Monday, July 27, 2015

Own It

This post will be short, sweet and to the point.

I have read a tremendous amount from really thoughtful, smart people on both sides of the conversation about race.  Among them, I have only read one person who suggested any action points but all of them were external (hang a sign, vote, etc.)

I've been thinking about this for a while and I think we are missing the point.  All of this is internal so we need to start inside ourselves.  For what it's worth, here are my commitments to make some real change around race.

1.   I will stop referring to people by their race.  How many times have you had this conversation?  I know I've had it a million times.  "Hey, do you know Dave?", "Dave who?". "I don't know his last name.  He's the black guy."  I live in Yonkers.  Referring to a man as a black guy is a meaningless description.  I am saying nothing about Dave that would cause another person to recognize him by simply saying he is black.  There are tens of thousands of "black guys" in Yonkers.  In this conversation I am giving the other person completely useless information and I am choosing to describe Dave with something that is simply not relevant.  I am doing them both a disservice.  Unless I can justify a solid argument for describing someone by their race, I will no longer do it. 

2.  I will be a bigger dick than than the person who is a racist.  My mind has been blown by the number of times I have listened to people spew the most hateful shit and no one says a thing.  At a local bar a few years ago, a woman who is considered a bit of a "character" was letting loose with some really bad racist rants at the bar.  No one batted an eyelash.  I finally asked her to stop.  She responded by saying "Oh Karen, what are you going to do, call me a fascist?"  I simply told her that, no, I didn't actually believe that she knew what being a fascist was and that she was simply a bigot. 

Suddenly the bar went silent.  Suddenly I was the asshole who was "starting something".  Too bad.  I will do this more often.

3.   I will make a conscious effort to share my privilege.  I am white.  I know I have it easy. But it is simply an accident of birth.  Perhaps being a white male trumps my white femaleness but I still have a significant amount of power.  So I will make sure that I am holding myself to the highest standards of fairness. 

It is very easy for me to say that I am not a racist.  And I believe that I am not.  But I have really bad habits.  And it is my responsibility to own it.  I am grateful that the life that I have chosen to live and the career path that I have chosen has allowed me to experience so many different people.  But the fact that I have used the phrase "black friends" bothers me.  I can do better than this.  And so can you. 

Stop talking about racism and start doing something about this--from the inside out.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween (A Little Late)

I love Halloween.  I've never been very good at costumes so it wasn't really about dressing up for me.  There was a bad incident when I was about 12 when I decided to dress up as Medusa.  I had a crazy wig, some sort of toga and a pair of really slippery little weird wicker slippers.  Yes, I said wicker.  Yes, I said slippery.  Yes, I said weird wig.  Yes, I said toga.  Yes, I landed flat on my can running on wet leaves.  And why the hell didn't anyone stop me.  I could have just been a ghost and not be still taking crap from my sister about that epic wipe out.

But today I want to tell you two really good Halloween stories. 

When I was very little--maybe 4 or 5--my mother dressed me up as a black cat for Halloween.  I had on a black leotard, black tights, black ballet slippers and a tail that my mom made from a black stocking, some cotton and an unbent wire coat hanger.  But the best part of the costume was my mask.  It just covered my eyes and it came up to what I believed were very dramatic points at the corners.  I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

And I lost it.

About half way through trick or treating (we lived in a really good apartment building for trick or treating), I realized I didn't have my mask on any more.  It wasn't in my candy bag and I couldn't find it anywhere.  Naturally, I started crying.  And naturally, I kept on trick or treating.  I knocked on every door--weeping--and every mom handing out candy I asked my why I was crying.  And I had to explain to them through my sobs that I had lost my mask and now no one would know that I was a black cat.  And they all laughed at me.  LAUGHED!!!

And then we got to the last apartment at the end of the first floor and my poor little heart just broke.  The mom there was my favorite.  She was so pretty and so nice and I just adored her.  She had the perfect pageboy hairdo which she achieved by pulling it up in a really high pony tail and rolling it onto one huge curler (which I still do to try to calm my hair down), she had two kids who were a little older than me but were really, really nice and she had a rug that had games on it.  I'm not sure what her husband did for a living but I do know that somehow we all got really nice, cozy bathrobes from him.  And now my costume was ruined and I couldn't stop crying and I just couldn't get my act together.

