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Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I am a color junkie. I love it, crave it, am entranced by it. My color sense is so finely attuned that I can glance at a pair of shoes, go shopping for hours, and buy a purse that exactly matches - or very close, because I can see the tiniest variations in color that no one else notices.

My favorite thing to play with when I was little was my box of 64 Crayola crayons. I went through a lot of boxes. Back then, before they got creative with the color names, most of them were called what they were. For example, you had Yellow, Yellow Green, Green Yellow, Green, Green Blue, Blue Green, and so on. The browns had names like Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Mahogany, and plain old Brown. Later I found out the siennas and umbers were the same as artists' paint colors. The fancy names were for the pastels: Carnation Pink, Salmon, Thistle, Periwinkle, Lemon, Lavender, Orchid, Sky Blue, Sea Green.

I used to love to take plain paper and color random patches, trying out colors next to each other to see what looked pretty and what didn't. I'd lay down patches in the order of the colors to see how they shaded into each other, though I hadn't yet heard of a color wheel. It didn't take long until I noticed that Thistle was a pastel Red Violet and Periwinkle was a pastel Blue Violet. To this day I think with those color names. I'm wearing a Thistle colored sweater right now.

Why am I not an artist? I almost was. As a child and teen I drew constantly. When I got to college - a small liberal arts college with no evening classes - I wanted do double-major in English and Art. I was told I couldn't. So I flopped a coin to decide between them and it came up English. I should have just changed colleges. After school, the time constraints of earning a living weeded out most of my hobbies. What small talent I may have had in drawing and painting is gone. My color fixation these days expresses itself in my knitting, my wardrobe, my makeup, and my home.

My color fascination extends to people. The endless variations of browns the human race comes in is delicious. Literally, because most of them remind me of food. I see caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, toast, coffee with and without cream. The only skin tones I don't associate with food are the assorted pinky-beiges that Caucasians tend to come in. Hair, also, is variations of brown. Look down in the mosh pit at a rock concert. Yellow-brown, red-brown, browns all the way from sienna to deepest umber. We're all brown. Only the tone varies, really, and all are luscious.

I know people who are afraid of color. Their entire house is painted white, all their furniture and carpeting is beige. I know people who wear nothing but black. I couldn't do it. Living without color would be to me half a life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas cards

I really miss Christmas cards. I can tell by the stores that most people are still sending and receiving them. Not my friends and family. I used to send out 40-50 cards, now only the Moms get them. I get one from my Mom and a couple from aunts and uncles. Frankly, I get more advertising-type cards (ie. from my dentist) than real ones!

I used to send and receive cards from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Now the grandparents are deceased, as are many of the aunts and uncles, and the cousins drifted away as we've moved and don't know each others' new addresses. I have cousins I only "talk" to on Facebook, and cousins I haven't heard from in 20 years or more. The annual Christmas card and newsletter from some of them was the only contact we seemed to have, and now even that's gone.

None of my friends send cards. Some don't "do Christmas." Others are of other faiths - this is understandable, though I get (and appreciate) a newsletter at this time of year from some Jewish friends in another state. Others just don't bother. "Oh, cards are a waste of money." It makes me sad. It used to be such a thrill to get a card or letter in the mail, and these days we only get bills and ads.

The last year I sent out a lot of cards, I sent out 35, and received 3. Of the 35, no fewer than 10 came back "moved, no forwarding." It made me want to cry.

I have saved every Christmas card I ever received, in a plastic bin under the bed. I keep thinking I'll use them for crafts, but when I pull them out and look at them I can't bear to cut them up. So back they go. I'm probably too sentimental, and have definite pack rat (these days it's hoarder, but I'm not that bad) tendencies. But just looking at the handwriting of people I love seems to bring them closer.

