Knitting for Dummies, by Pam Allen, Tracy Barr, and Shannon Okey, is my lifeline! It breaks down knitting to its simplest - keeping me out of trouble when that project has presented a new challenge. It is also the perfect accompaniment and teacher in learning new skills and tricks of the trade. What would I do without it? While not every problem in life or in parenting is as easily solved as the challenges we face in knitting, through this craft, I have managed to learn a lot about myself as a human being and as a parent. I hope I can share these experiences with you, and in turn, we can spend some time together learning from each other...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring's Sprung

If we go by what has happened historically, it feels as if spring in Cincinnati is practically non-existent;  we go from the cold of winter to the heat of summer with a day or two of spring in between.  Trees do go into full bloom and all, but temperature-wise, things just don’t compute in these logical brains of ours.  At least around me, it feels as if we have all lowered our expectations around spring, hope to see spring, or even begin to remember what the season would/should feel like.  Ironically, this year, it feels as if spring has finally come to us (or sprung, if you’ll allow me) with the beautiful blooms, the crisp cool weather, and some of those showers that bring flowers.  We are waking up to the birds chirping, and it finally feels like spring… you know, it feels like summer is trying to make its way but continues to play tug of war with winter.  Spring has finally lasted more than just a couple of days, but many of us still don’t seem to understand that this is spring.

But we are not all unappreciative of the beauty this spring has brought.  A couple of weeks back, I was reading my Facebook posts and I caught one from my beautiful friend, Rebeca, commenting on a series of conversations she had had with her son, Marcus, over the period of a week.  The post read, “Marcus and I have studied the subject during the drive to school for a whole week and have decided that the best adjective to describe a cherry tree, in a perfect bloom, is ‘frothy.’”  I loved everything about that post.  I imagined the conversation between the two – having witnessed their interactions often – and the tone of it.  I imagined their agreement and their awe-inspiring realization that “frothy” was indeed the perfect adjective for a cherry tree in full bloom.  The epitome of spring.  I loved everything about that interaction and I loved that post.

With this spring so many things have come to bloom!

Through this blog, I have shared the beauty and the challenges of raising a child – my child – in this world.  There have been many highs and lows.  I have always been so proud of him and love him to the moon and back.  And… we still struggle.  (Isn’t that the human condition?)  This month, with spring, came a bit of a change.  Jon and I went back to monitoring P’s work a little more, but with a little more leeway to allow him space and time to grow, or as his teachers and counselors put it, “allow him the opportunity to develop ownership of the process.”  (I think I’m paraphrasing that statement.)  Pablo seems to be doing better with school and I hope that in this great arc of being a teenager,  this is not a blip on the radar, but a gradual maturing of my son into his own space.

Speaking of maturing, with this spring, my son also experienced his first shave, the continued interest in friends, “hanging out”, and a spring dance with tons of dancing, screaming, and joy!  Yikes.  What is happening?  I’m happy for him and this new world he faces… and still go back to the baby I cradled - missing him sometimes.

The ocean floor is vast...

On a personal note, this spring, I started my new professional adventure:  a new job with an amazing company.   Every day, I am reminded that I made the right move leaving the comfort of my old job to explore the world with this new one.  Many years ago, a coach of mine shared the allegory of a little crustacean which had outgrown its shell at the bottom of the ocean floor and had to make a decision.  “Do I stay here and die from outgrowing the space or do I risk my life to crawl out – unprotected – on the bottom of this ocean floor to find a new, bigger home?”  If nature kicks in, the crustacean leaves its shell and risks its life for the sake of survival.  Can you imagine how scary it is to know that at any point in time, you can be “taken out” by a higher life in the ocean?  Leaving a company for which you have worked for 18 years, and going to a new one is pretty much like walking that ocean floor unprotected.  I know that I have found a new home, but until I have gotten my sea legs (still continuing with this ocean theme), I will continue to feel … well… unprotected.  And that’s okay, I think.

Our world around us continues to grow and change.  We all continue to change.

Bloomin’ Trails

Last fall, my sister and I were walking the streets of NYC.  On a window display in Rockefeller Center, I saw a very simple ribbed cowl.  I have no idea what it was about that cowl that caught my eye.  Because spring is so elusive, fall is probably my favorite season, and that cowl said, “fall”!  However, it took me all winter to imagine what that cowl really meant to me.  In an exaggerated fashion, I wanted something big and bulky, cozy, and inspiring.  So, I went to work with one of my favorite yarns:  Burly Spun.  I went to my most favorite thing to do in knitting:  cables.  And I designed an enormous rectangle with braids and cables that in the end would zip up (with a double-ended zipper).

