Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ho Ho Ho! A giveaway - Insanity by Cameron Jace! And a Grand Prize Drawing!

Things have been kind of heavy around here lately, so I want to lighten things up a bit.

My favorite author since discovering the Kindle app on my phone has been Cameron Jace. His deliciously twisted versions of fairy tales and children's characters are wonderfully turned stories that delight and enchant in a wicked, fun way. They're like beach reading - only instead of crappy, formulaic stories, they're light, fun, and keep you enthralled until the big finish.

I mean, look at his bio:

"Wonderlander, Neverlander, Unicorn-chaser, enchanter, musician, survived a coma, & totally awesome. Sometimes I tell stories. Always luv the little monsters      I write young adult paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and science fiction mostly. The Grimm Diaries series is a seven book saga that deals with retellings of fairy tales from a young adult POV - it connects most of the fairy tales together and claims to be the truth about fairy tales.      I live in San Fransisco and seriously think circles are way cooler than triangles."

Does that sound like a guy who writes every day stories? I think not.

He just released a new book called Insanity about Alice (of the Wonderland fame). Yes, we've had some Alice stories before, but this one is different. Just read the synapsis to be sure:

"After accidentally killing everyone in her class, Alice Wonder is now a patient in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. No one doubts her insanity. Only a hookah-smoking professor believes otherwise; that he can prove her sanity by decoding Lewis Carroll’s paintings, photographs, and find Wonderland’s real whereabouts. Professor Caterpillar persuades the asylum that Alice can save lives and catch the wonderland monsters now reincarnated in modern day criminals. In order to do so, Alice leads a double life: an Oxford university student by day, a mad girl in an asylum by night. The line between sanity and insanity thins when she meets Jack Diamond, an arrogant college student who believes that nonsense is an actual science."

Brilliant, right? A different stage in the Alice story, and a fun version of the life that Alice leads. And yes, it is different than Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, I can assure you! Read the Goodreads page if you don't believe me: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18910286-insanity?ac=1 those folks don't lie!

So to celebrate Christmas and my favorite author, I'm starting a giveaway. Anyone who comments below is entered to win a free copy of Insanity, provided graciously by the Author, and I'll use a random number generator to make the winner selection. 

And, you can also get an entry into the grand prize drawing by filling out the info below. The author is giving away a Kindle Fire, more free ebooks, and $10 gift cards from Amazon. How cool is that?

Now to add the legal details: yes, I was asked to do this blog entry and provided with a copy of the ebook to give away, but that in now way had any effect on me, because I already thought Cameron's writing was kickass and would have done one about the release anyway. And I love giving other people's stuff away!

So whether you be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Jedi, Wiccan, something different or none of the above, I'm hoping you enter the Insanity contests and have something merry to celebrate this Christmas! Don't forget, anyone who comments below is entered to win a free copy of Insanity, provided graciously by the Author, and I'll use a random number generator to make the winner selection.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Strong Emotions

I normally follow the rules of academic writing when I write. I don't quote more than a sentence, sometimes two of someone else's source. But this...it *moved* me. I know exactly what this blogger is saying, because I've often thought it myself.

From Momastery.com:
"You just need to hang out at the post office or Twitter for a little while to learn that folks only feel comfortable speaking out when they’re happy or angry. In our culture, anger and happiness are considered strong emotions- solid fortresses from which to come out swinging. Sadness, confusion, and loneliness are seen as weak – houses made of straw – things others might feel uncomfortable witnessing and thus might feel the need to blow down. To fix. And none of us – not one last one of us- wants to be fixed. We just want to be heard. So we hide. We stay quiet about our “weaker” feelings until we’re happy or angry again – at which point we feel safe coming out. This is a shame because the world ends up feeling like it’s made up of nothing but manically angry and happy folks, since they’re the only ones talking.  Since we only share “strong” emotions, the world becomes but a stage – made up of folks offering their most solid, bullet-proof, black and white sound bites instead of real grey people, trudging through- figuring things out slowly. That world gets lonely for a real live grey trudgy person."

Wow. I know the rest of the article goes back to the religious stuff, but what a powerful description of sadness, grieving, and the tough side of our lives as humans. Its often said that those of us who can embrace the "other" emotions along with happy and angry are the "creative" ones. That we are empaths, more in touch with our emotional state and the emotional state of others.

I think I want to challenge that. I think that anyone can get in touch with their emotion. Whether they want to or choose to express them, and whether they choose to express them in a manner similar to ours, is something that they choose, not us. And that's where bewilderment to the emotional condition of others happens. We don't understand their reaction, so we assume that they are hiding and not expressing their emotion properly.

There are shades of gray everywhere. You just have to know where to look for them. (And the answer is NOT in a poorly written, poorly conceived popular book series). 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Conclusion - the Addict and the Allergeniac

taro, looking hopeful
Taro, Looking Hopeful by Taro the Shibu Inu on Flickr

What would I like you to take away from this? There's always HOPE. Even when the situation seems the darkest, there's hope that you can make things happen for yourself, get out of a bad situation, or make a move to value yourself more. You can find resources locally, or internationally via the Internet. You can find connections that can grow into something more on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites.

In the end, sometimes it seems like there's nothing you can do but get out of a situation. It's sad, you're going to grieve for the lost friendship or family relationship, but given the chance to grieve vs. endangering myself, I would rather work my way through the grieving process than spend more time doing damage to myself. I think that's the major thing I have learned over the past years of dealing with trying to figure out what I was allergic to, what I am sensitive to, and what I need to remove from my life in order to make life better.

But at the same time, working to move your outlook over to being positive and keeping your resolve is key. It helps to focus on what you do have, versus what you don't have. Nothing will ever take the place of the original memories in your brain (I am dang happy that I got to do trips to Italy pre-gluten free and China as well!) but the connection will fade (wheat pasta = sick, headache, issues rather than wheat pasta = healthy and happy) so that it can make room for new equations (Schar pasta = healthy and happy). The same thing happens for addicts, from what I'm told, but the original memories make the connection more persistent.

Some days you will fail. Its inevitable. Some days you will want to explode in anger. Some days you will weep in frustration. That is why it is so important to find your people. Your people (friends, family, neighbors, avatars on a screen) can help you get through the bad moments and come out the other side. They can help give you the strength you need in a moment of doubt.

What stunned me the most about learning about addiction and supporting people with addiction is that so many of the issues they face are the same as folks with allergies, yet the addicts and alcoholics have many more resources built up around them that aren't necessarily available for people with allergies, intolerances, and dietary conditions. We need to focus on building up resources so that 20 years from now, the allergeniac diagnosis process includes help from the very start with a built in network of resources and rich knowledge base that doesn't rely on fraud science to help them. Do we need a 12 step program for allergeniacs? Maybe not, but I could easily see a regimen being created to help people get through the beginning of the diagnosis process, and ongoing support for issues along the way.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Part 2 - What Allergeniacs and Alcoholics Can Do (Fix 3 and Fix 4)

I've split this up into two posts because that first one got to be SO long! But I keep telling myself that this grouping of knowledge into one place will help people along the way, so here goes part 2 of part 2 :-)

Fix 3. Working with denial.
Denial can be healthy. It can help people deal with traumatizing information, such as major life changes. But when it starts to drag on beyond a brief step in the grieving process and coping process, then it becomes a problem. If its you that's in denial (I see you, celiac, with the McDonalds bag!), its a process of figuring out what you are afraid of and then seeing if it is really all that bad. For some folks, trying to live life as an allergeniac 10 years ago was horrible. They had to make all their own flours and cook all their own food, and never go to restaurants because no information was available about what was in the food. That's what they remember, and rather than go back to that life, they continue to make themselves sick. Encouragement for them to try it again, that you'll plan the week with them, can do a lot to help them erase that memory and stick with it.

