Want to Watch Some Curling?

Curling has become a joke around our house. Yes, I’m talking about the Olympic sport which seems to have swept the nation, and again, yes, I’m making a bad pun. Too much curling can do that to one’s brain, I suppose.

I know very little about curling. I don’t know the scoring system, and I certainly have never followed the sport. All I know is that it’s a little bit like shuffleboard, and I’ve never been good at that game.

When the Olympics games opened, my husband was rather enthusiastic about watching curling. He doesn’t understand a lot about it either, but together we enjoyed watching the early match with the Hamilton siblings — Matt and Rebecca — from Wisconsin. They defeated the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the first session, and then fell to the Canadians in the second.

All right, what’s this about Olympic Athletes from Russia? Why aren’t they simply called the Russian team? Maybe you already know the answer to this, but I didn’t. More about this later.

Maybe it was the USA’s loss that made it less fun to watch curling, but over the next few days and nights, every time my husband or I turned the television on to watch Olympic games, curling was right there. It was everywhere! At first, we would watch a little bit, but then my husband would say something about not really understanding the game, and we would move on to something else.

Soon we were checking the schedule before we tuned in. “Want to watch some curling?” I would ask each time I reviewed the schedule. Curling. Curling. Curling. How many curling matches are there in the Olympics?

Now, after ten days of the Olympic games, both my husband and I have had our fill of curling. I suppose it’s an exciting game for those who care about it, but a little curling lasts a long time, and frankly, I don’t care if I ever see another match.

So, earlier this morning while my husband got ready for work, we listened to World News Now and what should we hear but news of curling! I groaned. “Want to watch some curling?” I called out to my husband.

The news this morning was shameful. Another doping scandal. Russian athlete Alexander Krushelnitsky has been accused of taking meldonium, a banned substance which increases blood flow and improves one’s physical stamina. Krushelnitsky and his wife had rebounded from the loss to the USA and gone on to claim a bronze medal.

Curlers

“The Russians were caught doping before, weren’t they?” My husband asked. He has a better memory for things like this than I do. “Isn’t that why they’re called the Olympic Athletes from Russia?”

Oh, is that why? I did a little checking on the past doping scandal in the Sochi Olympics from 2014. I learned that the OAR designation is indeed a result of the previous scandal and that the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended following the 2014 controversy.

Athletes from Russia were tested for banned substances before the 2018 games began, and only those who tested clean were allowed to participate. These athletes must also be free of any previous drug violations and have a consistent history of drug testing in order to participate — not under the Russian flag, but under the Olympic flag. Neither the Russian flag nor national anthem is allowed at the 2018 games.

An allegation or accusation doesn’t make anyone guilty, and I agree with one of the commentators who said anyone who took banned substances after the start of the games would be a fool. Unfortunately foolish things do happen in sports and elsewhere, and we’ll just have to wait and see the results after the hearing later today.

I hope it’s not true. I hope that this is merely a case of over-vigilance on the part of the Olympics committees. I’m certainly not a huge fan of curling, but all the same, I would hate to see the sport get a big black mark because of a medal-hungry competitor.

Yes, indeed, I’ve had enough of curling, and the next time my husband jokingly says “Hey, want to watch some curling,” I’ll run the other direction. From now on, the only curling I want to see is that which I do with my curling iron.

 

 

 

 

 

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Like a Boss

Today’s topic: Describe your work ethic. 

Whenever I’ve been hired to do a job, I’ve always given it my best. I’m the sort who believes it’s good to get to the office a bit early, and to stay a bit late, if necessary. I’ve never been one to abuse break time or take long lunches. If I have a job to do, I do it to the best of my abilities. I’ve always shown respect and consideration for co-workers and for my bosses.

Like a BossNow, I have the opportunity to be my own boss, and I’m bringing that same work ethic to my home office each day.  I suppose I see myself both as the boss and as a dedicated employee.

Some things are different about working from  home, but many things are still the same.

First, what I probably enjoy most about being my own boss and working from home is that I don’t have to go anywhere to do my job. No long drives into the city. No hassles with traffic. No warming up the car or scraping ice and snow off the windows. That’s nice.

