Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I... don’t like scary things.

I don’t like scary movies, I don’t like scary stories, I don’t like scary buildings/houses/corn mazes, and I don’t like scary costumes. Some people enjoy the feeling of being scared, but I am not one of them. I can’t even sit through most fifteen second movie trailers this time of year. I think I’ve probably passed this disinclination for scary things to my daughter, since she can’t even take suspenseful music; she fussed and ran away from the intro to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, she couldn’t enjoy the subtitles since she can’t read yet, so part of her distress probably came from the fact that we were all laughing while the scary music was playing and she couldn’t understand why.

One thing I have never understood is the need certain people have to make sure the front of their house and their lawn is strewn with festive things whenever a holiday approaches. Christmas I understand, the lights are pretty and are not terribly invasive to the eye of the passerby (that is, if they are applied tastefully and not completely over done). And I’ll applaud Fourth of July decorations, since it’s wonderful to display the love you have for your country (again, within reason, giant balloons featuring Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam are a bit much). But I don’t like decorations for Halloween. The reason for this is not just because I’m not a fan of scary things, but because it seems like it’s impossible for anyone who decorates for Halloween to make it tasteful. So instead, they go completely overboard, buying the entire Halloween aisle at the Family Dollar and depositing it on their lawn.

Ghosts made of masks and ripped up fabric just look ridiculous during the day. And it seems like any place you drive by that has one ripped up fabric ghost absolutely must have sixteen ripped up fabric ghosts. Plastic orange jack-o-lanterns are cute, I guess, but not when you have eight million of them. And what exactly is achieved by placing fake grave stones in your yard? There isn’t anyone buried there, and if there is, it was either so long ago that you don’t know about it and therefore deserves more than something you bought at the Dollar Store, or so recently that you probably wouldn’t like to draw anyone (especially the police)’s attention to it. Fake cobwebs?! When you work very hard to keep real cobwebs off of your house, the motivation behind fake ones does not exist for me, because not only do you have to pull them down, you have to put them up in the first place.

Once when I was very young (probably in kindergarten or first grade), I was out Trick or Treating with a friend. It was cold, so even though we were only a few blocks from my house, we were in the car with her mom, dressed as a princess and a bride. She stopped in front of a place with a couple of scarecrows on the front porch, the ones that are usually stuffed with leaves and dressed in old clothes. These had monster masks propped on them for heads, but since we knew they were just scarecrows, we approached boldly, hoping for candy. We trooped up the steps and stood next to them as we knocked on the door. Before anyone answered, though, one of the scarecrows moved, and grunted. We screamed bloody murder all the way back to the car. I can’t remember how Kristy’s mom convinced us to attempt to gain the door again, but it may have had something to do with the empty porch. Someone answered when we knocked a second time, and told us how cute we were as she handed us candy. To this day I can’t remember the woman or what candy she was awarding us with, but I can see vividly in my mind’s eye the guy who loomed around the side of the door and made the same grunting noise that had terrified me minutes earlier. I hope they enjoyed their joke, because I didn’t.

I don’t like scary things. Movies, costumes, decorations... There isn’t much in the list of silly things that people do on and around Halloween that I would say “hooray” to.

Mostly, I’d just say “boo.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Come for the Grandchildren, Stay for the Clean House

My in-laws are coming to visit! We’re very excited to see them, since we haven’t been able to hang out with them since July. But despite the fact that we don’t live in a sty to begin with and that they wouldn’t really care one way or the other, this means that I will spend my entire week cleaning.

You can’t neglect to clean your house when your in-laws are planning to visit you. A clean house is one of the best ways to show respect to your guests, no matter who they are. You can show that you respect them after they show up by moving the pile of trash off of the chair so they have a place to sit down, but it’s a better idea to have it gone before they arrive.

In the past, I have made a list (in my head, admittedly) of all the tasks I plan to complete before the arrival of my guests. Sometimes it’s hard to see what needs to be done, like looking at that shelf covered in stuff that’s been sitting there for the past three months... So? What about it? It’s fine, right? Oh no wait, it’s covered in random stuff. I should probably find an actual place for that blanket that’s not on top of those magazines. Anyway, I look around to decide what I need to do, and the next step is when I plan to do them in some kind of order. Hang on, I have to roll on the floor laughing for a second.

Okay, I’m back.