But I wasn't giving up on the trick or treating so I rang the bell and there she was.  With a big bowl of candy.  And the perfect pageboy.  She bent down to eye level and asked me why I was crying and I managed to choke out my tail of woe.  And she put the candy bowl down, moved my mask from the top of my head back onto my face, gave me a little kiss and sent me on my way.

Obviously, more than 40 years later, I have never gotten over this.  Ever.  It is the first time I remember an actual act of kindness.  Especially since all of the other moms clearly saw my mask on my head which would explain why they found it funny.

So I try to make Halloween fun at my house.  I answer the door with a meat cleaver.  I pretend I'm going to give them tea bags (and you will be amazed at how many kids are okay with that).  I talk to the kids and their parents and look forward to catching up with them every year.  There are several families who know that they can use the bathroom or grab a soda or bottle of water for a needy kid at my house.

Last year, one of my neighbors came with her daughter and grandkids and one of the little boys and I had a great conversation about Take 5 candy bars.  If you don't know about them, go out and get yourself some.  They are awesome. 

This year, we had a whopping four groups of trick or treaters come to our door.  I was disappointed and almost left to go to Pat (of the tomatoes) house where she gets tons of them.  And then the doorbell rang.  And it was the kid from last year with his family.  And he was so excited.  He told me how glad he was that I was home and that he had been telling his friends at school about the lady who taught him about Take 5 bars.  I had Twizzlers this year but I broke out the private stash for this kid. 

I really hope that he remembers me as an adult as happily as I remember the woman at the end of the hall and that he grows up to have the best Halloween house. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

To Swatch or Not to Swatch

Lately I've been swatching.  Actually, I've been swatching a lot.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, my friend BadCat's book New Vintage Lace has arrived in a store near you.  The book is full of beautiful patterns but the real value in it is the story of her process.  Next, I have some wonderful yarns that I have no idea what they're going to do once they're knit.  So between the book and the fibers, the stars have aligned for a whole lot of swatching.  By the way, I do consider starting a sweater sleeve as the most useful type of swatch there is.  

I've had a cone (or two) of  a very wooly heavy fingering-ish weight yarn that I bought in Vermont at Six Loose Ladies.  It's a local yarn from somewhere in Ascutney.  I was drawn to it by the color--it's a really pretty tweedy raspberry--but once I saw where it was from, I knew it had to come home with me.  I have a good friend who is from a small town near Ascutney and I learned how to ski many years ago at Mt. Ascutney.  Such happy memories had to join my stash.  

I've been looking at it for a while trying to figure out what to do with it and finally settled on a Honey Cowl.    So I swatched.  I cast on with US 8 needles and then gave it a really good wash.

I love the way it looks and the squishiness of it but have been concerned that it may too scratchy.  I am not particularly sensitive to wool's itchiness so I think it's okay but to make sure I have been carrying the swatch around with me and rubbing it on my cheek or wrist every chance I get.  I may just go for it.  Or not.  Who knows?  I'm fickle.

I've also been trying to get my studio dining room table organized.  This pile of sock yarn ends will be wound and bagged as soon as I finish this post.  There's something so satisfying about tidy little buns of yarn.

There are suddenly lots of babies in the wind here in the Y.O. so once these are in order, they'll become little socks to keep tiny toes cozy and warm

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Very Soxy

It's too hot to knit anything but socks.  I have this lovely pile of single socks that has been staring at me, tears of loneliness running down their pretty little gussets.  But alas, they are all still single.

Yes, the second sock for all of them on are on the needles and are all getting done but this one in particular needs to be finished. 

It's my basic sock pattern.  Nothing fancy at all, just a good solid sock that I think will look particularly nice with clogs.  I swear to you the ball band was here 10 seconds ago.  (I just actually noticed that you can see the ball band in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  Proof!)  I got up to get something to drink and now it's gone.  Dagnabit!

