Thorny Knits

I've got a husband, twin toddlers, a cat who I probably forgot to feed this morning, and never, ever enough time to knit.


Think Big Thoughts Now...

I've been a reading fiend lately. Not sure what it is, though I'd better watch it or I'm going to get myself into trouble with the library enforcers. Having over 25 books out at once is kinda cool, but heaven help me if I lose track and a whole slew of them go past their due dates.

So what have I been reading?

Well, let's see:

First I started reading The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden. I still haven't finished it, because I can actually feel my blood pressure rising after only a few pages. It's been such an education in how history really is written by the victors.

I also read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine, which... wow. I'd expected something a bit more strident (Shopping BAD!) and dry, but it wasn't. It was like reading a really really well-researched diary. Which it pretty much was. But still - I love books like that, which can combine personal experience and statistical research and whatnot. It was while reading this that I decided that, with few exceptions, from now on people are getting homemade Christmas gifts from us every year, even if it's just cookies and maybe a knitted warsh rag (though if I include soap, I won't be making that, I have to admit). I think the thing she said which is still echoing in my brain a month later is how in our (United States) culture, we're being trained to think that the only way to effect social change is to change our shopping habits. And while I agree that it's important that we remember to vote with our dollars whenever we can, I think it's all-too-easy to forget to vote with our actual votes as well. And not just vote, but also to engage ourselves, even in the simplest, laziest fashions (which are thankfully now available to us via this here In-tar-net), in our local politics.

I'm saying this badly, so you should definitely read the book yourself to have a better idea what I'm saying, but the idea was that instead of thinking of ourselves as thinkers and activisits and letter-writers and opinionated so-and-so's, we cast ourselves solely in the role of "consumers" and most of the folks who run our government couldn't be happier about it. So that's been rumbling around in my head ever since I read it.

To kind of lighten things up, I've been reading my way through just about every For Better Or For Worse (by Lynn Johnston) compendium out there, with the exceptions of Reality Check and Never Wink At A Married Woman, which our library unfortunately doesn't have. I remember reading For Better Or For Worse growing up, and then when I went to college I kind of lost track of it, but I still would kind of keep tabs every so often. My dad's side of the family would often spend a Sunday morning at my aunt's house talking about the latest FBOBW strip, or what had been going on recently in the Patterson's world. And then once I got hip to the Bloglines jive I started subscribing to the RSS feed, but there's all this stuff in the middle that I'd missed. So I decided to go back and read it all.

I also started reading Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn, which I'd hoped would come in handy now that my kids are really starting to flaunt their "two"-ness. It's been an interesting read, though it's been a little hard to get through sometimes. Such a weird experience, to be reading something and suddenly go, "Sh-yah right! What-evER!" (Yes, I really do think that way - mock me at your leisure.) Only to then kind of go, "Waitaminnit! I agree with that! What the hell?!" And thus we discover sneaky little roots of preconceived notions and whatnot which are not only surprising to find, but then difficult to dig up and bare to the light and examine carefully to see what can stay and what can go.

I'm still not finished with the book - all this root examination being a tricky and slow process sometimes - but I do hope that he's got some alternative parenting ideas that will work with only marginally verbal toddlers. Because there's a lot of great stuff in there, but so much of it I kind of find myself going, "Well, that'll be great... when they're FOUR! But what do I do NOW?!" sigh.

I also took a mental breather (of a sort) by reading the first six volumes of DC Comics' Fables, which if there are any comic book fans out there, is really awesome. A really fascinating basic idea - that all those fairy tale characters and creatures we learned about as kids are real, and have fled to "our world" to escape a voracious and unbeatable invader. Now they live among us, mostly in New York City, a little underground community of storybook characters, just trying to make it in the modern world. I especially like their depiction of the thrice-divorced Prince Charming who lacks any real skill or usefulness in the world, as well as having little in the way of moral anything, but manages to survive because he's handsome and, well, charming. In the same way that Superman might be described as "capable."

And then I just finished reading Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich, who has long been one of my all-time favorite authors. "Bait and Switch" is the followup to her previous book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. Where she went undercover as a blue-collar wage-earner in "Nickel and Dimed", she set her sights on the world of white collar corporate employment in "Bait and Switch", reverting to her maiden name in order to seek a job with a corporation. Her experience was, as expected, enlightening.

Reading "Bait and Switch" was also kind of timely, as well. After eight months of official unemployment - during which time he wrote and self-published a gaming book and a big chunk of another gaming book, as well as partaking in a couple freelance stints for a friend of ours - Caz finally got a job. Make that two jobs, in fact.

The first made me nervous from the start. First it didn't pay nearly as well as his old job, and secondly it was for an outfit that always has ads running. Which never bodes well - if they're always hiring, it means they don't keep the folks they do hire, and if that's the case? There's usually a darn good reason. And, it turns out, there is. Without getting too much into it, it's the kind of job where one should be doing good work and helping people, but instead everything's gone wrong and so the days are full of watching people misuse something which should be noble and clean. Add in crummy hours and benefits which don't kick in for the first 90 days (which only makes sense, seeing as most people apparently don't last that long), and it wasn't a great option. But it was a job.

Well then, a couple days before it was due to start, Caz got a call from this recruiter (read: temp agency) he's been working with. She had a gig for him, he was practically guaranteed the job, but he had to interview on his first day at the new job. Well, he worked it out and managed to duck out of his first day of training at the new job to go interview for the other job without making too many waves, and sure enough he got this second job.

