PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Friday, December 31, 2004


The volume of spam I have been receiving at my office account has dropped dramatically this week. Spammers must take vacations, too! However, the vicodin and zanax and codeine peddlers still keep me on their list, even through the holidays. They know it can take some strong stuff to get through this time of year.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:25 AM | link |

Humiliation & Elation

The great thing about Polly the WunderLab, is that she is ebullient. She is excited. She loves EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY, and her biggest drawback is that she thinks she's a 10# lap dog & should be allowed to lean/climb up onto anyone and everyone who gives her the time of day.
So, needless to say, getting her into her hunting vest from Cabela's is a walk in the park. You just have to tell her she's SO PRETTY and she has a blast. She runs around and shows everyone how pretty she is, and is a-ok in it.
Not so much with Suzy.
My husband didn't exactly fawn and dote all over Suzy in her formative years, so she developed a more reserved personality. She's a lover, and she's friendly, but she doesn't have that second-child clownish persona, and she's quite content to be a little more reserved, a little more austere, to walk the Grace Kelly route and be a little above the fray. Which means she HATES her hunting vest. She will barely walk when it's on, and the only word that perfectly captures her expression? BALEFUL. That dog looks like she is trying to squash murderous thoughts, but the homicidal tendencies are winning.
I submit to you, dear readers, the photographic evidence. Our stomachs hurt from laughing, I'm sorry to say, mostly at Suzy's expense.

Luckily for Suzy, she's got a very thick winter coat & won't be needing her vest the way Polly does.

Luckily for us, she didn't kill us in our sleep.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:03 AM | link |

I FEEL FABULOUS! I am PRETTY, and this vest just makes me feel like hunting or going to Paris, whichever comes first.  Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:03 AM | link |

This is the most humiliating moment of my life, next to last night, when you put this blasted thing on me the first time. Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:02 AM | link |

*I* do not understand what her deal is, lady. *I* feel extra pretty in mine. Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:02 AM | link |

I am going to shut my eyes, and pray that when I open them, this thing will be off. Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:01 AM | link |

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ye Three Queens

Today, I almost threw my FagHag badge of honor out the window. I was behind three 'family' men in line at Costco, and I will acknowledge upfront that I was operating under the influence of no food, or virtually no food, because there were not many grazing opportunities in the aisles of Costco today & I only had a sliver of grilled chicken breast & a small paper cup of "rice bowl". Given that it's been unseasonably warm, no large building structure has figured out that when it is 60 degrees outside, having the heat on high is no longer necessary, no matter what the calendar says. So it was boiling hot, and Gay Man #3 had committed the first atrocity, not putting the divider bar on the belt. It would be the first of many he and his trio would commit.
GM #1 apparently was the only cardholder of the bunch. So that meant three transactions with the card being handed back and forth as Edmonika tried to keep everything straight. PUN INTENDED. (Also, I am not kidding, that was her name, on my receipt. I wondered as I left, did her parents combine their names? Is it a family name? What the hell?) At this point, I am pissed that I picked this line. And starting to get the shakes, while getting a little sweaty, which makes me feel sub-pretty, and not just a little pukey. So I want these fruitcakes to hurry it the F up, and I'm giving them all sorts of leeway, because I love my gay men, and 90% of the time the connection is instant. Not so today! They are buying TONS of wine, which means overriding the age/date of birth crap every time. And they have three huge jugs of vegetable oil. Wine & vegetable oil. Huh. Midnight tomorrow night was going to be VERY interesting, wherever this trio was. I was envisioning things I should never, ever imagine. Oh! And a bottle of Baileys, that never made it out of the cart. Whups! That's GM #1's bottle of Baileys, we'll need to do a fourth transaction real quick like. GM #3 could not figure out how to work the card swiper. Dude. It's a flick of the wrist, and please, do not, do NOT make me have to show you how. You are standing between me and a dollar-fifty hot dog plus drink, I am sweaty, I have low blood sugar, and I feel dangerously close to morphing into the elderly lady who works at Hobby Lobby when she gets close to lunch break and starts barking about her diabetes and low blood sugar and how she HAS GOT TO EAT RIGHT NOW. So in a post-Christmas fashion, I dedicate a little song to you, for driving me insane for 15 minutes at a low blood sugar moment in my life.

Ye three queens, disoriented are.
Buying wine, you'll haul to your car.
Yield your cash card, you should be barred,
My afternoon you'll mar.

O men who blunder, shoes so light,
Can't get a transaction right,
Still not speeding, still not breeding,
You're still the ones in whom I delight.

posted by PlazaJen, 4:16 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Discombobulation Day

Man, I'm gonna sink into a depression if something upbeat & positive doesn't happen SOON! I can barely watch the footage of the aftermath of the tsunami, I keep checking the lists of Americans who died, because I'm terrified I'll see my co-worker Angela, who went home to Malaysia at the beginning of December, and now Jerry Orbach, my beloved Lenny from Law & Order has just died. Is this what getting older is all about? Surviving?
My father & his family left a day early, because he was in excruciating pain from his shoulder & he just wanted to get home (and to his chiropracter). I understand it, but it's disappointing. The time we had together was way too short, and I also realized partway through, my expectations for the time we'd spend together were far too grandiose. Not that I thought we'd be all Algonquin Round Table and sit around and talk non-stop, but I also didn't get time alone with him, really. It's like I expected the kinds of talks we have on the phone - but you can't get that because there's four other people sitting there & it's impolite to exclude them. And they're nice people, I just don't know them that well, two of them are teenagers, given to fits of apathy & silence.
James is gone through Sunday, he was barely here & we've had very little time together one-on-one with the holidays & family & his hunting - I miss him, even more today. Especially having awoken from a dream this morning in which he was having a torrid affair & using his duck hunting as a "cover". Putting that in print makes me laugh, but it's funny how our dreams take tiny grains of an idea, or insecurity, or even something you laughingly referenced, and blow them up into a full-scale movie production that leaves you sweaty & slightly dizzy when you stagger out of the theater of the mind.

So now is the point where I should really start to relax, right? I might just give myself the luxury of a nap, and then I'll decide if I'm going furniture shopping. I've got to clean up the house & do some grocery shopping - but right now, I just want there to be a little peace in the world. People to not die, people to be safe, happy, and in good health. I have a dog who loves to hug me, so that's a blessing I'll count. I have a husband who loves me & is off doing what he loves. I have a father who loves me & stays in my life - even from afar. I am going to trust that everything else will just be OK, & hope the nap shakes off some of my discombobulation!
posted by PlazaJen, 11:30 AM | link |

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Last Laugh

So on learning to be more flexible, and to do more with family, I awoke at 5:15 a.m. yesterday & prepared for my annual post-holiday shopping spree, with Grandma Dorothy in tow this year. The poor thing had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. to drive up with Grandpa for the hunting trip with James, and she was not only tired, but cold. So I give her a four-star merit badge for Shopping Trooper, because we shopped until nearly noon. Interestingly enough, the woman is also a deer magnet. On the drive up, a deer passed behind them and bonked the back of their sedan (no damage to either moving object), and as we were heading down State Line Road at 6 a.m., two deer crossed in front of us. We marveled at Deer in the City, only to realize a THIRD deer was running alongside the Civic. GOOD GRIEF! I stopped and let it cross as well, and, laughing, we were off to shop. Shop, shop shop. The deals were not as bountiful as I'd hoped, but I did get re-stocked on wrapping paper, boxes, bows & bags, and got some little gifties that will be good for giving through the year.

The menfolk got back home to potato & ham soup, and sitting next to Dorothy's luggage (for they were going to stay with us last night, Grandpa going hunting with James again in the morning), Grandpa changed his shoes and gruffed, "OK Dorothy, let's get going, we gotta get the camera back to Sandy's, stop by Linda's and then get home, because I'm meeting them at the boat ramp at 7 a.m. tomorrow down south."

Dorothy's face was what you'd see if you looked up "What the FUCK?" in the dictionary. "What?" she said, omitting the part I would have said.

Grandpa repeated himself. I said, "So you're telling me you're going back home tonight?"
James said, "Yes! We're duck hunting tomorrow at ~whatever whatever, I can't keep these duck hunting places straight ~ and Grandpa's meeting us in the morning."

Dorothy looked fit to be tied. She was planning (and had packed for) a couple of nights up in the city, not to mention some gambling, and spending time with all her relatives. Now, nearly 12 hours later, she was headed back for home.

The opening was so perfect. So appropo on the heels of our discussion from the night before, about James' wish that I would be more flexible with family stuff.

I said, "Dorothy, you just gotta be more *flexible*."

James looked like I had popped him in the nose. I couldn't stop laughing. I added, "I would be SO MAD if it were me!" And don't get me wrong, she WAS mad. I bet that was a looong ride home for Grandpa.

I award her a Red Star of Homicidal Restraint.

posted by PlazaJen, 11:05 AM | link |

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Learning to Have Family.....

