Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

Gratitude: The Key To Saving Someone’s Life?


I was listening to part of an interview on the radio last night about Gratitude.  It was obviously planned for the Thanksgiving season, but I found this one interview compelling and honestly better than many other messages and even sermons I’ve heard.

I don’t know who the man was, but he was a psychiatrist and he talked about gratitude as an essential part of healthy Life and our human makeup.  And that it was the key to happiness.

He didn’t talk about how we should be grateful.  He didn’t talk about gratitude being essential to save your soul, or anything like that.  He didn’t even say anything about how it’s a spiritual principle in the cycle of give and receive.   Though it is.  Or that it was a bad thing to not be grateful.  He did mention that it was a key to happiness, but I thought it interesting how he explained it.

He said that gratitude isn’t just about the fleeting feelings of “YAY!” we feel when something we love happens.  He said it’s also a state of being, giving and service.  And he said that it’s the key to happiness, because that service adds value to our lives.  Not just in hey – the experience of serving was good for me.  But as in the fact that our psyches’ desire to matter.  And when we serve, our psyches’ realize – we matter.  We just mattered to someone we helped.  Even if we don’t think it’s a whole lot, our psyche recognizes this and sees value in its existence.

And that it’s important to respond to those things that we naturally feel inspired by, or appreciate the value of.

He mentioned that one of his primary methods to treat depression and suicidal thoughts was to give his clients the homework of doing good deeds for others.  It didn’t have to be big.  It could be making a point of thanking someone, or making someone smile at the grocery store, or buying a cup of coffee for the fellow behind you.  The point wasn’t about worrying how or anything like that.  The point was to just simply start doing it.  And then increase to more and more times per week.  And soon, that person who once saw no value in their life and no reason to live, no longer felt the same.  And often no longer needed medication.

I thought it was really interesting.  Because it wasn’t about guilting people into service.  It wasn’t about shoulds and sins and the oft spoken clichés of how good it is to see the misfortunes of others so you would appreciate what you have more.   It was simply a matter that our psyches CRAVE to be of value.  It’s part of our very makeup.  Whether you believe that makeup is ordained by God or not doesn’t matter.  And in order to correct the malfunction of devaluing ourselves and our lives, the answer is to show our inner selves that we do have value.  And if what you’re doing isn’t convincing your inner self of your value, then you shift to doing what will.  The key was to do something that you could see made an impact.

I thought this was really interesting, because I think this bleeds into so much more.  Not everyone is suicidal, but many of us live lives we don’t feel are of much value or aren’t satisfied with.  We throw money at things without getting involved, which often removes us emotionally and physically from the experience.  We get too busy and cut more and more out of our lives.  And while we need a balance in everything, it seems that we only value that which we invest our souls into.  Including our communities, our country and ourselves.  I can tell you from personal experience that every time I go through dark periods, I throw myself into service somehow.  I hadn’t really analyzed it too much, but it’s always given me light when I needed it most.

I don’t know.  It’s not like this subject isn’t talked about in so many ways.  And it isn’t like the thankfulness clichés aren’t trotted out every single November.  I’ve heard and studied and parroted these things again and again myself.  But somehow this struck me a little differently this time.  Maybe because there was simply a tremendous lack of judgement in the whole way this guy presented his thoughts.  It wasn’t about right or wrong.  It wasn’t about whether we’ve lost our way as a modern civilization.  It wasn’t about depression being a disease to manage or Thanksgiving being an important time to be thankful.  It wasn’t about sadness or saving the world.

It was simply a loving statement of fact.  We humans need to be of value.  We need it like we need sleep and nourishment.  It’s a need that we are responsible for feeding ourselves.  No one else can give it to us.  It drives what we do and who we are.  And without it, we’ll never be healthy, happy or prosperous.

Know Thyself.

As a man thinks, so is he.

We’ve been told these things all our lives.

Do we understand what they really mean?

Gratitude: The Key To Saving Someone's Life - Aberrant Crochet - NaBloPoMo

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Feel Good Movie Recommends


This weekend, we’re making a point of spending some time together as a family.  And also, we’re making a point of having some fun together.  Part of that fun has been watching fun movies, and of course, I’m attempting to finally get some crochet done too.  It’s been weeks, so I’m starving.

We’ve enjoyed some really great, family, fun movies recently with the kids, so I thought I’d share with you.

The first recommend is the
Disney back story called Maleficent

While the critics were not all that nice about it, our family really enjoyed this enchanting movie.  The music and cinematography were well done.  Angelina Jolie’s performance was impeccable.  And let’s put it this way: I was all set to get some crochet done during this movie  – and got no further than two stitches.  There are many nuances that you don’t want to miss.

Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the viewpoint of the “villain.”  It sets out to answer the questions behind the story.  Why does Maleficent, a fairy, not have wings?  Why is she so angry that she’s willing to curse a baby?  Who does that?  How did she come to be the fearsome creature in the childhood story we know?

It’s beautifully done, with mirth and lessons.

The second movie I recommend
is Pitch Perfect

Especially for any musician who’s performed or competed on stage before, and even more especially for anyone who’s performed in a voice group.  I have done both, and find this movie incredibly hilarious and satisfying as entertainment!

Pitch Perfect combine’s a rebel’s story with that of music geeks, based around college a cappella groups and the competitions they square off in.  If you have a love of the weird and geeky, and a lot of hilarious moments, then really, this is a movie for you.  It’s PG-13, so keep in mind the age of your kids, but overall, this is a really fun, sweet movie.  And the music and performances are a whole lot of fun.

Plus, there’s a much awaited sequel coming out May 2015.

Both of these movies can be enjoyed
over and over again.

I don’t say that lightly.  I’m often bored with movies once I’ve seen them.  But these rank up there in the cult classic range, in different ways, but nonetheless.  Maleficent is a dark, thoughtful re-imagined fantasy, with only a PG rating.  I’d put Pitch Perfect into the So I Married An Axe Murderer category of just flat out fun.

Check them out; tell me what you think!  Y’all enjoy your weekend!

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Tape Ball / Candy Ball – A Hilariously Simple Game For Groups


Looking for fun activities for a party?  Need to kill some time or stall the kids?  Looking for some fun memories to pad your holidays?  Then I might have just the thing for you.

I hadn’t heard of Tape Ball (or Candy Ball) before a few months ago, but I wanted a simple, fun and cheap activity to add to our Teen Halloween Party last month.  And it turned out to be the perfect party experience!  None of the kids had ever played the game and they weren’t sure what to think of it at first.  But as soon as the action started, they were hooked!  By the end, they were yelling and cheering and having a blast.  It was a big hit and a lot of fun!

Apparently some people play this game as part of a Christmas tradition, but I think being mostly made of candy, it’s perfect for Halloween too.

Supplies you will need

Candy
Plastic Wrap
Clear Packing Tape
Bits of wrapping paper or other scraps paper
Torn up grocery bags work too
Other fun prizes
A pair of dice
A pan to roll the dice into

Playing The Game

Have your group sit in a circle on the floor. There’s no minimum or maximum number of people, but I think more than a classroom sized group might be too big.

Figure out who in your group is going first.  Hand them the ball.

Decide if you’re going to go clockwise or counter clockwise, and then hand a pair of dice to the appropriate person sitting next to the person who has the ball.