There's also that "seed of denial" I talked about in the column. The recovering addict in the meeting said he woke up every morning and said to himself "I am an alcoholic" to keep that seed locked up tight. For the allergeniac, it might be waking up every morning and telling yourself "I will make good choices today" or "I will eat healthy today". Waking up every morning and giving yourself that resolve, before you make any choices and your willpower used, will help keep you on the right path.

Fix 4. Telling people how you feel OR Stand up for your rights
So here's the most tricky one, and its not the weapon I prefer to use most often myself. As a person who has been chronically ill my entire life, I'm used to working around other people. I'm used to putting their needs first. I'm used to just denying that certain problems exist and that I can work around them to be in the situations that I want to be in. The truth of the matter is that you can't do this to yourself, as it will burn your health to the ground, get you into unhealthy relationships, and make you make decisions that lead down dark paths.

At every meeting I go to for various events for charities, work, etc, I always remind the organizers to think about people with food allergies. Building an event with food as the only reason to get people there is a sucky way to sell something, in my opinion. I've patiently done this over and over again, and eventually, they started to get the message when I wouldn't eat anything other than what I brought. Constant, gentle education is one path to take.

Another path is to give them a firm warning. What they are doing is hurting you, and you can't meet there/meet them/allow them within 1000 feet of your children/etc. Tell them you're leaving the relationship. This is probably the best option because it gives them firm guidelines and puts the onus on them to make the decision. Is it the bar or you that they want more?

The last path is to break out the big guns, especially if you are having trouble at work - make an ADA claim. A lawyer can work with you on this.

Just in case you need the reminder the ADA law says: "Disability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

(1) The phrase physical or mental impairment means --

(i) Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine;

(ii) Any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities;

(iii) The phrase physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, such contagious and noncontagious diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, specific learning disabilities, HIV disease (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic), tuberculosis, drug addiction, and alcoholism;" 

An ADA claim is specifically helpful in cases where you are working and there is a reasonable accommodation that CAN be made but hasn't yet been made. For example, if you have your work meetings in a bar. Can that be moved to the office or a local restaurant? More than likely, yes! Another one: you are being paid and required to attend a lunch meeting with lunch served. Can they get a gluten free meal for you? More than likely, yes! If not, perhaps they could label and/or segregate gluten free foods vs. non-gluten free foods? Again, more than likely, yes! Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself in order to get people to see that you are serious about your health.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Part 2 - What Allergeniacs and Alcoholics Can Do (Fix 1 and Fix 2)

Sorry this got delayed folks, Blogger has been having trouble with my account all weekend and has deleted the draft several times. So in the first part I really talked mostly about the negative sides of living as an alcoholic or allergeniac. But there's hope, even for the most remote folks out there, and it partially has to do with the magic of the Internet.

If you're in any of the situations that I mentioned in part 1, I sympathize, empathize, and am working through the same thing you are. Understand that this isn't just Pollyanna advice for a Disney-fied world, its what I have seen and heard about and/or done myself to get through these situations.

Fix 1. Find your people.
What does this mean? Alcoholics and other addicts have the benefits of a 12 step program of some kind, be it AA, SOS, NA, PA, etc. They have after care options and other support groups.

Allergeniacs are more limited. We have support groups. Depending on the group, though, this can range from serious, discussion groups to party groups that make fun food and try need things all the time. But there's also Meetup for groups of all kinds. Parents of children with peanut allergies? Gluten Free Singles? You name it, its practically available everywhere. But what happens if you live in the middle of nowhere? See 1.5.

1.25. Find your people - Starting your own group!
Yep, that's right. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to just drop the folks that aren't treating you well or relegate them to "Facebook Friend" status until they get their act together. So then the onus is on you to start a group of your own. I've tried it and met some wonderful people, but this does take time, and sometimes money, to get a new group of friends started.

I've also seen some parents have to forbid their kids from going to other houses because they can't trust the parents to not serve their child foods that they are allergic to, or expose them to drugs or alcohol. The transition is much easier when you have replacement places for them to go and people for them to meet.

1.5. Find your people - "Meeting" People Online
What does this mean? There are SO many resources out there for people to do online that it helps make the distance question less of an issue. These are three of the best options for internet based meetings and groups where you can actually SEE people and make a real connection with them.
In the Rooms - virtual support including video meetings, chat rooms, and Facebook-like status pages. Wonderful resource for any type of addict in any location.
Google Hangouts - regular events for allergeniacs and addicts of any kind. Find a community on Google Plus, and watch for announcements. If there isn't one for your allergy, start one! People are amazing at finding these resources when they need to.
Meetup - they also have virtual meetings available on their site. Often these use other tools like Skype or Google Hangouts, but they'll at least post a schedule on there for you.

1.75. Find your people - The Rest of the Internet
There's a lot more internet out there, and not everyone is trying to sell you Rachael Ray's Acai Berry Supplement for $19.95. There are great message boards and chat groups all over the internet. For example, for celiacs and gluten intolerance there are:
Celiac.com - forums and blog. Lots of resources here and places you can ask any question.
Knitting is Gluten Free on Ravelry - wonderfully supportive group of women and men of all ages.
Gluten Free Recipes 24/7 on Facebook - not a lot of chat but a great source of regular inspiration. 'Cause some days all you really need is a good recipe to get through the day.
Gluten Dude - a community of folks rallied around the Gluten Dude. Things can get a little, well, blunt and angry here, but its well worth reading because he's a normal guy who's living with an allergeniac condition that isn't all sunshine and puppies.

Fix 2. Working with a "White Knight" situation
What do I mean by "White Knight"? Your family or friends are used to swooping in, as the hero to "save" you whenever you get into trouble. They're lost when you're not sick, addicted, using, and otherwise freaking miserable.

There's a name for this: codependence. They need to rebuild how your relationship works in a healthy way, because it is not a healthy relationship right now, whether you are an addict, an allergeniac, or psychologically traumatized in some way. There is a great group for this called Co-Dependents Anonymous. Yes, its got the ___ Anonymous name, but its for people who want healthy relationships, not just addicts. Family members and friends of allergeniacs often suffer from the same issues as addicts and in many cases, need their own recovery program to help them deal with a major life change such as a gluten, dairy, or peanut allergy.