When I was growing up, my family was, essentially, my mother & my father. A black lab was my stand-in sibling. There were very few visits with family, we would see my dad's sister every so often, and I adored her. My mother's family was always at arm's length, and most visits were obligatory and had lots of kvetching on the front & back ends.
So I don't know how to "have family", I've concluded. My husband has a pretty large circle of family, that gathers together for everything, and attendance is expected. Spending time together is mostly desirable, and spending more time together is a "bonus". Another foreign concept for me.

I've been challenged today to be more flexible. To give more of my time to family, because they are, in essence "my family". And they're not bad, or awful, or too insane as far as family goes. The most certainly give me lots to laugh at! James invited his grandfather to go hunting with him tomorrow, and the next day, and in doing so, invited his grandmother to spend all day, and possibly the next day, too, with me! And I did not react well, both in front of family (that was more just pursed lips and big eye glances) and then once they left, the Discussion took place. Actually, several Discussions took place. One, I was raised that when you have company, everything has to be perfect, and you set aside your plans and time to devote completely to company. Two, I was not raised with doing things with family, and being an only child, I love having time to myself and react badly when it is taken away. Three, James is going to learn (and had an opportunity later that evening) to INCLUDE me in these discussions, to consult me & my plans, rather than just stating it will happen without regard to what I might want. Because that is the crux of the matter, here. I am planning to see Shelley for her birthday tomorrow, Mike & Gordon will hopefully stop by, and I was not planning on having to take care of anyone else but me. And when you consult the aforementioned Company Rules, my plans go out the window. That is when James said, "But they're NOT company. It's *family*."
And a little bulb went off, that this IS different somehow, and it's not something I know. So I'm not going to do it right all the time, but it also means it's an opportunity to learn to do it differently. And his grandmother is NOTHING if she's not a gamer. The woman will eat any kind of food - she may not like it, but she'll try it! I'll look through my library, too, for a good book to lend her - she likes to read, and rejected our Lemony Snickett books as "too depressing". I don't need to wait on her, we'll make chocolate cherry biscotti together, and I can do some of my own "stuff" without feeling guilty. I can try, anyway.

So, when James was talking to his mom on the phone later, and started to invite her along to the dinner out with my father, he caught himself, stopped, and asked me about it - which is really what I need most, to feel some part of the decision. Of course we want her to come along. THANK YOU for asking.

And as I was munching on the snack mix his grandmother left us, I said, "Does she use the standard Chex Mix recipe and add cheetos & nuts?" James replied, "I dunno." I couldn't resist. I said, "Oh, never mind. I'll be spending the next 48 hours with her - I'll just ask her then."

We both laughed. It's important to laugh, and what better place to start? With family.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:49 PM | link |

Friday, December 24, 2004


So many things to be happy about, and to be thankful for.
Last night, it was wonderful to see my friend Shelley sooooo happy. Borderline giddy. She has been with her boyfriend for over a year now, and they've had the standard (and unique) highs & lows, the wonderings of whether it will last, the deciding that it WON'T last to steel yourself for the heartbreak that doesn't quite come, and now that they've done some collective ironing, they've hit that wonderful, more-secure place and still have that NuLove giddiness about them. The metaphors that swirled through my head last night were akin to "fresh strawberries" or a very ripe peach, that first-bite burst that blows through your senses and taste buds and leaves you wanting more, more, MORE!
I told her once I envied her romantic love stage, where everything is new and exciting and bubbly. I don't actually envy it, actually - it's more like looking at old pictures that remind you of a really special trip and make you smile inside for a time you can only remember.
James came home yesterday and I was VERY ready for him to be home. From a practical standpoint (YOU put the dogs in the kennel and do the vacuuming!) to a deep inside ache of missing the man who loves me so completely, he loves me through the times when I can't love myself. I was very weepy last night, because we hadn't talked much in the past week, and so I had to talk about Becki dying, and about how I still struggle with my relationship (or lack thereof) with my mother & how this time of year seems to spotlight it and makes it harder to handle, and how much I MISSED HIM. And then we went to Shelley's Fifth Annual Ornament Exchange, and had a good time until Clancy the Cat's dander made James turn into a swollen-eyed, blinking allergy machine. So we came home and the bed was full again and both dogs were there and there was balance in the universe.

I like to think that the love we have now, the one that isn't new and shiny all the time, and has familiar grooves cut into it, with the familiar jokes and the little pieces like knowing how I like my coffee and how he would like me to pick him up a treat at the bakery and all those small little nuances that you don't even consciously have to THINK about are all there, and they make my heart burst with joy. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
posted by PlazaJen, 8:51 AM | link |

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Quick Knitting Update

I am feeling a little awkward, posting about olestra & the catastrophic results it had on me. So here's a quick knitting update to balance things - inside & out. :)

I have started the fronts for the Folly cardigan, and in the endless stockinette stage again. One thing I do for cardigan pieces, as well as sleeves, is to knit both at once, with two separate balls of yarn going. For the first time, yesterday, I actually switched halfway & turned around, resulting in two extra rows on one cardigan piece, and two rows behind on the other. THAT, my friends, is annoying cubed. But quick to fix, and now I'm sure to not set it down before both pieces have been done. I already want to make the Crystal Palace Merino Frappe Kimono that I have the yarn for, and I don't know why I'm itching to get going on that project, because that is just big squares of endless stockinette! I may need an in-between, highly-gratifying project. I shall pick from Scribble Lace, or perhaps a pair of socks, or perhaps - BOTH!
posted by PlazaJen, 3:37 PM | link |

The Olestra Chronicles

So, on my day off, I did some shopping at the WM Supercenter, and decided to get a couple bags of chips. I'd tried the Light Doritos from the vending machine, and was impressed. So I grabbed a bag of those, and a bag of Ruffles Light. I have always loved Ruffles Light. Especially compared to Lays, the ridges are just .... better.
Yesterday afternoon, after returning from mammoth shopping, I consumed probably three servings-worth of the Doritos. Back in my Serious Eating days, I could do at least half a bag, if not more. But I was having tomato soup with cheese tortellini later, and I didn't want to stuff myself.
I had THE WORST issues with The System that evening. I kept thinkin, "Huh! This is weird. I had pizza for breakfast (reheated, as I hate cold pizza, and when I am not working, I do NOT eat traditional food, ever, for breakfast.) Then I had chips, and soup, with some pasta. I wonder what I had yesterday?"
And didn't think anything more about it. Until I went to put the bag of Ruffles Light away this morning, and I saw the promotional line about "no fat". Wow! I thought. No fat? That's pretty cool. So I opened the bag & tried three-four chips. Yes, it was 8 a.m., but I was impressed. They were crunchy, and tasted even a little greasy. HOW could this be? This no fat thing must be wrong, it must be the new "no TRANS fat" thing that will sweep through all package labeling in 2005. Nope. No trans fat, but no fat at all, either. I looked at the ingredients, and BINGO! Olestra. Well, no wonder my stomach was so upset yesterday! I know, don't eat more than a serving's worth. But still - I mistakenly thought Olestra was off the market, because of that whole "leakage" issue and they had put all of the graphic side effects in a warning on the products - not a very appetizing sell, by the way. In any event, the mystery was solved, and I will NOT be consuming the Light products with gusto - I don't eat chips that often anymore, as it is, but I preferred the "light with fat" chips versus the "no fat light with olestra that turns your insides out" chips.

On a completely separate note, but certainly a more uplifting one, the "BIG" surprise at work was cold, hard cash. Not a ton, but not insignificant. Enough to feel cushy and have some fun shopping next week! So that's nice. If only I didn't want to desperately crawl under my desk and take a nap right now, I'd be more enthusiastic.....
posted by PlazaJen, 2:50 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

How I Ruined Christmas

Or, at least, this one SUV-drivin', in-a-hurry Beyotch's day.
In merely 30 seconds! Last time I checked, CostCo parking lots usually do not require, nor is it advisable, driving speeds in excess of 40 mph. Apparently my assumption is INSANE, because why would I ease out in front of said speeding SUV, that was turning a corner half a block away, to suddenly have said SUV almost in my back seat, honking at me?
I threw my hands up in the air because, unlike BeyotchLady in SUV, I did not feel like hitting the gas and barrelling forward in a CostCo parking lot, because I did not have Russian spies chasing me down, nor were bullets flying. Daggers from her eyes, yes, but I have a special deflector on the Honda that I installed. And she was SO PISSED, I could see in my 9-inch movie screen of a rear-view mirror, that she wanted to GET OUT of her SUV but I bet she was intimidated by the license plate frame, "I'd Rather Be Knitting", and you never know with us knitters, what we're packin'. I can stuff a ball of yarn down someone's throat in 20 seconds, and that's why I'm called "The Yarn Whisperer". OH but it was her misfortune to have to CONTINUE traveling behind me, and it made me laugh, and laugh, and LAUGH because, SERIOUSLY? are we getting this upset over traveling only 30 mph and you did not want anyone in front of you, despite a full parking lot and it's three days before Christmas? And then she went around me to the stop light where I could see the little 6-inch mirror reflection of her face as her lips got all pursed up and she was SCOWLING at me and shaking her head, which was a bit confusing because, when all was said and done, she still wouldn't have made the light, and she didn't lose any time, per se, due to the fat slow lady on her day off driving her Honda. I made my turn, she floored it through the intersection, and I thought, man, it sucks to have her for a mom/wife/roommate, because seriously, it is a cluster you-know-what out there right now in Shopatorium U.S.A., and there is NO REASON to get bent out of shape or pissed off because it's like a current - the more you fight against it, the more you stand a chance to drown. And certainly, if I could tell her ONE THING it would be, Merry Christmas. If I could tell her a second thing, it would be, SPEED KILLS.
posted by PlazaJen, 2:38 PM | link |

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Great Moments in History.

