Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reverse Sexism at its Finest

Good afternoon, everyone! I actually have no knitting articles to share today...just a story.

I have a friend who happens to be dad to a six-year-old boy. While this little boy and I were on a field trip to Walmart, he passed the yarn section, grabbed a ball of orange yarn, brought it to me, and said, "You can make something with this!"

"Yes I could!" I said.

"Could I make something with it?" he asked me, curious.

"Sure," I said. "Would you like me to teach you how to knit?"

He got all excited, nodding his head, and he put the yarn back because he wanted to try out something more "disco" (I guess...the yarn he chose is silver with this awesome rainbow metallic thread running through it). I told him he could pick out one ball of yarn, and we would get the right size needles to go with it.

Now, understand that six years old is right around the age people in general can start to learn how to knit. I explained to him...as did his dad...that it may take several tries before he gets it right, and that there was no pressure to learn. He asked me to teach him. We sat down for our first lesson, when I cast on for him, and I taught him the four steps to the knit stitch in the best way possible for a boy that likes superheroes and wrestling:

"Stab it! Choke it! Pull its guts out! Throw it off a cliff!" (This mnemonic is courtesy of a lesson I took at Vogue Knitting LIVE, by the way).

The next day, he sent me a message, asking if he could come to my work and learn how to knit again when I was finished with my job for the day. I told them both (he and his dad) that it would be fine. I am told the boy's grandmother told the father, "You know...all you are doing is setting him up to be made fun of at school."

This brought to mind two things about gender that I never was required to adhere to while growing up. The first one is this meme, which is probably the greatest contribution the internet has made, ever:


I got the impression from that statement that the grandmother thinks that knitting is for girls, and that kids will either make fun of him for it because he would be a boy doing a girl thing, or because it meant he was sissy, gay, or whatever other in-the-moment word is currently used for that sort of thing. It doesn't seem to ever go the other way, though, does it? The people who worry about things like that will complain about boys doing the things that girls like, but very rarely does one bat an eyelash when a little girl is wearing Superman Underoos, or she has a toy bulldozer, or other stereotypically boy interests.

When I was nine, I had this awesome clock radio cube that had a just-long-enough cord to pull into my bed, so I could listen to the Chicago Cubs when they were on the west coast and I did not want to go to sleep (sorry, Mom). I had a Barbie dream house, sure, but I also had a navy, orange, and yellow Big Wheel and I played little league baseball. I don't recall anyone thinking that was particularly weird, and I don't think anyone was ever worried about me turning into a lesbian because of it. I just had two older brothers, so I wanted to be them. End of story. I was never discouraged from doing something because it was a "boy" thing instead of a "girl" thing.

Little girls who like hockey are much more accepted, I feel, than little boys who like figure skating, if all you do is listen to the chatter around you. Chatter may not be an accurate representation of life, but it stems from something. It is okay for girls to be boys, but much less okay for boys to be girls. Thankfully, nobody in my circle of life seemed to care while I was growing up...as long as I didn't come home both pregnant and strung out on heroin at the same time while in high school, I was free to make my own choices in terms of which "me" I wanted to be. 

The other itch this statement causes to crawl onto my surface is that even if my first ponderance is misguided, kids will be made fun of for everything in the world. Let me take this kid, for example:  his name is not spelled in the traditional, character-in-the-bible way. He is small for his age. He likes the White Sox while the whole city is currently Cubs crazy. He likes tea.

None of these traits are particularly weird, but kids make fun of other kids. It is what it is. And in a world where we are trying to take a stand against bullying, something got lost in translation over the past two generations. Kids will be kids. Instead of trying to turn kids into non-kids...people who know better before they learn to know better...how about we teach our kids to be proud of who they are, and let them explore their interests, and tell the bullies, "I knit! Would you like me to teach you? No? Then stand back, because my sticks double as weapons if I need them..." (you know what I mean)

We can't just blame the parents of the bullies for having bullying kids. Parents who teach their kids that victimization is the only option if they are different are just as much to blame as the others. There is a vast middle ground here, with a very broad spectrum of "acceptable" behavior. This means that no parent is 100% right or 100% wrong...it's how we learn from each other.