So I plan to do these things in order. I think, “okay, first I’ll tackle the laundry, then I’ll get the closet in order, then the dishes...” and what actually happens is that I start on the laundry and then forget that I was doing it because my kids distract me or I look at the kitchen counter and think that I really should scrub it off really well while I’m thinking about it or whatever. So then I go ahead and start on the closet but I remember that I’m not finished with the laundry so I go back to that, and get almost finished when it’s time to make dinner but I haven’t touched the dishes yet, so I drop everything and do them while remembering that while I make dinner I should make sure to wipe off the counter quickly if I accidentally spill anything because I just scrubbed it really well earlier and it would be a shame if it got dirty again so soon. And at the end of the day I have about two actually finished tasks and four or so half finished ones and another that I didn’t even start on.

Today, I’m going to go ahead and make my list. But I’m not going to plan to do them in any order, since they won’t get done that way anyway. I’m going to let myself snowball from one thing to another. Maybe that way I’ll have more tasks done at the end of the day.

The final step of the process is to forget something. I always do, whether it’s cleaning tiny hand prints off of every mirror in the house or forgetting to arrange the couch cushions so they’re all facing the same way. Hopefully this time it won’t be something big.

I should at least get the living room cleaned really well so that when my mother-in-law gets here she’ll have a place to sit that’s not covered in baby toys.

Monday, October 29, 2012

In Dreams

I was writing a blog post about Spanish class. I was going to be late getting it up, but I typed along, thinking that late was better than never. I suddenly remembered that I had completely missed my last update, and even though my schedule is only self-imposed, my heart sank as the light began to filter in though the window near the ceiling. I typed faster. The realization dawned that I had already written about this subject before; how could I forget? I’d have to start on something new. My mom started calling that we needed to leave now or we’d be late for school. I opened my eyes and heard the baby crying. It took me a few minutes to realize that everything but my child making noise had been a dream.

What a terrible nightmare!

I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. I snuggled with the baby when my husband brought her to me.

As I lay there thanking the stars that my blog had been updated and that I didn’t have to rush off to school, I thought about the nights that my two year old wakes up crying, and wondered what kind of monsters she could be dreaming about. In some ways, I’m thankful that I’m not scared of monsters anymore, so that I don’t have to dream about them. But after some nightmares, I’d think I’d like to have them back.

There’s nothing scarier than a rapidly looming deadline.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Time to Crochet! Week 3

Day 9

I was right about zipping along as soon as I’d got going. The dinosaur hat is done (it looks awesome) & so is the piggy hat (so cute)! Maybe I’ll take some pictures sometime.

Ravelry has an awesome way to keep track of the progress of a project, a place to put pictures when you’re finished, even a way to document the yarn that you’re using. I like it quite a bit.

Now I finally get to start on something new!

Day 10


Also, it is super easy to keep track of one’s stitch count when one is using different colored yarn for each row. I didn’t even have to use a stitch marker.

Day 11

The zebra hat looks adorable. It turns out I can work up a hat in two days if A: the main body of it is put together with a half double crochet, and B: I spend an entire day just on the ears (or whatever extra attachment it requires). The reason this hat’s ears took extra long was because I had to make 2 pieces for each ear, so 4 pieces altogether. For the lamby hat, it was just the hat part and 2 ears, then I stuck the ears on the hat and I was done. For the zebra, I had to make the inner ear (a triangle) out of white yarn, and then the outer ear (a cone) out of black yarn. After that, I had to stitch the inner ear to the outer ear, fold the whole thing in half long-wise, and fasten the bottom together. The finished ear looked way more adorable than I thought it would, and much cuter than anything else I could have come up with that would have involved less work.

I had a bit of day left over after tacking the ears on the zebra hat, so I finally grabbed the rainbow yarn and started on a party hat. When I was halfway through the pattern, I stopped to check my progress. It wasn’t big enough for a Barbie doll at that point. One thing I took away from the two week long fiasco of the piggy hat was that I should follow directions and use the hook that the pattern suggests, but now I’ve decided that rule should only apply to patterns that don’t use a single crochet.
I’m still going to finish it, if nothing else I’ll stick it on my 8 month old, or if it’s too tiny even for her, my two year old can put in on her doll.
Day 12

Today I learned that once I get on a roll, I can slap together two party hats at once while I play with my children. But that much productivity means that something in my life has to be neglected, so thankfully it was my blog and not something that needed my attention in order to live.

The party hats look cute!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sugar, Spice, and...

