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, " 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:

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.

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!

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

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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Let the Hate Rest In Peace

Good morning, knitters! We here in Chicago are gearing up for the Chicago Yarn Crawl, scheduled to begin this Saturday. My plan is to show some leg at all of the stores in the hopes of getting free yarn...worth a shot, right? Here is a preview (and understand that almost ALL stores are doing awesome things for the Crawl...I just have a word-limit guide):

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

Something has been bugging me this week. Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender over three months ago, and the ESPYs (where Jenner was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award) were over two weeks ago. Yet, my social media feeds are still full of memes with a message of "Bruce Jenner isn't courageous...the MILITARY is courageous!" or other messages of that sort.

See, I was an asshole once as well (on this topic, anyway). Back in college, a friend of mine told me about a mutual friend who was transgender, and the conversation went something like this:

"Omigod did you hear about Bob Slob?"
"No, why?"
"Omigod...he, like, went to Europe to have a sex change and now his name is Lisa."
"NO. WAY."
"Weird! Why would he want to be a girl? I never even knew he was gay!"

This of course was twenty years ago, but it was also at a time where validation had to come in three dimensions. Nowadays, you can say stupid crap like "Bruce Jenner puts on a dress and he's courageous?" and then watch the "likes" from like-minded people pop up on your facebook page. The flipside is that ignorance is completely exposed in this format as well. I realized the conversation I had with my friend twenty years ago was out of ignorance, and while I have never been a truly hateful person, I do see a lot of hate stemming from this issue. So I thought I would offer my five-cent tour of being transgender (I am not, by the way, but I used to date a guy whose sister was transgender, and many a conversation was had because the guy I was dating was still getting used to the idea of having a sister instead of a brother). Ready?

First of all, being gay and being transgender are two different things. Saying, "I have friends that are gay, and..." does not hold water in this argument at all. See, homosexuality is about to whom you are attracted. I actually think straight people understand people who are gay, to a degree. But being transgender confounds the minds of pretty much everyone who is not facing it.

Being transgender means your physical anatomy clearly presents as one gender, yet your psyche and your soul present as the other one. This is not just about dressing a different way; there are cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, and even tomboys (yes, some are accused of being a tomboy like a gender stereotype is an unbreakable rule), but transgenderism is not cross-dressing. It is actually the opposite; transgender people believe they are dressing up to please society when they are dressing as the gender they present, not as the one with which they identify. So this is way deeper than "getting some boobs and slapping on a dress."

Transgenderism is not something you can pray away any more effectively than praying away the gay. Or, as long as we are speaking outlandishly, imagine praying away being can't happen. I have a therapist friend in Minnesota (and yes, she is also a knitter) who specializes in transgender patients, and she said that in fifteen years, she has never had a patient that she thought she could "change back." People are born this way.

And it is one hell of a struggle. Parents are doing their best; you enter the world looking like a boy, but insist at a very, very young age that you are a girl. Of course, any rational parent is going to think this is a phase at first, or they are going to look at the rest of your siblings and think "He just wants to be like his sisters." So it's not like all parents come out of the gate with full acceptance that their child is transgender. There is a series of stages to go through, and like most other major life traumas (I do not mean "trauma" in a negative way...just big-impact moments), it begins with denial and ends with acceptance. Some parents never get to the acceptance phase.

My ex-boyfriend's mother...the one with a transgender daughter...said to me, "I still wake up on some days, wondering where I went wrong. I usually know better, but...I mean...I just think I must have done something different with this one than I did with his siblings. Her siblings." And the daughter was in her forties at the time; she transitioned in her late-thirties.

So now, we have a world full of children who are confused about their gender identity, and their parents are not jumping straight to acceptance (how could they?). If this happens at a crucial time in the child or young adult's life, like adolescence, the child may second-guess her existence. This is one of several reasons why the suicide-attempt rate for transgender kids hovers around 40%.

Pronouns are important. Bruce Jenner no longer exists, and her name is now Caitlyn. It is disrespectful to call her Bruce, or a "he," after she has told the world she wants to be referred to as a female, with female pronouns. It is also offensive to call her "gay," a "tranny," or a "drag queen." She is transgender.

