Saturday, July 26, 2014

Such Is Life

Have you ever felt like your brain was too unoccupied? I do not mean that you are bored, or inert, or even too scattered to formulate a coherent thought. I mean that your brain clears itself, and then it suddently collects sediment and you mentally start trying to clear out what is settling. For me, it happens on long drives.

I am currently going on several long drives per week, which is why this is coming up now.

For some reason, no matter how awesome our lives are, it only takes a few of these periods of brain-clearing to get into a bad mental place. Perhaps it is an out-and-out depression, or something less severe, such as a darker version of pensive. Either way, it only takes a bit to get there. It is a sign that we are not settled, not relaxed. Something is keeping us off-center and we have a nagging fear we will not be able to right the ship, and we will always be pulling the mast with force to keep going both upright and forward.

I found myself reflecting over the past few years, and then the period of time increased to ten years, and then fifteen, and then all the way back to college, and finally, childhood. Something has changed in me over the most recent period of my life.

My brain started using every negative life event as a time marker in my head. Moving to my teeny condo, taking a $50,000 pay cut at Planet Walmart, selling my house, getting divorced, buying the Money Pit, losing the animals, enduring three years of misery and banging my head against the wall, moving to Texas, losing CJ, losing my dad, moving to Portland, moving to Phoenix, buying a car for the job at Kare, closing the coffee shop, leaving Nordstrom so abruptly, getting sick a second time, getting sick the first time...

Why in the world would I do that?

Perhaps the tragedies were more profound than the victories. Maybe there were just more of them. Maybe, just maybe, in some weird way this was my way of remembering all of the times where I learned something and came out of the other end of the tunnel stronger than when I had entered it. But I doubt it.

I was sitting on the front porch of the Money Pit yesterday, making my last sales calls of the day and waiting for a prospective tenant so I could tell them that, in fact, I was unable to show them the unit. I have a tenant who is leaving because she thinks I do not do enough to keep her safe. Here is what I know for sure:  if you (as a building) do not keep the bolts locked on the door, and then your husband thinks someone is breaking in, and he calls you at work, and then you call me at work, I simply cannot help you. Twenty minutes have gone by, nobody has called the police, and I am thirty miles away and unwilling to stick my body in front of a bad guy like Captain America's shield.

She is currently not speaking to me, not taking my calls, and not allowing me access to my own unit to show it to prospective tenants. I filed and injunction and emergency motion to get access, and then I asked the judge to deny it. If I have gotten to the point where I am using this period of my life as a time marker, "the time where I could not show my unit because I was getting played by my tenant," then I have hit the bottom. I refuse to call this The Bottom. It's not cancer, it's not cancer a second time, it's not losing a parent, it's not losing a fiance, it's not losing your identity in a miserable marriage. It is my brain and big heart against somebody else's anger. Neither of us wins.

I was approached by a photojournalist, who wanted to talk city diversity. She saw a bunch of neighborhood kids, plus the tenant's three children, on the porch with me. I must have looked like the best foster mom in the history of the world. She asked me what drew me to Chicago, and I thought about it for a few seconds before answering. "Community," I said. "People who welcome with open arms, people who come from different places."

When I spoke to her off the record, I told her about the tenant. My demeanor, and therefore my outlook, changed in a moment. "I feel bad for her," I said. "Here she is, obese, a smoker, and incredibly angry. She is going to die before she turns fifty and those three kids will be orphans." I do not want this woman to die. I do not want anyone to die, really...I do not have that streak in me at all.

I want her to realize that this petty crap is not worth it. Dwelling on the negative, conscious or unconscious, is not worth it. Look around you:  there is so much taken-for-granted good that all you can see in the forest is the couple of dead trees that stick out and cloud the view.

Ironically, the last time I saw this tenant, she was cheery and bubbly, friendly, and interested in my knitting. "I could never do that," she told me. I offered to teach her, and told her it was a great way to quit smoking.

I guess I do not ultimately care if she knits or not. But I know one thing is certain:  whatever vessel has brought her to this insanely angry place - even if the catalyst was me - that vessel can be broken down just as it was built. It was yet another moment when I realized that anger is just not worth it, and that seeking out the positive if you cannot readily see it will trump swimming in the negative any day of the week.