At “Ready Set Go,” the person with the ball begins trying to find an end of tape so they can begin unwrapping as many layers of the ball as they can, as quickly as they can. (This is not as easy as it sounds.)  Anything that they manage to unwrap, they get to keep!

At the same time, the person with the dice rolls them again and again until they get doubles. Once the second person rolls doubles, the ball immediately passes to them to unwrap, and the dice pass on to the next person in the circle to roll.

The cycle repeats all around the circle, over and over, until the entire ball is unwrapped.

The Ball

Of course, first you have to make your ball.  (This does take time.)

The basic idea is that you use plastic wrap, packing tape, wrapping paper scraps, etc. and you literally wrap and tape candy and other prizes – layer by layer  – into a ball.

Start out with something in the center, like a jingle bell or a rattle or something else noisy.  The noise helps with the game.  Or, do like one family did, and wrap a set of chattering teeth into the middle.  The teeth were all wound up ready to go and scared the bejeezers out of the person who did the last unwrap.

Once you have your nucleus wrapped, add to it layer by layer with candy, socks and underwear, toys, money, weird stuff – whatever suits your fancy and that you think will be fun and appropriate for your players.  Make sure every layer has something wrapped into it.  You want each layer of tape or plastic wrap to b around 18 inches or so long.  You also want your ball to be a pretty good size, and to tape it pretty well (without being completely evil) or the game will be over too quickly.   Unless you plan to use this with little kids, then you’re going to want to ease up on the taping or it might be too hard and frustrating.

I would have liked to have made ours the size of a basket ball, which I read many others have done, but I ran out of tape and plastic wrap.  So instead it was about the size of a small kick ball.  But it was a lot of fun and with 16 or so kids, it took 15-20 minutes to play.

I used Halloween candy, yo-yos, playing cards, pennies, Christmas socks, dollar store tie, a Christmas music box button from a greeting card (it kept going off inside the ball, so awesome!), jingle bells, bottle caps, milk rings and more in our tape ball.  And when I ran out of plastic wrap, I grabbed grocery bags and whatever else I could find.  It should be pretty hefty when you’re done.

Tape Ball from Indulgy.com

I wish that I could show you what ours looked like, but I didn’t have time before the kids started the game and none of my photos from the game turned out either!   However, here’s a pretty good photo I found on Indulgy – to give you an idea.

So there you go.  A fun, wholesome activity everyone in the family can enjoy.  Even Grandpa.

So what about you?  Have you ever played Tape Ball or Candy Ball?  How did you play it?  Any tips?  Because I totally want to take this to another level the next time we do this.  Share your stories and tips below!

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What’s Your Favorite Calendar Planner System?


People often think I’m organized.  But they don’t realize that’s not how I feel.

I exist in a constant state of seeking organization.  Never quite feeling like I’ve found it.  Guilty of high standards that aren’t easy to satisfy.

I’ve probably owned and half-used more calendars and planners than most people would think normal.   Even created a few. I can walk into someone else’s space and help come up with ways to organize them.  But for myself, I’m like a wandering Fool who can’t settle down.  And I’m the same way about purses and yarn bags.

What can I say?  I like good tools.  Nay, I probably even worship them.  But anything that falls short of the balance, I will drop in a heart-beat.  Either you’re saving me time and heart-ache, or you ain’t organizer-planner thing.

Toward that end, I’m currently in the middle of searching for a new weekly-monthly calendar planner for 2015.  Preferably one that does everything.  I want the bells, the whistles and the cup holders too.   And I’m not a fan of digital calendars for my purposes.  I remember things I hand-write better.  But I also use my calendars each year as records.

My favorite family calendar is the More Time Moms Calendar.  I’ve been using that one for our family for years – at least since the first time John deployed.  It has the largest squares to write in, it’s strong and comes with great little stickers to use.  Though I kind of miss some of their old stickers.  But I love the iconic use of imagery to be able to put more information into a space, that I can glance across the room and see in an instant.  It’s great.  Oh look, there’s a pair of scissors on tomorrow’s date. Haircut!

But… when it comes to business stuff, managing orders and contract work – I need something much different.

I prefer to use a full blown 9×12 size spiral planner with one week spread across two pages.  And the more boxes it has for me to use for lists and notes, the better.  Some of the planners marketed to moms are good starts, but I find many are just too small.  The kind of planners that allow you to write out a schedule for multiple people are nice, because you can use those extra schedules for projects, not just people.

Last year I found a great little weekly-monthly calendar by DayTimer that seemed to have a bit of everything I wanted.  It was called the FamilyPlus Planner.  I could organize up to 6 people or projects, multiple boxes for different kind of notes.  Some lines sections, some not lined (I like having both) and even a quick dinner menu list, which I found kinda handy.

Well, that cool calendar has apparently been discontinued.  What to do.  And I haven’t found anything else like it.

Certainly, one option for me is to find another Maker who’s doing free calendars.  They might have closer organizational needs to mine.

Or better yet, maybe I should give up and just design and print my own.  But before I take on a painful job like that, I figured I’d ask y’all.

What's Your Favorite Calendar Planner System? - Aberrant Crochet

What are you using?  Why?

What features do you value?  What’s your favorite?

Let me know in the comments below.  Links encouraged!

PS –  It dawned on me that I should make it clear that I do not want to design and make my own calendar.
I want to buy one and use it today.  That’s why I’m asking you what you like to use.  Recommendations and time saving.  Making my own would be an act of desperation under protest and anguish.  Just in case you’re wondering….

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But What Does That Mean?


People are always getting stuck on the names and adjectives and ways they come up with to describe their business, when it comes to marketing.  And it’s a problem.

On the one hand, you want to brand yourself.  You know – like I’m Aberrant Crochet.  Ain’t no other.  I put my stamp on whatever I can.  When I use this personality.  Pixie Worx goes on other stuff.  And I developed the catch phrase for my marketing of “Shop Outside The Flock!”

OK, cool.

But if I’m going to pay money for an advertising banner that barely has room for 10 words, or ad in a newspaper or even an Etsy listing title – while I might make sure that my logo or name or something is there somewhere, I’m going to be marketing key words that people understand.  Not spending all my money on my ego.

Do you know how many people ask me what the word ABERRANT means?  When I talk about being heretical, people ask me what that means too.

Those aren’t good key marketing words for me to use in a stripped down graphic box on the internet.  Not because they’re emotionally charged, as someone tried to tell me once, but because people aren’t Googling them and they don’t know what they’ll get on the other side of that click.  People aren’t out there searching for my brand of aberrant heretics outside the average flock.  And I’m not famous yet.  So what the heck does it mean to someone coming across a graphic ad on a website somewhere if I’m not blunt about what I want to sell people?  (Seriously, someone tried to tell me once that it was unlikely that I’d ever make acceptable friends or customers with my chosen brand name. Really…. Rock on then.)

I’m going to worry less about my name and I’m going to focus my keyword marketing on “crochet” or “articles” or “graphic work” or whatever else I’m hocking at the time depending on the room I have.  Because that’s 1) What most people understand and 2) What most people are looking for.

Sure it’s good for people to see your logo.  “Ooo! Recognize me!”  But if you want sales on the other side of that click, you need to be more specific as to what you’re offering.

