Fit to Knit

There are a few material things that I take for granted. I’m pretty content as long as I have an abundant supply of coffee and paper towels. (We have toilet paper, but we don’t have napkins or tissues, so a paper towel meets all my needs from a fake plate to a stiff handkerchief.)  It’s almost always hot in southern Texas so I can’t imagine being here without air conditioning. And running water is a huge plus. I forget how much I like water until we don’t have any.

Our first winter in Texas was spent in an almost new, but not very well insulated, Class A. Our pipes froze up for a couple of weeks. As many of you know, that led to me planting myself in a variety of flower pots at Walmart,searching for the perfect fit. That flower pot catches rain/air conditioning water now which came in handy this past week when our canister blew up and we needed to pour water in the inside outhouse.

Really, though, we’ve kept that flower pot for 2 1/2 years just in case… It’s hard to find a pot to use as a pot(ty) that’s lightweight and will still hold this much weight!

We were only without water for 6 days this time. The part arrived from Florida yesterday and you would have thought we’d been waterless for a month. We were so excited we just kept grinning and turning the water on and off and on and off. Really.

The washer was surprised by the change and began frenetically blinking F-09 signals at me.

This had never happened before and pushing every button, two at a time even, didn’t calm it down. I read the manual and Heidi unplugged it. After a couple of minutes, she plugged it back in and it calmed right down.

Having a stack-able washer and dryer in this RV has been a blessing but getting to the plug-in place  is complicated. Heidi crawled into the closet and disappeared completely. You know how in Narnia, Lucy hides in the wardrobe and behind the clothes are the coats, and behind the coats there’s snow and a lamppost!?

Well, here, behind the clothes are the coats, and behind the coats you might expect snow because there are piles and plies of scarves. Heidi got pretty caught up in the knitting while trying to unplug.

I’ve covered only a portion of Heidi’s activities over the past few months. I can sum mine up as primarily being a cheery LARGE sofa pillow. I have to shake myself off every hour or two so the caliche doesn’t form a layer on my lap.

The only thing I’ve done since February, other than working my meager 10 hour night-shift and the ritual dusting of everything not breathing, is knit scarves. This is something of an ironic hobby since I live year round in Texas where no one needs scarves. It’s even odder because I don’t particularly like to knit.

I like to eat.

I like to eat when I watch TV and I really like to eat when I read.

I needed something to do with my hands that didn’t involve food. I’m too old and too poor to start smoking so, as some of you know, I sort of taught myself to knit. Just the very basics.

I can prop my Kindle on the arm of the chair and read and knit – as long as I keep it simple. I have friends who knit beautiful caps and hats and sweaters. I knit scarves. A lot of scarves.

I don’t want to count stitches because, well, then I couldn’t read. I can knit and pearl and page-turn pretty seamlessly.

The downside (other than the fact that there is zero demand for scarves in Texas) is that I’m often sitting in the near dark at night (this picture was taken in the daytime for your benefit). I usually only have a couple of pretty, but very dim, lights on.

This is what generally happens. I’ll read and knit. The bell will ring. I go out to the gate. I come back in and pour more coffee and read and knit.

A lot of the time everything is copacetic. Every once in a while I end up with the yarn either stuck to the Velcro on my vest or more often now, on my knee brace, and I drag the whole scarf-in-progress out the door with me. Sometimes it stays intact. Sometimes not so well.

Anyway, I repeat this pattern of knitting and reading and going to the gate and drinking coffee in the semi-dark about a dozen times every night before it occurs to me to turn on more lights and take a look at my project.

Sometimes I’m pleased. But quite often I find I’ve dropped a stitch about 47 rows back which leads to a lot of unraveling. I box the scarves up every few months and send them off to friends or family members in a colder climates to donate to the SA or a soup kitchen –  and who wants to get a scarf with random holes every 40 or 50 rows?

The upside to dropping stitches is that the yarn last longer since I knit it twice, which saves us a little money.

Tomorrow or the next night, I have a story to tell you about my knee and the need to always be prepared but for now I’ll just leave you with this dieting tip that’s worked (sort of) for me: If you find your pants aren’t fitting, it might be time to take up knitting.

The Day a Star Danced

Happy 4th of July!

