Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bruce Jenner and Victorian Lace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

How To Land The Perfect Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In Defense of the Starter-Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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