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February 27, 2007

Poop, the Aftermath

Well, I'll be.

I did get an email back from the Clump 'n Flush parent company, although it wasn't exactly the email of my dreams:

-----Original Message-----

From: Norm_Peiffer@AndersonsInc.Com [mailto:Norm_Peiffer@AndersonsInc.Com]
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 12:12 PM
To: Laurie
Subject: Fw: Clump 'n Flush

Laurie, first a correction: it is not something in our litter which required the stop sale, but a problem with the sea otters living off the coast of California. The California legislature has placed a ban on the sale of all flushable litters due to something in the cat feces which is harmful to the otters.

Since we decided not to redo our bag art for the sake of California and the risk of a fine is great we have decided to not offer the product for sale in California. There are customers for whom we produce which is available in CA. Please visit Petco and look for the Nature's Miracle brand, or the arm an Hammer High Performance label or at Wal Mart under the Fresh Results label. All the bags advise how to dispose of used litter properly.

Hope this helps!!

Hmmmm. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am happy that someone wrote me back. On the other hand...

I realize we are a bag of mixed nuts out here in California, but I didn't think you, Cat Litter Company, would be so willing to isolate your litter-ish business from the most populous state in the union, all 36,457,549 of us, some of whom are cat owners with pooping issues.

Now we get to embark on a whole new world of poop-related challenges at Chez Despair, all because you won't put a sticker on your bags. I would now no longer buy your product if you paid me to!!! (Read: That is a total lie, I would so buy it! If you paid me! Or put a sticker on the stupid bag!)

But on principle I will find some other company to support because COME ON. It's a STICKER on a BAG. Get over yourselves! Hire a lawyer! Work out the language! Then put a sticker on the damn bag!

Do I have to think of EVERYTHING?

Also, is it just me or do ya'll also get fits of indignation, like when you are at a store or restaurant and someone is rude to you or they have some weird policy and in a big jolt of righteous forthright disdain for idiocy, you will immediately declare to ANYONE in a five-mile radius that AS GOD IS MY WITNESS I WILL NEVER PATRONIZE THIS BUSINESS AGAIN.

Or maybe it is just me and I am prone to dramatics?


bobsomething.jpg
Bob thanks all ya'll for the helpful tips and ideas from yesterday. We will soon be developing an underground supply chain network, the Iran Contra of Cat Litter. Watch out Fawn Hall. I have a Fawn Bob and I am not afraid to use it!

Posted by laurie at 7:32 AM

February 26, 2007

Dear Governator, this poop is for you.

Today I went online to place my normal, usual every six-weeks delivery order with Drs. Foster & Smith.com to get my fancypants cat litter, Clump 'n Flush, the only brand I have EVER FOUND (and trust me, I have tried whatever brand you are about to suggest) (yep! tried that one, too!) that doesn't make Roy sneeze and cough and carry on and yet still pleases the other cats' delicate pooping sensibilities.

After placing my order and proceeding through checkout, my cart said "We're sorry, this product cannot be shipped to California."

I figured it was an error, seeing as I have had this SAME EXACT ITEM shipped to me for well over a year. I called the venerable Doctors Foster and Smith. I got seriously THE nicest phone help ever, who had to check and double-check and check again, and as it turns out, the Governor of California has signed some law which prohibits some ingredient in either the cat litter or the cat litter packaging from making it to California.

After much searching and discussing neither she nor I nor anyone at the Good Doctors could find this mystery ingredient, but this cat litter is still on the banned list. How is this possible?

The item description says,
"Clump 'N Flush Cat Litter effectively eliminates cat box odor and makes cleaning easy and dust-free. Completely harmless to plumbing, sewer, and septic systems, this highly absorbent natural cat litter is made from processed corn cobs. Does not stick to litter box. Biodegradable and compostable."

Shouldn't the State of California be pro-biodegradable stuff?

I was not very interested in our Governor until RIGHT NOW. I hope his life is full of nothing my cat poop and toxic pee forever, or until he lets my cat litter be shipped to me. If you have his email address or phone number please share. Because my cats need a happy and harmonious pooping surface or they will find alternatives. Alternatives, people! Not good!

So I wrote a letter to the president of the company that makes the cat litter we use at Chez Poopsalot. They are a whole huge grain and industrial and blah blah blah company. I am sure my email was of vital importance to their business model:

-----Original Message-----

From: Laurie
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 1:56 PM
To: 'jkapnick@andersonsinc.com'
Cc: 'hostmaster@andersonsinc.com'
Subject: Clump 'n Flush


Hi there.

I realize that as the president of a huge corporation, you may not be super bummed out about a cat litter crisis. But I am a huge fan of your company's Clump 'n Flush litter and have ordered it online for years -- even though it costs approximately one billion dollars to ship -- because my cats love it.

Now there is apparently some ingredient in the cat litter that has been banned by the State of California, where I live. I am so sad. I almost cried when Drs. Foster & Smith refused to ship it to me.

I don't know how you can get off the list of banned items, but please try! Your cat litter is the only one on the planet that is practically dust-free and not smelly and my cats need a harmonious pooping surface. Thanks so much for reading this email. It's not world peace or anything, but poop is still important.

Thanks,
Laurie


They haven't responded yet.

I'm anxiously awaiting with baited breath.

I have to figure out a solution to this dilemma soon, we only have two bags of this elusive and enigmatic pooping surface left in the cupboard. And my parents will not exactly be happy to discover I am shipping a thousand pounds of cat litter to them and expecting them to drive it out to me.

Because that crosses a line. Many lines ... even state lines. I MEAN REALLY.


frankie-legs-crossed.jpg

Posted by laurie at 9:51 AM

February 23, 2007

Deep Thoughts With Sobakowa

Humans only use 9% of their brain power


I, on the other hand, use 9000%


So you may wonder why I don't feed myself


But why would I?


Why would I open a can if I don't have to?


Humans do it all for me. I am free to think my kittycat thoughts.

Posted by laurie at 9:17 AM

February 22, 2007

I Need Wide Open Spaces (probably because of the restraining order, but anyway.)

I moved all over as a kid. People ask me all the time where I'm from, and they especially ask it when they hear the twang in my voice. Sometimes I say Mississippi, or Louisiana, or Tennessee, all of which are true. I lived a long while in all three of those states, moving from middle school (Louisiana) to teenage angst (Mississippi) to college (Tennessee) and back.

But I am and always will be from Texas, having been born there and hauled around from one South Texas town to another during most of my early childhood. Being born in Texas is like being born Catholic... you just are. When I think of that big, rambling state I think of Comfort, Texas, population 200. It is a town so small and perfect the way all small towns are, and I loved living there, I loved the school bus stop and the cows on the farm (Holstein, in case you wondered) and I also wanted desperately, terribly to leave it the way you do when you are young and want to know there is more to the world than chickens and cows and shoveling manure out of the barn.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I obsessively listened to the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" and as we drove up through Van Horn, Texas, the last outpost on the way to the west, I finally saw a sky so big I thought it would swallow me whole and I knew what wide-open spaces meant in the song and in Texas and in my life. And how I was moving to a city wide open to me, new, completely terrifying and exhilirating at the same time.

There would be no manure shoveling where I was going, unless it was metaphorical manure. (Of which there was suprisingly plenty!)

Anyway, you might be wondering what this has to do with restraining orders. Ya'll know how us Southerners are with the storytelling. All in good time! And it ain't a story if it doesn't end with the law being called!

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, in a high-rise fancypants building, working away on a design project and living about as far away from manure-shoveling in Comfort, Texas as possible when my phone rang. It was Jeff, the husband half of Jeff and Audrey, friends of mine I met through Stitch 'n Bitch. Now this was a rather strange occurrance seeing as I have met Jeff a sum total of three times and we don't phonecall each other on a regular basis or ever.

On the suggestion of Audrey, his amazing and also thoughtful and very much saintly wife who I will be thanking for years to come, also she has a great haircut, he had phoned to invite me to a special screening of "Shut Up & Sing," the documentary film made about the Dixie Chicks and the fallout from lead singer Natalie Maines' controversial comments at a London concert.

And normally I would say no to invitations or not show up because I am terribly socially awkward and talk too much and am shy, conversely, and also usually take the bus so I have a built-in reason to decline on the grounds of having no homeward-bound transport. But coincidentally, I missed the bus that morning by ONE DADGUM MINUTE and so I had driven in to work and arrived late and had not understood why the universe of traffic was punishing me so.

Apparently, traffic wanted me to see the Dixie Chicks movie. Also, apparently I am turning into my father because I just said DADGUM, a word I have never before uttered in my life on principle. Nice.