My daughter has more hair than any other two year old in the world. Well, maybe not, but some days it seems like it. Her hair is as long as mine was when I was sixteen, and that doesn’t count the added length for it being ⅔ curls at the bottom. I’ve had people ask if I curl her hair for her, and so far I’ve avoided answering sarcastically, “yes, I make my two year old sit still for twenty minutes so I can hold a hot iron near her head.” Instead, I usually say no and explain that her father has curly hair. I’ve always had a bit of a wave in my hair, so my daughter got the best of both of her parents: it’s not too curly, and it’s not too flat. With her cute nose and rosy cheeks, she looks like she’s come straight from the shelf at a toy store.

I used to joke while I was pregnant with my second child that she had better be born with long raven locks, because of all the heartburn I was having. I couldn’t drink a glass of milk without my esophagus going up in flames. I was rewarded with a beautiful girl with tiny head full of hair. She has twice as much hair now as her sister did when she was this age. If it grows at the same rate, she’ll be a brunette Rapunzel by the time she’s two. Now, though, her hair looks like Matt Smith’s in his first episode as The Doctor, no matter how much I brush it.

My dad is always pushing her hair off of her forehead as he says to me, “when she gets older she’s going to ask you why you never combed her hair.” But I do, it just sticks up adorably in every direction whether or not I try to tame it, so I usually don’t. Although, if I make extra effort with it, you can usually tell that all it’s really trying to do is to curl just like her big sister’s hair, but it’s not yet long enough to get the job done.I realize that not everyone’s daughters have the same amount of hair as mine do, but sometimes I feel that the old rhyme got it completely wrong: “sugar and spice, and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of,” or at least left out the necessary part about “and hair. Lots of hair.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First, But Not Annual

It has always annoyed me when any event is referred to as “first annual.” I guess there’s not a concise way to say “this is going to be a really good time and we are definitely planning to do it again next year and it’ll be a good time then too,” but “first annual” just seems a little presumptuous to me. How do you know the event will be such a success? What if no one shows up? What if you’ve failed to plan anything sufficiently entertaining for those that do? What if the things you’ve planned to entertain the people who do show up aren’t actually entertaining at all? “First Annual ‘I’m Totally Not Going to Show Up at This Boring Event Next Year’ Fest.”

Another thing that totally baffles me is people who are completely consumed with hiding their age. I understand that it’s very flattering when someone mistakes your age and thinks you’re much younger than you actually are, and I understand that everyone has days when they feel terribly old, no matter how long they’ve been around. The point of confusion comes in those people who make a big deal out of refusing to admit their age, or answering the question with the incredibly idiotic, “I’m 29, tee hee!”
I think it might be just a female thing. It’s not that I mean to be sexist, it’s that the one man I’m guaranteed to see every day has occasionally had to ask me, “How old are we, again?” He’s not going to be celebrating his 29th birthday again next year. Unless he forgets it’s his 30th.

When I was a kid, I would gaze off into the future, trying to decide when I would be old. The age milestone changed as I (and the people around me) grew, because those I knew who were reaching these “old” ages didn’t seem to be any older to me. I had to grow old enough to acquire the knowledge that one trades youth for experience over the years. And given the chance, my 29 year old self would slap my 19 year old self, so I would say that I would rather have experience and age than inexperience and youth.

I’m sure I’ll feel similarly about my 29 year old self when I’m closer to 40, so why would I want people to think that I’m less experienced just so that they’ll think I’m young?

Today is my 29th birthday. It’s definitely not my “First Annual 29th Birthday.” There’s nothing I can do about getting older, so I might as well enjoy the new experiences and wisdom that comes with it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enjoy it Again

All I really want to do today is crochet and watch Downton Abbey.

I’ve written before about how I love a good story, and I do. The best way to know when I think a story 
is good (aside from when I go on about it endlessly), is when I want to experience it over and over again: a wonderful book series like The Dresden Files, an awesome webcomic like Girl Genius, and an intriguing television program like Downton Abbey.

I almost didn’t read The Dresden Files. I heard the word “vampire,” and my disinclination for anything involving that crazy fad kicked into overdrive. Admittedly, the vampires of the Dresdenverse are different from your average vampire. Less sparkle and more monster. I’m glad I did, though. They’re fantasy/detective novels that happen to include vampires in the very large pool of bad guys. The intrigue with finding his family, the friendship between he and Murph, and the puzzles that he solves make Dresden’s exploits well worth reading and enjoying over and over again. I’m not quite sure if I’ve read the 13 novels through five or six times, but I’m sure I’ll read them through again before the next one comes out in the end of November.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve reread Girl Genius. It’s gorgeous, wonderfully written, and keeps its readers continually on the edge of their seats. It began its Monday/Wednesday/Friday update schedule in November of 2002, and my husband has observed that if it continues the way it always has (which we can be sure it will), we won’t be any nearer to a conclusion even when another decade has passed. In a world of airships and mad scientists, Agatha lives a relatively calm life until one day when she is swept up into an adventure just like one embarked on by heroes of the previous generation and romanticized by those of her own generation. We check back three times a week to find out whether she’s any closer to finding out who were parents really were (or are), which of her love interests will triumph, and if indeed she will have to “punch every monster in the snoot.”