Second, I can dress as I please. Mostly that means my flannel lounge pants, my T-shirts, or later in the day jeans and a sweatshirt. Warm, fuzzy socks. I never wear shoes while I’m in my office.

Third, I like that I can change my work schedule on a moment’s notice when needed. On Tuesday, for instance, we had a sick grandson who came to stay with grandma while his mother worked. I didn’t have to call in or ask anyone’s permission to take time off. I worked in my office until our grandson arrived and then closed the office door and spent the rest of the day caring for him, watching the Olympics, and getting a bit of knitting done.

Yes, I do like being my own boss, and from the other side of the coin, I also like working for myself. Same idea, but a slightly different perspective. Being my own boss means that I make the rules. Working for myself means that I follow the rules and show myself and my job the same respect and consideration I would give to any employment situation.

It might surprise people to know that I time in and time out each day. I have an actual time card file on my computer, and I make sure to hit the clock — figuratively — each day. I work about 30 hours each week, and I pay myself for those hours. My hourly rate is very low, but I make money from commissions, too.

I’m good at record-keeping, I keep my files in order, and — like any good employee — I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient and more productive. Recently I wrote up a job responsibility sheet. It was quite satisfying to see all that happens here in my little office. Between being a boss and being a good employee, I’m in charge of a lot!

Are there days when I’d rather not work at all? Sure. I occasionally feel a little overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed out. When I need a day off, I can feel it coming on. I can sense that my attitude might need a little adjusting. I can tell that my focus and concentration aren’t as strong as they might be. And so, I plan for a little free time. As the boss, I can arrange my work hours. I can look at my to-do list for the week, and I can schedule time away from the office.

On the other hand, there are lots of things I can’t schedule, and that’s all right, too. Because I do most of my sales through social media, there’s really no such thing as office hours. When a customer texts me with questions or needs help placing an order, I’m going to respond — even if it’s late and we’ve already gone to bed. Although I may close my office door each afternoon, I’m still on call and always happy to chat with customers and help them find exactly what they need.

Working doesn’t stop when the weekend comes, either. I do try to limit the time I spend in my office on Saturdays, and I don’t work on Sundays. I want to enjoy being with my husband, our family, and our friends. Again, though, I may get dingies — that little sound you hear when someone messages or texts you. I will always respond as soon as I can.

I believe in doing my best. I believe that as both a boss and an employee, I can make my work experience positive, pleasant, productive, and profitable. All in all, I do like being my own boss, and I enjoy working for myself.

What Can I Do Better

 

Joining the Games

Just a quick note this morning. The day has already gotten away from me, and I have a lot I want to accomplish before lunch time.

I’ve now joined in the fun of the Ravellenic Games 2018 on Ravelry. I found out about the games yesterday through Nothing But Knit — and I was immediately hooked on the idea.

Seed Stitch Scarf and Hat
My Seed Stitch Hat and Scarf Set

So, this morning I signed up and am entering a project into the WIPs Dancing event. This is perfect. I’ve been working on a hat and scarf set for my sister. I completed a set for myself earlier this year. I wore both the hat and the scarf the next time I visited Jill. She loved them, asked me to make a set for her, and we went yarn shopping that day. She wanted white — the same as mine.

I was making good progress on the set but then put it aside to make a blanket for a baby shower. Now, I really need to finish both the scarf and the hat, and the Ravellenic Games is just the push I need to sit down and do it.

I don’t know about other knitters, but I sometimes get a little bored when I use a pattern more than once. For me, part of the joy in knitting is seeing new and different things emerge from my needles. Making the same hat and scarf pattern with the same color yarn… well, it’s not all that exciting. Little wonder I’ve been putting it off.

Meanwhile, I have a couple projects hibernating — a pair of socks I started earlier this year, and a pair of white seed stitch mittens to match my hat and scarf. When my sister sees them, she’ll probably want a pair, too.

I’ve always loved seed stitch. It’s probably my favorite, but right now I’ve seen enough seed stitch in snow-white yarn to last me for a long while. I want to finish up the hat and scarf and move on to something bright, colorful, and new.

 

Following My Heart

I’ve been knitting for a very long time, but in all those years, I’ve never ventured too far afield from simple patterns designed for beginners. Even now, I still find knitting a bit of a challenge, and it’s rare that I complete a project that doesn’t have a few imperfections.

