Friday, September 25, 2015

The Kaspar Party

Good morning! First, the good stuff. Have you been to Unraveled yet? It's the local yarn shop in Wauconda that is basically run by a human think tank with ADHD (that's a compliment). You should stop in and buy yarn from there.

Also, Loopy Yarns in the south loop has now changed hands, and it is called Yarnify! The new owner is hosting a contest for a new logo, and it is open to absolutely anyone who is feeling a bit creative. The worst that can happen is that you don't win, but are introduced to the new shop. The best that can happen is that your logo is used, and you win a hundred-dollar prize!

After long, careful thought, I have decided to start my own political party. It is sort of a mashup of the values of a Democrat and Libertarian, with the fiscal mind of a Republican. I am calling it the Kaspar party.

Yes, it sounds funny and does not mean much, but it is my last name and I can't think of anything better. And, spoiler alert:  my ideas are pretty naive, so the rest of this post will read like an eighth-grade school project.

When did our two main political parties require us to either vote our conscience, or vote our wallet, but not the possibility of both? Listening to some of the crap coming out of people's mouths make me want to just try my hand at running things better than these people. I know it would never happen, but here is what I have going for me:  I am honest, and I am good with numbers. Oh...and I care about people.

See, Bernie Sanders...arguably, the Democratic candidate doing the most one big sound byte, "Pope Francis has forcefully reminded us that greed, and the worship of money, is not what human existence should be about." Agreed, Bernie! This is one of about sixty quotes I have seen floating around that are attributed to the Vermont politician. What he fails to address, however, is how we are to pay for human existence. Why can't we do it without "money worship?"

And the Republican party...don't even get me started. So, Ben Carson, you don't think a Muslim should be president while the "purist" nutjobs in your party think that Obama is a Muslim as it is? Well, two things come to mind:  first, there are degrees of the religion of Islam, just like there are degrees of Christianity or any other religious sector. Of course I do not want a misogynist homophobic tyrant running things, but that's an extremist view of the Islamic religion. And secondly...on that note...Obama, a Muslim? Well, using the definition the Republican party would like us to see as "typical," Obama would be just about the worst Muslim on the planet, what with his equal-rights, ham-eating-during-high-holiday, socialist healthcare...

Here's what I want. I want a candidate to take the mic. I want him or her to say, "This country is a very complicated machine. There are a lot of working parts, but only a limited amount of funds. I have looked at all of the programs where we are pissing our money away (if Chris Christie can use the words he uses, "pissing" is allowed), and have decided to shut those suckers down and allocate the money to these programs here." (points to white-board with a laser pointer) "The subsidized housing program, commonly referred to as Section 8, has exposed a gap between the poverty line and the middle class. Someone making $18,000 per year is eligible for a voucher, but someone making $18,005 is not. That person will go from receiving $1,043 in housing assistance to zero. Here is how I plan on rectifying that, for anyone making between $18,001 and $26,000 per year." (moves laser pointer to other white-board) "If we cut the Consumer Confidence ad campaigns for the cotton and pork industries by 80%, this will leave us money to introduce a sliding scale to encourage people to get higher-paying jobs, but not fear losing their voucher, thereby keeping people in the workforce and not costing taxpayers extra money. Then, we can..."

And so on.

I read somewhere that Walker dropped out of the race because he couldn't manage his $900 million budget campaign, or something. Whoa. What could this country have done with $900 million from private donors? Oh, and before you blow the whistle on the Republican party for that, you will have to show me that Sanders, and Clinton, and any candidate on the other side of the ballot is campaigning with no outside funds. Don't tell me that this is a rich-people issue.

Herein lies the problem. If you are wealthy enough to donate millions to a candidate you "believe" in, then you can donate that money to a tangible cause you believe in as well.

The Kaspar party will be a numbers-driven, fiscally responsible party that will encourage people to vote their conscience and their wallet at the same time. are pro-life so you want to defund Planned Parenthood? Okay then. I need two things from you, me where that money is now going, and show me where people who used Planned Parenthood can go now, even if you are outlining what will happen to the babies that will be born because you (the candidate) do not actually believe abortion is legal, and therefore need an out for the end-result of an unwanted pregnancy. And I don't mean a general statement. Show me. With numbers. And names. Get people to sign HIPPA waivers so you can talk about their medical histories in public. I bet many women would be happy to give it to you. Maybe then, I will believe you.

