Friday, November 18, 2011

The Craftsy Aunt

By now, the news has been delivered and I can see the moment in my mind's eye. The scene is my brother's kitchen in Vermont, bright, spacious, a little cluttered but only because my sister-in-law is a culinary maven. I have never been to their home, but I imagine the kitchen is openly connected to a family room, full of comfy cushy chairs that match. They have a nice size television, a fabulous stereo, and probably several video games strewn about the floor.

This is all foreign to some one like me and so my mental picture has been colored by visits to homes of my children's friends. I choose to describe my furniture as "eclectic" - meaning it is old and doesn't match. Our home entertainment is "simplified" - SpongeBob DVDs, teasing the cat, and board games. Our clutter is "junk" – crap my kids bring home from school that I KNOW I will need some day.

My sister-in-law gives the news to my 16 year old niece, who isn't quite sure how to react. The eye roll? A shout of glee? She chooses cautious optimism; she's a good and thoughtful girl. She is smart, logical, and has the world at her feet. She takes the "wait and see" attitude.

"Your Aunt Lisa is crocheting a gift for your birthday."

No other words churn such complex and conflicting feelings in a kid. Maybe she would score with a cool hat, a nifty scarf, some trendy fingerless gloves? Or…..what if Aunt Lisa missed the memo on making yarn art cool? There is the chance she could end up with matching cozies for her bathroom's toilet seat, Kleenex box, and extra roll of toilet paper. Oh, why does she have to have a "craftsy" aunt anyway? There are just some adults who don't know the value of a gift card!

I never had a Craftsy Aunt and now know that this is the missing element of my life that has lead to all my troubles. A more traditional school of thought would attribute my broken marriage, chronic financial woes, and general bitterness to some deep seeded childhood event, chemical imbalance, or that blow to the head when I was 12. I know better. If only I had a Craftsy Aunt to make me ridiculously impractical and horrifically unattractive birthday and Christmas gifts as a child, I would not need to rely on visits to my kids' friends' homes for a peek into that idyllic home in Vermont – I would be living there.

And so after years of searching, I now know my mission in life is to realign our universal balance by filling the role of the Craftsy Aunt. When I DO remember a birthday (because Craftsy Aunts are often scatter brained and forgetful), my weapons of choice will be crochet hook, hot glue gun, and googly eyes. It is a thankless job, but I believe in grassroots social change. With my bedazzled baseball cap, ugly Christmas sweater, and carpel tunnel brace, I crochet on for all those nieces and nephews. Such sacrifice and selflessness will only be known years from now, when those nieces and nephews look about them and realize all they owe to that Craftsy Aunt Lisa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn Romance

I dream of you. You invade my nights, possess my days, grip my soul. When I wake, my first thoughts are of you. I look at the clock and begin the eternal countdown to the time we are together. I am yours.

I know what it is to taste you - earthy, base – you are all the sustenance I need and all the food I will ever want. To feel your silken warmth under my hands sends my blood racing yet soothes the static in my mind. When I come close to you and your smell, my heart pounds in my chest and I can barely hear the world around me through this internal clamor of anticipation. Your flesh caresses my eyes when I look down at you; my lips quiver as they lightly brush you.

I ask myself why I am obsessed with you. The answers flow from my mind quickly and numerous, blending together and swirling all around, confusing my logic and tilting my sense of balance. I know our time is brief and clandestine and I know that you will only be here while the leaves blaze and dance. I don't know if you will be back, or if this visit will be the last. I cling to you and try to pull every sensual moment from this fragile time together. You hurt me and I know it, but still I am drawn to your ability to electrify my senses and, every time I walk away, I begin planning the moment of my return. I hope you will still be there but want you to be gone. Each encounter maybe the last. No one understands; they are all fools.

"That will be $2.06."

"What?" Damn this intrusion into our private reality!

"Pumpkin spice cappuccino, right?"

"Oh, yes. Sorry."

"That's ok, hun, I like those things, too. Do you have your Speedy Rewards card?"

I hand her the red, white, blue, and black plastic along with three ones. Ninety-four cents clangs out of the change machine. She scans my card and a coupon spits out of the top of the register.

"Hey," she says," a free drink! Guess I'll see you tomorrow." She winks at me and I know she understands. She knows the power of you, she feels your viselike hold, she will see me tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cymbals (or How a Series of Events Made My Daughter Debutante for a Day)

"Lisa, how is your sense of rhythm?" While it sounds strange, those who know St. Helena School will understand that it is no surprise to hear this question walking up the stairs on the Thursday before our parish's big fall festival. Many things come together at the last moment. The music teacher went on to explain that the St. Helena casual marching band was in need of a cymbal player in two days to march in the big parade. Being the pushy mom I am, I volunteered my clarinet playing daughter as the hero who would come to the rescue. Being the self conscious 5th grader she is, she started quietly protesting immediately in the form of a slightly whiney, "I don't know...." with eyebrows raised. The effect was a sense that perhaps this was not a wise decision; perhaps that by carrying out this plan, I was tinkering with the balance of the universe. I wasn't buying - she was going to play in that casual marching band.

For the entire next two days, I wheedled, lectured and asserted my role as parent. She WOULD help out the casual marching band, she WOULD play the cymbals, and she WOULD have fun! After all, the entire event was loud and crazy and she got to CRASH the cymbals together!