The cable pattern is a simple intertwine of my relationships with all my loved ones overlapping and crossing back and forth.   The braids on either side frame the journey and feel like the guardrails of life.  Even in the field, we have time and space to play, but we are all moving toward something, a future.

I remember the day I finished the work, but most importantly, the day that the knitted piece came back from the tailor – I asked my tailor to put in the zipper for me.  When I put it on, I felt spring had sprung.  It felt as if a series of experiences had bloomed in the “space” of the cowl. 

I realize that there have been many sad things happening around us.  I leave you with my wish that each of us uses this time of change for renewal, to celebrate the good things that have happened, and to hope for better things yet to come.  Spring has sprung and I hope our hearts do, too.  :)e-

A big thank you to Demirus who so elegantly and naturally played with the ideas we presented and with such fun made this photo shoot and the "product" such a beauty.  :)e-

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tucked Away

Could I have found a little part of myself tucked away for many years inside my own self?  Today?  In my forty-somethings?

How did I find it?  What opened up to allow me to see it?  And if I found that little part of my true self, could I have more waiting to be discovered?

For Christians around the world, this week is very special.  This Holy Week is the conclusion of Lent, a period of preparation through prayer, penance, and repentance to receive the Jesus' resurrection and ascension to Heaven.  To the surprise of many, I still consider myself to be a Catholic man - not because I was raised Catholic, but because I have chosen (and choose every day) to be Catholic.  Questions are often thrown at me about how I can reconcile being Catholic when the Catholic church thinks less of me than It thinks of others, doesn't recognize my family, or continues to tout that this man that God made (i.e., I) is a matter of choice not a matter of being.  But I don't see any of it that way.  More importantly, I don't feel any of it that way, and at the end of the day, that is the funny thing about religion:  it's not just about intellect, but it is about feeling.  I like the ritual.  I grew up with Jesuit priests in high school and college.  My family attends Mass with Jesuits.  And to me, these men have been my guides, my teachers, my dads, my leaders, my family.  They remind me of the reason we exist and coexist.  They inspire me.  And they remind me of that personal and so intimate relationship I have with God.  It is my relationship with God - no one else's.  Interestingly, on this Easter Sunday, I was once again reminded of why I am a Catholic man and why my spirit is inspired when I share in Mass with others.

I also consider myself to be a yogi, a practitioner of yoga.  (I just clarify that a yogi is simply a practitioner, not a guru.)  In yoga, I have found peace, quiet, the ability to hear myself, and to little-by-little shed the noise that has covered up my true self.  I have shared some stories with you about how I found the ability to breathe through yoga.  In studying philosophy, anatomy, and asanas (the poses) in the yoga teacher training, I have discovered that there are two major components to most practices:  one physical which draws most of us in, and one spiritual which keeps us "in" if we allow it.  For me and still to this day, both of these components - the spiritual and the physical - tend to get all convoluted.  In the asana practice, when all seems so tough, my mind goes ablaze.  I can't think.  Meditation is a distant lover.  And breathing - the core of asana practice - often seems impossible.  Ugh.  But there is such emotional joy in all of that at the same time.  It's oxymoronic, I know.  On the other hand, when I meditate, my body doesn't seem to be able to hold me up.  It aches.  It is impatient.  It bothers.  All I can think of is what one of my teachers often says, "we practice asanas to build the body strong so that we can meditate."  Right.  But there is such beauty in quieting the mind.  There is such a wonderful challenge in stilling one's self.  There is such a light.  There is such hope.

Funnily, the groove I find in my yoga meditation, or in prayer at church is the same groove I find when I knit.  In both yoga and in Mass, we chant as a way to open up and allow the greater universe to bathe us with its wisdom.  When I knit, every stitch feels like part of a chant.  There, I find peace, too.


My mother who just recently turned 85 and thinks she is in her 50s (bless her heart) quoted a friend of ours the other day describing me as having an inner peace.  It is the second time I have heard this compliment (thank you to both parties who shared!).  And I am still confused.  LOL!  Me?  Inner peace?  ...seriously?!

I look at my friends' posts on Facebook - especially those with children my son's age, and I know that we all have our ups and downs and sometimes we seem to live more in our downs than our ups... Even those friends without children have tough issues in their lives and those are no less than mine.  I feel lost half of the time I am parenting. (Where is that darn parenting workbook?!  Someone publish it soon!)  I feel confused most of the time when I am trying to figure out what is next for myself and my loved ones.  I yearn for some greater power to guide me and show me the path.  In that moment, I don't feel special, and I don't feel that inner peace... well, at least not all the time.

I do know one thing, however, I feel that I know myself better today than I did a few months ago - let alone a few years or decades ago.  For that, I am grateful (and a little scared).

