Buy One, Get One, Help Some

This little number has been many months in the making but is the result of much love for the Pangong Craft Center, a solar facility in the High Himalayas of India that gives semi-nomadic women a warm place to add value to the amazing cashmere produced by their hardy goats. 

Today the center gives about 80 women the opportunity to earn money from their spinning and knitting to help pay for their children's education. If it weren't for the center, they would be working on road crews breaking rocks at elevations of 14,000-feet-plus, often with their children in tow. Since the center opened, a year or so ago, it has improved the lives of women and families in this area immeasurably.

I've designed a quick-to-knit, convertible hat/cowl pattern using the remarkable yarn these ladies produce. It is, as they say in the High Himalayas, like yak butter. (OK, they don't say that but hear me out.) While your Land's End cashmere sweater may feel good, this stuff runs <14 microns as it should. It's raised as close to heaven as virtually any place on Earth.

My very patient young model on the left is wearing the version made from this very special yarn and she is rocking it with proper attitude. The model on the right, my very good friend and mother of the model on the left, is wearing a version made from a different yarn, one grown in another place close to my heart, Westcliffe, Colorado. (Natural black, alpaca, people, it doesn't get much better than that--except for nomad-spun cashmere.) 

See how this accessory works? Hatcowlhatcowlhatcowl--at your whim! 

The point of all this is to raise money for the center to fund additional equipment, pay for further training and keep the spinning wheels turning. All proceeds from the purchase of the above pattern on Ravelry will go directly to the Pangong Craft Center.

You can support the center by purchasing the BOGO Hat + Cowl pattern on Ravelry, donating directly to the center or buying some of that amazing cashmere. (It's almost sold out and is intermittently available, so if you're so inspired, make a digital run for it.)

Here's a link to a short film about the center by a talented young filmmaker who grew up in Ladakh. Click on "Perfectly Twisted" to watch. The center was founded by Konchok Stobgais, a resident of Ladakh and Linda Cortright, my editor at Wild Fibers magazine

Knitting America back together

For the last week I’ve been walking around with my heart hanging out of my chest just like all my liberal friends. My heart hurts because hatred won. Not hatred from our candidates but the divisive friend-against-friend, brother-against-sister, Democrats-versus-Republican, stomach-churning, stratifying hatred that’s polarizing our country.

Hatred got us. Trump supporters don’t have a lock on this. They may have their walled border and Islamic fear mongering, but we have our words, like bigot, misogynist, sexist and racist. Anyone who doesn’t speak the lingua franca of political correctness faces liberal shaming. Know what? Name-calling doesn’t change opinions or behavior. It pushes them underground.

Well hatred's not underground anymore.

So many ugly things have slouched into the light during this election cycle and for that we can be thankful. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which the President-elect bragged about groping women, I for one have had to take a hard look at the sexual harassment and assault in my past and name it for what it was. Disgust, fear, betrayal, powerlessness—this is the emotional fallout from unwanted comments, honks on the street and inappropriate advances. And I was lucky.

But I’ve also taken a hard look at the things I’ve said about men, their predilections for anger, violence, rigidity and individual, um, shortcomings. Is it OK because I’m marginalized? Is my stereotyping more righteous? If I see a pulchritudinous specimen and comment to a friend in terms I wouldn’t use around my mother am I any less culpable?

What about my own bigotry? What about the dark thoughts I’ve had about the Religious Right? About Millennials? And, yes, people of color? As good lefties are we immune from evolutionary tribalism? Are we so evolved that we don’t succumb to the pull of choosing same-same? I think not. Us-them. Husband-wife. White-black. Me: good. You: suck. Polarization are us. We’re just better at hiding it behind the right adjectives.

My pain comes from the fact that we don’t listen to each other and we don’t demand truth. The election coverage in The New York Times appalled me it was so liberally biased. And I’m a member of that choir. When I cast my ballot, I felt like I did so mostly on faith and not fact. I believed Hillary Clinton was less corrupt and less dangerous. But I didn’t know that. Likewise if you cast your vote for Donald Trump did you buy the slogan, “Hillary for Prison”? Is she a criminal? Where’s the evidence?

I can’t speak for all media, but the front page of The New York Times read like the op-ed pages, it skewed so anti-Trump. Granted, he gave them plenty of material with which to skewer him, but for the love of all things kinda-sorta objective: Where’s the beef?

The stories that have proved most informative to me were the ones where reporters interviewed folks in Lima, Ohio, Greenville, Pennsylvania and Casper, Wyoming. People who spoke from their hearts about lost jobs, poor health and the hope Trump’s make-America-great-again message provided. I know what people in Boulder think. What do the rest of y’all think? More importantly, what do you want? What keeps you up at night? What do you believe this man is going to do for you? What in your heart made you push that button? What are liberals missing? God forbid, is it time for me to turn on Fox News?

