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March 30, 2007

It's the hap-happiest day of the week....

Now I have that Christmas Carol stuck in my head. "It's the hap-happiest day of the week, with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, "Be of good cheer" and blah blahmm mming and mmm and hap-happiest season of all!"

Thanks a lot, me.

So! It is Friday, the very first Friday in TWO MONTHS that I have not had a jam-packed busy weekend stretching out ahead of me involving driving the far-flung freeways of Southern California, or selling stuff on my lawn, or working, or work obligations, or other obligations, or some combination of all of the above and I am SO HAPPY. Also, I am planning on taking the early bus home (hello, cute bus driver. HOW ARE YOU TODAY?) and I'm going to take a long walk, and have a Living Room Dance Off with Sobakowa (she has moves you've never seen) and later I'm going to enter the mystical cooking room of my house and maybe even excavate the cabinets for my dusty pots and pans for something the ancients called "home-cooked dinner."

The Sobakowa Hates Dance-Off Nights.

Last night I got home in time to make an alleged "home-cooked dinner" as well, but I was saved at the last minute by one very awesome Mrs. Lee, who brought me a plate of hot, fresh Korean dinner! Listen, folks, I am aware that I completely lucked out in the Next Door Neighbor Lottery. But I still have Crackhead Bob two doors down, and the people behind me are still hollering' at their kids every night, and someone down the road decided it would be an awesome idea to start parking their cars ON THE YARD like we were all Dukes Of Encino Hazzard, so you know. I got goodness to the left of me and scary all around.

smells soooo good!
Mmmm, Korean BBQ dinner!

I have many plans this weekend besides cat dancing and cooking. I also plan to experince the wonder of clean laundry, explore the new and uncharted world of "vacuuming" and sleep like I were already dead. On Saturday there is a trip to the Korean market and later I'm going to stop by the local garden center for (organic) dirt and some new watermelon seedlings (I will get you my pretty square watermelon and your little dog too!!!!) and then I am going to spend the rest of the weekend gardening and singing badly off-key to myself.

The gardening this year has taken on a new level of seriousness. Ya'll know my parents are selling their house and living in the J-Lo tour bus of RVs full time. And while this was a very big and exciting life change for everyone, it caused a lot of concern on the gardening front.

Specifically, the hot pepper front.

Because all my life my father has grown his own special hot peppers called "Chili Pequin" peppers, little fireball hotties from South Texas. He makes his own (AMAZING) hot sauce and cans it himself and it is a much-coveted item in our family, every child jockying to be The Favorite so we can get more of the stash.

With no house and no yard, there is no pepper farm.

While my parents were here at the campground in Orange County, my father painstakingly planted an entire seed flat of the teetiny little pequin seeds and gave me detailed instructions on how to coax them into life. I was nervous as you can imagine, since the only thing I have managed to grow in two years time is a fungus in the crisper drawer and an onion named Victor in the pantry. But I brought the seed flat home and placed the dome-covered flat on top of the fridge where it would be warm and protected. When green shoots began to appear, you have to prop open the dome so I moved the whole thing into the bathtub because that is the only place in Chez Cat Infestation that no animal can get the door open to dig in the dirt and roll around in green pepper plants.



Each morning I check on the seedlings and talk to them, trying to say growing words of encouragement. Then I remove the tray from the bathtub, get in and shower, then dry off the tub floor and put the seeds back in so they are safe from the felines. At night I take the seeds out on the patio for two hours until it gets too cool for them to be outdoors. I DO NOT PUT THAT MUCH TIME AND ATTENTION INTO SHOE SHOPPING, FOLKS.

But I promised my dad I would take good care of them and grow the pepper farm of his dreams (mostly so I can bribe the parentals into coming back to Los Angeles in the late summer to ooh and aaah over my amazing pepper-growing ability.) (I miss them already.) (I secretly suspect they do not miss me, however, as those crazy kids are off in Vegas or Laughlin or Some Other Fun Town just living it up while I bellyache and carryon and speak in hushed tones to a bunch of seeds. Awesome!)

So that is my weekend-to-come in a nutshell, or in a seed flat as it may be. I hope your weekend is equally relaxing and dorky, and that you have your very own Living Room Dance Off, full of wine and Beyonce. To the left, to the left!

* * *

P.S. To all you Astrology fans!!! I have a very exciting surprise for you for April Horoscopes!! I don't do April Fool's jokes, especially not when it comes to foolin' with the astro-karma because no telling what that will get you, but I have an AWESOME surprise, one that does not even involve bad ghetto slang from the '80s. Yay!

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

March 29, 2007

Thursday = "Oh! I forgot to tell you this one other thing ..."

Here is a picture I took of my mom and dad exiting the family truckster when they were "camping" in Orange County:


Significant Notation #1: Do ya'll now understand why my version of "camping" is slightly different than perhaps other folks' versions?

Significant Notation #2: Family truckster is MUCH NICER than my house. Also, probably bigger. But I have Francisco, so THERE.

Significant Notation #3: Do my parents drive their house, or sleep in their car? Ah, the questions I ponder.

In other equally edge-of-your-seat news, Victor is still alive and I will stick him in dirt this weekend, in what will be my first large-scale foray back into gardening since the tragically failed square watermelon experiment of 2006.


[Also, for you up-and-coming Photoshop whizmasters, if you want to download the layered .psd file, just click here. Please excuse the fact that the text isn't properly kerned. I was in a hurry.]

Notice the bag of Patons Up Country bulky wool yarn right there beside Frankie? I pulled it out of hiding last night. Now, I have not been knitting at all lately, but since my life has slowed back to a normal-insane pace (as opposed to a certifiably-insane pace) I began thinking I should dig out yarn and sticks and get back to the very serious business of making the weird stuff I love to dream up in the middle of the night and/or while swatching.

One of my challenges with knitting has been my misguided yet heartfelt belief that I really do not need a pattern. The God's Honest Truth is that I get so bored with following a pattern that I begin to improvise a little. And before you know it I am knitting up a strange little concoction of wool and cat hair. One of my other challenges is that I do not want my relaxation-hobby to make me go grey with stress, so I choose stuff to knit that is basically very easy.


Last night I sat in front of the teevee to watch as the world's first pontytail-mohawk teenage Leif-Garret-esque strangely unsexy sex symbol beat out a better singer for a higher ranking on American Idol. As I sat and wondered aloud if Sobakowa should audition for American Idol next season, I sketched out a shape for my next knitting project.

And my head began to hurt. Hurty. Was it the Sanjaya or was it the knitting? We may never know.

But it got me kind of curious about what is the craziest, strangest, most bizarro thing you have knit? Because I sometimes wonder if I am just a litle tweaked, always trying to knit up a cozy for my cozy, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[To download the layered .psd file, just click here.]

I didn't watch AI for the past two seasons, but I threw in the towel this year and I have gotten suckered in. I am not afraid to tell you that I LOVE Blake (he reminds me of those really smooth British pop singers that always manage to get caught in hanky-panky situations later in life) and of course I love the divas. In fact, I have to quit typing now because I have to call my Aunt Pam and make sure she didn't stick by her vow to quit the show once Stephanie got voted off.

But before I go, here's a little morning view of my favorite city, taken out the window of the express bus at the armpit of a.m.:


Viva la Thursday! And weird knitting. And Victor.

Posted by laurie at 9:48 AM

March 28, 2007

Bringing Splices Back

While I was off gallavanting around and working fingers to the bone and visiting my family and so on, I carried around a notebook and pen to catch my little thoughts because Lord knows I cannot go seventeen minutes without writing something down.

I love to write things down. I have always been this way. My parents used to carry me up to the Woolworth's before school started each year and buy me fresh pencils and a new notebook and (if I were lucky) a TrapperKeeper. But without fail EVERY year, they had to make a return trip to the store for a new notebook the day before school started because I had already filled up the first one with my little thoughts.

I sure wish I had a few of those notebooks. I am convinced we'd all have a fine laugh, especially around the time I discovered adverbs. I did like my adverbs, muchly.