Show me where my money is going, so I can determine if my heart is also protected in the transaction.

Who's in?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life Can Scare You

Good evening, everyone. I am exhausted, but I am 100% positive that I can't sleep. However, if you would like to read about yarn stores in Barcelona, this is your lucky day! I just came from there, and I toured the city to save you the trouble of needing to look this stuff up when you go there:

Please forgive me for being vague; you will understand why when you keep reading. That said, if you are reading this, please focus on the details that matter, and not the ones that do not. The context details are just there for that very reason:  context.

I got a call from a shovel buddy this evening, requesting a prayer for my board. Don't know what I am talking about? Okay, then...either go to my facebook page, or follow me on Instagram under @thefiberfriend. I have a prayer request chalkboard, and when enough people have contacted me with a prayer request (usually every day and a half or so), I fill the board, take a photo, and send it out to the cyberverse so that others can get in on the prayer chain as well.

Anyway, this friend told me that their spouse was in the hospital, because the spouse was feeling severely depressed. I asked if this person tried to commit suicide, and was told, "Not exactly."

My friend was worried in a way I had never heard them worry, and I have known this person since grade school. I was asked to maybe call or swing by the hospital, you know, just to make sure this person knows that I love them. I asked if there was anything else I could do, and of course reiterated that my phone is on at all times. I went to the hospital.

"What relation are you to the patient?" the desk nurse asked me.

"Uhh...sister-in-law," I said. Good one, I thought. Then last names don't matter. I was escorted down the hallway. In the next hour I learned more than I had learned in the previous seven years about this couple. I am sharing this with you (and doing my utmost not to violate HIPPA, break this person's trust in me, or anything equally egregious) because you may very well find yourself in this situation one day, and not see it coming.

I was armed with a pretty empty bag, when it came to information:  depressed, spouse worried, waiting to get transferred to other hospital. That was about it.

"I just got tired of faking it."

This is, on the surface anyway, one of the cheeriest, happy-go-lucky, giggly people I know. This person always seemed comfortable in their own skin, happy with life, and accepting of the cards they were dealt. The hug hello was different than the usual hug at the door, however; there was a little bit of a slump before letting go. On both sides.

After staying for an hour, I walked back to the car and my brain shifted into Drive without so much as a pause at Neutral. How brave is this person to choose living another day, over the horribly unpleasant alternative that so many others before them have seen as an out?

How thankful was I that something...I don't know what, exactly, but something...caused this person to pull off to the side of the road, contemplate the next move in a parking lot, and finally walk through the doors of the hospital?

How worried is this person's spouse right now?

And if I feel as on edge over it as I do, knowing how close the world came to losing this person, then imagine what the magnitude of emotion is like inside the head of the person we almost lost?

Depression is not just frightening for the people who experience it. It is a battle for those around them as well, not knowing what may trigger something or change the course of "normal" or even end the life of struggle that their friend, family member, coworker, or peer is feeling. The really frightening part is that none of us can do anything to fix it, sometimes including the person who is depressed.

That said, there is no reason to just stand by the wayside and wonder if things will correct on their own, instead of taking action. One of the main symptoms of depression is hopelessness, so it stands to reason that a viable antidote is hope. No, depresseion can't just be "fixed" or "minimized" by hope, but it is certainly possible that things can get better. Doctors, therapists, pills, techniques, and even lifestyle or environmental changes can all contribute to depression changing its course to a more positive direction. We, who are the support systems for those with depression, can encourage that positive direction, and we can also just be in the room while they figure things out on their own, but see us in front of them.

The person who sought help today is an upstanding, intelligent member of the community. If this person wanted to die, I have to think that they could have figured out a definitive way. Life is scary sometimes, and if being afraid to die is what keeps you from swallowing that bottle of pills, pulling that trigger, or jumping the final jump, then fine. See that bottom, realize you do not want to smash into that bottom, and look the other way to see light closer to the top.