This one in particular needs to get off the needles fast because those needles need to start knitting on this.

Isn't she a beauty?  It's Colinette Jitterbug in the Lichen 76 colorway. I'm in love with it.

I'm also in love with those Signature needles that my mother bought me for Christmas.  Really, how did I ever live without them?  Oh wait, I know.  I had to pay for things like food and the mortgage.  They are so shiny and pretty, not to mention their lethal points.  I call them my knitting blades.  

All of these are going into a bag for my sister.  (It's too hot to wear them right now.) A few years back I knit her a pair of socks and it seems I've created a monster.  Really, though, there are far worse things that could happen.  I like to knit socks, she likes to wear the socks that I knit.  I see it as a win/win situation.  And if I stock pile them, I get to give her a pile of them which I think will be very pretty.

As an added bonus, she and I have very different palettes.  She wears a lot of orange, yellow and lime green.  Even her purples and blues are somehow more on the autumn side.  I, on the other hand, go for very saturated, clear colors.  Just wait till you see the yarn I got to make myself a pair of socks--it's practically breathing it is so rich.  But that little skein is also waiting for the Signature needles so I'm not going to torture myself.

I think I'll go wind that Colinette to take the edge off.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy Interdependence Day--A Day Late

A few years back, I declared July 5th Interdependence Day.  Although I did celebrate, I never actually got around to posting about it.  So here we go!

Here's what I am think this year for my Interdependence Day resolution (you all make those, right?).   We all need to to stop hiding our light.  I was raised Catholic.  Although I rarely practice anymore, I am still pretty much in line with the basic dogma.  I've just had big problems with the administration and the interpretation of that dogma.  Lately I've been thinking about the whole "don't tell anyone about your good deeds" thing and I have decided to cry bullshit on it. 

We must be kind to each other and we absolutely must tell other people about it.  We have to sing it to the mountaintops and act as we would like others to act toward us.  And everyone else should see us do it--not to make them feel bad or for us to feel that we are somehow better--but to show people what the lingering consequences are of kindness.  Our world as individuals becomes a better place when we are kind and our society cannot exist without the experience of individuals. 

So go out.  Do something nice.  Tell people what you did. Repeat.  Oh, and by the way, when people start doing kind things for you (which I am quite certain that they already have, we've just been programmed not to notice it) make sure you sing their song loud and proud as well.

Here are 10 easy things to do that won't cost you anything (or much):

1.  Hold the door.
2.  Hold the elevator (that's a biggie for me).
3.  Greet people, even strangers, when you see them. 
4.  Beep and wave when you pass a friend (or even an acquaintance) on the street.
5.  Compliment a stranger (but only if it is genuine).
6.  Talk to a child.  And I mean really talk.  Ask them what their favorite book is.  Show them something cool.  Whatever.  Don't just tell them their cute.  Cute fades.  Nice doesn't.
7.  Change the litter box without having to be told 20 times (maybe that's just me).
8.  Give blood.  It's so easy and they give you cookies when you are done.
9.  Give up your seat on the bus or train for someone who needs it.  Or let someone get into your lane at a toll.
10.  The next time you're grabbing a cup of coffee at the deli, and you have an extra buck, ask the counter person to charge you for two.  Then tell them that is up to them to decide who gets a free cup of coffee. 

I'm sure you can come up with dozens more. 

Go!  Now!  Shine your light!

P.S.  Number 11 was going to be "Teach someone to knit".

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas (and here's why)

Merry Christmas to all!! 

I love Christmas for a lot of reasons.  Has it become totally commercialized?  Well, I would say yes and no to that question.  If I hear one more newscaster talk about the "short holiday shopping season this year" one more time, I swear I'm going to lose my eggnog.  Let's make it clear here that there is no rule that says you can only holiday shop after Thanksgiving.  None.  In reality, there is no such thing as a holiday shopping season.  There is simply a holiday season.  And let's not forget that it includes quite a few holidays.

But right now, I'm talking about Christmas. 

One of the reasons that I love Christmas is that you can celebrate it for so many reasons.