Incidentally, I would think any caretaker of a six-year-old boy would be thrilled that he is learning something that will keep his hands and brain busy, and is much quieter than playing explosive video games. But that's just me. Lesson number three...if he is still interested...will be next week sometime.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Common-Sense Resolutions

Happy new year, everyone! If you follow my column at all, you know that every year, I post an article regarding what people are resolving for their knitting habits and projects in the coming year. I assure you, 2016 is no different (mostly because I am predictable):

http://www.examiner.com/article/knitters-share-their-crafty-2016-new-years-resolutions

My knitting resolutions are pretty simple:  do as much of it as I can, be as creative as I can, and don't give a crap about spending money on yarn.

Other New Years Resolutions (capital letters added for emphasis), however, are more complicated. I tend to just reflect on the last twelve months, and decide what would need to change in order for the next twelve months to be better. This does not necessarily mean I resolve to change anything; I just like to digest what my life has been like, and be a realist about what it can be like in the future. If you are looking for inspiration, here are some common-sense resolutions to get you started off right in the new year.

1.  Give your haters the benefit of the doubt.  So, you are not perfect. You are probably not nearly as bad as your haters think you are, either, but heed their criticism before dismissing it. The outcome of a quick analysis of your haters is either, "That poor thing...they are just angry because their husband has been cheating for thirty years and they have never been strong enough to leave!" or, "Wow...I never really thought about it, but maybe I AM a gold-digger!" Either way, that dismissal can sometimes prevent you from closure. If you are someone who needs closure to move on, then get it, even if it is only in your own head.

2.  Own who you are.  I had a conversation with someone recently who was busted for probably the tenth time since I have known him, for cheating on a girlfriend. While he was beating himself up over it, I gave him some advice, figuring the last thing he needed was for someone else to beat him up over it. I told him, "You need to either figure out what makes you cheat, or just own it and be a cheater." If you own who you are, you can release a lot of the insecurities that plague your forward movement. Be a cheater! Oh...you think being a cheater means you are an asshole? Okay, then. Ask yourself the next time you are putting your face between a girl's legs other than your girlfriend's, "Do I really want to do this? Because then I am an asshole." Force yourself to listen to the little voice. If it doesn't stop you, then just own it. Be the asshole. You will still have friends, I promise.

3.  Shift out of first gear.  Ask anyone on the planet if they like sitting in traffic. The answer, obviously, is "No." Why not? Because nobody likes sitting around, waiting for the others in front of them to get out of their way so they can move forward. And yet, many of us will go ahead and say, "YOU ARE IN FRONT OF ME AND YOU MAKE ME ANGRY AND I CAN'T MOVE FORWARD WITH YOU THERE!" to something in their life that has nothing to do with their actual happiness. So, your son is dating someone you don't like. Do you really have to let it sidetrack your day, let alone your whole year? Of course you don't; this is a choice. And by the way, if your response to this little section is, "Fuck them...I would rather be angry," then you may as well just admit that you love attention, no matter how you can get it.

4.  Quit the cries for attention. Which brings me to my next common-sense resolution. Are you always late? Do you hold up a line, telling your sob-story to a cashier or bartender instead of being considerate to the people behind you? Do you like to repeat your same list of complaints to every new person you meet? Do you have a "blame others" mentality, where you start sentences with something like, "I don't know what her problem is, but..."? Because if any of these sounds like you, then you need to do a little bit of a self-esteem check. When we are not happy with ourselves, we do teeny weeny things to get attention, be it positive or negative. Don't believe me? Let's start with being late...what does everyone do when someone walks into a room ten minutes after they are expected? Yep...they stop what they are doing, and all eyes turn to that person. When you are comfortable with yourself, you get enough attention. Not only that...it is typically positive attention.

