27 February 2009

Facing Future

(title of an album by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, featuring traditional Hawai'ian music)

Looking ahead hasn't really ever been my strong suit.  Sure, sure, I make plans like everyone else, but things rarely work out the way I planned.  At least, not since I was about 16.

Growing up, through school, I planned to be a doctor.  I took Latin (oh, so useful) in high school with the idea that I would study medicine.  I planned out my high school course work around being an exchange student; took summer school classes, had a very full class schedule so that I would be on track to graduate with my class.  Beyond, that, though, I didn't really have a plan.

I figured out quickly enough in college that medicine wasn't the career for me; neither nursing or doctoring was in my future.  I got very interested in the law, but that wasn't until I was close to graduating from college.  I applied, but did not get accepted to law school.  I drifted through college, graduating eventually with a practical, run-of-the-mill business degree.  I was hardly passionate about studying management; languages, psychology, music, and fiber arts all held much more fascination for me.  Yes, even then, weaving and spinning were things I thought were really interesting.

But I was at least smart enough to recognize that a degree in German, or psychology, or music wouldn't end up landing me a good job right out of school.  Want to teach German in the US?  You should probably have a master's degree.  All I could see doing with a 4 year degree in psych was going on to grad school, and at the time, grad school wasn't something I wanted to do.  After K-12 schooling and around 5 years of college, I wanted to be the hell out of school.

I started working for Ye Olde Evile Bank when I was just in the middle of my college coursework; staying there, once I graduated, was easier than looking for something else.  I watched the internal postings and when I worked for the Stiffs Division, that was my first "real" job.  As a glorified secretary, in that department, they required a college degree.  There wasn't anything I had learned in college that helped me do that job; I think the reasons for requiring the degree had more to do with expectations of maturity level and the fact that you had a four year degree showed that you could stick with something and had an accomplishment or two.

I got unhappy with the bank when I had been working for the trust department for a few years.  Disillusioned.  I wasn't making much money, and I wanted about a $10,000 a year raise; my boss laughed when I told him that.  But with that college degree and 5 years experience, I was making around 20K a year.  I thought #1) I was worth more than that and #2) for the responsibilities and work they gave me, 30K a year was the bare minimum they should have been paying me.  They disagreed.  I found out years later that among the secretaries in my division, over two cities, I was the lowest paid assistant/secretary.  Which, incidentally, really pisses me off NOW.  I didn't know then; I just knew that I hated my commute, I wasn't excited about what I was doing, and I could see myself turning into a bitter 40-something career secretary, which wasn't in my plans at all.  My plans had been to set the world on fire; to change the world, to do something important.

That led me away from the bank and to my old non-profit job.  There, at least, I felt like I was making a difference, even just a small one, but I was working to help people right in my own community, and I got immense satisfaction out of that.

Until that house of cards collapsed.

Let's skip over the part where I worked in that awful sales job and the subsequent black hole of depression, yeah?  OK.

Where I am now makes me very happy, and I think I could probably be quite happy here until I retired; although that is putting the cart a-fore the horse a little; at 34 years old, I have a minimum of 26 years left in the workforce.  Maybe I don't want to come to this job every day for the next 30-ish years.  Maybe I do.  I don't know.

I do know that now I *do* want to go back to school and get a master's degree.  I'm no more passionate about studying business now than I was 10 years ago; but again, I recognize that a business degree is useful, and has many applications.  And I don't hate it; it just doesn't do the same for me as say, learning a new textile ability, excitement-wise.

Tangentially, did I mention that I learned a new knitting stitch at a fiber festival a few weeks ago?  Called a picot cast-on, it creates a frilly, feminine edge to baby blankets or what-have-you.  I love the way it looks, and promptly cast a shawl on to the needles with yarn purchased at that fiber festival.  Hand spun, hand dyed, 100% merino wool, the softest I have ever touched.  I can't wear wool next to my skin, even cashmere bothers me, but I'll have no trouble using this as a light wrap in the summer or as a big, big scarf in the winter.

So if I could, I'd find a way to incorporate the knitting and my interest in spinning into a way to make a living.  (Which, hello, if you think my knitting habit is expensive?  A "good" spinning wheel will run you around $600.  Seriously.)  But not in such a way that I'm taking on commissioned knits....let's take my new (unfinished) shawl as an example.  That lovely handspun merino was $32 a skein, and I bought 2.  So we're at $64 for the yarn.  The class for the new picot edging I learned was about $30.  The shawl might be as long as 6 inches right at this moment, and I've spent about 10 hours working on it to date.  Skilled, specialized labor...hmm.  Let's agree on a $20 an hour figure.  Then there are the notions (stitch markers, measuring tape, thread cutter/scissors, ball winder) that I already own and have invested some pretty serious money in.  Then there are the needles themselves; I'm a knitting snot, and I won't use needles that you can get in Michael's or JoAnn's craft stores.  They're plastic, and they're crap.  The Addi needles I prefer start out around $7, and the needles I'm using on this shawl were $12.  Time for some math.