Downton Abbey is not like every other British period costume drama you’ve ever seen. I mean, it starts out that way, but if all you watch is the first episode, then you’re not qualified to form an opinion. Of course it does have Brendan Coyle (North and South), Hugh Bonneville (various Agatha Christie dramatizations), and Maggie Smith (Harry Potter), but that doesn’t mean it’s just like every other thing these actors have ever done. It’s a wonderful series about the joys and sorrows of all classes of people during the time when great landed estates were still thriving, and the way things change, not only for the people, but for the estate. The first series is about the joys and fears of those at Downton Abbey, set in a time when the class lines were very distinct; the second series blurs those lines, and we see Downton at war. The third series (the one currently airing in the UK) is set in the age of the rapid decline of estates like Downton Abbey, and the effect that has on everyone associated with it.

I can’t help experiencing these wonderful stories over and over. Even though I’ve seen or read them many times, I always find something new with each retelling. It may seem a little silly to keep repeating them, but the fact that I know what happens in the end (whether it’s the end of the novel or the end of the chapter or the end of the episode) makes it more fun for me to watch how things move toward that end.

Now it’s time to relax with my latest yarny project and my favorite show.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Raspberry Comeuppance

Seven years ago I was hopping mischievously from one foot to the other, spitting raspberries at my roommate.

She’s deliciously fun to bother, and as the oldest of three I possess many refined methods of torturing another, whereas she, as an only child, has a very low tolerance for it.

I cackled like a super villain as she tried to talk to one of our friends on the phone when suddenly, I received my comeuppance. “She fell over,” she reported to him. I had made the transition from super villain to plain crazy person, and was then giggling like one, rolling around on the floor, clutching my leg.

Last night, when I leaned over and poked at her with some straw wrappers at Red Lobster, we looked at each other, remembering how I tottered around on crutches for the several weeks following that incident. In our minds, we were both back in that room, both laughing at my well-deserved pain, and she was exclaiming, “that’s what you get!”

Two weddings, four children, and most of a decade later, we hugged. And she declared, “I miss you!”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time to Crochet! Week 2

Day 5

So I finally gave in and made the piggy hat using the lamby hat pattern.

I figured out that though the hook has a bit to do with how large end product turns out, the main thing (with this project at least) was the yarn. I’ve made things before that called for “super chunky” yarn and I used regular yarn, but this pattern apparently needed the super chunkiest yarn in the history of the world. Even using the largest hook I own, the piggy hat fit my almost-8 month old like a tiny yarmulke.

So I unravelled the hat again, and set to work following the lamby hat pattern with the now-abused pink yarn. Now it looks like a hat for a human child, instead of some kind of demented pointy thing or a hat for a doll. In addition to that, it only took me a couple of hours to slip together, thanks to the half double crochet.

I also transformed the dinosaur mullet into a dinosaur hat dinosaur hat dinosaur hat. It was meant to be all one color, but the mostly green tail looks awesome with purple at the end. To finish, the pattern called for a single crochet all the way around the edge of the hat (tail and all), and since the purple was what I had, it was what I used. It looks awesome.

The only thing I have left to do with both of these projects is to make the ears and spikes (respectively) and fight with those. My favorite patterns are those that work together all in one piece and don’t require me to own a tapestry needle so that I can attach one bit to another. But I’m not expecting there to be a cute animal hat that is made that way, so I don’t mind.

My next plan is to start some party hats. I can’t wait to get my rainbow yarn out!

Day 6

I didn’t actually do any crocheting this weekend, but one thing did happen that concerned me quite a bit.

My parents were in the neighborhood to see adorable grandchildren, and my father was bustling around fixing this and that, as he is wont to do, at both my place and my brother’s. He ran to the hardware store to get something, and when he got back, he announced that he had something for my daughter, and pulled a hat out of his bag full of purchases.