The morning of the parade arrived and she put her foot down. It was HER life! I could NOT make her do it! She would NOT do it! I was proud that she was willing to take a chance and question authority, like all good Catholic youth need to do. Through my pride I announced that, yes, she would do it, because I was the lady with the ride tickets, the cash, and the transportation to the festival.

It was nippy and she needed to keep her hands warm to play the cymbals, so I instructed her to find a pair of gloves. With tears in her eyes and a crack in her voice, she chose the cheap white stretchy gloves from Walgreen's. If she was going to have to march to her doom crashing the cymbals together, at least she could do it in comfort and elegance.

The usual ordered chaos awaited us at the staging area for the parade. We dropped off my youngest, who was marching with the Brownies at the front of the parade, and headed for the spot where the St. Helena casual marching band was to meet, near the middle of the line. Dragging her feet, whimpering in agony, complaining about the weather, her shoes, her overbearing mother, her life, my reluctant cymbalist followed me. As we came closer to the group, she began to accept her fate, to buck up to the situation, to face her destiny with the courage that is a true Gonzalez. Yes, I thought, this will work out fine. She will be just fine. This was another victory for parents everywhere. We were only a few feet away and it was almost over.

My resolve began to feel justified with each step and then: "Rocky! You are going the wrong way – the fifth grade is meeting down there. Aren't you lucky?! You get to ride in a LIMO!" Bless her heart; she is one of the nicest women I know. I imagined my fist crashing into her nose, and the emanating sound was a musical combination of crunching bone, popping cartilage, and the crash of the cymbals.

"Rocky's in the casual marching band!" I smiled, grabbed my kid's sleeve and hurried toward the tuba. "She won't be riding in the limo!" with a wave and a smile I tried to close this deal before her almost 11 year old brain could even start to protest. I was too late. Seconds later, in searching for the cymbals, the casual band leader announced that that the cymbals never made it to the parade as they were forgotten in the music room. It was over. I thought I was advancing to sweet victory. Fate's cruel voice laughingly whispered that I was actually casually marching, sans cymbals, to bitter defeat. With a squeal and a hop, my 5th grader bolted down the line toward her class, toward her limo, toward her own victory, on this fine Autumn Daze morning.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

With the fall air....

....comes the desire to hook. For the past few weeks, I have been cranking out fingerless mitts to contribute to our parish festival, Autumn Daze. Simultaneously, there has been the usual back to school hubub, continued career transition (i.e. job search), freelance reporting, and camping camping camping!

Here in Minnesota, we jokingly say that "we only have two seasons," and every year I am reminded of that. One day it is 80 degrees, sunny, with the smell of dried grass lingering in the air and within 24 hour, grey slick skies and cold rain that transforms into snow once the sun goes down. Right now we are treasuring the fall heat during the day and complimentary cool nights - perfect for active days and relaxed yarnie nights!

Fingerless gloves:

Camping camping camping:

Both peaceful, both realxing, both a necessary part of autumn in Minnesota!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Super Powers

For a few of my childhood summers, I often visited my Great Aunt Velma and Great Uncle Howard, who lived in the Senior Citizen Trailer Park in Clinton, Michigan.  While the main attraction was use of the park pool, Great Aunt Velma always provided cookies, cake and ice cream after the swim. 

"Wow, Aunt Velma!  Was that what it was like when YOU were young?" Her place was filled with crocheted items and antiques and I loved how she and Great Uncle Howard were able to attach some meaning to each old thing with a great story of times gone by. When you are a kid, old things are cool and mysterious – a key to another world.  Never did I suspect I would be the one with the key.

These days, I go antiquing with my kids, who are constantly asking, "What is THAT and what's it FOR?"  The last time we went, I realized that I was answering that question ALOT and, surprisingly, I seemed to know what everything was on the shelf and what it was used for and I even heard myself say, "I had one of THESE!" with the lilting voice of Aunt Velma.

Somewhere along the line of time, the items in the antique store started to shift from being old and mysterious to being something a little too familiar.  Similarly, I have noticed lately that people around me have shifted their attitude toward me.  Gone are the days of silver haired smiles and the reply, "You young people are so cute!"  Now the discussion inevitably touches upon fascination and appreciation with MY "experience."  Not my work experience or my educational experience or my experience as a crocheter, but my "life experience."

Huh?  At what point did other people start to assume that I would have "life experience?"  While I always highlight the wisdom that comes with personal experience in cover letters, that is a tool to hopefully get an interview.  I know I don't look 35 any more, and that I am wearing the same clothes I wore when I WAS 35.  However, they allllll seem to know that I have enough "life experience" in my well to be able to dip in, sift through a large amount of contents, and find something that surely will apply to this or any other situation.

At first, I found this discovery alarming.  When did I become some one else?  Where did my young self go?  And more importantly, how do I stop it? After a few incidents, I resigned myself to the fact that time will march on and push me ahead of it. Being the opportunist I am, I found a way to capitalize on time's cruel shove-o-rama. When asked to share my well-reasoned and well-seasoned rationale for why something is the way it is, I quickly discovered that I can construct a justification that may be, while advantageous to me, completely fabricated from my own unique imagination.  To this date, I am batting 1000.  The nugget of wisdom is swallowed with relish and I have discovered a new superpower, the power of  "Geriatric Hypnosis."