Which would make sense to you?  “Get Your Certifiably Aberrant Patterns Here!” or “Unique Crochet Patterns” or better yet “Largest Spider Web Crochet Pattern – Available Here.”  Can you tell what I’m selling?  (Well, OK – I did use the word “pattern” in each example, but stick with me here.)  Which would you more likely click?  Which would you more likely trust?

Aberrant Crochet - Illustrating A Marketing Point - But What Does That Mean

Illustrating A Point

Sometimes we’re too attached to our pet phrases and chosen identities when we think of marketing.  We want to cram too much information in there.  Or we just have to use our “official” certification program on the ad, instead of making it simple on the consumer.  “Experience Certified Wompamized® Technological Advances Here!”  or “Click here to improve your WordPress skills!”  Which one are you more likely to be interested in?

Just be honest with your consumer.  Stop trying to over-dress things to make them seem more impressive.  If you have a good product, then you don’t need to create vague descriptions.  It’s OK to have an amazing brand name.  But when all you have is 10 words to grab someone’s attention, make them count.

It all comes down to this.

Dude – make your marketing messages clearer.  Just like nebulous questions – nebulous marketing messages get nebulous results.

Clarity is King.

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What They Don’t Seem To Understand About NaBloPoMo…


I’ve been perusing the #NaBloPoMo posts for this year’s traditional November challenge.

And I’m surprised.

The amount of people who don’t seem to get what it is and how it works.  What the ENTIRE point of the challenge and exercise is.  And it doesn’t seem that anyone’s doing much to explain anything.

NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) was created as a blogger’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  With NaNoWriMo, the goal is a 50,000 word novel completed in 30 days – during the month of November.  NaBloPoMo’s take for bloggers (who write posts, not books) is to write and publish at least one post every day.  No banking your posts.  No catching up if you miss the deadline each day.  Write and post every single day, no matter what.  If you miss a day, too bad – you lost.

We used to revel in the challenge, create amazing new badges to share with each other, create “earned” badges for winners, donate and award prizes that you had to complete the challenge to qualify for, etc..

Both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo are not about quality.  Though for me – I prefer to limit junk posts.  After all – I might share personal stories, but this isn’t my diary.  However, both challenges are absolutely about that consistency and commitment to write every single frikin’ day.  Even when you’re dry on ideas.  Even when you feel stupid.  Even when you don’t wanna.  Even when your family doesn’t understand.

The goal is to push your writing skills with deadlines and pressure that only you can hold yourself to.  Which amazingly enough, sometimes squeezes absolute genius out of us.

Badge I earned for a different blog for completing NaBloPoMo 2009. (We used to earn badges too.)

But since BlogHer took over the care-taking of NaBloPoMo….  I don’t know….  It just seems like too many people no longer understand the point of the exercise.  I peruse all these posts and see comments like, “__ more until I catch up,” and “Here are my 5 posts for this week.”

??????

:/

>:P

Ugh.

Where are the good ‘ol days.

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On Writing For Emergence…


Back on November 5th, I mentioned how I’d committed to a group writing project, based on the theme of Emergence.

And for some reason, I’ve really struggled with this subject.  I have actively mulled it over for weeks.  And have had trouble coming up with what I felt I could write about.

To get my head around the concept, I’ve been studying the definition and history of the meaning of the word Emergence.

Initially my only concept of the meaning was essentially that of birth.  Something coming into being when once it wasn’t there.

But simply that take alone wasn’t sitting well with me on a personal level.  My entire concept of reality is rarely that there are night and day changes.  There are all these tiny steps along the way, little micro changes that always lead us in one direction or another.  And it’s the sum of those tiny steps that come together into a culmination that suddenly look – to someone outside – as something completely different.  But from my own life, I know the tiny steps I’ve made all along.  Some chosen with precision, others simply allowed.  But conscious stepping none the less.

But then I got further into the philosophy of Emergence, as a concept that’s been around since Aristotle.  I can across this definition:

“In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is conceived as a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties. “

On Writing For Emergence - Article By Aberrant CrochetAnd I realized – this is what I already see.  It’s my concept of Life.  This is about fragments that turn into collections, that turn into systems and then communities.

It’s about the catalyst inside each individual part.

Whether it’s information. Whether it’s the development of where I go in life and roles that I play.  Whether it’s the individual cells that form in the womb and some day become born.

Whether it’s the massive patterns you see in human history and natural evolution, where on the micro scale things seem sudden, but when you pull back and look at the whole, you realize – this was always coming.

Little individual pieces that once operated on their own, grouping together in tiny bits, then connecting again to more tiny bits, and before you know it, there’s a whole new energy.  A whole new life.  A whole new concept and wave-length and even a birthing of ideas and possibilities that weren’t there before the joining.

I’m not sure I can quite flesh out what I’m going to say for my part of that book project, themed “Emergence,” just yet.  But I see community this way. I see the connections I’ve purposely made or facilitated between people this way.  I’ve networked people and information nearly all my life.  I have created entities that did not exist before I came to be.  And even more importantly to me, I’ve facilitated memories.

And in that regard, I am a creator.  Working in my lab, allowing the Hand of the Muse to press upon me, connecting the patterns I see possible, putting pieces of an unknown puzzle together and then standing back to watch it take on its own life.

There’s something here in this project for me.  That I know.

I haven’t quite given voice to just what.  But I think this is where I’ll start.

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Building Your Social Media Presence On Pinterest


Building Your Social Media Presence On Pinterest - Article by Aberrant Crochet“I get Facebook.  I get Twitter.
I’ve tried, but I don’t get this… Pinterest thing.”

I’ve heard this and similar statements many times at networking meetings, online and from my clients over the last year.

Let me see if I can shed some light for you.

So you have a Pinterest account, because you’re in business and you know that you need a social media presence.  And you’ve pinned some of your things.  But you feel like you’re only hearing crickets, huh?  You feel pressed for time and you’re not sure if you’re “doing it right.”

With Pinterest, the key isn’t in pinning a lot or camping out online for a long time.  It isn’t really about making sure your boards are mass-full of stuff you might not even like that much. And it isn’t about pinning just your own stuff.

The key is actually in engagement and being choosy.  And being yourself.  Only instead of sharing status updates, like on Facebook and Twitter, you are sharing things.  Usually things that are somehow edifying.

How do I get followed??

Follow people!  While Pinterest is mostly visual eye-candy driven, with more pinning and less conversing going on, it is social.  So no one will really see and follow your boards if you don’t ever follow anyone else.  Unless you’re the Dalai Lama, or Oprah.

You have to participate to reap the benefits.  It’s like the lottery – you can’t win if you don’t play.

Now, even though Pinterest has by nature been less chatty than other social media outlets, it doesn’t mean the environment isn’t evolving.  Pinterest now has messaging capabilities too.  How much it’ll catch on, I don’t know.  I think one of the reasons for Pinterest’s success is actually because there’s not so much chatting going on.  How popular and helpful the new features will be remains to be seen.  I’ve chatted a little – and don’t get too hung up on it right now.  Though I always respond if someone leaves a message.  That’s an important rule anywhere.

Put your Pinterest link on your website and anywhere else you are that you can put it!  Seriously.  Same for any other social media links too.  This is really overlooked for some reason.

Who to follow??