My first thought was, “oh no, he’s bought her something I’ve already made!” but then I saw it was a lion hat, with ear flaps complete with long braids trailing down from them, and I changed my mind. I’ve got quite a few patterns that have ear flaps, and I figured that if she didn’t like it, I’d be able to know in advance and figure out how to change them.

What was most worrying was the fact that she didn’t seem to want to wear it. I put it on my head to show her what it looked like, we put it on her 3 week old cousin, and on her sister, but every time we put it on her head, she’d yank it off and throw it on the ground.

I thought, “oh no, what if she doesn’t even want all these hats? I’m doing all this work, what if she hates them and never wears them?” Thankfully, later in the evening she was running around in the yard with her father with the hat on.

I was glad, because I glanced at a lion hat pattern and wrinkled my nose at it, mostly because I wasn’t looking forward to figuring out how to do the mane. Another thing I wasn’t looking forward to about this type of hat was the braid flowing down from the end of the ear flap. My sister in law suggested substituting a long panel ending in a paw instead of the braid. She made a similar hat, a bear, for my nephew that turned out absolutely adorable (although there’s not much that my sister-in-law makes that doesn’t turn out that way).

In the end, I was glad he got it for her. Now I don’t have to fight with tassels, I’ve got a better (and cuter) idea for the ends of the ear flaps, and I know she’ll like them.

Now to get back to work.
Day 7

It turns out that dinosaur spikes greatly resemble party hats that are just the right size for a Barbie doll.

Of course, I was only able to make about one and a half of them because crocheting time intersected with the time I had planned to watch the tear-jerkiest episode of Downton Abbey ever.

But I held up the finished one with the main part of the hat and at least when I’m finished with them it’s going to look awesome.
Day 8

My least favorite part of this hat making so far has been the little bits to add on. I try to keep thinking about how cute the finished product is going to be, but there’s no way to overshadow the fact that I’m going to have to tack these bits on to make it adorable, so that’s usually what is foremost in my mind while laboring over them.

It’s easy, then, while I’m meticulously breathing life into a dinosaur’s spike, to get distracted enough by other things to leave it for a while, days, even.

I’ve got a bag full of bits and pieces of different projects that need to be attatched to one another. They’re waiting for I feel like taking on the task, and if it weren’t for this monumental hat project, that time would be never. I knew I disliked making things that I had to attach to one another, but I don’t think I realized the extent of my distaste. I’ve pushed them all off to one side, knowing that once I start, I’ll find that it’s not that bad, and that I’ll go ahead and attach everything that needs to be attached to something else all at once and won’t have to bother with it for a good long while.

Piggy Hat Update: success (finally). Although I used the lamby hat pattern for the top of the hat and another strange “a pig goes to a party dressed as a pirate” mask pattern for the nose and ears, I finally finished it. Well, I’ve finished the pieces, they’re currently hanging out in the bag of detached pieces, along with the dinosaur hat dinosaur hat dinosaur hat, the teapot from the amigurumi tea set I started a million hours ago, and a cat toy I began making for a friend probably two years ago (a pattern out of the same amigurumi book as the tea set).

Someday I will be done with this stuff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Escape from Laundry Purgatory

I’m not a huge fan of laundry. I’ll do it, and I don’t mind it, but I’m not one of those “Yay! Laundry!” people. It gets done faster if I have a work area nearby, like if there’s a table big enough to sort through the clean laundry and to fold it on. If there isn’t an immediately convenient place, I have to move the laundry from the machines to wherever I plan to fold it and put it into piles so that it can then be put away in closets or shoved into drawers.

So at this point, the clean clothes enter Laundry Purgatory. They come out of the dryer and go into a basket, or bag, or whatever happens to be near the front of the machine. And then they stay there. It doesn’t matter if the box or bag stays right in front of the dryer or moves to an exotic location such as my bedroom floor.

The only way to shift it from this position is if there is enough dirty laundry on its way to be clean as to necessitate the use of the bag/basket, or if my two year old daughter happens to see the laundry sitting there on her way in to use the potty.

My daughter is one of those “Yay! Laundry!” people. There have been several occasions, while getting her ready to go to bed, when I have said something similar to, “Stop fussing and finish brushing your teeth, or you may not help me with the laundry,” which results in some fresh fussing at the idea of being excluded from such a treat.