As a part of this, sometimes there need to be boundaries set. Often this means cutting off the very people you love, because they will continue to "sneak" the substance into your food OR tell you "It's okay to have one while I'm here". Controlling the situation to help save yourself is key - telling a parent or friend that they can only visit at your house, they will need to be inspected at the door for banned substances (substances of any kind, whether illegal or allergens), and that they will watched at all times can seem hurtful, but it will do one of two things:
1. They'll get their crap together and realize you're serious about living a safe lifestyle from any allergens or substances.
2. They'll stop coming.
If they stop coming, the friendship will naturally recede and if they are family, you might find someone else who can fill their role in a healthy way. Remember: family isn't necessarily blood related. Its whom you value in that way.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Part 1 - What Celiacs and Addicts Have in Common


Yes, I think I made up a word for the title "Allergeniacs" meaning: one who has an allergy/health condition/intolerance of some sort. If you like it/don't like it, comment and I'll try to make up a new one. This is the negative portion, part 1 of 2. If you have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, I urge you to wait to read this until tomorrow, when the positive portion, part 2 of 2 is posted.

I was recently at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, supporting people I know. At this particular meeting, a gentleman was up at the front of the room and talking about his journey from a child, to a teenager, to an adult, to a father and how his alcoholism affected him. What struck me is that I've had and seen many of the same examples in the celiac/gluten allergic/gluten intolerant community and we have a lot more in common than I would bet most people would think. We really should start to band together and support each other!

Here are some of the issues that struck me. I'll probably write more about them again as I encounter them myself:

1. Allergeniacs and Alcoholics are surrounded by danger and temptation. There are liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants, friends houses, and even gas stations with booze available in them. The Allergeniac suffers a similar woe - practically anywhere you step has something associated with food. Even the freaking library often has cookies. The waiting room of the car dealerships often have flavored coffees and cookies or doughnuts that the allergeniac likely can't eat. Both the alcoholic and allergeniac has to remake their life in order to work around these temptations and deal with going to these facilities without the substance.

2. There is a "seed of denial" that exists once you get better. If you are seeing no symptoms of addiction or side effects of your disease/allergen, you begin to have thoughts that say "You'll be fine if you have one drink" or "You'll be fine if you have one slice of pizza". The next day, you have to face yourself in the mirror and if everything goes okay, one drink or one slice becomes 2. 6. 20. And then you wake up and realize that you hate yourself, the world is awful and that the universe hates you. And you need help to get back to even get to "okay" again. Or just as bad, things go okay, but you have this nagging feeling that things aren't right or your health isn't a-ok and you start to think that is reality, that things will never quite be right for you.

3. The paranoia of the situation starts to eat at your soul. For alcoholics, its always wondering - did they get the wrong drink at a restaurant? What if you accidentally drink from the wrong glass? Will my friends accidentally use alcohol in my food? What if my friends accidentally get booze in my drink? For allergeniacs, its always wondering - did they use exactly what they said to make this food? did they change their gloves? what if my friend drops crumbs on my food, can I still eat it? what if that family member didn't believe me about my allergen and snuck some of it into my food? You begin to realize that eating and drinking anything becomes an operation worthy of D-Day, and full scale wars when you start to have multiple intolerances, allergies, and health conditions.

4. When you make this change to not include the substance in your life, the people you know and love place their food and drink above including you. That's right - they get mad at you for your "food issues". They tell you that you don't love them if you don't eat or drink with them. They hold important things like meetings and social hours at places you cannot go.

Both the alcoholic and the allergeniac have the same problem. We can't go there. Then they force us into re-evaluating friendships and relationships and thinking we've lost our sanity for placing health over eating food that makes us sick or drink what destroys lives.

What's sad is that this makes us sad, feel like we're 5 again and not picked for Red Rover, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, because these folks will always value their own happiness over ours. Their booze or their fried tortillas or their cream based soups are more important to them because it triggers a chemical reaction in their brain that they associate with positive feelings, and they have less of a "buzz" when they help others achieve this same chemical reaction and make them feel good.

5. The last issue, and by far the hardest issue, is dealing with people in denial or not willing to accept the situation. Many family members and friends just don't believe that their alcoholic has a problem. Or they think "Their dad was alcoholic, and he was fine". Or they think "they just need to drink less" and everything will be fine.

On the flip side of things, family members and friends treat allergeniacs similarly. Many family members and friends just don't believe that their allergeniac is "really" allergic. They sneak the substance into the allergeniacs food and "test" their allergy. They believe that removing a substance from the allergeniacs diet is a "fad" and a little dairy or gluten won't hurt them. Or they think they are self-diagnosing and they really don't have a problem. Or that maybe if they ate less McDonalds, everything would be fine and no one would have to change how they do things.

Both the alcoholics family and the allergeniacs family are in denial about the major change in the life of their addict/allergeniac. They don't have the mental capacity to sift through the information at their disposal and figure out that this person is really suffering and that the fix is simply to remove the substance from their life. They don't realize that what the addict and the allergeniac needs are the same: support.

Unfortunately, the problem with these issues are that they are ongoing. Family and Friends can be in denial forever - it may never end. And the alcoholic and the allergeniac both have to learn to deal with this, and it again will eat away at their soul - some of these folks will never again be able to enter your life, or you have to put such constraints on them that it makes the relationship strained.

But there is a positive side to this. There are SOME ways to help deal with these situations. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is an artistic workforce being misconstrued as selfish?

This lovely picture of the Louvre's famous lions is brought to you by dynamosquito on Flickr.

Before the thread got shut down on Ravelry for discussing non-knitting or crocheting, there was a fascinating post by Izzie1356 that has had me thinking all day today. We were discussing the Millennial generation and the interesting in knitting, crocheting, and other visual hobbies. One of the things that always comes up is that Millennials are supposed to be lazy, selfish, narcissistic and quite frankly, annoying. Yet no one I know in the age range is THAT bad. In fact, most of the people in my age range seem pretty darn selfless most of the time - they freely give their time, money, and advocacy to causes that they believe in, large and small. 

Back to the post that Izzie1356 made - one of the things that she said was that the view of the "selfish" generation didn't start until after the Baby Boomers. When those Boomers, well, "boomed", the number of people "boomed" and so we lost our need for a solely "technical" labor force and create more "service" and "artistic" driven people. I'm paraphasing along the way because the post was quite long. But the most interesting part of her post was this:

"...since there isn’t much call for art (as a visual something in a museum) it creates a class of individuals that may be very talented artistically, but useless to produce needed products. Not many in our generation would be willing to work in a factory to produce things that others are using.

Having talented people without jobs creates resentment towards those who produce or supply a needed service..."

If I were to explain this to someone small, I'd tell them that this means "The people doing the chores don't like the people who don't do their chores". Yet is that true? I don't know. I think an awful lot of people are being construed as selfish when they think differently, think at a different pace, and think about consumerism, the environment, and their technology in a different way. And the reason I say different is important - no viewpoint is better or worse - we need artists and we need service workers and technical workers - and that the focus should be on working together and not conflicting with one another. 