Winter. 1990? 1991?

Going downhill skiing for the third time (out of a total of four, ever), and sharing a lift with an attractive older man who obviously had his own, unrented gear, and goggles, and a very nice matching ski jacket & pants, and being what I deemed observant, and ever-gregarious, I said, "So! You ski much?"

He smiled & nodded.

We got off the lift, he schussed away, my friend was bent over laughing at me.

Me: "What?!"

Her, Gasping: "HE.....WAS......NATIONAL......SKI.....PATROL! AND YOU......SKI? ....MUCH?"

I guess he had a little patch on his jacket that indicated this.

Whatever. At least I was friendly, dammit. Still am, in fact.

posted by PlazaJen, 10:25 PM | link |

Manic Maniac

I loved loved loved that song, "She's A Maniac" by Hall & Oates..... and I rather enjoy days when I feel like a Manic Maniac. Having a strong suspicion that my own mother is manic depressive, among other things, I also feel a little frightened when my own enthusiasm & cheeriness & general disregard for social mores surfaces. Did you know if you do a google search for the word "mores" to make sure you don't need an accent mark, that most of the results are for "s'mores"? I feel very pinball manic today, and we can review the evidence supporting this:
1. Rep #14 called about the revisions, in a panic, because he had been out 'til 10:30 last night in Orange County. I bellowed, "I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR PARTY LIFE, JOHN. YOU NEED TO JUST GET THIS DONE!" and laughed, and he laughed, but a little nervously.
2. Two assistants are by the fax machine, sorting through the gajillion responses to the revisions. I point at them and shout, "THIS DAY SUCKS! THIS DAY DOESN'T SUCK AS MUCH AS YESTERDAY, BUT IT SUCKS!" They laugh and say it sucks more for them today. Mania or bonding, you make the call.
3. I have looked in my drawer three times for the safety pins I only rediscovered on Friday. Insanity is doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results? I have a very cluttered desk (shocker!) so I think I get a few do-overs before they haul me off to Two Rivers.
4. I DO NOT CARE (fill in the blank) (there are many choices). Not caring fills me with glee.
5. I am still grieving inside and ignoring it. The pendulum is swinging, and I want to stay on the not-sad half a few minutes longer.
6. I have tomorrow off, which makes me bark like a chihuahua.
7. I have told every rep the truth, which is that THIS SUCKS and that I am sorry.
8. Kristin told me some funny stories this morning, and I delighted in them ALL, some of which involve the insanity of other people. Does this make me a bad person? Or just grateful that I don't care? I laugh! I scoff! I knit! I shout!
9. There was a time when I wanted to check in to Two Rivers, just to escape it all. Then I went to their website and it turns out, I was really more interested in a day spa that I could have covered by insurance. Not to make light of people who need the services they offer - I think there have been times in my life it would have helped me, I just wasn't self-aware enough to recognize it.
10. I have run out of reasons why I'm crazy. I'm just recovering from yesterday, which ranks way up there as a "Jennifer And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." And that, my friends, is why it's time to stop blogging & go get a sloppy joe & find out if I did know who my secret santa was all along!
WILD EEP! and to all a good night. (Mac users will understand me.)

posted by PlazaJen, 11:21 AM | link |

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Pendulum Swingeth

Well, yesterday was overall a great day. It started with tears, both sad & joyous, as I read two separate articles in the paper - of course the "big story" across the country right now is the horrific murder of pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett, and because her killer (ok, alleged killer, but seriously, there's not a lot of "reasonable doubt" going on here) will be arraigned here in Kansas City, it feels even bigger because it is omnipresent. The use of the internet - both in connecting these women, and tracking down the killer - makes me wonder how this tool that binds can also sever - it swings both ways, physics in the matrix.
The other story was about a little boy who was battling cancer, and how Santa & his Elves made an acorn magically turn into a 30-foot pin oak, strung with lights. It's an awesome story and should inspire us all to look beyond our lists & plans & holiday stress.
You can read it here though you may have to register.
The rest of my day was great - blogging, getting to see Leta in my hat on and a little afternoon shopping with a friend.
This morning I had an email waiting for me, telling me that an old college friend was finally losing her battle with cancer. She developed breast cancer in 1994, only five years after graduation, and two years ago it spread to her brain, and while she initially fought it successfully, it has now has resurfaced viciously, in her diaphragm as well. She had gotten her Masters in Divinity after school, and I was always in awe of how she would counsel others in the hospital, while fighting her own battle inside. And I just this minute got an email from the friend who posted the news that Becki has died. Peacefully, at home, she just stopped breathing and let go.
When I got the first email, I cried bitterly in my office, behind a closed door. I chastised myself for not keeping in touch more, for being a pollyanna and believing that since she'd won the battle so many times before, she would live forever, or at least as long as the rest of us. I'm feeling sorry for myself because Becki, dear Becki, a woman I always viewed with admiration, and guilt, because I was well and she was sick, and in the deepest, most honest part of myself, some degree of terror, because she was going through all of this, and what strange cell formation might decide, inside me, to rebel and revolt and ultimately destroy me. The second email came somewhat as relief, to know her suffering is over, and that her passing was quick. I find it hard to focus on much of anything right now, especially work.

But I am going to focus on this: In 1998, shortly after I moved to Kansas City, the Women's Final Four basketball championship was taking place here. Becki, Joanna, and Sheila all came in and stayed with me, and we went to the big final game together. Becki had lost all of her hair from another round of chemo, and wanted me to paint her head. So I did. I put the entire logo for the games on her head. If I say so myself, it was an awesome replication. She got on ESPN, and the camera guy thought she was a total freak, and had shaved her head just for the game. Becki actually started to chicken out when we were getting close to the camera crew. I said, "Becki, we are getting you on tv. It's too late to back out now." and I went over and grabbed the camera guy & told him to check out my friend. After she realized it was going to happen, the butterflies flew away & she chirped, "I've got cancer!"
God love ya, Becki. You will live on in the hearts of so many people, most of whom will remember your peaceful nature, your sense of humor, your beautiful spirit. And I'll also remember your beautiful, bald, painted head and the smile when you saw it in the mirror.

posted by PlazaJen, 10:31 AM | link |

Sunday, December 19, 2004

One other craft project....

I didn't get a chance to take a picture before I sent it..... Heather Armstrong has an awesome blog, - introduced to me by my friend Kristin and I've been reading it every day since. Plus the archives. She showed me the wisdom in NOT posting a bunch of stuff about work on one's blog, and I chose to learn & implement that lesson an easier way than I usually do: trial by fire & it's usually the seat of my pants that are burnin'.
In any event, I sent her a hat I knitted for her daughter Leta, who has the most fabulous cheeks & great big eyes. Today, she posted a picture on her site of Leta in that hat, possibly miliseconds before she tore it off. I'm honored, and I hope you'll read her blog. She's part of my BlogAddiction routine each day - & should be part of yours!

posted by PlazaJen, 10:14 AM | link |

She's Crafty!

It's Picture Day here at Blogger!
I am putting up some pictures of recently completed projects, as well as a couple others..... and some obligatory doggie pix.
The Holiday Stocking for James is the one I made for him 4? years ago. It was one of those Bucilla felt kits, and with the hunting & fishing theme, I thought it would be perfect. I started it in October. I worked on it at lunch almost daily, and it took me until Mid-December to finish it. I HATE FELT PROJECTS. Naively, I thought the pieces came cut out. OH NO. You use teeny-tiny scissors & cut them out yourself! Note the little yellow circles behind the embroidered candle flame. The dangling stuffed trout. THE PINECONES. I look through a Mary Maxim catalog now & when I see felt projects, honestly, I shudder & recoil inside. Never, never again.
The Holiday Shardigan was worn to our company holiday gala on Friday night. It's fringey & sparkly, and exactly what I wanted. I adjusted the pattern to upsize it, as well as incorporate more yarns.
The aprons - Xmas pressies for our nieces, ages 8 & 6. Their GrammaLinda (my mother-in-law) loves to cook & they love to help her. I saw something similar for sale - around $10 an apron? I bought these half-off at Hobby Lobby ($2.99 for two!), used tracing paper & some white floss & stitched the phrase took less than an hour, because I watched last Sunday's Desperate Housewives while I was stitching and finished them both before the show was over.
Mother-in-Law Scarf - a simple feather & fan pattern, begun with a self-fringing section. Knit both pieces at the same time so you have a symmetrical scarf & graft the stitches at the halfway point. Stitches have since been grafted, BRAVISSIMO, one holiday gift done!
And, some pictures of Miss Polly. Since James is off on his hunting junket, it's just us here & we're having a lot of fun. Last night, I sang the silly Horatio Sanz song, "Wish it was Christmas Today" while jitterbugging around the kitchen in my pj's & slippers. Polly participated by jumping up & down and looking at me, thinking, "You're cah-ray-zay, Lady, but I love you!" Dat's what it's allllll about!
Oh, and one last pic, from the big snow the day before Thanksgiving. In honor of being my very own, special Snow Queen, self-appointed.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:45 AM | link |