We are tribal at our core. But bridging our differences is the work of our lives. Whether it’s understanding why my husband wants to paint everything grey or why some of my friends voted for Donald Trump, it’s all about trying to crack the shells of our own “rightness” to see what moves the other.

What if we reframe The Donald as someone who took a hammer to the veneer of equality that obscures real inequities that persist in America? What if his unexpurgated rhetoric spurs more activism, efforts to find common cause and solutions to real problems?

Hatred has been called out. Now, what are we going to do about it?

America, we desperately need to crack those protective shells and the let the light of our hopes and fears seep into each other’s hearts. We need to listen to each other with open minds and disciplined mouths. We must invite liberals and conservatives of all stripes into our homes to share meals, dreams and vulnerabilities without rancor. Now is the time to contain our egos and emotions, so we can see the bleeding represented by those red electoral votes.

Easy to say, right? These conversations are like knitting intarsia in headstand. Almost impossible.

I’m writing this because it’s what I need to read. I don’t believe half of the electorate is evil or racist or stupid. I can’t believe it. But I do struggle to understand how this P.T. Barnum-esque character convinced some of America’s most down-to-earth citizens that he deserved their trust.

I’m trying to listen, really I am. These conversations aren’t pretty or easy and they push all the buttons. There may be nothing more difficult than to sit and listen to something that feels wrong but may not be. Sometimes our differences are ones of syntax. Sometimes they are more profound. But this is how we learn who we are as a nation in all our messy diversity. And that includes the vast red-heart center of the country. I can't dismiss these folks. I just can't. These are my people and yours and they have every right to their vote, their perspective. And, I hope we will be accorded the same respect.

I'm not saying, listen to crap. If someone is slut-shaming or fat-shaming, hurling racial epithets or threatening acts of violence against anyone, anyone at all, we must call them out. But otherwise let's listen, learn and really see the ugly truths that surfaced during this election so we can start patching the foundational cracks in our city on a hill—even if it takes several lifetimes to do so.

Because as a proud second-generation American, whose grandfather came to this country as a young man with nothing, I believe in my bones that we are one nation (black, white, brown and yellow, male, female, LGBTQIA, naturalized, rich, poor, urban and rural, liberal and conservative), under whatever God you pray to, indivisible with evolving liberty and justice for all.






Gently atoning

I knit this for my father in law when he was ill more than 10 years ago. I wanted to knit something to show support, but what do you knit a guy who lives in the Arizona desert?

The kippeh never fit correctly and I joked with him that he’d have to use packing tape on his bald pate to keep it on. Even on my husband, it looks like a muffin top perched on his head.

After he died last month, we brought home a few momentos, some shirts, a razor… this.

For those who observe, today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. While it is trendy these days to practice self love, I also believe self love comes with the responsibility to acknowledge the places in our lives where we have allowed the moths in, places desperately in need of darning.

Death can cause similar reckonings. Since Jerry died, I’ve been hugging Mitch tighter, mindful of the 66 years that encompassed my in laws relationship, knowing that it probably felt like forever and the blink of an eye.

On our wedding day 23 years ago this month, I said to Mitch, “No matter how long we’re together, it will never be long enough.” I feel the truth of that statement so keenly now.

Today I am thinking about the places where my work is weak and times I haven’t shown up for my family in ways that lift all of us. How I want to foster more community in our lives, more connection, more...

Jerry’s passing makes this cold October day, this solemn holiday, all the more poignant, his empty kippeh a reminder of loss but also of a life well lived and that all we can do is move forward, loving actively and harder with both our hearts and our hands.

Of blessed memory

On Sept. 22 in the early morning hours my father in law passed quietly away. He was 85 years old.

Jerry Gerber was a man whose sense of responsibility to his family was rock solid. Who reinvented himself in midlife after a catastrophic business collapse. Who openly wept when his daughter’s husband passed then spent months helping her to shore up her life.

I used to marvel at the way he could retain statistics in his head and how much he knew about local and national politics. After a heated conversation at dinner, he’d fold his napkin, satisfied, and say, “Well, we’ve just solved all the problems of the world.”

Jerry holds a special place in my heart. For the way he embraced me at our wedding, for the way he wore his love, challenges and opinions on his sleeve, for the solidity and courage he exuded like a rock, like a mensch, like someone you could count on for a ride to the airport, stock market advice and for an experience of sheer joy watching the guy embrace his grand kids.

He loved talking about the weather and the price of gas. He hated cold French fries and dry chicken. He could fix faucets and install water heaters and was like Yosemite Sam with a Dust Buster. Even his Hebrew was pretty good.