There was a good example of this the other day that I saw - I'm anonymizing the story because I feel its important to protect people in a fixable situation. I was in a meeting, and a young lady made a suggestion about trying a different format for the meeting, breaking the large group into small groups and having each of them work on the same problem at once. She was scolded by the much older leader of the organization for making the suggestion because the older leader did not believe that they would achieve the same result if they did not all slog through the problem as a part of the large group and that this young lady should "know her place in the meeting". 

She was devastated. I could see in her face how taken aback she was that she was scolded for speaking up and that the message was clear for her to take her seat and not say another thing. And she likely would never have spoken up again. But then some other people in the meeting started to pipe up that she had a good idea. And some other people piped up. Finally, the older leader of the group thought for a second and decided to relent and try her idea. The group was done with their assignment in half the time scheduled for the meeting, so much that they all had the opportunity to report on the results and time to discuss the project as a whole.

At the end of the meeting, when I was in the hallway, I chatted for a bit with the older leader of the meeting and she admitted that she had not thought of what the design of the meeting should be and that she thought the young lady was criticizing her ability to plan a meeting, when in reality, the young lady was trying to practice collaborative design - a bit of artwork meant to help achieve efficiency in the work product. 

What does this mean? It means some of us artists are trying to make it in the corporate world. We're trying to make it work in a world that doesn't think the same way we do and we're trying to provide something of value to the corporate world in the best way that we can. All we need in return are people who are willing to try and meet halfway - hear the thoughts and try out the ones that the older folks think might be valuable. Do I think all my ideas are brilliant? No, but I'm going to try and argue for them as if they are if I come upon resistance because that's what artists do - they defend their artistry, whether it be a stroke of a brush or an elegant new payments system or a nicely formatted report. Are these people selfish because they defend their artistry? I don't think so (well, some are, but most...) In fact, I think most of them are very self-realized because they understand what they want to fight for versus what they don't. Importantly, they are not ALL Millennials. They are of every age range, willing to work together but at the same time, defending what they think is important. That's collaborative design in action, and I hope someday it will be commonplace rather than a nice thing that I see in around half of the people around me. 

So drawing this to a close - why are so many people starting to go back into the visual arts and hand arts? Its because they see more of the stereotypical "older leader" in the workplace than the more open risk takers who are willing to appreciate a bit of new art in the workplace. They are going back to the arts because there's less of a chance that people are going to reject their artistic thinking there (and for the most part, they're right...though I draw the line at vaginal knitting). There's more to art than just "Art" and an artistic workforce needs to put their art and creativity somewhere people will appreciate it, even if it costs more and takes longer and drives them to drink copious amounts of wine.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Deducing a Movie Knit (or Store Knit) for a Hand Knitter

I've been interacting fairly frequently in the "As Seen on TV" forums on Ravelry, especially with so many great movie knits coming out lately, like the one above from Catching Fire (aka Hunger Games #2).

I get asked a lot - what do you do when you want a movie knit (or crochet, or whatnot)?

1. Squee a lot over the AWESOMENESS of it.
2. Start looking for large, high resolution pictures. You want something where you can take it and find the smallest details possible. For example, from the above Pinterest post, I was able to get details like this:

See how you can really see those stitches? You can then tell its a combination of stockinette and rib stitches stretched to a large gauge going in multiple directions, and from the look of things, whip stitched together.

3. Start analyzing. This is where forums and other social media come in. For example, there's now 130+ posts on Osgood on Ravelry's Who Knits discussing "the scarf". Stockinette? 1x1 rib? There's lots of debate. So far, I'm waiting on the yarn to come in so I can start swatching. 

I often post on Facebook, especially if its a movie knit, as the people who have SEEN the movie can see what they can offer. For example, for Katniss' sweater I wasn't entirely sure if its a pullover or a cardigan worn backward.

4. Start looking for the original. Here's where looking for interviews with the costume designers and other movie staff help. In Katniss' case, we looked at a few mentions of knitwear designers for the movie - Maria Dora, Nicholas K, and Alice Lemoine. Eventually, someone found a near copy of the sweater in grey, and that led me to the photo of the exact model from the movie:

Now, this particular sweater is an older model, so it wasn't easy to find, and there's no photos of the back. Often newer pieces will have photos at Getty, Style.com, or blogger fashion sites where you can find MORE detail of the piece. Here we've got to go off of this photo and the photos of Katniss from the movie (often more come out as the movie goes from screen to DVD).

5. Discuss with people online some more. Often things you discussed at first (significant details) will force you to miss looking at something else, like an edge or smaller detail. Keep looking at that pattern. For example, Katniss' sweater is under discussion as to whether its two strands of bulky weight or worsted weight yarn OR a super bulky yarn. Both details have their pluses and minuses.

6. Start looking for suitable yarns. A lot of the time will be taken up here, because you have to make two decisions:
     ----Do you do it in the same color?
     ----Do you make modifications? i.e. do it in the super bulky yarn, or use two yarns to get a tweedy effect?
 From there, you start to make estimates.

7. Look at the forums some more. Often, at this point, people start linking like patterns, or giving structure advice. Compile it into a file and see what you like and decide if you're going to use a pattern or not. If you are going to use a pattern, look for modifications you'll need to make (size, darts, yarn weight, gauge change, etc.). For Katniss' sweater, I'm thinking of doing some colorwork to something like Wenlan Chia's Nimbus Sweater:

See how the lines are the same? The neckline can be altered to fit the Katniss design, and the ribbing can be done separately in the other color. But the important part, the middle, almost mirrors the chevron of black yarn in the middle of the Katniss sweater.

8. Start knitting, or crocheting, or whatever technique you think your project is. This swatching can help you decide if everything's going smashing or if you made a critical error and have to rethink.

In this case, I think I'll keep thinking about it before I start one. It's likely other people will catch "Katniss Sweater Fever" and start posting their ideas.

Eventually, hopefully, come out with something that makes you happy and you are thrilled to have! I know I saw many beautiful Doctor Who scarves as a part of costumes at Chicago TARDIS this past weekend. This sort of cosplay is like play time for adults - fun, innocent, and silly, giving you a visceral connection to other people who enjoy the same fandom you do. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Entitlement and Genealogy Research

© The Sherlock Holmes Museum 

221b Baker Street, London, England  

James Tanner often writes interesting columns, and I think he keeps a very positive spin on things. I imagine him being this inquisitive lawyer, looking to folks like Sherlock Holmes or Clarence Day or Thomas Hobbes for his inspiration in practice.

But today's column really got me thinking about the nature of entitlement in the changing world of genealogy research, especially the last comment that he quoted:

"To be honest, FamilySearch has changed so much that I no longer use it anymore. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Hope you can gain enough new users in your expanded target groups to make up for the ones you’ve lost."

I'm shocked that something like that would come out of any user's mouth when it comes to a site that has done more to help family historians and genealogists around the world with more and more data sources, images, direct access, and FREE services run with a minimum of paid employees and mostly volunteers. Why would you cut yourself off from access to such a wealth of sources?