The Stocking From HELL Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:37 AM | link |

Hand-embroidered aprons for our nieces....could they BE any cuter? Only if they were on them. Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:35 AM | link |

The Holiday Shardigan Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:35 AM | link |

The Mother-in-Law Scarf, pre-grafting Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:33 AM | link |

I love my dog. She is jumping up at me because I have taken so many pictures of her. :) Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:31 AM | link |

Hey Lady! I Love You! Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:30 AM | link |

Look how big the flakes are! Not counting the one behind the camera. Posted by Hello
posted by PlazaJen, 9:22 AM | link |

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Snow Queen

When I was in 4th grade, I already had a deep-seated need to be popular and "belong". That was going to be a challenge every day for the next eight years, given that I was being raised by non-religious, liberal, hippie-types in the wilds of rural Iowa, and my school was located in a conservative town with a population just over 700. Nothing says "You Ain't From 'Round Here" like not going to church, and moving in the year before meant I would never crack the social structure, because much like an ancient monarchy, the roles for all the players had already been cast. Thus, anyone new would be playing the role of "Outsider".
It took a long time to figure out how to play that role successfully and not commit hari kari in the locker room. But I am getting far too far ahead of myself. It is Christmas in a small town, and it is time to prepare for the Christmas Pageant. You know how those go - everyone loves the kindergartners, clutching their tummies, belting out "ho, ho HO" - and then there's usually a bunch of choral singing. Well, in 1977, we were going to have a PLAY. And not a play about Mary & Jesus, where I would certainly NOT be cast as Mary, the star, but more like a sheep, or enter-stage-left "Anonymous Townsperson", because on the first day of school in third grade, a member of each church surrounded my desk to determine what church we attended. With the brevity and naivete I continue to posses, I bluntly said, "We don't go." So I knew any religious-based play would never deign to have me in a starring role of any sort. But this was not the theme! This was a play about Winter & all the Seasons! How delightfully non-secular! And we were doing it with the fifth graders. But one, and only one, fourth grade girl would get to be the Snow Queen.
Ohhhhhh, I could see it already. A tiara. Sparkling and glinting in the light, as I tilted my benevolent Snow Queen head to my subjects. This was a role I was meant to play -nay, BORN to play. Surely the powers-that-be would see this and quickly maneuver to assign me the part.
In music class, our teacher announced we would vote to choose our snow queen. Anyone who wanted the part was to raise their hand. My hand shot up. So did three other girls'. She wrote our names on the chalkboard, and gave the class slips of paper. Peggy. Jennifer. Amy. Sherri. Write down one of these names, fold it, hand it in.
Are you kidding? Everyone could see this role was mine. I immediately scrawled my name down.
And then the tallying began.
Oh my goodness. I had no idea the votes would be tallied ON THE CHALKBOARD, with little lines underneath our names. One student read the names out loud, while our music teacher placed the hatch marks for all to see.
Wow. I had forgotten that Peggy's birthright was to be The Prettiest Girl in School. This was not a title to be shared. And up went the hatchmarks. Thirty-two students, thirty-two votes. Sherri got one. Her own. Amy, it turns out, voted for me. Thanks, Amy. You're already fucking noble in the fourth grade. I don't recall how many votes she got, because I was riveted in horror to see that I only got THREE VOTES. Mine, Amy's and my best friend Diana's. Peggy had the starring role in a landslide. I remember keeping my emotions in check in class, and sneaking a look at Sherri, who was a bit red and holding back tears. I wonder if she remembers all of this as vividly as I do. I've since looked back on that and shook my head, wondering, "What was she thinking?", putting all those votes up on the board. If I could remember her name, it would be on my list of people I'd like to kick in the shins.

When I got off the school bus and made my half-mile walk home to the geodesic dome home my father had built, I cried. Bitter, selfish tears. Sobbing. My father took one look at me and stopped his work (doing something outside in his woodworking studio), concerned, said, "What's the matter?"
And thus began the first of many conversations with my father, who thought of me as a 26-year old person, perhaps because of my accelerated reading level, and he tried to reason with me as a 26-year old might understand. "Why do you care what these people think? This is a stupid play! I don't even know what a Snow Queen is! You don't need to be the Snow Queen. Christmas pageants are stupid! STOP CRYING because I feel helpless when you cry and I can't stand to see you in pain!" Well, he only said the "Stop Crying" part, which really doesn't work when you're nine and the Snow Queen Tiara has been wrenched from your dreams.
I understand what he was trying to do, because I am not 9 years old now. But the logic was lost on me then.
I was to be a Snowflake. Part of the Queen's Court. Insult to Injury.
I do recall my entrance, because also true-to-form, I was late. Peggy was sitting on her throne, dressed in shimmery whites and glitter. With a crown. AND SCEPTER. The Snowflakes were to enter & toss their bits of copy paper around, for snow is a big part of Winter in Iowa. I, however, had gotten new shoes for this event, and had retreated into my own little world, admiring how nice they looked & had completely missed the cue to enter with the other snowflakes. Our music instructor hissed, "JENNIFER! SNOWFLAKES! GO!" and as I still do today, I clicked back into reality in a foggy sort of way, and galloped out, dispersing my snowflakes and grinning. My life has been spent since with an unnatural attachment to & enjoyment of material goods, I am embarrassed to say, and new shoes were definitely making me feel better about not having the starring role.
Peggy went on to be Homecoming Queen and Most Popular, and everything else you would expect for the role of Prettiest Girl. I would later have the chance to be a noble friend to Amy, supporting her unconditionally when, at the age of 16, she got pregnant & through the aftermath of her choices related to it. My father would continue to attempt to reason with me, comparing my high school melodramas to my Quest to Be the Snow Queen, and why I shouldn't care so much about it all. But it's hard to not want to belong, to not be embraced by others, and it's easier to cope with it when you're 33, as he was in 1977, than when you're 9, or 15.

Even at the age of 36, there are times I want that Snow Queen Tiara, so much it hurts. Sometimes I even buy some new shoes, or yarn, to feel better. But it's most fulfilling to go in my little fogbanks world & to look around at the wonderful life I have, and the people (and dogs!) in my life, and my eyes well with tears because my heart is so full. To love, to be loved. Each and every one of us is someone's Snow Queen. To me, that is my Spirit of Christmas. No voting necessary.
posted by PlazaJen, 8:34 AM | link |

Friday, December 17, 2004

Be Not Afraid.

If I have learned one thing this past year, it is to ratchet down my expectations, because disappointment, to me, tastes much like campari & soda. Bitter, bitter, bitter. The only problem is, I'm a natural-born cheerleader. (Without the lithe, limber build.) For all the godforsaken baggage my mother piled on me, she also gave me the ability to be resoundingly cheerful in the face of hopeless wreckage. And that approach does not work congruently with expectations so low you trip on them. We need to have hiiiiiiigh hopes, and aspirations! and dreams to dream! Where does that fit with "mediocrity = success"???? It doesn't. It lands you on your ass, wondering how many times more you will fall down & go boom.
Every year, I think about getting a tattoo. Or three. And I'm a pain ninny, so until something hits me as stellar, it's more in the thinking and ideating phase, not "let's call around and see who inks the best". In the past it's always been chinese symbols for things like "strength", "love", "wisdom". This year, I am contemplating a twist. Phrases that represent me, and the core of who I am. I don't know how these translate into Chinese, and with my luck, I'd get some jokester who puts the extra swipe and dot on rendering my wisdom into "I blow monkeys for cheez whiz". In any event, these would be a few of my "main mantras":


Now, I don't know if I'd have something about grammar tattooed on me. But if I could pick one of these, "Be not afraid" would be the one. Our society is spiraling faster & faster towards one based entirely in fear. Fear is the most communicable disease in this country. Fear of blacks, hispanics, asians, any-other-color-shape-or-size-than-me people. Fear of gays. Fear of the poor. Fear of the man. Fear for our jobs. Fear of terrorists. Fear of anything and everything that looks, tastes, sounds or smells different, and if it thinks differently, we're paralyzed with fear. Fear of losing power is a big one, HUGE one.
So, while I have to trip over expectations so low they sit on the carpet, and I have to smash down the pom-pom-waving pollyanna inside me, I don't feel fear anymore. I feel nervousness, I feel curiousity, I feel disdain for those who are clutching their secrets & lies & power (or lack thereof), because they really aren't living life to its fullest. Fear-based actions may actually allow you to "succeed", if we define it by money or cars or perceived power, but if all you've done is cling like a barnacle to the right boat, when we inventory at the end of the day? you're just a barnacle. And if I'm going to be afraid of something, it's becoming a barnacle. A complacent barnacle, sucking on the side of a boat. I'd rather be a falling-down trippy cheerleader with a tattoo.

posted by PlazaJen, 10:49 AM | link |

Thursday, December 16, 2004


This place has become drenched in sugar in the past 24 hours. I complained over the weekend to my friend Shelley that we had NOTHING, no food, no gifts, nothing yet. So, being the good salesperson she is, she brought over two tins of popcorn - one was emptied by lunch that same morning. We had been snack deprived, and it showed.
Now, we're swimming in it. 'Round every corner, there are chocolate covered make-your-pick, pretzels, bing cherries, cookies, popcorn. Way more sweet than salty, which sucks for the salt/grease addicts (me). Not that it's stopped me. I rationalize -"I'm just having breakfast!" "This will tide me over until lunch."
I am making deals on the phone, fueled by sugar-coated popcorn and nuts. I am putting plans together that will determine the entire next fiscal year - and my brain is buzzing from caffeinne. I've taken gift baskets home, intending to share with family at the holidays, and James has already cracked open several bags of goodies, not to mention the umpteen leftover haystacks bagged on the counter. I should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery! Does a computer count?