But if you ever get to the point where being afraid to live is what causes you to grab that bottle of pills, I hope (in the best way possible) you have a spouse, friend, family member, or any combination thereof to have the crap scared out of them as well. I hope their fear of losing you is greater than your fear of staying with them. Because life may be scary, but it is the only gift in this world where we can't just end it and start again, hoping for a better and less scary outcome the next time around.

Reach out. We are here for you, and equally important, we are here for each other while we are here for you.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Let the Hate Rest In Peace

Good morning, knitters! We here in Chicago are gearing up for the Chicago Yarn Crawl, scheduled to begin this Saturday. My plan is to show some leg at all of the stores in the hopes of getting free yarn...worth a shot, right? Here is a preview (and understand that almost ALL stores are doing awesome things for the Crawl...I just have a word-limit guide):

And for those of us trying to get through the stifling humidity, here are some suggestions for beating the summer at the knitting game:

Something has been bugging me this week. Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender over three months ago, and the ESPYs (where Jenner was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award) were over two weeks ago. Yet, my social media feeds are still full of memes with a message of "Bruce Jenner isn't courageous...the MILITARY is courageous!" or other messages of that sort.

See, I was an asshole once as well (on this topic, anyway). Back in college, a friend of mine told me about a mutual friend who was transgender, and the conversation went something like this:

"Omigod did you hear about Bob Slob?"
"No, why?"
"Omigod...he, like, went to Europe to have a sex change and now his name is Lisa."
"NO. WAY."
"Weird! Why would he want to be a girl? I never even knew he was gay!"

This of course was twenty years ago, but it was also at a time where validation had to come in three dimensions. Nowadays, you can say stupid crap like "Bruce Jenner puts on a dress and he's courageous?" and then watch the "likes" from like-minded people pop up on your facebook page. The flipside is that ignorance is completely exposed in this format as well. I realized the conversation I had with my friend twenty years ago was out of ignorance, and while I have never been a truly hateful person, I do see a lot of hate stemming from this issue. So I thought I would offer my five-cent tour of being transgender (I am not, by the way, but I used to date a guy whose sister was transgender, and many a conversation was had because the guy I was dating was still getting used to the idea of having a sister instead of a brother). Ready?

First of all, being gay and being transgender are two different things. Saying, "I have friends that are gay, and..." does not hold water in this argument at all. See, homosexuality is about to whom you are attracted. I actually think straight people understand people who are gay, to a degree. But being transgender confounds the minds of pretty much everyone who is not facing it.

Being transgender means your physical anatomy clearly presents as one gender, yet your psyche and your soul present as the other one. This is not just about dressing a different way; there are cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, and even tomboys (yes, some are accused of being a tomboy like a gender stereotype is an unbreakable rule), but transgenderism is not cross-dressing. It is actually the opposite; transgender people believe they are dressing up to please society when they are dressing as the gender they present, not as the one with which they identify. So this is way deeper than "getting some boobs and slapping on a dress."

Transgenderism is not something you can pray away any more effectively than praying away the gay. Or, as long as we are speaking outlandishly, imagine praying away being can't happen. I have a therapist friend in Minnesota (and yes, she is also a knitter) who specializes in transgender patients, and she said that in fifteen years, she has never had a patient that she thought she could "change back." People are born this way.

And it is one hell of a struggle. Parents are doing their best; you enter the world looking like a boy, but insist at a very, very young age that you are a girl. Of course, any rational parent is going to think this is a phase at first, or they are going to look at the rest of your siblings and think "He just wants to be like his sisters." So it's not like all parents come out of the gate with full acceptance that their child is transgender. There is a series of stages to go through, and like most other major life traumas (I do not mean "trauma" in a negative way...just big-impact moments), it begins with denial and ends with acceptance. Some parents never get to the acceptance phase.

My ex-boyfriend's mother...the one with a transgender daughter...said to me, "I still wake up on some days, wondering where I went wrong. I usually know better, but...I mean...I just think I must have done something different with this one than I did with his siblings. Her siblings." And the daughter was in her forties at the time; she transitioned in her late-thirties.