$64 Yarn
$30 Class/instruction
$12 US size 9 circular needle, 24 inch cord
$20  assorted notions that will be used
$20/hr for labor; estimated 50 hours production time - $1,000 for labor (I am a slow knitter, admittedly, but I place a high value on my time.)

Cost of shawl;  $1,126.00

You'd buy one, right?

So I can't exactly plan a future that incorporates my current knitting passion.  But I do like what I'm doing for a living now.  I'm wondering if I should be making a plan, other than the retirement monetary planning I've already in place, for moving forward.  Where do I want to go, career-wise?  What do I want to do?  Or, considering the state of the world's finances, should I keep my head down, keep doing what I'm doing, and worry about facing the future another day?

24 February 2009

Now with even more stalking potential!

I used to work with a man who I thought was just your basic overgrown fraternity boy.  You know the type.  Loud, boorish, sports-and-beer obsessed, misogynist-leaning.  You've worked with him too.

He sent me a friend request on Facebook (yep, here we go again) and I sat on it for a few days before agreeing to friend him.  I didn't like the job that I was working when I worked with him.  I disagreed with him about nearly everything, from politics to religion.  I managed to mostly keep my hippie-tree-hugger thoughts/opinions to myself, but I don't really censor myself on Facebook (much) and I don't want to start now.  I felt like maybe I would have to tone it down a little bit if I friended him.  I didn't want to tone it down, nor did I really want to friend him.

When I first joined FB, it was to keep in touch with the people in Sweden.  That's worked wonderfully, and then it grew to a few friends in fandom, (great!) a few former high school classmates, (which was OK) and then, eventually, some professional contacts.  Ugh.  I didn't really want the latter at all.  

Talking about work on-line is a great way to talk yourself right out of a job, and dammit, I like the job I have now.  News stories from time to time talk about idiots who post pictures of themselves on FB smoking pot or what-have-you, and having a link to their employer on their page....when said employer finds those pot-smoking pictures, then you've posted yourself unemployed.  Idiot.

It was with great reluctance that I finally listed my current employment on my Facebook page; I felt I had to as I was sending messages as a representative of the organization through FB, so I thought I should be clear that I was in fact employed by them.

So when the friend request from a former work colleague came through, I recognized that keeping this person as a professional contact could have its benefits, whether I liked him personally or not.  Eventually, I granted the request.

He posted new pictures the other day.  Each time you post pictures on Facebook, it sends a nice little message to allllll your "friends,"  telling them about your new pictures.  So I'm curious.  I look.  Turns out that there's a lot more to this guy than I thought; he's quite the traveler, was married in a foreign country, has - apparently - homes in multiple places in the US.  Huh.  Perception.  Its a-changing.

Sites like Facebook give us a real double-edge sword.  On the one hand, we can get to know one another better, find out things about one another that might not otherwise come up in conversation.  On the other hand, it also gives people you barely know real access into some deeply personal (if you post it) information.

This doesn't really change the fact that I don't care for the gentleman in question personally; it has just made me realize all over again that what you see....ain't always what you get.

20 February 2009

Knitting Faux Pas; a few things non-knitters should know.

On Ravelry, I belong to a group called "Selfish Knitters".  The group's credo is as follows:

We are The Sainthood of the Aggrieved Knitters Who Say Nee to Non-Lovers of Our Knitting.

Our Battle Cry(s):

  1. We only knit for ourselves and for people who bless us and hand us boxes of expensive chocolates! Or money.

  2. Some people need to learn gratitude or face the wrath of our flinging needles of Death!

  3. Selfish Knitters are people who love and value themselves.

  4. The person I knit for knows how to appreciate a knitted item–ME!

  5. By uber-KAL-ling, selfish knitters can multiply the amount of attention they get for each knitting project.

  6. Everybody should be loved. But some people are greeting-card-love-worthy and some people are handknit-socks worthy.

Official Proclamation - any knittings done for friends/family who just created human life OR are fighting hard to preserve human life are knittings done from the heart and not because of the selfishness of others and are therefore free from scorn and spite in this group!

We are here to support each other in our quest to become/be selfish knitters. No more “Can you make this for me and have it done tonight?”. No more “But I really liked the other color better.” No more “Can you make me a man-thong?”

The group started a list of rules for how people (i.e. non-knitters) should react when presented with a hand-knitted item.  I read my way through what was then "just" a 3-page thread and howled the whole time.  I contributed but one of these rules, and I'm really touched that it ended up in the listatation.  The thread is still going strong with 8 pages and counting, so I might just run this post from time-to-time with the additions.

Please bear in mind that most of this is intended with tongue FIRMLY in cheek and is intended to sound both selfish and self-deprecating.  Thankfully, no one that I knit for has ever committed any of these 'mortal sins'.  One or two of the rules made me gasp out loud that someone would say such a thing to a stranger - or worse - a friend or family member.  Most of the posts in the thread had a little backstory to each rule, so some of these things have indeed happened to real people.  

Chapter 1: Gift giving

  1. Don’t give yarn as a gift if you expect the recipient to knit something for you in return. That is not a gift, that is a request.

  2. A gift that is a pattern book with the expectation that I will make something from said book IS NOT A GIFT! It is a commission. I do not do commissions.