Maybe after she moves, she will have a similar moment of clarity. I will provide the worsted-weight yarn, a pair of US8 (5.0mm) needles, and the patience of a saint if it would help her get out of the mindset that will ultimately kill her. Because then I can look back and say, "Remember that time I mentally helped someone off the ledge and saved her life by teaching them a way to relax and help let the bad crap go?"

All markers of time should look more like that.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

That Stress Scale Again

If I go back the past...let's say...six years, since my dad died, I bet I have lived an entire lifetime of just events in that time frame. But to be fair, let's use the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory. I'll go back only two years.

I dare you...score yourself and compare.

My score was 545, and that was with me trying to eliminate as many duplicates as made sense.

That said, I have been grieving, changing, and finding myself as much as I humanly can. My two-year plan has been quite successful; I just was not expecting all of the shedding of baggage, tears, and crap that was going to come with it. I have a self-sustaining real-estate investment company, new home paid for in cash, new gig blogging for, and VERY new gig selling yarn to yarn shops for one of my favorite companies. 

Win, win, win, win, and win!

However, I realized that I was not finished...or in some cases, had not started...grieving some events in my recent past. There was CJ, of is difficult to grieve a lost spouse when you marry his best friend, and the two of you have incompatible grieving processes.

Then...and this one took me by surprise. It was a year ago this past weekend that triggered the worst period of depression in my memory. I had to remind myself to get out of was that awful. So, as I was walking to Starbucks, I started to cry. You know those big, cleansing tears where there is no accompanying weep? Yeah...those.

So I stopped at the church across the street from the starbucks, and they have a good-deed box. I wrote the following note, as close as verbatim from memory (except with some parts deleted, due to a ridiculous confidentiality clause I signed):

One year ago this weekend, one of my dogs attacked the dog of my dog-sitter and dear friend, Renee. The dog had been socialized with both children and other dogs, but she was in an unfamiliar environment, and neither of us saw a problem initially since I had never seen her aggressive like that, and Renee had obviously cared for many animals. When she took her dog to the emergency vet, she left my dogs in her yard, accidentally leaving the gate open. By the time I arrived, I found out from Animal Control that Penny (my one dog) had attacked and killed a second dog. Lily, Renee's dog, died that night as well. The other person involved was so angry that first he blamed Renee, then me, then he did not know who to blame beyond that. Renee forgave me instantly; in fact, she did not see anything to forgive since it was just a horrible accident. I was going through a nasty time, and my remaining two animals ended up moving to Texas because of questions regarding my fitness as a pet owner and me just finally being too tired to argue. I know as well that it was a horrible accident, but I still had to put Penny down; it was the only right decision, and it was absolutely horrible. I hope you can please pray for the following:
Pray for Renee and her family, who continue to be models of His grace and of forgiveness, despite suffering their loss.
Pray for the family of the other dog, who just wanted money from me in their anger, and for hoping they get past it and are able to move forward.
Pray for Penny, Lily, and the third dog who are hopefully running together in Heaven and all is forgiven.
Pray for the other person involved, who will hopefully see one day that blame and anger is just preventing him from loving himself and others.
Pray for Bluto and Axl, who I hope are as loved in Texas as they were loved by me.
Pray for me, who knows it was nobody's fault but who still hurts from it, and wishes the best possible for everyone involved.

Writing this down in the back pew of the Baptist church at Irving and Kostner with tears constantly streaming down my face made me feel like Penny finally had a voice. Completely stupid, I know. But I firmly believe that sweet dog had no idea she did anything wrong, and the guilt I carried was certainly enough for both of us.

So in related news, sometimes, I am asked why I knit so much. My silly answer is "So I don't smoke." I have no desire to smoke; I'm a singer. Doing both is not a possibility, and I will always choose health over death, and singing over silence.

So I knit. Knitting prevents me from engaging in destructive habits like smoking, overeating (although sometimes I think the entire chocolate cake is a serving size...sue me), doing hard drugs, biting my nails, or even mindlessly scratching some benign thing, like a kitchen table.

