Why are we doing this to kids?


I have long questioned the value of the drug education programs that we inflict upon kids in 5th and 6th grade. They came into wide popularity right when I began college, so I never sat through them, but all three of my children have. I am not naive enough to say, “My kid would NEVER do that!” but I think I am smart enough to suggest that having a police officer stand in front of them and offer a series of admonitions and warnings for several weeks isn’t really an education.

About two weeks ago, I had to set something up in my church hall. I realized that a class like this was taking place and tried to move quickly and quietly so as not to distract.  As I moved my stuff around, I heard the officer lecturing the kids on the hazards of MEDICAL MARIJUANA. I almost shouted. Everything in me wanted to interrupt, but I held back. The gist of the message seemed to be that even people who take marijuana prescribed by a doctor have to be very careful that it does not serve as the gateway to other, equally terrible drugs. I was appalled.

This was also during a week when stories of krokodil were flooding the newspaper. Krokodil is a synthetic heroin that provides a super-high and then causes your skin to turn green, rot from the inside, and fall of of you in chunks.

I started to think how interesting, and stupid, it is, in these drug education programs, to group pot together with meth, heroin, cocaine, molly, and whatever else is out there that this old broad hasn’t heard about.  We tell kids this in 5th and 6th grade, when most of them are still super gung-ho on listening to adults. Four or five years later, they get to high school, and they meet kids who drink and smoke pot. Some of those kids who party are extremely successful students, involved in their communities and in loving families. Their recreational activities really don’t seem to hinder their productivity. Kids who want to try pot will try it. Kids will find out that other kids’ parents even smoke pot, and they hold jobs and coach teams and have nice lives, too.

Herein lies the problem. They find out on their own that pot’s just NOT THAT BAD. And at that point, all the drug education info seems like crap. If we tell them pot and meth are the worst things ever, and they find out pot’s kind of chill and fun, who’s to say meth isn’t the same?  And now that pot has begun to be legalized, how do we justify lumping it in with highly damaging drugs?

I should note that I’ve never been a pot smoker. Tried it a handful of times over the years and never really loved it, but it sure didn’t kill me.

Our kids deserve accurate information, maybe delivered later than the age of 10, but complete and accurate information. I think a re-think is in order.


I delivered Barbara’s cabled afghan  at the end of August, 2012. I spent about a month, walking on knitting eggshells, waiting to pull into my driveway and see her waiting in the street with a kit she ordered and couldn’t complete. When October began, I took a deep breath and dared to think that my relationship with her had met its natural conclusion.

No such luck.

In February, I got the call. SIX MONTHS! I really thought I was free.  I picked up the kit and the cash. Here is how it came to me:


And here it is unpacked:


That’s a whole lot of yarn, and it’s cheap yarn (feel free to take offense, Vanna White). When I learned to knit, one of the first directives was, “Knit with the best yarn you can afford.”  This Vanna’s color stuff is waxy and thick and I don’t love it at all. But here I was, embarking on making this:


You have no obligation to zoom in on the directions, but you should know that the first step is, “Octagons, make 99.”  That’s one shy of a hundred, and they are all separate pieces, as are the 116 mini squares that go in between them. This is the recipe for a homemade nightmare. The only upside was that the pattern was quickly memorized and I could crank out multiple octagons (and later, squares) in a single sitting. The enormous downside of this is that they all have to be sewn together after the crocheting is done.

Sidenote: I can’t imagine for the life of me why this is called a “Snowball Afghan,” unless the kind of octagon I was making is referred to in certain circles as a snowball. As I see it, there’s nothing wintry or white about it.

Piecing it together took about as long as making all the pieces and gave me backaches for which I needed medication.

Here is how it turned out:

001 002 004

The jewel tones are lovely and it photographs well, but I will never make anything like it again. I delivered it in August and didn’t see Barbara when I dropped it off. I gave it to her son and ran.  I’m only two months out, but I’m starting to breathe easy, even though I know I’m never safe.

