written so many comments on news sites ever before.  I’m not up in arms, raising a pitchfork, calling for retribution or slinging names.  Rebel I might be, but that’s never been my style.  I’m not interested in boycotting the Olympics and I have no vested feelings in the corporate aspects of trademark issues right now. In most everything I have written, I’ve tried to be professional, reasonable and thorough.

But these recent events do strike at issues I care very much about.  The future of handmade, the future of respect for women (do not misunderstand my meaning there either) and the future image, reputation and preservation of crochet (and knitting).  And for me, it heaps discontent with the way law is thrown around and allows for “those who can” to get away with saying anything they can spin.  Yarn Harlot called for knitters to calm down their stung feelings and to accept the USOC’s first apology.  And though I appreciate her article about trademark issues and legalities, and many of her calm and reasonable words about our collective behavior as knitters (ahem – and crocheters), in principle I cannot accept an apology that is not one.  In principle, this is part of where we go wrong in the US with our tolerance of media spin from public figures.

In my world – words mean things.  And each apology from the USOC (which by the very nature of coming from a communications office and law office you know they are carefully worded) has only served to stand by the initial insults and create more.  Being “bigger than that” does not mean taking it when someone bullies you and then says in front of the teacher – awww shucks, Billy, I didn’t mean for you to take it that way.  It means calling for attention and a change.  Not just for the USOC, but everyone who engages in such behavior, because they can.

Supposedly we are a polite society.  As such, all our leaders bear a responsibility to reflect that professionalism.  And when you screw up, you bear the responsibility of consequences and making corrections.  Whether we are talking about politicians, or organizations that supposedly represent our cultural/national/international interests, I will accept no less.  Because when I do accept less, what eventually will the future be?  Little different than as it is in child rearing, if I allow for my child to get away with something that in principle is wrong, I set their future up to fail.   What world will my grandchildren live in?  A world where nothing that is said is ever honorable or sacred anymore.  Shut up crybaby.  I said I’m sorry, now go away.  Even when “I’m sorry” really isn’t stated and the issue is the disparaging of the craft and character of good people.  There is a responsibility there, and it hasn’t been fulfilled.

Mr. Sandusky sir, do you realize the hard work many of us have poured our lives into, in garnering respect for the fiber arts?  For a very long time we have been the red-headed step-child of the creative art world in general.  And it’s only recently we’ve gained a second look in terms of skill and artistic value for what we do, for the creations of our hands, for the history and heritage behind it.  Thanks to you, a giant step forward in how we are perceived may be taken back.

Here is the comment I shared over at Bloomberg:

First off, we are a community of knitters AND crocheters. Secondly, even the second apology only said we know you didn’t “intend” to be denigrating, while the first said we would like to show our support of Ravelers by letting you send us free handmade stuff. There has not yet been an acceptable apology about the real issue – which has nothing to do with the name of our knitting/crochet games while we watch the real Olympic games.  And it has not been about the trademark protection.  We might have been disappointed, but we would have understood if the letter was simply – hey, we need you to not use the name.  But that’s NOT what the USOC did.

The real issue we Ravelers have had was the unnecessary and insulting statements and inference that knitting and crocheting through our games during the real Olympics was an insult to real athletes who work and train hard.  And the continued inference that somehow it’s OK to insult a large group of mainly women who strive to keep hand-arts alive and preserve our collective heritage – around the world.  The USOC’s apology was no apology.  It was almost worse than the original letter.  The owners of Ravelry didn’t completely organize those games on their own.  That was a grass-roots type gathering (if I can use the analogy for a global group of people) of fiber hand-makers from around the world who came up with and supported the idea.  All these people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds, all coming together over one main thing we share – our love for knitting and crochet, along with in this case, our love for our countries and the Olympic games.

Saying that we “denigrate” and “disrespect” the spirit of the Olympics and real athletes was like jocks vs. the geeks or men vs. women all over again.  They weren’t just talking to Ravelry owners, they were talking to all of us.  The USOC “apologizing” by essentially saying, “we’ll make a show of good will by letting you send us free stuff” and “we know you didn’t *intend* to be denigrating” is not an apology.  The USOC has disparaged our crafts and our character.  On a global scale.  And further made us the butt of many jokes in the press.  (Thank you Bloomberg for not following suit.)