So I still carry around a notebook and write in longhand because I am a weirdo. However, in the past three weeks there wasn't really a lot of time for well-thought-out writing. Or well-thought-out thinking, for that matter. Now that I've had some sleep and done some laundry (including 12 pairs of underwear purchased during a rather dire laundry situation ... I am just saying is all) I decided to flip through the pages of my notebook to see if something in there was just brilliant and needed to be shared forever thanks to the innernet.

Below is a sampling of what I found in that notebook. It is not brilliant. It is in fact, kind of frightening. But still I am sharing, because I am a giver.

serial killers probably have neater handwriting
Scrawl of a crazy woman. Also, why can't I remember this?

• Tell Drew about that thing with the place where we went that time that has the good guacamole.

• If you splice a comma and no one reads it, does it dangle or participilate?

• Trader Joe's guy supercute, Faith says must be over 21 to sell me wine. Was loving this until he carded me. Was Mrs. Robinson sexy? Can't remember *** rent The Graduate ****

• Remind Boss re: Good Friday [Editor's note: Can I just tell ya'll I have NO IDEA what I am supposed to remind my boss re: Good Friday? I hope it comes back to me. I pray I have not forever killed off those brain cells.]

• Can you get post traumatic stress disorder from a lunch date? I need a bath. Help me. That man had octopus arms. On a FIRST date. At lunch. WHAT THE HELL. I will never go to the Daily Grill again for fear that A) The waitress will remember the horrible lunch date and smile at me in a pitying manner B) I might be reminded of said lunch date and cry C) My PTSD will kick in and I'll start crouching in a corner eating my hair. Really, very bad lunch date. But the crabcake = tasty. Stupid octopus man. Stinky cologne. Almost ruined crabcake.

• Why the f*** is cable so expensive? They have commercials!!!

• Find Jeep registration tags. Look near cat. [Editor's note: Look near cat? Was I stoned?]

• Email Uncle Skipper about the plane tickets and also ask why he did not take my beloved family to the Hill Country Cafe which has the world's finest collection of gravy-covered foods in all of Texas, what sort of host is he anyway? Ask dad for gravy recipe. Hah hah remember the alamo? No, remember the gravy-covered pickle!

• Why is it that every time I go visit Grandma we seem to eat in restaurants that have faux-grain wood paneling from the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth?

• the time I saw the guy at the bus stop [Editor's note: ...?]

• Sign in Mexican restaurant: 24 hours in a day 24 beers in a case... a coincidence? I think not!

So that is just a random sampling of some of the fine writing I did in the month of March. I did go on a lunch date with an Octopus and it was horrible, but the crabcakes were good, and I did not rent "The Graduate" but I vaguely remember Mrs. Robinson being hot just the same, and I have no idea what I meant to tell my boss or had to say about the bus stop guy. During the month of March, I had to run down to the Rite-Aid on 7th and buy panties not once not twice but THREE times, and frankly that is a record even for me.

They were hermetically sealed, thanksbetojeebus, and ya'll would think I'd be more relaxed about the price of cable seeing as I appear to have an unlimited panty budget, but whatever.

Remember the alamo. Or better yet, remember the gravy covered pickle!

Aw, it's the fam!

Posted by laurie at 10:30 AM

March 27, 2007

Proof I am alive: I am still able to eat cake!

My neighbor, Mrs. Lee, has adopted me.

On the day she turned sixty years old, I pulled into my driveway after four hundred hours of driving and she handed me a plate with some "Korean Cake" on it. A lovely green and white cake, I don't know the flavor. It was beautiful and tasty.

She shared it with me, she said, because her husband was working and she has no children. She told me how she was alone that day, missing her family back in Korea, she is year of the pig, too. And it did not matter that we were thirty years and an entire culture apart because I understood her like I understood myself.

Mrs. Lee was lonely.

I used to feel upset and weird when the lonely would seek me out. I thought it was my broken-ness that drew them. I was tired of being broken. I wanted to be whole.

Now I choose to see that lonely folks want to feel a gust of happy, a breath of life, maybe just get some chitchat and Lord knows I have that in spades. I love life, want to eat it whole... Korean cake and all.

"Mrs. Lee? Do you want to come inside?"

"No, Julie." She calls me Julie, the same name as her bird. I have learned that to Mrs. Lee, everyone non-Asian is a Julie.

"But next weekend if you no need to go see mama," she said (I had told her my folks were in town), "we go to the Korean market? You want to see Korean market?"

"I would love to see the Korean market!" and I would. Sounds fun to me! I love Los Angeles, a city full of people from all over the far flung corners of this planet. Mrs. Lee is my new neighbor-mom, she checks in on me every day, she brings me fresh strawberries or lettuce from her garden, wants me to have her cellphone in case of emergency.

I gave her my cell phone number, too. On the post-it note I wrote, "Julie from next door." (I'll answer to anything except "shithead" ... and if said lovingly enough, I might answer to that also.)

"At Korean market, you will be very strange," she informs me. "Blonde hair. But you will like, I know it."

And I know it, too.

Crazy city.

Good Korean Cake.

Posted by laurie at 11:52 AM

March 23, 2007

The Wonderful World Of Wildlife And Laundry

Today I am sort of pushing the dress code at Corporate Job, Inc. I am wearing pants, so that's good, but these particular trousers are ... CERTAINLY not denim, as that is verboten. No, they are NOT denim. Instead, they are, uh, black and made of a heavy cotton-like substance and they have top stitching and they have back pockets and ya'll know.

I plan to hide behind my desk all day.

So this is what it has come to in my life. A laundry pile that is threatening to take over the hallway and if I don't do laundry soon, I will have to show up at work on Monday in my prom dress. I believe it is the only thing left in the closet that's clean.

If I do show up in a prom dress, of course, you know I'll be taking a picture of that event. And that picture will happen ... in the ladies room mirror. Amen!

# # #

I do not own a big fancy and expensive camera. I use a plain old Kodak EasyShare digital camera with a whopping 3.1 megapixels. (It is model CX6330, if you are interested). I do sometimes manage to get great shots of my animals by merely stalking them in natural light and taking eleventy-nine million snapshots, at least three of which will be good.

This one wasn't very good, shot at night maybe after a little vino, and it's using my camera's "night" setting:


These pictures of Roy were not taken in daylight, since I have not actually been at my house in the daylight for weeks. (Dear Internet Bandits Planning To Rob My House: My neighbors are very nosy and they are retired and stay home all day watching to see if foulplay happens. Their little fingers are practically perched over the numbers 9-1-1 all the time. Also, I have nothing in my house of any real monetary value... except for the cats. And they poop a lot. Love, Laurie)

So, anyway, to make these pictures a little less dull, I used Photoshop to lighten them a little, crop them and fix Roy's red-eye problem (even with the red-eye flash he still gets the demonic eye.) I know photoshop is expensive but there are some less pricey versions, too, like Photoshop Elements, and if you like to tinker with graphics Photoshop is an excellent investment since it is the very best of the best.



Another example:



I use this same software to add the white caption boxes on my pictures, too. Using the vector shapes tool, make a square or rectangle and apply a Layer Style to the shape. In the Layer Styles area, change the "color overlay" to white and the "stroke" setting to 1-pixel black for a nice border. (It's good to learn how to add that stroke to all your pictures. Adding a 1-pixel border to the whole image gives all photos a more professional finish for displaying online. With a border, they stand out just enough from the background on a webpage.)

I also saved this style as a pre-set, so I can now apply it to my shapes with a single click of the style picker in the top toolbar, an option when you work with vector shapes.

For the text that goes inside my little white boxes, I prefer to use Arial with no anti-aliasing so it more closely resembles the look of text in a web browser.

Are you asleep yet? Have you nodded off with all this exciting cat and software talk?


I knew it would bore you to tears. I am about ready for a nap myself. But people are always asking me about the text boxes so I thought I'd try to answer the age-old question of "How do I make my cats talk?" heh heh.

I may never be a world-famous photographer roaming the Sahara for a million-dollar shot of a lion in the wild, but I roam the wilds of Encino-adjacent pretty frequently and without fail I do manage to get my million-cent pictures using natural light, my camera's close-up setting, and a patient crouching-in-waiting position in the laundry pile.

It's worth it. Damn cats are so goodlooking I can't help myself!

Taken back when daylight was part of my life.

Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

March 21, 2007

V is for Victor, and also Very Sleepy

I would like to apologize for my remarkable lack of humor lately. I am tired, and sleep-deprived, and full of visible panty lines and unplucked eyebrows. However, I have been able to eek out some time to spend with my family and it's been awesome! Well, awesome for me ... not so much for my coworkers who have had to experience my tired humorlessness.

These past few weeks have been one of those Crazy Times I will look back on in retrospect one day and see where I got my grey hairs and pickled liver.

For example, on Wednesday of last week I walked into my co-worker's office and asked to borrow his security badge.

"Why do you need my security badge?" he asked.

"I left mine at home," I said. Exasperated. Because... duh!

"You left your security badge at home? You know this building is like the Pentagon..." he wagged a finger at me.

"Look," I said. "I need a security badge so I can go down and get coffee. Yes I forgot mine. I left my house at 4:45 a.m. I have had four hours of sleep and IT IS A MIRACLE I EVEN HAVE PANTS ON."

(awkward silence)

"Was that too much information?" I asked.

- - -

On Thursday, my co-worker popped his head into my office.

"Chitchat la la blah blah blah?" he said.

"Busy, so busy, can't chitchat with you right now unless said chitchat ends in either sex or coffee..." I said.

(awkward silence)

"Was that too much information?" I asked.

- - -

On Friday, Co-worker knocked before daring to enter my cave of grumpy, and then he tentatively sidled around the edge of the doorframe, offering up a wan smile.

"Hey, don't mean to bother you... know you're swamped... but Starbucks is giving away free coffee until noon..."

I got out of my chair and walked to the doorway.

"Coworker, I am going to inappropriately hug you now."

And I did.

(awkward silence)

"Uh," said co-worker. "I'm really happy you have pants on today."

- - -

And that is just how things have been lately, and it really is a miracle each day that I show up without my shirt on backwards, or with a post-it note stuck to my cheek, and of course... fully clothed from the waist down.

It is also a miracle of life that I walked into my kitchen last night, a room I had somewhat forgotten, and noticed that my only vegetable resident had grown a second story:

I have lost my damn mind.

The thing is, I know I KNOW I should just toss this old yellow onion and move on, but I saw it, its little green sprouts of hope, and I marveled at how anything could manage to flourish and grow inside my kitchen. It was like... a miracle. A MIRACLE OF LIFE, PEOPLE. I was maybe drinking.

"Little onion with green stuff on top, as God is my witness I will not throw you into the trash!" I proclaimed. I often get myself in trouble with the proclaiming. Especially late at night. Words to the wise: Stop with the proclaiming when you are two drinks to the wind and 28 hours behind on sleeping.

So anyway, I don't know what to do with this plant-thing. I know one of ya'll out there is an intrepid gardener or farmer, or at least someone who can grow more than mold. (Hey! Did you know that cucumbers can actually liquefy! In your crisper! Who knew! I have all sorts of sciencey things going on over here in my kitchen. Want to come over for dinner?)

Help me, will you? I want my Victory Onion to live. His name is Victor. I even named him for chrissakes.

I don't need to grow real onions or anything, I just need for this one little shooting sprout of oniony hope not to die. It's kind of symbolic in that sleep-deprived wine-drenched way I get sometimes. How anything in my house managed to flourish these past few weeks is a magical mystery, but I want to keep it alive! So if you know what I should do to keep this baby growing, please let me know. I will put it in water, or dirt, or chant to it, or buy it coffee. Just help me keep Victor, and hope, alive.

And also, just keep your fingers crossed I manage to keep showing up at work for the next few days in pants. I feel it is such an accomplishment each day when I remember to wear them.

Or is that too much information?

Posted by laurie at 9:35 AM

March 20, 2007

Do they make these in human sizes?

I feel like a bad and guilty and neglectful mom, running hither and yon, always tired, mad when they wake me up at 4:15 a.m. since today (today!) I get to sleep in until a whopping 4:45 a.m. I need that thirty minutes of extra sleep. I MEAN, REALLY NOW.

So when I went to Tams Pet Supplies last week for a case of food and another bag of mystery litter for the new Test Box (sigh) (we're back to the test box) I found this little cat cave and even though it seemed awfully small for my giganticats, I bought it because I am guilty and even frugality quakes in the face of guilt.

Usually in the mornings when I leave for work, Roy has eaten breakfast and retired to his crinkle cave, but this morning I found him in the mouth of another cat ... his new cat-shaped cave for one! And he looks so sweet and cuddled in there I feel it was a purchase well worth twice its price. Also, I need a nap. Do you think they make these in my size?

cuddly roy

p.s. Please don't ask me where to buy the crinkle cave. I have had tons of email about it and I searched online for two hours one day back in December and never found it. I tried! But failed, alas. I bought mine at Target, they don't seem to have any more.

UPDATE!! THIS JUST IN!! Target.com finally has the cat crinkle cave listed online. I am actually more excited about this than I can justify. Somehow it feels like perhaps I have turned things around today... first the crinkle cave... now maybe I'll bump into George Clooney on the bus.... or find time to actually go have lunch...

p.p.s. I threw away the tag on the other cat-shaped cave, too, so I am equally useless on that front. However, I bought it at Tams, and they are a lovely family-run place that I drive out of my way to shop at because they are so nice. They will be happy to look it up for you, it was $25, I think. Well worth it! says the guilty, bad neglectful try-to-buy-their-love mom.

UPDATE NUMBER TWO!!! Thanks to reader Lyn who alerted me that the very same cat mouth bed that has such a cute Roy in it is also available at Amazon.com for ten bucks less than I paid for it (of course, did this surprise anyone?). Get yours here. Thanks, Lyn!

Posted by laurie at 1:27 PM

March 19, 2007

Dear Jeep, I love you. Please hold it together for a few more months. Love, me

I'm going to tell you the end of this story first because I do not want the suspense killing you, seeing as a story with me and a vehicle involved could have any number of outcomes, including tragedy. So in the end of this story, my awesome Dad saved the day and fixed everything even though I believe he did have to break out the GooGone.

(I am bad at reading suspense books because I get so stressed out if I don't know what is about to happen! I'll flip ahead in the story until I know what the outcome is of whatever suspenseful moment we're in, then I can relax enough to go back and read the chapter. I am maybe not very much fun to watch dramatic movies with, just FYI.)

So! Two weeks ago I got off the bus at the Encino Park 'n Ride and there was my Jeep, my hot little red vehicle who loved me enough to come back to me, and he was sitting there in the dark, alone, and waiting for me.

And apparently at some point during the day my Jeep -- my vehicle who has been through so much with me including but not limited to one divorce, four cats being hauled to various medical facilities, moving into three (!) new places and being broken into twice and hijacked once -- my little Jeep got tired of holding the rear-view mirror up, and he sighed and released the mirror into the passenger's seat. I can only imagine he sighed with relief. At least he wasn't being taken on a high-speed chase in Hollywood again. He was just tired, and probably in need of an oil change. Or a new radiator again. Ya'll know.

Sad and slightly out-of-focus face.

Happy face. Also: see my man hands in the reflection! Picture staged for your enjoyment in daylight.

As soon as I could, I made a stop at the local auto parts place and a nice boy named Javier or Robert or Federico helped select the rearview mirror adhesive kit of my dreams and then offered to help me fix it, except he would need to do it the next day after school.

"What school do you go to?" I asked.

"San Fernando High School," he said.

And I remembered that I was not exactly desiring to be on NBC Dateline's "To Catch A Predator" show (again) and I declined. With a smile. And also I had a question for God, which was, "Hi God. Why? WHY? Are you torturing me? Is this the new hell, where every hot and able-to-fix-stuff guy who just lurves me is SIXTEEN FREAKING YEARS OLD? P.S. Sorry about the almost-swear words, God. Please send someone over 21. Thanks."

And while I had every intention of fixing this rearview mirror problem over the next few weeks, the truth is I had not actually been home during daylight hours. I was leaving for work when it was dark and returning in the dark and let's face it. Me + car repairs + permanant adhesive + the DARK = RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

So I was rearview mirrorless for... a few weeks. Which was fine because I commute on the bus and for the small driving I did in the Valley I found having no hindsight to be an excellent advantage in my stress-relief since I could no longer see who was tailgating me and ergo, I felt less stressed out. If a tailgater tailgates yet no one can see him, does he exist? I was very existential.