Throughout March, I have been thinking quite a bit about how I got here.  The "westerner" side of my brain wants to know so that my brain can harness the pattern and reapply it.  (It's so corporate, ain't it?)  My feeler side which leans more toward the eastern practices reminds me to "let it be".  Live it.  The feeler side is winning... but I also keep thinking about Yoga and Catholicism trying to pinpoint who got me here, and I truly cannot say that it is one versus the other.

In this last year, my son discovered he liked the Rasta colors (yellow, green, and red).  Interestingly, he admits that he knows very little about the Rastafari movement.  Well... if my son is going to sport those colors, I knew I needed to inform myself about what this was.  Come to find out, it is no different than many of the things we try to do:  research, study, learn and grow.  Rastas do not consider Rastafari to be a religion but an ideology and a way of life which similar to what I am doing with yoga, religion, and my education is a fabric with a number of threads and/or stitches.  The Rastafari movement takes from Christianity and Judaism, believing in many of the same ideas most of us were taught and feeling much of the same feelings we do as we observe or follow whatever religion we have chosen.

Pa'l nene mío...

The pattern for this hat was envisioned and shared with you a couple of years back modeled by my friend Meg.  The pattern's name is April.  When I created it, I wanted something airy and light for the celebration of spring.  With a 13-year-old around me, I wanted to knit something for him that he'd wear.  (Yes, I have done a few pieces for him, but many are worn once only to be stashed away.)  So, with his permission and input, I thought, this hat pattern would be good as it gives me some flexibility with the color and it looks like a crocheted piece. 

I basically divided the body of the piece by three to accommodate the three Rasta colors and bordered the hat in black to ground it.

As many good sons and daughters respond, P tells me he liked it.  Sadly, like many of the other pieces I have knitted for him, this one also went by the wayside.  Live and learn, eh?

Nonetheless, knitting this hat and researching Rastafari has opened up my spirit, my mind, and my future to inquire more about the world that seems to be raising me - even today.  ;)e-

A tender thank you to my dear friend Miguel.  Miguel and I grew up in the same town in Puerto Rico:  Guaynabo.  We grew up there at the same time since we are the same age.  But sadly, we did not meet until many years later, here in Cincinnati in the late 2000s.  I admire Miguel for the courage he exhibits every day in facing both work and life in a manner that is joyous and  loving to us all.  Thank you for sharing of yourself with me to model this hat, amor.  ;)e-

Thursday, February 28, 2013

O (deep breath) M (deeper breath) G (and exhale)!

O... M... G...

 ¡Hola!  ;)  You know... I really like publishing posts on a monthly basis as it gives me the opportunity for reflection and - in a non-attached way - look at my reactions to different events throughout a period of time as well as the lessons I have learned from them.  And boy... What a month this has been!

 Okay, then, if I was once worried about "Roberta"...

At the beginning of the month, and as a follow up to my last post, I published the knitting pattern to "Ola", the hat my dear friend Mark modeled for me in Puerto Rico.  The pattern was published in our online knitting community: Ravelry.  Since the pattern had been written so long ago, the model in the pattern itself was my son, P, who in his goofy surfer way agreed to pose for a couple of pictures about four years ago.  But I was so proud of the shots with which we ended up after our visit to PR, I decided to use one of Mark's shots as the "cover photo" for the pattern.  OMG!  What a reaction that caused in our knitting community!  I am not quite clear what happened, but all of a sudden, the pattern went into the "What's Hot" list and people started talking about... the picture... and hardly the pattern, sadly.  Many folks took a chance to read the blog, understand the story, and make some very supportive comments.  A few others - and they were certainly the minority - decided to criticize, complain, and berate without ever getting to know me, hear the story, or learn anything about what I have been doing with my knitting and the blog over the last couple of years.

I discovered - once again - that no matter how many beautiful (and many oh-so-funny) things were shared with me, the mean ones really got to me. If I was once worried about "Roberta", I was now living the problem magnified.  It felt awful every time I opened my email because I didn't know what to expect.  And I kept feeling bad not only because of what had the possibility to come up in email, but because I was letting the few (and they were very few) comments get to me.  C'mon!  Really?!  Does that ever happen to anyone else other than me?!  Ugh...  But with every email I was about to open, I repeated my mantra, I reminded myself that I had not done anything wrong, and I tried to remember my sister's advice:  "Don't let others' issues veer you away from your own journey."