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If you work on an oil rig, or any night job, or just don’t like loud noises, you likely won’t be seeing fireworks tonight so I’m including some. This is a lovely version of The Star Spangled Banner performed by Sandi Patti and The Boston Pops (click on bottom right corner after starting for full screen).

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Today there are celebrations going on all over the country and for a very, very  l o n g  time, Heidi thought they were all celebrating her! Talk about a kid with great self-esteem! If you know Heidi at all, you know how appropriate it is that she was born on the 4th of July!

There was a star danced, and under that was I born.                  ~ William Shakespeare

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Happy Birthday, Heidi!

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It takes a long time to grow young. ~ Pablo Picasso

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You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C S Lewis

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God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. ~ Voltaire

Keen on Kindle

The word is out in the gate guard community that there are a whole lot of you down here, waiting for a gate.

First, Welcome!

We’ll be joining you soon as our gate closes out on Wednesday.

Maybe we’ll get to meet some of you while we all wait.

I’m trying to think of something I haven’t already written about that might be of some help to you?

I’ve covered the need for a cell phone booster, an easy satellite dish you can just toss in the yard, mouse proofing your rig and getting accustomed to caliche, wild pigs, tarantulas, snakes, guard donkeys, mad bulls  and real friendly cows. I don’t think I’ve written much about books.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.           ~C.S. Lewis

During the hours that the gate isn’t real busy, Heidi and I both love to read. One of the luxuries we don’t have is the space or money to buy books. The ones I’m interested in are rarely free at the library or on the sales rack at donation stores.

I was surprised to find that we were often in a town that was too small for a library or a town where the library won’t grant temporary cards. We spent 5 weeks half way between Gonzales and Shiner. Gonzales has a population of app. 20,000 and a large library where we couldn’t check out books. Shiner, population 2000, had a little, but very accommodating library.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx

In total, we spent almost 9 months in Gonzales county – most of the time near the town of Nixon, where we’ve now read every library book on the shelf except for a few art and bios and the children’s section.

I finally gave in on our trip back to Iowa last month and had my daughter order Kindles.

If you’re happy with a basic model, the price is down to  $79. There are used ones for even less.

If you’re a reader you probably already have one.

I’m generally the last to buy the latest and greatest when it comes to technology.

Honestly, I just like the feel of a real book or a real newspaper.

But it’s not practical out here in the remote back roads of Texas.

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed in my month of Kindling. I love the fact that the dictionary is right there with every word you read and highlighting and note taking are so simple. I like never losing my place – that’s amazing!

Did you know that you can check out library books on your Kindle? Since Heidi and I still have Cedar Rapids library accounts, they graciously allow us to browse the on-line shelves and reserve the latest Ed Gorman or Lorna Landvik. You can also do that at the town or city nearest your gate, if they have on-line accounts.

There are sites for free books like:  Booksprung

There are also bargain book sites where you can buy Kindle books for $.99 like: eReaderIQ

I’m new to this and I’m sure there are many more.

JL wrote and added these:

Don’t forget the Kindle Lending Library – http://amzn.to/tUlApm

Sign up for Amazon Prime (which also gets you free TV/movie streaming similar to Netflix as well as 2-day shipping on Amazon products) and you can check out 1 book a month (with no due date) from a selection of over 5,000 books.

Also check out http://lendle.me/

You can even buy a membership to the New York Public Library for $40 a year. You might want to browse their e-book selection first to make sure it’s worth your investment. Kindles aren’t just for reading. There are free and not quite free game apps, puzzles etc…

‘The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others and it becomes the property of all.  ~Voltaire

kindle – The verb is related to Old Norse kyndill,  a candle or torch. If you’re far from home, or far from a friendly, accessible library, and even if you’re not, nothing can hold a candle to a Kindle.

I’m an Excellent Driver

Miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature.  ~ C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author but one I usually quote on my other blog, not here at Fork. However, I’m making an exception tonight as I remind myself of the nature of miracles and the laws of nature.

It would have been a miracle if I’d really towed the nearly 40 foot 5th wheel with my Jeep as this picture appears to suggest.

By the way, this setting is a classic example of why I never wanted to be a full-time RVer. I couldn’t have put out the awning without hitting the neighbors, who were very nice and who had a little dog that never ever stopped barking. Then there were the folks on the other side who watched their outside TV all night while giving verbose instructions to sports figures.