Mostly I make simple things like scarves and hats. I do make mittens (I have a very simple pattern to follow), and I’ve even done socks on double-pointed needles (again using a very simple pattern). I can make blankets and afghans, and I have done sweaters. Everything I choose to do, though, is very easy, and everything involves only basic techniques when it comes to color.

Intarsia 3
Intarsia designs — from Knitting Basics: Intarsia (Dummies.com)

And so it is that I marvel over the awesome Fair Isle and Argyle projects I see on Ravelry and in the knitting groups I belong to. I look at knitting charts with their rows of dots and slashes, and I wonder how anyone can ever learn to do such intricate work.

My color work projects are usually nothing more than simple stripes or color changes in sweaters, mittens, and blankets.

Until a few days ago.

Yes, I challenged myself to try following a little knitting chart, and while the results weren’t good, I learned a lot from the experience — thanks to the many video tutorials now available to me. Mostly I learned that intarsia is still going to be difficult for me!

This little knitting adventure began when I downloaded 365 Days of Knitting through the Kindle Unlimited program. I liked the idea of having a fun little knitting project to do each day — a way of priming the pump each morning to get my creative juices flowing. I eagerly turned to the project for the day: A Heart Pot Holder.

What a perfect project…or so I thought until I tried making sense of it all. It truly made no sense. Oh, it was simple enough. Just a basic stockinette stitch for the first nine rows. Then came the instructions to follow the heart pattern. My own heart beat a little faster here. Yes, I was going to do this! I was going to work my way through the chart — right to left on right-side rows, left to right on the others. Eagerly I turned to the following page. But there was no heart chart to follow.

Maybe all the charts were in a separate part of the book, I thought. I turned to the contents. No charts to be found. Obviously I was missing something! Indeed, as it turned out, I was missing a lot because the book had no illustrations whatsoever. No pictures of completed projects. No charts to follow for all the heart-themed projects in February. No illustrations of stitches or anything else.

To say the book was a disappointment would be an understatement. Not only is it lacking in visuals, the patterns themselves don’t really make sense, and a lot of necessary information is missing, too. That pot-holder, for instance. No information is given about what type of yarn to use for the project, and getting the wrong yarn too close to a hot stove could have disastrous consequences. There are also confusing entries in the instructions, such as one project which says “Rows 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 follow heart chart” yet then says later “Row 13 Knit all the way across”. Maybe both instructions are accurate. Without having a heart chart to follow, I’ll never know.

Another project is for a Heart Head Band — completed with 27 stitches across by 14 rows, then folded in half, stitched together on the ends and turned right side out to wear. Huh? Maybe that works…somehow. I don’t know. I can’t visualize it.

Intarsia (2)All in all, the only value I’ve found in this book is that it can serve to prompt my own ideas each day. That’s what happened over the weekend. I didn’t make a heart pot holder, but I did go browsing around the internet in search of a heart pattern. I printed it out, and yes, I followed my heart, bravely attempting a little Valentine’s color work.

I made a mess of it, but I tried, and that, in itself, felt good. We need challenges, and for me, even something as simple as this little heart was a challenge.  Somehow, at some point, I ended up with an extra stitch — I still haven’t figured out how that happened — and even though it’s not the right way to do intarsia, I just carried my unused yarn across the back.

It’s not much to look at, I know. It’s a starting point, though. After completing this little heart, I did a search online, found several videos, and came across a lot of helpful information from Dummies on the basics of knitting intarsia designs.

Best of all, I now have a handy little “heart” chart to follow whenever I want to use it as part of a knitting project. Oh, and I have ideas! I can imagine many ways to use this simple heart in my needlework projects, and it will be fun to create a few designs using it.

I did pick up some bright red yarn on my last trip to the store, so maybe later I’ll play around a little and make my own knitted valentine. Maybe a pillow. Yes! I think I can do that. I can figure out how many stitches to cast on. I can adjust the heart pattern to fit.

It will be fun to follow my heart — not only with this little knitting chart but in all my knitting — and crocheting — projects. It’s always fun to do what we love, and I love learning, growing, and challenging myself in creative new ways each day.