And as it turns out, I predominantly use my rearview mirror for checking my lipstick.

But then when my parents arrived and I needed to drive all over kingdom come, I sort of needed a rear view for the freeway. And I didn't have a second to spare on figuring out the adhesive kit thing, and my Dad is here! Yay! Because Dads are the best at fixing stuff! So I just needed to get to Orange County and all would be well.

So I did what any normal human being would do.
I duct taped it on.


Notice I even duct-taped the air freshener in place.

But sadly, in what may be my greatest personal failure to date, I am either not redneck enough or not smart enough to successfully duct tape my rear-view mirror on because it sort of dangled and spun around for a while and then when I hit a bump on the freeway it sadly fell off with a pathetic little plop, back into the passenger seat where it laid in its duct-tapey casing until my father resurrected it and restored it again to its place of prominence and glory on my windshield.

And now all is well and I can check my lipstick with frequency and make faces at tailgating freakazoids and sing Wilson-Phillips to my Jeep, my beloved Jeep, "I know that there is pain/ Just hold on for one more day..." Specifically, just hold on to all your much-needed parts. But just in case you need to sigh and release something else, a door handle, windshield wiper blade, brake light ...

... I do have a roll of duct tape in my purse. And I am not afraid to use it!

Posted by laurie at 8:43 AM

March 16, 2007

The bobbing cork

Once when I was in college, I fell hopelessly in love with my history professor. He was Gorgeous, and So Wise, and also, Magnificent.

He was also not truly interested in the fawning clumsy adoration of a freshman, but he was tolerant and very nice to me. One day when I was dropping of a paper in his office I noticed he had a book on his desk with a great cover, it was some kind of philosophy book about "Tao" which I was pretty sure wasn't Southern.

"Oh!" I said, "what a cute book."

(Because Taoism? So "cute" right?) (I was eighteen.)

"You can have it," he said. "Read up, young philosopher."

And I went home and read it cover to cover because I assumed it must be a VERY important book if he had it on his desk. I don't remember the title of the book or anything about it, really, except for the theory of the bobbing cork which I will now proceed to misquote heavily as I have killed those brain cells in the ensuing years.

Essentially, the idea is that if you place a cork in a flowing stream of water, like in a creek for example, it will bob along happily with the flow of the water, carried along on the surface of the stream. And no matter how many times you push it down with your finger, it just pops back up to the surface and continues to bob along.

Even if you use ALL the force of your body to push down the cork, it will pop back to the surface. In fact, the more forceful you are, the more forceful the trajectory to the top of the stream.

I have thought about this idea time and time again in my life, everyone says "Go with the flow, stop resisting, start embracing..." and sometimes you try, and sometimes you need to restrained from causing bodily injury to the advice giver. (Advice being far more divine to give than receive, of course.)

During my divorce, especially, folks liked to offer up advice on just going with the flow. I took it to mean, "Go with the flow of wine."

And I succeeded, thanks!

Now I am in a much happier mood, a much happier life. I feel like I am closer to being me than I have ever been before. Seeing my family has made me feel centered and happy, I love being with them and love having them in my life.

And yet still sometimes I tend to struggle against the flow of my life, reaching backward to old times, or old ways of doing stuff, thinking about how I want things to be as opposed to how they really are. And no matter how much you wish something were different, someone, you cannot change other people. You can bob along, or keep pushing, but either way you end up back in the stream, flowing along whether you want to or not.

Posted by laurie at 11:49 AM

The Blanket of Awesomeness Dubutante Ball

On Wednesday I left work early so I could drive down to the REAL O.C. and hang with Grandma and her retirement community's "Stitch 'n Giggle" group.

When I first started knitting, Grandma told me about the monthly Stitch 'n Giggle, which I could only assume was the less complainy version of Stitch 'n Bitch.

"So you attend these meetings?" I asked her.

"All the time!" she said.

"But Grandma, uh, you don't crochet or knit. You don't...um... stitch. Do you?"

"Oh, no," she said firmly. "I bring the Giggle."

And of course with her new Internet Blanket, she has been dying to tell everyone at Stitch 'n Giggle about it (anytime someone walks by she calls their name and then they come over and she shows it to them, it's the sweetest thing) and so I went down to hang out and stitch and giggle. And, truth be told, I wanted that good feeling to last, that feeling of seeing Grandma at the center of attention, seeing something so good and happy for folks to oooh and aahhh over. Seeing her light up.

Grandma watching intently as the gals peruse the scrapbook. Notice Fine Photographer here took only the Grandma angle.

And my mom came, too, and I attempted to take self portraits of the two of us but each of them looked like this:

Fine Photographer strikes again.

And, in keeping with the trend of "chicken with head cut off" I totally forgot to pack my knitting bag that morning when I left my house and also, what the HECK was going on with my hair (which you cannot see in the pic but imagine if you will a weird fly-away trying to escape) but it was fun and I did not stitch -- or bitch -- once but I giggled a whole lot.

And everyone LOVED the blanket! The ladies of Stitch 'n Giggle oohed and aahed over every quare and loved the postcards from all of ya'll. It was such a big hit, and it did get everyone to talking about the kindness we receive in life from strangers, a goodness we almost never expect.

This is Anne.

In fact, Anne told me about her daughter-in-law Vicki, who is struggling right now with cancer, and how Vicki received a package one day from a group called Heartmade Blessings. "My daughter in law was so surprised and awed that a group of total strangers would care enough to make her something so thoughtful and beautiful," said Anne.

She even brought me a copy of the letter that Heartmade Blessings attached to the afghan for her daughter-in-law:

Dear Vicki, A comfort afghan was requested on your behalf by Sheila (lastname omitted).

There are times in our lives when you need a friend, some love, some hope, some comfort, some reassuring support. We know you are going through one of those times right now.

This Comfort Afghan is our way of giving you a special hug from all of us at Heartmade Blessings. It is our hope that you will find comfort in knowing that you have folks who are thinking of you, praying for you, and reaching out to you.

When you wrap yourself in this Comfort Afghan, we hope you will feel the love that was put into each stitch like a hug from a dear friend. May this afghan give you warmth, catch your tears, remind you that others care, and may it give comfort when needed.

Cheryl-Beth Proper
Heartmade Blessings

And ya'll know I was all "Excuse me please for a moment while I go over here very close to the cookies and try not to blubber."

But then there was no time at all for blubbering, because Shirley piped up and I tell you what. I may need to attend these Stitch 'n Giggle events on a regular basis.

The ladies were talking about the upcoming St. Patrick's Day dinner at the community. And how Shirley had been receiving many calls about the dinner selection, called "Chicken Romantico."

"They keep calling and asking what the heck is chicken romantico," she told me. "So I just started telling 'em it was chicken with Viagra sauce."

And even before I could stop from falling out of my chair already, she continued with her story.

"So my husband and I are sitting there one day and the television has those ads, you know, the ones that say 'If you experience this condition for four hours...' and my husband turns to me and says, honey, if I ever have that condition for four hours would you call the doctor?"

She paused.

"I told him hell yes, I'd call the doctor! I'D CALL EVERYONE I KNOW!"

Hello, ladies of Stitch 'n Giggle. I'LL BE BACK!

Posted by laurie at 11:30 AM

March 14, 2007

Grandma Purl and the Blanket of Awesomeness

On Saturday I drove approximately five billion miles and in that mileage I made a pit stop at Ellen Bloom's house, where I picked up a large white box from Kristy, addressed to my grandma via me via Ellen. Everyone by now has learned that I am not especially particularly fabulously on top of my mail situation, and even Stella at the mailbox place just sighs, and calls me when something looks urgent or about to spoil.

This is because somewhere along the past year I managed to get stuck on Drew Emborsky Standard Time (DEST), which is to say that if today were last Wednesday, I'd be in great shape! I am only one week behind in my life. Or two. It relieves the stress a little, actually, knowing that no matter how much I want to puddle up and cry and eat my hair, I am not really that far behind... I am merely on DEST, so I am perfectly capable of meeting all my deadlines and obligations if only Superman would come back and do that thing where he flies the world backwards one week. In those tights. Mmmmmmmm.