5.  Be kind.  This is the ultimate common-sense resolution, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people make this look difficult. If someone is crappy to you, and you are crappy to them back, does it really make you feel better? In general, no. The reason doesn't have anything to do with getting even, either. Most of us just really like being kind, and we can't get pleasure out of watching others suffer. If your enemy is drowning, pulling him or her out of the water feels way better than pushing them under, every single time. And again, it's not because you are sitting there and saying to yourself, "I just saved a life!" It's because you are saying to yourself, "I did the right thing."

6.  Do what makes you happy.  I don't just mean career-wise, I mean every damn day of the year. Does eating a doughnut in the morning set the mood for the rest of the day? Do you like organizing junk drawers? Do you knit? (Oh, please...like you didn't see that coming). Then do it. If all of your friends think that live-action role-play is nuts, and there you are, sewing your costume by hand at Starbucks, then maybe you need different friends. If you love your raw-vegan diet, if you love knife-throwing class, if you love reading about the American Gold Rush in the 1800's, then do it. Anyone who gives you a hard time about something you love is either the most boring person in the world, or the best at keeping secrets. What so-called "weird" thing do they do that they don't want you judging?

7.  Prioritize.  We are a compilation of a million little factors. Priorities can either be a most-important to least-important list of tasks, or it can also be a list of qualities we see in people, and in what order of importance they are. Put the good stuff ahead of the bad stuff, not just in you but in everyone else as well. Maybe you think I am weird because I have a whole list of qualities incompatible with your "mainstream" ideals:  I don't own a television, I knit in public every chance I get, my close circle of friends ranges in age from mid-20's to mid-60's, I don't have an I-Pass, I am "just" a barista at Starbucks...the list goes on. But if you see that stuff first...the stuff you don't agree with...before you see that I am kind, loyal, intelligent, financially independent, etc...well, then you are telling me more about you than you are pointing out about myself. How about making 2016 the year we all try to see the good in people before noticing the bad?

8.  Live.  If you have put something off all of last year, then do it this year. If you get bogged down in your office every day, then start to take your lunch break outside. If you spend too much time on your smartphone, then put it in airplane mode for an hour per day. Take a day-trip in your car. Find the nearest forest preserve and plop your blanket down in it...along with yourself and a sandwich and a book...for a little while one day. Sign up for the damn guitar lessons. Write that novel. Start that company. Write a hand-written letter and mail it. Send thank-you notes. Buy the stranger's coffee behind you in line. Kiss the girl who makes your heart go pitter-pat (bonus points if you kiss her in public). Tell the world how awesome you are without following up by telling them how crappy they are...they are just as awesome as you. In short, live. And live your best, brightest, most imperfect work-in-progress life you can live.

Resolve to make this year better than last year. And then just go ahead and do it. No matter the teeny details, let's make the balance sheet on 2016 end in the black, shall we?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You Happy?

Good morning, everyone...I am sitting at a Starbucks (not the one where I sling lattes), taking a break from getting about sixteen-hundred bits of paper together. I need a break, or I can already tell I am going to start filing things in the wrong place. That said, something has been on my mind for about a week, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. Seems silly, but I want to talk about happiness.

My stepmom called me last Thursday, and to tell you how rare this is unless it is a federal holiday of some sort, my first thought was, "Crap...now who died?" My stepmom is excellent at actively loving her family in the truest sense of love, but correspondence just is not her thing. Knowing this, I call her every two weeks or so, and we catch up on each other's gossip and any events that are worth noting.

So, after establishing that I was me and she was herself, she said, "Greg has asked me to marry him." I took a breath and started to freak out on her behalf, because that's what girls do, repeating "Omigod omigod omigod..." over and over again until both of us stopped giggling. We talked about how some people have expressed concern...or, at least that is how she interprets it...regarding her and Greg moving faster than they think is appropriate, or that she isn't thinking things through, or being irrational, or whatever.

"But you know what? I'm happy." Meg's words should slap every naysayer in the face.

She started dating him around Thanksgiving last year. He moved into her house shortly after that, and they talk on the phone often when not next to each other, and they tell each other everything. In fact, they have been like that pretty much since they met. I saw them in August, and they sat on the same side of the table at a restaurant, ordering one meal and splitting it down the middle. They did that the next morning as well.