In this digital age, it is easy to grumble about change - I think Facebook changes their site every week at this point and does *something* to screw it up. But FamilySearch is like an old friend - its never NOT been there when I needed it, its always got something fun and interesting to look into, and its always got something new to teach me. There's so little time it takes to tell someone "Screw you and put the old version back." Poor IT folks get a lot of that attitude, I fear, and its not their fault (in many cases) that someone decided to release some new feature on important software. Stepping back, allowing yourself to breathe and think about the changes isn't always an option, but on a site that I choose to use, like FamilySearch, I relax, I explore, and I play.

I've been doing genealogy since I was 10 years old. There's always things that I'm finding I don't know, or a better way of presenting something I did know on the network of FamilySearch sites.

I understand that sometimes it can be hard, and sometimes frustrating, but being open to change (even if you disagree with it) can unlock a wealth of resources that we are incredibly lucky to have. Instead of taking the time to write such a negative comment, the commenter could have taken the time to do a 5 minute video course and see all the wonderful new features that they have access to and have some FUN! If you allow yourself to pour your energy into positive growth about changes, you will find that change can be incredibly fulfilling and sometimes even exciting. Literally, the whole world opens up to you.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Graciousness and Doctor Who

The lovely Freema Agyeman, aka Martha Jones in Doctor Who, Alesha from Law and Order UK, and Larissa from the Carrie Diaries.

I apologize for not posting for #30daysofthanks the last couple days. I've been at Chicago TARDIS, a Doctor Who convention and Thanksgiving was thrown in the mix.

At Chicago TARDIS, I've been attending a lot of panels and have been disappointed in how many people are set on casting Doctor Who as a racist, sexist show with terrible character development and rampant offensive behavior. My husband and I attended one called "Moffat's Girls" today which quite frankly, turned into a complaint session, not a constructive criticism or discussion about writing and character development in the series.

So the thing that has really struck me is the true graciousness of the people who come up as the icons of Doctor Who. Peter Davison. Sarah Sutton. Terry Malloy. Colin Baker. Nicola Bryant. Freema Agyeman. All of them took photos and signed autographs beyond their allotted hours, and Freema even put up with a ton of questions (way beyond her session time) about the "problems" with her character and was gracious, kind to everyone, and smart in her answers. She's quite funny, something I don't necessarily think gets highlighted very often.

On our way out today, we managed to get into the parking garage elevator with Freema and her agent. I managed to eke out a "hello" and she smiled at me and went back to discussing cereal with her agent (seriously, she loves her cereal!). I was really struck by how nice she is, how gracious she is, and she's rich and famous - at this point, she doesn't have to be, but she's conscientious about herself as a role model and overall luck.

So that's what I've been thankful for the last couple days - even in the face of negativity, the celebrities of the Who world are gracious, kind, and accepting of everyone. Its an attitude I think everyone can happily emulate!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YouTube replaced the underground market

Be forewarned, the Bear and the Hare makes me cry every time I see it.

YouTube has really changed the world. I remember when I was younger the underground market that existed in order to get music from other countries and videos traded on message boards and mixtapes. With YouTube, two clicks later and I've got the UK only John Lewis advertisement with the exclusive Lilly Allen song. Kids these days don't have much resistance or trouble getting just about anything they want these days and I have to wonder if its part of what's behind the change in attitude that they have - they're used to having the world at their fingertips, so they think differently about it than those of us who had to painstakingly search out and create content of our favorite artists if they weren't on the top 40. In fact, in reading the comments on YouTube videos for Lorde, I'm beginning to think that a lot of people don't like her concepts and her music because she's from this new generation that can create an underground vibe and simultaneously be EVERYWHERE.

Generations interacting together = conflict, I guess. In thinking about tomorrow (today's Thanksgiving Eve here in the US), I guess I feel like the Internet should have brought people together because you can find more people everywhere who like and want the same things, whether they be 10 or 100 and located in the back 40 in Arkansas or the uber-hip Tokyo neighborhood Harajuku. And it seems like more people agree with me than don't - check out this quote from Geekscape article "Death of a Local Record Store" in talking about having conversations about great employees with music knowledge and passion:

"As much as we like to say that the internet has brought the world closer together (and I believe that it has in some ways), we’ll never get this kind of true interaction here. Not really. Sure, there are plenty of music websites that sort of do it, but not with personality or, well, ANYthing but clicks and links. All we will truly ever get from a website is a call and response sort of “If…then…” statement."

That's how I feel. Like we're not really interacting with people as well as we could using the Internet and I miss the spontaneous "I threw this tape in the swap package because if you like Sneaker Pimps, you'll probably like Smoke City too". YouTube comes the closest to this idea with its "recommended" section, but if you get a few million people who randomly wander the YouTube, your recommendations will be influenced by screwy stuff. (Ever watch pimple extraction? Strange, gross, yet can't-look-away kind of video that can be strangely satisfying to watch without having to squeeze your own). Facebook helps too because it helps you keep in contact with people, but ... not quite either. I always go back to YouTube. And now that the comments are from real people and not just "Ilikemusic656785", you can find real friends to chat with regularly, and make real interaction happen via Google Hangouts, Skype, and other internet video tools.

Thanks YouTube for changing the music world. Its not perfect, but its way easier to use than the old days!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I want an Osgood Scarf!

I want an Osgood scarf! No, it is NOT the fourth Doctor's scarf. I think she's supposed to be a knitter and made it in homage to the Doctor! Its stockinette, I'm thinking 20-25 stitches in the round, and fringe at the ends.

Something like:


for the striping pattern, maybe 8-10 feet long rather than the 18 feet the 4th Doctor's scarf is?

Most of the time, I'm screaming at Steven Moffat, but today, I thank him for doing an astoundingly amazing job on the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who show.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sometimes thanks are simple

When the world looks like this outside, I'm thankful that my work has a parking garage and I don't have to clean off my car at lunch time or after work gets out! Yea!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Changing your world view (fiberists = makars)

(Isn't this lovely? Photo by Kellie on Flickr)

Karie Bookish wrote a short blog post that a bunch of my knitterly friends are sharing on Facebook about the devaluing of handknits (although, it could really be said for knitting, crocheting, or weaving). She reminded me of a scene at a local craft fair: two hand fiberists (crocheters and knitters, if I recall, this was earlier in November) were literally spying on one another and marking their costs down over and over so that by the end of the fair, both of them were charging $5 for items that were previously marked $30-$40 each.

Yes, I've written about this topic before so I'll cut to the chase - I think the end of the article is the most important: " I’m probably more of an artisan makar. “Makar” is an old Scottish word for “poet” or “bard” – and I think of my knitting designs as a way of telling stories with stitches."

I think this is the difference between complaining and circling inaction - she is actively hoping for better and has changed her view so that she is not just a peon making things for pennies in a factory, she is moving her thoughts into a process that is beautiful and luxurious and of high demand (seriously, take a look at her designer page...as Michael Kors or Georgina Chapman would say, the items look expensive and chic, not arts and crafts projects by any means!)