I do not just love to knit. I need to knit. Reviewing yarns for means I get to knit a simple, one-ball piece every singe week of my life. I will always have something to break away from my stress level. And now I get to sell Cascade Yarns to yarn shops, which is an excellent choice for every yarn shop in America (as far as I'm concerned, anyway), so my creative juices are flowing nonstop. If the creative juices flow, then the pipe does not have much room for holding onto guilt and shame and despair and disappointment and...

My goal for the next two years, however, is to get that stress score down just a bit.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Running Jokes In Knitting

Hello, everyone...reporting live, from my weird purple chair in the yarn room...

It is a truly gorgeous day here in Chicago. So gorgeous, in fact, that when my upstairs neighbor's music woke me up at 1pm (like, I was in my unit, using Shazam to determine what gospel song he was was THAT loud), I went for a walk through my new neighborhood and bought socks and soap.  You know...important stuff.

I know I do not blog very often, but if you have been following, you know I have been knitting Deborah Newton's Asymmetrical Tunic from the Fall 2012 issue of Vogue Knitting magazine for...umm...a year now. The sweater is comprised of eight panels of different shapes and sizes that get sewn together in this totally cool way, and then a neck band gets knitted onto the back to hold the shoulders together. Here are two of the panels.

I flew through the first piece, went through the second piece pretty quickly, and then plodded along on the two long pieces...numbers three and four. What happened next will only be funny to knitters, but it became a joke that has run away and cracks me up every time I talk about it.

I started reading ahead in the pattern. Normally, when knitting a sweater, the directions will say something silly like, "Sleeves (make 2)," or give the directions for "Sleeve," and at the end, the last direction will be, "Repeat for second sleeve." It's right up there with a jar of peanut butter having the disclaimer on the side which reads, "WARNING:  Contains peanuts."

Anyway, I arrived at "Sleeve." I read the entire direction. Read the notes. Read the assembly instructions. Looked at the photo of the finished sweater on the model, which clearly has two sleeves. Read the entire instruction page again. Nowhere...other than the photo, which indicates there is one on each there an indication that two sleeves need to be made.

I went into a fake panic and told my knitting group, "Me confused. The picture has two sleeves, but it doesn't say anywhere that I am supposed to make two." Going forward, we all referred to the sweater as the one with "sleeve." It spun into the idea that maybe you just make one and steek it, or you make one super-long sleeve and it wraps around the neck, et cetera.

Now, patterns have errata all the time. It comes with needing to fit a pre-written pattern into a finite publishing space. But this is not errata...obviously the sweater requires two sleeves, but I am just horribly amused that it never says two sleeves need to be knitted. The name of the panel, by the way, is just called "sleeve." I have to assume that since it is an advanced-level pattern in Vogue Knitting magazine, which is already a pretty advanced-level knitting publication, the necessity of knitting two sleeves is a given.

Well, I finished "sleeve." I then went rogue and made a second sleeve, figuring that I might need it. I calculated how much yarn I would need at the beginning...three skeins of Cascade Eco+ in Mystic Purple...and I am currently getting ready to start the eighth and final panel. more note:  The sleeves are not labeled, number-wise. The panels are labeled One through Six, and then, there is "Sleeve." So it's possiblly even MORE proof I only need seven panels.

I can tell I'm going to need a fourth skein of this yarn, going into that eighth panel. My knitting group is convinced it is because I went crazy and made the second sleeve. Turns out the photo of the model in the garment is the exception, because here is the schematic for how to sew the pieces together:

Yep...say it with me...

So in the middle of reviewing yarns, this is the project I work on. And I WILL finish it soon...I am in the home stretch. And I will go nuts and attach both sleeves so it looks like the photo with the model. And I will wear it every damn day until I die once it's finished. I am thinking about streaming the Seaming The Pieces Together Event on YouTube so everyone can Pay-Per-View the sucker and I can get rich. Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Swimming Along

Good morning, everyone!  I am currently sitting in my yarn room, contemplating all things knitting and life, and it dawned on me that many of my thoughts never make it from head to blog.  Yes, I do realize this may be a good thing for some, but there are occasions where I just flat-out need to write so my head doesn't explode.