My "favorite" story came from a woman who claimed I had gotten her in trouble with her school principal for showing a picture of a naked man to her son.  I felt horrible.  She mentioned how she was looking for a hat to make for her son and when she clicked on the pattern, there was my model, "naked".  I felt horrible.  I apologized.  Then, she demanded I took the picture down.  Her sudden change from victim to jailer confused me...  I decided to explore the pattern in the way she described and I realized that she had had to click on the picture more than three times and scroll down before she could have seen the entire picture in front of her son.  (Really, woman, you couldn't have stopped at one, two, or three clicks before scrolling if you were going to be that offended?)  Furthermore, since MY son was the model in the pattern, I was now certain that she NEVER opened the pattern itself.  That's too bad.  Do you think she made it to this blog?  ;)

This experience prompted two sets of questions for me: 

(1)  What's the problem with the implication of nudity?  Certainly, I have yet to show any genitals in any of my pictures.  So, why are some so bent out of shape from seeing nothing?  Aren't we all made the same?  Why are we still carrying these puritanical views from over a century ago?  Gosh, I am working so hard to make my son proud of his body and what the Universe has given him... sometimes, I feel little support on that and feel highly confused by the "Robertas" of the world.  Why is that?

(2)  What's with the hypocrisy (and I realize that this is such a strong word) about sexuality?  If I philosophically followed the nasty comments I received about "nudity", I would be running around magazine stands and TV covering up half of the things my son sees every day.  Why is that okay, but this isn't, Roberta? 

Me?  Nope, I don't need any more...

One of the comments I received this month accused me of being needy for attention.    I am not sure how that came about.  I have surmised since then that the knitter who made this accusation - as some others did as well - thought I was the model, and showing up "my" naked body sent the message that I wanted people to look at me.  To that very long message, I replied, simply, with my own truth.  No, I don't need any more attention from any stranger as I receive enough attention from my son, my partner, and my family and friends.  Back in my twenties and thirties, perhaps my life was about that.  Through a lot of personal work, I have realized that there is a lot of power in getting the right kind of attention, but that right kind comes from the love of those most important to me.


Well, as quickly as the excitement went up, it also died down.  THANK GOD.  I was/am certainly grateful for that, but today, I am also immensely grateful for one more thing.  Through this experience in February, I felt love and support from new friends in my knitting community.  To every beautiful human being who made us all laugh through comments and stories, who stood side-by-side with me or others who expressed their points of view politely and eloquently (in agreement or disagreement), and to the new friends I now have in Ravelry, Facebook, and even in this blog, I humbly say...


As the month moved on, I took this gratitude and deposited into my emotional bank account.  I did not count, however, on what would happen next.  This gratitude grew exponentially with every experience this month.  I could not resist, and at about three points in time throughout the month, this feeling would burst like a balloon.  During those moments, I felt overcome with such amazing gratitude to everyone and everything, and to such a degree that it was as if my chest could not take it.  As overwhelming as it felt, it has also been so very beautiful!  Wow.  

But it was not just the positive things this month that have made me grateful, All those moments that felt "painful" while they were happening also contributed to this awesome feeling of appreciation.  Those moments have shaped and reshaped me throughout the month.  And for the first time, today, I appreciate every single one of them.

February had the same energy and movement as the waves in the hat I presented last month.  It's incredible that the metaphors of the hat played themselves throughout these 28 days with the same rhythm and frequency as in the pattern itself.  I loved spending time with friends during our annual Purification Day party.  It is always fun to see folks for a night of bubbly and crepe tossing hoping for good fortune in this coming year.  I loved spending Valentine's Day with my two favorite men (my son and my partner) at our favorite restaurant.  I loved the new professional relationships I have forged this month.  And I loved the time I spent with Jon - especially during our partner yoga workshop.  It was fun, loving, nurturing. 

On the other side of that coin, this month I also felt with my loved ones... my heart is with my friends struggling with the passing of loved ones - from their four-legged family members to their colleagues to their two-legged and spirited family members.  My heart is still with the moms of two dear friends who are struggling with illness; may they recover so very soon.  And I pray and keep in my yoga practice intentions my friends, other parents just trying to go through every day life just like I am: doing their best to tackle the challenges presented in front of them.  I have some very strong friends, and still I know that we all need each other.  Together, we can make it through.

Sofía de las Castañedas

From Ola, we go to Olé with Sofía de las Castañedas, a sassy capelet.  It somehow belongs in this month's theme.

Last summer, I showed my sister a picture of a very cool capelet thinking she'd say, "I want to knit that", but knowing in my heart that she'd say, "Why don't you knit that for me?"  Mind lost; heart won.  "If you buy the yarn, I'll knit it", I said.  She did.  I did. 

The construction of this capelet is easy since it is knitted sideways as if it were a long scarf.  It has a few increases to account for a wider back, and it has what has to be my most favorite thing to do in knitting:  cables!  Once the tube is long enough, it gets sewn together, stitches are picked on one side (which becomes the top) and a rib is built to finish it off like the top of a sock or a stocking.