In moving the description of her work, she is elevating knitting and crocheting from being the work that gets people paid very little when they were poor in the 18th and 19th century into something that takes skill and knowledge and has more of a connection to the work then a mass produced piece. If you ask a knitter or crocheter about a piece, they're likely to start by telling you about the yarn and the fun they had making it (or not), but inevitably, the discussion normally starts to delve into how they made this with their friends over a night of Sherlock Holmes and wine, or that they painstakingly did this under their Ott Lite with over 200 hours of beading and they are SO proud of it (as they should be). The fun is not just in the item for them, its in the process and the story of how it was made. When you have a mass made piece, you don't say "Oh, I got this at Target and it was so much fun to shop for..." and go on and on. You lack that connection to the item.

The problem is, most people don't realize this connection until they have become a knitter, crocheter, or weaver. They don't realize that they've lost this connection to the process of the piece, and therefore, they have no concept of value for it. What can you do to change this? Tell people YOUR story. Tell them about every piece you make and how lovingly you made every stitch in that dishcloth. Tell people how much time and attention that lovely shawl took, about how thrilled you are with the results. Use YOUR voice. Become a makar rather than just a crafter.

On this day, I give thanks that there continue to be people out there who are makars, artisans, and are working to help the world value the skills and knowledge that fiberists and sewers everywhere have acquired. After all, y'all are going to need us after the zombie apocalypse when you need clothes to wear.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chicken is tasty (Guest post by Luke the Labrador) - Gluten Free Chicken Recipes

Hi all! I've come back to write a post about my favorite food, chicken. Concetta (my owner) says I have to make it gluten free, too. I guess I can do that.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course!

Why did the turkey cross the road? The chickens were too busy laying eggs. 

Why did the duck cross the road? It was the chicken's day off. 

ROTFLAO! Silly things, chickens. Yet oh so tasty! So here's a list of my favorite recipes from the last month or so of eating chicken. My humans say they won't eat chicken every night, but I wish they would!

Paleo Pan Fried Chicken - I don't know what Paleo means, but pan frying anything is good. 

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Light and crispy skin that's lovely to bite into

Hobo Chicken - Whatever hobos are, they have great taste in cooking. Foil packets keep the chicken nice and juicy!

Slow Cooker Chicken - baked slow throughout the day, this is great entertainment to watch for me! 

Cornish Hens - these are like mini chickens, kind of like how I'm a mini dog. 

Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes - my owner is Italian, so she makes stuff like this a lot. Simple and easy to chow down!

Cumin Chicken with Black Beans - this reminds me of the burrito bowls at Chipotle, my favorite! 

Kung Pao Chicken and Rosemary Chicken - this article has TWO great chicken recipes. I love the Denver Post! 

We love enchiladas in our house - there's an abundance of great, traditional Mexican restaurants where we live. But this recipe is one that makes a high rotation for being tasty. Authentic Chicken Enchiladas. This one does gluten free well, because it has you make a sauce, rather than the storebought sauces which all contain gluten.

My humans watch a lot of Alton Brown, and two of their favorite recipes have chicken in them: Buffalo Wings and Broiled, Butterflied Chicken.

My owner also loves her Martha Stewart although I think she takes FOREVER to explain something. Get to the chicken already! Herb Roasted Chicken with Vegetables is easy and tasty! 

Another Martha Stewart is Spatchcocked Chicken with Tomatoes. Spatchcocking sound funny! He he. "I'm gonna spatchcock you!" LOL

Martha also does some good things with rubs. Crispy Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes and Paprika Rubbed Chicken with Roasted Garlic is also tasty. My humans like smoked paprika, but sometimes they do it with the hot, Hungarian paprika. Then I have to drink a lot of water!

We watch a lot of Cooks Country and America's Test Kitchen in our house so I think I've had every chicken recipe ever from their show (as long as it was gluten free or fixable to be gluten free). Their website isn't super friendly to use though so its harder to link to their recipes. 

My humans also do this thing call Whole30 a couple times a year. I say, eat like a dog, you'll be fine. But it did inspire them to try some new chicken recipes, like Chicken Rolls with Asparagus, Brined Chicken, and Almond Crusted Chicken Breast.

Now I will stare at you as you cook dinner until you give me some! MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, November 22, 2013

There is a holiday for EVERYTHING now (some funny, some serious)

Did you know yesterday was Alascattalo Day?

Yeah, neither did I. Apparently its an Alaskan thing. A cross between a walrus and a moose is something that's celebrated. Strange. But I guess they'd probably look at Pulaski Day as something very strange in Alaska.
Kazimierz Pułaski.PNG
(That's U.S. Brigadier General Pulaski, by the way)

But some holidays really mean something. Today is Humane Society Anniversary Day. Humane Societies are wonderful things - helping the creatures that get lost in poor decisions, sudden allergies, cruel and inhumane conditions, and the wild creatures that can't survive in the urban environment.
Isn't that a wonderful sight? This picture of the assistance of two pups in the desert was taken by Wonderlane, a flickr user.

So today I thank the people that volunteer, donate and manage the humane societies around the world, for doing such a wonderful service.
Look at that face! Can you imagine taking him home? Photo taken by AScappatura.

Instead of buying a pet, try to find one that needs a home. Donate to your local humane society. This holiday is for real and should be celebrated by everyone in the world. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gift buying

Ah, Andy Williams. This is one of the few Christmas songs I think I could listen to ad nauseam and never get annoyed with it. I remember working on the mall and this was the song that I could hum along with and people would always wish me "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" and I'd smile back and say "Thanks". The holiday season always brought out the worst in people - pushing, shoving, rudeness to the cashiers, and I'd always feel the best approach was the be as nice as possible because they really didn't mean it. Its the Southern hospitality approach, right? Kill 'em with kindness?

People working around me have been in the shopping mode before work, after work, on their breaks. Scouting the Black Friday ads, I listen to the folks around me shopping for people and the most common lament is "Gosh, X person is soooooooo hard to buy for".

If you think about that, it should be turned around. X person is hard to buy for because they have been blessed with everything they need and want already (and blessed can be religious or not, take your own meaning), and its hard to come up with something to gift because they already have their needs met. We live in an unprecedented time in history - more people have full, rich lives than in any other century. Even the people who are poor today have more than poor people in any other time period.

Instead of thinking hard to buy for people are a lament, turn your thinking around to how happy you are to think about them so much this time of year, and the gift buying process will be much more pleasant. And for the people that do this, I thank them today, on behalf of the many cashiers, store clerks, and myself, who will have a much happier time shopping because of it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Google "Search by Image"

This might seem silly to some of you, but today, I am thankful for the Search by Image extension in Google Chrome. Do you know how much money it has saved me over the years? I can't think of a free computer feature that has saved me so much in recent weeks.

For example:

$35.99 on a 1774 survey of the Kanawha Valley. Found free from the Library of Congress with one search.

$74.99 on a 1903 edition of the Times Dispatch from Richmond, VA. Found free from the Library of Congress with one search.

This gorgeous photo is by flickr user sgatto.