I was SO EXCITED to see this movie! Because I do not care what your politics are. I like people who reside in blue, red, and purple states. I even like people who reside in orange politics although that color is very unflattering on my skin tone. I like all ya'll as long as you are nice to animals and have good table manners. But more than all that, I LOVE ME SOME DIXIE CHICKS. They have been the soundtrack to my life. They mean something special to girls like me, girls who would totally bury an Earl if her best friend needed her to.

So even though I was wearing my schlumpiest clothes and Cardigan Of Constant Sorrow and my hair was a mess and I had a blemish sizably recognizant of the Lone Star State, I said yes to Jeff and Audrey's invitation. Because it is Year Of The Pig, and in the Year Of The Pig we do things we are afraid of like leave the comfort of our day-to-day lives and we take the opportunies life hands us because we are piggy! And hungry! And we want to eat life! In the good, polite southern way of course, with nice table manners.

feb21dixie-me-audrey-jeff.jpg
From L-R: Me, Audrey and Jeff. My photography skills are so... unique.

This event took place at the Los Angeles Library, one of my favorite places in all of L.A., and was part of the Young Literati series (you can learn more about this cool organization at www.youngliterati.org). They host a series of events that you should attend if you live anywhere near the Los Angeles metro area, because you never know what can happen when you hang out where the books live!

I was excited enough just to see the film, but then I found out the filmmakers would be attending for a Q&A session afterward. Barbara Kopple, co-director of Shut Up & Sing, is a big-time filmmaking documentarian superstar and Cecilia Peck, the other co-director, is the daughter of Gregory Peck! I felt very Hollywood and smart attending such a thing, especially since ya'll know the extent of my personal glamour is usually evenings involving some combination of Tivo, wine and yarn while a cat sits on my foot. Sexy!

So this story could end right here and be perfect. The end.

Except... you will never guess who was at the screening and got up on stage for the Q & A session.

NATALIE MAINES, LEAD SINGER OF THE DIXIE CHICKS.

Hello, restraining order. You are beginning to make sense now. We are getting to you! And here are pictures and also some video I took of the Q&A session:

feb21dixie-panel.jpg

Video, crappy quality but it's from my little Kodak digital camera:


And this story could end RIGHT HERE now and be perfect, except it isn't a party until we get our stalker on, now is it? At the end of the Q&A session, I was about to fall over with excitement of having breathed the SAME AIR as a Dixie Chick, royalty to a countryass girl like myself, when Jeff suggested we make our way up and say hey.

Which I would NEVER do. Because already when he just mentioned it I started to shake a little with nervousness and stuttered. But then I remembered Year Of The Pig and said, "Hell. I have one chance in my lifetime to meet NATALIE FREAKING MAINES and I will take that chance and probably stutter! Here Goes!"

Ya'll, I am not a person who foists herself on others. I do not even foist when foisting is desired, say, with the cute UPS guy or the checkout eyecandy at Trader Joe's. I am not a foister. But I walked right up on that stage and made a big huge stalkery fool of myself and it all poured out in one huge run-on sentence, something twangy about Comfort, Texas and "Wide Open Spaces" and how much I loved that they were Texas gals made good, and thank you oh thank you, can I have a picture please? And also blah blah blah not a stalker but I love you! So much!

And Natalie Maines is likely having the FBI draw up some sort of profile of a crazy woman right now and calling up the law about that restraining order, but although I definitely made a fool ass of myself and I know I was shaking with nervousness, I could feel it, and I was sweating under one armpit, I still actually did it and I talked to her and I even got my picture taken with her:

feb21dixie-me-natalie.jpg
Notice how BIG I am smiling. Notice Natalie Maines is... not so much. Heh.

Consider that one lesson firmly learned. If you get an opportunity, you should take it and say to hell with the foolass part of you that stutters and likely is on a Stalker Watch List somewhere. Even if you are dressed in your Cardigan of Constant Sorrow and are profusely sweating under one armpit, good things can happen if you just leave your dadgum house.

Posted by laurie at 9:45 AM

February 21, 2007

Sure, I'll join your cult.

There is so much confusion to clear up! First of all, Crackhead Bob still lives on my street, we are neighbors but not right-next-door neighbors. Except I think maybe Drunken Julie moved out or ... something... because I haven't had her knocking on my door at 1 a.m. lately or seen anything set on fire recently.

I do know the new neighbors have had several visits from Crackhead Bob because Mrs. Korean Neigbor once asked me if he was "okay in the head" which I think is a euphemism for "crazy."

So now that we have that cleared up, let us move on to Misconception Number Two which is that I attended one hour (1) of a service at the Agape Center and I have now officially joined the moonies and will be trading my cute shoes for sensible cult sandals and later today will hand out flowers at the airport with my new moonie faced friends.

AS IF there is ever any good parking at the damn airport. And AS IF I would waste an entire day driving up the 405 and trying to find parking at LAX so I could hand out flowers. (!!!) People, remember who we are talking about here. I am many things, but above all ... I am not a joiner.

(Oh, also, I am using "moonies" as a general term to mean cult. If you are a moonie and are offended I am sorry. I once offended a whole group of people for calling a possum a "rodent." Apparently possums are marsupials. I STAND CORRECTED.)

But now that I think about it, even in my lazy and hermity and cat-hair-covered ways, I have managed to join rather a few cults.

I am a member of:

1) The Bloomingdales bra club.
They have EVENTS!!! Bra fitting events. I don't attend these events because I would have to probably go find a therapist afterward. Also, see: "too lazy to shave that closely for bra fitting inspection first thing in the morning." However, I do have a bra club membership card and can save 30% off my next purchase.

2) Stitch 'n Bitch. I attend as often as I can and sometimes bring offerings of yarn or wine. But even as committed as I am to this one, I often don't attend for long stretches of time because you have to drive to the cult, unless another member kidnaps you (Faith) and does a mind meld on you (i.e. "has dinner with you at DuPar's.")

3) The Natural Balance cat food club. You get 15% off any purchase after you buy five bags of dry cat food. I love this club because I still hold out the hope my cats will one day decide only to eat this healthy kibble and fully eschew the Meow Mix. Because that is so going to happen. Also maybe later today they'll scoop their own catbox and then draw me a bath.

4)The clean plate club. Hehehehe.

5) The Unwind cult. You buy a lot of stuff at Unwind and you get a punch card, and when the punch card is full you get $30 off any purchase!! Let it be known I once lost my Driver's License but knew AT ALL TIMES where my Unwind punch card was. I have my priorities.

6) Ralph's Club. There was a movie once where Nick Nolte is asked for I.D. and he pulls out his Ralph's Card. I love Ralph and his grocery store and his club. I am a fan of savings. Represent.

7) BevMo Club. Drew came to L.A. for a visit and we went to Beverages & More, a.k.a. "BevMo," to stock up on alcohol (for, uh, purification rituals of course) (see: cult) and he said, "Do you have a BevMo discount club card?" and I said, "Are you kidding? Did you really ask ME that? It is my greatest single achievement in life! The BevMo card!" And we laughed. And people around us looked sad for me.

8) DSW Shoe Warehouse Savings Card. Oh come on. You know I got the free tote bag back in December and said, Hallelujah!!!


So anyway, just so you know I have not joined another cult. I think between knitting and the bra club and all the many membership cards I already have, I am full up with crazy and can't take on anymore right this minute. However, if your cult comes with yarn and anything over 30% off and I don't have to drive on the 405 to join it, then I will totally sell out the bra club for a new group of friends. That is the kind of gal I am.

In fact, if your cult combined the goodness of the Ralph's Club with the sanctity of the BevMo wine selection and also had 30% off yarn and a free handbag and/or pair of cute shoes, I'd even sell out the cat food club membership! Because, people, please. The cats like their damn Meow Mix ... and mama needs a new bag. Mama will join your cult, but it better come with a free tote bag.

Or a cosmetic gift tote and travel set. I am open to that brand of enlightenment, too. I am just saying is all.

Posted by laurie at 9:39 AM

February 20, 2007

Welcome to the crazyhood.

Finally, finally, someone bought the house next door to me. It had been empty for months and months on end, growing spookier and scarier by the minute. I sometimes sit on my back patio late into the night writing on my laptop or just thinking my thoughts, and that house next door became the repository for scary noises. I swear there were night gnomes back there burying bodies.

So, anyway, a nice retired couple from Korea bought the house and moved in. They have a bird named Julie. I know this because the woman half of the couple walks around with this big bird on her hand, and she's always saying, "Julie, give me a kiss." She once wanted Julie to give me a kiss but I said, "Oh! I don't kiss birds!" then because I thought that was a rude and dumb thing to say I apparently decided a good save would be to add, "... because I have cats?"

Nice one there, slick.

In the spirit of being less hermity and also more neighborly, I wanted to get my new neighbors a little housewarming gift. After some hemming and hawing I decided that a small handmade fruit basket would be just the thing. People like fruit! And baskets! Then I was at Trader Joe's loading up my buggy with assorted fruit when it dawned on me that I actually know zip, zero, zilch about the Korean culture and I might be unknowingly buying them fruit that has meaning, bad meaning, like... THE FRUIT OF DEATH!!!! or something.