After objectively pondering my new ability and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of this awesome key to happiness, I have managed to pinpoint a few guidelines as I don my silver and black cape:

~       As with all super powers, Geriatric Hypnosis must only be used for good, never evil.  There is a dark brotherhood of evil doers with this discovery who have induced millions of people, referred to as "the American voter," to willingly hand over their own powers of reasoning, common sense, and ambition.  The rest of us must stay vigilant to counteract this dark use of the power.

~       In keeping with the first consideration above, I recognize that "evil" is a pretty relative term so, if you need to use it to get your kids to go to bed early or talk some one into going to the move that YOU want to see, it's ok.

~       In order for the power to be effective, the superhero must quickly evaluate whether or not the proposed hypnotic subject would be susceptible.  If the power is used on some one too old or too young or a teenager with an attitude, it will be deflected as they are immune.  A superhero who is hit with his own Geriatric Hypnosis can become confused, disoriented, and delusional.

~       Geriatric Hypnosis only works when the subject is unaware that it is being administered.  Delivery, creativity, and frequency are necessary, but must be balanced.  In other words, you have to look like you know what you're talking about.  If you can't do it with WHAT you say, body language is key.

~       The power of Geriatric Hypnosis it short lived, especially in those who recognize it early and make frequent use of its power.  Peak power years are between the ages of 45 and 55, depending on how masterfully he or she harnesses the power.  It is inevitable, however, that those who are subjected to Geriatric Hypnosis eventually discover that they are being benignly bamboozled.

Like other children, I knew I was destined for greatness (see "The Size and Shape of Our Legacy"). My idea of greatness has changed over the years; perhaps to make myself feel better or maybe just because I misunderstood it when I was young.  Never did I suspect, however, that I would possess a power that could change the world; now I know that to be the truth.  Did Aunt Velma use Geriatric Hypnosis?  Does it matter?  She definitely changed the world in a good way for this little girl and we all should strive to do the same with our own super powers.  Where's my cape? 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Trip to JoAnn's

My girls and I, coupons in hand, a song on the radio, laughter on our lips, hopped into the Jetta the other day and headed straight for JoAnn's of Edina.  I was reminded of the girlhood trips to the fabric store, eager to reproduce the experience for my brood.  It was always nice, peaceful, and a "girl" thing.  How wonderful, I thought, to be reliving this moment as a mom with my own daughters.

Not long ago, I purchased a very basic sewing machine and for the past three months have limited its use to hemming pants, sewing linings in crocheted purses and patching together tee shirts and items from Good Will to make a few eclectic and hip pieces.  It is all part of our effort to be cool, shabby chic, and green, by recycling just about everything we can lay our hands on.  Since I am "taking the summer off" (i.e. "unemployed"), I have been able to maintain the "cool, shabby chic, and green" label by isolating my children from any other kids who know better.  My girls were excited, I was excited; we three girls were ready to rock out at JoAnn's of Edina!  I promised to stay away from the yarn…..

Since every one else had the same coupons I did, of course the place was packed. That's ok, times are a little different but the experience would still have a special flavor.  In keeping with true form, I hustled all females to the bathroom before shopping began.  I have a very small bladder.  While we were in the bathroom, my youngest pointed to something on the floor, "What is THAT?!" she said.  "Looks like one of those wood chips they use in landscaping," I replied, "that must be what it is."

"Mom, I think it is poo."
"What?!  No one is going to leave crap on the bathroom floor at JoAnn's of Edina." was my practical and wise reply.
"Touch it with your shoe," came the challenge.
"Okay," Have I mentioned that I am not one to back down from a challenge?

Ten seconds later the bathroom was filled with squeals of disgust.  This was not starting out like my childhood trips to the fabric store.

I was pleasantly surprised when my kids chose easy level patterns.  Their fabric selections were predictable – a pretty pink print for the eldest and a rock and roll neon green and black for the youngest – and they didn't fight about choosing from the sale fabric, clearly marked by the 50% off signs hanging above the shelf on which they rested.  Have I mentioned that I NEVER buy anything that is not on sale?

The line at the cutting counter wasn't even that long.  I was reminded of the days of my youth when I first thought about my future career.  I aspired to be a fabric cutter.  Nothing seemed so fulfilling to me – color for the eyes, texture for the touch, scissors that start the process of creativity.  I loved the thud of the heavy bolt of fabric as it hit the table when the cutter would boldly spin it to dislodge the material for measuring.  I reveled in the sharp and slightly grinding sound of the shears as they work their way through the material - a little like fingernails on a pleasant chalkboard.  It was perfect and there are times when I think it still would be perfect for me.  Poo aside, this would be nice.

After my two fabric orders were cut, the woman informed me that neither of them were 50% off as they were "fashion" fabrics instead of "basic" fabrics.  She had some ridiculous reply about how they can only put out so many signs and that is why they were under a sign that said "50% off" at JoAnn's of Edina.  I could tell that she had respinded to that same comment many times during the day.  While I am not one to exhibit my annoyances, this and the poo in the ladies room was pretty difficult to get past.  Nevertheless, I gave it a brave try.  "No worries," I said, "I have a 50% off coupon."

"That coupon doesn't take effect until next week." 

"But I got it in the mail last week."

"You can use a 40% off general coupon that should have also been part of the circular."

"But I was going to use that coupon for a craft for my kids for a father's day gift."

"The fabric coupon doesn't take effect until next week."  A ten dollar, home made shirt turned into a twenty dollar home made shirt.  My fond memories quickly dissolved in a pile of poo on the bathroom floor.