I have heard people say "Bruce Jenner is just doing this for publicity." First, it's Caitlyn. Secondly, that is one hell of a life change to make just to get some attention and make some money. Step back a second:  Do you really believe that the Kardashians, and all of their manmade drama, needed to spice things up a bit by asking the patriarch of the family to get plastic surgery on her face and start taking hormones? Really? People do not even take marriage as seriously as people who are transgender choose to live their best life; nowadays, people go into marriage with an attitude of, "If this doesn't work, I can always get divorced." This is not only not an option with transgenderism, but their magnitude of surety on the inside is way beyond some haphazard decision. They are as sure as you and I are sure about what color our eyes are.

To me, this means that two out of every five kids who are transgender contemplate suicide because very few people understand their struggle, they receive varying degrees of support, and they are universally ridiculed by people who really are nothing more than just ignorant. But ignorant or not, ridicule can hurt like a bitch when you are too young or not confident enough to stand up for yourself.

Caitlyn Jenner was once crowned the "World's Greatest Athlete." She could have faded into obscurity and transitioned with nobody but a paprazzi photo or two catching her, but she recognizes that she has a prime platform for raising awareness. If you do not understand, then fine. But what if one of your female kids came to you and said, "Mom...umm...I know I am a boy. I don't care what my body says...I KNOW I am a boy." Your response (among other factors, of course) has a two-in-five chance of acting as a catalyst to a suicide attempt.

Is the hate worth it? I don't think so. Whether or not you understand it is not the issue. But how about we stop letting lack of knowledge translate to hate? Just an idea. I think someone coming out as transgender after forty years in the spotlight, espcially when he was an icon for manly men, is pretty  amazing. And if her speech at the ESPYs results in someone saying, "Thank you so much...I contemplated suicide and then Caitlyn helped me realize I was not alone," to open a dialogue with a parent, then I sing her praises from here to eternity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Small Business: The Biggest Bitch EVER

Good evening, friends! I posted an article to my page this morning, which touched a nerve among my friends in the knitting community. More than that, I am actually hoping it is a wakeup call for some consumers, and it has been shared a few times to some key people who have a stronger voice than mine:

My job involves me catering to small businesses. I would like to clear up some common misconceptions that I hear when I am in stores. Not that it will make a world of difference, but maybe a ZIP code of difference is all I should shoot for. Humans have a funny way of relating when it comes to small talk; people say the same things other people say, but they think they are being clever. It is because, to an extent, there is a large pool of us who is equally clever. So this is what people say to yarn shop owners:

I would love to own a yarn shop and knit all day like that!  Dear customer, I (the local yarn shop owner) knit all day, every day! Just after I pay the bills, order products I hope my customers want, get the bags and receipts/printer paper/tissue paper ready, reconcile yesterday's business, organize the shelves so older yarns look fresh to you when you walk in the door, merchandise the more "seasoned" yarns, figure out which samples need to get made, find sample knitters, come up with new and different ideas for classes to stand out among my peers and competeition alike, and flip through every publication in the world so I am in the know on the latest knitting trends. Oh, and then I have to figure out who is going to drive my kid to soccer practice while picking up the other kid at clarinet, make dinner, call the husband and see if he can pick up toilet paper, leave a check for the cleaning lady, pay my personal bills if I have the money, and find someone to cover for me when I go to my niece's wedding next Saturday, since I only have one employee and she is obviously already here that day. After all that...well...that is when you see me knitting.

I would love to own my own business and not have a boss.  Really? Then do it! The world needs more of us, who are willing to take chances and dive into our passions! One thing,'s not for everybody. See, being the boss of absolutely everything means that I make mistakes and have nobody to blame but myself. Funny, though, when I succeed it is because of my employees, customers, group decisions on projects, and a strong community. Being a boss is tougher than it looks sometimes.

You're here all the time! Do you ever see your family?  Yes, I do. However, you see yours more than I see mine, clearly. It is a sacrifice that was mutually decided upon, and in no way reflects how much we love each other. So please quit judging and respect the fact that your family works differently than mine.