Chapter 2: On Show and Tell

  1. When shown a knitter’s FO, oohs and aahs should be used liberally. Any comments such as “I don’t like that mitten” or “You should have done ______ differently” should be kept to oneself. Period.

  2. When you see a FO of wondrous beauty, or a knitter working on something, please don’t gasp and say, “I could never do that!” Do you think knitters were born churning out such objects? Stop hinting and get yourself some needles and we’ll see how quickly you can pick it up.

  3. Time: Do you, dear non-knitter, know how silly you sound saying, “I just don’t have the time to do that,” while you’re sitting there, watching me knit, on break at work or in an office waiting for an appointment, rehashing to me yesterday’s reality show highlights? If you don’t want to knit/crochet, that’s perfectly alright, all the more wool for me, but do not say you don’t have the time. You just lack time management skills, and perhaps a bit of creative industriousness. 3a: And don’t use that Time excuse to 1. not say what you really mean; I don’t want to… thats ok toots, we don’t want you to either, so shut up. 2. Act as if what we do isn’t as important as what you do, so we have far more leisure time to ‘play’ at knitting, since you’re a closet (TVaholic, boozer, eater, nosepicker)… we really don’t care what you do with your time just leave our time alone. 3. Put us down because you are really jealous as hell and wish you had something to do so you didn’t look so stupid sitting there griping about your busy (aka boring) life

  4. When approaching a stranger about a knitted garment and finding out they made themselves don’t say “I could make that” in a derogatory tone. It doesn’t matter who made it the level of skill is still the same.

Chapter 3: Making request

  1. Never ever assume that it will be cheaper to have someone knit you a hat, scarf, sweater, mittens. hand knits are NEVER cheaper….maybe for you but definitely not for the person knitting said “deal.”

  2. When a knitter has deemed you knitworthy and is working on a project for you… under no circumstances should you ever say how easy it would be to finish if the knitter would just get to working on it. This will force the knitter to play the hand of “if it’s so easy… here, do it yourself” and your name will be stricken from the knitworthy list because it was on the list tenuously to begin with and that was the last straw.

  3. If you ever request a knitted item from a knitter, do not tell the knitter that you do not like the finished object or, heaven forbid, return it as well. Knitters are not stores. We do not make consumer goods you may return, we make you gifts. These gifts come from the heart and are made with love. When you return these gifts by saying you hated them and if we could please do better next time, we feel hurt. Especially when it was you that requested this gift. It’s like us offering you our hearts and you stomping on them and throwing them into our faces and then expecting us to give you our hearts again. A knitter can only take so much heartbreak before permanently kicking you off the to knit for list.

  4. No nagging! Assuming that you are knitworthy, do not ever ask the knitter “how long will it be? “I need this by ______ date” or “can’t you finish it sooner?”

  5. It being common knowledge that someone is the only knitter you know and quite an unselfish one at that (when it comes to kiddies and the exclusively knitworthy) - DO NOT grab said person mid conversation and point out someone’s ‘knitted’ garment with that “nudge nudge wink wink” look on your face or smile pathetically and say “hi” in that awful patronising tone - At the very least you will get an eyebrow raise (the unimpressed kind) or else - especially if you are a repeat offender - you WILL get a slap!!

  6. If you ask me to make you something (and you are willing to pay for it) don’t complain that the price I set is too damn expensive. For my family and friends, if they ask me to make them something, I usually only charge them for the yarn I use. So if you choose that gorgeous merino silk that is handyed, don’t be surprised at the $30 hat I knit you. How much are they charging at banana republic? Well, take your a$$ there an’ buy one. I’ll make myself that awesome hat from the idea you just gave me :)

  7. There is no “quick altering” for already knit items, so don’t ask.

Chapter 4: Dirty fingers, stay away!

  1. If your hands are dirty (eg. from eating/snacking), resist the urge to grab pretty lace-y angora (or any type of handknit). Handknits are often not easily washable, unlike the clothes from the Gap that you may currently wearing.

Chapter 5: Thanks!

  1. When deemed knitworthy and bestowed a handknit gift, a simple email saying “thank you so much” is perfectly fine, especially if the alternative is nothing. Don’t put off the thank you because you somehow feel it needs to be in epic form and sent via Oscar-worthy video clip, turtledove, handmade card, or whatever.

Chapter 6: Respect (and don’t joke with) The Knitter

  1. Knitworthy people should refrain from asking, “What are you going to knit me next?” Maybe once, fine. But repeatedly, even as a supposed joke, will slowly bump down their knitworthy status. Double demotion for asking The Knitter before they start a project from themselves after just finishing something for the requester

  2. Do NOT grab the WIP to have a feel/squish without asking first!

  3. Do NOT borrow tools without asking.

  4. Do NOT assume the knitter is “doing it wrong” and GRAB their knitting to “show them how it’s done”.

  5. Do NOT go through a Knitter’s bag

  6. Do NOT take away my book/magazine/pattern

  7. Do NOT play with the yarn I am knitting while I am knitting

  8. Don’t call a knitter a “granny” in a slighly derogotary tone when you see one knitting. Its insulting two ways: the implication that being an older woman is bad and the implication that knitting means we are old women. I’m young, I’ve got no kids, and I’m quite proud that I am skilled enough to create with my hands.