For those who love knitting, too, here are some free patterns I have in my collection that are perfect for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

Hearts by Amanda Berry

Loving Hearts Scrubby by Peggy Grieg

Heart-Inspired Patterns to Knit and Crochet – Red Heart

 

 

 

Yarn, Yarn, and More Yarn

What do you want to buy?

I love today’s question.  The answer is so easy. Despite the fact that I have a huge stash of yarn waiting to be knitted or crocheted into something practical, usable, wearable, and — hopefully — fun, I still love shopping for more yarn.

Especially this year. I’ve joined several online knitting and crocheting groups, and at the first of January, of course, someone had to ask about resolutions. I thought about it for a moment, and then resolved to move beyond my tried-and-true stand-by yarns. This year, I wrote in the comments, I want to try many different yarns. 

There are so many yarns available. Even a quick glance at a yarn weight chart excites my imagination.

Yarn Weight ChartSome weight charts also include a jumbo category listed as a “7” weight, and the lace classification can include crochet thread and single-ply cobweb yarn, as well as the lace yarn and fine fingering yarn.

I have used crochet thread before in making old-fashioned doilies (and I do enjoy working with it) but, for goodness sake, I don’t even know what cobweb yarn is, or lace yarn, either.

Fiberhounds explains it all here with helpful information and photos. 

Over the course of fifty years of needlework, I think I’ve used all of these different weights, but other than once using an angora yarn for an afghan, I’ve never ventured too far from the ordinary yarns found on the shelves at local Wal-Marts, K-Marts, or other big box stores. Only once have I lived in an area with an actual yarn shop, so buying yarn has always meant picking up one of the familiar brands — usually Red Heart acrylic in a medium weight.

Now, though, I’m online each day. I subscribe to newsletters from several different yarn companies, and every morning as I scroll through my emails, I find bargains galore. As I’m browsing online, ads for yarns appear wherever I go. Oh, so many different yarns!

In the past, my biggest decision has been choosing what color yarn to buy. Now, I’m discovering the wide world of different fibers.

  • WoolBISONBURGERS1602-2
  • Mohair
  • Cotton
  • Cashmere
  • Merino
  • Angora
  • Alpaca
  • Silk
  • Rayon
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Buffalo
  • Bamboo

Buffalo? Bamboo fibers? Yes, indeed, there are so many choices from so many companies that it’s overwhelming. I want to try everything!

There’s even Yarnbox, a subscription service for knitters. Sign up for one of their plans, and they’ll regularly send you a box of yarn. Oh, how tempting! Still, for now, I think I’d rather choose my own yarns. But where do I begin?

I think it might be fun to have a goal this year of not simply trying different yarns, but making it a point to try yarns from each weight class. Of course, I also want to explore yarns with different fibers. I can’t wait to order a bit of buffalo wool. Actually, it’s a blend of bison wool and merino, which is one more fiber on the list to try.

And bamboo fiber? Oh, how intriguing that sounds! I really must try a yarn with bamboo. I’ve already found a source.

I think that’s going to be my starting point for this new yarn-shopping adventure. Once I’ve tried bamboo, I might move on to buffalo. At some point in time, of course, I should use a bit of the yarn already in my stash, if only to make room for more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money, Religion, and Politics

I grew up with the understanding that just as only two things in life were certain — death and taxes — there were three things that should not be discussed among friends.  Talking about money, religion, and politics were sure ways to cause contention, upset others, and possibly even harm a friendship.

People did not discuss how much money they made or even how much they saved when shopping. It was verboten — one of those good, German words I learned from my grandfather — to tell anyone what you paid for anything you bought. It just wasn’t done.

I was taught that there was always a time and a place for everything. For religion and all things pertaining to it, that meant Sundays at church. Although families could practice their religion in their home, it was meant to be a private thing, not something to be preached about to friends and neighbors.

And politics? Everyone was entitled to their own opinions, but whatever you thought, you kept it to yourself. You didn’t ask how anyone planned to vote — unless, of course, you were closely involved in political campaigns, as was the case with my family. But that was different somehow. Even though my family was actively involved in area politics, a veil of secrecy still shrouded the voting process, and above all, political differences were not to be held against others.