I have been twice-weekly blogging for a British website called LoveKnitting, and the respnose and experience has been fantastic.  While I admit I need to brush up on my British English a bit, the writing has been successful. To give you an idea of what I write, here is the most recent post:

And while I still write my column, these past two months have been difficult keeping up since I moved and changed jobs, blah blah blah.  But here is the fun part...this is the reason I decided to blog today as it is. More than just to say hello, I am a bit full of discovery and felt like sharing with the masses.

This was my sixteenth move in nineteen years.  I know it is not my last...when I walked through my condo for the first time, my first thought was "Ooh...dollar signs!" and my second thought was, "Hmm...I could live here for a bit."  I own a real estate investment company.  This company is why I was able to quit my job and take a massive pay cut so I could figure out who the hell I am and other existential crap I cannot quite articulate after a night of working.  My condo is a part of that...I paid cash for it, and the fact is that it will make a perfect rental property for me when I decide to move.

But for now, though, it's cute.  And it has a yarn room...seriously!

So anyway, I was unpacking and putting things where they belong and creating spaces for things that did not have a home yet, and I became aware of two notions regarding my possessions.  The first is that I feel my bedroom is private enough where it should be the home for items like my old diaries, private photographs and letters, and publications that may not be appropriate for everyone.  And I am not talking about dirty magazines or anything like that...just some stuff that is only someone's business if I make it their business.

I was actually flipping through my diaries a bit...this is the second thing I discovered...and when I was reading entries from fourteen years ago, I had that pang of truth where you realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  If I am to believe what I wrote when I was in my mid-twenties...and let's face it, I tend to think lying goes against the ways of the universe...then I am to accept the fact that I was not settled then, and I am not settled now.  I talked about not feeling like I was home, not having any stability, and not knowing how I felt about certain people both for the here-and-now and for the long-term future.

I'm referring to family members, friendships, intimate relationships...all of it.

So I came to the conclusion that perhaps I should stop trying to seek out stability.  What is so wrong with taking life as it comes, anyway?  If I cross the threshold of "home," or meet "the one," or land THE job, or even get slapped in the face with a dose of karma telling me what I should be when I grow up, I may listen.

But for now, I LIKE me.  I like not knowing what is next, and yet still being a psychotic planner for the ticks in my life that I can control.

I am going to try my hand at being a real estate agent.  If it doesn't pan out, well, let me just get out a thick notebook to catalogue all of the various endeavors I have tried that did not work out...

I am going to get my non-profit off the ground this year.  Someone recently started following me on Twitter and I took it as a sign that this is, in fact, the year to do it.  I am thinking sometime around July I will be able to have the business plan ready, have the tools to know the next steps on how to proceed, and maybe even have a vision of my life after starting it.

Or not.

My life is not a river.  It is not fireworks.  It is certainly not a well-beaten path.

My life is more like church:  it has its constant qualities, but you never know what lesson you will learn from one week to the next.

I am going to try my hardest to be fine with it.  Seriously.

In the meantime, here is a picture of me in a baby hat.  Seriously.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I. Love. Life.

Good morning, knitting friends...while I wait for the city to thaw out, I have had plenty of time to think about life and whatnot, and have come to some really awesome conclusions.

Actually, I don't know if anyone will agree on the "awesome" part...but to me, these decisions and conclusions are seriously of that magnitude.

I was walking around New York for Vogue Knitting LIVE back in January, and I realized something. I freak out over nothing sometimes.  For as even of a keel as I tend to live, I sometimes over-think something to the point where I can't sleep, and working overnight makes this problem worse.  Anyway, I was contemplating changing jobs because the only part of my "old" life that I have left are my job and my house.

Well, guess what?  I sold my house.  Two weeks before the Super Bowl, when NOBODY buys real estate.

And as I was eating probably my six hundredth slice of pizza (the pizza is not far from the top of the list of reasons why I adore New York), I thought to myself, "Why am I doing this?"

So I went back to work after my vacation and told my boss I wanted to step down to overnight stocker, instead of maybe Loss Prevention Manager or something else where I am suited more compatibly.  After getting approvals from about seven different humans, literally, I went from making $72,000 per year to $11.25 per hour.  And I couldn't be happier.