So now, we have a world full of children who are confused about their gender identity, and their parents are not jumping straight to acceptance (how could they?). If this happens at a crucial time in the child or young adult's life, like adolescence, the child may second-guess her existence. This is one of several reasons why the suicide-attempt rate for transgender kids hovers around 40%.

Pronouns are important. Bruce Jenner no longer exists, and her name is now Caitlyn. It is disrespectful to call her Bruce, or a "he," after she has told the world she wants to be referred to as a female, with female pronouns. It is also offensive to call her "gay," a "tranny," or a "drag queen." She is transgender.

I have heard people say "Bruce Jenner is just doing this for publicity." First, it's Caitlyn. Secondly, that is one hell of a life change to make just to get some attention and make some money. Step back a second:  Do you really believe that the Kardashians, and all of their manmade drama, needed to spice things up a bit by asking the patriarch of the family to get plastic surgery on her face and start taking hormones? Really? People do not even take marriage as seriously as people who are transgender choose to live their best life; nowadays, people go into marriage with an attitude of, "If this doesn't work, I can always get divorced." This is not only not an option with transgenderism, but their magnitude of surety on the inside is way beyond some haphazard decision. They are as sure as you and I are sure about what color our eyes are.

To me, this means that two out of every five kids who are transgender contemplate suicide because very few people understand their struggle, they receive varying degrees of support, and they are universally ridiculed by people who really are nothing more than just ignorant. But ignorant or not, ridicule can hurt like a bitch when you are too young or not confident enough to stand up for yourself.

Caitlyn Jenner was once crowned the "World's Greatest Athlete." She could have faded into obscurity and transitioned with nobody but a paprazzi photo or two catching her, but she recognizes that she has a prime platform for raising awareness. If you do not understand, then fine. But what if one of your female kids came to you and said, "Mom...umm...I know I am a boy. I don't care what my body says...I KNOW I am a boy." Your response (among other factors, of course) has a two-in-five chance of acting as a catalyst to a suicide attempt.

Is the hate worth it? I don't think so. Whether or not you understand it is not the issue. But how about we stop letting lack of knowledge translate to hate? Just an idea. I think someone coming out as transgender after forty years in the spotlight, espcially when he was an icon for manly men, is pretty  amazing. And if her speech at the ESPYs results in someone saying, "Thank you so much...I contemplated suicide and then Caitlyn helped me realize I was not alone," to open a dialogue with a parent, then I sing her praises from here to eternity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Small Business: The Biggest Bitch EVER

Good evening, friends! I posted an article to my page this morning, which touched a nerve among my friends in the knitting community. More than that, I am actually hoping it is a wakeup call for some consumers, and it has been shared a few times to some key people who have a stronger voice than mine:

My job involves me catering to small businesses. I would like to clear up some common misconceptions that I hear when I am in stores. Not that it will make a world of difference, but maybe a ZIP code of difference is all I should shoot for. Humans have a funny way of relating when it comes to small talk; people say the same things other people say, but they think they are being clever. It is because, to an extent, there is a large pool of us who is equally clever. So this is what people say to yarn shop owners:

I would love to own a yarn shop and knit all day like that!  Dear customer, I (the local yarn shop owner) knit all day, every day! Just after I pay the bills, order products I hope my customers want, get the bags and receipts/printer paper/tissue paper ready, reconcile yesterday's business, organize the shelves so older yarns look fresh to you when you walk in the door, merchandise the more "seasoned" yarns, figure out which samples need to get made, find sample knitters, come up with new and different ideas for classes to stand out among my peers and competeition alike, and flip through every publication in the world so I am in the know on the latest knitting trends. Oh, and then I have to figure out who is going to drive my kid to soccer practice while picking up the other kid at clarinet, make dinner, call the husband and see if he can pick up toilet paper, leave a check for the cleaning lady, pay my personal bills if I have the money, and find someone to cover for me when I go to my niece's wedding next Saturday, since I only have one employee and she is obviously already here that day. After all that...well...that is when you see me knitting.

I would love to own my own business and not have a boss.  Really? Then do it! The world needs more of us, who are willing to take chances and dive into our passions! One thing,'s not for everybody. See, being the boss of absolutely everything means that I make mistakes and have nobody to blame but myself. Funny, though, when I succeed it is because of my employees, customers, group decisions on projects, and a strong community. Being a boss is tougher than it looks sometimes.