Thanks...I'm just going to buy this online.  Let me get this straight:  you came in here, looked a human being in the eye, told them that you window-shopped their store, and now you are going to get it cheaper online? What kills me is that you are going to be shocked...SHOCKED!...when I close due to lack of business.

Why don't you carry Malabrigo/Cascade/Plymouth/Claudia/HPKY?  Because I can't possibly carry everything. Just so you know, I buy this stuff, and then sell it to you at a higher price. That is how retail works. So I can't be a yarn supercenter; my finances depend on how much you and others buy from me.

Jeez, that is expensive! Yarn from Walmart is not that expensive.  True. But Walmart yarn is made of plastic, and ours is made of the hairs of really cute animals. Animals are more of a luxury than something that can be produced in a factory for way less money. Plus, it was hand-spun/hand-painted/designed/created by an artist, versus a machine.

Is this going on sale any time soon?  Well, I am not sure, but let me ask you something:  does it get prettier when it's less expensive?

This is just a few of the questions local yarn shop owners get on a regular basis. But because shop owners are polite, generous, and generally classy people, let me tell you like it is. Small business owners wake up in the morning after having dreams about things going wrong in their store on a nightly basis. Sometimes, it is shipments that come in late, or incorrect, or just somehow sub-standard. Then, they manage employees who make ten bucks an hour or less, with varying degrees of love for the business but certainly not the love that the owner has for it. They almost never go on vacation, because closing means making no money. They worry when the get there in the morning, worry all day even when things are going well, and then worry when they leave. They know that everything from the weather to red light patterns to a stock market crash can affect their business, and they only control a small part. They pour their entire lives into their business, and even when they can look back and see they are a success, they still see their failures loud and clear and tirelessly try and figure out how to turn those little ships around. They are married, with kids, and sometimes even have a full-time job. They are busy, smart, incredibly patient, and they really do appreciate your business.

And yes, sometimes they take it very, very personally when they do not receive your business. Especially if you do not give them reasonable feedback as to why. And the word "reasonable" here does not include you buying it cheaper online; they know you also have a family, but still would appreciate if you did your part to support theirs instead of supporting some nine-figure CEO.

They are the sweetest people ever. But they run the biggest bitch ever. Support them, for they have one of the most challenging jobs on the planet, balancing trying to provide you with something awesome enough so that you cannot live without it, and then in turn using that money to pay for tee ball. A bitch, indeed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Fellow Republicans...

Normally, I post something about knitting on this blog, to balance out the life crap that keeps me awake at night. Today, however, I will skip right to the life crap.

I consider myself a fiscal Republican. I am not a radical, Fox-News-watching, gun-toting, Jesus-shoving-down-others'-throats, militant, crazy Republican. If you need to break it down more accurately, then consider me a capitalist with a heart. So my question to the rest of the conservatives in the land is, where are the others like me?

I want to own everything. And I want my money to work for me, and I want others to work for their money so it can in turn work for them. But I also think kindness and fairness need to be legislated on certain, climate-shifting occasions. Not always. Just every once in a great while, when people get so wrapped up in their tradition that they fail to see where tradition no longer fits the zeitgeist.

Two disclaimers:  I do not profess to be anywhere near perfect. And I am about to make some sweeping generalizations. Still, though, I hope you get the point. I do feel like other more "traditional" Republicans would be less up-in-arms over the issue of same-sex marriage if #lovewins and #loveislove weren't trending all over twitter. Liberals are making it sound like an issue having nothing to do with the law, and this angers traditionalists. But at its core, this is about the law, and about money. Or more specifically, the fact that taxpayers are not negatively affected by the ruling.

When I pick my side of politics, I do it by making an effort to read/listen to both sides of the argument. I do not say, "Well, since that is a republican view, I will adopt it." My general rule when I reflect on "Supreme Court Season" is, are we upholding the Constitution of the United States of America? And secondly, who is going to pay the dollars needed for it?

Justice Kennedy, a Reagan-era appointee to the Supreme Court of the United States, wrote the majority opinion on the same-sex marriage ruling on Friday. To the conservatives I encounter who keep saying things like, "I am praying for our nation today," or "There goes the republic," I offer you the following thoughts. I am not trying to sway anyone; this is just how I look at this issue, and others before it.