I guess in some ways I did grow up with a lot of mixed messages about these off-limit topics, yet still the overriding belief was that we really shouldn’t carry on too much about any of these things. It was considered bad form to bring up controversial political issues at a dinner party, and heaven forbid anyone should start sermonizing about their religious beliefs outside of church. As for talking about money, it was simply gauche — a lovely-sounding French word I also learned from my grandfather.

Money, religion, politics. To this day, I still carry the belief with me that these three things are not appropriate subjects for conversations among friends.

I don’t want to know how much money you make, how much you have in the bank, or how much you spent on that lavish vacation. On the other hand, I don’t mind if you tell me about a sale going on where you saved money on art supplies or even shoes, and I may even excitedly tell you that I just got a new Kindle tablet at 15% off. I think the determining factor here is whether or not the information shared is of benefit to others. It’s fine to tell others about a sale going on so that they can take advantage of it, too.

In similar fashion, I’m always interested in learning about different cultures and religions, so if I ask about your traditions and beliefs, please feel free to share. Don’t, however, come bearing down on me with religious tracts and pamphlets unless I ask for them. I will respect your beliefs and your religious activities. I simply ask that you do the same for me.

And politics? Oh, my, but it’s almost impossible today to avoid political discussions. So much in life has become politicized. We literally can’t draw a breath today without running into rules and regulations, and the immediacy of our technology brings everything to public attention within minutes.

Bad MannersIn looking over my Facebook timeline, I shake my head and marvel at how different society is now from the prevailing norms of the past. I scroll through posts from online friends lamenting their dire financial straits, asking for others to contribute to their financial well-being — all for good causes, of course — or showing off their latest splurges in clothes, accessories, travel, and entertainment. I don’t mind the latter, too much. It’s good to see friends enjoying themselves. If I were able to vacation somewhere exotic, I’d probably be posting pictures online, too.

Facebook is, of course, filled with religious posts. I’ve even shared a few of my own favorite scriptures from time to time. I’m not fond of how religion is now used for click-baiting, with those annoying posts telling me I must like and share if I love Jesus, believe in God, or think everyone should read the Bible. No, I won’t like those posts, and I certainly won’t share them. Make of it what you will, and so be it.

Sometimes when I scroll through posts, I wonder if Facebook was created expressly for the purpose of political discourse. I know that’s not true, of course, but many of my friends view it solely as a platform by which they may air their opinions on every issue in the news — and many that aren’t. People have been given a virtual voice, and they use it loudly, in figurative terms.

I scroll past all the political rantings no matter who posts them. And I scroll right past all those “Do you really love Jesus” posts, too. I scroll past tearful entreaties begging me to give money to friends in need. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I truly am.

Please understand that I don’t find online posting an appropriate way to resolve financial problems. Nor is it an appropriate way to convert people to your religion, and while reading news and information can be an excellent method for learning about current events, let me do my own research, please. Too many of those breaking news stories posted are from satirical sites or from sites which spin the news in their own way with little regard for the facts. The most distressing thing, of course, is that so many people believe everything they read online. That’s sad. Very sad.

It’s not going to change, of course. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean I have to accept it. It means I’ll keep scrolling past many posts, and I’ll go right on expressing my opinions that even in today’s modern world, we really shouldn’t be talking so much about money, religion, and politics.

 

 

Harrisonville History

I love American history. Sometimes I wonder if that love comes from having grown up in a rather historic part of the country, but then again, what part of our nation doesn’t have an interesting historical past?

We live in a fairly small town (population about 10,000) in Missouri. The area was settled in the 1830s, primarily by farmers from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. They moved westward, searching for fertile land, and they found it here, along with many rivers and streams. At the time, the area was known as Van Buren county, named — I presume — after Martin Van Buren, the well-known Washington politician who would soon become vice-president and later president of the country.

In 1837 the town itself was laid out on a land grant from the government. The Honorable Albert G. Harrison, congressman at large from Missouri, played a big part in getting the land grant, and so the town was named after him.