It's possible to be drunk on power, but I'm enjoying Free Chocolate a lot more. There better not be a "Checkpoint ChocoCharlie" on the way home - I'll fail for sure. But if I did, would I go to Camp Cupcake? Hmmmmmm......

posted by PlazaJen, 1:39 PM | link |

Five for Fishing

You know how when you're really irritated? And you say things that are like "bait", you want your spouse to just push that final button, just ask "What's your problem?" with that TONE in their voice so you can just release all your irritation and frustration that really has very little to do with your spouse, but they're right there & it's easy?

Yeah. I didn't take the bait this morning. It was awesome.
posted by PlazaJen, 10:20 AM | link |

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Let's Ask Martha

When receiving your holiday bonus & sitting through the standard musings and observations, you get smart-alecky because, well, somebody had to do it, and the president of the company was saying "Death & Taxes, death & taxes you can count on" changes it to, "Death, Taxes and JENNIFER, there are THREE things you can be sure of."

That's a good thing, right?

At least I'm reliable.
posted by PlazaJen, 3:09 PM | link |

Mixin' it up....

I just wrote in an email, "I have enough chutzpah to fill a bushel basket."

I do so enjoy Yiddish words. (And matzoh ball soup!) And my Christmas tree, and presents and so on and so forth.

I like feeling like the U.N. during the holidays. I must learn more about other religious & cultural celebrations, so I can party & eat ALL the time.

posted by PlazaJen, 1:05 PM | link |

The End is Nigh!

I'm feeling very Chicken Little, cross-bred with a princess today.
That results in dramatic perspectives on everything, with panic and joy prevailing. Emotions one normally does not combine. However, things are afoot! Christmas is coming! People are planning and/or threatening to quit, which always makes things interesting and makes me nervous and smug, simultaneously! We're having a cookie exchange today, and I am ready to eat 3 dozen cookies! I'm almost done with my three-month hell project & I kick butt! MUCH to rejoice, and a week off is gonna be delectable. Plus, we get holiday bonuses today and money is a language I can speak. The other one if Fairness, with the accent on Justice.
Because at the heart of the matter, my father's influence is enormous. The man marched for civil rights. Got fired for trying to start a union. Was the first white guy to have a black roommate at his college - and when the school found out, tried to "fix" the problem, which he vociferously (and successfully) objected to. I'm not necessarily the person who throws the molotov cocktail, but I pick up the violin and play a little ditty while Rome burns. I love change. I love confrontation and growth. I LOVE LIFE.

And the sky is not falling, but pieces of it are cracking. And I can't wait to see what's behind the sky when one of those chunks falls out.
posted by PlazaJen, 11:05 AM | link |

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Haystacks & Roller Coasters

Today was definitely a roller coaster kinda day. Heard from some old friends I knew from an old job, and it was hilarious, tripping down memory lane & all the laughter & references to people & places & stories I hadn't thought about in a while. And the contacts happened within minutes of each other, it felt really crazy, like a little black hole opened up and just sucked me out of the present, into some tangerine-striped flashback with sparkle lights and popcorn balls.
Then, it was like waiting in line again, the monotony of paperwork, clickety clack of the keyboard, work marches on.
And then I got irritated because JWo & I had a misunderstanding on the phone, as we are both incredibly busy & juggling too many balls - and it's like we threw two of our balls at each other & a spike of anxiety naturally occurred. Turns out we need to just WAIT to go furniture shopping together until we get all these other, more pressing, tasks out of the way, or at least wait and see if time opens up, but not to push it into the mix as insistently as I was doing. Because I want to buy a sofa RIGHT NOW because I am an only child, and we like things RIGHT NOW if not SOONER. And when the prospect of not getting my way looms on the horizon, like the peak of the curvature before the roller coaster drops, I lose the air in my lungs and a BIG SCREAM starts to form under the surface of my lips.
But, tonight was calmer & yet we seemed to suffer from Impossible to Please Syndrome, as we went to Buffalo Wild Wings & stood in an unmoving line (hey, it's just like Six Flags again) until we looked at each other and said, "Let's go somewhere else", which meant we drove back towards home, changed our minds three times about what to have for dinner, ended up at the grocery store, where James decided he finally knew what he wanted and he wanted to have Popeye's chicken, so we got the rest of the ingredients for haystacks, and had fried chicken for dinner. After dinner, I made haystacks to take to the cookie exchange tomorrow, and am ready to fall over. I didn't get any presents wrapped and I didn't get some other things done, things that will essplode in my face if I don't attend to them within 24 hours! I'll see if I can get up early and try to cross a couple things off my list - but that never pans out. I just don't like to get up early.
In the meantime, here's the easiest, sugariest, chocolatiest, no-bake treat I know:


1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chips
1 package (12 oz.) butterscotch chips
12 ozs. salted cocktail peanuts
5 ozs. chow mein noodles.

If you're like me and buy in bulk, it's really handy to have a food scale to measure this stuff out. I get really neurotic about it, because I'm sloppy in so many other areas, I might as well have exacting, fist-clenching control over something.

Melt the chips in a double boiler over not-boiling, but hot, water. Because my double boiler is not the size of a small drum, I then pour the melted mixture over the chow mein noodles & peanuts, stirring well to coat. Drop by tablespoons onto wax paper, let cool/harden, and enjoy! They're really yummy.

posted by PlazaJen, 9:46 PM | link |

Monday, December 13, 2004

Complete 180'

OK, departing from my previous stance on Mediocrity, tea-stained with Abject Apathy, let me rant about something else my daddy taught me: If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well. And in my case, if I didn't do it well enough, I did it over and over until it was done to the highest caliber. I have visions of that damned black bathroom sink.....the toothpaste, the stained brass fixtures, the scrubbing, endless scrubbing. No wire hangers, no! (OK, kidding about that. (just the hangers, though))
Anyway, I do believe if you're going to do something, you should do it right. I'm not asking for a parade, or mylar balloons every time you perform your job, but for god's sake, is it THAT hard to put the toilet paper in the bathroom stall correctly? Because when you don't, it only comes out one square at a time, if that, and I feel like a crazy monkey, clawing up and under at a roll of tissue paper I can't see, and can't maneuver, and CAN'T GET TO WORK because you can't put it in right.
Don't get me started on the refilling system for the liquid soap. Because there isn't one. And when it runs out, you have to physically get under the sink, unscrew the big container and leave its Royal Emptiness on the counter to get refilled. And that not only makes me NUTTERS, but it makes me think wire hangers might just be in order. Yes, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Kansas City.

posted by PlazaJen, 5:24 PM | link |

A Venti Littlely

I said I wasn't going to talk about work here, and I'm trying really hard not to. So far, so good. Just one tiny-teensy vent. MY COMPUTER SUCKS! Or at least our ISP sucks. It is like having one of those little vintage toy cars with the hole in the floor to push with your feet - not even equipped with pedals - and you look over and there are those kids across the street sitting in their battery-powered H2 Hummer, with a RADIO in it. The internet connection is apparently powered solely through energy converted from a hamster running on a wheel. And my hamster seems to be abiding by the same workout program I have: let's sit and watch tv!

ARRRRRGH. Because with The Way things work, the hamster will still get his kibble, regardless of quality control or erg output. Goodness, the hamster will probably be in management soon, at this rate.

Mediocrity was never part of my mantra. When did it sneak in?
posted by PlazaJen, 3:17 PM | link |

Sunday, December 12, 2004

If Dogs Wrote the Bible,

Satan would be a vacuum cleaner.

Devil, I have seen thee and thy name is EUREKA SPIN DUSTER!
posted by PlazaJen, 3:28 PM | link |

Why We Don't Have Children.

