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, 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 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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Be A Superhero

Good morning, and happy Monday! Did any of you go to Windy Knitty's fourth anniversary party this weekend? I saw the photos on their facebook page...too cute for words, those little knitted roses.

I watch Grey's Anatomy every Friday morning at about 5:45am on the internet, since I don't own a television, and the episode from two weeks ago had a moment that sort of spoke to me. Here it is:

Silly, obviously. Television is fiction. But I needed a moment like this, because last year, I was in my second major bike accident. By "major," I mean "one which landed me in the hospital." Interestingly enough, I was in the hospital on June 24, 2008 and again on June 24, 2014. I now know which day to avoid when choosing bike-ride days.

Anyway, it was a fluke occurence; I was riding home from my brother and sister-in-law's house on the night of June 22 when I went over a piece of missing concrete. Apparently, something on the road was repaired, and it went over the bike lane but was not repaired and sealed properly. To my left was a row of moving cars on Addison Avenue, and to my right was a row of parked cars. I was actually in the designated bike lane; it's not like I was swerving into the middle of the street for fun.

My tire was the most tragically perfect size for the fifteen-inch-across divot in the road. I saw it from probably sixty feet away, stood up on the pedals to go over it, and SMACK. I popped my back tire. No biggie...this was nine blocks from my house at this point, so I just walked the rest of the way. I was slightly groggy the next day, but the following night, I was unable to move.

I drove myself to the hospital, figuring public transportation would not be such a good idea. even lifting my toes to move from the gas to the brake was miserable. I arrived and was promptly evaluated and given a cocktail of all sorts of fun pain meds and muscle relaxers, and the poor nurse kept saying to me, "What position is most comfortable for you while you wait?" I did not have a solid answer for her.

Finally, I rested on my side and found that if I did not move anything but my arms, I was okay. I called a few people for a ride, because of course they would not let me drive while whacked out on all of the meds, and I ultimately exchanged pizza for a lift from Jesse. It worked out for both of us.

Two weeks later, I was still in pain. According to the doctors and personnel at the hospital, I absorbed the impact of the hit from my feet to my middle back, so I was experiencing severe whiplash in that whole area. It was like someone hit my core muscles like a nail into a board.

All summer, I would look at my bike on the weekends and think I should get the damn thing fixed. I was spending almost half my time in Minnesota, walking at night after work, and of course Minnesota is a state which practically begs you to ride your bike. I missed out.

Finally, four weeks ago, I got it fixed. The alderman for the part of the city where the street gaffe was had made sure a repair was made within two days of me contacting him. It was me that was still broken. But on this past Saturday, I finally got on the thing after being a superhero for five minutes.

It was glorious.

I only went sixteen miles on three separate tour legs, but I felt great. Seriously.

I was talking to a dear person on my bluetooth on the last leg of the ride, and he said, "I am so proud of you for getting back on your bike!" I could hear him beaming on the other end of the phone. In case I was not sure yet that it was the right decision to finally get back on, that little moment solidified it.

Tomorrow, I will be a superhero when I face someone who, I am told, wants to give me a piece of her mind. Separate from my superhero-style confidence, I am just hoping she is pleasantly surprised by how the conversation goes. I will of course have my knitting needles on the ready, but not as weapons; I will want to minimize the risk of using the f-word inappropriately.

I am a superhero.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Not My Llama

Hello, friends. First thing's is getting warmer out (maybe), so here is a brief summary of which stores are hosting what knit-alongs (KALs) in the Chicago area this spring:

That said, there is this fantastic Polish idiom which reads Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy. In other words, "Not my circus, not my monkey." My friend PJ's version of it is "Not my llama," but the message is the same:  whatever it is, it's not my problem.

Drama, believe it or not, is a choice. Bad things happen every day of your life. Drama is what comes of handling everyday life events, mostly bad but sometimes even not-so-bad, poorly. One thing drama is not, I assure you, is a given. If you say drama follows you around, or you have no control over the drama surrounding any situation, then you are choosing incorrectly.

Did you get fired? Did your boyfriend leave you for someone who looks just like you, only younger and "less complicated?" Did your basement flood from all of the melting snow? These are all very valid reasons to be angry. Sometimes, life just sucks. Not only that...sometimes, all of these things happen at once, and life sucks threefold.

The question is, how are you handling things? If you put it in Park to spend your day festering over the details, and then calling all of your friends to reiterate all of those festered details with no goal of getting them resolved (at least in your head), then therein lies the problem. We cannot stop living when bad things happen.

So here is what drama does to people:  for the people who create it, the drama prevents them from actually working through any problems, and then ultimately moving on from them. Not a great way to live, considering we all have obligations. Drama is what invades our lives and creates a wall between what we are doing, and what we need to do, and a holding pattern is not a healthy way to live.

It causes unnecessary anger. And anger kills people. And not just the object of it, either...people who are perpetually angry are raising their blood pressures, creating undue stress, and making things worse by not fulfilling those life obligations, so they are basically getting behind in life and leaving a poop-storm in their wake. Drama also tends to exploit things that, in the grand scheme of our seventy-plus years here, are really not that big of a deal over that span. Why waste more than the minimum amount of time being angry, when another major life event or milestone is just around the corner?

Here is what drama does to others:  answering the phone when someone has to bitch about the same thing for the hundredth time is now causing both people to stop being productive for the hundredth time. The person answering the phone can see the Drama King or Queen's name on their caller ID, and they will ultimately have one of two choices:  answer and be less productive, or slowly cut that person out of their lives.

So, either someone's world temporarily stops turning for someone who is not properly dealing with their life problems, or the person who is not dealing with their life problems will have no "friends" left. Drama is very isolating.

This may surprise you, but while most of us want to be there as a friend, there is actually a limit before we finally have to intervene and find a polite (or blunt, depending on the nature of the friendship) way of saying, "I'm sorry, but I do not have time for your crap today. Not my llama. In fact, nobody does...on a related note, have you thought about talking to somebody?"

We are not necessarily equipped to deal with everything life hands us all at once; that is why there are professionals out there. Support groups, therapists, volunteers...basically any number of people whose sole purpose is to help you get through things. Your friends and family are there to listen, but not fix you, and if your drama is interfering with their lives, they can either choose to guide you to the right help and make both of your lives better, feed into your drama and make both of your lives worse, or steer clear of you and make their own life better. They can't control the person swinging the drama.

See, the stuff creating the drama is the problem of the person creating it, and not the person causing it. So your husband spent your kids' college fund on hookers? Get it out of your system once, regroup, and move on. If you are hashing it out endlessly for your girlfriends and then complaining that you no longer have any money because of it, then you are fostering drama. Congratulations to you. Now do something about it. Your problems are not my llama. They are your llama.

Look around you...we all know someone who really, really knows how to bring the drama. So ask yourself:  how many calories do they burn on things that should not concern them? How many minutes (or hours, even) are taken away from happiness with their families, raising their children right, loving their spouses properly, or fostering healthy friendships because they are too busy incorporating what others are doing into their daily conversation?

Oh, you claim you do not know anyone who does that? Well, like I said...we all know someone who does it. So if you say you don't know people like that, then guess what? It's you.

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.