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):

http://www.examiner.com/article/2015-chicago-yarn-crawl-preview?cid=db_articles

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

http://www.examiner.com/article/beat-the-heat-with-these-knitting-pattern-ideas?cid=db_articles

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."
"Right?!?!"
"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 left-handed...it 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 examiner.com 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:

http://www.examiner.com/article/local-yarn-shops-feel-an-economic-domino-effect

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, though...it'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 now...you 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 celebrate...by 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:

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-best-knits-for-dad-honor-of-father-s-day

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'all...watch 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, though...here'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!

http://www.examiner.com/article/world-wide-knit-public-day-brings-crafters-literally-out-of-the-woodwork

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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Stress of Game 7

Hello, fellow knitters and hockey freaks...this is what I was working on at sunrise this morning:

http://www.examiner.com/article/knitting-through-game-7-of-the-western-conference-finals

A Game 7 will give even the toughest of sports fans palpitations, but tonight seems even more stressful, for some reason. I have been combatting an economic downturn while in a sales job, tenants who seem to have pipes that do not just flow water from Point A to Point B, accusations of irrational crap like people selling drugs because they are not white (I am not the one doing the accusing or being accused), starting a prayer chain for a woman who hates my guts but refuses to talk to me, and other stuff I would rather have eradicated from my brain.

So, my way of handling things like this is a balance of "handle it" and "turn the karma around." So now is my week to be even more charitable than normal.

I usually do silly things, like buy the Starbucks order for people behind me. Every once in a while, it backfires and fills me with amusement after the five minutes of initial bewilderment. But little teeny weeny random acts of kindness, in my humble opinion, keep the world in balance. So there is that.

This week, though I am actually fundraising, which takes work. It takes promotion, diligence, and a core group who all believe in the mission of the organization. The good news is that you do not have to like me to like my causes. Take Imerman Angels, for example.

http://imermanangels.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=1701

See, Imerman Angels partners cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors with people who need one-on-one support. They have a database of people based on what type of cancer, the person's age, who was affected, and many other factors, and they use this database to partner with others who will be going through the same struggles, and the matched people offer support for the journey. Just a lovely group. I have been partnered with two people to offer support so far, and I would pretty much promote any event they have.

My fortieth birthday is July 12, and it is a Sunday so I have decided to celebrate all weekend. On July 11, I will be walking in a 5k and raising money for Imerman Angels. If you would like to either walk, donate, or both, let me know.

Then, the organization that has been a piece of my life since I was born will be getting a check from an enjoyable fundraiser I am doing.

http://www.ebay.com/cln/fraudvixen/ahiha-bobblehead-fundraiser/207631305019

The American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association is a non-profit hockey camp for hearing-impaired and deaf kids, and it was founded by two friends of my dad:  Stan Mikita and Irv Tiahnybik. In the past, I have sold raffle tickets and auctioned off the chance to shave my head for them, but this year, I wanted to do something that will benefit hockey fans as well. Through next Friday, I am holding an auction on eBay to raise money for them, and the winning bidder will walk away with one of seven bobbleheads, or a 32" LED flat-screen television.

Hopefully, people will benefit, and I get to feel good for being a do-gooder. Everyone wins! Happy knitting, everyone.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Let Me Live My Life

Good morning. As complicated as I may be because of my personal journey (aren't we all?), I am actually quite simple. When it comes down to it, here is who I am:

A knitter. Business owner. Sister. Daughter. Stepkid. Aunt. Girlfriend. Investor. Advisor. Imperfect. Sound. Generally ethical. Wealthy. Optimistic. Emotional. Objective. Passionate Chicago Blackhawks fan. Slightly messy. Tall. Survivor. Reliable. Painfully honest. Classy. Good at keeping secrets. Listener.

You want me to catalogue my flaws as well? Okay.

I swear too much. Eat too much chocolate. Make my birthday the most important day of every year and yet don't make an effort to wish everyone ELSE a happy birthday. Procrastinate. Don't give a crap about my looks. Talk too much. Forget important deadlines. Don't get motivated by the approval of others.

Except for one person, and it is starting to wear on me.

Well, I am not seeking her approval...just her acceptance. We don't have to go out for coffee every week, but being welcome in her home would be nice, even if it is just to wait in the front hall for a couple of minutes while my date finishes primping.