She actually does help quite a bit. While I dump the clothes out onto my bed and sort them, she hops around the bed to the tune of “Hop Around the Hop” (music by Freedman & Myers, lyrics by me). Then, I fold little girl clothes while she plays her “match match” game with her father’s socks. I fold and put away towels in various places while she hauls her stuff into the other room to toss in her own personal drawer. She hands me shirts to hang up, and then, in her room, dresses and shirts to hang in her own closet.

She helps by motivating me to do the chore in the first place, then by making it a teaching and learning experience. The thing that helps most, though, is her attitude to the whole thing. Because she enjoys it so much, I do too. She distracts me from the fact that it is a chore by making me laugh at her antics and encourage her in her triumphs.

I wonder how old she’ll be when she decides stop rescuing the clothes in Laundry Purgatory.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weather Shenanigans

It seems like I write about the weather and the seasons quite a bit. I complain and yearn for other times of year while I simultaneously enjoy and extol the virtues of the one I’m living in.

Dear Nebraska Weather,

What’s with the shenanigans? While we were screaming about the heat in July and shivering through the cold in August, you completely ignored us. Who finally got through to you that you’d skipped late summer? And what made you decide to get it in right in the middle of October? Were you thinking that 2012 would have to have late summer at some point, and figured that October was a better time to sneak it in than December? Well, you were probably right about that.

Next year, though, remember that winter should be around until mid-April at the latest (May is right out), spring should last until either the last week of May or the first week of June before you let summer blaze, but that can last until the first week of September if you want, and then autumn needs to get some time in, so September and October are good for that, because the first snow shouldn’t come until the middle of November at the earliest. I know in past years you’ve fancied the middle of October for it, but we didn’t enjoy that very much, especially those times where you’ve let winter last all the way into May.

Every season is enjoyable in its own way. Just allow us some time to bask in each before we’re ushered into the next. I suppose playing catch-up this way is okay, just this once.

As long as you don’t try any funny business by sending some snow next week.

Love, Tricia

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Plausible to the End

All good stories must come to an end.

Novel writers in the nineteenth century didn’t have to worry about ratings or upsetting their fan base. All they had to do was to write a sufficiently interesting story so that people in possession of money would be compelled to trade it for a copy of their story. There were no chances of the story being picked up by a major network as a miniseries. They weren’t concerned about being consulted (or ignored) when a studio started work on a screenplay adaptation or began to pick out actors to portray their characters.

I’m not trying to say that novels in the nineteenth century were better than fiction today. If reality television is any indication, it seems that all that people need to stay glued to the screen is a sufficient amount of interesting upheaval in the lives of the principal characters.

But after a certain point, the drama and intrigue get a bit too much to believe. How do you keep the balance of a love interest to hold the viewers’ interest (that is, how can you keep shoving two people who obviously want to be together toward one another while still keeping them apart)? How many times must a grizzled bad guy catcher lose trusted advisers in a gun battle without becoming a casualty himself? And how is it that the same four (or six, or eight) people stay best friends with one another for years and years without falling out, drifting apart, or losing touch with one another?

Every story, whether it’s a television program, a movie, or a book, can be fit neatly into three parts: the buildup, the climax, and the wrap-up. During the buildup, we get to know the characters: their motivations, the things they want most, and how they will react to whatever happens during the climax. The climax arrives, and all of the character’s wildest dreams or worst fears come true. The wrap-up is sometimes shows us who the character really is even more vividly than their actions during the climax. How does the lovesick girl handle the fact that the man she’s loved all along finally loves her back? Does the mean-spirited man, selfish to the core, remain silent and unmoved at the death of someone who was kind to him, or does he turn away from everyone, weeping?

Usually, books and movies only contain one story, and so don’t have a chance for those who enjoy them to get tired of the characters and the way they react to certain things. The exception comes when it is part of a series (“Oh look, a woman is in distress. I wonder what Dresden will do,” or “I hope Harry will defeat Voldemort this time,” etc.). At this point, these things become similar to a television program, which usually follows a pattern of having one story spread throughout the season, a bit in each episode which has its own self-contained story.

The best of these types of stories are those which have an end in mind. The best example of this is a Japanese comic (manga) called Fruits Basket, which is a beautifully told story that was not begun before the author/illustrator (mangaka) knew how it was going to end. Though there were tons of characters, she did relatively little dithering around with the secondary characters (except once or twice when I was like “An entire chapter about Hanajima? Who cares.”), and developed the love interest slowly so that her readers wouldn’t get tired of it. There’s a wonderful example of what not to do in the manga Boys over Flowers, in which the main love interest gets shoved together and pulled apart so many times that by the fourth or fifth unlikely scenario you just want to put the book down and quit caring about the characters, but at the same time you're wondering, “will they ever actually get together???” In this instance, the author cared more about the success being achieved by the manga and continuing that success than the fact that there was no plausible end in sight. If it had ended after the first or even second breakup/get back together rigmarole, I may have enjoyed rereading it, and recommending it to friends. As it is, I recommend they avoid it, if they don’t want to be yo-yoed around like the characters were.

