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.