Just as you want to be choosy about your pins, be choosy about your follows too.   Start with following your friends.  You can follow all their boards, or just some of them.  I recommend that you only follow boards that interest you. And reserve the right to unfollow anything at any time.

Are you already on Facebook or Twitter?  Start looking for the Pinterest boards of the people you follow on FB and Twitter.  Chances are you will find their pins interesting because you’re already following them for some reason.  Then look through those accounts who are following you on Facebook and Twitter too.  Especially the ones you’ve followed back. You’re just carrying on the relationship started elsewhere to a new visual platform.

From there, start paying attention to the people of complementary mind.  From a marketing point of view, look for your ideal audience or your tribe in general and follow them.  For instance, if you sell crochet patterns, follow other crocheters and re-pin their most interesting pins.  It’s a nice complement, but it also alerts them to your presence.  But also, don’t be afraid to follow other crochet designers.  Chances are, their specialty under the crochet pattern umbrella is different from yours.  But connected together, you can both use your crochet powers to draw crocheters who’d be interested in you both.

What to pin??  

Don’t pin anything you don’t particularly like or find interesting yourself.

Collect useful articles – everyone online needs good information.  Collect recipes – everyone eats.  Collect humorous things – everyone appreciates a laugh.  Collect quotes and sayings – everyone appreciates a poignant phrase.  Collect your passions – someone else out there likes it too!  Collect holiday inspirations – whatever floats your boat. Just remember that if it feels fake though, no one will follow. Only pin it if you really like it.  It’s supposed to be your collection!

You can pin from the people you follow, or you can search for a subject and see what you find.  It doesn’t even have to make sense if you are open to discovery.  A simple nonsensical search for “hairy trees” gave me this street art result: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/428475352022205859.  Pretty cool, huh?

Be choosy.  Think about pinning in terms of “Wouldn’t this be great?”  If you don’t really think it would be great, then don’t.  Just don’t.

When to pin??

You don’t have to pin every day, or even every week.  But you must pin if you want your Pinterest account to perform.  So take 15 minutes when you think of it and go look for good stuff.  The goal is to be choosy, not spend tons of time and not even to spend regular time.  Unless you’re in the mood.

This isn’t blogging or tweeting.  This is collecting.  So just like successful antique shopping, you want to make sure you spend time doing it, which helps you better understand the market and what’s going on, and then you flow with it. Some days you’ll find only a couple interesting things.  Others, maybe a treasure trove.  Let your heart sing, but pretend you’re on a budget when you’re trying to decide what you like most.

What about my stuff??

Yes, you should definitely pin your own stuff to your Pinterest boards.  In fact, you want to be the first to pin them if at all possible.  Though I advise you to wait a few days after you’ve published before you pin.  (It helps your pin show up in feeds more prominently if whatever you’re sharing has already gained attention elsewhere first.)

Pin your stuff, but don’t forget that so much of social media culture is about sharing cool stuff you find.  This is more true about Pinterest than any other platform.  Pinterest is an eye-candy world, but people avoid accounts that seem stuck on themselves.  Unless they are cooks or teach instructionals or something.  Or like I said before, unless you’re Oprah.  And that’s only because she’s already built that platform and established herself.  She doesn’t have to work at it so hard anymore.

Pinterest is about imagery, so pay attention to the quality of your images.  And if you created the image and own the rights to it, always put your watermark on it.  When you create graphics for social media sharing, be sure to make your name, or book title, or website (or Twitter handle or something like that) a permanent part of the actual image.  The goal of pinning your own stuff is for those images to be shared onward, but you want your website or something embedded so that people 6 connections later can easily find you again, whether the original link stayed attached or not!  Especially for things like Pinterest.  Even if you don’t use Pinterest, a lot of other people do!  And while Pinterest defaults to including the link where an image can be found, people can over-ride that and replace the original link with another.

So optimize your images so they funnel back to you no matter where they end up or how they might be shared or scraped. ;)

Wait, but you don’t have very much stuff of your own to pin, you say?  That’s OK.  If you pace it out, you can repin your own stuff again and again.  Just be tasteful about it.  No one wants to see tons of you pinning yourself.

How to pin from the web??

Download the Pinterest browser app for easy pinning across the web.  Anytime you read or see something awesome, use your Pinterest app to pin it to one of your boards.  When you click that little “pin” button, it will pull up a menu of available photos to use for that link.  Choose a good image (I prefer the larger images) and include a description.  It doesn’t have to be detailed, but the more useful the description, the better.

Some people use a lot of #hashtags in their pins.  I don’t think this is very helpful.  Try not to use more than 3.

An important note – pinning is not only about the image you pin, but the link where that image was found.  You want to keep those two elements paired together.  When you pin from a website, ie. from a blog, be sure you pin from the article page and not the home page.

For instance, I have my blog set up so you can read something like the 10 most recent posts I’ve published – right from my home page without ever having to click on the link to the actual post.  Others set their blogs set up to show the first paragraph of an article, and then you have to click the link to read the rest of the article.  Either which way though – usually a featured image will be on that front page, associated with that article.  However, if you pin that photo from the home page, then the link for the home page is what Pinterest will pick up, not the link for the actual article.  This can lead to confusion down the road.  Because another year from now, the most recent posts displayed on my front page are not going to be the same as today.  So when someone follows the link in the pin and they come to my site, they’ll be hard pressed to be able to find the image and the link it belonged to ever again.

Lastly, a quick note on the wishes of website and image owners.  While most people love for their stuff to be pinned, not everyone does.  Photographers particularly, for obvious reasons.  Whether you agree or not, be sure to respect their wishes if they have obviously stated they don’t want their images pinned.

Anything else?? 

Be nice.  A simple rule, but sometimes people forget.  And don’t be afraid to link your Pinterest account to Facebook and/or Twitter.  You can always choose when not to share your pins, but people who are on social media will enjoy the variety of your shares.  The visuals you choose will give them insight into you and your brand.

Here are the bullet points I want you to walk away with:

  • Pace the pinning of your own stuff.
  • Pay attention to the quality of your images.
  • Watermark your own images!
  • Follow your tribe and develop connections.
  • Pin other people’s things.
  • Pin from the correct page link.
  • You don’t have to pin every day, or even every week.
  • Link to other social media.
  • Give people a reason to follow you. 
  • Always be choosy.  Always be you.

Start with these in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building a presence that will build your platform and pay you back down the road.

What will  improve your social media performance has everything to do with your social behavior and how influential you are.  Developing that comes with time. At first you start out like a stranger in a new land who can’t get a date.  But you just get out and meet people, pick away at it and before you know it, one person turns into two and the tiny growth turns into more exponential growth.

But you won’t find dates if you never leave the house.  Desirable ones anyway…. ;)

So get out there and take the time. 

Take 5 minutes, take an hour, but take it.  Be choosy.  Find your tribe.  Develop connections.  Pin more than just your own stuff.  You’ll thank me later.

I hope this helps! 

Social Media how-to can be a huge, huge study and one that’s constantly evolving.  It’s a wave you have to be in to ride.  By no means is this article a comprehensive treatise, so consider this simply Jules’ Cliff Notes for Pinterest.  It’s my opinion, but based on my years of experience and well… at least some success.  ;)

Until next time….