At 1:30 a.m. this morning, I decided to go to bed. As is customary, I let the dogs out.
Let me interrupt myself. We live across the street from some very elderly people, who are kind-hearted in their own way, putting out cat food for stray cats. I am not a stray cat fan (Well, I do like me some Brian Setzer, but that's different), mostly because our dogs think Stray Cat Poop is the BEST TREAT EVER. And it makes them stink something hideous, to the point James & I gag when they come back & breathe on us.

So one of these cats is hanging out across the street, and my dog Polly sees it, and is literally bounding up and down so enthusiastically her ears are going straight up. Normally, these dogs of ours are classified as "very well trained" & under total voice command, but not at 1:30 in the morning when a Stray Cat is Right THERE because if those "treats" taste so good on the ground, then maybe we can catch & bring this cat inside & have our own TREAT MACHINE at the ready. And off they went. Completely disappeared into the night. Suzy obeyed me and came back immediately, but not my Polly! She is like a teenager, and has been exhibiting all sorts of "I Am Independent Doggie" and "You Ain't The Boss Of Me" rebellion of late. And so, that is how I found myself at 1:30 in the morning, shivering & driving around our neighborhood, looking for her, only to circle back home & find Miss Polly in our driveway, reeking of "cat treats". Because apparently the Stray led her to the Mother Lode of Cat Poopatorium, and it was Feast Night at the Apollo.

There will be no doggy kisses today, and Polly is sporting the e-collar, which makes her extra-incredibly obedient with no action required on my part. Pavlov, you da man. And I know, there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners, and she could have been hit by a car or stolen and I would never, ever have forgiven myself, not to mention I would be an emotional wreck. So this means she will be wearing her collar a lot more, rather than less, in the future. We chose to have dogs instead of kids, for many reasons, and we try to be the best dog parents we can be. We're happy with that choice, based on who we are & what we want out of life, despite how many times we're told, "You'd be such great parents! Are you sure you don't want kids?" Sometimes I wonder what life would be like, if I've missed out or I'll regret not having children. It's fleeting, and I know the choice is right for me. For now, I'm still content with raising dogs & we've even talked about breeding dogs in a few years. You can't crate train children, and you can't put e-collars on them, or leave them in the car when you go shopping.

I will say this, I can see one definite upside to kids over dogs:
To the best of my knowledge, kids don't eat cat poop.
posted by PlazaJen, 1:23 PM | link |

We Talk About Lots of Things...... Like Soup.....

I spent 12 hours today with one of my best friends: Shelley. Most of the time was spent working on our respective knitting projects, but we did go out and grab breakfast, and I puttered around the house part of the time, working on other list items..... I made hamburger soup, which is nothing special, it's just browning burger & creating soup around it - onions, canned veggies, tomatoes, bouillion. I threw in half a bag of cheese tortellini to make it a little less white-trash stovetop soup. It was yummeh.
But the best part? Not having to ask your best friend if she likes corn, or beans, or peas, or onion, or tomatoes. Because you know. And it's different when it's your friend, versus your husband. I think because you're expected to know if you're married, and for whatever reason, soup is a big issue in our house. I absolutely hate cream of mushroom soup, because I was raised in the upper midwest, where cream-based soups are merely flavored glue, to be used in "hot dish", or what the rest of the world calls "casserole". James keeps trying to serve it to me as an entree, and his feelings get hurt when I point out, for the 10th time, I DO NOT EAT CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP like that. In any event, Shelley's one of those friends I'm completely relaxed around, enough so that she can see my house in a total pigsty state and I don't worry she's going to leave and raise her inner eyebrows.

Talking about good girlfriends, I miss Sheila, and Rebs, my dear ol' college buddies, because I still feel like they're my best friends - they've known me so long, and even when months or years skip by, and we don't talk, or get a chance to see each other, we still love each other, and I believe we always will. They knew me when I wore Chuck Taylor high tops and spiked my hair because I was SO New Wave and patiently listened to me proclaim my deep, unwavering love for David Bowie. And Joe Jackson. And later - I can't believe I'm admitting this - Richard Grieco. WHERE ARE YOU NOW, RICHARD?
I can fast-forward through the microfiche of my memories, seeing breath-stopping stupidity, moments I skip by in a blur, heart-breaking moments in my life, but I am also comforted to know that they were there, an undercurrent of constance, the faith & security that never broke or was used against me to further divide my heart and mind. They handed me glue to heal. I see people in my life now, who will be there in ten years, when I do the same retrospection, and I know that I am lucky now & will be grateful for them down the road.
So let's talk about soup, once more. It's funny, I promise.
Shelley made us soup a few years ago on Christmas eve. She made two kinds of soups: one was a creamy cheesey cauliflower, and the other was matzoh ball. We started with the matzoh ball. I had about three matzoh balls in my bowl, and I took a spoonful of broth & a chunk of matzoh. Hm. First reaction from my tastebuds told me: "Salty!" and "Not Very Flavorful." I paused. I tried a smaller spoonful. I looked across the table at our friend Meredith, who had not tried hers yet. I looked to my right at the man I didn't even know I would end up marrying. He was eating his soup, not looking up. So I tried a third taste, and Shelley said, "Is it ok?"
I said, "Well............ it's a little salty."
- pause-
"Did you use chicken broth in this?"
And then it was like fourteen things happened at once. Meredith didn't even get her spoon out of her bowl. James surfaced from his end of the table, looking at us, as he shriveled & dehydrated in front of my eyes. Shelley was up and out of her chair into the kitchen to get the box of soup to investigate. I realized in the midst of the commotion that what we were eating was not actually Matzoh Ball Soup, but Just Matzohs, in Brine. Because that's how you make matzoh balls, on their own - you cook 'em in salt water. And if you've never made the soup from a mix, and just got matzoh ball mix, you might not realize that you need chicken broth (unsalted!) to float the cooked matzoh balls in. Did I mention none of us are Jewish? And then Shelley was grabbing our bowls in HostessShock, apologizing and laughing and James was beseeching her for lots of water, and my heart melted a bit more that day because James is nothing if not accommodating, and a perfect guest, who will eat matzoh balls in brine, quietly, because it's not polite to say bad things about soup, or a meal in general, and maybe, just maybe, I won't be such a harpy next time about the cream of mushroom soup, because I married a man who would never want to hurt the cook's feelings. And I have an awesome friend who still lets me laugh about her soup.

And in Iowa City, and in Seattle, and in Minneapolis, Chicago & Kansas City, I have the greatest friends. I hope when we're all old & doddering, we move into the same retirement village together. We'll reminisce about the good old days & eat lots of soup. And knit. Who knows? It could be like college all over again, without the painful mistakes. Except instead of drinking, we'll all be swapping our arthritis medicine and comparing bunions. It's gonna be awesome.
posted by PlazaJen, 1:08 AM | link |

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Double Time!

I did aqua aerobics, a long time ago, in a pool in Minneapolis. The day we tried it, the pool was very full. Full of people & full as in a LOT of water. I guess that's what makes it a pool. Anyway, the instructor insisted on having the exercises in the 5-foot section, and you were supposed to touch the bottom of the pool with your feet as you bounce around. When you're 5'3", this is a bitch, because you keep plunging most of your head underwater, and you're trying to watch what he's doing (yes, this was a guy instructor) and listen to what he's shouting in this echoing huge olympic pool area. I got frustrated quickly, and reverted to what I always do when I'm no longer participating at 100%: being a smartass. My friend & I were laughing about the rythmic dunking I was doing, and then I made the observation that this guy sounded exactly like Andre the Giant. It was most funny when he'd yell, "DUH BUH TINE!", which meant, "double time" and I was supposed to dunk myself at twice the annoying rate. From that point forward, any time we needed to pick up the pace (shopping, driving, working), the rallying cry was "DUH BUH TINE!" accompanied by big waving arm movements.
The holidays are comin'. I'm moving at DUH BUH TINE. It is all gonna get done, no matter how many times I have to get dunked. My best friend Shelley is coming over today to hang out & knit, and I'm going to knit on holiday gifts, get some cleaning up done, make haystacks for the cookie exchange at work, and wrap presents. Then it's off to do some more shopping, and get ready for tomorrow's Survivor finale party, with homemade pizzas and 7 guests! DUH BUH TINE! DUH BUH TINE!
It's a fine line between accomplishment and drowning sometimes!!!!
posted by PlazaJen, 8:53 AM | link |

Friday, December 10, 2004

MMMMMMM, Shiny Objects.......

It's interesting how, when you're sick, the most mundane, boring, everyday things are suddenly the most fascinating, riveting, captivating things you've EVER SEEN in your life.

Last week, I stood in the middle of our kitchen, breathing through my mouth, watching my husband fill the plastic tank for the humidifier. I was entranced. This was amazing! He's using a siphon-like tube, I've seen hundreds of times before, and yet tonight it holds my interest like CSI (the Original One.)
He noticed me, slackjawed, staring at him & said, "Am I in your way?"
I replied, "No! Not at all."
He looked at me kinda funny. He was sick, too, but that man can FOCUS. He also has the ability to get dressed in the dark and can teach fifth graders without slapping them.
As if I were underwater, I looked at his face, slo-mo and all. "I'm sick," I said.