You're here all the time! Do you ever see your family?  Yes, I do. However, you see yours more than I see mine, clearly. It is a sacrifice that was mutually decided upon, and in no way reflects how much we love each other. So please quit judging and respect the fact that your family works differently than mine.

Thanks...I'm just going to buy this online.  Let me get this straight:  you came in here, looked a human being in the eye, told them that you window-shopped their store, and now you are going to get it cheaper online? What kills me is that you are going to be shocked...SHOCKED!...when I close due to lack of business.

Why don't you carry Malabrigo/Cascade/Plymouth/Claudia/HPKY?  Because I can't possibly carry everything. Just so you know, I buy this stuff, and then sell it to you at a higher price. That is how retail works. So I can't be a yarn supercenter; my finances depend on how much you and others buy from me.

Jeez, that is expensive! Yarn from Walmart is not that expensive.  True. But Walmart yarn is made of plastic, and ours is made of the hairs of really cute animals. Animals are more of a luxury than something that can be produced in a factory for way less money. Plus, it was hand-spun/hand-painted/designed/created by an artist, versus a machine.

Is this going on sale any time soon?  Well, I am not sure, but let me ask you something:  does it get prettier when it's less expensive?

This is just a few of the questions local yarn shop owners get on a regular basis. But because shop owners are polite, generous, and generally classy people, let me tell you like it is. Small business owners wake up in the morning after having dreams about things going wrong in their store on a nightly basis. Sometimes, it is shipments that come in late, or incorrect, or just somehow sub-standard. Then, they manage employees who make ten bucks an hour or less, with varying degrees of love for the business but certainly not the love that the owner has for it. They almost never go on vacation, because closing means making no money. They worry when the get there in the morning, worry all day even when things are going well, and then worry when they leave. They know that everything from the weather to red light patterns to a stock market crash can affect their business, and they only control a small part. They pour their entire lives into their business, and even when they can look back and see they are a success, they still see their failures loud and clear and tirelessly try and figure out how to turn those little ships around. They are married, with kids, and sometimes even have a full-time job. They are busy, smart, incredibly patient, and they really do appreciate your business.

And yes, sometimes they take it very, very personally when they do not receive your business. Especially if you do not give them reasonable feedback as to why. And the word "reasonable" here does not include you buying it cheaper online; they know you also have a family, but still would appreciate if you did your part to support theirs instead of supporting some nine-figure CEO.

They are the sweetest people ever. But they run the biggest bitch ever. Support them, for they have one of the most challenging jobs on the planet, balancing trying to provide you with something awesome enough so that you cannot live without it, and then in turn using that money to pay for tee ball. A bitch, indeed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Fellow Republicans...

Normally, I post something about knitting on this blog, to balance out the life crap that keeps me awake at night. Today, however, I will skip right to the life crap.

I consider myself a fiscal Republican. I am not a radical, Fox-News-watching, gun-toting, Jesus-shoving-down-others'-throats, militant, crazy Republican. If you need to break it down more accurately, then consider me a capitalist with a heart. So my question to the rest of the conservatives in the land is, where are the others like me?

I want to own everything. And I want my money to work for me, and I want others to work for their money so it can in turn work for them. But I also think kindness and fairness need to be legislated on certain, climate-shifting occasions. Not always. Just every once in a great while, when people get so wrapped up in their tradition that they fail to see where tradition no longer fits the zeitgeist.

Two disclaimers:  I do not profess to be anywhere near perfect. And I am about to make some sweeping generalizations. Still, though, I hope you get the point. I do feel like other more "traditional" Republicans would be less up-in-arms over the issue of same-sex marriage if #lovewins and #loveislove weren't trending all over twitter. Liberals are making it sound like an issue having nothing to do with the law, and this angers traditionalists. But at its core, this is about the law, and about money. Or more specifically, the fact that taxpayers are not negatively affected by the ruling.