Need help?  Have questions?  Feel free to ask them in the comments below!

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As If Part Of A Pink Floyd Song…


A little something I penned nearly 20 years ago….

I lie in bed… feeling as if part of a Pink Floyd song.

Ghostly sounds of the freeway pulsate, filling my ears with wails and cries from wheels and sirens.

The announcement of a rooster acutes the upper register, while groans from a slumbering grandmother warble through at mid-range.

A creak here and there from a tired old house and an exhausted water heater add to the wild rhythm of song.

At least there are no voices, only images.

Written 2-20-1995, 5:33am
Copyright © 1995 – 2014 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Facebook And Blogging: Why Image Size Matters


Facebook And Blogging - Why Image Size Matters - Aberrant Crochet

It’s been a long week of WordPress, graphics and social media work done for others.  Sometimes that work is more about growth and progress and sometimes it’s more about problem solving.  Lately it’s been an intense mix of both.

One issue that’s been popping up for my clients lately has to do with the images they use in their blog posts and on their websites.  And what happens when they want to share their posts to Facebook.

How sharing with Facebook works:

When you share a link from your blog to Facebook (whether you use an automated tool or you live-share it), the system looks for any image associated with the data at the given link. And it runs through this general process:

  • If you use a “featured image” in your post, that will be what Facebook will look to first.
  • If you don’t have a featured image, it will look for any other image imbedded in your post.
  • If there’s no image in your post, then Facebook will attempt to pull an image from your blog in general.

But all of that goes out the window if your images aren’t at least 200 pixels x 200 pixels in size. 

Size matters when it comes to images. 

It’s not because of impressiveness or simplicity.  Although those details may be end factors.

The #1 reason why your image size matters is because your image must meet a minimum size requirement for Facebook to scrape up and display with your share link on their platform.  All images must meet this minimum requirement, just to be “seen” in the first place.  And 200 pixels x 200 pixels is that minimum necessary size.

There are three main reasons I’ve found as to why this problem pops up frequently:

  • A lot of people get stuck on using thumbnail images for things.  A popular thumbnail size is usually only 150 pixels square, which doesn’t seem all that tiny.  But Facebook won’t pick those up for your share, because they’re not at least 200px.
  • People get confused because Facebook requires your profile image to be 180 pixels x 180 pixels square.  And they think that is the minimum requirement for their shares.  Yeah, sorry.  It’s not big enough.
  • People also get stuck on trying to reduce the size of their images, because they are afraid they might take up too much room.  Chill y’all.  200px square ain’t that big of a file.

So, if you’ve shared your blog posts around the social net, only to wonder why the wrong picture is being grabbed and stuck with your feature?  Look to the size of your image for a solution first.

Hope you find this useful!  Have a good night y’all.

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There’s An Article You Should Drop Everything And Read…


I don’t have much for you tonight.  I’ve been buried in work for 15 hours.  I didn’t even eat away from my computer today.  Ugh.

But.

I do want to share an article with you that you should read.

Seriously.

Wikipedia Source

Drop everything and read this when you see it.  You can’t help but finish the article smiling and with a lighter heart.  It was shared with me by Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front, and now I share it with you.

It’s called:  I Took The Dalai Lama To A Ski Resort And He Told Me The Meaning Of Life – by Business Insider.

Do it.  It’s worth it.  I’ll probably read it again tomorrow.

It’s that good.

Sweet dreams y’all.

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Tonight’s Uncommon Objects: Aberrant Holiday Yummies


There are 6½ weeks left before New Years. 

You’re welcome.  Now get on it.  Just in case you think you have more time.

Last year I kinda didn’t get through any real plans for the holidays.  This year’s gonna be different.  I’m already thinking on it.

The main thing I want to do right now is bake and make.  I’m pulling out my grandmothers’ recipes, I’m digging for ideas on Pinterest and I’m making up a list to check off – if I don’t lose it.  It’s not just Holiday time here – it’s also going to be hubby’s and my 19th anniversary.

Here are 4 things that have caught my attention or that are on my mind for this year’s celebration.

Paulig Juhla Mokka - Finnish Coffee

Bestest Coffee Ever.

1. Paulig Coffee – Juhla Mokka – Finnish Coffee

This is the bestest coffee on the planet.  Hubby’s and my absolute favorite.  We save this for holidays and special occasions, because the shipping more than doubles the price.  It’s not easy to get in the States.  And look, they’re out of stock at the Finn Store.

Great.  Lucky Finns.

I bet they stockpile it.

2. Pappy’s Sassafras Tea Concentrate

Sassafras tea concentrate is something I grew up loving on special occasions.  Most people haven’t heard of it.  I’ve walked into many a natural foods store asking for it, only to find no one knows what I’m talking about.  But let me tell you – you’re missing out.  Some say it has a root-beer flavor.  And they would be almost right.  Sassafras is actually a common ingredient in proprietary root-beer recipes.  But it is best enjoyed hot or cold as a tea.

My favorite is to blend it with my English Breakfast black tea with milk and a touch of honey.  Simply the best.

3. Chocolate Devastations (TM)

One of my little kitchen alchemy hobbies is chocolate.  And this Pinterest board right here…. has got to be one of the most astounding collections of gourmet, higher-end chocolate recipes I’ve seen. 

☛  http://www.pinterest.com/mimzi/chocolat  ☚

I feel like each of these could be displayed and sold at a high-end chocolatier.

I just want to lick the screen.

I’m totally making some of these recipes for the holidays.  If you like chocolate, you should follow that board too.

4.  Madhava Organic Agave – Flavored Coffee Sweetener

OMG, this stuff is the bomb.  They have lots of agave products that I have not tried.  But the ones I have are specifically the Hazelnut, Vanilla and Salted Caramel flavors.  My local HEB (grocery) store carries them.  They are amazing.

I love to mix them with my unsweetened coconut flavored soda water.  I know it sounds like I’m breaking the rules, but the coconut blends so well with the hazelnut! Refreshing.

That’s it for now.  Stayed tuned for future Uncommon Objects and Aberrant Things.

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Crochet Hook Hair Sticks…


Well, it’s the time of year that I itch most to be crafting somehow.  Normally I’d be doing shows.  However, I have been too busy this year to be able to consider shows.

You might be wondering why.  After all, shows make money, right?  But the truth is, there can be a lot of moving parts at times.  You need sales inventory, materials, time to make your inventory, time to price, setup and sell, time to pack up and go home.  Not to mention wrangling scheduling conflicts with your growing kids’ responsibilities and last-minute school demands.  And not to mention that most of the [good] winter shows require applications mid-summer.

There are a lot of moving parts to doing shows, even when they are lucrative. 

And it’s best when you have a lot of sales inventory to sell.  With an art like crochet, the last fiber art left that cannot be replicated by a machine, two hands will only make so much, so fast.  Usually I’m banking my creations all year for the holiday season.  Meaning I have to have time to sit and make throughout the year, not at the last minute.  And sometimes shows are simply a bust.  You never know.  So you need to be ready for multiple shows to do OK.

This past year, it’s just been best to hock my digital skills and not worry about regular making sessions.  Just sell my articles, sell my graphic knowledge, sell my social media and ad-copy skills.  There’s no overhead in any of that.  No displays to figure out.  No truck to pack.  No tables to haul, or inventory to keep.  Just my mad brainy skills.  Even less waiting for payment in some cases. Although sometimes there’s more drama.  Let’s face it, a pair of mittens don’t often talk back to you. There’s a method to my madness this year, but more on that later.