But, that was not the point of this column! The point is that my Jeep and I made a left turn where we should have turned right, then we figured it out, then I got to Ellen's house (which is SO AWESOME that I tried to move in, twice) and I picked up a large, mysterious and quite heavy package.

"I wonder what it could be...?" I said in a deep, dark, mysterious voice. As deep and dark as a chirpy, twangy female can get anyway.

"Oh you silly girl," said Ellen. "It's your grandma's blanket!"

(I'm not sure if we actually had this conversation or if I dreamed it, but I felt we needed some dialogue here.)

So my Jeep and I drove the Box Of Mystery down to Orange County where my parents were waiting, along with my Aunt Pam and cousins and Grandma and ... my parents! here! in California!

And also, I had no rear-view mirror on my Jeep but I will tell you more about that at a later date, although it was funny that I at one point held my rear-view mirror out the driver's side window for, you know, driving safety purposes.

It was so nice to visit and see my family. I have missed them so much! And everyone wonders why I am the way I am until they meet my family and it suddenly all makes sense, like how my mom had a headache when they were driving from Palm Springs to Orange County on Saturday morning and it was a really bad headache so my dad wanted to get her to the doctor but also thought it would be funny if it just so happened that medical professional he took her to happened to be at... The Betty Ford Clinic. So he drove her to the Betty, and there they asked her such questions as, "Do you have any tattoos or piercings?" and also, "Do you have any metal in your body?" and while my mom was in the ladies' room, my father picked up the clipboard and began filling it out.

"One of the questions was, 'Do you drink alcohol?'" said my dad. "And the answers were: never, sometimes, daily, heavily..."

He paused for a moment.

"I will not reveal what answer I circled, but they did try to admit her after that," he said, with the straightest poker face you have ever seen.

"I went in with a HEADACHE," said my mom. "I walked out with Percoset and Valium. FOR A HEADACHE."

"Well," said my dad, "the good news is your headache is gone. Of course, you're going to be addicted to painkillers now and probably need to be admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic..."

And we all laughed so hard we cried. Ya'll see where I get it.

Then after I found out my parents had spent the morning at the Betty Ford Clinic, we got down to the business of opening the Big Mysterious Box.

"Grandma," I said. "The internet made you something!"




That is my handsome Dad in those pictures with my amazing Grandma... and look, Grandma is standing with the help of her walker!! The blanket spreads out to fully queen-size and is UNBELIEVEABLY GORGEOUS. We made quite an event about opening the box and everyone was STUNNED. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me and my whole family, and I cried, I think we all cried, it was the loveliest and happiest and most beautiful gift.

Sometimes the world seems so cold and distant and people are always in a hurry, and we're in a hurry, and it's easy to forget that this world is full of kind and good and loving people who would take time out of their lives to bring so much joy and love to someone ... someone they never even met! In that moment I think all of us, all eight of us, were just reminded to have faith in people, to hold on always to the knowledge that this much kindness exists. And to hold on tight to Grandma, who was a little on the overwhelmed side!! We had not even been drinking, ya'll, but there were happy tears all around.

Thank you, each and every one of you who took the time to do this, time to write a little postcard, a note to my Grandma, time to knit or crochet a square -- and there were so many squares! Enough for three or four more blankets! Mr. Hakim and Raydine and Bill... all the Parkview gang will be rolling in high style in hand-made blankets, thanks to you and your kindness and generosity.


Grandma was shocked when she saw the scrapbook, it was a complete surprise to her. I had told her about the blanket but not the scrapbook, and she turned page after page and read messages of love and prayers from all over the world. My grandmother, who is NEVER at a loss for words (ahem) (apple not falling far from tree, again) was utterly speechless.

The next morning it was early and just the two of us were awake and about, me and Grandma. I was drinking orange juice and she was looking at the scrapbook again, page after page.

She said to me, "I know I am able to be here today and turn these pages myself because I had the prayers of these wonderful people helping me," and ... well, ya'll know. I went into the ugly cry!! She laughed at me and called me an old softie, then she cried too. The good kind of tears.

Thank you to Kristy, who came up with this idea and stuck with it. Kristy had had a very tough six months with her own family and a personal loss, and yet she kept my family in her thoughts and priorities and I have no idea how to thank you, Kristy, except to say your amazing idea and all the folks who helped make it come to life brought so much happiness to my whole family that we'll have it with us always.

Thank you. Thank you to everyone.


That's joy. Pure and simple.

Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

March 9, 2007

Spring forward (but with CAUTION)

So, my folks are arriving some time late in the day on Saturday and I am So! Excited! and perhaps stayed up a bit past my bedtime trying to mask the clutter and do laundry. It sounded like:

Me: Bob, are you clutter? Then perhaps you should make yourself useful. Go clean the catbox!


Me: Why do I have dust in my house? Cat hair I understand, dust not so much. Soba, you're fluffy! Can you lay on top of the TV and roll around for a while and dust it?

Soba, behind my back: Watch that tone of voice, human. I am compact and deadly. And my luscious fur shall not be taken in vain.

So, anyway, they are finally coming to town! If you never hear from me again it is because I have hijacked their motorhome and taken the felines and my poor kidnapped parents on a tour of Mexico. Viva la fish taco!

- - - - - - - - -

Now for a new topic. Also known as, "Another time I display my total professionalism in the workplace."

white guys in ties, inc.
My place of employment.

So after staying up a bit past my bedtime, I woke up this morning at my normal Armpit of A.M. slightly askew and tired and in desperate need of coffee. Now, I tend to wait until I arrive at the office for my coffee since I am a paranoid freak and will worry all day long that I left the coffee pot on at home and the house is smoldering into fire while I'm stuck downtown doing magical and perverse things to powerpoint.

I arrived at work and in my head the chatter sounded something like, "Coffee coffee coffee love you so pretty coffee, coffeemmmm..." and I walked into the office and I passed my boss's open office door and turned my head just a teensy bit to see if he was in there, and he was, and he is so cute, I love my boss. He looks like a model, except he's got an MBA. And I was all, "Hi, Bossman!"

And then I ran smack into the large metal filing cabinet.

And if you don't know what a five-foot-three-and three-quarters human smacking into hollow metal sounds like, let me just tell you. IT IS LOUD.

scene of the crime

Also, in unrelated news, my boss pushed my performance review back until the latest possible appointment time on Monday. I can only imagine this is because he needed extra time to write more about my copious gracefulness and ability to bounce back from trouble.

Really, literally BOUNCE back.

Posted by laurie at 8:49 AM

March 8, 2007

After posting this, I will likely never be asked on a date again. But I have my health, and my crazy, and that is something to be happy about.

When Drew first came to the my humble little Cat Hair Castle a few years ago, I made him drink lots and lots and lots of wine. And we would stay up late just drankin' and carrying on and philosophizing, and he had an interesting theory back then that I didn't really embrace until ... well, about seven minutes ago.

Also, my life has been so full lately of huge personal epiphanies and growth and all that, and sometimes I want to share it all with everyone in the whole world but then I remember to hold back a little and just let it cogitate and form fully and, also, there's that little problem of people thinking you have gone batshit crazy.

Because some of my philosophizing is just a teetiny bit touched with the nervous stick, but still. It is all very true and enlightening. (Also, "Nervous" is a Southern euphimism for "loco in la cabeza." In case you were wondering.)

So, here is the theory first posited by Drew:

"Laurie, if you broke your personality and soul into four pieces, each one of these cats would represent a part of your identity."

Are you still with me or have you changed the channel and are on notcrazycatlady.com yet?

Well, I myself didn't really follow Drew on this train of thought for many years, but then last weekend he and I were on the phone and it clicked. Or, you know, I crossed a line. Tomato, tomahto.

Bob does not miss any meals.
Bob is simple. He forgets stuff all the time, and is always surprised. He falls over a lot, and he is afraid of everything including air. He sleeps under the covers of the bed because the sound of air is scary. He has a little emotional overeating problem and puts on a few extra pounds in times of stress. But once you win him over he's the sweetest face. He bites when he's scared.