When I pick my side of politics, I do it by making an effort to read/listen to both sides of the argument. I do not say, "Well, since that is a republican view, I will adopt it." My general rule when I reflect on "Supreme Court Season" is, are we upholding the Constitution of the United States of America? And secondly, who is going to pay the dollars needed for it?

Justice Kennedy, a Reagan-era appointee to the Supreme Court of the United States, wrote the majority opinion on the same-sex marriage ruling on Friday. To the conservatives I encounter who keep saying things like, "I am praying for our nation today," or "There goes the republic," I offer you the following thoughts. I am not trying to sway anyone; this is just how I look at this issue, and others before it.

Does same-sex marriage fall in the category of upholding the governing document of the USA, the Constitution? Yes it does. This issue brings up two main debatable issues, which in this case people think contradict each other:  freedom of religion and due process. Well, due-process is a no-brainer. The states...or at least mine...were on board with that long ago, when discrimination laws in employment not only were enacted, but began to include more than just the Federal Big Five from Title VII. Now, people in Illinois cannot be discriminated against in an employment sector based on sexual preference or disability, to give two examples, and other areas besides the job hunt are regulated as well.

Freedom of religion seems to be the piece people are confusing. Marriage is between one man and one woman, you say? Okay, then. Which religion do you follow, or did you adopt when you were old enough to choose? Because last I checked, granting states the mandate to allow same-sex marriage is a civil issue, and not a religious issue. The law protects me from being turned away at City Hall with my girlfriend and her engagement ring in tow. It does not require all churches to perform all ceremonies. State law does not give a crap if you got married in a church, and state law no longer cares if you are marrying a man or a woman. God, perhaps in your religion, can still care. And your view in that case is not against the law.

Also, the court does not get involved in my pre-Cana class if I get married in the Catholic church, in case you thought the state will pick and choose their level of involvement. Civil versus religious. Done.

So my second mental hash tends to be, who is going to pay for this? I pay $200 per hour for a plumber because in Chicago, any plumber I hire is in a union. Thanks for my forty-hour work week, but I have it can break up your ridiculous club and I would like to only pay how much the work is worth, thankyouverymuch.

Section 8 housing drives me a bit batty as well. I have a Section 8 tenant, and while she is truly lovely, the two other people I know who have a voucher are what I consider abusers of the system. If you are going to tell me that the reason you don't want to get a job is so you don't lose your voucher, then guess what? I don't want my tax dollars paying for you.

But with same-sex marriage, I do not see a sap on my resources. Let me start with my real estate company. I am more likely to get a mortgage if I am married, since couples are seen as a lower risk in the industry than single people. More mortgages means more homeowners, more happy people, and more money being paid back as interest, which means banks can lower their interest rates. Winning!

More marriages mean more wedding planners, bakers, DJs, servers, wedding planners, organists, florists, divorce lawyers (yes, I went there)...and basically fewer people using my tax money to pay for their public aid. Winning!

Married people tend to outlive single people, and they are generally healthier. This means less Obamacare money coming out of my pocket. Winning!

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage fourteen years ago. My guess is that if that decision had run the country into the ground, we would have heard about it by now.

I am in favor of less government, but sometimes it is necessary for the government to rule on an issue. If you are upset because the government should not have to step in on behalf of homosexual men and women, then please let me know how you felt about Loving v. Virginia. Can you imagine living in a country where you walked into City Hall to get married, but you were turned away because your betrothed was a different race? Neither can I, but that ruling came only eight years before I was born.

My fellow Republicans, hold onto your money as always. But perhaps it is time to change your way of thinking, and keep your eye on the ball. Justice Kennedy, with the second-longest tenure of any justice on the Supreme Court, spoke as a man who wants to uphold the Constitution, but also understands that our forefathers addressed every possible issue they were capable of addressing when they wrote our governing document. Gay marriage is not an issue when you are separating from the Church of England, protecting your borders, and determining if just land owners or if literally everyone (or whatever comes between those two as grey area) is granted basic rights.

We have not watched our republic crumble from this decision; we have just seen yet another decision which has to do with control over that with which you were born. Our legislators and judges have, over the past five decades, ruled in favor of some type of gender equality (Title IX), racial equality (Brown v. Board of Education), disability equality (the Americans with Disabilities Act), and now sexual orientation equality. There is a common thread among these four examples:  not a single person affected woke up one day and chose to be different, and subsequently chose persecution.

