Category Archives: Humor

The evil allure of yarn – or why I rarely finish a crochet project


Yarn catI know enough about crochet to make a semi-symetrical rectangular-shaped scarf, some nifty flowers and leaves, a butterfly, covered buttons, some simple Amigurumi animals, a shaggy purse cover, and a zig-zag patterned afghan that was re-christened a cape because of it’s “flair.”

I took a brief refresher class in crochet as an adult, but I learned from my grandmother as a kid and managed to create a few doilies using chain and shell stitches.  I never progressed beyond the doily stage and who needs those anymore? So I put down my needle and took up the flute.  At some point in the 21st century crochet and knitting have made a come-back and we call this “fiber art.”

With a crochet hook and some yarn in my hands I am able to sit more patiently in waiting rooms and during the televised sporting events that monopolize our family television.  I enjoy the rhythm of creating the various stitches and watching things take shape, even if my version of the shape is a little askew.  Crochet often helps reduce the amount of snacking I do during television as well.  It’s a good thing.  And yet …

It’s not ALL good.  It is difficult for me to admit, but, I believe I have a “yarn problem.”  A yarn problem is a little like an “alcohol problem.”  I am addicted to buying yarn.  It is very difficult for me to walk away empty-handed from the craft store yarn department.  There.  My secret is out.

You may note that I did not say I am addicted to crochet.  I am simply addicted to yarn.  I love to imagine that I will actually use the yarn to create something roughly based on the patterns which I get in my email every month.  I will make booties for a new baby.  I will make gifts for people at work.  But I rarely do.  I am always hopeful that I will, this time, choose a project that is easy enough and interesting enough that I will complete it, even if it takes me a year. The problem is, I almost never finish a project.  And the reason is: yarn is evil.

Yarn is beautiful, and soft, and alluring.  There is fuzzy yarn, silky yarn, wool yarn, ribbon yarn, tube yarn and faux fur yarn.  You can buy yarn for socks, yarn for lace, and yarn for wash cloths.  There is something called “eyelash” yarn too.  And as craft materials go, yarn is generally not that expensive, at least one skein at a time.  It is often readily available at church flea markets priced by the bag (and what does THAT tell you?!). 

It is not the fault of the yarn if you never actually finish the project.  But if you’re not going to actually finish the project, you may as well  buy something similar off the rack because it will be cheaper and you can wear it the same day.   Yarn cannot crochet itself.  You have to do it.  This requires (a) skill, and (b) perseverance.

Now here is the conundrum; while yarn cannot crochet itself, once you unleash it from its wrapper it seems to come to life and begins to seek out ways to get tangled up in things, especially other yarn.  Also coat hangers, electrical cords, shoes, the zipper on your purse, and the family cat.   This is the nature of yarn’s evil —  it is nearly impossible to de-tangle it from other objects once it has successfully co-mingled with them.

There are two schools of thought on de-tangling yarn.  There is the school of “find the end of one type of yarn and painstakingly pull it on a backwards path through the other fibers until you have it free, then roll it into a tight ball and secure the end by tucking it into the ball.”  This method allows you to save the yarn for future projects.  The other school of thought is the one I follow:  Pull hard on a strand until it breaks, and repeat this until all offending strands have released their prey.  This may sound cruel, but fighting evil requires strong and decisive action. Once you have released the strands into a broken mass of short strings, put them in a bag and throw the whole mess away.

You could try respecting the yarn and put it away in it’s own plastic baggie.  But this requires forethought and planning.  If you have no distractions at home this could work for you.

But if you must put down the yarn and needle quickly to answer a child’s call or let out the dog, you will come back to a tangled mass of yarn, I guarantee it. The stuff is insidious.

The moral of the story is, never open a skein of yarn without a professional backup fiber artist nearby; one with the training to tame the yarn into submission — and make the project for you!

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Dear Newt: Will there finally be healthcare for all on the Moon?


Who will win the race for Moon Colony Healthcare Provider?

Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich promises to colonize the Moon if he is elected. I guess he will let the hard questions be answered by NASA, but I suspect he hasn’t really thought this through.

For instance, are we claiming the Moon as a territory of the United States? We ARE the only ones who have been there, so I suppose that’s just as good a reason as any. Hard to believe we’re considering taking a place over that no one else wants… what do we know about the Moon that other governments don’t?

Many questions need to be answered before I become a Moon colonist. For instance, if the Moon becomes American territory, can its residents vote? And can Moon children grow up to become president some day? But the important question for me, as a mother and a person destined to become old, is, “What will my Moon citizen health care options will be?”