By the time we’d made the trip to Victoria to this lovely RV park, unhitched the RV, traveled to Smiley to retrieve the Jeep, and returned to Victoria, we had one day of our 3 week odyssey left.  Victoria is 67 miles from Wharton, where Lantern 17 is currently drilling.

We had traveled 5,211 miles. We visited our children and grand children in Iowa and Minnesota, caught up with as many friends as possible, traded in a motorhome for a 5th wheel, moved everything we own and learned to a drive truck/5th wheel combo.

Although we had a few mishaps, as you know from Peculiar to Paris, nothing major. Heidi insists that I share that I wasn’t the one who did any of those things (well, I did flush the toilet, but Heidi hooked up the hose). However, I more than made up for my stellar trip performance in one fell swoop!

The park was nice, but really tight. Of course, when you’ve just spent 10 months sitting alone in ranchers’ pastures, anything else might feel tight.

Raymond: I’m an excellent driver.
Charlie: When did you drive?
Raymond: I drove slow on the driveway when my dad came to Walbrook.                            ~ Rain Man

Possibly I should have taken my cue from Raymond and stuck to the driveway.

It would have been a miracle, quite literally, if, dragging the side of my brand new 5th wheel up against this diminutive palm tree, had caused no damage.

It wasn’t my day for miracles. This rugged little palm has survived the second worst drought in the history of Texas. It certainly wasn’t about to be uprooted by a crazy lady who was too tired and took the corner too tightly.

The RV on the other hand, was brand new and had no experience in weathering adversity. It quickly gave in to the scratching and clawing of the sturdy tree, yielding its tire bumper and paint with little resistance.

Good Sam, good on their word, will be sending out a claims adjuster. Fortunately, the slide still slid (which we had great doubt about). The inside looks new still. The frig continues to keep things cold and the oven worked just fine today when Heidi made brownies for the guys. It’s mostly cosmetic but you know how expensive cosmetic surgery is!  After the $500 deductible, the very compassionate Good Sam lady assured me insurance would pay the rest.

I was initially miserable, the RV being new and all. I knew I should just have been instantly grateful that no one was hurt (would have been hard to get hurt since I was going about 5mph). But I was too tired to keep perspective.

I worked last night, which meant about 28 hours without sleeping. I have a better perspective tonight. Hey, it’s on the back side!

I think we’ll stay put and make a little money before we take time off for repairs. Unless it should, by some miracle, rain in Texas. Then we’d have to see if there’s a leak by that huge indentation in the kitchen …

Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73 percent of all accidents involving falling objects.   ~Dave Barry

Facebook Friends:130 But Who’s Counting?

Facebook is counting. So are millions of others who see accumulating the most Facebook friends as a competitive sport.

I read that Lady Gaga has over 10 million friends on Facebook and is the current world record holder (fan page category).

The FB friend limit for a personal page is 5000. People are in an uproar! That just isn’t enough friends. Really? Once you hit 500o, you either have to begin deleting friends or adding a fan page.

Facts according to Facebook’s Press Room:

  • More than 500 million active users
  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

The average user has 130 friends. I’m such an under-achiever! When I lived in Oregon, I loved walking on the beach, collecting agates and jasper and sand-dollars. It never occurred to me to spend my time collecting friends, although I made some dear ones there.

I have a very small family. My kids aren’t on Facebook. They tweet on Twitter. I don’t really get Twitter, but I do read their tweets. Many of my closest friends don’t have Facebook accounts. Imagine!

Counting my 5 family members who are on Facebook, I have 34 FB friends. I added 3 and subtracted 7 this week for a net loss of 4. I’m sure the 7 I cut won’t notice. They never post and never comment when I do. They’re nice people. We just don’t have a connection anymore.

I may very well have the fewest number of FB friends of anyone who looks at Facebook regularly. Adding 3 friends in a week is unprecedented for me. That’s what got me thinking tonight about my FB friend criteria.

Most who know me probably wouldn’t describe me as being shy. But, like my non-Facebooking daughter, I’m exceptionally private. I’m so private that all my Facebook privacy settings are Friends only. I’m so private that, until yesterday, my entire FB profile, which is private, was all but blank. 🙂

There are always studies being done about the impact of Social Media. This is an interesting link that supplies more interesting links: Facebook “friends”? The impact of social media trends on depression and self-confidence.

