Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lifelines In Knitting, And Life

Greetings from 2:11 in the morning...I am scheduling this post to publish at 11:15am so I do not scare the bajeesus out of anyone whose smartphone is next to their beds. For the first time in a while, I am thankful that my pain meds after the bike accident were still sitting in the medicine cabinet.

Which will make blogging interesting.

I posted a blog about lifelines in knitting yesterday, and then reading people's comments on it made me think about what is going on in my life. Too many parallels to count, I think. It sounds ridiculous, but I am not above sounding ridiculous.

Here is the post:

I have said ever since my dad died that I think my purpose here on this planet is to get people to the next level. That next level is whatever they need it to be. I watched Ed come and go from my life when his dad died suddenly on the anniversary of my dad's death, of a massive heart attack, a mere twelve hours after he and I were talking about how, if he wanted his strained relationship with his dad to change, he needed to fix it sooner rather than later. He was on his way to his dad's house to talk to him when he passed away.

CJ floated into my life after fifteen years, was petrified of dying after being told he had to get put on the transplant list, and the day before he landed comatose in the hospital, he told me dying no longer scared him. He woke up, asked me to marry him, and died two weeks later.

Random people at bars who feel the need to tell me their life story when I am knitting and watching the Blackhawks, and telling me, "Thanks so was nice meeting you and I will take your advice" when they leave.

Dave, who needed me to leave right at the moment I did, so he could meet his soulmate.

Phil, who was rejected by me and told me way later that he needed that wakeup call, so that he would have the strength to leave his wife.

And on and on.

Someone recently came into my life, and one night over coffee, he confessed that he had done something pretty horrible that affected me. He was literally beating himself up over it to the point where it was affecting his workday several days later. When he first talked to me, I went through the hurt and anger, and then stepped back for a moment.

Here is a new friend who has had so much go on in his life in the last year or so, it is a wonder he can remember to tie his shoes. We are talking all Top Five on the stress scale, except no spousal or family death. All of the other ones, though:  career change, address change, familial change, marital change, physical change, financial change...all of it. No wonder he needed a break from reality. I had nothing to do with what he did. I thought a better way of handling it, looking at it that way, was to acknowledge that I was hurt but then just be there for him.

I reached out to a mutual friend, because I was concerned for him and did not know what I could do to help. Perhaps reacting with more anger would have made a difference...I don't know...but my default is definitely empathy over anger. This person told me that our mutual friend who hurt me has never really had a foundation until I showed up. Now, this person is guessing, he has no idea what to do with it.

So yes, I completely understand how ridiculous this sounds, but I get it. Most people say they were someone famous in a past life. I think I was a shaman, seriously. I think people came to me before science was a ruling discipline in both medicine and psychological thought, and I healed people. I was not a famous shaman...just someone in the village people approached for help, and, psychosomatic or not, got it.

I am his lifeline. He can rip back and start over and I will always be there for him. Unless something heinous happens, I am a friend for life. The problem is that he needs to see that for himself, try ripping back, start again, and look behind to see that I am still there.

And we all have one.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bruce Jenner and Victorian Lace

I am listening to the Blackhawks game, getting my taxes ready, cleaning, throwing away mismatched socks, and deciding what to do with random photos from Italy I found...all at the same time...when I decided to take a break and catch up on my celebrity gossip.

The big news (and I use that term loosely; I don't own a television but try to keep up on the lives of people I'll never meet who make way too much money simply because they are followed around in popular culture) of the day is that Bruce Jenner is transitioning from male to female. Cue the hate!

This came up in conversation at Starbucks this morning as well. I was there with two friends, working on this Victorian lace piece and cussing under my breath because I thought it was a good idea to bring a piece with yarnovers on both sides to a group where we would be discussing important topics, like celebrity gossip. To be fair, I only had to un-knit sixteen stitches, but it is going quite well otherwise.

Anyway, when I said "Cue the hate!", I certainly was not referring to myself. I catch an odd episode or two of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" in reruns during the morning hours when I am in my hotel rooms throughout the upper midwest, and while I know most of the show is staged, the kids all seem to have a deep respect for Bruce whether or not he is their biological father.

I grew up with plenty of encouragement to have an open mind, and to not judge others, especially for the things people can't control or change. I also know that my place on the planet is infinitely small; I sell yarn to craft stores, write a little column about knitting, and own a real estate investment company. I bet probably a thousand people know who I am. Out of seven billion, that ain't much.