The construction took a little longer than I anticipated and the capelet made it to the brother/sister trip to NYC last fall, and to Puerto Rico and back before it made it to its owner.  However, if you think that this made it seem like a chore, I have given you the wrong impression.  It was a pleasure to knit since I LOVE cables!  (Have I said that yet?!)

The thing I like about cables is that they are "roads" intertwined while moving forward.  And this month, I found a lot of those roads intertwined: 
  • in Ravelry with all the comments, the support, and the disagreements,
  • at work with all the different things going on:  projects, new people, new structures, new journeys,
  • at home with the everyday struggles of managing a home, raising a son, and building loving and patient relationships,
  • in my yoga teacher training with my classmates (whom I adore),
  • and in my yoga practice trying to be kind, patient, and loving to myself and the energy around me.
When it came time to find a model for this capelet, I had the perfect person in mind and I was honored that she agreed to do this for me.  Things do happen for a reason, and it took a little longer than I thought not only to finish this piece, but to have the right model with the matching spirit model it for me.

I think this Sofía de las Castañedas belongs with the events of this month for many reasons but the most importantly to me is that my road has crossed and intertwined with so many others.  I cannot express my gratitude for having you read this and hang in there with me.  I am humbled by your care and support and as always look forward to your continued advice.  Talk to me.  ;)e-


My heart goes out to my dear friend, Jenny A., for modeling this piece for me.  Jenny has a wonderful, beautiful spirit, and goes through life with grace and energy no matter what.  I hope you can see all that I see in her in her smile, her poise, and her expression.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

¡Hola, Ola!

 Happy New Year, everyone.  It has been so long since I have posted anything!  Eek!

Where have you been?!

Well, let me tell ya...

My last post was in April, 2011.  Since then, my son graduated sixth grade from his school and transitioned to our local high school - the top in the state (of Ohio)!  (Not that I'm proud or anything!)  Summer of 2011 came and went with some "blah" and some changes in my work life that left me uninspired to knit a lot.  I still knitted, but I struggled with continuing this arc, and worst of all, I kept hearing "Roberta" in the back of my head.  Ugh!

By the end of the summer, I was excited that my son was starting his middle/high school life.  Seventh grade was a rollercoaster for both of us.  It was REALLY tough.  I went through this grade all over... again... and please know that the first time wasn't that great!  In trying to help my son, P, I started losing myself.  I felt bad for him - having to put up with me.  I didn't know how to cope with all of this or help him by providing him direction without being directive... that, in general, is tricky task!  I fell on the only thing I knew... being my dad during his "tough" years.  I felt bad for my son who couldn't receive the better parent in me.  I felt bad for my partner, Jon, who had to witness all of it.  And worst of all, I felt really bad for myself.  I felt bad all the time.  I was angry, frustrated, lost.  I wasn't ashamed of expressing this, but I was not expressing it in the best of manners with anyone.

All along I knew what I had to do to get out of that funk:  find myself again.  Sadly, I could not find the breath to make it happen.  It felt as if I was drowning in the middle of the ocean with no footing, someone was holding their hand over my head, and I could not come up for air.

For the first time in a long time, I took a breath. 

Finally, the first break:  Holidays, 2011.  During our annual visit to see my family, my sister (mil gracias una vez más, amor) dragged me to her yoga studio.  For the first time in a long time, I took a breath.  Jon and I returned home wanting to continue breathing.  I needed to continue breathing so that I could figure out where I was in all of these changes and where and how I could find myself!  This was a change way overdue.  From our own spaces, my sister and I dubbed 2012: The Year of the Yoga... (sounds better in Spanish!  LOL!)  And even though I had asked Santa that previous December for 52 yoga lessons in 2012 (one practice/week), I started going to my local studio three to four times a week.  As wonderful as that sounds, however, it still took time to find that deep breath and to start the journey to find myself.

The second semester of 7th grade kept its first semester's pounding.  I was able to bring my head up to take a breath at least three to four times per week... but I was still drowning.  By the end of the spring, I wanted to deepen my yoga practice even more since I was enjoying what I was learning and I was beginning to breathe.  While slow, yoga was helping.  So I committed to pursuing my studio's Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program - more on this program and my experience in future posts.  Suffice it to say, at this point, I am finding my track again, and I'm back into knitting, and back to this arc!  (Sorry, "Roberta", we'll continue this journey!)

Una ola in the ocean...

In Spanish, we use the word "hola" to mean "hello".  It's our greeting, and if you are in Puerto Rico, the word often has a rhythm or a song to it.  I love using "hola" instead of hello here in the States.  It reminds me of my roots, and because I can "s(w)ing it", it reminds me of home.  ¡Hola!

