Neighbors Again

It’s going to be a long summer.

I’ve blogged a few times about the new neighbors in the small rental house across the street. As best I can tell, there seem to be parents and a couple of teen boys who actually live there, but since the menagerie of children changes hourly, I can’t be entirely sure. There are bigs and littles, girls and boys, elementary, middle school, toddlers…

And I’m not a kid person. I don’t hate them, exactly. The old saying is children should be seen and not heard, but I sort of prefer they be neither seen nor heard.

There’s the basketball hoop monopolizing the street, the ball spending more time in our yard due to the slope than on the actual “court,” and the piles of worn plastic toys. There is a hobby horse that looks alarmingly like one I had when I was a kid…and I was born in the 1960s. Pretty sure there’s some sort of consumer safety issue there.

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Now I’ve been treated to bald, shirtless, paunchy guy hanging out in the yard–the father, I’m assuming.

Then a four-person tent appeared in the front yard. Not the side yard, of which there is roughly a half acre, or the back yard. Right in front. Presumably to accommodate kid-overflow. I think the mother does daycare, but who the hell knows?

Now we have a new sight to behold. The other morning I heard an engine and thought, “Yay, they’re mowing their yard.” But it kept going. For a long time. I peeked through the blinds, and thought it was a strange way to mow, going all over the place. Oh, and up and down the street too.

Huh. It’s not a lawnmower at all. Not anymore. Now it is a former lawnmower with the mowing bits removed, serving as an ATV, and kids are driving it around. Which I’m fairly sure isn’t especially safe.

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The giant blue tent would be just out of frame to the right.

The only thing I’m clinging to at this point is they do not have a dog. Because if they had a dog tied in the yard or roaming at large, Steps Would Be Taken.

The summer may be long, but I’m hoping their lease is short.

Happily Unhuggable

My personal space bubble is getting wider and thicker as I get older. Growing up, back when I still cared about fitting in and being like everyone else, hugs were automatic, if not enjoyed. Everybody hugs, right? But why?

Honestly, I don’t like to be touched at all, unless you are a dog, in which case snuggles are mandatory and you can sit on my lap, climb me like a mountain, lick my face, and I will skritch you anywhere you would like to be skritched.

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Him, I will hug. Probably more than he would prefer.

I have to have an eye exam soon, and after that I desperately need to schedule what I’m sure will be the first of a long series of painful, face-touching appointments. I’m going to need lots of drugs. The really good kind. Partially for the expected nerve-searing agony, but also because I’ll be super stressed out having people touching me.

I don’t even get my hair cut and colored anymore because there is literally no way to accomplish this without being touched, and it is also customary to chat with the stylist. I have decided to embrace the gray and see it as a fashion choice rather than advancing crone-hood. I grab my craft scissors every couple of months and whack off the dead ends and call it good.

I don’t go to the doctor, and I haven’t gotten a new tattoo in three years. These both involve way too much personal contact. I don’t want people to shake my hand or touch my arm when we’re talking. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of the talking part either, but if we can do it at a reasonable distance, I’ll probably survive. Recommended distance = text me from your house. No, don’t call. I don’t answer the phone. Phone calls are like your voice touching my ears.

No manicures or pedicures, and forget massages, because that is professional, therapeutic touching, and it’s not happening. Ever.

Still, hugging is expected, and people who enjoy it can’t comprehend that not everybody is okay with it. Any group event…so much hugging. Friends hug greetings, people meeting for the first time are all “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad to finally meet you!” Hug.

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Cringe.

And family…the hug machine cranks into overdrive. This is when I most often have to give in, because not hugging family you haven’t seen in a while is apparently offensive. Or something. I’m not really sure, because figuring out people is not my strong suit. hug__by_gotbob

I try to limit hug exposure by hanging back until everyone seems to have the hugs out of their systems, then slip into the group unobtrusively. With farewell hugs, the best strategy is to edge to the outer perimeter of the group, sidling toward the door or your car, and hope a friendly wave will do. (Spoiler alert: It almost never does.)

In addition to all the anxiety I have about leaving the house and the Direwolves, the conversations I’ll have to participate in, whether there will be any adult beverages to numb some of my neurological worry centers, if I’m dressed appropriately to blend in and not attract unwanted attention, if I’ll have to use someone’s bathroom (I have developed extraordinary bladder control to avoid this situation)…I don’t really want to have to factor in hug-avoidance. But failure to remain vigilant results in far too much person-to-person contact.

It’s not that I don’t care about all these huggy people. I do. I am happy to see them. I’m stressed about it, but I’m happy. I just don’t want people inside my safety-bubble.