800px-LewisCass[1]The county name was changed to Cass in 1849. This was in honor of Lewis Cass, a rather controversial figure in American politics. In 1844, he sought the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention in Baltimore. Another candidate was Martin Van Buren, former president and one of the founders of the modern Democratic party. It was expected that Van Buren would easily gain the nomination, but things don’t always go as expected in politics. In the end, neither of these men prevailed. The nomination — and ultimately, the office — went to James Knox Polk.

An amusing anecdote: This was about the time the telegraph was first coming into use. When reports of Polk’s election were first transmitted, many people were certain this strange new invention obviously didn’t work.

But back to Cass and the tumultuous years preceding our Civil War.

1848 campaign pictureIn 1848, Cass again sought the Democratic nomination for president. On the fourth ballot, he was chosen, and William Butler became his running mate.

One of the key issues of the day — both during the deadlocked 1844 convention and in the 1848 election — involved slavery and the expansion of new territories.

Now, this is where Missouri history gets a bit complicated. If you remember from American History class, Missouri was known as a border state. Growing up, I was taught in school that this just meant we refused to choose sides. Oh, how far from the truth that was!

The actual meaning of border state was a slave state that didn’t join the Confederacy. Yes, Missouri was a slave state. Truthfully, I think our history books often try to overlook that fact as much as possible and paint our state as far more pro-Union than it actually was. Of course, that was long before my time, my family history includes Union supporters, and maybe I don’t really know how things were. I do know that Missouri was a very divided state, and I know, too, that a lot of pain, suffering, and hardship happened in this part of the country.

As war came to the land, Confederate troops took up refuge in the region, as many of the residents had strong ties to the south. William Quantrill — a southern sympathizer — used Cass County as a home base from which his infamous Raiders launched their guerrilla raids.

In August 1863, the US Government cracked down — hard — on Cass County.

Quantrill Raid
Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence — also known as the Lawrence Massacre

Following a bloody raid by Quantrill on nearby Lawrence, Kansas, Order No. 11 — known as The Evacuation Order — was issued. This required all persons living in Cass County beyond a one-mile radius of Harrisonville or Pleasant Hill to vacate their premises within fifteen days. Union troops quickly moved in to confiscate all grain, hay, and other food supplies from farms in the area, and buildings were burned to the ground. Cass County then became a Union stronghold. A garrison of soldiers remained stationed in the area to enforce Order No. 11.

The town was slow to recover from this devastation, but gradually Harrisonville rebuilt, and in time, the railroads brought more economic stability to the area. We are, today, still a small town, ranking about 75th in population for the state. It’s a quiet town. My husband jokes that everything here shuts town at five each afternoon, which might be true except that there really isn’t much to shut down.

We have a Wal-Mart that’s open twenty-four hours a day, and we have the usual fast-food places — McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, and others. We don’t have any movie theatres. We don’t have a bowling alley. We don’t have much at all in the way of entertainment.

November Walk at the ParkWe do have a lovely City Park. It’s one of my favorite places to go, especially in autumn or in spring. Here’s one of the scenes I painted from my walk in November.

The park is a beautiful place. I like the solitude I find there, and I love the colors I see. Bright oranges, reds, and yellows in the fall. Delicate greens, and pinks, and blues in the spring. Richer, deeper greens in summer, and shimmery, snowy white in winter. The park is always a nice place to visit.

There’s a lake there, too. I enjoy walking down to the water’s edge and watching the ducks and geese that call the lake home.

Yes, it’s now a quiet town, but one with an interesting history. It’s hard, at times, to imagine the chaos and confusion that happened here in the 1860s. Harrisonville does commemorate its past with a Burnt District Festival each year in October. It’s a time for crafters and vendors to gather on the square. A carnival comes to town. I wonder how many people actually know the story behind the festival. Sad to say, most probably don’t really have much idea about our town’s troubled past.

History is sometimes difficult to read and painful to accept, but history makes us who we are. It does the same for the towns in which we live. I’m glad I do know about this town’s beginnings. And there’s so much more than what I’ve shared here. I can see history each time I visit the square and see the brick buildings surrounding it. I can think of the past as I cross over the railroad tracks and recall stories of the early days of the railroad. I can learn, too, of the people who were part of the town’s beginning. They may have left the earth long ago, but they live on in the memories of this quiet little Missouri town.