The hat modeled in this blog is very special to me.  It was one of the first two designs I ever made.  It was imagined during one of my family's movie night visit.  This is when Jon, P, and I go out to the theatre (to see a movie) and make dinner out of pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs, candy, and HUGE soft drinks from the concession stand.  (I often joke that we three guys were left to fend for ourselves and made dinner out of... that stuff! LOL!)  That particular night, we went to see Kung Fu Panda and during the last scene when we think that the sensei is dying, on the edge of his sleeve, I found this wave motif.  Immediately, I was transported to home and specifically to a beach we used to visit in Arecibo, PR:  La Poza.  It was the perfect beach for families.  It has a little pool protected by rocks where the major waves crash and make a spectacle every time the water flies into the sky.  To the right, there is what we often call "the typical beach" - long stretch of sand with water... no rocks... except here, we were forbidden to swim as kids because while beautiful, the undercurrents were dangerous - easily dragging many a healthy swimmer down without issue.

Quickly after the movie, I got to work.  I wanted the hat to be a reflection of the water and the earth in which we played as kids and the same earth that grounds us every day.  I wanted the water to be prominent and serve as a crown.  I also wanted the waves to be on the edge, pressing against it like the many times we as kids pushed our boundaries wanting to go swimming on the "forbidden" side of that beach.  The hat was named "Ola" and it is pronounced in the same way as we say "hola" (since the "h" here is silent).  "Ola" means wave.  And I wanted those waves to come through my knitting needles and into this piece as a reminder of all the wondrous things we experienced as children back at home.

In a Buddhist way, the hat is simple.  It's constructed using fair isle technique in the part where the waves start meeting the earth.  This also serves as an exchange of yarn color and a transition from the water to the earth just like the waves crash onto the beach.  And once you leave the waves, you hit the "knitting highway".  I use my typical reduction method for beanies breaking the hat in segments of ten stitches each and reducing (k2tog/segment, every other row) accordingly.  This allows for a swirl in the crown of the beanie so that it rounds better.

For a few years now, I had been wanting to have this hat modeled right on that same beach which inspired the piece.  I had images in my head of a male model against the rocks, and with the crashing waves in the back.  It took that many years for this vision to take shape, and for that, I am grateful.  Good things come to those who wait and I found the perfect model and the perfect time - both physically and spiritually - to have this happen since over the time that elapsed, I have realized that the meaning of the hat has evolved and grown very much like I feel I have. 

Finding myself...

I have often believed that life is made up of different chapters where each of us is its own protagonist.  Even when these chapters are put together making the story of each of our lives, each chapter is built with its own introduction, rising action, climax, and dénouement or resolution.  These chapters are like waves in the ocean with soft (or wild) rises and falls. 

I feel like over this period of time, a chapter in my life has come to close and another one is opening.  My son and I are embarking in a new relationship.  My partner and I are looking brightly and differently at the future.  None of these things is still easy and take work, but they are different.  They are anew.  I feel like a wave crashed on the beach or against that rock formation, and the ocean is retrieving for a new swell to take its place.  I am so excited for that because each chapter is unique and can bring with it so many great lessons.

Patanjali states that the yoga practice needs to be regular in order for one to gain the most benefits from it.  Even though I didn't see the benefits of my practice right away during those early months in 2011, having stuck with it, I can see the benefits of it every day now.  I am seeing the same thing with so many life experiences:  being partnered, being a dad, a professional, a yoga teacher, a man.  This journey of finding myself is just beginning.  And for that, I'm grateful.  Let's say "hola" together.  ;)e-

A very special "muchas gracias" to our new friend Mark G. who has taken the bull by the horns by moving from Texas to Puerto Rico and is starting a new chapter or "una nueva ola" in his life.  When I mentioned that I had found the perfect model at the perfect time, I wasn't kiddin'.  ;)e-

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Black & White

 Nothing is ever black or white.

At the beginning of my career, I learned about a customer service model which presented three points of view in any conversation:  (1) the way the customer sees the situation, (2) the way you see the same situation, and (3) the way it really is.  Understanding this model is important as it allows us to exercise its point:  bring one and two closer together to arrive at three... the way it is. 

Later on and after teaching this principle for years, I began to manage, and I learned that in managing people, the model still applied.  This time, it was about how a manager's direct reports sees a situation (1), how the manager sees it (2), and the way it really is.  Unlike the customer service scenario, however, I also learned that a manager has more data which oftentimes helps to determine whether or not an employee is meeting expectation, sure.  Nonetheless, the point remains the same:  bring the manager and the employee's points of view closer together to clearly outline the way it really is.  And we do that by ensuring that our employees are clear on expectations and continuously receive feedback to aide their growth.  (Sounds like parenting, eh?)  Bringing one and two closer together gets us to execution.  (And how "managerial" is that?!) 