All good stories must come to an end. Instead of rebooting Spiderman fifty times, let it come to a satisfactory end while we still enjoy it (this means you, Hollywood.) Instead of dragging that love interest out until we just don’t care anymore, let the poor couple get together and end everyone’s misery. And no group of people can stay friends forever; everyone changes and grows in their own way, and slowly becoming different from the people you once knew so well is a part of life.
Even though books, television, and movies are fiction, there’s a level of plausibility that needs to be maintained. it doesn’t matter if your character is a star ship captain or a talking pony, there’s a fine line between believing a character exists in their environment and realizing that the character is an actor pretending to be someone who doesn’t exist. Once your audience stops believing, it’s difficult to keep their interest. And at that point, the whole thing becomes an exercise in futility.

Continuing when there is a failure to recognize that the end is coming means that the story is no longer good. It’s better to end while the fans still love it than to let it dither down into something terrible before it gets cancelled for lack of ratings. If you’ve run out of ideas and plausible drama, it’s time to end.

And all good stories come to an end.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I think it’s finally time to address the issue.

There are a million blogs out there about coffee, and millions of bloggers paying homage to it, describing their love for it, discussing different delectable ways to doctor it, sharing their feelings when the first sip of steaming warmth passes their lips.

I am not one of them.

I know. It’s crazy, right? I must be the only (or at least one of the only) person in the whole -osphere that could care less. I don’t think it smells good, or looks nice (no matter what you dump in it), and I can taste it in anything you try to hide it in (I don’t know who they think they’re fooling with “mocha” ice cream; anyone who drinks coffee all the time only tastes chocolate, and anyone who doesn’t has to spit it out because of the disgusting coffee taste).

My mother loves coffee. She loves to try new interesting different kinds, and the harshest thing I’ve ever heard her utter about one of these new adventures is “I don’t think I’ll try that kind again.” She’s one of those people who savors her coffee to its last drop, even going so far as to reheat a cup several times, until it’s hot enough to enjoy again, which sometimes leads to finding a freezing cup in the microwave hours later. My brothers and I used to (and still do) tease her about this, and about the fact that she had to have her coffee so much that even when we did find it hiding in the microwave she’d just push the button to warm it up again. She never wavered. She just informed us that when we were mature enough, we’d like coffee too. We scoffed and swore it would never be so.

The years have gone by and both my brothers enjoy a cup of coffee in the mornings (one adds as much sugar and cream as coffee to the mixture, but there is coffee in it, so it still counts). I still dislike coffee as much as ever. I have, however, gained that level of maturity that sends me to the cupboard looking for something warm to drink. The cupboard in question contains tea.

I discovered chai in high school. I would stop by a local coffee place on the way to my 7 AM Calculus class, and it’s the only time I’ve ever had the fun of being an actual “regular.” I would walk in, and the barista would see me and say, “large chai, right? Skim milk?”

Tea is really a cold weather thing for me. I don’t drink it in the summer, because there’s really no reason to warm up. I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps in a least one way: by trying tons of different kinds of tea. My tea cabinet contains every kind you could ask for: black, green, red (rooibus), herbal, whatever you like. Some I’ve purchased at the grocery store, and others (more expensively) loose-leaf at specialty tea shops (like The Tea Smith in Omaha).

Last week I had a visit from my wonderful aunt who shares my love of tea, and she encouraged me to put a gorgeous tea set that I’ve had on a shelf for years to actual use. We sat down and had a pot of Finest Lady Grey. It was delicious. I had just recently run out of Tazo chai, and was lamenting the fact that all I had in was some weird off brand chai that wasn’t very good. My previous routine was to heat the water and brew a single cup of tea in the mug I meant to drink it in. But since her visit, I’ve gotten out several of the loose-leaf teas that were sitting in the back of the cupboard and brewed them in the teapot (even a lemon grass chai that I wasn’t too sure would be good but it turned out to be awesome). It’s nice, because if I want some more, it’s all brewed up and ready for me when I’m finished with the first cup. I don’t feel like I’m wasting the tea anymore, since I can brew several cups at a time before tossing out the used leaves, and if there’s any left I can keep it in the refrigerator to reheat later.