My fellow Republicans, break up with your archaic morals and please try to separate that which forms the base of our country with that which forms the base of your ethos. If you think the government did not need to get involved with something like who you are screwing behind closed doors, then you are confusing trickle-down economics with trickle-down ideologies. This is about our rights as citizens of this country. End of story.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Father's Day

Good morning, everyone. And a Happy Father's Day to you who the way, I am talking about fathers. Not single mothers, not people full of resentment and and immaturity who walked away from their families in a misguided fit of irrationality. I am talking about Dads with a capital "D," gentlemen who had a hand in creating a child, raising someone else's biological child as their own, stepdads, uncles, godparents, and any other men who were or are the guiding force in a younger person's life.

I may or may not have collected a silly list of knits for dads, including a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle golf club covers, for your reading pleasure:

My dad is dead. I find it easier to say it that way than to say "he has passed on," or "he is no longer with us." He is biologically dead. And while I am not exactly thrilled about it, he has been dead for over seven years, and somehow or other, my world keeps spinning. It's okay. People die.

But if they did it right, and if you are doing it right, lessons will continue to be passed from one to another. I often find myself thinking, "What would my dad do?" And this is both before and after talking to my mom, and finding out what she would do as well.

See, family has been as hot a topic on this blog lately as knitting, partly because I realize how fortunate I am both in the moment and as I get older for having the family I have. Not only that, though; I was told recently that I could never understand something because, and I quote, "You are not and never will be a mother." The person telling me this was a father. And while I don't live in his house, or set up hidden cameras to document every move of every day, I do know this:  him being a father didn't make him any more of a man than before he was a father.

Anyone at all can be a father. You can just biologically, you know, do it. And poof...forty weeks go by, and the world now has proof that biology works. But to be a good father? Well, that is another story entirely.

From what I have gathered in my (almost) forty years, there are certain traits one needs to adopt to be a really good father. Here is the short list, and of course feel free to disagree with me since I am not and never will be a mother:

Humility:  It is okay to be right, and it is okay to be wrong. But be self-aware in both states, because there are literally over two billion actual biological fathers on this planet, so my guess is there is more than one correct path sometimes.

Class:  Unfortunately, we cannot stop others from judging. But we can make these people take notice of their obnoxious selves by being the bigger person, and our kids will notice this as well. Someone has to be the bigger person; it may as well be you.

Strength:  All humans face things that suck. All of us. Even if you make it to age thirty before losing a family pet, chances are you were next to someone when they received the news that their sibling passed away, or that they got fired, or that their condition can't be healed. If you can say "Why me?" in the same conversation as "Why not me?" and have people come to you for an open discussion about it, then you are there. You do not have to carry the world. You just have to carry yours. And by the way...crying and strength have nothing to do with each other. Men cry. Deal.

Common sense:  I am only going to say this once. If your tombstone should read "His final words were, 'Hey, y' this!'" then maybe you are not ready to have kids. But if you know that babies need a bit more work than thinking a computer cord is an okay teething implement because it is coated with rubber, then you have a chance.

An open mind:  Are you a racist? Bigot? Homophobe? Misogynist? Then newsflash:  your kids will pick up on that. When they are old enough to decide for themselves, they will either choose the same path, or defiantly choose the opposite path. But there is no telling, so just save them the trouble and accept that not everybody is like you. Make it easier for them to love everyone by showing you can find a way to love everyone as well.

Positive:  You do not have to be Stuart Smalley. But it would be nice if your kids came to you and said, "I did THIS today!" and instead of shaking your head in disapproval, you were excited for them. If it is truly morally offensive, then it is okay to say, "That's great that you were able to discover today! What you discovered is pretty bad,'s why." If you constantly disapprove of your kids' decisions and discoveries, then you are teaching them to lie. Simple as that.

Encouraging:  Get your kids to learn stuff! Teach them stuff. Show them stuff. Explain stuff to them. Kids are sponges, and from about age three, they tend to mid-term (meaning not short-term and not long-term) remember absolutely everything. Don't believe me? Look at the kids you know who learned English after moving here in kindergarten, versus learning English after moving here in high school. Which one has an accent? Kids need to discover. Far be it from you to shield them from everything...let them discover the good and the bad, and help them to learn the difference.