"Mom," said my little one, "I'm sorry I picked something that wasn't on sale!"  Ack!  Damn you, JoAnn's of Edina, damn you!  I quickly let her know that it was JoAnn's of Edina, not her, that was responsible for our momentary financial crisis.

We hunted and gathered our notions – elastic, thread, lace – all incredibly overpriced, and hidden among the giant aisles of the crafting super store, and checked out.  I was now committed to making a shirt for twice what I would have paid for a store bought version from Indonesia.  On our way across the parking lot, my older girl said, "Mom, we forgot to tell them that there is poo on the bathroom floor!"

In a feeble attempt to get back at JoAnn's of Edina for stealing my money with their bait and switch, giving my 7 year old a guilt complex, and smashing my warm memories of the peace of fabric shopping, I replied, "We'll let them figure THAT one out themselves!"

And while our experience wasn't quite what I had hoped, it quickly became its own unique memory when my kids laughed and said, "Yeah, let them figure THAT one out for themselves!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

When The Folks Come To Town

My mom is my favorite knitter and, while I have many times tried to encourage her to expand her crochet skills, she rarely picks up a hook, even though she was the one who taught me and my sister.  My daughter is the same way and this is not the only characteristic those two generations share.  My folks came for a visit not long ago (one of the reasons it has been a while since an updated post) and I really noticed the similarities between my kids and my folks.  I also noticed how having parents as house guests help one appreciate the little differences in how we live our lives and how their visits have changed as we all have matured. 

In my 20s, I had something to prove about how well I could take care of myself so I cleaned every inch of my house and tried (alright, I admit "try" is the operative word here, rather than "succeed.") to make the place perfect.  In my early 30s, I wanted to show that I could take care of my family, so in addition to cleaning up the house, I took on the unattainable goal of perfecting my family.  In my late 30s, I got smart and realized that they needed to be occupied while they visited.  I certainly didn't want to disappoint them, so I would leave a few cleaning tasks for my mom to occupy herself with and made a to-do list for my dad.  I fondly refer to my early 40s as the Golden Age of Parental Visitation.  I rightly embraced the philosophy of my late 30s and started saving up housework from the day they left until the day they came back on their next visit.  Ok, maybe that is taking it a little too far, but I REALLY liked that approach.  Now, in my mid-40s, I realize that my parents are on to me, much like they were when I was a teen, and when they come over, all they do is sit around, visit with my kids, read, and nap.

I have to say, I'm not sure I like where this is going.  Since my kids are a little older and don't wake up in the middle of the night or need to be served, my parents don't feel sorry for me anymore.  Since I no longer have a drama queen, non supportive husband making more work for me, they don't feel sorry for me anymore.  Since I don't have a full time stressful job, they don't feel sorry for me anymore.  While I enjoy the reality of why the pity is gone, I really DID enjoy getting work out of them.  Ah well, I suppose you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

I'm not sure how it happened, but that Golden Age of Parental Visitation has morphed into a slightly altered mental version of my children's toddler years.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the charm and joi de vive of the toddler years and how they lived in the moment, but if you are fundamentally lazy, like me, the toddler years are not a good time to start a new hobby.  In case you haven't noticed, I am all about starting new hobbies these days.  Retired parents possess the wisdom similar to toddlers in that they have relearned how to live in the moment; the energy level is a little toned down, but it is the same outlook.  While I am working toward that goal and proudly get closer everyday, I still have a way to go.  As a result, retired parents' wisdom changes your daily life during their visits.  Here are the things that I noticed as being the same or similar to keeping house with toddlers and retired parents:

You go to bed before 9:30
You wake up before 7 after hearing impatient footsteps (little fast ones with children, big slow one with retired parents)
You cringe whenever you hear a distasteful word on the telly or radio (even something like "damn"), and peek to see if they heard it
You actually make an effort to include vegetables and fruit in each meal
You go to great lengths to avoid conversation about news, politics, or anything else unpleasant
You make and drink lots and lots of coffee
Your furniture keeps ending up in the wrong place
You are (more) tired when you go to bed at night
You are constantly amazed by the weird and creative things they do
When you wake up in the morning, you appreciate this time you have, knowing you are lucky to have them around

Friday, May 13, 2011

Crochet in the Minnesota State Constitution

For a few years not so long ago, I worked in politics.  As some of you may know, on Minnesota's birthday, Minnesota joined the ranks of those states who wish to put on a ballot whether or not our constitution should be amended to require that marriage be defined as only between one man and one woman.  Since this proposal involves a direct question to the populace and their constitution, this bill cannot be vetoed by our governor.

While many Minnesotans, political geeks and those who sort of pay attention, have debated what this means for Minnesota and our future, I have been intrigued by this process.  A way to dodge the veto bullet and present a subtle campaign drive on the ballot – paid for completely by the people of the State of Minnesota, regardless of political persuasion.  Absolutely brilliant!  Additionally, as a crochet designer, I have a natural tendency to be curious and observant about fashion trends, the world around me, and what I hear when I eavesdrop on people.  As I watched our Senate discuss how the foundations of every thing we know as a society are based on heterosexual marriage, and how Minnesota may burst into a ball of flaming gas, should we ever recognize same-sex marriage, the gears were turning.  If this constitutional amendment thing works to get a ridiculous measure passed, maybe it will work for changes that actually MEAN something!

S.F. 1424 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; banning men's pants below the butt."  I mean, really, who ISN'T going to vote green on THAT one!