And you know if some dumbass, and I mean "dumbass" in the finest and most loving sense of the word, would end up accidentally inadvertantly handing their new neighbors a basket full of THE FRUIT OF DEATH!!!! it would be me. Hello, Good intentions! I will follow you on your paved road!

(This is a logical train of thought if you're from the South. I mean, Lord knows you do not spill salt without some type of superstitious action to correct it, or break a mirror or walk under a ladder or open an umbrella inside the house. And if you a feel a possum walking on your grave, everyone you tell the story to will get shivers.) (We love our spookiness down south. We are very in touch with our ghostier selves.)

Anyway. There I was standing in Trader Joe's frozen in mid-reach with a Meyer lemon in my hand. I looked around but I felt odd questioning the first Asian shopper I happened upon for random fruit-related Korean superstitions. So I called Coworker L., who is Chinese but lives with his Girlfriend C., who is from a rather traditional Korean family. Besides, Coworker is used to my cracked-out questions. Nevermind that this one was happening over the weekend and did not involve work.

Coworker: Hello?

Me: Hi Coworker! It's Laurie. How are you? Having a nice weekend? Hey, is there a bad luck fruit in Korean? Like a fruit of death or anything?

Coworker: Hi Laurie.

Me: Because I want to buy my new neighbors a housewarming gift, a little fruit basket, but I'm scared I might accidentally pick the wrong fruit and send the "I am a psychotic white girl" message instead of the "Welcome to the neighborhood" message.

Coworker: Let me ask Girlfriend. (Holds his hand over phone) (likely saying, "My coworker is a weirdo.")

Coworker: She said there is no fruit of death, you should be fine.

Me: Thanks! Seeya!

And we hung up and I assembled my basket and took it over to their house. Said my hey-to's and all was well.

Except I'm not sure they knew this was a one-sided thing, welcome wagonning. Because just today the nice lady and the kissing Julie came over to my house to give me a lily plant as a thank you for the fruit basket. Which was sweet ... except am I supposed to give them something as a thank you for the thank you to my basket?

ARGH!!!!! It is much harder anti-hermiting than I thought. Yes, having my new neighbors is better than the imaginary gnomes rustling in the bushes at night, but we need some kind of printed, bullet-point list of etiquette that we all follow and there are no lingering doubts for the etiquette confused (read: me). I had to put the lily plant outside because I learned my lesson the first time around, on Cat Death Watch episodes #368 and #369. I don't think I will send them a thankyou to the thank you gift because if I do we might spiral out of control and it will never end, so I am hereby stopping the cycle of thanks. It is far too stressful.

I am going to just sit here and eat my hand. But not the lily. Because that would be wrong, and probably fatal.

Posted by laurie at 7:25 AM

February 18, 2007

Year Of The Pig, Indeed!

pig-bbq.jpg

Happy year of the pig! My year! Oink oink! Faith and I went to The Great Indoors a few weeks ago and saw this barbecue grill. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or grimace. I laughed. Ribs, anyone?

Oh, and that picture has nothing to do with the rest of this column. Just so you know.

- - - - - -

This morning I went to the Agape Center in Culver City. It might sound familiar from the recent few episodes of Oprah featuring Dr. Michael Beckwith.

I had heard of Agape before, someone mentioned it to me once when I first moved out to California over ten years ago now. I wanted to check it out but I was still fresh from the country and terrified of driving the Los Angeles freeways and I had no idea where anything in this city was. Back then I didn't have Yahoo Maps and googling and all that. So I just let it go and figured one day I'd make it out that way.

Then about a year ago I was corresponding with Carla, a Stitch 'n Bitch member I'd recently met, and we somehow got on the subject of being hermits, being people who often stay home, and she happened to mention the Agape Center. It must have lodged in my brain and stuck because when I saw her at SnB on Thursday, I kind of invited myself along for Sunday services. "Hi Carla! Whatcha knitting? Can I come to church with you on Sunday?" Heh.

She and her husband met me there this morning at 6:50 a.m. (!!!) and the place was PACKED. Ah, such is the power of one Oprah Winfrey. I looked around and saw every size, shape, color and age. It reminded me how many people are looking, just looking for something, a path, a road to walk, some steps to make things feel clear and safe, meaning, something bigger than themselves, a way.

Dr. Beckwith was every bit as on-fire in person as I had hoped, and he gave an inspiring and rousing talk and it was good for me, I haven't been to any kind of church service in years. Mostly I was curious and wanted to see Agape for myself (a reporter's curiosity never really dies, it just changes jobs.)

He said a million great and inspiring things, but one of them hit me like I hadn't expected. The more I sat there and repeated the words in my head over and over, the more I felt like someone had pointed out a truth so simple and clear, but I hadn't seen it until just then:

"When you change and grow, you have to let go of some things... one of the things you have to let go of is the motivation you've been moving forward with all these years, the motivation to make people like you."

The motivation of making people like you. Pleasing others. Being a nice girl. "Laurie was such a nice girl." "Laurie did well in school." "Laurie got married and they lived happily ever after." How can I please you? How can I be more pleasing, please?

It had been my whole life.

My divorce and the end of that life, the one I'd always seen for myself, showed me very clearly that I couldn't count on the love of another person to make me happy. He might leave. In fact, everyone might leave. I might end up being a people-dis-pleaser. How had that happened? How had I displeased him? Them? Everyone?

And it wasn't just men who might not love me forever, might not find me pleasing all the time. My parents wouldn't live forever to love me and lift me up, my friendships might change, nothing felt secure and when it dawned on me back then, I was mad. I WAS REALLY REALLY MAD. I wanted something to hold onto, something to prop me up, make me whole, my Jerry Maguire-ism had been in full force for thirty-three years and I needed someone to complete me DAMMIT.

I don't know if it was the merlot in the coffee cup or the cheetos or the months of alone, always alone, but finally in my haze and fog and awkwardness I realized I was always right there. I woke up each morning in my own bed with me, ate breakfast with myself, brushed my teeth, sang songs to my cat, told funny stories even when no one was listening. At first I had been humiliated and ashamed that people could see how flawed I was, couldn't keep a husband, drank too much when I was sad, smoked because I didn't know what else to do all night, couldn't sleep, gained weight, house full of felines and sadness and broken things. But eventually it was kind of liberating. The secret was out. Yes, people! I am imperfect! I am flawed! My marriage failed! I have a CrackerAss McCracker accent! I'm scared! I sometimes break a whole lot of stuff ... all at once! (Like they didn't know it already?)

I knew I was imperfect. Now my carefully constructed little life had fallen apart and everyone knew I was imperfect, too. It was all I had to work with. It was a starting point, even though I couldn't see it back then.

Thank God I kept this diary. It's all right there in words. And my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. I almost cannot believe I am typing that sentence! But I am. My divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. It caused me to look long at hard at myself, my life, my fears, always my fears, and also at what I might have, be, become, and want. For me. To please me. I am happier each day than I could have predicted. I feel free. I still worry sometimes if people will like me, approve, get me... but it isn't my only driving purpose anymore. I guess I know that I have to be right with me for others to be right with me.

And maybe it's just something I will always work at. Always reminding myself not to take personal assessments from people I wouldn't take driving directions from.

Always asking myself, "Is this really important? Is it true? Will I just shrivel up and die is someone hates my guts? Hates my hair? Thinks I'm a dork? Sees me fall down?"

I know these sound like simple things to some folks, but some of us women were built with the people-pleaser gene. It takes some time to conquer a thing like that.

And yesterday I spent all day at my little house, with my cats, cleaning and singing along to Michael Jackson (Because I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it) and I grilled out just for me and the furballs (mahi mahi, a feline favorite) and took a long walk and then a forever-long shower that steamed up the whole house and it was a perfect day, and I knew it, and that is the difference between back then and right now.

Posted by laurie at 9:17 AM

February 16, 2007

Stitch 'n Bitch 'n Almost Socially Acceptable. Almost.

Last night I attended a meeting of the West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch (Thursday nights, 3rd & Fairfax at the Original Farmer's Market, come inside and go up to the stairs to the open seating area, 6:30- 9ish p.m. every week!) and it was a really great night!

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to attend more SnB meet-ups, but the private resolution powering the public one was a little more complex (read: embarrassing). Leave the house, leave the comfort zones, open up to meeting people, to being exposed, let go of the fear of rejection and ridicule (and if you can't let go of the fear, at least put it on a list of things to worry about later).

It's the old adage, "Suit up, show up, and act as if." I figured if it worked for people in 12-step groups it could work for me and my Eleventy Two Steps Needed self. Just put on the outfit that you would wear if you were actually as self-confident as you wished you were, then show up every day for the life you wish you were living, and act as if you were already comfortable in your own skin. The real thing will (hopefully) follow.