I’m not a germophobe. My lackadaisical attitude toward household sanitation guarantees my immune system is regularly challenged by all manner of microscopic threats and is in top working order. My aversion to touching people isn’t due to fear of illness. I just don’t like it, and I’m at an age where I’m about out of rats’ asses to give about whether I’m socially acceptable.

The struggle is real.

The Most Convenient Food Ever

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Food science is wonderful, and this is truly amazing. Did you know you can purchase 100% nutritionally complete, healthy food, all in a single bag? There are age-appropriate formulas for all life stages, from infant to senior, and you can’t beat the convenience. Just measure out the appropriate amount of bite-sized nuggets and munch away! It’s full of protein, fruits, vegetables, has grain-free formulas for those with gluten intolerance, and even has essential vitamins and minerals added, and a tasty coating to enhance its natural flavor. Doesn’t that sound great?

What? No? It doesn’t?

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Of course, it doesn’t. But that’s exactly what the majority of people feed their dogs. You wouldn’t feed your child or yourself this way, because you’re not an idiot. You understand that a diet consisting solely of highly-processed ingredients, cooked at high heat and dried, is not healthy. You need fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, all in as wide a variety as possible to be truly healthy.

Even the cheapest, most crap-and-filler-laden commercial food carries the “seal of imagesapproval” from the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) as “100% nutritionally complete.” But AAFCO is not the FDA–or a government agency at all. It’s a private corporation, basically the fox watching the hen house. All their “approval” means is the bag contains what it says it contains, and if a pet is fed this particular food exclusively…it isn’t likely to die of starvation or malnutrition. It in no way certifies the ingredients are of any sort of quality.

If you (or your child) ate nothing but dried cereal, ramen, and hot dogs every day, you probably wouldn’t die. But would you be healthy? How much healthier would you be if you ate those things, but also added fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables?

I see it all the time in various dog groups. “What kind of food is best for my (insert breed here)?” They get a range of replies from the most expensive, organic, grain-free brands with exotic proteins like kangaroo or pheasant, to “I feed Crap-In-A-Bag from Costco, and my dogs have always done fine on it.” They choose a brand and buy that same bag, same variety, month after month, year after year.

At the very least, they should change the protein each time. Get beef, then the next time the chicken and turkey, then the lamb, then the salmon. The only variety some dogs get is the occasional pizza crust or tidbit from their people’s plates or what they manage to scavenge from the trash. No wonder they’re garbage-hounds. They’re starving for real food.

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I’m not anti-kibble. I feed about 50% grain-free dry food, because the tree that fell across my fence last year didn’t have $100 bills for leaves and I have two large-breed dogs who like to eat a couple of times a day.

You don’t have to go all-out with a totally raw diet. It’s not for everybody. But no matter which commercial brand you buy, you can make it healthier. At the very least, you can mix in a raw egg, or plain yogurt, or ground beef or turkey, some raw liver, or shredded and lightly steamed leafy greens or sweet potato, or a handful of fresh blueberries. Any or all of these once a day will go a long way to add high-quality nutrition and natural enzymes and probiotics to your dog’s diet.

There are complete frozen raw diets available at most pet supply stores. Not so much the “big box” stores, but your local or regional shops. These contain a range of proteins, bone, vegetables, and fruits, and can be used to supplement kibble. There are freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. I’m currently buying Sojos freeze-dried. I mix that up, then stir in the dry food.

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If raw grosses you out, cook it–but don’t over-cook it. There are all kinds of “stew” recipes out there for dogs. Put it in your slow cooker and add some to your dog’s food every day.

You don’t have to be a food chemist or a chef. Simply put a little thought into what you feed your dog. Just as you eat some processed convenience foods but also recognize the value of whole, healthy, natural foods, do the same for your dog. Convenience is…convenient. But the dog you love deserves more.

PS: While writing this post, I encountered THIS article taking a similar look at “dog food for people.” It was an April Fool’s story, and…It. Is. Hilarious.

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The Dreaded Spoilers

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We’ve all had it happen. A new movie comes out, and some ass-crumpet posts a pivotal detail on social media before you have a chance to see it. A TV series airs in another country or time zone before it airs in yours, and though you promised to stay off Facebook, you pop in for “just a minute” and discover a favorite character is dead.

Wails, anguish, threats of swift and blinding retribution.

But there’s another kind of spoiler, one some viewers actually seek out. Let’s skip movies for now, since I rarely watch movies, though I did watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri yesterday. (Spoiler alert: There are billboards. Three of them. Outside Ebbing, Missouri.)

Television episodes are provided to select reviewers before the episode airs, and some of them work with fandom sites to reveal key information before it is broadcast. They can’t just post them anywhere, though, or the network will quickly figure out who it is, and their early-review days are over.