But I am throwing my opinion on this one out there anyway, because I am so fired up about it. Other than the occasional joke on Twitter:

Bruce Jenner went from Wheaties icon to the front of the Fruity Pebbles box.
If Bruce Jenner is becoming a woman at least those Kardashian girls will finally have a positive female role model to look up to

People generally seem to be respectful so far. The problem is my facebook feed. I saw two of my "friends" felt it necessary to post some hateful stuff about the situation, and it was one of those juvenile and unnecessary moments of adulthood where you hem and haw about un-friending someone because their beliefs do not align with yours. I live in a three-dimensional world; burning more than about half a calorie on whether to unfriend someone is half a calorie too many.

So really, this post is just for the two of them. First of all, despite the fact that they get paid to have their lives documented, this transition is none of our business. Yes, I find it interesting and I can see where it would sell magazines, but our reactions to it should not exactly be the same as the news of the snowstorm, or who is trying to dethrone Rahm as mayor of Chicago. This is the kind of news we should just read, absorb, and move on from it.

If you must throw some sort of hate-veil regarding his journey, I retort with a question:  Throughout history, can you name me one person who chose persecution? This is not a publicity stunt...nobody of sound mind (even in Hollywood) would wake up one day and think, "I wonder what it would do for ratings if I decided go turn my body into a female's body." Notsomuch. I don't know Bruce personally, but I have known other transgender people, and none of the three of them who are open about it with me ever flitted about in their decisions.

This would be an awfully big undertaking if it were a "phase." It's not. Imagine instead, you have lived for 65 years in the wrong body, and now you are at peace aligning your body with how you feel on the inside. Freedom!

So before you go encouraging all of your friends to jump on your bandwagon of "What the...?!?!", consider this:  If you are born a lefty, you will always be a lefty on the inside, even if your schoolteachers tied your left hand down at your side all throughout your childhood while you were learning to read and write. If you are born Hispanic but get accused of "acting" white, the bottom line is you were born Hispanic and you are acting like you. And if you are born a woman but you have the exterior and biology of a man, then you can either tolerate it or do something about it. After 65 years, Bruce Jenner is doing something about it. And in the public eye, no less.

And I applaud him. If we must gawk, if we must fill our cups with celebrity gossip because of some sick need to know what is going on in the personal lives of the people who star in our favorite movies, then the least we can do is sit down, shut the fuck up, and try to learn something if we do not understand it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How To Land The Perfect Man

Good morning from Eau Claire, Wisconsin! This week, I have been in Wausau, Weyauwega, Nekoosa, Antigo, and may stop in Oconomowoc on my way home. I get no greater pleasure in my job than calling the office (in Seattle) and trying to get the people who answer the phone to pronounce the town names here.

This is not a guide on how to land the perfect man...I just wanted to see how many of you were curious enough to click on the link based on the title. But it is a post about need versus want, and this is a topic with which I am quite partnered in experience. But I assure you that you will be more ready for that perfect man if you get your money in is the biggest stressor in life, so if you minimize the stress from it, you will be more open to a new relationship. Magic!

I talk about money like it's no big deal, because it's not. Some of us have tons of it, and some of us have very little. It's what you do with it that matters. Because I am so open about it, I get asked all the time how I manage it. So if you actually want specific nickel-and-dime tips with your own finances, I am happy to look at them and help you. For now, though, here are some ways to hash out need versus want, which will make a world of difference both in your psyche and your pocketbook.

1.  Analyze your need versus your want.  There is nothing wrong with wanting. You have to, have to, take care of your needs first, however. Bills first, fun second. And if you have gotten yourself in a situation where you have to pay back half the businesses, stores, travel companies, internet lures, etc. that exist because of purchases you thought were needs but really were wants, you need to do that ASAP and put fun on hold. I have a tenant that smokes a lot of pot and never pays the rent on time. Smoke all the weed you will be fully legal and regulated in a few years anyway, but it's simple:  rent first, weed second. If you can't afford your rent, then weed can wait until next month.