Let’s say your family volunteers to help populate the Moon. On the way there your child comes down with the flu. You cannot receive medical benefits until you complete your mandatory six-month quarantine period. And besides, the medical plan considers this a “pre-existing condition” since it happened before you landed on Lunar soil. Luckily, you discover that Moon dust actually deters the development of the flu virus and your child gets well quickly. You have dodged a bullet this time!

See, this whole Moon colony idea is just a wee bit premature. If we take a few decades and get some really smart people with no presidential aspirations whatsoever together to plan this brave new world, we might be able to fix a few things that aren’t working so well down here on the mother planet. This could be our one chance at a “do-over.”

That will never happen.

I suspect that what the government will do is set up some of their cronies in various industries with exclusive rights to provide services to the Moon colonization project. There will be a race to be the first bank, the first casino, the first Moonrover dealership, and the first health care provider.

I would not be surprised to learn there is already a bidding war between Highmark and UPMC over who gets that first health care contract. Those two not-for-profit healthcare systems are already duking it out for total control of the market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first highly produced commercials for their Moon Medicine Research team rolled out during the Super Bowl this year.

No, there will be no improvements in how things run on the Moon. Because we still don’t have consensus down here about what’s broken, and the really smart people who know how to fix things are staying away from politics in droves.

We are going to start a new society up there and we’re going to screw that one up too.

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Is Tim Tebow the Messiah?


Tim Tebow giving God the glory

Here’s the thing.  If God wanted to get the attention of as many Americans as possible right now, how would he do it?

Would he start small by appearing to a few people and asking them to spread the word that he’s back?  That worked pretty well last time around, except it took a few centuries to really take hold and quite a few people got martyred as a result.

With the internet, the word could spread immediately with posts on Facebook.  What are you doing?  “OMG I saw Jesus today and he said to tell you all he’s back and wants everyone to meet next Saturday night at Mile High Stadium to prepare for the rapture.  Please post this on your wall and ask everyone you know to do the same.” 

But the shelf life of a Facebook post is kind of short.   Twitter might be able to drum up a pretty good crowd for Jesus in Denver with a flash mob shout-out from Ellen Degeneres.  IF she offered a couple grand in cash to the person who could point out Jesus in the crowd.

How is Jesus going to get our attention?  How will we KNOW its really him? I mean, there are so many distractions right now –is it really a good time for Jesus to return?

We’re trying to pick another president for crying out loud!  The Republican Primary is in full swing and has become a platform for discussions of morality and pondering the question of whether certain religions are “true” Christian religions, and, whether, if you commit adultery but are very, very sorry about it, that’s good enough to qualify you as the favorite candidate of true believers.

This is all probably Satan’s doing, of course.  Satan operates not unlike Rupert Murdoch in putting out disinformation that is tantalizing enough to keep us distracted from the truth.  We can’t handle the truth.  It’s just not that interesting.  The primaries are only interesting because they are like a reality show.  On this show, we watch the players scheme to eliminate the other candidates before we get the chance to vote them off the ballot.   Maybe if we got to text our votes in November, more people would play along at home?

What of those who are not paying attention to politics?  They are likely distracted from the news that “Jesus is back in the building” because they have no jobs and fear they will soon be homeless.  Or they are living in fear that their kids will put them out to die on a rapidly melting iceberg (curse you, global warming!) because they can’t afford a proper nursing home.  Actually, that last one might not be so bad — from what I’ve seen, the iceberg might be preferable to the nursing home.

But I digress.

Ok, we have a lot going on in our lives, and we’re pretty focused on day-to-day survival.  But we still have the one simple distraction from our misery that is open to all economic groups, races, cultures, ages, and genders.  And that is sports.  Sports fandom to be exact.  It gives us hope when there often is none.  Where I live, it’s one particular sport: Football.

Enter Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos v. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Who wouldda thunk it?” said one of the commentators after the six-time Superbowl Champion Steelers lost in overtime because of a Tim Tebow pass that was taken all the way to the end zone.   Improbable.  But it happened.  Incredible.  Tim Tebow is either the luckiest stiff in the NFL or he truly has God on his side.

Our guys pray too.  They go to church.  They talk about their personal relationships with Jesus Christ too.  But Tebow!  He’s OUT there.  Like it or not, he has created world-wide buzz about his commitment to Jesus Christ not just because he talks about it, and not just because he takes a knee on the gridiron, but because the man just keeps coming through when he has to.