Does same-sex marriage fall in the category of upholding the governing document of the USA, the Constitution? Yes it does. This issue brings up two main debatable issues, which in this case people think contradict each other:  freedom of religion and due process. Well, due-process is a no-brainer. The states...or at least mine...were on board with that long ago, when discrimination laws in employment not only were enacted, but began to include more than just the Federal Big Five from Title VII. Now, people in Illinois cannot be discriminated against in an employment sector based on sexual preference or disability, to give two examples, and other areas besides the job hunt are regulated as well.

Freedom of religion seems to be the piece people are confusing. Marriage is between one man and one woman, you say? Okay, then. Which religion do you follow, or did you adopt when you were old enough to choose? Because last I checked, granting states the mandate to allow same-sex marriage is a civil issue, and not a religious issue. The law protects me from being turned away at City Hall with my girlfriend and her engagement ring in tow. It does not require all churches to perform all ceremonies. State law does not give a crap if you got married in a church, and state law no longer cares if you are marrying a man or a woman. God, perhaps in your religion, can still care. And your view in that case is not against the law.

Also, the court does not get involved in my pre-Cana class if I get married in the Catholic church, in case you thought the state will pick and choose their level of involvement. Civil versus religious. Done.

So my second mental hash tends to be, who is going to pay for this? I pay $200 per hour for a plumber because in Chicago, any plumber I hire is in a union. Thanks for my forty-hour work week, but I have it can break up your ridiculous club and I would like to only pay how much the work is worth, thankyouverymuch.

Section 8 housing drives me a bit batty as well. I have a Section 8 tenant, and while she is truly lovely, the two other people I know who have a voucher are what I consider abusers of the system. If you are going to tell me that the reason you don't want to get a job is so you don't lose your voucher, then guess what? I don't want my tax dollars paying for you.

But with same-sex marriage, I do not see a sap on my resources. Let me start with my real estate company. I am more likely to get a mortgage if I am married, since couples are seen as a lower risk in the industry than single people. More mortgages means more homeowners, more happy people, and more money being paid back as interest, which means banks can lower their interest rates. Winning!

More marriages mean more wedding planners, bakers, DJs, servers, wedding planners, organists, florists, divorce lawyers (yes, I went there)...and basically fewer people using my tax money to pay for their public aid. Winning!

Married people tend to outlive single people, and they are generally healthier. This means less Obamacare money coming out of my pocket. Winning!

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage fourteen years ago. My guess is that if that decision had run the country into the ground, we would have heard about it by now.

I am in favor of less government, but sometimes it is necessary for the government to rule on an issue. If you are upset because the government should not have to step in on behalf of homosexual men and women, then please let me know how you felt about Loving v. Virginia. Can you imagine living in a country where you walked into City Hall to get married, but you were turned away because your betrothed was a different race? Neither can I, but that ruling came only eight years before I was born.

My fellow Republicans, hold onto your money as always. But perhaps it is time to change your way of thinking, and keep your eye on the ball. Justice Kennedy, with the second-longest tenure of any justice on the Supreme Court, spoke as a man who wants to uphold the Constitution, but also understands that our forefathers addressed every possible issue they were capable of addressing when they wrote our governing document. Gay marriage is not an issue when you are separating from the Church of England, protecting your borders, and determining if just land owners or if literally everyone (or whatever comes between those two as grey area) is granted basic rights.

We have not watched our republic crumble from this decision; we have just seen yet another decision which has to do with control over that with which you were born. Our legislators and judges have, over the past five decades, ruled in favor of some type of gender equality (Title IX), racial equality (Brown v. Board of Education), disability equality (the Americans with Disabilities Act), and now sexual orientation equality. There is a common thread among these four examples:  not a single person affected woke up one day and chose to be different, and subsequently chose persecution.