I think I'll buy a box of Christmas cards, and send out a few - to people who still send me one, and to people whose addresses I'm sure of. I think I'll even write a newsletter. I haven't done that for a while because life got pretty grim the last few years, but it's looking up. Maybe I'll spark someone to send one to me. I hope so. It was always part of Christmas magic.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Autumn leaves
In brilliant colors
Release their trees
And dance on the wind,
One last flush of bright
Before forever dust.
When I am ninety
I will dye my hair
The color of autumn leaves
And dance.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving past

Every Thanksgiving I remember a long time ago, when Grandma and Granddad Smith were alive, and before all the cousins began to marry off. We'd have Thanksgiving in Reece, Kansas at the grandparents' place. They had a gigantic dining room table that could seat most of us. Mom and Dad, Mom's three brothers and their wives, me and nine more cousins, if the California Smiths could come; they couldn't every year. Each family would bring food, and Grandma would cook up a storm. The table would be covered. Turkey and ham, two kinds of stuffing, countless cooked vegetables and salads, dinner rolls and corn bread. Out in the kitchen would be at least three kinds of pie and cake for the people who didn't like pie.

Every single year, just as we sat down - Grandma at the short end nearest the kitchen and Granddad at the other end - Grandma would gasp, and in a horrified voice, say, "We don't have enough food!" And she'd be deadly serious. We ate all day and I swear everyone took home more food than they brought.

After dinner, all the women would head for the kitchen to clean and divvy up the food. All the men would park in front of The Game. The cousins would divide up. The older ones would go off and do teenager things, and even though I was only 3 years younger, I'd go play with the three youngest ones. We'd go out in the big yard, close to the woods near the creek, and we'd play. Cowboys and Indians, pirates, in the sandbox, with a ball, on the swing, whatever. I played with them even though I was a teenager too. I'd rather have still been a kid. Being a teenager never seemed like much fun.

The years passed. The older cousins began to marry and go elsewhere for Thanksgiving. Granddad died, Dad died, Grandma sold the house and moved to a retirement home, and the old family Thanksgiving was over forever. But never, never forgotten. Mom's still alive, thank God, and two aunts and one uncle. The cousins now have grandkids. Thanksgiving now is just Mom, my husband, and me.

And a lot of memories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


What am I thankful for this year? Many things.

That my husband and I are still alive. We both had life-threatening illnesses this year. I'm fully recovered, but with some challenges that will be with me forever. My husband has recovered from the worst of it but has lingering problems that still need medical assistance. Considering what we went through, we're both in pretty good condition.

That I was able to find another part-time job. It's not big money but it's enough to scrape by on.

That my Mom is not only still alive, but still bright and active.

For all my friends, who have been terrific during this hard year, giving love and support, as well as car rides, grocery pickup, and cat care.

I am grateful for thrift shops. I dropped 40 pounds with this illness, going from a size 20 to a 16, and had to buy a work wardrobe with very little money. Being able to buy slacks and blazers for $4-$6 each saved me.

I am grateful for electronic publishing, which is permitting me to self-publish my novels without a) having so pay megabucks and b) having to store hundreds of copies somewhere in my tiny place. I won't make any money off them but at least they're out there.

That I was able to keep my front teeth, and didn't have to do chemo.

That I live in Albuquerque.

That I have five wonderful, sweet, snuggly cats that are all in good health though two are quite elderly.

That Terry Pratchett has written all those books, and can probably write at least a few more before his disease takes over.

Monday, November 5, 2012

That's not friendship

When you're breaking up with someone, for pity's sake just break up with them. To grind someone's heart into powder and then want to "stay friends" is cruel and shows you have no capability of feeling for anyone but yourself.

I have a friend who was just walked out on by her husband of 10 years, who told her he never loved her. Then he had the incredible assholiness to say, "You're my best friend." Well, I would hate to see how he treats his worst enemy. This is callousness to the nth degree.

Once I had my heart broken by someone who insisted after the breakup we should stay friends. All that did was prove he didn't understand anything about what it feels like to love someone wholeheartedly, and have that person tell you he doesn't love you. We'd been together over two years. I threw his offer of friendship back in his face, just as hard as I could. (Later I tore up every picture I had of him, sprinkled the bits into the toilet, peed on them, and flushed. It was very therapeutic.)

Now both of these examples are men dumping women, but it's not limited to that. Women will use this same line when dumping men, same-gender couples use it too. Obviously the people mouthing that garbage have never had it used on them. It doesn't ease the breakup, which is what I hope they're trying to do. What it does is rub salt into the fresh wound. What it translates into is "I don't love you, but I want to hang around so you can still see what you can never have."

This isn't friendship, and I hope anyone who gets this line handed to them gives a piece of their mind rather than accepting the 'friendship.' I can think of a couple obvious replies:
"No, we can't."
"My friends treat me much better than this."