  9. Looking at my knitting and saying “Wow, you made that? I don’t have to bother making things, I have enough money to buy what I want. I value my time more than you do” is really rude. Just because you don’t choose to make things with your hands does not make you better than those of us that do. Good luck staying warm if all the stores suddenly closed.

  10. when approaching a knitter staring very hard at what they’re knitting, do not assume the knitter wants you to talk. Politely approach said knitter and whisper: “Are you counting?”

  11. If you run into a knitter you haven’t seen for a while, and the knitter has the same project as the last time you saw them, DO NOT, in a shocked tone, say “Wow, you’re not done with that YET?!?”

  12. And when seeing someone ripping out their first pair of socks AGAIN ask, “How many times are you going to rip those socks out?”

  13. If a knitter makes you something that you did not ask for - as a gift just because s/he wanted to make it, accept it graciously (with lots of enthusiasm) and let it go. Please do not offer payment.

  14. It is perfectly acceptable to ask to squish or pet something a knitter is wearing, as long as the knitter has made it. But please remember to ASK before you do so.

  15. A knitter is always happy to answer the question “Whatcha makin’ now?” or “What’s that yarn for?”, if asked with enthusiasm.

  16. When someone tells you his/her hobby is knitting, don’t say “But can you knit?” Not that it’s very offensive, it just doesn’t sound very bright. (No, I can’t knit even though it’s my hobby?)

  17. Never ask: “If you want socks, why don’t you just go buy them for $10 a pack??” OR “You can buy a sweater at Kohl’s for $15” OR “Why would you knit ____ when you can go to _____ and buy it for $__?”’ Ugh. Because if I wanted mass produced socks, I would go buy them. But they don’t give me the satisfaction that I get making socks myself. Nor do they feel as nice on my feet. Nor do I get to choose the luscious colors or fibers. There is a time and a place for Wal-mart socks. But they aren’t going to give me the satisfaction of working with my hands and producing something beautiful and one-of-a-kind for myself. Plus, I love me just enough to spend the time on me. So Pffffbbbbbtttt. If I wanted a cheap sweater, I most certainly WOULD go and buy a cheap sweater. But since I want to choose the fiber, fit, pattern, colors, etc, AND because I enjoy making something so unique with my own two hands, two sticks, and some string, I will.

  18. Never assume that a knitter’s project is for a baby - pu-lease - even adults wear knitted items.

  19. Never assume that a knitter’s project must be for someone else.

  20. And never, ever, ask a stranger (knitter or not) if she is pregnant unless it is so freakin’ obvious that you don’t have to ask.

  21. Anything along the lines of, “I let my girlfriend wear the hat you made me. She hates it” should be grounds not just for banning from the knitworthy list but for possible bodily injury.

  22. DO NOT assume that if I crochet, I can also knit and vice versa. At least not at the same proficiency.

  23. DO NOT take ANY credit for a hadcrafted item if you did not actually handcraft said item. Oh, you bought the yarn? Picked the pattern? Gave me the idea? How nice, but you did not spend the tens/hundreds of hours creating each stitch. NO CREDIT FOR YOU!

  24. If you’ve been gifted with a handcrafted item… perhaps, let’s say (purely for the sake of argument), a baby sweater… for your wee little love, kindly do not return the handcrafted item to the crafter & ask him/her to take it all apart & use the yarn to make something newer & bigger for your not-so-wee-any-longer little love. While the crafter may appreciate your concept of recycling & your desire that the crafted item not go to waste, I’m pretty sure the crafter will not be receptive to all the work involved with deconstructing something that took lots of time, love, effort, stitches, etc. to construct in the first place, nor will the crafter be pleased to be thought of as a “crafting factory” no matter how much you might consider it complimentary that he/she is “in demand.”

  25. Don’t ask your wife to pretty-please knit you a 100% wool sweater to fit your 50” chest, from wool yarn that was chosen by you specifically for its woolly warmth… and then ask your wife to “hurry up” in finishing the 100% wool sweater because you are “cold” and you really really REALLY want to wear your warm 100% wool sweater…and then NOT WEAR THE 100% WOOL SWEATER BECAUSE IT’S TOO WARM.

  26. If I make something for your little one, and tell you “all I ask for in return is a picture of baby/kid wearing it.” Take a darn picture and give it to me! It’s really not THAT much to ask in return. Is it?

  27. If I am counting stitches and you interupt me, I am likely to start counting out loud (loudly) This is your que to stop talking. It is NOT your que to start to yell out random numbers at me!! (thanks kids!)

  28. If you ask me to teach you a stitch/ technique (I work in a yarn store) do not then tell me “that’s not how I do it.” or “that’s not how I was taught it.” Why are you even asking me to show you then?!! My response has been, “Then just do it the way you were shown. You’ll get the best results with what you are comfortable with” And yes I have gotten at least one, “But I don’t remember how to do it!” (head banging against a brick wall then ensues.)

