Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kissing A Frog

You can't ever tell what you'll get when you kiss a frog. You might just get warts. Frogs can be deceiving. The most beautiful frog could turn out to be a serial killer. The ugliest frog could be a man or woman of loving compassion. Choosing a frog based on appearance is an iffy proposition.

A lot of men and women develop online 'relationships' based solely on the personality their friend displays for them...with no idea whether there is truth or falsity behind the image. They're kissing the frog without having a clue whether they'll get a prince or the court jester or even the hangman.

I worry about folks who share all sorts of intimate details with their online friends. I'm not even talking about things like identity theft or online scams. What about predators that use their online disguise to stalk their victims? How easy does the average person make it for a predator?

What about you? Are you kissing the wrong frogs?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


This morning I saw a weather forecast from Farmer's Almanac for the coming winter. It's grim. Back in the days when the Farmer's Almanac was the Weather Channel of its day, such a forecast was a warning to immediately make preparations for bad weather. For the women, that meant extra canning and stocking up on food supplies. For the men, it meant chopping wood, repairing the family buildings and possessions, even possibly stocking extra food for their animals. And of course, the women prepared their families with warm clothing.

With the advent of sock knitting machines--and the easy availability of socks--home sock knitting faded away. In recent years, there's been an increased interest in sock knitting. Those of you who follow my blog know the hunk and I have started knitting socks. I'm sure many of you are scratching your heads and asking, "Why?" As my son commented, "Just go to Wal-Mart..."

But there are lessons to be learned (aside from the actual knitting) when you sit down to knit a sock. As many of you know, I write romances and I started knitting socks as something of a research project because one of my heroes was a sock knitter. I wanted to be accurate when I mentioned any actions on his part that referred to knitting socks. Right off the bat, I discovered my hero was possessed of great wells of patience. Otherwise, he would have thrown the needles and yarn across the room (exactly as the hunk did this last weekend).

Then there's the necessity for concentration. Distraction will result in unraveling huge hunks of sock because you've skipped a step or knitted when you should have purled or did some other boneheaded thing. A couple weeks back I posted a pic of my sock when I did exactly that. Time was lost while I picked out my mistake.

And of course, the most important thing is the ability to FINISH. There are a lot of things we attempt in life that somehow never get finished. We grow bored. We surrender to fatigue. We lose interest. In the end, we cast the project to the side and move on to something else. When knitting socks, there are numerous points that tempt us to quit. But if we do...we don't have socks to warm our feet.

Imagine those days gone by when the entire family depended on one or two people to knit enough socks to warm their feet through winter. What if they'd quit? Given up? Especially for the pioneers, it wasn't a matter of running down to the store to buy a pair. Most folks did without unless they could afford to buy a pair from someone in their village. Even then, it was an expensive proposition.

Socks do more than warm the feet. They protect the feet from sweaty shoes. And keep the feet clean. Guard them from bacteria. Provide a cushion against blisters. Yeah. Socks are more important than we think...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Love and Weddings

The hunk and I went to a wedding yesterday. My best friend, Jane married the love of her life, Charlie. It was the most joyful wedding I've ever attended. There was laughter and (a few) tears, hugs, kisses and more laughter. Every person attending was delighted for the happy couple.

I think it was because both the bride and groom have been through the fire...and FINALLY, I say FINALLY they are embarking on a new life together. They're perfect for each other. I wish for them great happiness, joy, and most of all never-ending love.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How To?

I'm reasonably intelligent and unlike most of the males in our species, I'm not averse to reading directions, maps, recipes, patterns or diagrams. If I want to learn something, I search for the appropriate information and I go for it. The first attempt might not be a success, but I'll stick with it until I've mastered it.

As long as the directions are complete!

After struggling with recipes, patterns, and directions in the past two or three weeks, I've reached the inescapable conclusion there should be a college course on process writing. You know...step one, step two, etc.

Writing directions requires an elementary talent--breaking down the process to the most basic steps. Most of the directions I've encountered in the last year or so skip some of the most important steps and then render the remaining steps in pure gobbledygook.

It's worse when the pattern/directions have strange exotic terms or acronyms that only apply to the job at hand. Such terms should be explained the first time you encounter them. I don't care if the term was explained back on page 16. Why must I go looking for it? For instance, WYB. Why not simply say WYB (With Yarn in Back) and go on about the business?

Now, I confess my brain does not process strings of random letters very well. A minor stroke will do that to you. But once I firmly attach a meaning to the random string, I do just fine. I recognize it for what it is and go on.

However, when steps are left entirely out, that's a different story. What am I supposed to do with part A? Where exactly is tab H supposed to be inserted?

The trouble is this--experts who write directions forget what it was like when they weren't experts. Teaching is much the same. A brilliant mathematician might have trouble teaching beginners because he doesn't mentally walk through the steps anymore. He doesn't need to. But his students end up lost because they aren't ready to make intuitive leaps.

At my last three jobs, I wrote process books for all the numerous tasks I was responsible for. After all, even I liked to take the occasional vacation or sick day. The process books were so complete, even a new employee could carry out the tasks--if they followed the steps as outlined.