It's working, actually. At first when I started this whole tactic of self-preservation, it felt awkward and silly. It did however keep me from crying in meetings (most of the time) while I was going through my divorce, and frankly, I am still employed (as of today) so hey. That's good enough for me! It's a process, though. Even last month at Stitch 'n Bitch I was at an all-time awkwardness apex. But whatever, no one died from my chattering and I didn't grow a third head out of shame so there you have it.

Suit up, show up and act as if.

And before I even knew it, somehow I just got all excited to attend Stitch 'n Bitch yesterday, not scared and anxious, and I got to chitchat and carryon and tell some stories and get a homemade kumquat jam from a new SnBer. There were folks who I'm not sure if it's okay to use their real names on this here website because they are very mysterious. And Ellen Bloom was there wearing her gorgeous black cardigan that she made with combining both knit and crochet, and M.J. was there (and her stash apparently rivals that of the world's greatest yarn shop) and I got to see Jen, who arrived with her embroidery -- perfect timing since Carla is starting an embroidery project, too! -- and there was much talk about pasties (thanks, Kendra) (now I will have to explain this one to my parents) and even though I forgot my pompom for Laurie Ann, all in all it was just a favorite and perfect evening, which Faith had to listen to me chatter on and on and on about in the car on the way home. Faith, do you ever just tune me out sometimes? My folks used to do that. I don't mind. I'll poke you with a sharp stick when I get to an epiphany or something important. Heh.

But then this AWESOMENESS of social grace and happiness was capped off by apparently my real personality showing up at the end of the evening when I tried to exit gracefully and ran into a chair, thereby re-awakening the dork within.

And Faith and Sara and I were walking out to the parking lot together, laughing at my gracefulness.

Me: Well, aside from the little stumble at the end this was a great night!

Sara: It was! It was so much fun, I'm happy to see you both.

Faith: I did a lot of twirling. Where are you parked, sara?

Me: Oh crap! I forgot to take any pictures!

Faith: Oh ... well, it's fine.We have memories.

Sara: Besides, your cats are way cuter anyway than all of us!

Me: OH!! Inspiration strikes! I could go home and take pics of the cats and use them as re-enactments of stitch-n-bitch!!

(group laughs)

(then)

Me: OH MY GOD.

Sara: ...?

Me: I just said OUT LOUD and IN PUBLIC that I am going to go home and photograph my CATS re-enacting scenes from my KNITTING GROUP. I have reached some new level of crazy and/or spinsterdom as yet undefined by man and nature.


Then I added some other things less family-friendly but certainly funny exclamations to this proclamation and we went on about our merry ways, and I tried to get to the very peak of the Mt. Everest Of Spinsterdom with some cat photos but no one, and I mean no one, felt like cooperating.

Perhaps it's for the best. Really now.

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Posted by laurie at 9:58 AM

February 15, 2007

Disgruntled

I am so mistreated! Call PETA!

Posted by laurie at 9:41 AM

February 14, 2007

Love is in the air, and so is pollution.

Married Coworker: So! Got any hot dates lined up for tonight? (facial expression involves raised eyebrows and goofy smile)

Me: Pardon?

Married Coworker: Tonight? You know! What are your big plans?

Me: OH! Yeah, of course. Well, my current boyfriend gets out of his latest underwear modeling photoshoot at five, then we're just doing our normal weekend routine but on a Wednesday it being VALENTINE'S DAY AND ALL. You know, drink some good champagne, roll around nekkid in some chocolate, I just love that scene from "9 1/2 Weeks" don't you? Where they get naked in the kitchen? Plus it is SO MUCH EASIER to clean up. But you being married and all I'm sure you already know that. So!! How 'bout you? Big plans, too, eh?

Married Coworker:

Married Coworker: I'm going to go get some coffee, you need anything? Bye!

- - - - -


I think it is telling and also rather funny that for the past two years I have spent Valentine's Day not in a steamy embrace or rolling around nekkid in the aforementioned chocolate, no. I have spent it right here, telling my deepest and wickedest secrets to total strangers. I thank you, Al Gore, every day for inventing this here innernets website thing.

Last year, I shared the story of my fancy panties, which probably both grossed out and scandalized my parents, and in 2005 I spent my Valentine's Day romantic evening out at the Michael's in Encino buying acrylic yarn, because that is how I roll, people. Also notice I had zero comments, which I think is a love letter in itself, just the very idea that you can do something because you love it so much (for me, that's writing stuff down) and eventually it all works out exactly as it's meant to, even if you do find yourself wandering yarn aisles at a craft store on Valentine's Night, then drinking 9/10 of a bottle of cabernet with your cat(s).

Last night I wrote something for Annie's website since she is on the road this week, and then I was pretty sure I had no more funny stories to tell anyone about Valentine's Day because you know, it's not that hilarious of a day. But then I started thinking about it and as it turns out there was this one Valentine's Day which I almost successfully erased from memory but there it was this morning, popping right up like a pimple on my cerebral cortex.

I was in my sophomore year of high school and I got invited to a Valentine's Dance and I was SO EXCITED because the invitation was extended to me by the very tall, cute, man-about-campus Brent T. who I am sure had many fine, redeeming qualities but I was 15 at the time and he had A CAR AND A DRIVER'S LICENSE. He was also very goodlooking and did I mention had a car? A Pontiac Firebird in shiny silver grey metallic. I almost get tingles even now thinking on how much I loved the look of that car. And the idea of the look of me in that car.

Now, I wasn't old enough to officially "date" yet (my father had proclaimed I would be allowed to date when I finally had the "good sense God gave a mule," which by his estimation was approximately 136 years away, the end) but because this Valentine's Dance happened at a church, An Offical House Of God, my parents decided I could go. With one caveat: there had to be another couple along with us in the car. Aparently being alone with a boy in a car was ... problematic?

My poor parents. They totally thought I was at the movies from ages 13 through 17.

I was not at the movies.

But anyway, there I was all dressed up in my fancy clothes and sprayed from head to toe with Anais-Anais perfume so a thick cloud of it permeated every room I entered, and I had my hair hot-rollered and my lips smackered and my eyeshadow and Merle Norman foundation just so. I was gussied up and ready to go.

Brent showed up at my door and picked me up, looking very nice in a blazer with his khakis (we called them "Ducks," I do not know why) and he said hey-to to my parents, and off we went. Except...

... except we walked down the driveway to his hot car and the couple accompanying us were his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Brent T, Sr. Or rather more specifically, Pastor T. and his wife.

And when we arrived at the church it was NOT A DANCE AT ALL. Oh sure there was someone at the piano and I suppose there were a few children under the age of six dancing together by the punch bowl, but it was not the lights-down-low and play-me-that-slow-song-by-Journey kind of dance.

No.

It was one of those promise ceremonies where girls were pledging vows to God and everyone that they would hang onto their virginity with their Revlon Red fingernails, swearing solemnly to never shimmy out of their panties until they were totally, 100% married in the Lord's church. And before long someone handed me one of these papers to sign and I believe I made a little gasping noise, because this was not at all what I expected, and I was not about to be making promises with God based on MY PANTIES and where they might be discarded at an undisclosed time in the NEXT TWENTY YEARS.

Brent and his mom and his preacher daddy stood right there, smiling, sweet as could be, talking to me about my hootchie. Uh, I mean, my virginity. They had only the best and kindest and Christian of intentions -- don't get me wrong -- they were lovely people. They meant only to help me find my way in this evil and compromising world the best they could. But I am not from a family where we just sit around and discuss the future tenants of my VaJayJay.

I did not know what to do. I was flustered. I had already promised God I would stop pinching my little brother when he annoyed me and I had broken that one so many times I was sure the fiery flames of hell were already licking at my feet and NO WAY could I promise something new to God, especially something like my VaJayJay, without first thinking through how long exactly it might be before I got married. Realistically.

And they were all watching me, waiting for me to sign on the dotted line. And I started to sweat right through my crushed velvet Laura Ashley knockoff dress. I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before. Not for wisdom or guidance, but for lightening to strike right there and set something immediately on fire so we would have to exit expediently and leave the poor, burning church house.

Nothing caught fire. I sighed. I was on my own.

So I looked right at them with the sweetest Christian smile I could muster and said, "Pastor T., I'll have to take this home. My daddy says I can't sign any documents without parental consent."

And they nodded and smiled and since I was in a house of worship, let it be known I wasn't really telling a lie. My daddy did say that, except he was talking about the time I signed my own report card at school once. Whoopsie.

And I went home and never told my dad that Brent and his mama and daddy had tried to get me to sign a deed on my cootchie for the Lord. But it was the very last Valentine's "Dance" I ever attended.

