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Friday, March 2, 2018

Knitting: a Philosophical Exercise

The Philosophical Gusset Scarf

This scarf looks pretty simple to make, doesn’t it? If you know how to cable and change colors you’d think, “No problem.”
You’d be somewhat wrong.
Bear with me if you’re not a knitter while I explain.
See the fuchsia gussets? While making those I had five balls of yarn going: white for the first panel, fuchsia for the first gusset, another ball of white for the middle panel, a separate ball of fuchsia for the second gusset, and a third ball of white for the last panel.
And to keep holes from forming where you change color, you have to twist the two balls around each other when you switch.
You can imagine the mess of tangles that develop after knitting a single row of this nightmare of a neck-wrap. It looks like the aftermath of a spaghetti fight. And there are 26 rows for each of the gusset sections.
After many rows of de-tangling, hair-pulling, and cursing the day I was born for starting this behemoth, it occurred to me that if I didn’t have to keep turning the work in circles (knit across one side, turn the scarf and balls of yarn 180°, knit across the other side, repeat) the stupid strands wouldn’t get as knotted up.
An epiphany illuminated my unraveled brain.
Instead of moving the scarf and the yarns, what if I moved myself?
In the immortal words of Ted Logan, “Whoa, dude.”
So I tried it. I placed the five balls of yarn in the following positions on the floor: 9:00, 10:30, high noon, 1:30, and 3:00. I picked up the scarf and knitted across one side, twisting the balls once as I changed, then laying them back into place. When I reached the end of the row I got up, moved to the opposite side, and knitted across the back side of the piece.
It was a game-changer. And not just for my knitting.
How often do I struggle against the world, trying to make everything and everyone else conform to my will for it?
But what if I were willing to let the things around me be what they are and do what they’re going to do, and instead move myself as necessary to accommodate that reality? I suspect my life will flow much more smoothly, with fewer tangles and temper fits, as well as less wasted energy, time, and work.
As usual, the answer to most of my problems is me.
And I’m the only thing I have the power to change anyway, right?
Who knew a couple of sticks and some wool could get you this deep?

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

What Is The Point?

I got teased yesterday for doing the right thing.
Last week I bought a box of cookies at Trader Joe’s but realized when I got home that I hadn’t been charged for them. So last night, while I was there picking up the second load of three gallons of milk to finish out the week (we have teenagers), I took a box of the cookies to the checkout and said, “I need you to charge me for these, but I’m not taking them home,” and I explained.
The guy bagging my stuff shifted his head back a few inches as his eyebrows shot up. He kind of snorted and said, “You’ve been losing sleep, huh?” As if a $2.99 box of cookies wasn’t worth the trouble I was taking.
I just smiled and shrugged.
At the end of the transaction, as the cashier handed me my receipt, the bagger barbed me again: “There,” he said. “Now you can sleep at night.”
“I’ve been sleeping just fine,” I told him. “Because I knew I was coming back to take care of this.”
At one time that would’ve chapped my hide, getting wisecracked for being honest. Because honestly, I would’ve expected a little admiration and appreciation for my obviously superior virtue.
But the last couple of years have knocked me around in that regard. I’ve witnessed some shockingly unethical behavior among people I once admired and respected. And I’ve spent a lot of time in what I guess was a dark night of the soul, not because I questioned God’s being or his goodness, but because I’d been so thrown off my game by man’s badness. I struggled to believe there was any real point in trying to walk out my own morals, since it seemed like hardly anyone else does.
After one more head-shaking hypocrisy came across my radar recently, I slumped into my chair prior to dawn one morning and asked heaven yet again: “What is the point?”
I don’t know why it took me two years to arrive back at the very beginning of Jesus Christ 101, but here’s what I ended up with on a piece of scrap paper that day:
1. Is my life bringing glory to God?
2. Are my relationships bringing glory to God?
3. Have my words brought glory to God?
4. Do my choices bring glory to God?
5. Am I pointing other people toward God?
And I had my answer.
That’s how I live even when others don't. That’s how I live even when I’m thrown under the bus for doing the right thing. That’s how I live even when the rest of the world is burning and drinking gasoline and screaming because it’s hot. That’s how I live when trust and honor and wisdom feel like something I just dreamed about once.
And because that’s how I live, it’s not about what my friends or my enemies or my husband or my kids or a bagger at the grocery thinks of me. It’s between me and God, period.
I don’t need any rewards for doing the right thing, and it doesn’t matter if I get punished for it either.
God’s opinion is all that matters.
That is the whole point.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

How To Do Kids’ Thank-You Notes: Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezey!