To date as a manager, I have faced a lot of... interesting... situations with my direct reports, and I have learned a lot from each of them.  As I matured in my career, I started working with a manager who reminded me over and over that nothing was ever black or white, but that the answer always lied somewhere in the gray.  This was not very different than the aforementioned model. But...  it did bring up an interesting paradigm that needs pondering...

Is there anything that is truly black or white?  Is there?  Or are we to always seek all pertinent facts before rendering a decision?  Isn't that what our legal system does/is supposed to do?

As I have shared, I was raised with the values of the Catholic church.  At the core, one can find the ten commandments.  Let's start with one:  Thou shall not kill.  But what if one kills another in self-defense?  Is the issue still black and white or do we understand it and excuse it?  All of a sudden, we have gone from black to... gray? 

Thou shall not steal.  I have yet to hear anyone put Robin Hood down.  (n.b., I am not an advocate for stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  I am just wondering why we hold a different lens to this...) 

And then, there are the Church's "rules" on my sexual orientation.  Does God (the One with whom I grew up and follow today) love me less for living honestly and integrally?  Is my sexual orientation a black and white issue?

On parenting...

Needless to say, the concept of living in the gray is paramount to parenting - especially as these babies of ours get older and older...  P is in the last six months of his 11th year.  This is an important point to make in development as I learned from a teacher of his a while back.  He is already a tween and I am beginning to see signs (both beautiful and tough ones) of what the teenage years will bring.

Earlier this month, we had "issues" with losing something important for school.  P chose to react very "victim-like", and it probably did not help that I was not very sympathetic about it.  Part of me just wanted him to look at the situation logically and make plans for what would happen if we could not find the missing piece:  a memory stick with his work in it.  Unlike other times when he would get stuck on his first reaction, he re-responded quickly to re-do his work.  I was amazed that he could come up with this work so very quickly - for anyone who knows him, this has been uncharacteristic of most of his academic life: working fast and precisely. 

Hmmm... what was going on with him?  P is a kid of extremes.  Most kids are, I have noticed.  Could he have gone from "white" to "black" overnight?  Had some switch flipped?  Was it the "last six months" of his 11th year?

After both of us got some rest, the next morning, I sat with him right before breakfast and told him I wanted to talk about what had happened the day before.  But before I could say anything else, P exclaimed, "I know what I'm going to do about my work."  And he proceeded to explain his entire plan.  Few-to-no clarifying questions remained.  He even explained his reactions.  So, I had to pause to celebrate his thinking.  At the same time, however, I wondered... what had happened to my child?  I like it, but what happened?

I thought about it throughout the entire day reflecting on the idea that nothing is either black or white but most often (maybe always?) gray, somewhere in the middle where my son and I had met.  Could I have encouraged him to be more forthcoming during the work he was doing the night before instead of being so "black" to his "white"?  Every day, there is a lesson in parenting.  And every day, I'm reminded that gray is the color of the way.

On paradise...

Most recently, I have been bombarded with conversations and images on things that appear to deviate from the "normal".  (What is "normal" anyway?)  Rapidly, I have had to do checks to ensure that I am not passing judgment.  Remaining unjudgemental is important to me.  In these images (like the ones I present to you today), I wonder if I know the entire story.  I wonder if I am putting too much of who I am and not enough of what the other point of view is saying.  How can I remain un-judgemental in the process of seeing something?  It is not that I was raised in that accepting of an environment; it is that as someone who has often been judged, I do not ever want to go there for others.  And I have always known that as I parent, I want to raise a child who is tolerant, less judgemental than most of us, and accepting.  In there, I hope he finds his paradise, and in there, I hope he finds love.

In the beginning...

As we start turning the corner toward the conclusion of Adam and Eve in knitwear, this arc we started exploring a year ago, I knew that I wanted to make a piece of knitwear inspired by something less traditional. It was my friend, Todd B., who introduced me to the pondering of black v. white.  And so, I wanted to push myself to see if I could see things in a different manner.

This neck cuff is inspired by the boot covers I made earlier, mixed in with the tradition of cables and the warmth of beautiful yarn, and a little S&M for seasoning.  Believe it or not, the seasoning came from my last trip to a Burberry (sigh!) store in Chicago...

It is a simple rectangle.  It starts with a 2x1 ribbing which helped secure the fasteners.  From there, the neck warmer is made up of five rows of cable alternating the rows where the cable twists.  At first, the twists felt somewhat weird just like the ENTIRE idea behind it.  However, as the knitting continued, the soft waves reveiled themselves.  Again, this is true of thoughts and of my knitting this month.