We did shots of Ny-Quil and went to bed.

Life in the fast lane, my friends. Life in the fast lane.
posted by PlazaJen, 10:21 PM | link |

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Tale of a Scoop Shovel

Speaking of Spanish, and Mexican people, always makes me think of a story that happened to my father. He told me the story several times as I was growing up, to teach me a life lesson that many - too many - people never get: to remember that everybody is valuable & wants to be appreciated for what they do. Regardless of what that is.

My father was working at the Montfort cattle packing plant in Colorado. He was doing this for work while my mother was in graduate school in Denver. I was all of a year old at this time. Working at a cattle plant is not a very glamorous job, lest you think it might be. It smells like cow shit, it's labor, and "plant" is a nice word for slaughterhouse - it doesn't matter how humanely it's done, or how entrenched a part of our culture it is, or how far we come since the days of "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair - it's still death & blood and not really the environment a 22-year old college graduate with a degree in philosophy expected to find himself. My father had dreams of an Ivy League law degree, but if he couldn't get in to Harvard or Yale, then it wasn't worth pursuing. In any event. This was the job he had while my mother was in school. One of his main assignments was feeding. So, he was outside, shoveling corn to feed the cattle. Back-breaking work, and my father cursed and complained and bitched and moaned about it. He wasn't alone in his work - he often worked with an older Mexican man, who never complained or said anything about his job.

On one particularly hot day, my father started up with his griping. The Mexican THREW his shovel down on the pile of corn and got in my father's face. Pointed finger and all.

"You! You! You complain, all the time! You think you're too good for this? College Boy? You know what? Next year, at this time, you will be someplace else, doing something different! And you know where I'll be? I'll be RIGHT HERE, shoveling this CORN. Because I've got NOWHERE ELSE to go. So SHUT UP."

My father could do nothing but swallow his embarassment and work silently the rest of that day. And he didn't complain for the rest of the time he was there.

Every single time I think of his experience, I am stunned out of my selfish, petty world and back into the reality of how much bigger the universe is. And when my father would tell me this story, he always made the point that I shouldn't feel like I'm better than somebody else who works at a grocery store, or cleans up the trash, or waits tables, just because I got a college education & was born into more fortunate circumstances. Because I am fortunate, and I don't have to work three jobs to make ends meet. I have options. I have freedoms. People out there, even in this country, don't have that, and WhiteAmerica doesn't want you to believe we have those kinds of flaws but it's true. Their are Mexican illegals here in Kansas City who live in the hollow cavities of the beams in the BRIDGES so their stuff doesn't get stolen and because they are safer from authorities there. They work 100x harder than I do, but I drive my car home to my house & husband & dogs and I don't worry about whether or not I'll have heat tonight or if someone else learned to climb the beams and stole my only change of clothes.

When my dad did quit Montfort, he stole the scoop shovel he used for that corn. When I moved to Minnesota, he gave it to me, and it has dug my car out of many snowfalls, notably the Halloween Blizzard of '91 in Minneapolis (36"!) But beyond its usefulness, it's symbolic to me of so much, of all the things that are easy to forget, especially this time of year when it's all about consuming and measuring up and meeting other people's expectations. So when the woman at Hobby Lobby with her thinning mullet and sullen face took the time to wrap all of my ornaments, individually, so slowly, so excruciatingly slowly, I'm on my lunch break and I'm late and you are SO SLOW, all I said was, "Thank you so much for taking such care in wrapping those for me. They're so breakable and I really appreciate it. You did a really good job."

That shovel is one of my most prized possessions.
Sometimes I need to be hit over the head with it.

posted by PlazaJen, 2:15 PM | link |

No Habla Espanol

Well, it's not ENTIRELY true. As this country's Hispanic population grows, I've noticed that I've picked up a bit of the Spanish language. The other day, as I was scrawling out 'BASURA!' on an empty box, I jokingly said, "Hey, all I know how to say in Spanish is 'trash' and 'beer'!" And then we started running through the words that I do know, and it turns out - yes - I am bilingual.
Step back. I'm going to dazzle and amaze you.

Cerveza is beer, and everyone knows that one. It's when I have to order the pink squirrels at the poolside bar, you know we're all in trouble.

Cuidado! Caution. I learned this from industrial mop buckets and little folding signs that warn you to exercise cuidado in a general area because otherwise you will slip & fall and it will be workman's comp physical therapy ALLLLL over again.

Banyo. This is spelled wrong. I can't write Spanish, only speak it. Bathroom. Essential to life. Especially if you're having dos or cuatro cervesa.

I am of the opinion that words like "tamale" or "chorizo" don't really count, because they are so commonplace. However, if we're counting them? I know them. I can order just about anything on a mexican menu without fear, because I know to not get the menudo. Or go to a Menudo concert.

Donde' Esta? This is a good starter for helping you find things. Wave your hands and arms a lot, to distract the listener enough & perhaps they will believe you actually speak the language. It is also goot to know if, for instance, you are drunk and really, really NEED the Banyo.

OK, yeah, I know the greetings, "HOLA!" "Como esta" or however it's spelled, yes & no, and mind your manners, POR FAVOR, be nice when you ask for cerveza, GRACIAS - those are sort of a given, especially if you've ever gone to Mexico, because it is NON-STOP HOLA! at a resort. And I can count, up to ten, but I did NOT know "14" in ol' Espanol until that U2 album came out. Thanks, Bono.
The next round of menudo & Dos Equis is on me.

posted by PlazaJen, 1:17 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Don't Disturb the Sexy

Last night on Church of Lazlo on the Buzz, they were ripping some woman for her birthday party invitation, how she referred to herself in the third person, etcetera, etcetera. I missed most of the ripping. However, the Birthday Party Girl herself was pissed & she called in to rip on Lazlo. So - and this is why I'm blogging about it - they were saying that she was all about herself like P. Diddy (and his infamous party invitations) and they started playing this funkilicious-hip-hop groovin' music under her ranting & raving (but SHE couldn't hear it), and then Lazlo's sidekick Slimfast came in at the end & did his own version of the song, also ripping on "Madame T" or whoever she was. I was BELLY LAUGHING at this skinny white kid singing, "Don't. Disturb The. Sexy DON'T" and so on and so forth. I love when something completely hits my funny bone, and it's even funnier when I try to explain it to you, to James, to anyone else who didn't hear it, because it is SO NOT FUNNY in the re-telling, but I am still laughing so much it's hard to type. And so you, my friends, can only shake your head and walk away. Because nobody, but nobody, can disturb the sexy. Or take away my laughter. DON'T.
posted by PlazaJen, 2:20 PM | link |

The Power of 3

Overheard Conversation:
Setting: him - in kitchen. me - in bathroom getting ready.

him: "Have you heard about the movie 'Three' on ESPN?"

me: "No. What is it?"

him: "It's about Three!"

me: "Three what?"

him: "Three!"

me: (louder) "Three! Three what????"

him: (laughing)"Oh, my sweetie isn't a redneck." (more laughing)

(more chuckling as I continue applying makeup and am now growing more and more frustrated)


him: "Dale Earnhart's car number! Number Three!"

me: "oh."

me: "No."

me: "I'm not a redneck."

Editor's note: James does not follow NASCAR, but on odd days does classify himself as part-redneck, and is a direct descendent of full-blooded rednecks. Therefore we have not insulted anyone in this exchange, except possibly passionate number Three fans, and certainly they aren't reading blogs about knitting, but if they are, this is more to illustrate how I like to think of myself as really really smart, but there are things that boom right over my head & James' enjoyment of testing how truly in-tune I am to every pop culture thing out there. I'm usually right there..... until it involves sports.

posted by PlazaJen, 9:00 AM | link |

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Hey, Hotmail, way to get with the twenty-first frickin' century. Love the fact that FINALLY, finally, after all these years, you've taken away the damned frames when you click on a link in an email. And also, you seem to have done away with the blasted "Your window has been idle for more than ten minutes and the link cannot be clicked on you stupid stupid peon, I have more money in my left pocket than you and 800 of your closest friends earn in a year and still I trap you in this little maniacal webgame of mine MOOOHAHAHAHAH" or something to the same effect, you know what I mean.

Three cheers & crossed fingers for Twyla to win it on Survivor. She's crusty, she's cranky, she could totally kick my ass, but she wouldn't have to because I'd be working & helping out. She doesn't wear a bikini & she's from Missouri.

Delight that hubby's home from a four-day hunting junket. I love getting the time to myself and love how much I ache & miss him at the same time. It's nice knowing I married the right one. :)

Must Not Forget To Program DVR For Alias & The Shield. Need. Fix. Soon. 24? Kiefer? When You Comin' Back? Miss You. Hurry.

Bitchslap to Barbara Walter for picking PARIS HILTON as one of the Ten Most Fascinating People. COME ON. Just once, ONCE, I would like to see a really smart, but societally-deemed "unattractive" woman who is making a bleeping difference in this world get lauded and accoladed by the pop culture machine. Oprah without makeup DOES NOT COUNT. Instead, we get a vapid air head who wants to trademark "her" saying: "That's HOT". Paris, here's a new version of HOTmail. Enjoy, you skank. I hear there's a video of you out on this crazy thing called "the internet". You should put some clothes on and do something worthwhile with your time.