This should be corrected.  We strive enough to keep our cultural crafts and heritage not only alive, but growing.  Having a giant organization disparage us is devastating in more ways than one.  And crochet? It’s the very last fiber art left that can not be replicated by a machine. It will only be alive as long as people do it.  The advancements made in our crafts every day by us designers will only continue as we are supported.  It’s as if hand-made in general has been pushed an unfortunate step back as we struggle for respect and preservation.  Being insulted this way is incredibly disheartening and shouldn’t be acceptable, especially in the name of law.

For me, it’s never been an issue about possible trademark infringement and needing to change the name of our games.  I think it seems a little over-reaching since the name is not specifically “Olympics,” but I can see possible ground, knowing also that I am not an expert in law.  No, the issue has always been the obvious and unnecessary language used to disparage hand arts.

I have finalized my decision to mail my crochet hook and a letter to the USOC.  I do this knowing I may be alone in the action, but determined none-the-less to stand on principle and be heard.  And determined to put my money where my mouth is and do more than rant on the internet.  I will do something tangible, sending something real that someone somewhere will have to hold in their hand and then decide what to do with.  It might not be much, but at least it’s something pointed, honorable and peaceful.

Principles matter. The insulting language issued by the USOC was wrong.  Even in the supposed “apologies” issued, that language was never taken back, merely “regretted,” glossed over and spun, while pointedly avoiding a real apology.  And as a result hand arts and cottage industries may feel more than just a sting from the slap of such a large public entity, but perhaps may even pay a price.  It shouldn’t be tolerated.  It should be pointed out.  And as for me, I’ll politely take a stand.

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It’s Jocks vs. The Geeks Again: Thanks US Olympics Committee – Nobody Likes A Bully!


someecards.com - There is a land called Douche Bagastan, and you are their king.

Jocks vs. the geeks.  Men vs. women. The powerful vs. the weak.  Though laws are meant to help protect people, seems our world never grows up and invariably “law” is used as a beating stick against those whom it was meant to protect. Gee thanks for being a joy-kill.  Is there ever any fun anymore.

The upshot? Seems our dear Ravelympics over on http://Ravelry.com has not only become a “legal” threat to official Olympics intellectual property rights, but apparently a social insult to the Olympics as well.

Seriously.  I’m not making this up.  Do read on.

I received the news during my long 500 mile drive home yesterday while talking with Laurie, a.k.a. Fearless Leader over from Crochet Liberation Front.  She’s already written an elegant and mature open letter response to the US Olympic Committee that you should definitely check out.

I thought about writing one of my well researched and reasonable posts about the matter.  But I just can’t bring myself to it.  I’m mad.  Sputtering mad enough to take time to crochet a granny square or bacon strip to ship off to the USOC in protest.  Haven’t decided which yet.

The specifics?  Firstly, the US Olympic Committee has sent a cease and desist order to my favorite knitting/crochet social community to stop using the term Ravelympics altogether and rename our games.

To quote from the actual letter:

It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012).  The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement.  Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act.  Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.

This alone is not exactly surprising news.  After all, it’s not the first time organizations and businesses have been forced to change names on the basis of Olympic trademark “infringements.”  Even non-profits have been under fire.  Read Now Public’s 2008 article “US Olympic Committee’s history of lawsuits against non profit organisations” for a far more detailed history than I care to address here.

Usually these cases have involved the actual word “Olympics.”  Whether a spliced word/name like Ravelympics has ever been targeted before, I’m not sure.  I’m not even sure of the legalities.  Like really… especially since there is no profit being made and the sole purpose of these yarny games is to support our teams on a world-wide scale.  After all, crocheting/knitting, especially by women, during any kind of sporting event, is a very long tradition.  Still, I don’t proclaim to be a lawyer and I don’t have a problem in general with a need to protect intellectual property.

But the letter was not a simple generic letter.  And the letter did not stop there.  Here’s where the crux of the social matter really lies:

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work…..

It would have been one thing if the USOC had sent a general letter that said something like – “Hey y’all! Thanks for all your enthusiasm and support!  But we need you to change the name of your games.  You know, trademark issues and all.”  While there might have been disappointment, there wouldn’t have been outrage.

But this is not the approach the USOC took.  They used a battering ram where a pat on the back would have sufficed.  By claiming our knitters and crocheters are denigrating and disrespectful to the Olympics and their athletes, the USOC has likewise insulted and bullied a large demographic of handmade enthusiasts, largely made up of women.  And though I don’t want to leave our “brothers in arms” out of the picture, knitting and crocheting continue to carry a general social slap (at least in the US) as something strictly feminine in nature.

And here’s the kicker.  The original founding father of the modern Olympics included knitting in the list of events.  Did you know that?  Read your own history USOC.