2.  Quit smoking/drinking/partying/spending. Cigarettes kill people, and they are expensive. Alcohol is also expensive, and it causes people to do stupid things, like have unprotected sex and get behind the wheels of their cars and get tattoos they regret. All of these things cost money you don't need to spend, especially driving while drunk. Partying may be fun, but people lose everything from heirlooms to families of the excesses of partying. Same applies to buying stuff you can't afford. "Afford," by the way, is defined for this purpose as "Have the money left over after necessities to buy." Credit cards are not a tool to afford things...they are loans with exhorbitant interest rates, and most of all, they are a business for others to make money at your expense.

3.  Get out of debt.  Most people understand compound interest when it comes to their savings account. Get 5% interest annually on $100, and you will have $105 after the first year. Then in the second year, instead of having $110, you will have $110.25, because you earn interest on your interest. So why the hell do people flip out when credit card companies treat you like the bank, and themselves like the customer? Only with credit cards, it's usually 17.99% instead of 5%. A hundred-dollar manicure on a maxed-out credit card with a $3,000 limit can literally cost you $280 if you pay only the minimum on the card. Worth it? Of course not. If you can't afford it with cash, don't buy it.

4.  Quit lying to yourself.  The following statements are all truths:  Debts and late payments affect everything in your life from getting a job to paying for a "proper" funeral. If your self-esteem is tied to your appearance and possessions, then the issue is your self-esteem and not the items you are buying or not buying. No debt is good debt, including mortgages (argue with me all you want on this one, but if your mortgage is paid off, you don't need that tax refund check). If you are spending more money than you have to put on a front to your so-called friends, then you need to get new friends. $11,000 cars and $45,000 cars get from Point A to Point B exactly the same, and have the same maintenance schedule so you will be paying for the same maintenance on both cars (except you are $34,000 in the hole with the second one). If you never have money for diapers and formula for your kids, but you just got hair highlights/a new North Face coat to replace last year's perfectly-fine coat/your fifth meal out on the town in a row, then your priorities are out of order.

5.  Concentrate on relationships. This is last on the list, but should be first in terms of priority regardless of your financial situation. Your "real" friends are fun whether you are walking with them in the park, or taking a field trip to Atlantis for eight days and seven nights. If you don't have the money (not the credit, but the money), do the walks in the park or the equivalent until you have more of it at your disposal.

Yarn is expensive. Despite the fact that I work for a yarn company and write for a British website that also sends me free yarn to review, I still buy yarn. And real estate. See, I know the things I like to buy cost $150,000 with a 20% down payment up front. Or, you know, fifteen bucks a skein. But anyway, I know these are my wants...I know me well enough to know that I need a roof over my head, a phone and internet access, enough money for gasoline and car maintenance, heating and electricity bills, and property taxes. I want Chicago Blackhawks season tickets, chocolate at least twice a week, 7-Eleven coffee at least twice a week, to get my damn bike fixed, beer money for days I want to see Jesse and Joe and Vinny and Tia and watch sports, Danskos and Doc Martins, and more yarn than I know what to do with.

It's difficult. It is. Very. But if you adjust your priorities long enough to get out of debt and have a money surplus at the end of the month, you won't believe what this does to your relationships. You can actually be there for people and it doesn't make your stress level get worse. You can feel the hearts of the people who need your support, and you will be able to buy that emergency plane ticket and still be in the black in your bank account.

Most importantly, you will be appreciated for you. Nobody gives a crap how perfect your fake tan looks, or how much you paid for your Coach bag, or if you made a mistake in the socks you knitted for them. At the end of the day, people care about feeling like their life matters when they are in your presence.

Oh and by the way, the wrong man will be attracted to how much money you set out to show them, and the right man will be attracted to how you treat them and others. Sometimes it is a frustrating wait, but let him show up instead of slathering a bunch of rich-people possessions all over yourself in the hopes that he notices you. Or, knit him a hat. Guys like that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In Defense of the Starter-Marriage

Good morning, everyone...this blog is generally a "knitting and life" blog, but sometimes the life stuff comes front and center and it is more difficult to see the influence knitting had on it.

So there I sat a few nights ago with a lovely friend at my local Starbucks, and we were talking about marriage. I told him about my trials of getting a divorce agreement hammered out, and about agreeing to my ex-husband staying in my house until he found a job in another state (which was well after we got divorced). My friend didn't think I was nuts. The bottom line is that two things were at play:  sometimes, fighting takes more energy than waiting for karma and destiny to do their jobs, and I got married too late for a first marriage.