$38.99 on an image of Vittorio Veneto, Italy. Found an equivalent, modern image on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

And that was just in one day! And if I forget where I downloaded something from, I can go to images.google.com and upload it, and Google will find the image and help me track it down.

Isn't that just freaking brilliant? They are doing a great job of helping make the world's photos more accessible to the every day person and making it infinitely easier to find ways to enhance my family tree with more video, photos, and documents than ever before.

Thanks Google!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A dark place

Yes, readers, even I am not a boundless end of optimism. But I keep on keeping on, and eventually something comes to me. I've been doing a lot of thinking about life in general (thank you, therapist) and I've realized that sometimes it takes 3-4 days for my brain to really work through something especially when I've been wounded badly by something that was uncovered.

To many people, that would be the end. The loss and despair they feel would drown them in a sea so painful they could never get out of it and contemplate suicide* or other ways of ending it (perma-medication of the prescription or illegal sort) or, if you believe Supernatural (tv), find a super specialized angel to blow you to smithereens. But where I've realized my strength is that my brain needs to work its way through the bits and pieces....but it always comes out of it.

Hope is what keeps us going on the journey, and hope is something that we need to find in order to keep moving forward. Elton John once said that "Love lifts us up where we belong" except that's not exactly it - love provides a shelter and a trampoline to bounce us back up where we can hope for the future and make life better, no matter what the circumstances.

So with that, my thanks today is that my brain can stumble through these realizations, and that I can keep moving forward, and that I have my love and my hope to keep going.

*If you are in a place like this, don't let your journey end. In the US, call 1-800-273-8255 and get through it. Because your journey should continue to find your hope and healing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Writing can be done by anyone.

Since I've started writing more again, I've been getting a lot of personal emails from friends and friends of friends who say they admire what I write but could never do it themselves. It astounds me that the attitude of so many is that they just "can't" do something without trying.

Here's a shocker for you: I'm not a Pulitzer prize winner. I don't write professionally. 80% of the regular readers are here for the knitting and crocheting patterns, not for the writing.

Heck, by the reader numbers, I doubt most people even see a lot of the columns I write. But I think that its important to keep writing as often as I can and when I feel I have something to say. Why? Because of things like this. I doubt this poor child thought that her diary was anything other than a outlet for her frustrations and dreams in the time she wrote it, and now its a historical gem, teaching people about child labor in the factories. Or this. Or this. Or this.

It was just their life. Not prize winning literature, not the best writing ever, just...life.

When I think about today, so many things are fleeting. Technology is changing life faster than anyone could have imagined years ago. Just last week we were saying how no one will have seen a phone with a cord on it anymore, as cordless phones (if one still has a landline) and mobile phones are status quo now just about everywhere. The joys of being able to stretch the long cord into a bathroom, closet, or nook to get some privacy are something that children today will not feel. Even an elegantly worded letter has went from paper to fax to email to 140 character tweets. Its hard to wax poetic about a bundle of tweets, but hey, I'm old fashioned.

My point? Just write and share your experience with the world. It doesn't matter what your viewpoint, your IQ, your writing ability, or your writing experience is. Just start somewhere, and do it regularly. Many authors participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) in November because it forces them into a daily spout of creativity and the goal is to have a novel finished in exactly one month. It may sound daunting but I know many people who start there or go participate in it to give them a firm deadline to force the creativity out of their head.

Today I give thanks for the ability to share my experience with the world, no matter how few people read it. The important thing is that I did it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Penny, Heidi, Angel, and other dogs we've lost

I saw this image today on Tumblr, and it reminded me of my dear sweet Penny. Penny loved bubbles and we could blow them for hours at her, jumping up and down with the joy of a young puppy no matter how old she was.  She was one of those dogs that was one in a million, where she was kind, generous with her time and her affection, and always seemed to live each day profoundly grateful that she had such a loving home.

Her sister Heidi, on the other hand, is best represented by this photo. Very intense, very observant, and always interested in something. Heidi had an obsession with eating bumblebees and very small insects like flies and spiders. She was always the epitome of the "fire dog" - strong, focused, and aloof. And yet, she had her own soft side, she loved to sit with you, she loved to warm herself under the covers and she loved to sit in the sun, soaking up what Minnesota heat she could.

Angel, on the other hand, was not my dog, but felt like part of the family. She was exuberance personified - fun loving, affectionate and wanting to play ALL the time. Every time I saw her it felt like she was very happy, and she indulgently put up with whatever her humans demanded, including dress up (here she's wearing a favorite bandanna). Her joy spread throughout my husband's family.

Bat Bat and Cocoa were Pekingese that were my mother's when I was young. I don't remember much of them, but I remember their fondness for mischief, long naps, and letting me pet them even though I was probably too rough on them as a young child.

On this day, I would like to give thanks for those fleeting moments that stay with one for a lifetime when one allows the companionship of a pet of any kind into your life. They have such an impact on your life that you hardly realize it while its happening. With my dog companions over time I have learned patience, enjoyment of the simple things in life, and to be calm even in crisis. They have also taught me how to enjoy joy and fun, and when to display restraint even when something doesn't particularly feel good.

Is there a dog or cat that you miss?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanking Friends and Family

There are a lot of stereotypical posts about how people love their friends and family. Sorry folks, I'm going to add to the pile! :-) Without the support network that I have of friends, family, virtual, live, close, remote, and everything in between, I doubt I would be here today. And I've ever sought out new and interesting people to add to my experiences and expand my worldview. They are people I've never met in real life to people I can't live a day without. Rather than try to do each of them justice, I thought it would be better to let them tell their story. Across my social media presence - Twitter, Facebook, Ravelry, LinkedIn, Email, Blogs, YouTube - I asked them to tell me what they were thankful for. Blessings run the gamut from the serious (safety from violence) to the silly (eating overcooked veggies - Jenna, I have got to have you watch more Alton Brown!) and everything in between.

I've removed their last names (and tried to translate where necessary) - so really, they could be anyone - your friend, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you. If you get a chance this weekend, ask the people around you: "What are you thankful for?"

MaryJane "I'm thankful for being able to work at home and make an income from something I absolutely love to do - crochet! I give God all the credit for my ability to be able to do this."

Kate "I have been thankful this month for the nice people at the TSA. They do so much work and a few bad ones give them all a bad wrap. And then they get shot for their effort out in LA. I've been trying to thank each one for doing such thankless work."

Nina "Estoy agradecido por la creatividad y Ravelry!"
(I am grateful for creativity and Ravelry!)

Aadi "I am thankful for good beer, Chicago deep dish, and good company. Its a blessing to be back home!"

Joanna "Hmm...I'm thankful that the holidays are starting and that I can go and see my family!"

Silvana "Eu agradeço a Deus que eu possa ganhar a vida fazendo tricô e crochê."
(I praise God that I can make a living knitting and crocheting)

Cleo "I am thankful for Kickstarter giving me something to look forward to in my inbox every week instead of just spam!"
(Side note: I just got my alpaca from a Kickstarter investment. That totally makes me thankful for them!)

Hellen "Hmm...I am thankful I got my computer updated and my Mac updated and everything's all patched up and works! So much effort..."