I love the end look of this piece.  Hopefully, in it, you see the soft, the hard, the edgy and the hmmm, what is that?

PS  This month, P ended up getting braces.  When he was asked what color he wanted his rubber bands to be, he chose... black!  Funny, isn't it?  :)e-

A special thanks to my dear friend, Todd B., who has been watching and reading for this entire year.  Todd is supportive and encouraging, and in all of that, my family and I feel his love.  Thank you, Todd!  ;)e-

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good luck to you!

Luck is a funny thing.  Dictionary.com defines "luck" as the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities.  We often wish "good luck" to people in many of their endeavors - unless you are in the theatre where wishing someone "good luck" is actually "bad luck".

Some months ago, I was engaged in a conversation with P's violin teacher, Miss Marion (¡hola!) when she shared her views about "talent" and whether a child has talent or not.  As a teacher - and this is one of the many reasons I love her to death, she believes that with hard work everyone has talent.  In other words, it is not really about having something magical, but really about how hard you work to get something done.  Since then, I have thought a lot about that paradigm quite a bit, and this month, as the "luck of the Irish" came around, I pondered on whether the same is true for "luck".

Coming from my Hispanic, Catholic background, I heard a lot of "that was God" whenever something good or bad happened.  Was that mami's view and expression on "luck"?  Early in my relationship with my first partner and P's daddy, I must have channeled my mami as I said in an auto-pilot moment, "that was God" to something "bad but funny" that had just happened to him.  His response which to this day I still think of as priceless was, "My God is not a punishing God.  My God is a loving God."  Hmmmm, good point, mine is too.  From then on, the phrase changed a little: "it's karma". 

Can we really account for all the good and bad things that happen in our lives to pure luck?  I do feel lucky that I have a support system in family and friends that nurture me, make me feel loved, and have my back daily.  Is it because of luck?  I suppose that I didn't choose my family, so one could consider this to be luck.  But as I look at my relationships with my siblings, my mom, cousins, aunts, and uncles, we have all had our ups and downs.  (In some cases, we still have some downs.)  And still, I treasure all of them.  In every case, there is an enormous amount of work that has been put forth (or perhaps that will be needed in the future) to keep those relationships alive and well.  And as I look at my "chosen" family, my friends, I also look at a lot of work in nurturing and keeping those relationships healthy.  I could think of it as luck... but to me, it's  daily work.

On parenting...

My son works so hard at so many things.  Yes, he is still a kid and from time to time, he wanders, or slacks a tad.  Without guidance, his bed would probably go unmade and his room undone for his entire life.  Nonetheless, it is fun and very interesting as his papa to see him "at work" whether it be homework, violin, a sport, or simply at the dinner table as his wheels turn right before a question or right before the answer to an interesting question.  It is even more fulfilling to see him reap the fruits of his hard work after a recital or when he gets a paper back.  It is also as rewarding to discuss the lessons learned from mishaps or failures and ponder how to change the work around that to change the outcome.

I share this because I am not sure how I feel about teaching him the lesson on "luck".  Will his hard work be for nothing if he doesn't have luck on his side?  Should he slack in the hopes of having luck be kind to him?

Funnily, he uses the phrase "you are so lucky" often, and more and more I have noticed myself explaining the rationale behind what happened as hard work.

Am I killing the magic of luck?  What am I missing?

I wonder...

On Adam...

For the longest time, my son has been asking for a pair of fingerless gloves.  After my recent bout of singleitis - resolved by my (now Don D's) Pinky Swear mittens, I have attempted to find a good pattern for these.  For those knitters out there reading, I attemped the Knucks a couple of times, and somehow, I was a bit unhappy about how they kept turning out.  So, I kept researching.

After some time, I sillily realized that I had all the skills to do my own pattern.  What luck!  Not really... I had just researched enough to land back in Pinky Swear land...

These gloves start at the cuff, and I like a long cuff to bridge the gap between my shirt/jacket cuffs and my hands.  These are 2.5" long in a 2X2 rib.  Like with Pinky Swear, I detailed the outside edge of each glove with a simple four-stitch cable which runs through and ends with the pinky finger.

I kept the body of the glove snug as to avoid the bulk.  After passing the thumb and reaching the end of the palm, I increased the width slightly to provide enough stitches for the fingers.

I love how these turned out and I love how the look and feel.  The yarn... I chose a heathered green reminiscent of the Midwest green grass about to sprout, but also as a nod to the green clovers, and the green hills of the Irish countryside, and an acknowledgement that on March 17th, we are all Irish, and by default, we are all... lucky.  ;)e-

Enough kind words cannot be said about my good friend, Eric S.  He is a trooper and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his generosity.  I feel fortunate to have him (and Bucky) in my life.  :)e-