See, I have a theory. I think you can get married for the first time between 27 and 32 years old, and have a much higher likelihood of making it work than if you get married before or after that for the first time. Before you are 27 years old or so, you have no idea who you are. After 32, you tend to know exactly who you are, and it becomes more difficult to adjust to melding your life with another person.

Understand that I can rattle off plenty of people who do not fit into this age category, but I bet if I plot out a graph of everyone I know, there would be statistical significance to my theory.

My friend was married for quite a bit longer than I was, but he said he should have gotten out of his marriage ten years sooner. He got married when he was 21, and then stayed married for fifteen years. Just 39 years old...he is starting to get to know himself, but he is happy.

Even looking around the dinner table at a recent event, all of us but one never-been-married guy had a starter-marriage. One couple's second marriage has lasted for 28 years, another for seven years, and the third couple is engaged for the husband's second marriage.

Does it really matter when happiness shows up? Yes, feelings get hurt in the process of discovery, but hurt people will find happiness at some point as well. I knit so I don't smoke, fall into bed with a different guy every night, drink myself to the point of lack of responsibility, cuss too much, and avoid thinking. The amount of self-realization that happens during the steady click-click-click of knitting needles is astounding, and it produces happiness one stitch at a time.

This past year, I have changed jobs twice, residences once, and spent the first six months interacting with kids who did not give a crap about things like work ethic and moving up in the world. The second half of the year, I traveled by myself about 1,200 miles per week, met over 1,000 new people, and did so much more finding than losing. Throughout all of it, I knitted like crazy.

Knitting at bars makes people uneasy, by the way. I have yet to figure out why, but whatever...I see people read at bars, play cribbage at bars, have intercourse (seriously) at I am unclear as to why knitting gets the looks that it does. But whatever. I am happy.

After ending the first marriage, many people get asked, "Do you want to get married again?" The standard answer to that question, in my experience, has been "Hell, no!" and yet many of these people get married again eventually.

Right out of the starter marriage, there is plenty of questioning. What could I have done differently? Did I marry the right guy? If not, why did I marry that guy? Did I do everything I could? How can I prevent from making this mistake again? Should I be looking for someone new, getting to know myself first, or just letting life happen?"

I didn't realize how much of my knitting and driving time I spent pondering these questions until talking with my dear friend at Starbucks the other night. I was finishing my niece's poncho while telling him I do feel I had done all I could, I thought it was the right decision to get married at the time, too many factors came into play (including the opinions of others, which are quite frankly none of my business but were welcomed into the marriage anyway), and I am a better person for going through the starter-marriage even though both my and my ex's feelings were stomped into the ground because of it.

He sipped his cinnamon dolce latte and told me about his two kids, how his wife still treats him, how he lost friends, and how he is now dating again.

Going into marriage thinking you can always get divorced if it doesn't work should probably not get married in the first place. But if you find yourself half of a tandem in a failed marriage, then learn from it. If it weren't for knitting, I would not have processed all I needed to process regarding my marriage. And while I have no plans to get married again, I am certainly open to the idea because I think that this time, I would be a better wife to a better husband for me than the first time around.

Do what you like. My activity is knitting, but if yours is basketball, running, playing solitaire on your laptop, or whatever else, do it. Use that time to get to know yourself, and ask yourself the tough questions before you have the confidence to ask others what they may be thinking. And then however much time it takes, remember that a failed marriage is not the end-all be-all. It is just a learning experience.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Knitting And Kindness

Good evening, everyone...I hope the holidays have been as pleasant as possible, and that the yarn is flailing about with reckless and colorful abandon.

So, last week I did a blog post for LoveKnitting about the easiest fingerless mitts ever, so that people could get rid of their scrap yarn as gifts for people, and the pattern was designed to not have a thumb. They were easy as ever, after all, but I personally can't go thumbless in good faith. It prompted people to ask me how I made the thumb in the blog photos, so here is the blog post on how to make an afterthought can make any simple fingerless mitt that folds around the hand and add a thumb this way later:

I saw the movie "Wild" this afternoon after the Bears game (and yes, I have now gloated to Vinny a thousand times that my prediction for the Bears over Labor Day weekend was a 5-11 record, and that is how they ended the season), and there is a line in that movie where Laura Dern is teaching her daughter a life lesson:

"Always do the kindest thing."