And only the Lord knows what happened to my virginity.

Amen.

Posted by laurie at 10:05 AM

February 13, 2007

Luckily my knitting fingers were unharmed.

No injury is really tragic enough to keep me from my addiction. I admit it: Hello, my name is Laurie and I am a Noro Addict. (Reader Sue F. calls it the "Norovirus" which, also, is coincidentally a real virus and I am sort of sad that it doesn't cause one to spew forth Noro Kureyon from all orifices.)

I have some Noro Blossom that I procured a while back from Allison at SuperCrafty. It's a gorgeous purple-fuchsia-red colorway which I can't actually share with you since Bob ate the labels off every single skein. I knit up a little swatch of the Blossom and it's so beautiful and nubby and unique-looking! I counted my stitches per inch like a good little knitter, then cast on for a simple easy Roll-Brim hat.

Now, at some point when I have this alleged "free time" people are always speaking of, I will go back and add notations to all my patterns to remind ya'll I am a FREAKISHLY tight knitter and so you need to do a swatch to check your gauge or go up a needle size on all my patterns. I also wanted this hat to be not-super-snug so as to avoid telltale hat hair.

Yarn: Noro Blossom (1 full skein + a tiny bit of a second skein) Needles: Size 10.5 circular needle, later size 10.5 double-pointed needles Cast on: 66 stitches Other: Stitch markers, cats, sense of humor, wine, spackle

You may be saying, "Uh, who uses spackle in their knitting?"

That answer would be "me."

I knitted the full body of this hat while watching the Grammy Awards (love you, garter stitch in the round!!) and then last night I got home and decided to finish it off with my dpns and decreases and wine and so on.

Except.

Where were my double-pointed dpns of death in size 10.5?
Where they perhaps... sadly languishing in a corner all alone because they had been gnawed to a bamboo pulp by one Bob T. Cat?

dpns-gnawed.jpg

Usually I keep all my needles in a patented Bob-proof Needle Protection Device ("ziploc bag") but a few months ago I was making a hat and had stuffed the near-completed object into my knitting bag where under cover of darkness, Bob snuck up on them and dug them out in the middle of the night and proceeded to leave big, deep chew marks all over their bamboo surfaces. And because I am right smack in the middle of my no-shopping-for-three-months resolution, I decided to first try to repair my needles before running off to the store for more.

Luckily, I am a rather industrious gal who is often puttering around the house doing such things as replacing hinges, fixing stuck windows and spackling like nobody's business. Home improvement is just like crafting, you merely get your supplies in a different store. And sometimes you can get a trained specialist to come and repair what you "fixed."

So, with some wood filler and a little sandpaper I decided to give knitting needle repair a go.

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In all honesty, I was surprised it worked! Now, I won't be running around spackling all my bamboo needles or anything, but in a pinch this did the job. I had to keep rubbing them with wax paper from time to time to keep them smooth, but whatever. I can go shopping again on April 1st and until then these will do just fine.

dpns-hat1.jpg

Probably the most helpful tip I have learned when it comes to hat knitting is to place markers after each decrease. Then you can stop counting and just remember to knit the two stitches together that come right before the markers. I use a different color marker to designate the beginning of a round, and then I can knit on the bus in the early morning with no coffee and still not mess up!

Traffic was so heavy this morning that I managed to knit up and finish the rest of my hat by the time I got into work. I just held it in my hands right there on the bus and thought how much I love, love, love making hats. There's nothing finer in the world than a simple, beautiful hand-knit hat.

Then I went into the Top Secret Picture Taking Spot and made faces in my hat:

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And even though he is a fiesty needle-eating monster, I have to say Bob has an appreciation of knitting that makes all his yarn-eating and needle-gnawing transgressions fade under weight of his unbearable cuteness:

bob-redscarf.jpg

bob-redscarf2.jpg

Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

February 12, 2007

Gud explanattion for all the typoss

If you do the math, which of course I have done being quite scientific and all, there are exactly eighteen FEET on the ground in my house at any given time. That is a lot of feet. Some of them are really cute feet:

even her toes are supermodels

Now, who could that belong to?

she has ears, too

Yes, it's the multicolored Franklin Delano Rosencat.

So far I have typed, what? Less than 50 words? It has taken me about three hours. I had an office-supply related injury and I have tried to use it to garner sympathy and also huge amounts of guilt cash but all I got was a few "Ewww! That's gross! You're finger is purple!"

It was one of those random acts of terrorism committed by inanimate objects. I was pillaging through the office supply cabinet and someone called out my name and I looked up -- EVEN THOUGH I KNOW I CANNOT MULTITASK -- I still looked up just briefly enough for the eleventeen-ton supply drawer to close with vigor on my primary typing finger.

Oh here is a fun fact you may not know about me. I type with three fingers, and I have to look at the keyboard while I do it. I have always typed this way. I took typing in High School for exactly two weeks, then I transferred out to wood shop. I'm no dummy: I was not about to bring down my GPA by failing typing class, something all proper Southern ladies surely were born to excel at (again, causing me to nervously wonder if they would at any minute take away my belle card) and besides, all the cute boys were in wood shop. Having them all to myself and learning to use a circular saw at the same time? Brilliant.

People love to watch me type. I imagine that to outsiders (read: the rest of the normal world) it must be much like watching a monkey compose sonnets. I am a surprisingly fast typist when I am writing out my little stories, but apparently I use more strength and force on the keyboard than I ever knew because I suddenly feel the pain of typing like never before. My idiot savant 40 words of two-finger typing a minute has now turned into: "Ow, crud, sh*t, ouch, coffee?"

There might be a lot of cat pictures this week.

Posted by laurie at 8:36 AM

February 9, 2007

Tragedy Narrowly Averted (or "How I talked myself out of those shoes and saved $78!")

There is one reason why getting out of debt is so important to me: That debt I'm paying off isn't from all the pretty shoes I bought, or from yarn, or from anything at all hanging in my closet or decorating my house. That debt is the last remaining vestiges of my marriage and divorce, the sum total of a whopping $32,000 I found myself owing at the beginning of 2005.

About $10,000 of that was lawyer fees, the rest was from my marriage. (No, I will not go into details; yes I tried what I could legally; yes, I tried that, too.) In the end, this was my situation and so I had two options: cry in a corner and eat my hair, or face reality and figure out a way to pay off $32,000 worth of debt. You can complain about a thing, or worry about it, or make yourself anxious over it all day long. You can bitch and moan and carryon like nobody's business, telling yourself how it's all wrong, you don't deserve this, it isn't fair. But that doesn't pay off your bills. Eventually you have to face it, and accept your part in the accumulation of such a debt (he wasn't the only one spending while we were married) and you just do the best you can with what you've got.

So I made the budget and started learning how to handle my money, and I devised a repayment plan that was slow and painful but manageable. I had a fixed amount I repaid each month, plus anything extra went toward the debt. My bonus from work that one year? 100% went toward my debt. Yard sale money? Pay down the debt.

I had setbacks along the way (all the cats got sick AT THE SAME TIME. My car died, and then died again. And so on.) but I kept plugging along, even when it wasn't fun.

There were two months when I paid only the very bare minimum on my debt -- January and February, 2006. I saved that money to pay for my trip to Paris. It was the only way to go on vacation without going in deeper debt. I know some people thought it was frivolous of me to go to Paris when I had so much money I owed, but you do not get through three years of debt repayment without a little happiness. And I needed that trip. Some people need a new car, or a nice coat, or a great handbag. I need travel, I love travel. I needed that trip for my head and my soul, and it worked: it was when we got back from Paris that I knew it was time to finally open up to new possibilities, and finally start dating. Two weeks later I was on my first date in years and years and years.

So when I stood there yesterday at the store, eyeing those beautiful buttery-smooth leather open-toed heels, I had to remind myself why I don't want to spend eighty bucks on some shoes right now. Because that is eighty dollars closer to freedom, because the debt hanging over me is the last remaining shackle of my marriage and divorce, because I deserve to be free more than I need a pair of shoes, because buying them won't make me feel better that I had a cruddy day which is how I found myself shopping to begin with, because one day I will be free of all this and I will have worked hard for every single penny and my cats will get the finest catnip on that day, and I will drink a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in celebration, and we just have to hold on. (Cue Wilson Phillips, please.)

I have a fraction more to go, and while the sum left would seem like a crazy amount of debt to some people, to me it's the least I have owed in ten years (!!!). We were not fiscally responsible or mature when we were married. I pretended it was okay for him to "do the bills" while I managed the house. I thought I wasn't capable of money management, but boy was I wrong. Women -- with our excellent attention to detail and very determined natures -- tend to be very good at surviving and thriving, and that includes budgeting. I have made huge progress, all on my own. And I am so ready to be free! I want to be free of the last remaining obligation of sadness and divorce, to be free of a marriage that in the end was outlasted only by its debt.