Then, something great happened.  I was asked to join the list of bloggers for a British website called  I get to write a knit tip for them every Monday and a product review every Friday, so instead of knitting just for fun, I get to knit with purpose!  I know this sounds like the worst nightmare for some, but I get to try every type of yarn, needle, notion, and what-have-you and tell people what I think of it.

Then, I was also asked to be the guest speaker for the Windy City Knitting Guild this July, where I get to talk about my column and the Yarn Crawl. addition to selling my house, I bought this adorable condo on the northwest side and it is closer to everything I could ever want in life.

Basically, my life now consists of knitting, writing about it, and running my real estate company.  The job is just a way to pass the time so my brain and body can vacation from the desk and creative process.  I have the best life ever!

Meanwhile, this week's product review for is going to be about Eucalan.  My house currently smells like grapefruit, which is a way better smell than the phase I'm in at the moment.  See, I love moving.  I'm great at it.  This will be my thirteenth move in seventeen years.  And as much as I want to see if this is "The One"...home, that is...I don't care because I love living somewhere new every few years.

For now, though, I am headed to bed so I can go to the Blackhawks game with a dear friend, and then go to work.  And then I shall knit on my lunch break and have everyone scratching their heads at me.  Goodnight.

Friday, January 24, 2014

...And Now, I Nap


So, I'm sorry it has been a bit, but I attended so many events at Vogue Knitting LIVE...and there were SO many people to meet and see...that I didn't even get to write every story I wanted to write.

I usually get to write about the Marketplace, and then all of the fun extras VKLive has to offer, but I was tired after writing eleven articles.  I feel I did okay with the coverage, however.

So now I shall use this space to tell you what you missed!

First of all, Vogue LIVE is great in any city, but it's worth the field trip to New York if you have never attended that one.  The hotel is accommodating, and since it's smack in the middle of Times Square you have plenty of food, people-watching, and walking-direction options when you need fresh air.  But I will say, the Marketplace...umm...

Part of the reason I didn't get to write about the Marketplace is that, even though I took a boatload of photos, the place was JAMMED.  I had a hard time trying to talk to peole to get the inside scoop on their booths, and find out why they thought they were special or ordinary or noteworthy or whatever they thought about themselves.

Here are a couple of fun photos, however...

This was Laura Bryant's demonstration on how the eye sees color...we all thought we were pretty artsy, or at least had an average pallette in our heads, but quickly realized we were wrong.  She was great...very, very passionate and a great sense of humor to boot.  I went to two yarn shops in NYC on Monday just so I could see her yarns in person, since I don't get to see them too often here in Chicago.

This was the view from the end of the runway at the Marketplace fashion show.  See all of the people in the back?  Keep in mind, the aisles were probably eight feet's not like we were crammed in like sardines on purpose.  The place was just that awesome.

This is one of the items that was autioned off for charity, next to its magazine promo counterpart.  It's nice to see a piece that looks great in person, and actually looks wearable when it's styled, no?  I may have to go back and make this one after I finish Deb Newton's tunic from the 30th Anniversary issue.

I also finally met Trisha Malcom in person, which was a hoot.  She posted a message on my facebook page, asking if I was at the gala and saying she was dying to meet me in person, and then of course a few minutes later, one of my yarny friends from Chicago sent me a message which echoed my sentiments exactly:

"Trisha Malcolm posting on your facebook page is totally your Jennifer Lawrence moment."

So there was that...she's great as well.  I walked up to her right before she was scheduled to sign a bunch of books...I think we both had closure...ha ha ha.  Anyway, I was SO honored to cover the event because I meet such great people and I get these emails afterward from people I don't know, saying that they really appreciate me giving them a good snapshot of what it's like there.  I'm quite proud of that.

Some news...I got an email from a woman named Helen Hollyhead, who is a higher-up at, and to make a long story short, I've been asked to be a bi-weekly contributor to their blog.


So all of a sudden, I am going to have this British-based audience with a world-wide reach, since of course we are talking about the internet, and I get to talk about yarn all day for money.  Suddenly, the whole changing-jobs thing and the very ill-timed changing-houses thing are looking like the greatests pushes from God EVER.  I am looking so forward to this gig, and of course I will be promoting the crap out of the website because it's like a little community and it has all of my favorite products on it...yay!