  29. If I am knitting on the train/bus and there are empty seats that aren’t right next to mine, please sit elsewhere, NOT right on top of me (forcing me to move my knitting bag and scrunch in on myself to avoid bumping you.~~stabbing you in the eye with my needles~~ )

  30. If you see someone that you do not know knitting (let’s say in a class or on the bus or in public somewhere) do not ask what they can knit you. Yes, I am capable of knitting you a tie / computer case / whatever random thing you think I can’t knit and it is possible but I don’t know you, and I won’t knit you any of these things. The situation is just awkward.

  31. In the case that you are married to one or date one or for share money or something - do not bother said knitter about buying yarn and accessories. There is a reason I need different sizes of needles - yes, there really is - and if I buy the yarn, I can use it in the future. It’s not like chicken or something where if I don’t eat it all in a week it’s going to magically disappear. I promise - the yarn will NOT go to waste.

  32. If you are a husband, do not offer your wife’s knitting services to others. Do not say to your mother, “Mom, my wife can knit that for you if you ask.” She does NOT want to knit that for your mom. or your grandmother. or your sister.

  33. If you are a sister-in-law, do not say, ”I’d like for you to knit a sweater for my daughter.” I’ve never knit a sweater before and if I wanted to knit a sweater, I’d knit one for myself first.

  34. If you are the often mean grandmother-in-law, do not say, ”I’ll pay you to knit me a scarf. I’ll pay for the yarn.” What about paying me for the time?! And do not say, “I wish the first scarf you knit for me when I became your new granny was brown not blue because I don’t own enough blue things to match it.” And don’t look at the scarf I made a mutual friend with envy. It makes me feel bad that you obviously don’t appreciate the hard work that went into choosing that specific color and pattern for you.

  35. If you are a friend who guilted me into giving you a scarf off my neck, then WEAR IT! Let me see you wearing it. It makes me feel bad that you never wear it. Why make me give it to you if you won’t wear it?!

Chapter 7: Respect (and use) the knitwear

  1. Giftee should never disrespect anything that the knitter has given them. As in tossing on the floor, throwing in the laundry (unless superwash), forgetting that it was you that gave it to them, giving it away to someone else that admires it, sending it off to thrift shop because you really didn’t like the (color, fit, texture, it’s wool) whatever.

  2. If a knitter takes the time to hand-knit you something, please don’t just pack it away because it’s “too nice” or you “don’t want to ruin it.” We knit it for you to enjoy and use, and not using whatever we’ve made for you makes us feel like it wasn’t loved.

  3. If you decide to help out by doing laundry, look at what you’re throwing in the washer/dryer. If you’re in doubt about whether something will be safe in there, then ask, for Bob’s sake! Nothing like seeing hours and hours of loving work reduced to a felted lump. sniff

  4. If you are 6 years old, don’t throw the mittens your Mom made onto the roof of your school, even if “all the other guys were doing it”. Especially if there are workmen up there tarring the roof.

Chapter 8: Proposal of knitting for sale

  1. Please resist the urge to tell the knitter that they could make “so much money” selling their finished objects for the amount you would be willing to pay for that object, usually less than $25. First of all, we’ll think you’re just silly that you think $25 is “so much money”; secondly, we very likely spent more than that on just the yarn; and thirdly, you are displaying your ignorance of how much time and work I’ve put in. Suggesting that your handknit socks are worth any monetary amount under $500 is grounds for removal from the knitworthy list.

Chapter 9: Respect the Designer

  1. When your knitter gives you a wonderful gift, it is wonderful that you wear it. It is also wonderful that you brag on your knitter. And I can’t tell you how impressed your knitter is that you finally realize knitting takes money and time, and your knitter will not be loaned out, nor pressed into servitude producing gifts for you to hand out. However… when your friends ogle your wonderful handknit and think that they’d like to “make one just like that”–do not volunteer your knitter to photocopy her pattern and hand it round! In most cases this is clear copyright violation and is tantamount to stealing money right out of the designer’s pocket. It doesn’t matter that your knitter “already has the pattern just sitting around”. It doesn’t matter that your knitter has a home copier. It doesn’t even matter that no one will know. It is wrong, and your knitter will not do it and then you will have to explain to all your friends that they won’t be getting a freebie pattern after all. ps– if you ask nicely, I’m sure your knitter will be happy to tell you where she purchased her pattern, and then your friends can go buy their own copy.

Chapter 10: Respect the Yarn Store

  1. If you go into a yarn store, browse all you want. ENJOY all the yummy yarns you want, but please do NOT tell me you can get it cheaper at a craft store or on the net. ALSO, please don’t come in, ask me to help you find something, then ask for a piece of paper and pen so you can write the yarn info down because you “buy all my yarns on E-bay.”