The letter goes on:

The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

That last line is something else to note, a principle that Ravelry is hardly guilty of threatening.  If anything, women (and men) coming together around the world to commune simply over the passion to preserve our mutual histories and handcrafts, is pretty something.  And it’s genuine.  Not a show, not a put on.  And it is a skill.  On Ravelry, simple folks like you and me come together in peace – over hooks, sticks and a mutual love for yarn.

To give you background, Ravelympics is the name of essentially a set of grass-roots knitting and crochet contests that have been organized via Ravelry groups.  These yarny competitions are loosely organized for fun and community enjoyment and held during the Olympic competitions.  Knitters and crocheters test their skills and speed, while everyone gathers around their TVs – all around the world – while supporting their favorite Olympic teams and events.

And let me point out, in case it’s not yet clear, Ravelry is an international knitting/crocheting social site. That we join for free.  And Ravelympics supports all Olympic teams wherever Ravelry users participate – around the world.

Few social sites anywhere enjoy the kind of amicable and socially driven international relations found on Ravelry, a user website largely populated by women, but populated none-the-less by fiber hand-makers from around the world.  Those who choose to learn a hand craft skill vs. simply buying a cheaply made mass-produced product and then share that skill on with others.  USOC why would you allow such an insulting letter to be sent?  Face it, you were being bullies.

To be fair, the USOC has made an official statement on the matter today, which you can find on their website here: http://www.teamusa.org/News/2012/June/21/statement-from-usoc-spokesperson-patrick-sandusky.aspx.

Statement from USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky:

“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as  you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

My problem still though, is the claim that it was a standard-form cease and desist letter.  (It clearly was not.) And the attempt to “show support of the Ravelry community” by asking us to donate handmade goods to them.  Really?  That’s your token handshake in peace?  After the pain and heartache you guys already put the WoolSack community through? I understand some delivery is now possible but only after months of tears and pain.  Read the details here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2156560/Olympic-cushions-handmade-athletes-latest-fall-foul-LOCOG-fears-row-sponsors.html

That’s right friends.  It’s not the first insult to hand-makers this year.  And I’m just simply disappointed in an organization that supposedly represents our mutual interests in world peace and community.

So crochet something and mail it I will.   Just like farmers mailing broccoli to the White House.   We do not denigrate by knitting and crocheting.  We love, we comfort, we preserve our history.  Who’s with me?  What are we mailing?  Granny squares or bacon?  I just happen to like the visual of bacon slap.

I’ll be using the address signed at the bottom of the letter:

Brett Hirsch
Law Clerk
Office of the General Counsel
United States Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909

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Home To Market We Go!


I can’t believe how good the colors we picked for the outside paint job look! There is a rock wall in front and in back of the entire property.

Actually, the house has been on the market for a few weeks now.  But per expectation, life, and the craziness of this selling process, along with the end of the school year and details inherent, I haven’t had a chance to post about it yet.

As you probably know by now, I’ve been talking about getting our house on the market and sold for…  awhile now.  It’s taken us a long time.  And aside from John’s deployments and even my car accident when I lost the use of my hand for a while, the whole process leading up to this final culmination has been one of the most important and emotional challenges in our family’s history.  It’s been a healing experience as well.  It’s also been a LOT of work and a lot of funds.  In fact, as we filled out the seller’s disclosure and had to provide all the receipts we could, it was both amazing and cathartic to realize that we have indeed sunk over $45,000 into this place in the name of major repairs and necessary upgrades while we’ve lived here.  That is, from what I could quantify and find the receipts for, as unfortunately, a lot of my paperwork is all packed up.  Holy cow.  I knew we have spent and updated a lot.  I knew it felt like life was eating us up at times, but I did not have a clear number on the total picture until now.  No wonder… about a lot.

I made the pot rack the first year that John deployed.

The last year, in particular, has been a year of tears and more work than I thought I could survive at times.  A lot of it was about letting go. But we’re here – the house is officially finished, our clutter is gone. She’s staged, on the market, and everything was done right.  The way I wanted.  As long as it took, we did it! No future owners will ever have the headaches we have had.  Everything is DONE.  There is nothing major left, and the house looks great.  Can it be?  We did it!  

More red pine on the ceiling of the master bath. This room is large enough to be a master bedroom.

The house is not only beautiful, but she feels like a confident and graceful lady in her prime now.  I’m in love with my home again.