S.F. 1425 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; banning the simultaneous adornment of leggings and spiked heels in women OR men more than 20 pounds overweight.  'Overweight' as defined in sec.2a, subsection c."  We sure as heck don't want to single anybody out, now do we?

S.F. 1426 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; banning use of a Bluetooth device within 100 feet of some one who DOESN'T give a shit about your stupid conversation."  Another slam dunk.

S.F. 1427 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; recognizing the domestic union between ultra conservatives and their domestic pot bellied pigs."  Politics is all about compromise, right?

S.F. 1428 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; recognizing that crochet is the best damn thing EVER!"

S.F. 1429 - "A bill for an act proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution; banning all amendments to the Minnesota Constitution."

Crochet artists, I give you meaningful and relevant use of constitutional amendments to improve life here in Minnesota.  After all, what else should constitutional amendments be used for?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"We are impressed with your experience and qualifications, but have decided to pursue other candidates."

I navigate away from the usual crochet forums, the free pattern sites, the crafty type tutorials, the multitude of crochet ideas online, just long enough to check my email.  There, in my inbox is a note from a potential employer!

"We are impressed with your experience and qualifications, but have decided to pursue other candidates."

I give a prayer to God for the Sensitive HR Professional who, obviously, spent hours in his or her stuffy office trying to come up with just the right phrase for Lisa.  I imagine him or her with head in hands, furrowed brow, pencil perched behind the ear.  Each time they approach the keyboard with an idea, they realize that it just isn't the right method of delivering the bad news.  How to tell her?  How to tell Lisa that she is so close….she was ALMOST selected, if not for that 'other' person (who will probably show up drunk and high the first day).  Lisa is a straight shooter, intelligent and resilient.  No meaningless profundity for her, just respectfully say it and move on.  She is talented, intelligent, an asset to society – Lisa is a winner.  As a Sensitive HR Professional, your job is simply to let her know that you realize that she is a winner and that you know she will be snatched up by some other, wiser, more important Hiring Manager.  Wait….wait….here it comes!  Yes!  Yes!  Our Sensitive HR Professional starts typing and knows that he or she has hit the mark with the above sentence; they would be correct.  I like it.  I think it is classy – it compliments the rejected party, but quickly lays out the rejection.  I like it.  As it turns out, every one else likes it too because every turn-down letter I receive contains the same sentence.

Another chip at my positive attitude?  Another attack on my naïveté? Absolutely not!  In these troubled times, I will cling to my naïveté much like Linus clings to his blanket.  Even though I KNOW it is naïve, I refuse to accept in my heart what I already know in my head – that people are pretty much turds.  In fact, being the true public servant I am, I have decided to help them climb out of the Pit of Turd-dom by providing some models for future employment rejection statements.  Each sample has a unique flavor.  Sensitive HR Professionals, remember that the key here is tailoring the rejection to the position and the rejected party:

Poetic: "Thou impressed us much and thine heart aches with the misery of these unfortunate proceedings, borne of this sad result, whose roots descend deeper into the soil of the putrid world men have wrought and now must feast upon, as an orphan babe who must feast at the teat of his cruel nurse.  Farewell, oh beautiful candidate!  May fortune find you well and thine heart shall weep for you oft'!"

Political:  "We have thoroughly vetted your application and found your credentials and experience to be admirable, significant, and sincere.  You are a credit to the applicant pool.  Nevertheless, our staff has pondered the greater interests of our country and all possible scenarios have been reviewed and played out by our staff of experts.  It was a difficult decision, one not entered into lightly, a decision that was made after countless hours of review and internal debate.  At this time, we feel that the best path for all concerned is to follow other alternatives and pursue a population more inclined to currently hold the training, expertise, and dedication that is so needed in this position in order to achieve an outcome that will reflect positively for the country and rest of the modern world.  While we understand that this is a negative development for you, we are optimistic that you will rise above this momentary setback and realize the goals, dreams, and standards that we all hold dear.  After all, this is America and no other country provides countless opportunities to each and every one of us, regardless of skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other individual characteristic.  Good luck on your job search."

Pirate:  "Matey, I've a bit of sour rum to share with ye, arggg.  The deck is full of better souls, I'se afeerd, so ye fate is the plank.  Arrgggg."

Descriptive:  "As you entered the grey, cubicle filled chasm for your last interview, a bitter taste of fear in your throat, you heard the sharp clacking of the keyboards, wondering if your next great employment adventure would occur in the colonial blue concrete, fluorescent sun, and soft CPU hum of our headquarters.  It's not."

Maternal:  "Sweetie, I have some great news for you!  You know that job you really didn't want anyway?  The one you regretted applying for and wasting all that nasty time traipsing downtown and sitting through those ridiculous interviews?  Well, guess what!  You don’t have to worry about how you are going to turn down their offer!  Isn't that great!?  You are so beautiful and smart and lucky!"

Dr. Suess:  "Go back to your brickle bush, loser."

Light Hearted: "Ha ha ha ha.  Ahhhhahahah! Ha ha ha!"

Religious:  "We regret to inform you that God has spoken to us and his choirs of holy angels have told us that your immortal soul is not yet ready for employment with our company.  After you cut back on the lying, cheating, and devil worshipping, we welcome you to apply for a position in the mail room.  Sign up here for email updates on new opportunities.  Good luck in your job search."