The fact is, I love to make things.  And I can’t do brainy stuff non-stop without going crazy.  I need my creative outlets to stay sane.

Crochet Hook Hair Sticks - Made By Aberrant Crochet 2One of my outlets is carving crochet hooks

And while I have a couple of ideas I’m dying to try soon on some real hooks, I’m also planning to do some crochet hook hair sticks.  Like these.  Because they’re handy and fun.  I’m always using them to get my hair out of my face.

Before you think, “Oh – you mean use crochet hooks as hair sticks!” – I actually don’t.

Some of these hook shapes will be nice and light-weight and excellent as hair sticks.  But they will not be strong enough to actually hook a real project. The hair sticks I make from bamboo are particularly not hook-worthy.  They’re only pretty.  And they are hard to get a hook shape out of in the first place.

Quality crochet hooks have to be more carefully engineered than hair sticks. 

It’s just a fact.  They have to be more carefully engineered than knitting needles too.  Really good crochet hooks require way more time and way more attention to detail.  Because you have to be able to hook something with them.  Again and again and again.

For. Like. Ever.

Crochet Hook Hair Sticks - Made By Aberrant Crochet 1

See the little hair stick? That’s made of bamboo. It’ll hold hair great. Super light weight. But it would quickly snap if you tried to hook with it. I even had to alter the head a bit just to keep it as strong as it is. No longer an ideal crochet hook head shape.

You must use good materials that are capable of forming a strong hook head, with a proper shape.  A hook at the end of a stick is not enough to make a good crochet hook.  If the wood does not allow you to shape the head properly, then you won’t have a good hook.  Period.  And your end product needs to be able to withstand the torque necessary for the act of regular crocheting.  Otherwise a few stitches in, and that hook head or lip will snap or sheer or chip right off.

And everyone wants their crochet hooks to last longer than that.

But hair sticks do not require the same amount of strength.  They just need to hold hair and look pretty.  Hence the difference between real crochet hooks, and hair-stick wannabees.

Could you crochet with my crochet hook shaped hair sticks?

Some of them, yes they’ll hold up for awhile.  Others, perhaps and maybe not.

Crochet Hook Hair Sticks - Made By Aberrant Crochet 3

Btw, that’s paint in mah hair.

Here’s the deal.

I won’t call something I’ve made a “crochet hook,” unless I stand behind the quality put into it as a tool – to be able to do the job of crochet.  With the right shape and the right strength.

And if I call it a “hair stick,” even if it is crochet hook shaped, it means I’m not comfortable with its strength enough to call it a crochet tool.  And I doubt it’ll stand up to my durability standards for regular hooking use.

So stay tuned.
Let’s see what I get done.

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I Don’t Always Travel Through Time – But When I Do, I Look For Spaceships


I’ve been working dawn to nearly midnight most every day for a couple weeks now. As you can tell from the time stamp on my entries.  (I’m barely squeaking my NaBloPoMo entries in.)  Needless to say, I was in desperate need of a break yesterday.

So I treated myself to taking an hour at a local estate sale, because I love interesting old books and old crochet hooks.  And I hoped maybe to score some kitchen accessories (which I didn’t thanks to an unpleasant experience with an unruly woman – another story, another time).

While the crochet hooks they had were in despairingly poor condition, there were some NEAT old books in wonderful condition. These are my cool finds of the day. There’s even a couple early 20th century first editions in there. Not bad for an hour of my time.

I Don't Always Travel Through Time, But When I Do I Look For Spaceships - Aberrant CrochetOne of the books is titled on the cover “Materia Medica With Repertory, 9th Edition.”  And on the inside the title page reads “Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica Comprising The Characteristic And Guiding Symptoms Of All Remedies.”  This 9th edition is specifically dated as published in 1927.

It’s an interesting medical reference book.  From the preface: “Our Materia Medica must include all substances which have been proved and which have been used with apparent efficacy.  It rests with the individual student to judge for himself the accuracy and reliability of such observation.”

Further into the book, I flipped to the page on St. John’s Wort, where the book says it’s good for injuries to the nerves, especially for fingers, toes and nails.  Supposedly also prevents lock-jaw.  And then there’s this unusual statement, “Has an important action on the rectum; hemorrhoids.”  I have to wonder just what that means exactly.

On a nearby page there’s a detailed entry for something called henbane.  “Disturbs the nervous system profoundly.  It is as if some diabolical force took possession of the brain…”  I can’t help but read that with Ichabod Crane’s English accent in my head.

“Life, Youth and Success” is a psychology book from 1920.  And there’s another book entitled, “Practical Time Travel.”  An early 20th century text on reincarnation.

I think I’m going to display “Practical Time Travel” next to “They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers,” another interesting old book that I found at the last estate sale I caught a couple months ago.  Super sweet!

You’d think with the powers that be, and with resources like Amazon.com, that you could find everything online.  However, I find that sales like this introduce me to all sorts of forgotten books.  Or even foreign texts we don’t usually see in the States.  So while our resources are indeed vast, they are certainly not comprehensive.

Admittedly, my reasons for going to sales are mostly geeky in nature.  Antique books and crochet hooks.  Sometimes antique patterns and sheet music.  I don’t get to hunt as often as I’d like, but when I do, it’s usually fun.

How about you?  What’s the most interesting old book that you’ve found?  Any titles I should look out for?

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Don’t Always Listen To Yourself


It has been one of those weeks.  It was long and tough.  In general things flowed and I closed some good ad-copy and graphic orders I really wanted to close.

But then there were the pima donnas, the babies and the bullies of the week too.  Not to mention a really unruly woman at an estate sale today.  I do not enjoy purposeful conflict, but I’m also not one to want to take it from someone’s inexcusable behavior.

I was pretty much out of patience for rude and snippy and snide today.

And I was ready to write everyone off, refuse to work one second longer and go find my cave for a while.

But tonight was Homecoming for our charter school.  And though we don’t have a real football team, or anything like that, we do have a bunch of geeky kids who volunteered to play football and help raise funds for the next senior/junior trip overseas.  My son was one of the players.

It’s cold.  It’s much frellin’ colder than what we’re used to in Austin.  Supposedly we’re going to drop from 33 to 25 tonight, with some precip.  The last thing that sounds amazing to me is sitting on frozen bleachers.  No matter how much I love my quirky kids.  And part of me didn’t want to see one more soul.  I just wanted to crawl into my cave and be ALONE.

But I went.

And I saw friends I haven’t seen in a while.   I saw teachers I really like and who I don’t get to talk to much.  We’re a close-knit school of K-12.  Many of these teachers have watched my kids grow up.

And something lifted.  Something shifted.  And by the end, I felt so much better about my week.

I’m glad I went.  And for once ignored myself in a good way.

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Ebola Tag – It’s The New ‘Ring Around The Rosie’


A friend of mine shared on Facebook today about her little one playing ‘Ebola Tag’ at school. Apparently one kid starts out as “it,” as usual.  However, when they then tag someone else, they become “it” too. Then where there was once just one “it,” there are now two “its” who go forth to infect their world, creating more “its” until everyone’s “it.”