So I put the shoes back and went home and mentally calculated how long it would take to get out from under this last chunk of debt.

It's close. It's so close I can feel it.

big ol' stoner kitty
Bob is dreaming of this alleged catnip.

Posted by laurie at 8:58 AM

February 8, 2007

America's Next Top Model

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Posted by laurie at 8:51 AM

February 7, 2007

The questions we ask.

One afternoon when I was in high school, I remember helping my mom clean the house. I am using the word "helping" very loosely here. Anyway, she was working away and I was mainly trying to keep my little brother, The One Who Cried A Lot, occupied long enough so that she wouldn't run off and leave us for some other family, one that didn't have teenagers and crying babies in it.

I had become very concerned right around then with one Matt M. who I was just sure I would soon marry, right after we went to prom. I was very ready to begin being an adult, of course that is how teen-age girls are, especially Southern ones. I had spent plenty of time "studying" with Matt at that point and my blinding white-hot love for him was staggering. While I was quite sure I would become married one day, until I fell head over heels for "that boy with the hair-do" as my dad called him, I had not really thought about the mechanics of marriage before.

So I started asking my mom some questions. Things I figured she would want me to know, since she allegedly loved me and should have wanted nothing but happiness and rainbows for my future.

Mostly I had one very pressing question.

"What do you do if you're asleep, like in the same bed, and you have to fart?"

"Oh my God," answered my mom.

"Well, I need to know," I said. "You have farted before, right?" I wasn't actually sure. My mom is not the sort of woman who says the word "fart" so I couldn't be absolutely sure she was the sort of woman who did such a vile, apparently uncouth thing.

She tried very hard to change the subject, but I was undeterred. Now I really REALLY wanted to know. How on earth did married people manage to spend a whole life together in the same bed each night without such a thing happening?

I couldn't tell if her whole face was beet red from house-cleaning exertion or from perhaps shame that her child was so curious about her bodily workings. I may have cajoled a little. I may have even threatened to set the baby down, which would have meant instant howling. She finally caved in.

"If you have to ... well, pass gas, you just politely get up and go into the bathroom or another room," she answered. I didn't keep questioning her since she used the "and that is final and we are not discussing it further" voice.

But I was very curious.

So a couple of days later, we were driving to the bank or some other errand and I asked, "Well, you know that thing we were talking about the other day? I mean about how you should go to the bathroom all politely and everything?"

Sigh. And it wasn't just any sigh, it was the deep and sad and mornful sound of a woman who really, really needs a vacation from her children.

"Yes...?" she answered.

You could hear the dread creeping into her voice. I am sure it was maybe the first time ever she prayed the baby would start banshee screaming. Luckily for ME, he was happily shoving goldfish crackers into his mouth and making the backseat into an orange crumb carpet.

"Well, do you really get up out of bed and have to go fart somewhere else? What if they ask why you are all the sudden getting up? Do you say you're politely farting or do you make up an excuse?"

I think I actually saw her hands clench on the steering wheel.

"You and your questions! I swear you're worse than a five-year old!"

"Alright alright," I said. "But what do you do if you're asleep and you far... um, I mean, pass gas and you don't realize it until the horror of the gas-passing event has woken you right up outta your sleep?"

She looked at me, dead even in the eye, and said very quietly:

"Well, Laurie, I guess you just fall over dead from the shame of it."

She saw the stricken look of panic on my face. Then I do believe she chuckled a little to herself.

Looking back on it, I think she discovered the only way to finally shut me up. And so for ten blissful minutes she had the car all nice and silent, and she could listen to the radio in peace, until the goldfish ran out and I had more questions.

Look at that grinning fool.

Also, if anyone can please explain that crazy-ass outfit I am wearing I would be forever grateful. Because that is just so wrong on so many levels. Yet in the picture I am smiling SO MUCH because I believe I am the hotness. Teenagers!

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

February 6, 2007

Letting my knitter freak flag fly...

So, finally, FINALLY, I finished my mismatched crazy green scarf. You can read about the beginning of this yarny wonder right here.

Since my little Roy has gotten so skinny in his old age he gets cold easily and to keep warm, he prefers to be held all the time. Sometimes I zip him up in my hoodie and just carry him around. I'm pretty sure this will not be information I give immediately to the next potentially dateable man I meet, but at least I don't have a possum in my bra. So when it came time to take the picture I had a little furry addition:

Roy gets his snuggle on.

He's the gangsta of love.

Finishing up this scarf reminded me of the HUGE KNITTING EPIPHANY I had while making this (very heavy and thick ... and did I mention HEAVY?) piece of work.

It was about a month ago, and Drew and I were on the phone chitchatting as we tend to do on Saturday mornings. I was telling him I had to go soon, take a shower and get ready for Saturday Stitch 'n Bitch and he asked me what project I was going to take.

"The mismatched green scarf," I said.

"How's that one going?" he asked.

"Oh!" I said, excited. "It's so weird and nutty, I love it!"

And then I told him how I was at our knitting group the night I started this weird wacky scarf and one of our knitters said, "You're so adventurous to make something mixing yarns like that." And I was stunned, because me? I am just picking two balls of yarn, or three, and stranding them together and if it sucks oh well. Science experiment! Scarf! And the pretty gal telling me I was "adventurous" was sitting right there, knitting up a sweater! A whole sweater!(!!!) In light of that I didn't think I was so adventurous. But who am I to argue with someone's praise. I pretended I was adventurous. I maybe was full of myself.

So I was telling this to Drew, because I just love the way all our brains are so different and what seems risky to one is another's piece of cake, and how knitting is as much about the personality and desire of the knitter as it is a craft.

And Drew, my Drewguru, said, "I was at dinner one night with one of the industry folks at TNNA, and we were talking about different kinds of knitters. And how some people can be basic knitters -- like you, making mostly scarves and occassionally hats -- but they stick to these basic items, and they can become quite advanced basic knitters."

I let it sink in.

"I AM AN ADVANCED BASIC KNITTER!!!" I was sort of excited, Good Lord I love to classify things, including myself. "I KNIT THE BASICS!" Ya'll. It was 8 a.m. I was not even drinking.

And the thing is, I do sometimes look at knitting websites and see the beautiful and complex garments made by knitters and I have, on occassion, felt like I was a small daft child on the short bus to garter stitch. Like it is a competition or something, I should be doing better! Making more intricate things! Covering my house in sweaters!

The truth is, knitting is as personal as the knitter. No two people are alike, so no two people knit the same.

I myself love knitting because it is a stress reliever, keeps my hands busy so I don't miss smoking, and it gives me a safe (scarf) place to play with my favorite things: color, texture, and scale. When I used to paint, I did everything that same way. I was a pretty awful painter but I just liked doing it. I liked making huge canvases, weird textures with gesso, mixing two paints or techniques to see what would happen.

So I make scarves that are ten feet long, or have six-inch wide pom poms on the end, or use eleventy two green yarns mixed together.

It's a personal thing, an intimate connection between your personality, your day-to-day life, and your hands. Truth is, I like to just wing it. I love yarn and I love needles, so I relax by making it up as I go, enjoying the feel of the fabric and the strange shapes it sometimes takes. I look to knitting as my safe relaxing place. I used to feel apologetic about all this, like I wasn't properly challenging my skills. Now I know it's just the way my brain works. There is no right or wrong here, and that is such a comforting idea!

Conversely, some knitters relax by giving themselves fully over to the challenge of building a garment, or steeking, or constructing a fine and delicate glove so intricate you'd just stare at it in complete awe. The challenge of a new technique, a more complicated and technical pattern, the scale of a sweater or a carefully constructed lace shawl makes many knitters feel centered, relaxed, happy. It's like active meditation, isn't it? I feel that way about a lot of things -- the more involved I can get in the process, the challenge, the better I feel. (I am like that with Photoshop. The more complex the better! Bring it on! Zen, baby!)

But I am not that way with knitting. I knit because I can't afford therapy and my job is challenging, my commute is challenging, my city sometimes makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and eat my own hand. So I need my knitting to untangle my inside chaos and nuttiness. I get my artistic challenge on each day at work with Photoshop and billboards and ad campaigns. Ergo, it is perfectly fine to not need a challenging sweater. (It is also perfectly fine to need that challenging sweater! Knitting is not the object, it is the person behind the object.) (See? Epiphany!)

We all knit at our own speed, at our own level of therapeutic crazy, and my crazy is obviously in need of pom poms. I like the oddness of my creations, the imbalance, the perfectly weird end product of my needles.

Something about this whole train of thought made me exhale with relief. I can become a subject matter expert at my one thing, goofy basics. It frees me up to more thoroughly enjoy your sweater, or your complex lace, and rather than feel we're in a race to HAVE ALL THE FINISHED OBJECTS EVER, I can admire you for the way your brain works, so different from mine. Win-win.