So I ask you...the next time someone says anything along the lines of "Are you sure this is the right decision?" remind yourself of two things:  they probably actually do mean well, and they do not determine your happiness. You do.
So, if someone feels the right to question you on something that makes you happy, then ask yourself if you are truly happy. My guess is that most people do not know the difference between forced and true happiness, until they have had an event or period in their life where they can look back and realize that their happiness was forced. Also, the ones who are asking may also have never felt true happiness. I am not saying their concern is unjustified; just know that true happiness is more rare than we give it credit. Look at anyone's facebook page for proof of this. How many times do we see someone smiling in a single photograph, but we know the history behind the smile plastered on his or her face? We are all guilty of it.

I am truly happy. I have work to do, decisions to make, and will always have the typical stressors in my life like never-ending bills, but I do know the difference between truly happy and manufacturing something I want people to see. Happiness is relatively easy, and when you have to work at it, you enjoy working at it. Happiness feels relieving, peaceful, and genuine. Forced happiness feels more like a balance sheet, where we take stock of our problems and our good qualities, and justify having 50.00001% good in our lives.

When I get questioned about me being happy, especially regarding my relationship, the questions are pretty typical:  How can you be in love with someone almost twelve years younger than you? But...what about his kids...have you thought about that? Are you sure you want to get married after how the last marriage ended? Do you really think a year is long enough before you know if you want to be with him? Don't you think you should live together first? How do you know he is not after your money? You know that his ex-wife and mother are part of the package, right?

Because when you are truly happy, you know the difference. Of course there are always compromises, negotiations, details to work out. But another major component of happiness is the ability to communicate, and the two concepts (communication and happiness) are absolutely intrinsically related. There is an incredible amount of contentment that comes with knowing I can say anything at all to him, and there will be a discussion but no irrational yelling or accusing. We talk. A lot. About a lot of different sides of the same issue. And we figure out what is worth continuing and what is worth dropping as a two-person unit.

With regard to all of the questions above, my response in my head (and sometimes out of my mouth) is, "Why does it matter to you?" Otherwise, it is not really anyone's business. If I say I am happy, and I seem happy, and most importantly, if you can tell the difference in how I am when I'm happy and how I am when I'm not, then just wish the best and move on. And I will wish the best for you, whether or not I understand it.

Sometimes I fail at that. But I try. Because everyone...everyone...should find happiness, no matter what.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Swatching and Those Red Cups

Good morning from Chicago! I am sitting in my sun room, which is not particularly sunny during autumn and winter, and I had a dream last night that someone tried to hit me with their car while I was swimming (because that is how my brain works).

Also, I touch upon swatching about once a year in either my column or the blog, because yes, it is that important. Here are my top eight reasons I think you should swatch:

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-top-eight-reasons-to-swatch

Many of you know that I work for Starbucks now. After Cascade, I wanted a sort of breather. I have worked for Walmart, Gap, Inc., and Nordstrom as well, because working for large, established companies means that if you ever need or choose to go back to them for employment, you can do it in almost any city where you land. This time around, it was Starbucks.

And I have yet to encounter a customer who cares that our holiday cups are red, or that they do not say "Merry Christmas!" on them, with a bunch of snowflakes.

While I am not a representative of the company in the sense that I have authority to speak on their behalf, I do have opinions about this as an old-fashioned human being that I feel may benefit others in their quest to get large companies heard, due to my employment history. I got into a rather colorful discussion about this on facebook, and I have come to a few conclusions that I thought I would share:

1.  Telling the barista that your name is Merry Christmas is all sorts of dumb. If you are protesting in outrage, then please explain to me why you are continuing to give the company money every day. Also, the barista will write almost anything you like on your cup, because if it is rush hour and your drink is being plopped onto a counter with six other drinks within mere seconds of each other, then we want to make sure your own drink is the one that heads to the train station with you.