The Broncos could have won that game in overtime by moving the ball steadily down the field yard by yard and then kicking for the 3 points.  But no.  The so-called “inconsistent” passer puts it right in the hands of the receiver and the Steelers’ diminished defensive line is powerless to stop him.  Season over.  Just like that.

The only reason I can find for Tim Tebow’s success is that he actually IS Jesus Christ incarnate.   He’s just enough human to fumble a few now and then and he’s just enough God to deliver when it really counts.  His witness on the field and off is unapologetically directed at drawing attention to God.

If you want to get the American public’s attention, you have to go where they are.  And where they are on Sunday is at the football game — in the stands or in front of the TV.   Tim Tebow is news, and because of last week’s game even MORE people know about him and are talking about his faith and wondering — is God really answering his prayers?  Will he answer mine too?

So there you have it.  There is no other explanation.  Tim Tebow is the Messiah.

See you all in Denver for the rapture!  Dress warm — you won’t need to pack for this trip.  It’s one way.

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Filed under celebrity, Humor, Pittsburgh, Politics, Religion, satire, Sports

Warning: Cleaning out your old room leads to mood swings


My sister and I recently went through my old room in our parents’ home to get a head start on the inevitable.    It made my mom upset because she thought we were throwing away things that were important to her.  We were re-arranging her life and now she wouldn’t know where to find things.

Our parents – now in their early nineties – want to stay in their own home forever.  I don’t blame them.  It’s been paid for since 1988.  A small ranch in a suburb on a corner lot with a beautifully landscaped property, now a bit neglected, lined in the back by prolific blueberry shrubs.  The small garden plot there grew lush with my farmer dad’s careful tending to his interesting varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes.  Deer hop over the fence for snacks. Numerous species of birds come to dine at the old picnic table that she faithfully refreshes with their favorite seed.  Who would want to trade that in for a tiny apartment or a hospital bed? Soon there will be no choice.

We sat on the edge of the bed, opening one dresser or desk drawer at a time, to see what could be tossed and what to keep.  Most of the time we clucked to each other over why in the world anyone would save so many greeting cards!  Most of them had nothing but a signature at the bottom, no personal sentiment whatsoever.  Nothing special about the illustrations either. 

The rare card with a hand-written note we saved, just because it might spark a memory for mom when most other pieces of her past were lost to her. Anything with my dad’s signature was a keeper – he is a man of few words, the textbook definition of “stoic” and not given to demonstrations of emotion.  But he always greeted her with a kiss and a hug when he got home from work and never said an angry or hurtful word to her in our presence in their 69 years and counting of marriage.  So a valentine from dad with just his name on it – that’s worth keeping.  

A few cards signed “Mom B” we also kept.  Granny lived in our home the last seven years of her life following a stroke and gradually passed into a world of her own.  She was not kind to her fourth child of five during the last few years. She called her “that woman.”  She favored my dad.  That must have hurt my mom terribly but she didn’t let it stop her from being her caregiver.  They say toward the end Granny would talk about how her daddy was going to come pick her up any day now.  And eventually, He did.

The volume of cards now reduced to a minimum, we moved into the realm of piles of old photos, baggies of safety pins, boxes of buttons, bits of ribbon and envelopes full of interesting looking cancelled stamps torn from envelopes.  The usual stuff.

If the cards and photos made us a bit sentimental, the melancholy mood was broken with our most unusual discovery of the day.  I took out a box from one of the drawers and as soon as I opened the lid I burst into laughter.  I looked up to heaven as if to say, WHAT in the WORLD?  Taking the item in my hand I held it up so my sister, who looked very puzzled, could see what all the fuss was about.  We nearly fell off the bed laughing. What I discovered there was the most ridiculous item I could imagine anyone ever saving.  For, nestled in a cardboard jewelry box on a cotton pillow, was my plastic dental retainer from when I was TWELVE.   Finding this ancient artifact of my lost youth struck me as so hilarious that I even called my mom in to let her join in the joke.  We all three had a good time wondering how – not to mention WHY — it had managed to be saved all those years.  

To save or toss?  That is the question. 

There’s only one answer that makes sense to me.  Some day my kids will have to sift through my things (poor souls – but its the only way I have to get back at them for all the years I picked up their stuff!), and they will get a good laugh out of their old mom’s surprises I plan to hide around the house. Maybe I’ll create an elaborate treasure hunt for them that leads them to believe a major item of worth is waiting if they solve the riddle!  They’ll think it was senility or at the very least an evil plot to drive them crazy.  But the motive will have been simply to give them a little laughter while they cope with the sad business of saying goodbye.