David "Friends and family to keep me warm on these cold, wintery days."

John "I like that one, David. I am especially happy to have Facebook and Google Hangouts to reach the family back in Italy."

Ruth מאז דוד הוא עכשיו בצבא, אני מודה שאין אלימות ושהוא ייעשה עם השירות שלו בשנה הבאה.
(With David in the military, I am thankful that there is no violence and that he will be done with his service next year.)

Tuuvi "I am happy in the digital world that I am still able to be young at heart and play games, listen to music, and chat with people from all over the world."

Leesa "I'm thankful for Matthew!!! He does more for me than any other person I know! He is what makes want to be more!"

Naomi "Sono grato che Dio provvede per me, e che i miei amici e parenti sono vivi."
(I am thankful God provides for the life of myself and my family)

Valerie "I am thankful for my friends who share their lives with me."

Ruthie "I am Thankful for my children and grandchildren! For my family and friends! Most of all for our Millitary for all of their hard work protecting us all. Thank you and God Bless Everyone!"

Tyee "I'm thankful to wake up everyday and be alive"

Yoshi "私は人生のために感謝しています"
(I am thankful for life)

Wanda "Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and all my FB friends and relatives. And my husband without him my life would have no meaning."

Maliann "Ben dünyanın yüz her gün benimle olmak benim hayatımın aşkı için teşekkür ediyorum."
(I am thankful for the love of my life being with me every day to face the world.)

Dana "I am thankful to be given another day to spend with my family and friends."

Marie "Jag älskar Skype så att jag kan vara tacksam för familj och vänner över hela världen."
(umm..if I remember enough Swedish I think this says she's thankful for Skype (or is it Norwegian?))

Beverly "I'm thankful for my husband, daughter, and friends…and thankful for fairly good health."

Hilde "Jeg elsker positive tanker som kommer fra denne amerikanske tradisjonen med Thanksgiving!"
(I love the happy/positive thoughts that come from American Thanksgiving traditions!)

Mardee "I am thankful for friends/fellow bloggers who post gluten-free Italian recipes!"

Acela "Agradeço a Deus por meus amigos e familiares todos os dias!"
(I thank god for my friends and family every day)

Romeo "I am grateful my wonderful wife Samantha puts up with me every day."

Marinda "Thank you for thinking of this! I thank Mother Earth for inspiring us with beauty."

Anna "I am thankful for cheese, which makes any of my mother's overcooked vegetables palatable"
(Side note: Jenna...I will follow up on this one!)

Laura "Along Amy's line of thought, I am thankful for Glutino! I don't eat much processed food anymore, but sometimes a girl just needs a cookie."

Barb "I am thankful I don't have any food allergies like you and Laura!"

Jackie: "Я рад, что мы переехали в большие города, где легко, чтобы получить одежду, продукты питания и лекарства."
(It makes me happy that we moved to a large city where we can get clothes, food, and medicine)

Jose "I'm grateful I get to stay in the US a little longer with my beautiful wife and children."

Natalia "Sono grato che ho finito il mio maglione!"
(I am grateful I finished my sweater!) (side note: she's been working on the same sweater for two years...)

Katie "I bless God for Alton Brown, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray, who improved my cooking over the past year"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On the image of poor and black people

First off, I'm going to start this out by saying I'm not African American, black, brown, or any minority. But I do have a lot of friend who are the colors of the rainbow - African, African American, Asian, Asian American, Indian, Indian American, Native American, European, Southern and Northern Italian, Liberian, Lithuanian, Russian, Caribbean,  and all sorts of beautiful combinations in between. I have friends and family that live all over the world, including Turkey, China, England, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, South Africa, Egypt, Chile, Peru, and more. You can feel free to tune out now if that bothers you that I'm not one of those folks writing about this piece.

Talking Points Memos often get passed around my friends and I noted with interest that amongst my friends on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, one particular article was getting a lot of discussion. "Why Do Poor People 'Waste' Money On Luxury Goods?"

I read the article. Its brilliant. It describes, in a nutshell, everything that is wrong with people today, even in a society that claims everyone is equal. This passage is particularly poignant for me:

"...There is empirical evidence that women and people of color are judged by appearances differently and more harshly than are white men. What is remarkable is that these gatekeepers told me the story. They wanted me to know how I had properly signaled that I was not a typical black or a typical woman, two identities that in combination are almost always conflated with being poor..."

Yes. This has happened to me more than half a dozen times myself. I've gotten second interviews because people thought I expressed myself so intelligently and managed to dress well, act at a higher class than I was, even when my husband and I were eating ramen noodles and PB&J every night. Honestly, I still do it, trying to find ways to fit in yet another item that is typically bought by people that are in a higher income level than my own because I know if I can play at being one of those higher income folks, one of them is more likely to bring me up with them, leading to a point where things are going to be more affordable.

A man can come into work in jeans and flip flops and not get told their attire is wrong nor get moved into the "not promotable group". A woman wears a skirt too short, happens to show a bit too much of their cleavage, wears the wrong fragrance, and poof! the impression of them is changed forever and they get moved to the "non-trustable" pile as they aren't showing that they are part of the club.

But the thing is that the article assumes that people are buying these things at full retail price (or even on sale). The thing is, I don't know many people who actually buy 100% of these items. Purses can be rented. Clothes can be rented. Outlet stores help with buying classics like suits, button downs, and classic accessories. Borrowed Clothes, Gwynnie Bee, and other "Netflix" services of fashion make it possible to borrow clothes, try them out, and return them frequently. BaubleBar makes jewelry affordable. ShoeDazzle makes knockoffs of the runway shoes within the realm of affordability. Zara, Charming Charlie, Bare Minerals, Julep, H&M, and others make jewelry, makeup, and accessories that help you look like you're in better financial shape than you are. Cricket, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and others are helping folks acquire tech gadgets with affordable monthly price tags. Heck, you can even get an iPad for buying satellite tv now! As long as you're up to date on what to say the labels actually are (and not mention where you got them), you can get away with a lot...

You really can't assume anymore that people are buying these things full prices at the expense of food, shelter, and power unless you physically see them do it, and then you really don't know if that woman worked an extra job, saved for two years, or got a surprise inheritance and decided to make an investment in making their life better. A good Coach, Kate Spade, or Louis can last for ten+ years with good care being taken of it.

So what am I grateful for today? That there are so many services, stores, websites, and borrowing rings now helping equalize the "luxury goods divide" and making it impossible to tell the lifestyle of anyone. You can dress any way you want within reason for most middle class people, and even if these services are a splurge for someone truly poor, its better to lay out $39.95 (an electric bill) than $3,995 (six months income) for an investment. Maybe this sounds completely shallow, but people continue to make judgments of women by how they look, so you have to fight with every tool in your toolbox to make mobility happen.

[Side note: I really am rooting for anyone who is poor. Truly. It is difficult in today's day and age to pull yourself up and out of the many financial holes that develop over life than I think it was for our grandparents and great-grandparents. This column was written 11/10/13 at 2:00 pm.]