My fellow Republicans, break up with your archaic morals and please try to separate that which forms the base of our country with that which forms the base of your ethos. If you think the government did not need to get involved with something like who you are screwing behind closed doors, then you are confusing trickle-down economics with trickle-down ideologies. This is about our rights as citizens of this country. End of story.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Father's Day

Good morning, everyone. And a Happy Father's Day to you who the way, I am talking about fathers. Not single mothers, not people full of resentment and and immaturity who walked away from their families in a misguided fit of irrationality. I am talking about Dads with a capital "D," gentlemen who had a hand in creating a child, raising someone else's biological child as their own, stepdads, uncles, godparents, and any other men who were or are the guiding force in a younger person's life.

I may or may not have collected a silly list of knits for dads, including a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle golf club covers, for your reading pleasure:

My dad is dead. I find it easier to say it that way than to say "he has passed on," or "he is no longer with us." He is biologically dead. And while I am not exactly thrilled about it, he has been dead for over seven years, and somehow or other, my world keeps spinning. It's okay. People die.

But if they did it right, and if you are doing it right, lessons will continue to be passed from one to another. I often find myself thinking, "What would my dad do?" And this is both before and after talking to my mom, and finding out what she would do as well.

See, family has been as hot a topic on this blog lately as knitting, partly because I realize how fortunate I am both in the moment and as I get older for having the family I have. Not only that, though; I was told recently that I could never understand something because, and I quote, "You are not and never will be a mother." The person telling me this was a father. And while I don't live in his house, or set up hidden cameras to document every move of every day, I do know this:  him being a father didn't make him any more of a man than before he was a father.

Anyone at all can be a father. You can just biologically, you know, do it. And poof...forty weeks go by, and the world now has proof that biology works. But to be a good father? Well, that is another story entirely.

From what I have gathered in my (almost) forty years, there are certain traits one needs to adopt to be a really good father. Here is the short list, and of course feel free to disagree with me since I am not and never will be a mother:

Humility:  It is okay to be right, and it is okay to be wrong. But be self-aware in both states, because there are literally over two billion actual biological fathers on this planet, so my guess is there is more than one correct path sometimes.

Class:  Unfortunately, we cannot stop others from judging. But we can make these people take notice of their obnoxious selves by being the bigger person, and our kids will notice this as well. Someone has to be the bigger person; it may as well be you.

Strength:  All humans face things that suck. All of us. Even if you make it to age thirty before losing a family pet, chances are you were next to someone when they received the news that their sibling passed away, or that they got fired, or that their condition can't be healed. If you can say "Why me?" in the same conversation as "Why not me?" and have people come to you for an open discussion about it, then you are there. You do not have to carry the world. You just have to carry yours. And by the way...crying and strength have nothing to do with each other. Men cry. Deal.

Common sense:  I am only going to say this once. If your tombstone should read "His final words were, 'Hey, y' this!'" then maybe you are not ready to have kids. But if you know that babies need a bit more work than thinking a computer cord is an okay teething implement because it is coated with rubber, then you have a chance.

An open mind:  Are you a racist? Bigot? Homophobe? Misogynist? Then newsflash:  your kids will pick up on that. When they are old enough to decide for themselves, they will either choose the same path, or defiantly choose the opposite path. But there is no telling, so just save them the trouble and accept that not everybody is like you. Make it easier for them to love everyone by showing you can find a way to love everyone as well.

Positive:  You do not have to be Stuart Smalley. But it would be nice if your kids came to you and said, "I did THIS today!" and instead of shaking your head in disapproval, you were excited for them. If it is truly morally offensive, then it is okay to say, "That's great that you were able to discover today! What you discovered is pretty bad,'s why." If you constantly disapprove of your kids' decisions and discoveries, then you are teaching them to lie. Simple as that.

Encouraging:  Get your kids to learn stuff! Teach them stuff. Show them stuff. Explain stuff to them. Kids are sponges, and from about age three, they tend to mid-term (meaning not short-term and not long-term) remember absolutely everything. Don't believe me? Look at the kids you know who learned English after moving here in kindergarten, versus learning English after moving here in high school. Which one has an accent? Kids need to discover. Far be it from you to shield them from everything...let them discover the good and the bad, and help them to learn the difference.