We're not all ready to make intuitive leaps, hoping for the best, when we begin a new project. There's no such thing as too much information when you're reading directions. Explain everything. Really.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dancing in the Streets

Riots come...and riots go. Generally, whatever the flashpoint, the real reason for the riots is not even remotely connected to the street wars. I lived through the sixties in Chicago. Rioters burned down much of the city. Looters stole and robbed. I remember being evacuated from my workplace in armored buses. And the violence continued.

Rioting isn't about some single injustice perpetrated by the overlords. Rioting is about anger--long term, systemic anger and resentment. Whatever the primary root cause, the result is a slowly smoldering anger that only requires an opportunistic flashpoint to flare into a roaring bonfire.

The sad thing is nothing is accomplished by rioting except loss of life and destruction. Nothing positive comes from fighting in the streets. It's exactly like a child misbehaving to get attention. The result is never what he's looking for. And the cycle continues.

As I look back at all the riots I've witnessed over the years, I see no positive outcomes. None. Dialogue is not possible when opposite sides are dodging bullets and missiles. Flames just feed on the anger. And innocent bystanders frequently find their lives in ruins through the destruction of their property. Don't tell me looting and rioting is because some young man was shot.

Looting and rioting is carried out by angry people. Anger and despair are the reasons those folks are out there throwing Molotov cocktails. The law-abiding folks are at home. Or praying in church. Or grieving their dead.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


 Fifty-three years ago today, my dad and stepmother married. As you can see from the picture above, she was taking on quite a job. My brothers and I were a handful in the best of circumstances...on the good days. On the bad days? Yeah, any parent has been there for the bad days. She must have wondered what she'd gotten herself into.

They're both in their eighties now. All those hopeful kids in the photo are senior citizens with families of their own. And all of us learned something about promises and sticking it out, through thick and thin, from that young hopeful bride and groom.

When I married, the idea of divorce never crossed my mind. It wasn't an option. Oh, I know there are valid reasons for divorce. I believe there are times when there's no other choice. But back then--back when I stood next to my new stepmother in a grape-colored dress (boy, I LOVED that dress!), divorce wasn't in my universe.

Marriage was about promises. And promises only count if they're kept.

It's sad that promises don't seem to be as important today. Long-married couples are more of a rarity. Couples think they've been married forever when they reach the five year mark. Heh. Some days five minutes can seem like forever.

But fifty-three years is quite an accomplishment. They weren't young kids just out of high school when they married. I look at them now and they look soooo young and yet, I know they both had already faced grief and pain. In spite of that, they retained enough hope to face the future. Maybe that's the vital ingredient. Hope.

In any case, I wish them blessings and happiness for all their remaining years. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What Can I Do?

I have several friends and family members who are dealing with chronic illness, emotional distress, family issues, cancer or other serious illnesses. I speak to them on the telephone, in person (not very often because they live far away) or via various electronic means. The problems they are coping with grieve me on multiple levels, but one particular one is this: How can I help from a long distance?

It's difficult to know what I can do, other than provide a listening ear. Flowers aren't always appropriate. It seems that a card isn't enough. Telephone calls are not always convenient when the individual is trying to rest. I live too far away to cook meals or clean their homes or drive them to the doctor.

So...this is what I want to know. What can a concerned friend or relative do from long distance? How can we help bolster and support our loved ones who are struggling with terrible illnesses or stumbling through heartbreaking family problems?

I found one article--just today--about things NOT to say to folks dealing with cancer. I found it helpful on some general levels, but most of the suggestions were for friends and family that live near by. Cancer

Just tell me--what can I do? Tell me and I'll do it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


We have company at our house this week--our son and our granddaughters. While we have the chaos and jumbled schedule always attendant when there's company in the house, the hunk decided he would learn how to knit socks. Yes, there wasn't enough going on so he cast on his forty stitches and was off and running. With numerous false starts, he finished his first sock last night.

The son and grandkids were observing the process with keen interest and humor. Especially when the hunk was less than patient with the mistakes and inevitable errors. Last night as he reached the final stages (the toe), our son just shook his head and asked, "Why? Why not just go to Walmart and buy a whole package of socks for the cost of that one pair?"

The answer is...complicated.

On one level, there's the accomplishment of learning a new skill. And the pride in completing a project, start to finish. Even the joy of knowing someone will wear what you've created.

But there's something else to consider. Old, basic skills are dying out. In the past, every single individual could claim a host of basic skills--carpentry, embroidery, cooking, baking, knitting, sewing, plumbing, hunting, animal husbandry, woodworking. Now, anyone who can do ANYTHING is considered an artisan. Fewer and fewer skills are passed down. Folks take less and less time to learn them.

In our own fumbling way, we're passing on (if not the actual skills) at least the IDEA that learning never stops. You're never to old to learn a new skill. You're never to old to enjoy jogging off in a new direction.

Oh, yeah. The hunk started his second sock first thing this morning...