And this epiphany was not even fueled by wine!

Did I really stick my be-hind out that far?
Ah, I am so very professional.

So ugly, but it's mama loves it.
Perfect for a vacation to some place COLD!

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM

February 5, 2007

True Love

He likes the nightlife...


...he likes to boogie.


old man face


me and my guy

Posted by laurie at 8:32 AM

February 3, 2007

A most uncomfortable subject

It's been harder and easier than I expected, eating healthy, doing good things for myself. While I only shared it on this online diary last month, it's something I've been working through personally for a while now.

Recently I posted a mostly full-length picture of myself so you could see a long scarf I'd made. Afterwards, I was sorry I posted that image. So many people saying, you're not fat! You're skinny! So much emphasis on my size. I hated it. I felt like shouting, But I am! I am fat! Pictures are deceiving!

And that's so weird.

When I got back from my amazing trip to Paris with all my best girlfriends, and I looked at my digital pictures for the first time, I cried. I mean, I BAWLED. I kept saying, "Who is this fat girl in all my pictures?" I never really posted a lot of images from that trip ... there was no mighty vacation photo gallery, not even a flickr website. I wonder why?

paris-three-plus-one.jpg
(March 2006 -- Paris, France) Uncomfortable smile #437.


I went on that vacation at my heaviest, with three of the skinniest women on the planet. On the day this picture was taken, we ended up at a pub outside Pere Lachaise cemetary. It was getting dark and we were just chatting, having a nice evening. At one point, after a round of beer, the conversation turned and they started going on and on and on about their cellulite and their "giant" thighs, and I was sitting there in my size 22 Lane Bryant black pants, still worried on the flight home I'd be asked to buy a second seat in coach. Easily twice the size of each one of them. When I finally asked my girlfriends to please for the love of God CHANGE THE SUBJECT, it was awkward and silent. I felt bad. After all, they didn't mean anything by it. It's just such a common thing we do, isn't it? Complain about our bodies. Berate ourselves.

So anyway. There it is. Ya'll are right, I suppose. I am physically not the same size I was. In the past few months of trying to take good care of myself, I have lost a few pounds. But I carry my largest size with me still, in my head and in my self-image. I cringe when people say, "Hi Laurie! Oh wow have you lost weight?" because what I hear is, "Well looky there! Your butt isn't as gigantically fat as it used to be!"

I don't know what to say in response, so I am learning. One day I just asked Faith out of the blue, "What do you tell folks who remark about your weight loss?" She struggles with the same issues I do, and I figured since she is wiser and six months older, she would have a good answer.

"Say 'thanks' and move on," she said. Faith is indeed wise.

So I am trying this, but some people want DETAILS. "Have you been on a diet? What have you been doing? Are you exercising? What are you eating? But really, what are you EATING?" I find it weird to talk about the SIZE OF MY BODY with coworkers. Or anyone. And I'm not on a diet, so I have no magic eating plan to share with them. What do I say? "I'm trying not to be insane, and trying not to eat my emotions." Which is a somewhat hard concept to get across without being referred to Human Resources, you know?

"Thanks!" I practice saying. "So! How 'bout this crazy weather?"

The hardest part has been finding other ways to deal with my emotions and anxiety instead of just eating. There are other pitfalls just waiting to derail me, too, like my secretiveness about food. Heavy people do not get this way because we eat carrots all day. We eat, we just don't eat it all in front of you.

I'm setting small goals for myself, little things. Like, stop arguing with people when they say you've lost weight. (It makes me want to eat a cheeseburger, or four, to tell you the truth.) Start learning to cook in new ways. Drink a little more water and a little less wine. Just small, sensible ways of taking care of myself that don't send me directly into my EITHER-OR, do-or-diet mentality.

I'm sad for the me that was ashamed to post vacation pictures because I was twice the size of my friends. I'm happy to finally accept my body at any size (the only reason I could post that picture.) But mostly, I'm thrilled to have actually -- after thirty-five years -- figured out that everything about my weight has to do with my head.

You see, if my goal for losing weight or being a certain size were to make people feel something for me (love, acceptance, jealousy, desire, envy, approval, you name it), I would have zero success in the long run because I could never get enough satisfaction from that goal. It's empty.

You don't ever actually win that prize.

When my heart's intention changed and I wanted to do something good for my own well-being (and figure it out for my own sanity) everything became more worthwhile. More interesting. I like the way my skin has changed and looks better, I like the way I feel when I wake up in the morning, not having to chastise myself for all the "bad" things I ate the day before. I may never fit back into my skinny jeans but I will hopefully never have to eat in secret again, or hide myself with my own fat, or hide my vacation pictures, justify my weight to anyone.

And I'm scared. I haven't been at this weight in over three years, and it's still a lot heavier than I used to be "back when." Which means I still have further to travel down this road, and I will have to figure out a good way to handle the comments, the changes. I hate that people look at you with new eyes when you're smaller -- after being very heavy for so long, I know that losing weight does not make me kinder or smarter or more capable. It simply makes me less heavy. I hope people will stop mentioning it one day, just like they eventually stopped mentioning my divorce, and it will become just another part of me, another detail in my whole story.

Because I really do have more interesting things to talk about than the size of my thighs. We are all so much more than a number, or a jeans size, or a list of what we ate one day. Don't you agree?

Posted by laurie at 8:04 AM

February 2, 2007

Oh little boy ... would you like some candy?

A few days ago I was at Faith and Michael's new house (which is so gorgeous and perfect I keep trying to move in, stealthily) and they were having a new shiny stainless steel stove delivered.

The delivery guys they hired also removed the old appliance and installed the new one and while I am sure that is all very compelling information, mainly what you need to know is that one of them was VERY VERY HOT.

WITH DIMPLES.

And you know, he looked kind of young, sure, but we started chatting and he was saying how he didn't just do this delivery job but also he was kind of a handy man, really good at fixing things and also plumbing, and did I happen to need any services like that? And I thought, boy, do I ever! That thought was immediately followed by, wow your dimples are cute and also here is my phone number!

I figured I could break something real quicklike that would need some fixing. Ya'll know.

Later Faith and Michael laughed at my magical powers of Flirting With Hot Delivery Guy. And also kind of asked, how old do you think he was? No, really, didn't he look a little young?

I ignored them.

And he called. Indeed he called. But he seemed a lot younger on the phone than when I talked to him in person. After some very adorable hemming and hawing, and also I believe after he used the word "party" as a verb, he said "Hey, so uh, you think maybe we could like, go out or something? Sometime?" and I knew I could put it off no longer. I asked him The Big Question.

"So. By the way. How old are you, exactly?"

He was quiet for a minute.

"I'm old enough," he said. "Besides, age is just a number..."

"Ah, yes, but really ... quite an important number," I said. "So, how old are you?"

He paused again.

"I could show you a really nice time!" he assured me.

Right about then is when I sort of thought I heard a "Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator" crew setting up for a camera shoot on my front patio.

"No, really, I need to know how old you are," I said. Getting nervous and nervouser.

"Um," he said. "Twenty-one?"

It's not good news when your potential date is adding years onto his age AND THE NUMBER HE ARRIVES AT IS TWENTY ONE.

I sighed. Politely and sadly, I informed him of my (real) age and then after some awkwardness we hung up. I don't believe I would look good in prison-issue orange. And also, I'm not sure it's a good idea to go out with guys that you have to CARD FOR I.D. to make sure they're of age ... not to mention aiding and abetting someone if you serve him a glass of wine. Whoops, I think I hear the Dateline NBC crew again.

I guess that giving him my real age sufficiently scared him away since he never called again, which of course is for the best. I don't want ya'll to have to visit me in jail.

But he was really cute. While it lasted.

Posted by laurie at 8:58 AM

February 1, 2007

February2007 Horoscopes

I really wish they would have let Pluto stay a planet and would have taken stupid Mercury out of the mix, always retrograding like it's just having a party over there in the fifth house of "Make Your Life A Horror Movie." But that's okay, that's fine. I'm going to pretend Pluto is still a planet. You might want to remember that when you read my prognostications. And then later I may have some real estate to sell you, beachfront property! and we can have a sleepover where we do a séance to talk to your childhood puppy.

But in all seriousness, because that is how I am you know, very serious, February has a LOT going on for such a short month:

• Stupid Mercury, always retrograding when the rest of us want to par-tay! That is from February 13 to March 7.
• Full moon on February 2nd to taunt us.
• Groundhog Day, while not astrological in nature, still. It's a day.
• Valentine's Day. Let's just face it.
• New Moon on February 17.
• Oh, and Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

And it keeps going into March, I guess since February was short there was some astrological spillover:
• Major eclipse on March 3 in Virgo. Go Virgo, Go Virgo!
• On March 7, Mercury turns direct. Then we all have wine.