That said, no, I don’t love her enough to stay.  That’s not the kind of understanding we’ve had, this house and me.  She’s cared for us, and we have cared for her.  But it’s time to set us all free.

Original wood floors. And we preserved this corner with the bead board wall.

She has no room for the studio I need, the workshop hubby needs, or the separate bedrooms and closets the kids need.  Besides that, the property is about to become part of the new residential historic district in our hometown of Round Rock, TX.  (Bit of trivia: the very same town where the original 1974 flick “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was filmed.)

The rock wall that has served as a backdrop for so many of my photos.

It will be an honor to receive the historical note, but it also means this house needs someone who will love her 1950’s bungalow style, the coming tax breaks the city will give, and someone who will keep her well-loved and preserved.  And on a more personal level, someone to love and care for her very old, giant trees.  The old oak in the backyard alone is somewhere around 500-600 years old.  A majestic old tree and my children’s favorite.  Then the two old pecan trees, some of the largest in all of downtown.  (sigh)  Not to mention the old rock wall that surrounds the property.  The rock wall I photograph many of my hats in front of.  I will miss a lot of this place’s charm.

More tongue ‘n groove wood. The biggest hallway I’ve ever seen.

It won’t be emotionally easy to leave here.  This is where my kids have grown up.  All their memories are here.  Climbing trees, forts made in the rock wall, dirt they fought over, slides combined with kiddie pools, neighborhood cats, the cardinal families that eat at our backyard bird feeder, bringing new babies every year.  The butterflies that fill our backyard trees every spring, the dragonflies that fill our front yard every summer.  Even the kid on the back side of our lot who plays in a band while we take turns lazing in the hammock outside.  The giant hallway the kids played in, the living room large enough for two pianos and ten floor puzzles, the garden tub they pretended to swim in, that bathroom large enough to accommodate an XL changing table next to tub, sink and shower.  So many unique things this house offered us.  So many stories.

Yes, there are two pianos in this living room. It’s that big. Tongue ‘n groove red pine planks decorate the vaulted ceiling.

Our kids have worked hard on this place and left their mark too.  They helped pack, paint, and fix and even know how to run a good bead of caulk now.  And before saying goodbye, they feel the need to share their home with their friends.  And provide a meaningful closure to a chapter ending.  JT has had his friends over for his recent birthday party.  My baby is now 13.  Now it’s time for Jessica’s birthday party.  My 15-year-old.  It’s going to sound funny, but having this last birthday party gathering with our daughter’s friends is really important not just to her, but to all of us.  She wants “Thanksgiving Dinner” for her birthday, and we will enjoy baking and smoking a turkey just for her.

I’m not sure exactly what to expect or what the summer brings for us.  We got it all done, and now it’s a waiting game of finding the right buyer, someone who would consider living in the historical district of one of the most “recession-proof” towns in the US.  Or so we hear.  I hope that the timing will work out so that we can move before school starts.  Find that someone who will be so excited to live in an older home that has nothing left that it needs any more, aside from the typical carpet allowance, though we’ve already replaced most of that.  The rest is waiting on my antique pianos to move since it costs more to move them than to carpet the entire house.  When we first moved here, the house was so not up to speed that American Home Shield wouldn’t cover anything.  Now it will cover everything.

And there she is, on display, ready to be bought for a price. I never imagined our house could look so nice. It’s been a blessing to see it through the eyes of others.

Living here has big city convenience with a small town feel.  We live at the heart of the community, middle of everything, but far enough away from the busiest street.  Quiet neighborhood, pleasant sidewalk strolls, 5-star dining, local library, my favorite coffee shop, the city pool, the monthly Market Days shopping (and vending when I have a booth), the new Main Street Plaza Fountains, and Round Rock Donuts, just a few blocks away.  Kind of awesome when I slow down and really think about it.  I’ll miss living just down the road from those donuts on the weekends I crave them.  Not to mention the light walk each year for the free music, cookies, hot cocoa, and bonfire at Round Rock Christmas Family Night.

What I do know is that as summer break is here, I’m going to soak it up.  Sure, I need to have things 24/7 “show ready.”  But we can do that.  Not a problem.  Not really.  Flylady-style routines go far to keep us on track.  And true, most of my life is packed up into boxes now.  But I can enjoy this last bit of respite, a simplified life with my pretty, pretty house.

Both my attitude and life have become more reverent.  Knowing that something sacred is taking place and a life-altering transition awaits us all.  Awakening at each moment, drinking in each picture, capturing each step, smell, and emotion in this place, like a movie in slow motion.