I try to be kind at all times. I have failed miserably on a few occasions, but generally, the consequences of not being kind are never worth it. My niece asked me for a poncho for Christmas, and she told my mom she wanted it blue. I held it up to her on Christmas Day to make sure it fit her, and she said, "Can you put some pink on here if it isn't too much trouble?" Of course I can. You are almost nine, you are my brother's kid, and you asked me to knit you something. Miss Rachel, I will do whatever the hell you ask me to do, and I'll like it.

On Christmas, I got stood up for a breakfast date, which (from where I was sitting, anyway) meant I had some extra cash at my disposal. I bought breakfast for the woman in the booth behind me and her three adorable little boys...they walked into Denny's like they were walking into Disneyland. It was awesome. Then I rounded my server's tip up to the nearest hundred...she was lovely and deserved every penny.

But kindness certainly does not have to be about money...I just happen to make way more of it than I could ever understand how to spend. I never acquired a taste for Coach purses or whatever, so if it's not real estate, I probably consider it a luxury and don't bother buying it. I would rather give it away in ways like that to people who would appreciate it.

Kindness does not have to be about knitting, either...but knitters are usually the most charitable group out there. If you don't know Karen Plomin (or KcScrapper on Ravelry), get to know her...if she is knitting or talking about knitting, it is probably either because an item is being gifted to someone else or she is promoting a charitable organization that needs knitted goods. The girl doesn't have any idea what it means to NOT be kind.

Kindness, though, sometimes gets occluded by this huge ball of anger, and you have to look for it. I used to be close with someone that, looking back, was not kind. I should have seen it sooner, and I should have severed ties with that person sooner. All this person knew how to show was anger, and every time I heard this person say something that was meant to be kind...maybe it's just me, sounded fake, contrived. Perhaps I am wrong...maybe this person was one of the kindest beings ever. But I really do not think so. I saw this person almost throw a chair at a dog, not speak to someone for two days over the fact that his significant other showed him a picture of a baby, and told the person he supposedly loved that their outfit on date-night looked like they were going to a garage sale. Not kind at all.

I recently encountered someone who called me one of the more harsh insults I have ever been called, and crazy enough, my first reaction to it (in my head) was, "Wow...I really hope this person can find a way through all of that anger. I'm so, so sorry this person is hurting that deeply." Weird, right? And I did not respond to it because...well...why would I? This person's reality could not be changed, no matter how much explaining I felt like doing. And to an extent, I deserved the insult.

But I am still kind. I just make mistakes like the next girl. Because I am a knitter, I would normally make this person a prayer shawl but I do not think it would be well-received right now.

Then again, I once had a few dates with someone that I found out after the fact was married (I had been in his apartment, and there was absolutely no evidence to any other adult being in the place). I came to a place where the now-ex wife and I were able to be friendly enough where I sang at her wedding to the next guy. So I don't know...if a situation like that can be tied up into a neat bow instead of a bunch of angry loose ends, then maybe kindness prevails.

Maybe that was a fluke. I don't know. But I am not going to stop living by the golden rule and offering knitted goods to people who need them. Always do the kindest thing. All anger does is kills people, and it's not as worth it as the rewards of kindness.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Attention Walmart Shoppers...

Good morning, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I am not shy about my political views; I am a fiscal republican with what I consider a pretty big heart, so sometimes it is difficult to balance the capitalist in me with the giver in me. That said, I do not feel people should just get something for nothing. It is what it is, and of course you are welcome to feel your own way, disagree with me, and call me a name or two.

When I was a kid, I remember having a Barbie Dream House and both Andrea and Kristen drooling over it. I remember boxes and paper absolutely everywhere. I remember making cookies, year in and year out, at Mom's house. I remember carrying my Cabbage Patch Kid into my cousin's house in Bolingbrook and everybody oohing and ahhing over it.

My point is that the positive feelings associated with Christmas was more because those things were mine and the day surrounding them, and less because of the moment I received them. Now, I was recently at a birthday party for a five-year-old, and when he opened one of his gifts, he started running from the living room to the playroom and back, yelling, "I'M FREAKING OOOOUUUTTTTTT!" It was hilarious. I just don't know if the lasting impression will be the yelling and running, or playing with the toy afterward.