Chapter 11: Template for Those Who Don’t Want You to Knit for Them

  1. “My beloved (wife/husband/girlfriend/partner/mum/sister) I am so impressed by your new found enthusiasm for (knitting/crochet/spinning/buying yarn and going ‘oooh’) and I deeply respect and cherish this. When you said last night that you wanted to make me a (hat/scarf/sweater/pair of socks/really nice pair of fingerless gloves you saw on Knitty) and you had already picked out some (Malabrigo/Wollmeise/Sundara/exotic sounding fibre that makes you go all obsessive and slightly scary) for it, I was filled with great love for you. However, I have a (yarn allergy/dislike of knitted items/dislike of items that can’t be machine washed and dried/phobia of handcraft dating back to a nasty incident in my youth involving a darning needle) and I fear that whatever you make for me, I will find it too hard to enjoy the end product. I recognise that your willingness to include me on your list of people to knit for makes me the luckiest person alive, and I am filled with love right now, but I would not want you to spend all that (time/effort/money/stash) making something for me that I am too (ignorant/careless/weird) to appreciate. Instead, why not (buy yourself some yarn/sit down and put your feet up while I make dinner/enjoy these chocolates I bought you) and knit something for yourself so I can admire you in it?”
I think perhaps it is a sad state of affairs when the world in general needs to be reminded of some basic, common courtesy.  Some of these rules are things that perhaps your knitter wanted to say, but was too polite to do so.

Part of the reason I find these so amusing is that I have been a knitter for 8 or 9 years and in all that time, with about 45 FOs (or completed projects, to the non-knitters), I have ONE SCARF that I made for myself.  One.  It is therefore high time I take some time to knit FOR ME.  I love to knit, I find it soothing, I enjoy creating things with my hands, and it makes me very happy when someone genuinely likes something I've made for them.  My sisters and mother, all recipients of hand-knitted projects of mine, are always enthusiastic about what they've gotten.  But I think it is time for the person who appreciates my work the most (i.e. ME) to have a few things I've made.  

Selfish?  Maybe.  Ask me if I care.

11 February 2009

Not as you think.

A few years ago, when my nephew made his First Communion, I sat at my sister-in-law's house and talked to her in-laws. They're conservative Catholic folk, and therefore in general, we don't see eye-to-eye. I try, really, I do, to keep my liberal lefty opinions to myself, but I don't always succeed.

As I talked to her brother-in-law about politics and public policy, the conversation turned towards some of my pet issues; the death penalty, among other things.  Eventually, he sat back, laughed, and said to me, "You are NOT as liberal as you think you are."

I told him we'd have to agree to disagree on that.  But.....

Last night, as I was driving home, I heard just a portion of this story, enough to make me remember to seek out the full audio and listen later.  It is about the drug problem in Mexico, and the official response of the United States' government to the same.

My gut reaction to this was annoyance, and I surprised myself by saying to the radio, "and this is MY problem, as a US taxpayer, how exactly?"  No, me talking to the radio was not the surprise. I do that all the time.

I don't take illegal drugs.  (Nope, I save my money for the legal ones, eyeroll.)  The drug cartels in Mexico aren't what we need to be spending taxpayer money on right now, people.  It annoys me that Mexico has its hand out, looking for money from the United States to solve problems in Mexico, of Mexican creation.  Their police force is corrupt.  Their jails are apparently a sham.  The cartels run things any way they see fit, committing murder, kidnappings, extortion....and they want the United States to fix this?  Buh?

And wow, that is about the most conservative right-leaning thing I've ever typed OR said.

I understand the argument that without the United States and the voracious appetite on this side of the border for cocaine and weed, there wouldn't be a drug problem in Mexico, but with respect, I disagree.  There's a market for illegal drugs the world over, and it was a very long time ago that the US had the largest population in the world.  After China, and India, the United States ranks third in population size, and somewhere, someone besides Americans on American soil, are buying Mexican product.

When did the US become the world's ATM?  Why does the perception that we have oodles of money to be handing out over every third-world nation conundrum persist?  GLOBAL Financial Crisis, anyone?

This all makes me wonder, too, if I would feel differently (i.e. more leftist) about this issue if the US economy were not hemorrhaging jobs at an alarming rate and several of our biggest industries - financial, automobile manufacturing - weren't on the precipice of complete disaster. 

I'd like to think so.

10 February 2009

I'm knitting, and I can't stop!

(chanted to the tune of that old telly commercial, I've fallen, and I can't get up!)

At the end of 2008, I declared to a group of fiber fanatic friends that 2009 was going to be the year of Lucy knitting for Lucy.

And as we all know, whenever you make a declarative statement like that, the universe conspires against you and manages to tell you, "SCREW YOU!" ala comedian Jeff Dunham & Walter.

First came the invitation for a baby shower. One of my employees from my old non-profit is having a baby, and I got an invitation to the baby shower mostly because I ran into her recently. Not that I object to buying her a present, or celebrating the birth of her son; I don't. But I'd rather give her something hand-knitted than some plastic-y thing or gift certificate. So I quickly knitted her two baby hats; a small one for a newborn, and a slightly larger one for when he gets bigger.

Then, there was a phone call at work one day from DH telling me that friends of ours in Chicago are also expecting. Since I began knitting in about 2001, DH has done nothing but poke fun at me for doing an "old-lady" craft. He also likes to harass me about how long it takes for something to be finished; the line - and he knows how much this annoys me, which is why he does it - is "Aren't you done with that YET?"

But the moment he found out about the Chicago people, he asked me to make them a blanket. I'm inclined to turn him down on principle alone, or at least to harass back about how sure, now, now he LIKES my knitting. Suuure. But I'm not that bitchy. Or at least not all the time.