There are many, many others. But as I look at the good fathers I know, they all possess these traits. Feel free to leave others in the comments, and I will approve and post them for you. Oh, and for an audience of one:  keep up the good work. They are really great. You are really great. And the rest of them will learn some day. If they don't...well...then the kids will make their own decisions on who gets to stay in their lives, and who gets to go.

Here is my favorite picture of me and my dad:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Choose Your Family

Good evening! First, we must get business out of the way. June 13 is World Wide Knit in Public Day, and there are a ton of fun events going on around Chicago. Peruse the list, head to the one that sounds the most fun to you, and knit away!

Now, where was I? Today, I was having a conversation about how, in some cases, grandparents are not really necessary. It began as a discussion of anger toward family members, and who shares time with whom because of obligation, But it ended on the topic that the word "family" is not all blood-ties and happy photos.

My facebook page leaves many, many details to the imagination. I see facebook as a way to sort of make people chuckle with the anomalies of the day, and perhaps a place to let loose with the underlying assumption that what people read is not 100% of the picture. As an example, I go back to late summer of 2013 when someone who shall remain nameless (this is a bow to him referring to me as "she whose name shall not be spoken") was dragging his heels in moving out of my house. I posted a status update on facebook which read, "Is now a good time to mention that I have been divorced for months?"

Best reply ever:  a friend from high school posted along the bottom of that update:  "Is now a good time to mention that I didn't even know you were married?"

So I do not plaster every detail of my life on facebook. I also do not try to paint an inaccurate picture to mislead people...I don't burn enough calories deciding what to post on there where I want to make an effort to make myself look either better or worse than I truly am. Very few things make me more queasy than seeing someone's facebook page full of happy hugs and snuggles with their spouse and kids, when I know the back story and this picture they paint is actually like a photo negative of reality. I knew a girl once who was so horribly abusive to her husband that he finally was strong enough to leave, but her facebook page was photo after photo of her "wonderful hubby and gorgeous children" smiling and laughing away. If I look back now, I see how fake his smiles were.

Anyway, I am fortunate to have a pretty fantastic family. We are far from perfect; three of the five kids are divorced, most of us have lived with our parents more than once, our choices have not necessarily been the stuff of legend...but we are pretty great as a unit. But there is a difference between "my sister-in-law" and "my brother's wife" (brothers:  don't get the wrong idea...I think you all married quite well). One is stating someone as a member of your family, and the other is stating someone as a member of their family.

Both are okay. Grandparents often flip out in the best way when they become grandparents. Other times, though, people go weird. Sometimes, it is the grandparents who question every single decision of the parent, which is their son or daughter. Other times, it is the son or daughter questioning the decisions of his or her parents. Ironic, since most of us think we turned out okay, to question our own parents like that when they are watching our children.

I do believe family is absolutely necessary, but I do not believe that the role of "biological family member" comes with guaranteed entry into certain levels of either closeness or privledge with the kids. I had a friend tell me this week that she thought of me as her honorary daughter-in-law, because her actual daughter-in-law was a disappointment. I am not married to her son, but she chooses me and I choose her.

If more people put emphasis on each other instead of themselves, then maybe the family you inherit and the family you choose would overlap more often. Until then, however, it is okay to look at your closest friends and call them "family." They are, after all, the ones with whom you want to spend the holidays. Right?

And while it would be nice for some kids to have four grandparents (or, in my family's case, eight), the number could be zero if it is healthier for the kids to not be around them. What is best for you? What is best for the kids?

"A kid needs his grandmother." No, he doesn't. He needs unconditional love, boundaries, fun, adventure, encouragement, and maybe a bit of spoiling rotten with ice cream and gummi bears. But that can come from your best friend as easily as it can come from your mom. Accept your family for who they are, choose your family for who you want, and just remember to choose wisely. "Family" is the group of people who makes you feel like you belong in the middle of all of the chaos, and the dust on their heads will be the same amount as the dust on yours when it settles.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Stress of Game 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Let Me Live My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I came out as a lesbian, I would be supported. If I came out as transgender, Democrat, Atheist, Carnivore Flip-Flopper, 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.