There are many, many others. But as I look at the good fathers I know, they all possess these traits. Feel free to leave others in the comments, and I will approve and post them for you. Oh, and for an audience of one:  keep up the good work. They are really great. You are really great. And the rest of them will learn some day. If they don't...well...then the kids will make their own decisions on who gets to stay in their lives, and who gets to go.

Here is my favorite picture of me and my dad:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Choose Your Family

Good evening! First, we must get business out of the way. June 13 is World Wide Knit in Public Day, and there are a ton of fun events going on around Chicago. Peruse the list, head to the one that sounds the most fun to you, and knit away!

Now, where was I? Today, I was having a conversation about how, in some cases, grandparents are not really necessary. It began as a discussion of anger toward family members, and who shares time with whom because of obligation, But it ended on the topic that the word "family" is not all blood-ties and happy photos.

My facebook page leaves many, many details to the imagination. I see facebook as a way to sort of make people chuckle with the anomalies of the day, and perhaps a place to let loose with the underlying assumption that what people read is not 100% of the picture. As an example, I go back to late summer of 2013 when someone who shall remain nameless (this is a bow to him referring to me as "she whose name shall not be spoken") was dragging his heels in moving out of my house. I posted a status update on facebook which read, "Is now a good time to mention that I have been divorced for months?"

Best reply ever:  a friend from high school posted along the bottom of that update:  "Is now a good time to mention that I didn't even know you were married?"

So I do not plaster every detail of my life on facebook. I also do not try to paint an inaccurate picture to mislead people...I don't burn enough calories deciding what to post on there where I want to make an effort to make myself look either better or worse than I truly am. Very few things make me more queasy than seeing someone's facebook page full of happy hugs and snuggles with their spouse and kids, when I know the back story and this picture they paint is actually like a photo negative of reality. I knew a girl once who was so horribly abusive to her husband that he finally was strong enough to leave, but her facebook page was photo after photo of her "wonderful hubby and gorgeous children" smiling and laughing away. If I look back now, I see how fake his smiles were.

Anyway, I am fortunate to have a pretty fantastic family. We are far from perfect; three of the five kids are divorced, most of us have lived with our parents more than once, our choices have not necessarily been the stuff of legend...but we are pretty great as a unit. But there is a difference between "my sister-in-law" and "my brother's wife" (brothers:  don't get the wrong idea...I think you all married quite well). One is stating someone as a member of your family, and the other is stating someone as a member of their family.

Both are okay. Grandparents often flip out in the best way when they become grandparents. Other times, though, people go weird. Sometimes, it is the grandparents who question every single decision of the parent, which is their son or daughter. Other times, it is the son or daughter questioning the decisions of his or her parents. Ironic, since most of us think we turned out okay, to question our own parents like that when they are watching our children.

I do believe family is absolutely necessary, but I do not believe that the role of "biological family member" comes with guaranteed entry into certain levels of either closeness or privledge with the kids. I had a friend tell me this week that she thought of me as her honorary daughter-in-law, because her actual daughter-in-law was a disappointment. I am not married to her son, but she chooses me and I choose her.

If more people put emphasis on each other instead of themselves, then maybe the family you inherit and the family you choose would overlap more often. Until then, however, it is okay to look at your closest friends and call them "family." They are, after all, the ones with whom you want to spend the holidays. Right?

And while it would be nice for some kids to have four grandparents (or, in my family's case, eight), the number could be zero if it is healthier for the kids to not be around them. What is best for you? What is best for the kids?

"A kid needs his grandmother." No, he doesn't. He needs unconditional love, boundaries, fun, adventure, encouragement, and maybe a bit of spoiling rotten with ice cream and gummi bears. But that can come from your best friend as easily as it can come from your mom. Accept your family for who they are, choose your family for who you want, and just remember to choose wisely. "Family" is the group of people who makes you feel like you belong in the middle of all of the chaos, and the dust on their heads will be the same amount as the dust on yours when it settles.