2.  Continuing to talk about it on social media is all sorts of dumb. Many of your social media friends, believe it or not, are not Starbucks regulars. But suddenly, all of these people who never walked into a Starbucks, but most likely pass one every day if they live in a community of more than about 12,000 people, feel compelled to walk in and look at these red cups, live and in the flesh. Then, I know what happens becuase I am also a customer of Starbucks:  "Ooh! Chocolate croissant!"

3.  Worrying about it in the first place is all sorts of dumb. Do you have little kids? Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Do you need a new roof? Is your next-door neighbor worried that her kids do not have the proper winter gear for the upcoming weather? Did you hear about the gunshots in the Gresham neighborhood? From where I am sitting, all of these topics are more important than red cups at Starbucks, and yet they are not anywhere more forward than your cerebral cortex. Ask yourself why.

4.  The media reporting on it in the first place is all sorts of dumb. Speaking of gunshots, a nine-year-old boy was gunned down in a targeted gang shooting this weekend. How about we stop the stupid red-cup conversation and talk about where his parents were, the fact that the educational system let us down, how it may be horrible that it was gang-related but that little boy was still someone's child and family member, or even how we can use money we spend at Starbucks to help curb gang violence in our communitites, if you are still interested in "protesting?" And yes, here I am talking about it in the so-called media, but I am trying to nip it in the bud with this post.

5.  Hypocrisy regarding this topic is all sorts of dumb. Part of the facebook discussion (my facebook page is public, by the way, so feel free to read it) revolved around Christians saying, "Why me?" as a majority religious voice. Well, call me crazy, but victimhood is not exactly a fundamental Christian value. Why you? I, as a Catholic, can answer that question with everything from, "Why anybody?" to "What makes you think this is aimed at any one particular religious group in the first place?" If your brand of Christianity teaches entitlement, publicly-traded corporations using their reach as a platform for your agenda, or God taking care of you in the way YOU see fit instead of how HE sees fit, then you need to re-evaluate how you identify as a Christian. Just like you cannot shout "Less government!" while simultaneously complaining that the government needs more regulation on a certain issue, having it both ways just is not possible.

If you actually, truly are offended by Starbucks and their festive cups, here is my advice to you:  stop drinking their coffee, write a letter to CEO Howard Schultz, and send it to the corporate office. Or go to the website and offer your feedback. And the next time all six of you are "outraged" over desensitizing Christmas (my fancy algorithm in my head literally suggests the number of outraged people is less than ten), wear a string on your finger to remind you of that as you are standing in line for a television at 50% off on Thanksgiving night.

Also, if everybody lives like a true Christian (I mean values-wise, not converting anyone and everyone to Chritianity), then nobody will give a crap what Starbucks does on their cups. I only know my own personal relationship with God, but I have never been given any indication that He asked a Board of Directors at Starbucks to take "Merry Christmas!" off of their cups. But I am guessing that if any messages were received, it was more of a "giving" message than a "taking" one, as illustrated by the fact that veterans can get a free tall coffee tomorrow, on Veterans Day, as a thank-you for their service.

A Catholic nun from Chicago just won "Chopped," and she plans on using her $10,000 to help feed the homeless and underprivileged. That, my friends, is Christmas. Knitting mittens and hats for school-aged children in Nekoosa, Wisconsin so that parents do not have to skip a meal to afford winter clothes? That is Christmas. Celebrating the birth of Jesus by attending church, donating money and time to causes for people less fortunate, and re-telling His story regarding teachings of tolerance, acceptance, and unconditional love? That, from what I have learned, is Christmas. And I have worked a Black Friday for Walmart, so I have seen people drop their morals and values for material possessions literally in an instant.

Starbucks? Starbucks is coffee. And it is damn yummy coffee. Words on a coffee cup? Put it to bed.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

No It's Not Funny

Good evening, everyone! No knitting stories today...unless you want to hear about me finishing a hat while the Bears lost in overtime this afternoon. The guy to my left was from Ireland, and he told me that while lots of people in his country drink, and lots of people in his country knit, it is ne'er too often he sees both at the same time from the same person. Duly noted.