And it could have been any toy. Or game. Or article of cute clothing. The lasting effect on kids is the entire day, and not that one gift that they open and lose their minds over.

I say this today because, up until June of this year, I managed a retail outlet overnight for the largest company of its kind on the planet. Last year, on Black Friday, I was in the middle of my rotation and had to leave Thanksgiving dinner at Mom's house to go to Walmart. My first job of the night was to be backup for our Asset Protection manager, so I was directing traffic in the parking lot. "Excuse me!" I yelled. "This is a fire lane, so sorry!" I got "Fuck you...everyone else is parked here!" Okay then.

After that, I went inside to help control the flow of the lines. Every register had a cashier on it, but our fire code allowed for (if I recall) 33 people per register in the store at a time. Think about this for a second, and picture how close together the registers are, and how everyone wants to get checked out all at once. People were in line for three hours, barely moving for the majority of that time. Meanwhile, the person you claim does not make enough money to survive without food stamps (not true, by the way...most of these kids are either supplementing their income, or they know what they are getting into when they take the job...that is THEIR choice and not Walmart's...I also had hourlies that made forty grand a year) is getting harassed by one person at a time, plus the two or three people behind them in line within ear shot of the cashier.

I was in the middle of a swarm of people with shopping carts who were threatening each other, and they started to threaten me and my safety if I did not take care of things. This is a mob mentality I have trouble understanding. I actually did something I do not often do...I put on my Mom hat, and I told these people I would take care of things the best I could, but that they had to shut up and cooperate or they could leave their full shopping carts where they were and I would be happy to show them the door.

Then, later, I had eleven customers at the door of my office (the capacity of the office was three, maybe four if someone was in a dispute and you were willing to stand instead of sit). Apparently, one of the associates gave out tickets for a Playstation before the right time, so customers were threatening my job and my safety again unless I could do something for them. I took down all of their names and phone numbers, talked to our Electronics manager later that evening, called each and every one of them back the next day, and offered for them to buy the product online and I would refund them the difference. After a night's sleep (on their end) and their mob-mentality hangover wearing off, they were fine with that and they thanked me for my help.

But not that night. It was all about blood and anonymity that night.

So I ask you to consider a few things on this Thanksgiving, which now has the greatest commercial misnomer EVER, "Black Friday":

  1. Do you remember Thanksgivings of days past as being a beautiful day of family, football, food, and togetherness? If your answer is "yes," then stay home and shop tomorrow. Your kids will be pleased with whatever they receive for Christmas.
  2. Retailers (not just Walmart...all of them) have made it difficult to afford Christmas without missing Thanksgiving. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to sacrifice family time to get hot under the collar with a thousand people fighting over the last Wii, or would you rather make the holiday yours and just afford what you can, so you can focus on love instead of money?
  3. Do you honestly believe that your kids will grow up resenting you if you get them a smaller tablet for Christmas than what they wanted?
  4. If you do venture out, can you please take a breath now and again and remind yourself that the people waiting on you are also missing their holiday, not so they can buy things for their kids, but so you can buy them for yours.
I do not normally bleed my heart out for anybody...I love to make money, and sometimes you have to take advantage of people to do that. But there are so few togetherness-themed times in our lives that are left; cars have DVD players so kids no longer play the alphabet game with their parents on road trips. We miss little moments because we are so busy documenting crap on facebook that we do not look up in time to see the next thing that happens. We go to little league games where no score is kept because heaven forbid a kid get their feelings hurt for losing, so we no longer have the chance to comfort our kids and help them get strong enough on their own two feet to accept the fact that life goes on after defeat.

So if you would rather get a good deal on a new TV instead of sit at home and laugh with your family, I respect your decision. But the people you encounter are either other stressed out shoppers just like you, or they are retail workers who are doing their best to get you the hell our of their store in peace so they can put things back where they belong when you are gone. They appreciate your business, but each of them will have thirty people asking them questions and complaining all at once, and quite frankly, none of them get paid enough to prioritize like that. 