Sounds like a scene from The Strain.

But when I mentioned it in humor to my 17-year-old daughter, she says “Oh yeah.  That’s a real thing.  Everyone’s been talking about it at school.”

Because that’s what we humans do.  This is how we deal with fear, death and illness.

Ring Around The Rosie

Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes (1881), showing children playing the game. Source: Wikipedia.

Or at least that’s what it would seem, with the speculations around the history of nursery rhymes like “Ring Around The Rosie.”  The popular nursery rhyme and kids’ game said to have actually originated with the terrible Black Plague in the mid-1300’s.

Though it seems that Snopes disagrees on RATR’s origins:

“How anyone could credibly assert that a rhyme which didn’t appear in print until 1881 actually ‘began about 1347′ is a mystery.  If the rhyme were really this old, then ‘Ring Around The Rosie’ antedates even Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and therefore we would have examples of this rhyme in Middle English as well as modern English forms.”

The article goes further to speculate that RATR might instead have origins in a rebellious reaction to a religious ban on dancing.  Who knew?

Still if ‘Ebloa Tag’ and the Zombie Apocalypse can fill our every day culture today, who’s to say what our future generations might think about their origins?  One fictional with a fandom and one real and in debate.

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Crochet Hook Haiku Teaser


I usually try to come up with a couple Haiku’s during NaBloPoMo. Here’s a reference to a subject I plan to write about in detail!

A hook made of bone
glows white under UV light
Bakelite hooks do not

Stay tuned!

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Nine Years Ago…


I sit here sipping my cup of grog and cannot help but be reminded of this month 9 years ago – the month my husband deployed overseas.

It wasn’t our first deployment.  But it was the first overseas deployment and it was the longest.  And I’m sorry to say I don’t feel I handled my husband’s absence all that well either.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me.  I supported my husband then and now in everything he has done.  I am proud of his service, proud of my part in it, and I regret nothing.  My husband would never have enlisted in the Guard without me supporting him.  It was a decision we made together, and not an easy one, since we were already in our 30’s and he was almost too old to join.  We had kids and a mortgage on his single income and piddly extra from what work I did from home.

Enlistment wasn’t in our original “plan” for our life together at all, nor easy to consider financially either.  Being a soldier meant a cut in pay no matter what.  And I received a lot of criticism for supporting my husband’s enlistment.  For “letting” him go.

Still I would make the same decisions again.  And honestly, I felt he had a purpose, even a calling, as did I in supporting him.  I believe with all my heart that there are young men alive today thanks to him, even if only for his training or watching out for them.

No – that is not where I had trouble handling it.  It was that I discovered that being separated for so long was incredibly painful.  Emotionally, spiritually and even physically.  I think it surprised us both just how much it hurt our souls to be separated, how much we had become a part of each other.  I’m not sure if being “older” and with many years of marriage and life experience behind us helped or maybe added to the pain.

Perhaps we become less adaptable as we get older and settle down.

But I also have to think maturity as individuals, as well as in our marriage, had to have played a positive role though.  I couldn’t imagine being like some of the young women I looked out for, fresh out of college, newly weds really, new baby, husband now gone.  Barely starting out life as “adult.”

However, as pretty down to earth, hard-working folks, my hubby and I weren’t prepared for the idea that we might struggle so much emotionally about being apart.  We knew it’d be hard, we just weren’t prepared to feel despair in being separated.

Something I couldn’t have truly understood until going through it. Part of me was missing and all that was left was an oozing wound in my heart that wouldn’t heal.

I never realized how important his presence could be.  For myself, or for our children.   A father really makes a difference in the home.  And in all honesty, I know our relationship is richer, and wiser for the experience; and I am too as a wife and mother.  Though it scared me, because it gave me a peek into life without him.

There were days where I really was simply numb.  I hadn’t realized that over the years my husband had become such an incredible part of my foundation and source of empowerment.  As a woman, as a mom, as a professional.  Physically not being able to just call him whenever I wanted was hard.  Not seeing him, not being able to talk everything out.  Not just… even having him by my side.  No hugs, physical touch, no holding me when I cried.  I suddenly found my usual more confident self not so strong anymore.

I got through it with a handful of friends who made a point of looking in on me.  Lord knows that no matter how many people say “call me if you need anything” to you when you’re really in pain, you won’t.  I know I was too overwhelmed.  I didn’t have the bandwidth to make that first move and pick up that phone first.  So it was good there were those who weren’t hesitant to drop by or make that first call themselves to check on me.  It showed me how today people have irrational fears about being there for others.

I got through each day by staying busy.  Though sometimes it was all I could do to get the chores done, get the kids through homework and feed them.  And they needed me to hold and comfort them when they missed Daddy too.

When you’re a soldier’s wife and a mom, you have to hold yourself together for everyone.  Besides the fact that your soldier also needs more than anything for you to be strong, so the last thing they have to worry about while trying to do their job is you.  Distractions are not healthy on the battlefield or in training.

I learned many things about myself.  Including that I could dig up my own plumbing, and handle a myriad of other strange house repair problems that began to surface practically the day he left town.  You know that military curse they talk about, where everything breaks as soon as your husband deploys?  It’s surreal, but still real none the less.  It happens.  Can’t explain it.  It just does.

I also got through it by writing, especially poetry.  Here’s a piece I wrote for him while he was gone that he especially liked.

Good Morning My Love…

Good Morning My Love…
I go to bed now
Keep watch while I sleep

My full moon is high
And your sun is up
Across the oceans deep

My coldest night
Is your warmest day
With soldiers roosting near

I go to bed
Knowing you will wake
And soon will join me here…

Written 2-12-2006, 10:37pm
Copyright © 2006 – 2014 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Seven years ago this month my husband finally finished his tour of active enlistment.  I give thanks to have him by my side and be able to watch our children grow up together and live the future we put on hold.

Happy Veterans Day y’all.

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How To Keep Your Cut Basil Alive Longer


How to Keep Your Cut Basil Alive Longer - Aberrant CrochetYeah, so I thought after all the graphic work I did for my post yesterday (yep – every single graphic in that post is one I designed), today I would do a post that was less intense from my end.

I’m going to share my secret to keeping fresh-cut basil alive and fresh longer.

I love basil.  In fact, I really love basil mixed in with my spaghetti squash, along with a little butter.  Super delicious.   Great in gingerale, gin and tonic too, btw.  Or infused in just a cold glass of water.  And it happens to be a very strong natural anti-fungal and infection fighter too.  And I have some serious mold allergies. So, I like to keep it around for many reasons.  But doing so was a pain in the tush for a very long time, because it always went bad so very quickly in my house.  Like some kind of basil curse.  Until I discovered a secret.  All on my own.

Before I go any further, let me explain an inherently important part of why it matters that I figured out how to keep my basil longer.

It all starts with the family green thumb.  Which I didn’t inherit.

I am not a plant whisperer.  I end up killing plants I try to take care of.  I read up, get advice, try this or that and it does little to green up my very brown thumb.

I have no idea what plants want from me.  <insert visual of me insanely screaming at a plant – I can’t take this anymore – what to you want!>

So usually we (the plants and I) resign ourselves to making a pact: I tell them – you’re welcome here as long as you like, but you gotta fend for yourself.  Because you’re a frellin’ mystery to me.  And I ain’t killing myself for you.