I want to talk about abuse. Out of nowhere. Nothing happened today, and you don't have to worry about me sending some weird subliminal message about needing rescue from my current relationship. I am just looking at the world around me, and this is what is on my mind.

By the way, I am not a clinical expert of anything. I just do a lot of reading, listening, and attempting to learn from my own and others' mistakes. That's it. This is a springboard. It should not be used to diagnose or treat anything. But ask yourself if you have experienced any of what I am talking about, and ask yourself how often it should be acceptable. The answer is never.

Abuse is about control. It is not about seeing someone hurt; actually, it is almost the opposite. An abuser can often feel justified by feeling guilty seeing someone hurt, because they can think that the person did it to themselves. If only they listened to me and did what I said, they think. Then they wouldn't be crying.

Often, that is what comes out of an abuser's mouth. "If you had just listened to me in the first place, you wouldn't be crying like that." See, people who abuse like to blame everyone but themselves for their wrongs. "We were late because you couldn't put your fucking makeup on quicker." "I wouldn't have bought the house if you didn't keep nagging me for two months...I did it to shut you up."

Now, of course people say things in the heat of the moment that they do not necessarily mean. There are degrees to abuse. If someone says something in an argument once, and they realize their idiocy, and they strive to improve and not do it again, that is not abuse. If their default is to hurt and blame you in an argument, it very well may be that you are being abused.

Does the person who should love you the most also insult you the most? That is a problem. If you are married to someone who calls you names on a regular basis, they are doing it for attention. They are doing it to make you feel like you are less of yourself, because then he or she feels their own plane is higher than yours.

Abuse is not always physical, although the control aspect is the same. This is why it is very, very difficult sometimes for people to leave abusive relationships. They start to believe the abuser on some level, and because they love the person in question, there is a level of assumption that they can trust what the other person tells them is true. "He loves me...why would he or she lie to me?"

Lying. That is something else to watch for. Someone who pathologically lies, who is constantly covering their tracks, often thinks it is necessary to do so. I know some white lies just happen in a moment of panic ("Officer, I never saw the stop sign..."), but to constantly lie, to calculate and set a stage...well...either there is a string of behavior the person feels the need to hide, or the person feels they need to hide their true selves. So they try to control others by telling lies to justify behavior.

People who abuse also often will raise their voices. If they are louder, their voice can be heard over yours. Control.

Passive aggression is another commonality. "Fine! Maybe we should just get divorced then!" If you hear that once, after trying and trying to make things work, then maybe it is out of anger, and it is a suggestion. But if you start to hear this during every single argument, the person is trying to get you to say, "No...I love you!" or "No, please!" or something similar. In some cases, this is the moment someone realizes they are being abused. This is the moment they call the person's bluff and say, "Okay." And then suddenly, the abuser changes his or her tune.

But it is very rarely a permanent change.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating:  I often hear people justify the complaints they make of their relationships by following up with, "But...he's not always like that. He can be really nice." If you are in a relationship where you have to balance the good with the bad, then remember this:  51% is NOT good enough. Loving, nurturing relationships get fed by positivity, appreciation, gratitude, and love. It is similar to servant leadership in the sense that people who abuse are taking, and people who are healthy inherently would rather give. "What can I do to make your day better?" versus "How great will I look with her on my arm?"

If you start to notice little jabs coming from your so-called partner, remember that jokes are said in a loving way. They are not said in a way that should make you feel less than you are truly worth. And no, it is not funny. Ever.

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.

http://www.examiner.com/article/troubles-get-unraveled-at-a-yarn-shop-wauconda?cid=db_articles

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!

http://www.examiner.com/article/south-loop-yarn-shop-is-holding-a-logo-design-contest?no_cache=1443181335

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 talking...is 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. Oh...you are pro-life so you want to defund Planned Parenthood? Okay then. I need two things from you, though...show 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:

http://www.examiner.com/article/take-a-knitting-vacation-through-barcelona?cid=db_articles

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.