Hrmph. Enough slapping and praising for one evening.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:23 PM | link |

Screw You Guys, I'm Eating ALL the Tuna and Saving the Whales.

It's funny when you find yourself in, well, the funnies. James & I have long established that, for the most part, I am Bucky Katt, and he is Satchel Pootch. Last year for Xmas, I got us mugs with funny strips on them relating to each of us....... Satchel is distraught because they don't make crullers anymore (James' favorite).......mine, Bucky ends up breaking the wishbone & falling through the door - SWEET CRACKER SANDWICH, I got my wish, I'm out.
Anyway. I'm Bucky.

Not the most flattering character, but hang on, I'm also Eric Cartman. Kinda. Like when he gets mad at others and yells, that's when we sound the most alike. Especially with the "Screw you guys, I'm goin' hoooome."

...and we're both "big boned", dammit.

The saving grace of it all, the cartoon element that makes me somewhat redeemable and offsets all my selfishness is probably one of the most altruistic cartoon characters out there. She's bright, she's tender-hearted, and most of all, she has a rigid iron core backbone when it comes to discerning right from wrong. Neither of us can accept injustices and rail against the world when something's not fair. Yes, I'm talking about Lisa Simpson:

Fortunately, I'm not jaundice yellow, but I do like her hair. And I know, FOR SURE, Lisa Simpson would be a knitter, if given some ecologically sound wool & handmade free trade wooden knitting needles. But she would make everything for charity, probably. And here comes Bucky Katt rearing his scrawny selfish head and reminding me, once again, that I'm more Bucky and less Lisa......
posted by PlazaJen, 4:45 PM | link |

Monday, December 06, 2004

Frenetic Fergie

My nickname (among many) growing up was "Ferg", because apparently my father had to read esoteric history books to me as a baby, and was reading something about General Ferdinand, and the name evolved into Fergendorfer, shortened to Ferg. The Ferdinand was a theme, because "Ferdinand the Bull" was one of the very first books I learned to read as a child, and was definitely one of my most favorite books - to this day. My very first book I learned to read, at the ripe old age of 3, was "Father Bear Comes Home" and I loved the illustrations - especially with the mermaid & Little Bear.
I still remember the moment in time when I read something new, and comprehended it. It was truly the proverbial light bulb going off. I was still 3, we were living in Knoxville, Iowa, and I woke up to the sun shining in my room. I called for my dad, and I remember it was SO QUIET. I saw there was something on the chalkboard in my room, and I went over and looked at it. It said "I have gone down the road. I will be back soon. -Dad" and I read it, there was this "Kablooey!" in my mind, and I walked over to the window and looked out, and saw my father riding his bicycle back up the hill. I wasn't afraid by the quiet, I understood where he had gone. And I felt very, very wise.
I've given my father new versions of "Father Bear Comes Home", "Ferdinand the Bull", "Ferdinand the Bull " - in Latin - and still thank him for teaching me to read. I wish I read more, of course, and that might be the one New Year's resolution I actually keep.
Meanwhile, I'm frenetic & making lists & being a highly organized systematic freak in my approach to work, holiday things, shopping, and life in general. Don't be surprised if I start walking around with a stopwatch & a whistle soon.

posted by PlazaJen, 11:06 AM | link |

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Unbridled Joy

Yesterday morning, I did my usual weekend home-alone routine upon waking up: go to the bathroom, admire how insanely-styled my stick-straight hair has become overnight, go unclick Polly from her pillow (she's leashed up at night to prevent mischief), and let her out so she can go pee, too. Often, it's out the back, but yesterday morning, I let her out the front door. Our Saturday paper was smack-dab in the middle of the driveway, and I thought I'd see if Polly would retrieve it after she'd gone pee.
Much to my amazement, she bounded straight for the paper, picked it up, made a small detour pit stop on her way back (to pee, but never dropped the paper) and brought the bagged paper right to me! I didn't even have to say "Paper"! (The command we've used with Suzy.) Well, I was astounded, delighted, ecstatic, and Polly was pretty happy, too, what with all the praise and then a Woof-a-roni treat. I called James on his cell, just to leave him a message, about how exciting this was, what a great job she'd done, and how proud of Miss Polly I was! Later he left me a message back, and I could hear the smile in his voice...... turns out he'd been working with her all week and having her retrieve the paper instead of Suzy, as a surprise for me when he was gone. Awwwww. Honestly, it was more romantic than a dozen roses, and I'm a selfish material girl who likes her roses.

Polly had a bit more difficulty with today's paper, understandably: the Sunday paper, especially in December, is unwieldy even for Suzy. But we were able to get the paper inside without flashing the neighbors too much butt cheek, I think. They're really old, and their vision has to be bad. That's what I tell myself, anyway. It's nice in my world and the sky is all sorts of pretty blues.

posted by PlazaJen, 12:14 PM | link |

Friday, December 03, 2004


I feel spastic! It's like being sick left all these -oh what the fuck are those things that bounce around under microscopes, not ions, atoms? microns? nucleuses? dust motes? I enjoyed science in a reserved sort of way, I'm sorry, anyway, like all these things that normally jitter & jive on a daily basis but they just got stuck in suspended motion while I was playing Woman Hacking Lung for my next Oscar. Good god, I am watching SKATING on tv. SKATING. I am a middle-aged woman. This has got to go. TRIPLE LUTZ THIS CBS! Forensic Files, you are my long-lost friend.
I was sayin'.
Right now I feel all supercalifragilistic freakadoo hepped up like I've done coffee, shots of espresso, and snorted a big ol' snout of cocaine, not that I know what that's like, but I can imagine, and there was that time in college when this guy Martin did some and he was all Muhammed-Ali-esque and couldn't stop bouncing around on the balls of his feet. Like, right now, if I started talking, I wouldn't stop! And all the atoms and ions and nuclei and molecules - MOLECULES - that was the word we were searching for - have been unfrozen & they're making up for lost time. And it's all because the EVIL FOG OF COUGH and COLD has been lifted! I think! Other people seem to think, in an encouraging way, that it's a cold that lingers for months. Well, that's because they choose to believe it. I choose to believe I'm cured. OH Dear it's a wounded dog on Forensic Files who saw his owners get killed. And the dog just died. This is too much in the other direction. PRINCESS BRIDE! You killed my father, prepare to die. I tell ya. Bruce, it's more like THREE HUNDRED-57 channels and nothin's on. This is why the DVR is the awesomest thing EVER because it records what I want to watch, and it's like having my own personal cable channel, right there, accessible.
Now, if only I could get Polly to retrieve me some chinese take-out, we'd be cookin' with gas.

Back to knitting. The Holiday Shardigan WILL be done - maybe tonight! I expect I will topple forward like a wind-up robot on its last key-click in about an hour, and all of this manic energy will be a distant memory. But it's the weekend, and life is improving. Minute by minute, channel by channel. Stitch. By. Stitch.

posted by PlazaJen, 8:27 PM | link |

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Recipe for Baked Eyeballs

Harvest the freshest eyeballs you can find.
Rinse in a mild saline solution. If you don't have saline solution, go ahead and use distilled water with a pinch of kosher salt.
Heat oven to 350'.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Leaving at least 3" between them, place eyeballs on prepared sheet.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are quite firm and have no surface moisture left.
Replace in eye sockets, and voila! You're experiencing my head cold extraordinaire.

Note: Colors and clarity may be off for some time after re-installation of eyeballs. The best antidote is a long, Ny-quil-induced nap. If not possible, copious amounts of hot beverages are in order.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:46 AM | link |

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Plague

Fortunately, we live in modern times, so when we get sick with chest colds and sore throats and sniffly noses, we have a whole host of products at our fingertips we can buy to make ourselves feel better. It would be better to not have the symptoms in the first place, which is more a veiled reference to Kristin and her current symptoms, however, there are some things, like colds, which you can't avoid. I liked how, for weeks preceding my own cold, people talked about how they were "fightin' off a cold". How does one fight off a virus? Chicken soup? I hear Oprah uses some herbal remedy. I use Zicam but sometimes, there's just no stopping The Cold, because The Cold can be like a dysfunctional family member who simply doesn't listen to the word "no". So I pretty much succumb. I felt Cold coming into the House of Jen on Sunday, and by Tuesday it had unpacked its bags, eaten three bags of Doritos, and done a load of laundry. There were no bitchslaps or sucker punches to throw. The Cold was here. I've put it on notice, and by staying home from work today, am supervising the Cold and making sure it folds its laundry and puts some of it back into its suitcase. Because it will be leaving, and taking its chest maracas and runny nose with it. There is no need to fight, this is not a burgeoning Bronchitis Party, I will not sacrifice myself for the Cold or Work or anything else. This is the line drawn in the Kleenex, Mister, and by Friday, I will be symptom-free.

posted by PlazaJen, 2:41 PM | link |