So that [insanity] is the setup you need to keep in mind as I explain this literal secret, as in hidden knowledge that nobody shared with me, that I STUMBLED upon.  In my kitchen, doing my own thing (not online).

Before you suggest it, I tried the whole “living basil” plant too.  I tried the ones at my regular HEB grocery store, my local Sprouts grocery store and I tried the ones at my local Whole Foods.  I read up and I got advice from the produce department people.  I was told put it in the fridge wrapped in paper towels, put it in a dark dry place wrapped in damp paper towels, stick it in a cup wrapped in a cold damp paper towel, let it sit out where it can get light, etc..  I tried all the ideas and advice. And in every case my basil started dying pretty much immediately.

After all this cut and “living” basil wasted, it didn’t take long for me to realize, hey – buy the whole flippin’ plant in a pot already.  Even if you eventually kill it, it’ll survive at least a while and it will be cheaper than buying cut basil all the time.  I felt a little guilty, but not too much.  After all, plants are living too.  And it must suck to get stuck with me sometimes.

How to Keep Your Cut Basil Alive Longer - Aberrant CrochetOK, so after I have my potted basil plant, I learned from a friend who loves to garden that basil has to have the tops cut off before it flowers, or it’ll stop producing leaves.  So you look for a place on the stem where two baby leaves are budding out and you snip the tops off just above that.  Which I dutifully do.

And anything left over, I try to preserve just as unsuccessfully as before.  Once it’s cut, it’s flat-out giving up on me.  So I basically managed it by only snipping just exactly the amount I want for a recipe and nothing more.

Until one day, I realize that both my plants are about to go to flower and I need to cut a bunch of tops.  And there were way too many tops than the recipe could possibly use up.

I didn’t have room in the fridge and I didn’t want to throw them out yet.  So I grabbed a bowl and did something with them I used to do with the kids when they were little and would bring me the tops of flowers with no stems.  I put a little shallow water in the bowl and set the tops in it and left it on the kitchen cabinet.

As it usually goes, I got busy and forgot about the basil sitting on the cabinet in a bowl of water.

How to Keep Your Cut Basil Alive Longer - Aberrant CrochetUntil I found it nearly a week later – with roots!

Let me tell you, I’ve tried putting full-blown stems of basil in water, and it did not work.  They just rotted.  But with just the tops in a little water sitting out and they will eventually root, leaving you with plenty of time to use up those beautiful leaves in your recipes.

So there you go.  Secret to the basil universe.  Go forth and use it well.

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Your Priorities Are Killing You


♫ I crucify myself every day and my heart is sick of being in chains… But I gotta have my suffering so that I can have my cross. I know a cat named Easter he says will you ever learn? You’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird. ♫
Crucify, Tori Amos

“My heart hurts so bad because I don’t have time to do what I love,” she said.
“It’s a sad thing really.  I feel like my soul is dying.”

“Well?” I asked.  “What’s stopping you?”

“I have to clean my house.”

I listened for awhile as she laid out a systematic thought process on why one thing or another had to happen, and in what order, before she could allow herself to feed and nurture her own soul.  Stephen Covey - On Priorities - Designed by Aberrant CrochetSeveral times I offered an idea, some resource information, a different perspective, only to be shot down every time.  Task, after task, after task she listed.  And the way it sounded, it wouldn’t be weeks, but years before she would finally have time.  Maybe.

It’s not a new conversation for me.  I’ve had this exact kind of conversation, or better described – listening session, a multitude of times with people over the decades.  Sometimes there seem to be good reasons and logic as to why one thing or another must wait.  But most of the time, the logic is actually false and the reasons only excuses dressed up to look important.

“I can’t begin writing a book unless I learn how to write to a publisher first.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - On Priorities - Designed by Aberrant Crochet“I can’t sell my house because my husband hasn’t replaced the shag carpet, so there’s no point in talking to an agent until he does.”

“I can’t spend time with my kids because I haven’t made enough money first.”

“I love to paint, but I can’t. Because the people at work stress me out, so when I come home I’m not in the mood. Why even try?”

“I can’t exercise because my boss gives me too much work to do. I know it’s hurting my health, but I’ll lose everything if I try to take time.”

“Who can afford to buy organic milk?” someone asks, with two bags of Doritos in their grocery basket.

“I’d like to take a class, but it’s too far away.”

“I know I need more sleep, but I can’t get everything done if I do.”

“The only way I’ll ever get to stop to breathe is if I win the lottery or something. Of course I don’t play.  I’m not an idiot.”

“I’d love to do ______.  But, you know, I’m a mom.  So I can’t.”

And frozen in this false sense of logic, we decide there’s only one way things can work out and so we do nothing to act.  We do nothing to better our selves or lives. We stay stuck in a rut that we (supposedly) hate.

How did we manage to lock our true selves away and set such bad priorities?

Steven Pressfield - On Priorities - Designed by Aberrant Crochet
At no point will stuff be more important than your relationship with your kids. At no point will the dusting be more important than your soul.  At no point does anyone have more control over your life than you do.  And maybe if you ditch the Doritos, you can buy two gallons of organic milk, not just one.  If you really want to.

WTF.  WHY ARE YOU HERE?

I want my life to have meaning – how about you?  There are many ways around and over and even through that mountain we see in our lives.  Mahatma Gandhi - Action Expresses Priorities - Designed by Aberrant CrochetAnd if we don’t put the real things that matter in life first, our lives will never seem fulfilling.  We have to stop putting the meaningful stuff off and stop making excuses.  Stop putting off our relationships.  Stop ignoring our souls.

Our priorities should reflect what we value.  Otherwise we become our own jailers.

It’s true – sometimes our choices are very, very limited.  Sometimes “urgent” and “important” converge in a place that must take priority.  But not all the time.  And certainly not every day.

So how do we achieve better priorities?  Judith Manriquez - an hour a day you first - Designed by Aberrant CrochetHow do we – in the face of  everything on our to-do lists – still fulfill the needs of our body and soul and live a life that’s more aligned with happiness and meaning?  And grasp our highest potential?

Judith Manriquez, an inspirational coach I know, put it best:

“An hour a day: you first.”

Even in the face of the worst, that’s it.  Simple really.  Because without nourishing yourself, how can you ever expect to thrive? Without saving yourself, just how much will you really achieve. How can you ever be there for others if your own needs aren’t met?  Just one hour out of your waking day – for once – set your priorities and feed your soul right.

What Do You Want Written On Your Gravestone - Live That - Bad Priorities Are Like Weeping Angels - Designed by Aberrant Crochet

“Fascinating race, the Weeping Angels. The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. The rest of your life used up and blown away in the blink of an eye. You die in the past, and in the present they consume the energy of all the days you might have had, all your stolen moments. They’re creatures of the abstract. They live off potential energy.” – Doctor Who

Bad priorities are like the psychopathic Weeping Angels from Doctor Who.

They devour everything you might have been and use up the energy of your potential.

.
Take at look at what you say you want to do in life, compared with what you actually do.

If those are not in alignment, then somewhere you’re lying to yourself and the world.  Your priorities are not what you think they are, or they are misplaced.

And worse yet – they’re stealing your life.

 


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