This cat is for sale on ebay for waking me up with love meows at 4 a.m.
Frankie is just happy. She is in love with the whole world, and loves everything so much she wants to just sit around purring and loving stuff all day. She meows and whines because she needs so much love. "Love you, shoe! Love you, water glass! Pet me, world!" And she likes pretty things, such as ribbons and earrings.

Sobakowa hates cats.
Sobakowa is often underestimated because she's the smallest cat, but she is the alpha leader of the pack. No one challenges her because she will give THE BEAT DOWN, and even a sideways glance from her will send the others running. She rules the whole house with an iron paw. She's smart and mean and has a deep-seated sense of justice and is currently writing a manifesto. Her evil nemesis is everywhere. She will conquer all. The world revolves around her. She is very particular. She likes to sleep late and her water glass is getting tepid. She is hateful mad about it.

Please don't leave.
Roy is sensitive and emotional and he hangs in there, never gives up, keeps on keeping on. He has stories no one will ever know. His past is kind of shrouded in secrets and shame. He's very needy and snuggly and gets sick a lot and he will hold a grudge if you accidentally step on his paw when he is underfoot, which is ALWAYS, because he needs love and attention. He likes everyone. He would like very much to have some good dinner now, then a snuggle. He likes to stay close to the ones he loves. He was old the day he was born. When no one is home to hug him, he stays in his crinkle cave where he is safe.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

So. Hi! Is anyone still reading this? [My parents are hopefully not seeing this on the road with their Wi-Fi. Yes, my parents have WI-FI in the motorhome. They have the techmology. Represent! And uh... if ya'll are reading this, Hi Daddy! No, do not search the google yellow pages for places to commit me. I'm fine! Just philosophizing! Not talking into my bra yet!]

So, do you think your pets reflect a part of your personality? People without pets may call it anthropomorphizing or projecting, but my animals have real, fully-formed personalities. You can see it in just fifteen minutes of observation at Camp Cat Hair.

And if you have children, I wonder, do your children exhibit pieces of your own soul, your own personality? Do they reflect back to you pieces of who you are, too?

I think all this is a great little wine glass philosophy, anyway, and it's made me look at my animals in a whole new way. If I manage daily to appreciate them for their pure little furry selves, shouldn't I be just as open to appreciating all my different qualities?

Well, except the crazy ones of course. Those we just pretend belong to the neighbor's dog down the street.


Posted by laurie at 9:56 AM

March 7, 2007

March 2007 Hor-O-Scopes

At Stitch 'n Bitch last week I met a really nice gal from Ireland. She's here working for JPL-NASA in Pasadena and came to SnB to meet folks. She was so nice! When she said she worked at NASA, I didn't even hesitate to be a dumbass. I just let it pop right out.

I just looked right at her with awe and wonderment and said in my finest Country Fried Tater voice, "Wow, you must be smart!"

Also, in addition to having the unfiltered things spring forth from my talking regions, notice I often say my dumbass conversation starters... as declarative sentences. Not as questions. I just go off and declare some idiocy. I declare! You must be purty smart!

ANYWAY. She was real nice about it and just laughed. Gwen laughed too, but at me not with me. Still love you Gwen ... but, uh, don't hold your breath on a nice wedding gift now.(Oh! Just kidding! You are so getting yarn! Don't tell you husband-to-be!) And then I asked the nice Irish lady whose name I wrote down but promptly lost what she does at NASA and she is an astro-biologist. Looking for life in all the wrong planets. And then I made Gwen ask her if she had anything to do with Pluto getting demoted, which she did not, and so I breathed a sigh of astrological relief as I could now be friends with her.

That is, if I find out her name again and the whole dumbass part didn't scare her.

But I still have not accepted Pluto's fate as a planetary stepchild, just as I don't want Saturn back in my House of Anything or care to ever see Jupiter sit his wide load self down in my House of Rolling Nekkid In Money ever again.

Apparently, one of them is in my House of Run-On Sentences, though. Oops.

I think next month all the horoscopes will be in Haiku, which ought to drive your little noggins insane. "What does it mean? Why does this Haiku rhyme? And have twenty-nine syllables?" And also because these horoscope things take me a while and I don't like my diary to be work. I already have work. BOY DO I. In fact, my performance review at my job was pushed back from today to next Monday. What does this mean? Does this mean they are delaying telling me that I will now have to moonlight as the company mascot, a giant walking tie? Or does it mean that I will be moved to the basement with the storage boxes and my red stapler? Or do you think they're delaying anticipation of telling me I got a prize, like perhaps... "Most Improved in 2006 for not saying 'porn' in meetings" ???

Hey, it could happen. Although it's more likely that on Monday I will be handed my giant oversized tie costume with clown feet and told to shake a tailfeather in the lunchroom.

Ah, work. I love you.


March 2007, better late than never

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
Dr. Weil recommends that every once in a while you go on a news diet and purge your life of the obsessive need to know every. single. detail. of Anna Nicole Smith's burial drama trials and babydaddy issues. Okay, maybe he didn't phrase it exactly that way, but still you get the idea. Yes, I said it... a News Diet. And a gossip diet. I can't quite put my finger on what it is in your chart that's making me spout forth with this, except it seems like there's a little ripple of dissatisfaction, a tiny undercurrent of unhappy and all the distractions around you are well-meaning enough, like the news and the chitchat, but instead of making you feel more contentment and happiness... well, it's having the opposite effect. If you've been doing something to take your mid of your deep-seated discomfort, it's not working. The upside is that in March (particularly around the equinox on the 21st) it will be easier than ever for you to pick up some new activities, meet new people, or find new ways of getting happiness into your life. But really, all that Anna Nicole news is not helping. I am just saying is all.

PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
You know how people will take on projects, like home improvement stuff and even crafty things, and they just go at this endeavor with every free moment, spending all their time and energy happily puttering away? I call this "taking something on as an art project." We do it all the time, and Pisces is great at it! There's something magic about a Pisces and their ability to transform something into real art. So I think that this month (and all the way into the summer) you need to take YOURSELF on as an art project. Evaluate your raw materials, make a list (both a to-do list and a shopping list) and get to work excavating the treasure within. I love Pisces and I love that this is your birthday time and so I hope you consider this a little task for your new year ahead -- I say "task" because Lord knows ya'll can't think of it as a present to yourselves (I know how you are, Pisces.) You need to take some time appraising yourself, your life, your situation. Sizing yourself up as well (and often) as you do your closest companions. Think of what you'd like this art project to one day look like, then set yourself out to make your art project come to life.

ARIES (March 21- April 19)
I love me a good avoidance mechanism. You and I have this in common, Aries. Now, we also have in common the fact that I married me an Aries a long time ago and ya'll know I did you wrong for many months during "my sad time" since your horoscope looked something like, "Hope you fall over from an oozing social disease. Seeya, wouldn't want to be ya." Now that I am all healed and moved on and full of happiness and also Girl Scout Cookies (damn you, office cookie bringer! damn you!) I will share a secret: I first was attracted to an Aries because of the dynamic, creative and innate fun-ness associated with ya'll. You have ideas and concepts and whole philosophies (and you know I love me a good philosophy!) and there is something so attractive about this quality that it led even me astray into thinking Aries = Action! But sometimes ya'll = Avoidance! Now would be a good time to plug back into your life, plug back into the fun, charismatic, finger-guns toting you and less of the "Let me think of a reason why I can't do that" you. Just a suggestion. And sorry for the months of bad astrology.

TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
Taurus folks have a chatty happiness that instantly attracts me. I know that like Cancers, ya'll have your little homebody issues sometimes but I love the way you move through life with a happy medium always perched solidly in your middle. You teeter to one end, roll to the other and yet somehow always manage to get upright in the end. Much like a Weeble! Weebles wobble but they do not fall down. That is my Taurus folks in a nutshell. You have a teensy bit of teeter in your chart, there are family obligations pulling you in all directions and some strangely misplaced expectations from your friends to look forward to, but in the end (which is to say, at the end of March through all of Mid-April) you will once again find yourself wobbling back up to the middle, where you and your Weeble-Taurus goodness will find a solid middle ground.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)
I have a Gemini friend who just put out an offer on a house in the Valley, just a few blocks from me! And he has a girlfriend, and his sister just had twins so he's an uncle twice over. He went through a messy and prolonged divorce right around the same time I did, and he constantly amazed me with his resiliency (read: ability to go out and date waaaay before I was ever ready.) He's moving onward and happierward with his life every day and it's so much fun to see the surprise on his face every time he says out loud something new and exciting that's going on in his life. It's like he's constantly amazed that this is his life. Gemini has the ability to do that -- focus so clearly on happy amazement and satisfaction -- as well as focus on the exact opposite, lack and despair. Twins and split personalities and all that. The ability to see the happy AND the sad is more of an asset than you might imagine, though. The secret no one wants to share in the astrology world is that Gemini isn't a split personality at all. Gemini just sees both sides of the proverbial clich├ęd coin better than any other sign in the zodiac. The trick is to decide which view you dwell on. It's your choice!

CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
In his book called "Kosher Sex," Rabbi Shmuley writes that human beings need separation and reunion in order to sustain passionate love. "Even the slightest taste of absence will make the heart grow much stronger," he says. And he's right. Cancers would do well to remember such a wisdom in March and in life (and also, stop right this second looking at me in that tone of voice. I can read "Kosher Sex" if I want to! Granted, I thought it was a book about having sex and then eating bagels, but whatever! I learned some stuff!) We Cancers tend to want love and affection and adoration, so we often substitute closeness and proximity and ... well, it's a poor substitute. I think the trick may be that in your friendships, your relationships, even with your family you give yourself some room and space to breathe. Apply it to your job, too. If you work 60+ hours a week (ahem) ... you need time off! You need that time to avoid burnout. Stay at home moms? I am talking to you, too. All ya'll! Cancer, I know how you can be. Take the time away to be still and breathe and let a little air into your life. That way you can better enjoy the Kosher Sex...uh. I mean bagels. Or whatever.

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
Mercury is still doing its crazy thing until the middle of next week, or thereabouts, I always like to give Mercury a wide aisle to walk down since we've had our run-ins in the past. Anyway, I'm putting this right at the very tip-top of your forecast since I am late on the telling of forecasts this month (I do have to work for a living and by "work" I do not mean "sit around on the sofa pondering my bellybutton and eating astrological cheetos") and you don't want to step in any post-Mercury goo if you can avoid it. That means pay attention to financial and work-related stuff a little more closely, especially stuff that happens on days ending in "y." After the solar eclipse on the 18th, everything will be gravy in Leo. Or tuna in Leo? Or maybe ice cream in Leo. I don't know the correct metaphor (see: "Mercury harshes my linguistic buzz") but I do know that solar eclipses do funny things to Leos and ya'll are in for an excellent few weeks from the beginning of spring (March 21) onward. Whew, I am almost worn out from all the planetary chitchat going on in this horoscope. I need to get back to my cheetos.

VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
Manners are for rebels. That's why I love me a Virgo. Ya'll have manners but in the STRANGEST and loveliest ways. For example, you can always count on a Virgo to have an opinion. And share it. But a Virgo opinion isn't a character assassination, it's merely fact and logic formed with interest. Ya'll manage to say things that others could never get away with because your manners are on the inside, closest to the heart, and you never desire to hurt folks or drag 'em down. Some signs could take a lesson in this department though I will try to mind my manners and not mention which ones. Interestingly enough, your candor and honesty (which is almost always spot-on) can make people think you have no soft spots of your own. But your ability to see into others with a new light is second to your ability to be wounded deeply by those who can't see you clearly at all. Try to offer forth a little patience with these characters. Not everyone will understand you because you are unique, and different from them, and it might take a while for that to shine out. It's not personal. And they'll get some manners of their own, eventually.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
We all have so much stress wrapped up in money. Libra is no different, even with all the balance and Zen and so on associated with Libra folks, money can still bring up all sorts of tricky issues. Toward the end of the month, money will loom large and in charge, and you can cower, cry in a corner eating cheetos, or decide that money is just math, not magic, and while you yourself may not feel all mathy and brilliant in the moment, they have these new-fangled things called calculators which do the adding, and in this case, subtracting. The upside is that you are better prepared right now than most to handle some weird financial blip and your Zen will return right after tax day in mid-April. That's not long to wait for Zen, now is it? You Libras and your ability to remain upright in a flood, I tell you what. Share a little of that rowboat with a Cancer girl? please?

SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
Scorpio folks are at better at justification than anyone! Ya'll rock the self-propelled visionary bunch o' baloney. A songwriter friend of mine from back home and I were on the phone the other night and he was telling me a story, telling me he had to get out of a particular personal situation real soon. And he said, "What you never meant can become your life." Leave it to a songwriter to sum up some profound sh*t in one line. March is a good month for Scorpios to tie up some loose ends (and that is a nice way of saying "Get rid of the stuff you don't want to become your whole life.") It's real easy to fall into the comfort of a thing, the rhythm and cadence and measure of something because it's ... well, because it's there. It's available. It happens to be there at the time and you're too lazy or unmotivated to change it so you let it go on, then go on for too long. Don't allow something you never meant to become your whole life just because you're real real good at making up an excellent justification bunch o' baloney excuse.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
I wrote your forecast last this month, usually I write Cancer or Capricorn last. But Sag has an interesting chart (say that like you mean it and you, too, can be a prognosticator) for March and April. Maybe it's because my own family is coming out to visit that I get a family vibe strong over here, but ya'll will have family either in your hair, on your mind, in in your house for some or part of this time and they will teeter between driving you insane and making you insanely happy to have them. Also, after the solar eclipse on the 18th there's the big ol' spring equinox on the 21st and after this turning point, and it is a turning point not just on the axis of the planet but on the axis of your well-being, you are off and set for a REALLY REALLY good rest of the year. It will be in so many ways what you've been looking toward for all these long months, what you've been hoping for and praying to happen. It's like the calmness you really wanted and wished for your home life will truly, really, madly materialize and you'll get the small, calm center you held out hope for. I feel really excited about Sagittarius in '07. I will even share my Year of The Pig with ya'll.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
"When you change, people either change with you or they leave your life forever." I heard a friend say that recently and it immediately reminded me of a Capricorn in March. Capricorns have had a change rollercoaster going on since about this time last fall and I know it felt like everything was moving too fast and out of control for your little control enthusiast hands to grab onto. Things dipped and slowed into a holding pattern or horror for a brief period last month, and now you're back on the ride. You're maybe wondering if it WILL EVER STOP. When will you regain control? When will you be back in the driver's seat motoring the car of your life? I hate to give advice based upon such things as vernal equinoxes and planets and ache in my bones and so on, but here goes. You are already in the driver's seat! You are already firmly inside your own life. The trick is to find the parts of this rollercoaster that are fun and exciting and new and instead of saying, "Oh God. What the hell is coming next?" you say, "Hmmm. That was inneresting! Wonder what the heck is up next! I hope it comes with chocolate! and shopping!" It really is that simple. (I didn't say it was easy... just simple. Very different thing.)

Posted by laurie at 1:38 PM

March 3, 2007

In lieu of astrology, I present: Awakening (because I am tired, but awakened)

I had a yard sale at my house today, the third and FINAL EVER yard sale. Faith is a yard sale specialist and encouraged me to have this one. She and her husband Michael live in a house so clutter-free you'd just feel a zen calm wash over you the minute you walk in. She's been a big cheerleader in my desire to de-clutter.

About two months ago I started putting things in the garage. Specifically, anything that started with "Mr. X and I..." as in, "Mr. X and I bought this on vacation in so-and-so..." or "I got this table when Mr. X and I moved into the condo in Studio City..." Anything that was mostly tied up in "Mr. X and I..." went into the garage.

Today when we were having the yard sale, people arrived early (darn earlybirds!) and I was still hauling stuff out of the garage, box after box afterbox after hefty bag.

"Oh dear," said one crazed earlybird attendee. "You have so much stuff! Is there even anything left in the house? Are you moving? Is it empty?"

And in that moment I looked out on the driveway, the yard, the whole sidewalk covered in STUFF. I saw so clearly in my exposed bags and boxes of junk store and tag-sale clutter the pain of my unhappy marriage, all the times I shopped to make myself feel better, even if all I could afford was shopping at Big Lots or a thrift store. I shopped. I bought to fill up the empty. I shopped and shopped and shopped and hoped for a better life, to finally fill fulfilled, to be whole and surrounded.