Rebellious:  "So you think you want to work for 'The Man,' eh?  Well, what has 'The Man' ever given you?  Repression, that's what!  Well, guess what….here is more repression and it is carefully constructed to tear you down and beat you into submission….No job for you!  No work for you!  No food!  No shelter!  No dignity!  Hope this letter finds you well and good luck on your job search."

A note to Sensitive HR Professionals:  These samples are only models on which you can turn for inspiration.  In other words, if I find that any of these samples have been copied, Sensitive HR Professionals, I will sue your ass off for copyright infringement.  After all, times are rough!  Arrrgggg!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the realism/cynicism spectrum

the other day, a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about yarn bombing here in minneapolis.  it was a story about the phenomenon and how the bombers are often art students, organized and seeking to share their vision with the rest of the populace.  my own natural reaction was "can you make any money at it?"  i then continued to expound on how youth, the aristocracy, and the very lucky are the only people able to engage in anything for its own sake, such as art, haute couture, and around the world ballooning.  one can never know what others are thinking, but i am guessing a great many people would label such a comment as "cynical."  au contraire!

true, inquiring about the possible financial gains of yarn bombing instead of the intended message (whatever THAT is) may seem a little crass, but it is not cynical, simply realistic and based in my own reality, which is the only reality i know.  nevertheless,  it got me thinking.  the very next day, i had a similar conversation with an old theatre chum who said she has no idea what she was thinking pursuing a degree in theatre arts.  i think her exact phrase was "ick!  how gay!"  we discussed how our changed/enlightened perspective was not cynicism, but informed realism.

i have noticed in recent times the words "cynicism" and "realism" are often interchanged.  is it a linguistic trend?  further evidence of our society's polarization?  or are those 3rd grade teachers slacking on the dictionary in class?  actually, it is a matter of perspective that shifts with age and experience.  young people (who tend to be stupid at most things) consider everything as either idealist or cynical.  wiser people ("wiser" and "older" being synonymous of course) have learned that everything is not black or white, that some ideals are necessarily rudimentary while others are only as useful as they are flexible.  in other words, we embrace realism.

where are you on the that perspective spectrum?  here are a few questions to help you navigate your self discovery map:

·       i enjoy coming to work each day because:
1.     i feel good about my contribution to society
2.     it is secure, provides benefits, and pays a reasonable wage
3.     every day i am one step closer to retiring and telling all these clowns to jump off a bridge, especially that bitch, Sheila, in H.R.

·       my marriage will last forever because:
1.     my spouse and i are madly in love
2.     my spouse and i make a good team
3.     "forever" is a relative term

·       when i step into the voting booth:
1.     i feel invigorated to be exercising a right secured by the founders of this country
2.     i make my choices based on reasonable expectations i surmise from what  i perceive to be the real person behind the candidate
3.     i pick whatever thieving bastard happens to be at the top of the list so i can get my "I Voted" sticker and enjoy the rest of my paid two hours off work

·       my friendships tend to be:
1.     energetic and fun; i have many people i can count on
2.     categorized into close friends and friendly acquaintances
3.     based on who buys the beer, 'cause you can't trust anybody anyway

·       when i hear the phrase, "you can be whatever you want to be," my reaction is:
1.     absolutely!  all it takes is hard work, a positive attitude, and tenacity
2.     that can be true, but it is not always going to happen
3.     sure, you can be whatever you want to be……on LinkedIn

·       in general, i look at life as:
1.     fruit on a tree that is there for me to take and eat
2.     vegetables in the ground, that must be dug up, sorted, washed, and cooked before they will provide any sustenance
3.     a series of ridiculous questions that i have already wasted 5 minutes of my life on because it is what it is anyway

the results:

if you choice mostly #1, you are having fun.  enjoy it while you can, because a time will come, sooner than you can ever imagine, when you won't BELIEVE you ever were some one who chose mostly #1!

if you chose mostly #2, you are one of those that embrace realism.  aren't those people that chose mostly #1 just the cutest things?!!

if you chose mostly #3, it is amazing that you have even gotten this far in this post.  congrats!  there is help for you yet!  enjoy The Onion and don't take things so seriously.  after all, you can't do anything about it anyway!

Monday, April 18, 2011

crochet, money, and the suspension of disbelief

like other crochet artists, I enjoy the process of creativity.  many of us yarnie types have other interests that reflect our love for transforming an idea into a piece of art, whether tangible or intangible.  in fact, my undergrad is in theatre and i always enjoyed the performing arts in addition to crochet.  the artistic process, regardless of the medium, involves a reciprocal agreement between the artist and the audience; in theatre, the artist asks the audience to suspend their disbelief.  the more i pay attention to my surroundings, however, the more i realize that commerce is hijacking this social contract  and bastardizing the hell out of it.  frankly, i think the world of money-making assumes i am a dork.  well….sure, but being a dork, i am not sure what to think of this.  should i be offended?  should i be amused?  should i be offended AND amused?

the interesting thing about this approach from the world of commerce, is that the world of commerce doesn't seem to think that i will be offended OR amused.  the world of commerce, seems to believe that i won't think anything of it at all, won't even notice,  and makes no effort to be sneaky or even subtle about it (as i certainly would).  the world of commerce seems to think that i am so cynical and tainted by it's previous transgressions, that i do not care about being asked to suspend my disbelief in an absurd manner, even for a dork.  now, i have pretty thick skin and a skeptical streak, so that conclusion is not entirely inaccurate, but i find it a little presumptuous to make a leap as huge as the ones i've encountered recently.