I am fortunate in the sense that, through both birth and marriage, I am the last of five kids. This means that if my parents wanted to try something out on one of the older ones, I received the benefit of refinement when it came to them helping to shape me into an adult. Families with fewer kids do not have this benefit.

That said, I look at the five of us and how we turned out. Brother Number One is getting married for the second time in two weeks to a lovely human being, and he is a successful man in his own right. Sister Number One is married to her second husband, and she is a great career woman and stepmom to two beautiful young ladies. Brother Number Two is married, has two cute kids and a cute wife and a cute house and two cute dogs, switched careers and is heading back to college. Brother Number Three is a successful grownup with a wife, two silly little boys, and a generally pleasant existence full of humor and love. What more could we ask for as a family?

I know that much of it has to do with our parents. There are four of them total, with Dad of course passing away almost seven years ago at this point. Three of the five of us are divorced. I have not been privy to every conversation ever had in the family, but I do not recall any parent telling us, "I do not approve of your new fiance, and I will make it that much more difficult to see this person because of my personal feelings." If my parents didn't like Bert, Helen, or Mike, they never told us...they let us live our lives and we always knew they were there for us if we needed them.

I have a successful business, but I had a failed business as well. Even now, my stepmom told me recently, "I think you just opened too soon." Never, out of any of the four of them, did I hear, "You need to try doing this or that, or your coffee shop is going to fail," and then later, "See? You failed because you didn't listen to me." When I closed the coffee shop, the feeling I received was more like, "You did your best, we love you, and we are proud of you for trying."

If I came out as a lesbian, I would be supported. If I came out as transgender, Democrat, Atheist, Carnivore Flip-Flopper, tree-hugger...whatever...my family would support me whether or not they agreed with me.

When I arrived at Easter dinner, my mom said, "Where is Alex?" Alex's parents live in Michigan, so when there is a holiday that involves a traditional family dinner, Alex is a member of our family. It did not dawn on my mother that he may have had other plans; he is a straggler, and stragglers are always, always welcome, even at the very last minute. The front door is open.

Even if you are in the process of leaving your wife, and you are seeing someone before the ink is dry on the divorce. You are welcome, and the front door is open.

If my family didn't agree with me seeing someone who was technically still married, I had no idea. Because disagreement (or disapproval) and lack of support are two different levels of loyalty. I can't imagine anyone in my family agreeing with my decision, but they support me, and the man is welcome in the family. Not just tolerated, welcome. Because instead of getting caught up in one single moral, my family is excellent at stepping back and knowing that everyone has their own story, their own struggles, and far be it from them to do anything but allow them to live their lives as they go through their personal journey.

There are a few exceptions, but beyond excessive illegal drug use and physical/emotional abuse, the list is very, very short.

The person who does not "approve" of me, I am sure, does not give a crap that she is affecting my life. Why would she? I am obviously not an acceptable child of god if I can't keep my hands off of someone. But by affecting my life, she is also affecting someone else's life twice, because now he feels he needs to be there for me when I am upset. He is in the middle. And nobody should have to choose sides when it comes to relationships; I and my ex-husband share a few mutual friends, and that is not only okay...it should be encouraged. The judge does not arrange custody of anyone but minor children; be an adult, love who you love, and develop the friendships which enrich you even if they are becoming half of an ex-couple.

Also understand, she is who she is. She is a parent, and she wants what is best for her kids, and she does not think I am "best." Okay, I get that. But I am really not that bad. I grew up in a world where it was okay to fail, okay to go off the rails to look for a better path, and to backtrack on one decision only to end up following the original advice of one of my parents. She is a great parent. But she is affecting my life, and I do not appreciate it. However, I know that since she is a great parent, the problem about her affecting my life is me. Not her.

My apologies if my decisions are incompatible with your views, but here is a news flash:  that means that your views are also incompatible with mine. The difference is that I let you live your life. I avoided you on St. Patrick's Day, never call your land line, and generally do not want to upset you. I do not agree with you, but I support your decisions, and I will continue to support your decisions with one tweak:  let me live my life, and I will let you live yours. If I run into you, I am sorry, but my mother raised me to face things. And I will face you as a woman, a good person, a sound decision-maker, and a classy human being. You are always welcome in my home.