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One such group is The Spoiling Dead Fans, though they got a lot of heat from AMC, and now the spoilers are shared in a closed group, TSDF Army. Around Wednesday or Thursday before the Sunday US premiere of an episode, a Q&A covering key story developments appears, and lots of people read them.

I do.

The Spoiling Dead Fans has over 450,000 likes on Facebook. The closed TSDF Army group has over 40,000 members.

Why would anyone want to know what happens before an episode? For me, it’s a combination of anxiety and immediate gratification. I admit, I do sometimes skip the spoilers for a huge episode like a season premiere or finale, but I usually read the spoilers for The Walking Dead. I’m a highly anxious person, and I’ll get so worked up with the anticipation and tension that I can’t enjoy the program itself. I’m also very Veruca Salt, and “I want it now.” No waiting. I want to know, so just tell me, already. If I know, I can mentally prepare myself for anything disturbing, or pay closer attention as the revelation of something exciting approaches.

There have been exceptions. I didn’t read about the season finale as we awaited who would Negan bash in the head…and regretted it. I’d heard rumors of a possible cliffhanger, but refused to believe they’d do that to fans. And they did. And I was furious. There’s nothing worse for an immediate-gratification person than having to wait six months for an answer. I still hate Scott Gimple. So. Much.

There have also been a few times even TSDF Army declined to post a spoiler. Most notably was when Chandler Riggs himself contacted them and asked them not to reveal Carl’s impending death. Because he asked politely and respectfully, and was humble and mature about it, they agreed.

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Right now, their source has decided not to provide spoilers for the upcoming final two episodes of the current season. This is his or her prerogative, and we don’t have any right to complain. We’re not entitled to spoilers. There are rumors out there, but very little of it can be confirmed. So I’m going into tonight’s episode with not much concrete information. I kind of hate it, but I understand.

How do you feel about spoilers, either the right-after-it-airs kind, or the pre-broadcast ones? And after a movie or episode is out there, how long is the appropriate time to refrain from posting spoilers on social media? I mean, it’s not realistic to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself for months, just because someone is waiting for a movie to hit Amazon, or because someone is a season behind in binge-watching The Walking Dead. I think a week, maybe two, is fair. If seeing the movie or series isn’t your priority, you have to accept the risk.

As for tonight, I very strongly suspect one particular death. I have some good hunches about a few other developments. But I’m going in with a lot less information than I typically have, and there’s only one thing I can say about that…

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Two In A Row

We did go out last night, and I didn’t die. I did talk to a bunch of people whose names I don’t remember, despite having asked them several times, and I met a nice dog named Zoe, because I always remember dog names. I also snuck a couple pictures of some random guy because he had the prettiest long blond hair I’ve ever seen, but Tom convinced me I should definitely not give him my card and tell him he should seriously consider being a cover model because it’s almost impossible to find good stock photos of guys with long blond hair.

Now, brace yourself. I went out today too. Two days in a row, shower, bra, public. Me. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, so we took the Direwolves to the beach for a few hours. We usually go to Fort Macon State Park because it has plenty of parking, and a nice walkway over the dunes.

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Mozzie and Oliver are maniacs going to and from the car, but once we get to the beach,  they’re both so good I can’t even believe it. They walk nicely, splashing in the surf, not reacting to people or dogs we pass, and lie calmly on the blanket when we get back to our spot.

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Standard poodles definitely attract attention. Two people asked if Oliver was a standard, and one of them even noticed he has his full, natural tail.

I am absolutely exhausted. I’ve walked more in the past two days than in the previous two months, so I’m going to sit here watching TV and knitting until it’s time to watch The Walking Dead tonight. I’m finally almost past the orange part of the yarn, thank goodness. I hate orange, but you can’t have “rainbow” anything without it, although if I were in charge of the color spectrum, I’d definitely change that.

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The Direwolves have just reminded me I absolutely can’t sit here the rest of the day, because it’s supper time, and they’re hungry. They have me very well trained.

Hermit Out and About

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Hermiting is hard. My answer to “Do you want to go…” is nearly always “No.” But from time to time, I have to suck it up and go somewhere, because holding Tom hostage at home isn’t really fair. Staying in and having some adult beverages and watching Netflix used to be an option–my favorite–but apparently we don’t do that anymore. Well, I do, every night when Tom goes to bed, but I guess that doesn’t count.

Tonight is one such night, when I have to dress like a normal person and go out. There’s a 17021379_855781954559544_4158933835694194326_n“battle of the bands” at our favorite bar, The Brown Pelican, and he wants to go…so we’re going.