Arby's.  ham and cheese, roast beef, soda, curley fries.  ok.  i pull up in the drive thru and it is the same identical voice repeating the same identical phrase with the same identical cheerful, warm and welcoming vocal pattern every time.  "Welcome to Arby's!  What can I make fresh for you today?"  the first time i didn’t think much of it and thought it was two different employees tag teaming to get my order right.  after a couple of visits when the actual drive thru dude or dudette was obviously not happy to be the Arby's drive-thru dude or dudette offering to make something fresh today, i finally figured out that the same identical voice repeating the same identical phrase with the same identical cheerful, warm and welcoming vocal pattern every time was not a real person at all, but a recording.  i'm a dork, remember, so by definition it takes me a little longer to catch on.  i must say, as i drove off with dinner bag in hand, i felt a little betrayed.  it wasn't two people trying to outperform themselves for me, it was a voice from California and a kid with pants slung below his ass just trying to get me through the damn line.  bummer.

to you, Arby's may not seem a glaring example of exploding suspension of disbelief in the world of commerce.  if this is the case, the evidence you seek is at Bank of America.  just about every financial institution has an automated feature these days.  you can call on the phone, follow instructions presented by a kind voice, push a few buttons on your touchtone phone (or talk to the fake voice, lord help you), and transfer money, find branch locations, hear your balance, etc.  it is accepted that the voice is a recording.  in other words, we have voluntarily suspended our disbelief; we all accept that the voice is not a real person.  we KNOW it is a machine.  we ACCEPT the machine.  we EMBRACE the machine.  and yet, when one calls Bank of America and engages the fake machine voice, one hears an interesting and subtle sound as the fake voice replies to your genuine queries – the gentle tapping of a keyboard, the keys popping lightly up and down as if the fake voice is typing for you, engaging every research tool to answer your question.  remind me again.  who is the dork?  what is the purpose of this?  why must i have theatre to transfer my own money from one account to another?  if i accept this theatre, and suspend my disbelief, why must Bank of America push me one step past our social contract?  are they trying to confuse me?  distract me?  insult me?  give me a subconscious, but blatantly false, sense that my money is being handled by a human being?  perhaps, they are just letting me know that THEY are the ones who control the boundaries of reality where my money is concerned, just like Arby's controls the boundaries of reality over my dinner in a bag.  i guess there isn't that much difference between a kid with pants slung below his ass and Brian Moynihan, except for maybe $9 million and a smug grimace.  jamocha shake, anyone?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

changing diplomacy and crochet

one of the things i admire about crochet (yes, "admire" is the correct word), is its ability to be frankly honest.  this sounds strange, admittedly, but it is a redeeming quality of this particular fiber art.  if i am working on a design and during the course of obtaining that desired outcome make a boo-boo, my project is going to tell me in no uncertain terms that it just isn't going to happen.  a knitted project is one of intricate and complex loops and, if i drop a stitch, the subtle and diplomatic character of knitting will only reveal my mistake many rows later, when it all starts to unravel.  while a fine and beautiful knitted sweater or scarf will try to carry on, will quietly deal with the pain i have inflicted with my needles, a crocheted project will scream at me, "WHOA! wtf is THAT?!  you want a HAT??  HA HA HA!  guess what, dumb ass!  you now have yet another COZY!"  this is why i love crochet.  this is why i admire crochet.  it is this facet of crochet that i have decided to weave into my own life.  join me!

some may call me foolish.  after all, one cannot go around referring to every one else as "dumb ass."  or can we?  as a 44 yr old woman from Minnesota, i propose that a little more "dumb ass" action would make life better for all of us.  think about it.  in your work, your relationships, your daily communication with people you encounter, wouldn't you save yourself and every one else a little more time if you didn't have to diplomatically tell people to knock it off (what ever "it" may be)?  how many times have you had to rephrase a corrective request to make it understandable by the recipient?  each time you repeat your request to the person who is blessed with your wisdom and insight, you have to take one tiny step closer to the "dumb ass" option anyway and, if you are lucky, you will only have to repeat yourself three or four times, all in the name of diplomacy.  when it is all said and done, and a significant chunk of your time is gone forever, the dumb ass will of course be thinking, "why didn't you just say what you mean?!  dumb ass!"

go ahead and laugh.  tell me that i am digging my own grave, that i am burning bridges, that i am sealing my own doom.  guess what?  i am not afraid because i am not alone.  as i wander through society, i notice every day that more and more people have decided to join the revolution -  the cab driver who i cut off on Lake Street, the woman behind me at the check out lane at Lund's as i fished for 38 cents in the bottom of my purse, the dude behind the deli counter who made my sandwich wrong -  we are all joined in our commitment to rendering a sharp spanking on the butt of diplomacy.  think of the strides we could make if Obama and Boehner would abandon the thesaurus and the facial tissue and toss around a few "dumb ass" compliments to each other via CNN!  you may now label me an idealist.

it is true, many believe the niceties matter, but few of us are well versed at using niceties as effective feedback.  the first victory of the revolution will come the day "dumb ass" is categorized as a term of great regard in the niceties manual.  in fact, one should consider it a compliment when referred to with this term of endearment.  after all, if the speaker didn't think so highly of you, didn't value your time, didn't respect you and your need to keep your life on schedule, they wouldn't bother with a term that is truly meant to inspire immediate action.  why, one might even be so bold as to say "dumb ass" instrad of "i love you!"  i, for one, know that the next time i am lucky enough to be called a "dumb ass" i will smile and say, "thank you!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

need your thoughts!