Actually, the really scary part of all this is that I woke up this morning and ... it was already FEBRUARY! How the heck did it get here so fast?

- - - - - - - - - - -


AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
Happy Birthday! My older brother is an Aquarius and he is often just a puzzle to me. He's one of the smartest people I know, and he's also very complex, with a soft heart but no one would ever guess. Typical Aquarius! Anyway, February is a big big financial month for you, although you might not see the results until mid-March when a whole bunch of planets hang out together and hand out karma dollars. I do want to gently caution that your soft heart, well-hidden as it may be, may find itself being pulled on this month, especially between now and mid-February. Luckily for you, there's a big new moon in your sign around that time which makes all the difference between merely trudging onward and actually walking for enjoyment. You have a lot of compassion inside, and I assure you that compassion doesn't have an end. You were blessed with endless amounts of it, you'll just need to trust that you won't run out.


PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
Well, color me surprised and hand me a cocktail. I do believe our friend Pisces here has finally had exactly E-NOUGH of the craziness, the instability, the forever limbo. I think in fact Pisces may have just gotten what we refer to in highly secretive astrological lingo as "a backbone." It has always been there, of course, you're just not real fond of using it ... not because Pisces is weak, mind you, but because more than any other sign on the wheel, Pisces folks do understand the ripple effect of every action, every word, every thought. So they do their darndest to make sure they don't screw stuff up, thereby ending the universe as we know it. But all that fear of making a misstep can be paralyzing, and you end up mired in your own indecision. Like I'm telling you something you don't know. Anyway! That's all just talking, since you are DEFINITELY no longer mired down this month. I'm quite pleased with what I see, I think you'll be right proud of your backbone by month's end. Then you can get back to your old familiar worrywart self.


ARIES (March 21- April 19)
You're more focused on the day-to-day aspects of your life than ever before. For an Aries, this is like the death knell of creativity. Ya'll are so dramatic! Merely resist the urge to think you're drowning in the mundane! I like to think of the really basic pieces of our day-to-day lives as our "kitchen reality" and the beauty of kitchen reality is that you develop an appreciation for the art, the beauty of life, even if it happens in your kitchen, your copy room at work, or your cubicle. Retrograding Mercury gives you the ability to rest for a moment and see your life for the very beauty it holds in the smallest places. Enjoy it.


TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
I'm sorry about Mercury going all notrograde on you. Stupid astrology! But the thing about Taurus (taurii?) is that when you are pushed into a corner and feel completely pressured, ya'll manage to be absolutely, hands down the BEST VERSION OF YOU EVER! Your primary issue all month will be your core fear vs. your core reality. (I make that sound so easy. But really it's kind of HUGE.) For example, if your core fear is that you are unworthy, your main challenge all month will be trusting your own instincts in the face of a million naysayers all trying to foist their unworthy solutions upon you. Simply rely upon your Taurii vibe for innate goodness, and plow through them when they are wrong. Because really? They are wrong. You are innately good, Taurus. Defend your gut!


GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)
I like to base all my fauxrriscopes on the people I am closest to from the astrological wheel. Gemini is always close to my heart because I was born right on the cusp, and I feel responsible for knowing what my neighbors are up to. This will be a trying and frustrating month for Gemini because dumb Mercury is in notrograde, making life difficult. Interestingly enough, Geminis will have a weirdly cohesive month, with strange opportunities showing up around every corner. It's ball in your court month, Gemini. Your challenge is to chase after the odd and unusual opportunities February will bring. Also, FYI. One of them may be very very goodlooking.


CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
Oh crap. You got me again as your ASTROLOGER! Didn't you learn, last year, when I wanted us to start a gang called the Cancer Crips? All I can say about February is resist the temptation to ostrich! You may well want to bury your head in the sand, but truth is you're smarter and more pragmatic than anyone on Team Problem, so do not hide from your primary challenge this month. (It is hard for me to take my own advice, but I try.) The good news is that although we are prone to forget the past only when it suits us, truth is we are having a MUCH better year so far than we were having this time last year. If you need proof, just browse backward through your old diaries, old reciepts, old memories. And for a Cancer, that is progress! Also, on an unrelated note: Perfect flawed Cancer, forget about this Valentine’s Day horsesh*t. Just enjoy the discount pink items on the 15th, remember that love does not get one designated day, and rise above any expectations of forced romance. Hallmark holidays are not for crabs. We prefer our maudlin romanticism on unexpected Tuesdays in June or October or March, thankyouverymuch.

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
I wanted to put an exclamation sign after your name like Leo! Woohoo! You have made serious progress so far this year and 2007 is in the hizzey! (I don’t know what hizzey means either, but in hiphop lingo apparently it is good.) So just love and know and appreciate your greatness. February only sucks because stupid Mercury does its hiding thing, and you'll have some financial integrity issues. Let me ask you a question. Do you rely upon your own judgment, or the judgment of others? Might I suggest that you begin to voice some Leo prowess, even in finances? You have way more roar than the other guys. You may want to inform them you are in the financial "hizz-ay" now and you will be making your own monetary decisions, yo yo. (I really have to get a handle on the bad slang. Sorry!)


VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
Resourceful. Lovely. Ready. These are the three words popping up in your House Of Adjectives this month. I often don't "get" the Virgo chart, ya'll are so unlike Cancer and sometimes it feels like I'm staring into a book full of Greek and Latin words mixed in together. But this month I can see your adjectives, and that is a good start. Resourceful: Virgos are rockstars at making silk out of hay. You manage to take some rather unappealing junk in life and make it into really unique (and valuable) opportunities. You're more ready right now for financial success than you have maybe ever been, and you deserve every penny of it. You worked hard and didn't give up when life handed you junk during that three-month period last year. Lovely: Well, you are! Ready: Let me say it again, you are ready for the good and happy pieces. Your chart is very clear on this one, and those pieces are on their way.



LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
Libras are some of the least confrontational folks on the entire planet. Even the few Libras who will engage in an altercation from time to time are nothing compared to a deceptively nice Cancer who has finally had ENOUGH or a raging Scorpio on like, any given Monday. Ya'll just don't let emotions build and build inside you, you're far too cerebral for that nonsense. But February has all sorts of craziness attached to it, there's stuff retrograding and there's other stuff eclipsing within mere weeks and full moons, and good grief. By mid-month you may just want to haul off and hurl at someone. I don't usually advise anyone to say what's on their mind in the heat of anger, since I am Southern and we are all about repressing our feelings. However, this month would be a really good time to try expressing your emotions ... start by just writing it down, and then feel all proud of yourself for having the self-control to get over it. Because you will, of course. You're a Libra!



SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
I LOVE Scorpios. I don't talk about my adoration of the Scorpio very often, but the truth is my very first true love is a Scorpio and ya'll forever hold a place in my heart. Having said that, I do tend to see ya'lls little pitfalls and personality snares as mere particulars. Others, however, are not always as forgiving. There is a weird angle in your astrological chart this month, like your eleventeenth house of home and family has its panties in a bunch. Might I suggest biting your tongue with either a close friend or family member midmonth when there will be a little tension? Trust me. It would be REALLY A GOOD IDEA. Yes, you are passionate and fabulous, but also sometimes it is good to hold back a little on the passion, verbally, and let others just say what's on their minds.



SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
How is the year of no secrets, no darkness, no messes going? Ahem. I am merely going to give you a gentle reminder that you are absolutely better than what you think of yourself at this very moment and you need to stop worrying over all the still-incomplete To Do lists from last December. I know the first month of this year went by a little fast, but real quicklike it will be spring, then summer, then you'll be saying, Holy Crap! It's going to be my birthday! And you'll wonder where another year went. Change your scenery to change your outlook. There is no other sign in the zodiac that could benefit from a little time off more than you, Sagittarius! Consider planning a vacation (ASAP) even if it is just a one day getaway, a long drive on a beautiful road, a field trip to a place you love nearby, or a full-fledged vacay to a new city. You need change right now as much as you need food or water.



CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
Two of my best friends are Caps and so is my Dad. These are the people closest to me in the world, and I love watching the changes in their lives as they move through their days, each so different as people yet so much alike! January was a really interesting month for Capricorns (hint: "inneresting" is the word we use to describe things that were crucial, but not always easy.) Ya'll have gotten some major enlightenment in the past few weeks, followed by periods of real frustration. It's because you hate change, and change is ALL AROUND YOU. Well, let me be more specific. You like change that you fully control, but a lot of what's happening involves your future which right now is an unwritten book and the more you try to write it down, the more changier it gets. You must MUST relax your grip a tiny bit or your head will pop off. If it makes you feel any better, Saturn (which is causing all this trouble for you) comes out of its sneaky phase in April and all these things that have been murky and scary become clear and fresh and comforting.

Posted by laurie at 10:05 AM