Why aren’t there anymore burnouts?


When I was a kid, there were burnouts, and lots of ’em.  You could find them around dumpsters, in alleys and sometimes in convenience store parking lost. They wore earth tones and smoked and didn’t seem to go in too much for grooming. They were mysterious.

When you called someone a burnout, it was an insult, but it was also an acknowledgement of their courage to cross the line, to be something that society at large clearly disdained.

Where are they now?

I have made a semi-concerted effort over the last month or so to look for them and THEY ARE NOWHERE.

They’re like the honeybees, only worse. They’ve completely disappeared.

This is why I’m proud (and really shouldn’t be).


I wish there was a graphic for a fanfare, preferably Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, because if there was, I’d have you hearing it right now.

The curtains are done. Done. They look adorable, are relatively close to the same size as each other, and they are hung up in Amelia’s room.

Here is proof:

They took way too long, but here they are!

I really couldn’t be more pleased. The fabric we chose (mostly her but with an unsarcastic thumbs up from me) does a lot for the room, in which two walls are blue and two are green. That’s a healthy dose of red right there and it’s lively.

It should not have taken me four months. In retrospect, it was a 4-5 day project, but fear of the next step kept me from making progress. Then I’d get so fed up with my lack of progress that I’d convince myself to just do the next step and then stop. And so it was 5 days of work, spread out over 4 months of worrying and watching “how to” videos and being afraid I’d screw it up.

Next time I’ll do better.

Why does my geekness sneak up on me?


Two incidents in the last week have cast my inner geekness in sharp relief.

First, although chronologically the second, I gave a full on, audible squeak of joy when I received an email telling me that the next season of Bones is now available for me to watch instantly on Netflix.  I started watching because I missed David Boreanaz, gradually grew uninterested in finding out who killed each episode’s victim, but remained tied to the multi-episode arcs of the main characters. Plus, it’s great to have on while knitting. I can catch everything by just listening. (Side note: I’ve finished my Christmas knitting [see below] and moved on to a delightful Christmas cross-stitch portrait of late East Coast rapper Notorious B.I.G.)

Secondly, and oh-so-much worse, here is a transcript of an actual conversation I had with myself while finishing said Christmas knitting, and watching X-Men 2:

If Wolverine counts as a non-human, I think he’d be my first choice for non-human fictional mate.
–Wait! That’s crazy. The Doctor, as played by David Tennant, would totally be number 1!
But what about Spike? Spike for sure. Season Six Spike.
–You’d take Spike over Angel? There are some days when Angel would really do the trick.
You are a giant 40-year old loser. Finish your knitting.

Which I did, but I didn’t stop pondering the question. And, since my need for a laugh far outweighs my concern for how people think of me, I slapped it up on facebook. The response was swift and enormous. Mostly from gay men, but from several other combinations of orientation and gender as well.  Captain Jack Harkness got thrown into the mix, although I think he wouldn’t qualify as non-human until after he becomes immortal.  I even got some background info on the genetic heritage of Wolverine.

Incidentally, if I was married to him, I think I’d call him “The Wolverine,” at least in public. It would be like being married to a Duke or a King.

“The Wolverine loves my lasagna.”

“The Wolverine has been getting home so late from work.”

“The Wolverine bought me the most beautiful sweater for my birthday!”

Interestingly, as the thoughts rolled for a few days, The Wolverine gradually lost out. The Doctor fell away–who wants to worry about regeneration?!?! And even Angel took a back seat. And that leaves Spike. Steamy, Season Six, Spike. Witty, tough, conflicted Spike. Unable to hurt anyone because of the chip, and with that clipped British accent. Winner winner chicken dinner. Unexpected bonus–I’d always look SUPER TAN next to him.

Why has this become my signature gesture?