you are smart.  after reading a few of my blog posts, you have easily determined that i am currently a free agent, a bird in the sky, a dandelion in the wind.  in other words, i am not employed full time.  you have also read about my efforts to embrace this "junk drawer" life and piece together income to support my family AND achieve a liveable lifestyle wherein i can actually spend some waking hours with my children.  as a result, i am trying to get creative and i need your opinion.

as you can gather, i enjoy writing, i consider myself pretty good at it, it is something i can do wherever i may be, so i want to explore that avenue.  a few weeks ago i answered an ad for a part time writer who can provide "witty content."  interesting, huh?  what is this opportunity?  worth an email.  i received a response right away, suggesting i take an online test (free of charge) for an Internet Dating Assistant.  apparently, based on my score, i may or may not be invited to manage online dating for busy professionals.  what does this entail?  writing emails "on behalf of" men (sometimes women) who are seeking a date with another party but who are too busy to engage in this part of the online dating process themselves.  my "goal" would be obtaining a meeting with this romantic interest with the busy professional.  at this point, i do not know with any certainty if i would be posing as the busy professional and interacting with the romantic interest or if the material i write would go to the busy professional for review by him/her before it is sent to the romantic interest.  i have considered taking the test, to find out more.

what do you think?  take the poll on my sidebar and let me know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

good nostalgia vs. bad nostalgia

last weekend, my 10-year-old was invited to a birthday party at our local roller rink, the Roller Garden.  having only roller skated once, she was not particularly enthused at the prospect of spending much of the afternoon on her butt, but as a young socialite, she knew that every one was counting on her to attend and transform an otherwise dull birthday into, well, a PARTY.  that DNA must be from her father.  my idea of a party is a G hook, a ball of worsted yarn, and a coupla homemade cosmopolitans.

after we navigated the tiny parking lot, we spoke with the nice lady behind the glass who handed my kid a glow stick and let us in through the heavy locked door.  i was engulfed in dim twinkly colored light, the smell of shoe sanitizer and polyurethane, and a loud but subtle roar of wind as skaters whizzed by me.  orange formica tables, brown plastic chairs gently curved to fit any bruised and tender posterior, indoor/outdoor carpet perfect for walking on with wheeled feet, the pounding beat of music that can't be danced to; a warm tingle washed over me.  i was a fifth grader again.

not many people know this, but i was quite the avid roller skater as a pre-teen.  it isn't that i keep it a secret, it's just that within the normal course of 44 year old conversation, the words "roller" and "skate" rarely arise and the two words together?  never.  at the time, my two best friends and i went almost every Saturday and, while the main goal was watching boys, we actually enjoyed the skating and got pretty good at it.  i remember the rink "guards" who were high school boys from another school who had whistles, lots of hair, and could even skate backwards!  i think the one i had a crush on was named "Tim."  i wonder if "Tim" knows he established a precedent for all the men i have ever loved….

so, the trip to the roller rink got me thinking about nostalgia and how it spans two worlds – one's personal memories and the collective past of our culture.  it is everywhere, including in crochet, which is often incorrectly viewed as an old lady's sport.  furniture, clothing, appliances, movie theatres, toys, cars, whatever, there is a "retro" version which usually costs twice as much as a modern version and twenty times what it would have cost when it was new.  i am just as sucked in by "retro" as the next consumer and, if i could afford it, everything i own would be from some other era.  why is this?  is it because our own presents are so complicated and difficult we want something else?  was our past reality so good that we want it back?  do we have romantic ideas of what we imagine must have been "the good old days" and seek to experience the ones we weren't there for?  whatever the reason, nostalgia is just like everything else – too much of a good thing is not good at ALL.

to illustrate my point, and help you achieve the optimum walk down memory lane, i have compiled a quick sample list of "good" nostalgia versus "bad" nostalgia.  it is my goal to help you find your own personal warm tingle zone and help you avoid the searing pain of bad nostalgia choices.

  1. good song nostalgia – Train In Vain, by the Clash; bad song nostalgia – Ice Ice Baby (or anything else) by Vanilla Ice
  2. good car nostalgia – the New Beetle; bad car nostalgia – the PT Cruiser
  3. good footwear nostalgia – Chuck Talyor sneakers and Vulcans; bad footwear nostalgia – Reebok "Pump" and Moon Boots (at the risk of backlash – Uggs are a close second)
  4. good heartthrob nostalgia – Andy Gibb; bad heartthrob nostalgia – Rex Smith
  5. good drinking nostalgia – Boone's Farm Tickle Pink; bad drinking nostalgia – what you did immediately after drinking Boone's Farm Tickle Pink
  6. good fashion nostalgia – leg warmers; bad fashion nostalgia – leg warmers
  7. good teevee nostalgia – the Monkees; bad teevee nostalgia – the A Team
  8. good hair nostalgia – your feathered bangs; bad hair nostalgia – your mullet
  9. good photo op nostalgia – your babies frolicking with the garden hose in the backyard; bad photo op nostalgia – your ex and you on your first camping trip, young and smiling
  10. bad nostalgia practice – looking beyond the nostalgic moment; good nostalgic practice – taking the nostalgic moment for what it was, not what it could have, or should have become