First, there is a religious Christmas.  Celebrating the birth of Christ and, therefore, the birth of Christianity.   It's a big religion followed my millions (perhaps billions) of people worldwide.  And to all of you, I say Merry Christmas.

Then there is historic Christmas.  A lot of people who don't follow the Christian faith, still find a lot of good in Christ as a purely historic figure.  There's a lot to be said for this.  He seemed like a nice guy.  His message to the world was basically "be nice".   Kind of hard to argue with that.  And to all of you who celebrate this, I say Merry Christmas.

Then there is the purely secular Christmas.  There are also quite a few people who do not follow the Christian faith and who aren't at all interested in a guy who lived thousands of years ago.  Yet the idea of the holiday--"Peace on earth, good will to all"--resonates with them and they celebrate it.  To all of you, I say Merry Christmas. 

To everyone who is left, I still say Merry Christmas.  Because I am celebrating it!!  And I believe in sharing celebrations with those around me. You can simply tell me to have a nice day.  I'm totally cool with that.

P.S.  And to all, I ask only one thing in return.  Please don't say or use Xmas.  You don't do "Xukah" or "IndepenX Day".  Don't do it to Christmas.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

If Grey Gardens Was About A Car

Anyone who as ever been in my car knows that there is a significant amount of flotsam and jetsam that accompanies me wherever I go.  Empty (or sometimes not so empty) Diet Coke cans.  A huge assortment of grocery store bags.  Sweaters.  Yarn.  The occassional strategically placed double point needle.

It's a mess.

Yesterday we had our big "all staff" day at work which just added to the chaos in Ruby (that's my car's name).  Along with the normal detritus in the back seat there was a huge black garbage bags with about 70 t-shirts in it.  On top of that was my shopping cart.  Because how do you schlep a big bag of t-shirts without a shopping cart?

On the way home I thought it would be a good idea to stop at Home Depot and pick up a plastic shelving unit for the storage locker in the basement that all of Brian's tools belong in.  So that was on top of the bag of tshirts and the shopping cart.

Since it was Friday, I had to stop and pick up wine on the way home.  I was happily tootling along with absolutely no ability to see out my back window or use the passengers side mirror when all of a sudden, out of the blue, the car starting shaking.  For a hot second I was sure that that the aliens were taking me (again).

It was just a flat tire.  And I was right around the corner from a gas station so I--slowly--worked my way over there.  For future reference, 10 past 5 on a Friday is not a good time to show up at a gas station with a flat tire.  There was only one mechanic still there and he was (I swear to God) already in his car.  He started to drive away but must have gone to Catholic school so he came back.

And he was pissed.

He said back up over there.  So I did.  Then he hollered at me because I almost hit the cones which I couldn't see (see above for details).   He asked if I had a spare which, of course, I did.

And then I remembered.  Have you ever read the book The Shining (it's not in the movie).  There's a whole thing at the end about remembering to "dump the boiler" and then the whole place blows sky high.  My remembering was not quite so dramatic.  I just remembered that there was an air conditioner in my trunk.

Yup.  An air conditioner.

Cranky young mechanic (righfully so) hauled the AC out of the trunk and got the spare.

Then he put it back.  Now, me being me and having a huge fear of being undercaffinated, had a 12 pack of soda in the trunk.  Which he hit with the AC.  Which singled out one particularly delicate can of soda.

Which blew up in his face.  Which made me start laughing insanely.

And that's when I realized that I should just put my bra on over my shirt, slap a turban on my head and call myself Little Edie.  Did I mention that I was already wearing a big huge plastic sequined bow ring and that half of my underwire was buried in the garbage in the ladies room at Concordia College (because you don't leave random underwires on the top of the garbage to freak other people out)?  And wearing a bra with only one underwire is the best way to end up walking in circles.  

But I digress.

Dude changed my tire and didn't charge me for it. 

P.S.  About the mention of being taken by aliens again--I don't mean that I was taken.  It's just that on more than occassion, I have thought I was being taken by aliens.  I think I watched too many alien movies when I was a kid.