I used to love music, and we followed one particular band, going on multi-day roadtrips to catch several shows on consecutive nights. But a falling-out (lead singer/guitarist turned out to be a ginormous ass-crumpet) led to me no longer liking music…at all.

Back in those days, going out involved meticulous planning, with every detail of my hair, makeup, outfit, shoes, and accessories carefully coordinated. Now, I’ll get a shower. Probably.

While the main challenge is that I’ll have to converse with non-canine individuals, today has another obstacle. It’s March 31, technically spring. It’s also Easter weekend, or so I’ve heard, since I’m non-religious, and that’s considered a spring holiday. But it’s also a little chilly, with the temperature expected to be around 50 degrees this evening when we head out.

Definitely too cool for my cute summer tops. I tend to be cold, so even a short sleeved top is probably out. But if I wear a sweater, will I look like an idiot? Too cool for my new sandals…but black boots? Too winter-apparel-y?

I thought about wearing a garnet-colored long-sleeve top with my first knitted scarf, 29571342_10214115474733336_8294067764251296272_nwhich is light-weight and could be okay, but that might look like I think I’m still in Minnesota rather than eastern North Carolina.

So, what to do? Barring a meteor strike or robot uprising, we’re going. I’ll probably spend an hour standing in my closet and staring at the available options, which is almost like shopping because I go out so rarely that I find myself saying, “Oh, hey, I didn’t remember I had that.”

Probably too late to knit myself a light spring sweater, especially since I’ve only been knitting for a month and have no idea how to go about sweater-making, and it takes me two weeks to make a stupid scarf.

Whatever I end up wearing, the strategy will be what it always is, which is to reach the correct blood alcohol level to make me temporarily forget I’m a major introvert and avoid a panic attack. I probably won’t have a terrible time, but it’s not even 10 a.m. and I’m worrying about it, and that’s a lot of hours getting myself worked up over nothing.

See? I keep telling everyone hermiting is hard, but only other equally-dedicated introverts believe me.

(DISCLAIMER: As an editor, I desperately want to punctuate the graphic at the top of this post. I normally won’t use any meme with spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors, but I love Bugs Bunny too much to pass this one up.)

Slow and Steady Setbacks

I thought I was going to finish the zig-zag scarf, my second-ever knitting project, yesterday…but nope. I’ll explain why in a minute, but first, I did officially block my first-ever scarf yesterday.

I’m pretty pleased with it. There are definitely mistakes, but I’m not too worried. However, it’s spring in eastern NC, and I don’t usually wear scarves anyway, but we’re going downtown Saturday night, and it might be cool enough to wear this as an accessory with a garnet-colored top I have.

Scarf 2 is long enough, but I’m trying to end on a part of the colorway I like. I was sure I’d finish yesterday, worked on it a bit in the afternoon, then when I started again in the evening, disaster struck.

The pattern isn’t that hard, and I’ve been working on it so long it’s rather mindless, as long as I take a second as I start each row to remember where I am. But if I become too mindless, I sometimes lapse into knit stitches on the purl row, and I did it again. I noticed the ridge a couple of rows later, and was glad I had a lifeline.

Turned out it was good I had two lifelines, kind of like a back-up parachute. When leaping out of a perfectly good airplane, it’s fairly certain you’re going to need that first parachute, unless your goal is to see how deep a crater you’ll make when you hit the ground. It’s nearly as certain I’ll need at least one lifeline upon occasion, since I’m still so new to knitting.

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Lovely, lovely lifeline

But when I got to the first lifeline, something was wrong. It didn’t look…right. Sigh. Back-up parachute time. By then, I was sweating, because if the backup chute failed, I was just going to have to start flapping my arms and hope for the best.

I was very, very meticulous as I reached the lifeline and began putting each loop back on the needle. Then I figured out where I was in the pattern–I always put the lines in rows 10 and 20 of the 20-row repeat–and deduced I had the needle in from the wrong direction, and had to feed it (so carefully) onto another needle going the right way.

Heart attack averted, but the 15 or so rows I had to frog amounted to at least an hour and a half of work. Not a huge deal, as while working on a crochet lace tablecloth, in which each round took several hours once I reached a large diameter, I once took out multiple rounds, or about two days’ worth of work.

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But I really wanted to finish the scarf yesterday, block it today, and start something new.

I have a new circular needle, smaller size, arriving today, which I think I’ll use on a small blanket, but I really want to order THIS, a full set of ChiaoGoo stainless steel needles with interchangeable cords. Spendy, but I figure I’ll come out ahead in the end, rather than ordering each needle size and cable length individually as I need them. Yes, I can justify nearly anything once I decide I want it.

Do you have a favorite full set of knitting needles? If so, tell me fast, before I one-click the ChiaoGoo set!