Certainly everyone has gotten their Christmas thank-you notes sent by now.
If you haven’t yet, your choke-point may be trying to figure out how to manage all the kids’ notes. (Have I been reading your mail or what?)
A few years ago I finally sorted this out for myself. If kids are old enough to write even the simplest of misspelled sentences, they can do their own da** thank-you notes.
Yes, I’m quite serious.
Here’s how:

1. On a separate sheet of paper for each person in the family, make a list. Put what that person got in the right column, and who s/he got it from in the left column.

2. Count the total number of separate people to whom your family (altogether) needs to send thank-you notes. I.e., if Uncle Joe gave gifts to three kids in your family, he counts as one thank-you note.

3. Get exactly as many blank thank-you notes as your family needs, put a sticky-note strip on the front of each one with the name of its recipient, and lay these blank notes out in the middle of the table.

4. Put each child’s list at a separate place at the table, along with a pen.

5. Each child takes a thank-you note, writes a few sentences on it, signs it, puts that thank-you note back in the center of the table, crosses off that person from their list, and grabs another thank-you note.

6. After everyone has crossed every gift-giver off his/her list, the thank-you notes are sealed up, addressed, and mailed.

7. Pat yourself on the back for your superlative parenting skills. You taught your kids gratitude, good manners, and independence, with very little actual work on your own part. Boom!

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 Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

That Internet Hoax Will Bite You in the Butt

Photo by Flood G.
Truth has taken a beating over the last— well, since the beginning of time, really. No matter which side of the political/social/cultural aisle we stand on, we all believe that those on the other side are actively propagating and believing oceans-full of lies, lies, lies, while we and our side have the corner on truth.
It’s worth keeping in mind that one of hell’s most insidious and successful strategies toward the destruction of man is to seed stories and beliefs that are 90% true, but laced with just a touch of lie. It’s a slow and hard-to-detect poison then, that kills those who drink it like the proverbial frog in the saucepan.
What’s troubling me today, however, is the willful acceptance and dissemination of tales we know full well are not true. I’m talking about debunked urban legends and internet hoaxes.
Several times in the last few months I’ve called out false stories to friends and family. These hoaxes are often about threats to safety, like the untrue tale of would-be rapists luring compassionate women into their clutches via children who pretend to be lost. And in response to my refutation I’ve often been told some variation of, “Even if it isn’t true, it’s good to be aware of so you can protect yourself.”
Say what?!?
The only thing that’s “good to be aware of” about a lie is that it is a lie.
Here’s why:
We are unquestionably vulnerable to violence and malevolence from others. A lot of people want to steal from and harm us. We’re like houses that way: we need to control our doors and windows—i.e., our access points—to keep the good in and the bad out.
Lies that we believe are diversions. They’re the bad guy making noise in the bushes at the back of the house so we switch on those lights and turn all our attention to that entrance, leaving the front door unguarded for the real thief/rapist/murderer to break in unimpeded.
We only have so much time, so much attention, and so many resources to devote to our own protection. When we commit our and others’ time, attention, and resources to focusing on things that aren’t actually threats, we diminish the ability to protect ourselves against real threats.
In the example hoax above—rapists who use fake lost children to lure victims—it’s vital to understand that while such a scenario could possibly take place, such a strategy is much more complicated and difficult to employ than simply overpowering a woman who’s alone. Most garden-variety criminals are opportunists, not strategists. I don’t want my daughters scanning the parking lot for lost children who might be bait. I want them to avoid being alone in lonely parking lots in the first place, and I want them scanning for men who look like they’ve got nefarious intentions.
There is no good or productive outcome to a lie, except that by recognizing it as a lie we get better at discerning truth. So, in the immoral immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic, Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me.”