First off, it’s appalling that I launched this and failed to keep it up. I’m making a three week early New Year’s resolution to do better. As Ghandi says, or Ghandi’s wife, at least in the movie when they talk about him being celibate–it is a solemn vow.

I’ve noticed, of late, that the sarcastic two thumbs up has become my signature gesture. I use it to my kids, but not about them. If we’re talking about some fourteen year old that can’t lay off the chew I might use the gesture. It’s two thumbs up, obviously, but it has to be accompanied by a face that says, “Way to go, you asshole.”  It’s like a squinty eyed, smile-with-only-the-middle-of-your mouth, accompanied by a slight, fast double nod. Try it. See?

I use it most frequently to other drivers when they screw up or are rude. I’ve never been a big giver of the finger (I think this is because the first time I tried to give someone the finger–7th grade–I put my ring finger up–after much effort–and my intended victim, Jimmy Steele, yelled, “That’s the wrong finger!” as I rode away on my bike) and this gesture is a nice replacement. There’s something about it that makes me feel superior without being crass.

I’m going to look for more occasions to use it.

Why I’m excited.


I’ve written before about how my creative endeavors, outside of writing,  are not particularly creative.  Knitting, my primary hobby, really just involves following directions. I have neither the skill or the drive to design my own patterns (other than the very basic) and mostly create beautiful fiber-work rather mindlessly. There’s satisfaction in finishing, but I rarely get the delicious “ownership” feeling when I finish a knitting project.

Well, I found a tangential process that might change that a bit.

I wanted to find variegated yarn of maroon and orange–the school colors of my boys’ high school. No one made it–at least no one this wool-only yarn snob would consider purchasing from.  I decided to make my own.

I’m a firm believer that I can learn anything, and, in this case, if I failed miserably, I’d wind up with a trash can full of yarn and a beautifully wasted day.

First step, find somewhere that sells RIT fabric dye.  Walgreens used to–no more. After poking around my usual haunts, I was directed to Hobby Lobby by another store’s employee.  Jackpot. (Incidentally, Hobby Lobby has never let me down. I herewith resolve to start going there first.)


I bought Wine and Sunshine Orange.  The Wine looked exactly right, the Orange looked somewhere between yellow and tangerine. It was, however, the only orange offered in liquid form, so my guess (and I guessed correctly) was that is was truly a basic orange.  I also bought ivory wool yarn–100% wool. Natural fibers dye well, synthetic fibers do not.

The first step was to boil a ring of yarn in a water/white vinegar solution:

Nothing on the RIT dye said to add vinegar, but every tutorial I read through mentioned it. I knew it couldn’t hurt, so I threw it in. I used old medicine dropper to drip the (undiluted) dye onto the yarn, after shutting off the heat and letting the water settle but not cool.

I decided on a four segment color pattern, basically orange at 9 and 3 o’clock, and maroon at noon and 6.

It looked pretty muddy, but I had only the money I spent to lose, so I let it sit. In retrospect, because of the pattern I was using (entrelac), I should have gone with a half maroon (say, the right side) and half orange (left). This would have created longer repeats and bigger chunks of solid color. I think I broke the two balls of yarn I had into 3 hanks each, so I did 6 pots of dying on the day.  Drying outside, and making me so happy, it looked like this:

The white stripes, if you can spot them, are the places that scrap yarn was used to tie the hanks together so they didn’t go all spaghetti-like in the boiling water. Next time, I’ll figure out a way to get rid of them, although I have bought hand-dyed yarn in shops and those lines are present more frequently than not.  It also smelled strongly of vinegar, but I gave it a wool-wash rinse after knitting and got rid of that.

I used the yarn to knit a scarf for a fundraiser for the boys’ high school. Here it is:

It took enough work, experimentation, and wondering on my part to make me feel like I really created it, and I’m needy enough to be excited about telling the person who gets it at the fundraiser that I hand dyed the yarn and the only place you can get more is my kitchen.