Which pays better. And is a little less soul-destroying.

However, it's still a temp gig, which means no paid time off, no health insurance*, no retirement plan, no nothing. And now we find out (after he resigned from the other job after being told that no, they would not consider moving him to a part-time position instead) that the "possibility" for a non-first-shift work schedule is more like a certainty, unless he somehow really lucks out. And since he's technically employed by this temp agency, there's a decent chance that even if he winds up working third shift, they won't be offering him any extra money to make up for messing with the schedule of our whole family.

So sure, Caz is working again, and now no longer counts as "unemployed". But neither job that he was able to get is remotely equivalent to the job he lost, and so now we're going to have to consider further adjustments to our already deeply "adjusted" lives in order to survive.

Anyway. Back to the reading list.

I also got partway through Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel which has been very good, though I'm still not finished with it. I got sidetracked by Barbara Ehrenreich, and then misplaced it for a few days trying to keep it safe from the grubby hands of toddlers. But I've re-found it, so I expect to get going on it soon.

Ooh, and I also have several knitting books out - Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns which I never ever ever want to give back. I've been in a big sock-knitting phase still, and I found two stitch patterns I want to try turning into socks one of these days - we'll see if I pull it off. And I got Folk Mittens by Marcia Lewandowski which has got me thinking about knitting mittens lately too, which... oof. So many lovely patterns in there. Yum yum yummy! I also would love to do those pirate ones from Hello Yarn, but they're kind of low on the to-do list right now, unfortunately.

So yeah. Is it any wonder I've been up much too late just about every night the past several weeks, my brain just rattling and rumbling, like a coffee can full of rocks rolling down a hill?

Okay, I really am going to try to sleep now.

* After a certain amount of time, the temp agency (ahem, "recruiter") offers a chance to buy into their health plan, but if it's anything like the one I was offered several years ago by a different temp agency, the cost is incredibly prohibitive.


  • At Wed Sep 13, 07:58:00 AM CDT, Blogger FemiKnitMafia said…

    Good lord, are we the same person? Want to read Not Buying It; LOVE Ehrenreich, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't yet read Bait and Switch; finished Fun Home a couple weeks ago (and subscribe to AB's blog); have two of BW's books out from my library and I'm never giving them back.
    Crazy girl.

  • At Wed Sep 13, 09:05:00 PM CDT, Blogger Aprilynne said…

    FBOFW has an RSS feed in bloglines? I just clicked and went to blog heaven! horrraaayyyy

    Sorry about soul suckin work and yucky company options at the placement agency (another nice synonym, not so teeth clenching) there may be more interesting things on the horizon, though.

    happy reading and sock knitting

  • At Wed Sep 13, 10:23:00 PM CDT, Blogger Suze said…

    i heard the lady who wrote that book about not buying anything for a year on WORT a few months ago. been meaning to check the book out, but then i got side-tracked with who knows what.
    every year i mean to knit everyone christmas gifts, and then every year i get caught up in the craziness that is graduate school and all of a sudden it's thanksgiving and i know i'll be lucky if i get one pair of socks done for my mom.
    and every year i swear it will be i'm inspired.
    sorry about the suckiness with the job situation. i hope it improves.

  • At Fri Sep 15, 07:57:00 AM CDT, Blogger Thorny said…

    Suze - wow, I'm sorry I missed her on WORT. She sounds like just a really interesting person. If you haven't read the book, I think you'd like it. I found it really kind of inspirational as far as trying to keep my own consuming within /some/ kind of reasonable limit. grin!

    Also, be wary of the Holiday Knitting Impulse. I did try to do knitted gifts for a bunch of family members, and while all the recipients were very appreciative, it still resulted in me staying up until 4 a.m. on Dec. 23rd trying to churn out a "2-hour scarf" that took more like five. I was a little short on "goodwill toward men (and women)" that Christmas. grin!

    Cookies, however, are totally do-able. Big batches, freezeable dough, and it winds up not being /too/ awfully bad. And then I just kind of round out the gift-giving with a few knitted items for those people who are either especially deserving or for whom I've been inspired to do a very specific project just for them. :)

  • At Sun Sep 17, 04:19:00 PM CDT, Blogger Teyani said…

    hi there-
    sorry to have to answer you in a comment on your blog - but good ol' blogger doesn't give me email addys.. sigh..
    thanks for entering my contest - and for the compliments on my photos. I'm having loads of fun with this!

  • At Mon Sep 18, 10:09:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Carrie K said…

    Nooooo! More books I must now read! How could you do that to me? Gosh, I hope the library has "Not Shopping" and "Fables". They sound great.

    Benefits. Pah. Back when I had my lovely cushy corporate job at an HMO, we had full benefits. Now? Everyone left has copays and monthly rates. It's not nothing, mind you, but it's a good half of what we used to have.

  • At Tue Sep 19, 01:53:00 PM CDT, Anonymous meesh said…

    Oh I am so addicted to Fables! I just discovered it a few months ago and have only read up to volume four. (the darn things aren't cheap!) Also, love For Better and For Worse and have actually done the same thing and caught up on the past years I missed. I was so sad when I read the old ones where the dog died!

    Not Buying It, and Nickel and Dimed are sitting on my shelf at home waiting for the college semester to end so I can read them. I keep picking up Nickel and Dimed and reading snippets. It's amazing.
    You should also check out The Mommy Myth by Susan J. Douglas. Amazing stuff in there!

    P.S. I hope you don't mind if I add your blog in my "Other Ephin' Cool Blogs" section...


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