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Brett Keisel’s beard is tuft of legends


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The “Beard Me” game has just gone viral!  Pictures of Pittsburgh children, grandparents and pets are getting ‘shopped with Brett’s beard!  Resistance is futile!

The Beard even has its own Facebook Page! 

There are WAY too many days between the division championship games and the Super Bowl now that the Pro Bowl is played early!  Look what people will resort to in order to be part of the action!  I have a full time job and a family, and I still find time to play with the digital pic toys to entertain myself and perhaps others who can’t afford a ticket to Dallas. 

A seventh ring is truly the stuff of legends, and who wouldn’t want to feel part of that?!  But kiddies… your parents have a deep dark secret for you.  Come close and listen up.  We don’t want to jinx it, and we don’t want to spoil your fun, but — well, we’ve been here before — way back in the day — and that one for the thumb took a few decades to arrive.  We know this doesn’t happen all the time — even to the Steelers.  So get ready for a long dry spell when our ageing stars retire with a fist full of bling.   We can hope for the best.  And we can add another song to the roster of Steelers parodies:  Thanks for the Memories.  Still, we hope they keep on comin!

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Steelers will be leavin on the Jets’ Plane


Steelers will soon be taking the (US) Airways to Seven (rings)!

Our bags are packed, we’re ready to go

We beat the Jets, in the cold and snow,

They bet us their team airplane, thats no lie!

Now the paint is dry, we’re on our way

Our fans are wavin, we’re glad they came

To send us off to Super Bowl Forty Five…

So we’re leavin’ on The Jets’ Plane

Don’t think that they’ll be back again

Praise Tomlin and LeBeau!

And we’re leavin’ on The Jets’ Plane

Gonna play in Cowboys Stadium!

Green Bay?

           OKay!

                   Here we go!

(With apologies to the late John Deutschendorf!)

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“It is what it is? Whatever!”


“It is what it is.”  The cliché of the decade — not just of 2004 when USA Today voted it the #1 cliché of the year. It is the grown-up version of the popular teen retort “Whatever.”  A total cop-out.

I’m hearing this phrase so often now that I cringe when someone says it.  It is as if the world suddenly discovered if we just say those five little words we’re off the hook.  

When you say it is what it is, you are also closing the door on the discussion.  And you cannot argue with the logic nor the convenience it affords us to deflect blame or to shift blame to others. 

I want to reply to this phrase “Ok, but what it IS is not acceptable.  What was it SUPPOSED to be and how are YOU/WE going to make that happen?”

 Employee: “We could not meet the deadline in time.  No one is at fault.  It is what it is.”

 Supervisor: “The company lost the contract because you didn’t meet the deadline.  You’re fired.  Nothing personal.  It is what it is.”

On the domestic front, the phrase works for both parents AND kids:

Parent: “You left the trash cans on the curb a second day in a row.”

Youth: “Don’t stroke out over it, it is what it is.  I’ll do it in the morning.”

Parent:  “Then you may refer to your iPod as ‘it was what it was’ in the morning.”

It seems to me that the phrase reveals a fatalistic and defeatist attitude.  What you MEAN when you use it is that nothing can be done to change the situation.  And someone else has to take responsibility.  It’s an excuse for poor performance, or its a reflection on the boss’s decisions.  Which may be true.  But you can’t say “The boss couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag with a GPS and a flashlight” out loud at the water cooler.  You just have to take it for what “it is.”

At first, when I learned this handy phrase, I used it often.  I felt it helped me fit in. Now I’m sick of it. 

So I believe I have found my New Year’s Resolution.  To stamp out the use of “it is what it is” from the American lexicon.  I will make any person I supervise memorize this promise and repeat it, hand over heart, each morning as we all stand in a circle before our group hug:  “I shall accept blame if I perform poorly, and strive to fulfill my obligations beyond expectations and without excuses for coming up short.”  I will create posters for the office bulletin board that declare the space an excuse free zone.   I will stick my fingers in my ears and waggle them while repeating “blah blah blah blah blah” to drown out the offensive words.  I will do a “spit take” with my coffee when someone uses the phrase – aiming directly at the offending person. 

These measures are sure to be effective in eradicating the phrase.   They will also likely get me fired.   Unless I worked at Dunder Mifflin.  Or were a member of Congress.

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