Anyone care to comment with their own reply to that line?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


A woman died the other day,
Starved to death for beauty’s sake.
Dead is worse than fat, I’d say,
And I’ve been fat since I was eight.

Step up on that magic box,
Step into a paradox.
If the number’s up your heart is down;
Hey, we can’t all weigh a hundred pounds.

There’s compact cars and Cadillacs,
Siberian tigers and domestic cats.
Even flowers come dainty or bold,
Why must women be of one mold?

Self-image by the numbers,
Even now the myth endures:
You’ll never be too rich or thin,
And only beauties are allowed to win.

                    Old poem, written when anorexia claimed the life of Karen Carpenter, one of my favorite singers. With the current War on Fat People I think it's relevant again. I support Health at Every Size, and am against body snarking - though I'll admit it's a hard habit to break. I'm inspired by Ragen Chastain's blog Dances With Fat. Check it out.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ah, knitting

I have always been a crafts nut. Over the course of my life I’ve done sewing, quilting, decoupage, embroidery, decorative chocolates, oil painting, tole painting, needlepoint, T-shirt decorating, beading, jewelry making, lapidary, ceramics, mosaics, glass painting, doll-making, picture framing, model making, latch-hook and punch rugs. I built a doll house and furniture for it.

While I still dabble in a few of these, the one that I’ve always gone back to is knitting. It’s only in recent years that I’ve branched out into more adventurous knitting. In the past I’ve always knitted plain things so I could do it while I watched television.

I learned how to knit at the age of eight. My Mother and her Mother were both crocheters, and tried many times to teach me. I could not get the hang of it. Then my Mom’s church group took on the project of knitting bandages for a leper colony. (This was around 1962. They still had leper colonies.) These had to be done about two inches wide and as long as possible, out of special thread, on thin needles in garter stitch. I was fascinated. Mom, on the other hand, hated knitting. She told me she could show me how to knit, purl, cast on, and bind off, and that was it. Anything else I’d have to learn on my own.

I wound up knitting half her quota.

Mom took me shopping, and we bought a little booklet of beginner patterns, some Red Heart acrylic yarn in luscious colors (for me, the fiber content has always played second fiddle to the colors), and a pair of 14 inch size 7 straight aluminum needles colored a frightful chartreuse. I still have them.

For the next few years, everyone I knew got garter-stitch scarves for Christmas. I think my Dad was the only one who ever wore his.

I didn’t learn much else for many years. I tried out many more crafts, and even had a part-time job in a crafts store after college. During college, I embroidered more than anything, even doing a tablecloth and matching napkins for my Mom for Christmas one year. I still embroider a bit – it’s my second favorite craft. For the first time in my life, I ran into other girls who knitted. And they did sweaters.

The thing that kept me from trying more complicated knitting was always the patterns. They’re so hard to read! I did my first sweater in the 1980s, a T-shirt type. That broke the ice, and I started knitting sweaters. I began to find and buy knitting books. Mind you, this was long before all those lovely how-to-knit videos on the internet – even before the internet! I didn’t know a soul who knitted, and if there were any yarn shops in the area that gave classes, I never heard of them. I bought my supplies at fabric stores or the precursors to Wal-Mart. Red Heart was the only yarn I ever saw, and only in worsted weight except for the baby-pastel sport yarns. In my life I have never taken a single knitting class.

Just in the last decade, I’ve started to attempt more complicated knitting. I learned to knit mittens and socks in the round on double-pointed needles. I attempted simple lace. I designed a few basic sweaters.

Then for a program at the library I used to work at, I started a knitting group. People, find yourself a group! Hang out in yarn stores! I learned more from those ladies in six months than I learned in my entire life up to then. Magic loop. Kitchener stitch. How to read a knitting pattern CHART – so much clearer than knitting code! Having someone show you is so much easier than getting it from a book. I’m now adept at cables, and getting there in complicated lace. What I’d give to have learned all this in my 20s! Life isn’t long enough for all I want to try. Endless patterns! Endless colors and color combinations! There’s no way to get bored with knitting. No one could ever learn everything.

The grim reaper will arrive, and I’ll probably give him the interrupted knitter’s mantra: “Just let me finish this row.”