And later in the day my friends arrived at the yard sale, my oldest friend Jennifer and her sister Penny, and also my newest friends, too, women I love and admire and am so proud to know. I found people to be surrounded by, somehow, in my good luck and blessed life. People, not junk! I love my friends, I love not needing to buy something to make me feel worthwhile.

I'm so happy that I can actually invite them into my house and they are not eclipsed by my junk, having to avoid whole rooms ("the office.") It's weird ... I was so scared to let go of some of that stuff today. Would I be sad? Would I feel lonely? Would I feel poor again, without, less than?

But I felt so FREE! And ya'll, I am proud to tell you I made a dollar off selling someone a frame containing the picture of me and one Mr. X.

"Here, buy this pretty frame, that's me and my ex-husband, you take him! One dollar, bargain at any price!"

Amen, ya'll. AMEN.

Posted by laurie at 7:52 PM

March 2, 2007

Chatty Cathy and the endless puffballs, oh! And some questions answered.

Stitch 'n Bitch last night was fun and furry, especially if you sat next to me and my giant pom poms of acrylic.

(Imagine a real nice picture here. I forgot to whip out my camera.)

Wrapping the Lion Brand bulky wool-ease round and round on the pom pom form was a fine activity for me at a SnB, since I tend to do more visiting than actual knitting. But once I began the crucial "join halves and cut yarn" stage, little pieces of yarn dust went everywhere and left a fine patina of fuzz on all surrounding knitters.

Well, it isn't a visit with me unless you're covered in some kind of fuzz and/or cat hair, I suppose!

Recently I got a few knitting-related questions and thought I'd answer them here.

Okay I have eagle eyes with my knitting. It doesn't take me long to figure out when I have messed up. The only problem is that I don't ever know how to fix my mistake without just undoing the whole project and starting again. I probably made the mother of all mistakes by removing my needles. I am about to scream. What do I do? Brooke

Hi Brooke!
There are so many ways to fix mistakes without having to unravel all your awesome knitting. You can "unknit" which is where you sort of knit in reverse and take back what you started with, a total do-over for knitting. Just dip that needle backwards into the loop sitting on your right needle and get started "un-knitting." Now I tend to get my stitches all sitting bassackwards on the needles when I do this, but whatever. I can flip 'em around when it's time to knit them.

Or check out this page of videos from KnittingHelp.com. It shows how to fix some common knitting mistakes.

My philosophy is that heck, if you're just going to rip the whole mess out anyway, might as well try some techniques that feel weird or that you do a little wrong first time around. Why not try it! After all, if it all goes to hell in a handbag you can rip it out and start from scratch.

Now if only dating were that easy.

Another question. Let's hear it for "shoe number" awww yeah!!

I just recently discovered you when searching for a standard formula or decreasing the crowns on hats. Which brings me to my question: I have 112 stiches (small gauge!), what is a good shoe number would you say? Also, if my shoe number is pretty big, should I start decreasing sooner than I normally would? Thank you so much!

Hi Sarah!
First, I love you. You said "shoe number" in a sentence. LOVE YOU!!

For your hat, I would definitely knit up until a point where you can try your hat on and only see a little of your head poking out. I myself like quick decreases -- if you decrease slowly over a looooong number of stitches, you get a pointy cap. Good for some folks, not so good for those of us with ginormous foreheads. Heh.

Not suggesting you have a big forehead! Just making conversation. You know. Moving on.

I have never knit a 112-stitch cast on hat, but if I did I would probably pick 14 as my shoe number. So you will knit 12 stitches and then knit two together. Knit 12, K2tog.

Then on the next row, Knit 11, knit two together. And so on.

Please let me know how this turns out! And please forgive me if I gave bad advice. I will have to knit up a 112 stitch hat soon and see if I just led you down a perilous path. But still... shoe number. I love you.

Hi Laurie,
Looking for some help on a cardigan-sweater that has a trim about 2" going all the way up and around neck, shoulders and back down. My problem is I can't seem to get the corners right. How do you make corners? The pattern says to increase on the first stitch at the bottom and again at the last stitch before the neck... I've looked in all my knitting books with no answer. There are four corners - two on the bottom front and two on top front. Gah! I hope you know what I mean and can answer me soon. Going crazy.
Thanks, Raven

Raven! Now you see why I do not knit sweaters! I would be standing out on the corner of 4th and Main directing traffic with a bra on my head and talking into a stitch counter.

However, I am posting your question in hopes that one of the awesome (and sweaterly smart) readers can help you. I myself am still trying to get my pom poms correct half the time!

Hi, Aunt Purl!
I need some good advice. I have a favorite (and expensive) sweater that needs some loving care. Is there a place in LA that you would recommend for that sort of thing?
Thanks for your help!

Hey Sharon, do you need your sweater laundered or repaired? I know that our Los Angeles gals can recommend some great tailors/repair places/drycleaners so I am posting this even though I myself do not have an answer. Apparently I am filled with helpy desires today, but no real information. STORY OF MY DAMN LIFE.

Hi Laurie,
I would (really) like to start attending Stich'n'Bitch meetings but (and this is stupid because I am not outwardly a shy person) I feel very shy about it. Is it really OK just to turn up? The reason I ask because I have not had the greatest experience with groups knitting in LYS. I figure the reason they completely ignore me is because, for the most part, the people sitting around knitting are paying to be taught to knit, and thus they don't need to deal with me (who alas can not afford to be a regular at any LYS), but it has left me weirdly anxious that it all seems very cliquey. That or I really am just invisible.
-- Samantha

Hi Samantha!

I am so so glad you asked this.

Last night Faith was driving me back to my car after Stitch 'n Bitch. And we were talking about how hard it is to leave your house, leave the bubble, get out into the fray and knit with strangers.

"If you walked around our whole loud, happy, chatty table tonight and asked each person individually how they felt the very first time they showed up for Stitch 'n Bitch, they would all have the EXACT same answer. Every single one of them. Even me!" she said.

"Were you nervous?" I asked. It surprised me a little. Faith is not a woman who I think of as nervous, or scared.

"I was TERRIFIED!" she said. Laughing. "I was so scared! You walk in all shy and scared with your knitting, asking yourself the whole time, 'Will I fit in? What the heck am I doing here?' and everyone, everyone, has that fear the first time."

And if I hadn't gone to Stitch 'n Bitch with Jennifer that very first time, I'd have never met Faith, or Ellen, or any of the beautiful, lovely and kind women who make me feel welcome even though I sometimes say THE STUPIDEST THINGS and never actually knit anything at all during the evening.

And so Samantha, I hope you go. Yes, you will be nervous and yes it will feel weird the first time. But, um, so did sex and bicycle riding and pop-rocks and the side-ponytial. All great things which were a little awkward the first time around.

And unlike the side-ponytail ... it does get better.

I think knitters are some of the best folks around. You really can show up at Stitch 'n Bitch and just say, "Hey, I'm new! Nice to meet everyone!" and people at our SnB always introduce themselves and try to include folks in the conversation. It may take a few times to get comfortable (or, if you're me, a few years) but hey... progress is progress, right?

And in the end, what do you have to lose by going and trying? Will you just up and die of shame right on the spot if it's uncomfortable? I have to ask myself these questions all the time. I am always having to give myself a stern talking-to. "What is the very worst that will happen and can I survive it?" and when I ask myself like that, sometimes my fears seem rather dumb. I know how hard it is to go meet new people and get outside the comfort zone. But I did it, and now most of my friends are gals I met at Stitch 'n Bitch! I love all my SnB friends, they are some of the brightest, funniest, kindest women (and men!) I have ever met. I hope you have good luck at your local gathering and keep me posted!!

And I just want to say thank you to Bridget, whose name I hope I am spelling correctly. I met her last night for the first time. Thank you for reminding me why I leave my house even when I would rather stay home and eat Cheetos off my chest. Thank you for the kind words, and I am so glad you left your house and came to Stitch 'n Bitch!!

p.s. Horoscopes coming... uh. Sometime this weekend? Work is hard. I need a snickers break of approximately twelve weeks.

Posted by laurie at 12:28 AM