She’s happy now… brimming with excitement.  And so am I.

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I Was A Goddess Today!


I was a working, accomplishing goddess today. Not crochet related, but I totally kicked ass.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first day of spring break and my day wasn’t broken up by school runs, I don’t know, but I’m ready for more days like today.  I had my running check list.  Back and forth, trading this hat for the next.  Ticking my items off one by one.  I took every call today on the second ring!  Many times I just can’t, but today I talked to customers and friends and still accomplished things on my list!  Even as things got added to my list, they got worked on!  I even mowed on the lawn, with an old-fashioned push mower today (the human-powered kind that used to belong to hubby’s grandma).  In high weeds.  (Long drought plus a sudden few days of rain in Central Texas means every mean and nasty local weed there is  springs up and tries to take over.)  And I still came in and was able to turn my head to analysis, inventory and calculations.  Take care of the workshop I’m planning, contact people, handle clients, send out newsletters, convert files, touch base with teachers and chat with friends.

On top of that, I heard from three other friends who fell into recent strokes of good fortune too! Friends sold their house in 6 hrs (say what? I want some of that!).  Another friend sold $400 in paintings over lunch today.  She’s so excited!  (Isn’t that awesome?) And another is launching a new business plan with astounding possibilities.  Another I talked to I just found out escaped a fire.  Thank goodness they are OK!  And I have new neighbors who at least for today, seem really nice.

My regular lawn mower is still broken, and I didn’t finish the lawn, but it was a good day. And I feel like awesome.  It totally rocked!

Now I want to bake chocolate chip cookies…………
I totally deserve it.

nom, nom….

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Filed under Editorial, Random Thoughts

The Top Eight Things That Tick Me Off…


This article was originally published on my blog The Difference Between A Duck on May 5, 2010.


Dan Rockwell over at Leadership Freak asked a potent question on his blog this morning:  What ticks you off as a leader?  And what ticks you off about leaders?   It was an awesome question with a lot of answers.  I find his daily blogs to be thought provoking and succinct.  You might check it out.

I work long hours in the volunteer world where you often learn a person’s true caliber.  There are times the drama really ticks me off.

So with the encouragement to take a day and have a healthy rant…

Here are my top eight things that tick me off.

1) Don’t Lie – Those who claim credentials and experience they don’t really have. A PhD and a DD are not the same thing. Nor are a myriad of other credentials alike.  This also goes for those who claim illness or tragedy they’ve never experienced too.

2) Know Your Limits – Those who refuse assistance when they are running behind, “no I’ve got it” and then ultimately fail the deadline or project altogether when it could have been fixed if they had accepted help (or delegation) when offered.

3) Know Your Facts – Articles, reports and claims promoted arbitrarily as fact and w/o references or proof. “Statistics” that have no source. Using the phrase “we do it all the time” as proof that something works, is main stream, or should continue to be allowed, etc. (and gripes me even further when once or twice in reality becomes “all the time” in a debate).  Then there are those brand newbies who do the opposite arbitrary claim “it obviously wasn’t working” to justify disrespect to loyal employees and a complete policy make-over, when the claim is simply untrue, illogical and unsupported by any research or facts.

4) Embrace Maturity – Drama in a professional environment drives me crazy, along with those who would rather start WWIII than accept criticism, difference of views or simply admit “Ok this could have been better.” Those who are more concerned with “winning” an argument than taking care of a customer.  This also includes taking things personally for no apparent logical or professional reason.  More time is wasted trying to undo assumptions made about non-existent intent.  Really, it’s not all about you.

5) Communicate – Leaders who fail to communicate and then suddenly freak-out and look for the nearest scape-goat.  On the other side, leaders who don’t know how to deal with a situation or person, so they literally hide from them. That would go for volunteers/employees too. You don’t have to be a naturally great communicator, just at least try!

6) Listen – Not reading emails/reports even when they are simple bullet points and then having to email/call them again and again.  Refusing to take phone calls.  Not asking questions.  Assuming without logic or basis.

7) Be Responsible – Own and take credit for mistakes as much as successes. It’s part of life.

8 ) Armchair Quarterbacks – Those who sign up to volunteer, can’t be reached when it’s time to work, and then complain about how things were done.  That would also include those who sign up, can’t be reached when it’s time to work, and then take credit for being there when they weren’t, knowing people they don’t, doing things they didn’t and including it on a resume or in a job interview.

So what about you?  What really ticks you off as a leader?


Thanks again for the therapeutic whine Dan……!

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