The thing is that it takes about 6 weeks to make a baby blanket, and I really don't want to take that much time out of selfishly knitting for myself. (sidebar: >_< goodness, that sounds harsh.)
Of course, it makes me feel guilty to even think such a thing, let alone say it out loud. I'm sure that I will end up making something for them, more than some-THING, probably a blanket, hats, a baby sweater....even though I've kind of sworn off garments, because the last sweater I made took me six years, no exaggeration, no joke.

I was cruising a friend's queue on Ravelry, and I saw a Scandinavian designer's pattern that I thought was pretty, but as it was a long duster-style cardigan, way, way, way too much work for me. (FYI- Ravelry = social networking site for knitters, kind of like MySpace with patterns. Queue = list of patterns/projects stored on Rav that you would like to make.) Because this particular designer was Scandinavian, and Fair Isle (scandinavian-style) knitting amazes me, I had to look at what else she's designed. Which brought me to this.

Photocredit goes to Tirku, I do not own this picture.  I just love it, admire it, and want, want, want, want to make one for myself.

She blogs in Finnish and English.  Here is the post about the sweater.  Since it appeared in Vogue Knits magazine in the Fall 2008 edition, the pattern is no longer online.  I bought the mag from the publisher; I do hope that she was well compensated by them for it.  (n.b., I just realized it sounds like I resent paying for the pattern.  Allow me to be clear: I do NOT.  I'm happy to pay for it.   I just hope she gets residuals or something from me purchasing the back issue.)

I don't love the color in the picture; the blog post picture is a vivid kelly green that I'm not a fan of either.  I can't wear either color, so no, I won't be making it that hue.  I'm also not a huge fan of hoodies; my sisters both love them, but meh.  Just not my thing.  There are numerous examples on Ravelry of people who have made them without the hood, and I intend to do the same.  In fact, over 400 people on Rav have started this project, and the reviews are positive, that it knits up quickly.  This may just bring me back to knitting actual clothes.  Maybe.

In the meantime, until my copy of Vogue Knitting Fall 2008 gets here, I'm searching for an easy baby blanket pattern.  Sigh.

06 February 2009


Teh internets are amazing.

This is hardly news, we all know that.  The depth and breadth of information (and misinformation) out there is astonishing.

I had to write an essay recently, partially about my experiences as an exchange student.  As I strolled down memory lane and looked at the paperwork I still have (among many other things, the letter I received telling me I was accepted into the program) I remembered something long forgotten.

It was Superbowl Sunday in 1991, and all of the potential exchange students were required to attend a meeting at an extension office of a local university, to find out which country we were assigned to.

I found my name on the list, and next to it was the word in all caps: SWEDEN.  My stomach flopped.  What the hell?  Sweden wasn't my first choice.  It wasn't my second or third or fourth, either.  My first choice had been Australia, followed by New Zealand and England.  

In high school, I had ever-so-wisely chosen Latin as my language to study, and many countries (Germany among them) required at least two years' study of the language.  I had been to Spain and France, and didn't really have any desire to spend a year in either place, unless I could specifically choose Paris or a large coastal city in Spain.  The powers that be had told us over and over again that we didn't get to choose a city, so Spain & France weren't even on my list.  

I was afraid to go somewhere that I didn't speak the language, hence the choices of Australia, New Zealand and England.  Sweden had been number six or seven on the list of ten I submitted along with my application.  Denmark and Czechoslovakia had been on that list too, as those are countries where some of my great-grandparents had come from, but I had never - even for a second - entertained the thought that I wouldn't get my first or second choice.

On that day in 1991, here's what I knew about Sweden: my great grandmother Hannah Rebekah had come from there in the early 1900s, and so I was of Swedish decent.  Swedes were blue-eyed blondes.  It had the same climate, roughly, as Alaska.  Stockholm was the capital.  The official language was Swedish.

That's it.

I did not know where in Sweden I was going to go; that information came later.  The Rotarians told us that Sunday that we would probably get a letter from our host-family long before the official paperwork from the Rotary Foundation turned up, and that was true for most of us.

I had made a friend at those Rotary meetings, a guy who was my age, and also going to Sweden.  He called me a few days after that Sunday meeting, and told me he'd gotten a letter from a family in Umeå, a city in the north of the country.  I had, by that time, obtained a map of Sweden, and when my letter turned up, I spent a long time searching that map for the town that it had come from.  

In those pre-internet days, I couldn't just Google "Västmanland Province" and take a peek at what popped up.  I went to the main branch of our local public library and searched some more.  It wasn't until I spoke with my host family via telephone - - over a crackly international line - - that I found out where, approximately, my new home was.

I'm preparing to head back to Sweden soon, and since I don't have a chance to speak Swedish every day, I am spending some time each day reading the headlines on the main Swedish newspaper websites; Svenska Dagbladet (The Swedish Daily Blade), Dagens Nyheter (The Daily News), even Google's Swedish News.   