I did. I made well over seventy grand a year there. But the hourly employees are there strictly to help you find what you need, and make your shopping experience pleasant. If you are miserable, ask yourself if it is because of something at the store, or if it is because you chose to go out into the swarm. I am not blaming anyone for holiday shopping. All I'm saying is that brought on some of that stress yourself. Retailers' jobs as a company are to entice you. If you fall prey to it over being with your family, that is on you. Not them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. And ask for a manager if you need one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Today Is Important

Good afternoon, friends! I'm currently in Freeport, Illinois getting ready to meet a potential customer, and I can't drive through this town without smiling about two things:  1) this is where Dad and I took rainy-day field trips when he lived in Mount Carroll, and 2) their high school mascot is the Pretzels.

Today is a very important day for me, for two reasons. One of them, I will keep to myself. The other, I will shout from the rooftops. My cancer was blasted to bits on this day ten years ago.

The first time I was sick, no big deal. Thyroid cancer is the most curable cancer out there; the younger you are, the more likely you will survive it. My surgeon, Daphne Denham, looked like a supermodel from Bowling Green, Kentucky and yet she was far from someone who liked to garner attention from the paparazzi. She photographed my tumor for me, told me to schedule the surgery around my life, and hung out with both of my parents long enough to answer any questions they had, even though I was 27 at the time.

Then, a year later, I went in for a follow-up, and the piece of tissue left on my vocal chord had grown pretty significantly in size. It was biopsied, and of course because this is science and not advertising, it was presented to me like this:  "Well, the cells exactly mimic the cancer cells, and the tissue's growth has us very concerned, and we would like to do more tests to be sure, and..." Basically, they said everything in the world except "Your cancer has come back and we want to blast the crap out of it for you."

But, that they did. If any of you happen to remember when I opened the coffee shop, I was off of my thyroid meds for several weeks while I waited for my body to be primed for treatment. My godfather, Uncle George, shaved my head for me because my hair was coming out in clumps in the shower. I held an auction that day for who could be the lucky one that got to shave my head. The winner was my dad, but he did not want to drive in for the shaving, so he asked his brother to do it. Everyone who bid ended up donating the money anyway, so my hair went to Locks of Love and the money went to the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. Wins all around.

After a two-day stint in the hospital and a two-week period where I was too much of a biohazard to interact with other humans and domesticated animals, I was clean. As far as I can tell ten years later, anyway.

I thought a tattoo would be a fun way to celebrate, so I sent an email to my friend Jesse's favorite tattoo artist. I told her I wanted a lily of the valley coming out of soil made from my cancer cells, and I sent her photos of what thyroid cancer looks like under a microscope. This is the result:

I have no idea why I was chosen to survive this. More importantly, I have no idea why people like Philip Turner had to die from it at 43, or my dad had to die at 63, or Estrella has to fight her ass off at 40. But here is what I do know.

You have to eventually ponder the why. You have to look around at your chunk of the seven billion humans that fit in your circle, and even the ones on the fringe of it, and compare your life to theirs. It is human nature. What you do not have to do, however, is draw any conclusions from it.

A common mantra is that there are no second chances. Maybe not, but why should we need one? We are not perfect beings, and we cannot control everything in our lives. If we screw up, we all have the capability of apologizing or trying to make amends, and then getting better by learning from our mistake. We do not need second chances. We need to just make every chance we get the best chance we have.

Notice people. Look around your chunk of the seven-billion-human population and see what is out there. You may not realize it, but you get something out of each and every one of them. They will either show you something you want to be, or something you do not want to be. Absorb both lessons with equal significance.

I was not the girl who woke up after treatment and all of a sudden started noticing the beauty in the sunsets. I was already a pretty damn happy person with a backpack full of flaws. But as I get older I realize how grateful I am that I get to age. I can pick and choose who shares my life, and I can gracefully bow out of the lives that are toxic to my well-being. I suggest everyone do the same.

Oh, and one last thing:  I did learn one major lesson from my little ten-year benchmark. Stupid, I know, but I have gradually felt less and less like I have the start of a serious illness every time I get the sniffles. After all, if I die tomorrow, some of your lives will be affected, but mine will just end. I may as well just live as though I have something valuable to offer, and hope that people find value in me.

I happen to associate today with a day of importance. You do not need to do that. We all have value in this world; offer what you can, and selfishly take their gifts as life lessons for yourself in return. The balance sheet is even at that point.

Excuse me, as I have to cast on a sweater for my Save the Children Pins 'N' Needles Challenge. The chances of me finishing are a bit slim, but dammit if I don't try.