I can’t fathom how vastly social media affects our every day lives. It’s a brave new world. My Psychology degree is 30 years old. The Intro to Computer Science course I took consisted entirely of writing code: Basic, Basic Plus and Four Trand; which by the way, I was really bad at. I was dating a pre-med major who spent a lot of hours in the lab with me or I would never have figured out my syntax errors. The computer main-frame took up an entire room.

This may be key in explaining my Facebook issues. My definition of friend is just as archaic as my computer background. Maybe if the Facebook category was called:

Acquaintances

or

You’re One Of The Thousands of Fascinating People I Don’t Know

… maybe then I’d be inclined to say yes more often when a FB invitation pops up.

I have made compromises: I’m FB friends with C.S.Lewis who died when I was 7 . The criteria to be his FB friend is: you must have a personal relationship with this individual to be his friend on Facebook. And, I’m  friends with Facebook. I don’t know why? That’s kind of like being friends with The Borg. I may un-friend Facebook.

Other social networks use less intimate terminology to represent contacts: LinkedIn has connections, Twitter has followers, but Facebook changed the word friend from a noun into a new kind of verb.

Looking over my list tonight, most of the people who are my Facebook friends are people I’ve cried with. I’ve laughed with so many people. I’ve cried with a few. This isn’t a criteria that would work for most, especially those going for the 5000 club.

It works for me. It’s more than semantics. My Facebook posts are rarely revealing, but when they are, all 34 of my friends care.

Friendship is a sheltering tree.  ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

1963

1963 by Debbie

“Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us.” ~R. Cowper

I’m currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I started reading it in Oregon and was pleasantly surprised to find that the little library in Three Rivers carried it. The book was recommended by another woman who worked for the same boss in Utah that I worked for in OR. The conversation about the book came up during a particularly difficult time at the Resort. Her quip was: “You’ll love it, the underdog wins.”

Our mutual ‘boss’ is undeniably a social and religious elitist. I can say that without reservations, not only because I know it to be true, but because I believe he would consider it a compliment. Because of the recommendation and from the title alone, I began reading with a mindset of being one of the mistreated/under-appreciated ‘help’ and was looking forward to the promise of winning in the end.

The setting is Mississippi, 1962-63. The story revolves around a group of young upper-class women, most graduates from ‘Ole Miss.’ and their “help”. The focus is primarily on the experiences of the black women who had no options but to work as maids, from their early teens on.

Stockett, the author, was raised in Jackson Mississippi. Her family had a black maid. She writes much of the book from the fictional perspective of a young white woman attempting to represent the life of the black women around her.

Stockett says: “I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960’s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.”

The time period was chosen, certainly, for it’s volatility. It was the time of the shooting of Medgar Evans, of Martin Luther King marches, a time period when the Jim Crowe laws were unquestioned in most of the south, certainly in Mississippi.

1963 was the year I began first grade in the tiny town of Middlebury, Indiana. On November 22nd of that year, C.S Lewis died before I ever got to write him a thank you letter for the innumerable ways his writings would eventually change my thinking and my heart. I remember that because he died on the day we were all sent home from because the President had been shot.

I recently read this quote by J.B. Phillips:
“Most people, naturally, have a somewhat restricted view of life, and they rely to a far larger extent than they realize on the vicarious experience of life to be found in books, films, and plays. Few of us, for example, have known at all intimately a detective, a dress-designer, a circus-proprietor, a pugilist, or a Harley Street specialist. Yet a skillful writer can make us feel that we have entered the very hearts and lives of these, and many other, people. Almost without question we add what we have read or seen to the sum total of what we call our “experience.” The process is also most entirely automatic, and probably most of us would be greatly shocked if it could suddenly be revealed to us how small a proportion of our accumulated “knowledge of the world” is due to first-hand observation and experience.”

In 1963, I had never heard of C.S. Lewis, I had virtually no knowledge of our 35th president and I’d never seen a black person. Since then I’ve read books and watched films and plays. But certainly, I’ll never begin to understand what it meant to be “the help” in the 60’s in the south. And how incredibly audacious of me to, for even an instant, put myself, if only in fleeting thoughts, in the same category. This book, these issues may lead to several other applications. For today, I’m narrowing it down to my need for an equal portion of humility and gratitude.

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other source of prejudice before noon.” ~George Aiken