I'm off to work, and then tomorrow I get to interview Shirley Paden so I have to get all of my stuttering out of the way on the drive to UIC...ha ha ha.  I'm getting the hang of this, though.  It's funny, because I grew up in Chicago and see famous people pretty often, but when I meet a famous yarnie, I just get all flustered and my first thought is, "Your brain is AMAZING!"  So yeah...I might need to nap before the event tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is It New York Time Yet?

Hello! my head doesn't explode, I'll start with I'M GOING TO NEW YORK TOMORROW FOR VOGUE KNITTING LIVE!  Big deal, right?  Just a bunch of crazy cat ladies who get excited about yarn, right?

Well, I am one of those crazy cat ladies.  And I love yarn.  And some of the greatest characters I have ever met involve yarn and knitting.  So there.  Moving on.  Here is the preview I wrote for it...I can't wait to see my friend Kelly Fleek and all of the organizers of Vogue LIVE and the instructors and...gosh.  It's like the Oscars for knitting...EVERYONE is there.  And there is me, with my fedora and the little card that says "SCOOP" sticking out, shoving a microphone into the faces of the important and getting a nugget for the next story.

When last we spoke, I was finding focus.  I think there was a weak day after that where I really, truly lost focus.  I was sitting on the couch, knowing I had things to do but knowing also that I was not getting up because I could keep telling myself I didn't care, and I would keep believing it.  Transition is funny.  I ran across a video of Faith Hill singing "I Surrender All."  It's a gospel hymn about giving up the struggle and realizing you can't do it alone.  For some reason, I heard it inside and out, loud and clear.

So I focused.  I finished three knitting projects in one day, including a little iPhone cover and a hat that I was making out of Malabrigo Rios.  I wasn't sure of the hat, but a friend of mine said he wanted one, so I started asking typical knitter questions.

"What color?"  Something normal.
"Slouchy or beanie?"  Beanie.
"Are you allergic to anything?"  No.

So I finished the hat and finally was able to give it to the recipient yesterday.  Try not to focus on the eye-candy...I have insanely good-looking friends...and just look at the hat.

First thing he said when he tried it on was, "It's so SOFT!"  That's Malabrigo Rios for you.  When I saw him leaving my house, he was wearing it under his other winter hat.  It was the grownup version of the woobie.

So then I finished this simple cowl that was tying up my size US9 circular needles (and I wanted to start the Scotty Hat because I brought it up in conversation three weeks I needed the needles).  I also finished this little iPhone pouch, pictured here.  Oh, and a gauge swatch.

Here's the thing with the gauge swatch.  I did a figure-8 cast on of 80 stitches and knit until I finished up the little ball of Cascade Eco+ that I had left from the Yarn Crawl pattern last year.  I wanted to see how thick it would be if I felted it.  This is probably my favorite yarn of all drapes nicely, the colors are beautiful, the wool isn't itchy...nothing but good good goodness.

Then, I went to felt the swatch.

It started out at 7 inches tall by 9 inches wide.  It ended 4.5 inches tall by 9 inches wide.  Huh.

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is me.  I put it in cold water, went upstairs from the basement, went back down two minutes later, and I drained the basin.  Duh.  Clearly, coffee was not the order of the morning...a felted project in cold water is a bit of an impossible challenge.

Then.  I checked on it about every ten seconds.  Another duh...let the thing do its job!  But was a learning experience and I now know to use a different, thinner yarn with larger than called-for needles to make what I want to make.  And I have a beautiful prom clutch for the next time know...go to the prom.  I'm 38 and a half now, so I may get asked this year...

Anyway, I'm bringing the Scotty hat and the second pink sock with me to Vogue LIVE, and that's it.  That should leave plenty of room for yarn if, perhaps, a ball or two were to jump into my bag.  See you there...I will be live-tweeting, updating facebook, and writing about ten articles over the weekend.  My email address is and my phone number is 708-912-7338...feel free to contact me at any time over the weekend.  Yay!