Besides those sources, I can also listen to Swedish radio, twenty-four hours a day, courtesy of the internet, by just going to www.sr.se.  That's the state-run "official" radio, and the options there are dizzying.  Since I am going to visit an area that is geographically quite distant from my Swedish "home", I'm listening to a station from that region, because the accent is quite different, and a little difficult to follow.  It would be roughly akin to a Bostonian trying to understand someone from bayou country in Louisiana; they're speaking the same language, but can barely follow one another.

I'm confident that by the time I get there, I'll have no trouble at all understanding the dialect, although I will probably never be able to pass myself off as a native of that region.

If I was doing this twenty years ago, though, I wouldn't have those avenues of newspaper and radio (and heck, probably TV, too, via YouTube, I just haven't investigated it yet) open to me.  It really fascinates me that the world is so incredibly connected; and yet, I couldn't tell you what my next door neighbor does for a living.

02 February 2009


adjective; something felt to resemble vitriol especially in caustic quality ; especially : virulence of feeling or of speech, (vi-trē-ˈä-lik)

High school was hell on earth for me.  No, I wasn't abused, no, nothing terrible happened.  Quite the contrary.  I went to a suburban school, lived in a two-parent family, had a safe and mostly happy home.

What was bad requires a rather long-winded explanation.  My old high school is located in an upscale little bedroom community.  There aren't just a few McMansions; there are many developments full of them.  It was not at all unusual for kids to be handed the keys to a brand-new car on their 16th birthdays, and I ain't talking about a basic Chevy, either.  

Besides the cars, there were the clothes.

One of my classmates went to Paris and came home with tons of new clothes; I remember the brand names because they were prominently displayed.  She had a bunch of things from Gucci, and lesser-known Naf Naf, along with uber-popular-in-the-80's Benetton.

She was the only one - so far as I know - who went to that length of going to Europe for school clothes, but at the time, the popular brands were Express, Limited, Gap, Learner New York, things like that.  (huh, the more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?)  

My family wasn't poor, but brand new clothes for my sisters and I came from K-Mart.  Often, "new" clothes came from the thrift store or as hand-me-downs from a cousin, long before vintage was cool and "re-purpose" was a buzzword.

I got teased a bunch about clothes from K-Mart, often got crap for not having the latest shoes or purses.

Kids are cruel.  Things that you would say to a 5th grade classmate would be completely beyond the pale to say to a colleague at work; "You're fat!"  "Yo, Lucy, nice generic shoes!" (said with all the sneering of a practiced snob.)

You would think that it might get better as you moved through junior high and then high school, but I don't think it did.  The terrible things that were said to me would today be taken far more seriously, as schools have been sued over bullies and school-yard taunts, but back then, it was put up or shut up time.

This was a daily barrage, not of threats, I never feared for my safety, but of nastiness and verbal attacks, with lots of vitriol.  It probably goes without saying, but I was miserable.  I felt less than worthless.  I felt ostracised.  I felt ugly, because I was told every day that I was ugly, useless, worthless, and far too smart for my own good.  Yep, even getting good grades was grounds for harassment. 

Eventually, of course, I got over it, although I didn't really develop any self-esteem until I was 20-something.  I came home from Europe with a lot more bravado, and faked it well, but inside was a different story.

I haven't thought about those days at all in a very long time.  No need to dwell on it, although I would probably take great delight in knowing that my tormentors aren't happy adults, because what goes around comes around, sucka!  Yes, yes, I know that's petty and vindictive.  Ask me if I care.

But lately, I've been thinking about those days a lot as I've gotten friend requests on Facebook from people that I don't remember all that fondly.  None of the true bullies have sent me friend requests (yet), but people who were mean little shits and wow, do they remember things just a leeetle bit differently than I do.  

Go figure.   Of course they don't remember treating me like yesterday's garbage.

Re-living those days in my head has stirred up a lot of resentment and anger that I didn't even realize I still had within me.  Maybe even a few steps beyond anger to outright rage and fury.

As an adult, I'm rather blunt.  (I hear you laughing out there!!)  I say what I really think; don't ask my opinion if you aren't ready to deal with the fact that I'm not going to lead you down the primrose path.

So there are things that I would say to these people NOW that I would have never even dreamed of saying back then.  And I find myself compiling a mental checklist of what I'd like to say, among them things like, "I hope someday that someone treats your child as cruelly as you treated me." 


That's....that's....well, that's awful and evil and rude, and sadly, true.  I do hope that somewhere along the way, they come to understand that the words they threw at me daily left deep and permanent scars, and the same part of me that wishes for that knows that hurting them wouldn't hurt nearly as much as someone hurting their child.  Even though I'm not a parent, I think that's something which is instinctively understood.  Why?  Well, exhibit A is my mother; she's sweet, and nice, and not too outspoken.  But harm one of her children, and the Furies of Grecian mythology pale in comparison to what she will do.

I really don't like thinking of myself as a petty vindictive bitch.  Anger left to fester only hurts the person who is angry, it certainly is no skin off of the collective noses of the nasty brats.  But I'm having a very hard time taking a deeeeeeep breath and letting it go, as I usually can with anger.  Wounds I thought long healed are in fact still wide open.

Clearly, I'm not done with therapy yet!