I might not be mature enough to enjoy coffee, but I’m at least old enough that I can enjoy tea in the same sort of way. Because I definitely forget about it in the microwave for hours.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Time to Crochet! Day 4

“Yarning, yarning, over the open sea!”1 I sang to myself as I drove toward the craft store yesterday evening. Later on, after I got home, I was waving my arms around and telling my brother about the experience. He was just blinking at me, projecting a confused aura. “You what?” “We went yarning!” I said excitedly. “Is that...” he scratched his head. “When you go buy yarn or something?” I waved my arms around again. “I got a huge bag of yarn!” My brother gave me the look that I usually get when I’m going on and on about something-or-other about history or books or a video game which tells me that the person I’m talking at thinks that I’m a total nerd. So in response, I grinned like a crazy person.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like a bargain, and those who enjoy burning one hundred dollar bills with the lit end of their cigars. I am the former. I enjoy browsing through a yarn aisle, looking at strange fluffy yarn, soft yarn, coarse yarn, and yarn of every color you could imagine.

The problem is that most skeins of yarn are the size of your average Philly cheesesteak2 and cost anywhere from three to nine dollars. When I plan to go to a craft store to buy yarn, I cringe, because I know that I need the yarn, and that I’ll pay whatever the store demands, because I need it. (I don’t like to go yarning when I don’t need yarn, because at that point there’s no reason to spend the money.)

My favorite thing to find when I get to a craft store is a sale. When I got home last night, I had spent less than forty dollars, and they’d had to use one of those ultra-size bags to fit all of my purchases. I grabbed probably six skeins the size of a roll of paper towels for $2.79 apiece. I also got one that was larger for five bucks, and two that were fancy enough (though they were as big as dinner rolls) to warrant being $4.49.3

I am very excited about my ginormous4 bag of yarn. And if you’re still looking at me like I’m a yarn nerd, then I have a slightly unhinged person’s grin for you.

(Update on the piggy hat: still in the “FAIL” column.)

Edit: I have since discovered that today is (was) I Love Yarn Day! So happy (belated) yarn loving, everybody!

1 There is no body of water in Nebraska that could even come close to being considered a “sea.”
2 The spelling of which seems to be controversial
3 I don’t know about you, but I hate getting mugged by television personalities. Maybe Vanna’s yarn costs so much because she needs the money to buy a vowel. “OVERPR_CED”
4 “Ginormous” is not a word. At least not the last time I checked.C

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Time to Crochet! Day 3

This whole crocheting exercise has really been an experiment in rebellion. Every pattern calls for a certain yarn to be used, and a certain hook (the most important tool for a crocheter). Instead of faithfully following the directions, trotting out to the craft store to get the exact yarn the pattern calls for and choosing the hook that it recommends, I’m using whatever yarn I have laying around and grabbing whichever hook I feel like using, even if it’s several millimeters smaller than the one that the pattern instructs me to use.

Yesterday I learned why a half double crochet works better with a hat than a single crochet, and why I should try my best to use the hook the pattern asks for, or at least the closest I can get.

My piggy hat looks like it was made for the child of a Conehead, not my adorable human child. I think that this is the result not only of my tendency to treat crocheting like it’s macrame but also because the hook I was using was five sizes too small. I don’t even have the hook it required, because it was so large. I thought, “oh, I’ll just use this one, whatever,” and grabbed one that I hadn’t used in a while.

I was paid out for my disobedience.

The last few patterns that I’ve followed have been for younger children than my almost-3-year-old, and one of them recommended that I continue working until the diameter of the hat was the desired size. The last two hats I made only took two or three more rows to reach the five and a half (or so) inches that make it big enough for my daughter’s head, but this one took forever. I probably did six or seven more rows to make it big enough. At the time, I thought, “oh, it’s just because it’s a single crochet instead of a half double,” and went on my way. But I realized that it wasn’t going to work when I did the final measure and realized that what I was making looked more like a party hat than the top of a pig’s head.

Most crocheters/knitters don’t mind having to just pull apart whatever they’ve just worked on to fix a mistake or completely start over. I’ve never liked doing that, because having the creation in my hands is usually the best part about making it. Holding it up and saying, “I made this!” But this time I don’t mind. I don’t know any Coneheads, or whether they have children.

By keeping this failure, the only thing I would be gaining is a reminder to follow directions.