Mitch adored his dad and regarded him as his model for what it means to be a man. I see it again and again in the way my husband offers to help family and neighbors, the way he weeps unabashedly at everything from the loss of a kitty to the devastating news of his father’s final illness. The way he tries so hard to do the right thing, his humanity, like Jerry’s, right there, simple and honest.

My mother and father in law were married for 61 years, their love and respect for each other so apparent right to the end. A year ago, helping Elaine unpack the kitchen in their new apartment, she told me that while holding hands in bed that night, Jerry said to her, “Elaine, I’ll always love you.”

“I know that, Jerry,” she said, like it was nothing and everything, like breathing.

We have such a rent in our hearts today, a tear we’ll carry forever. But this is as it should be. This quiet, lion of a man deserves our grief, the unfilled seat at our tables, next to Elaine, his empty kippeh, a void in our hearts and lives. What an honor and privilege to know him. And, oh how he’ll be missed.


Eat, Pray, Ruh Roh

Hello all,

How many of you have been in a complete lather since reading that America’s grown-up, consciously conscious Cinderella, Elizabeth Gilbert, split from the guy who swept her off her feet at the end of Eat Pray Love?

Me? Triggered. Totally and completely triggered.

You know how chimpanzees throw their shit at people in the zoo? That’s what projection is like. Since finding out about her separation, I’ve been throwing a lot of my shit her way.

Let’s start with Eat Pray Love. Just in case you are one of the six people who hasn’t read it, I’ll summarize: Girl finds herself in existential despair. Leaves husband. Finds herself—and a yummy Brazilian lover—after eating her way through Italy, seeing God in India, then seeing God in an entirely different way—and with a different part of her anatomy—in Bali.

Girl gets book contract. Girl and Brazilian hottie marry. Book becomes movie. And as of last year, according to the bible of all things right and true, People Magazine, the marriage is bliss. That’s right. She said this a year ago.

So here we are, all us married folks, thinking here’s a chick that got it right She’s seen God in India. She knows things.

So where’s the trigger? It’s classic “fear of missing out.” We haven’t seen God. We didn’t meet our husbands in Bali. We met our partners on Match, in bars, at AA meetings, waiting for the ATM, or in the next cubicle. We married guys who drive Toyotas. Not lusty Brazilians with multiple orgasm potential.

And that bliss thing? Maybe five minutes a day, when he texts you an emoticon heart or an “I love you.” But then the other 23 hours and 55 minutes is work and laundry and dinner served up with a side of irritation and possibly a laugh or two, then an episode of “Chopped” (because who doesn’t need distraction from police shootings, terrorism and sick relatives and neighbors?), a snuggle and goodnight. And then we do it again, trying harder to be kinder and more authentic than the day before.

Poor Liz. Her fandom has painted her life with fairy dust and unicorn spit (along with plenty of our own monkey shit) that it’s spawned a kind of “Eat Pray Love” syndrome with people masticating and meditating their way around the world in the hope that they’ll see God, score a book contract and find their handsome prince. We’re like, that Liz, she’s got game.

So now they’re done. This blissful, mature, multiply organismic couple are now consciously uncoupling. Well, crikey, that’s triggering, too. Because if she can’t do it—and she’s seen God—can the rest of us? 

Gilbert’s announcement about her separation has unleashed the slings and arrows of haters and critics and even the jabs of people like myself who just want to believe that lifetime love is not only possible but also desirable. Though she has put her life out there time and again through her memoirs and social media and Ted Talks, she is also a woman whose marriage is ending, and no matter how that’s going down, it’s got to be excruciating.

My heart goes out to her. But I also want to know why, knowing that it’s none of my business (though Gilbert has actively sought to make her life our business). I want the "why" to be a talisman against separation in my own home, something prosaic like infidelity or a longing on the part of her expat to return home, something easy to identify, instead of something complex and frightening like they felt they couldn’t grow together.

Ultimately what Gilbert’s fans are feeling has nothing to do with her. My longing for certainty isn’t her fault. That I’m busy projecting all kinds of crap onto isn’t her problem. Does she know something I don’t? Does she possess the secrets of love and the keys to the universe? Sure. For her life.

Godspeed to her, I say.

Me? I'm busy cleaning the cage of my own psyche. As confusing as this news is, I know my marriage still has so much life in it. Life and bliss and tsouris and big love. Monkey shit, too. As perfectly imperfect as it is.

Another monster happened

I can't seem to stop making monsters. What with all the cute kids being born. Plus with those long arms begging to be wrapped around a wee one, well, who doesn't need a hug? Especially when you're little and trying to figure out the difference between Nana and Dada.

The yarn is from genius dyer, Meg of Sleep Season Goods. It was a custom colorway, but all her colors are ah-mazing! Want immediate gratification? You can also find her yarn at Denver's Wild Yarns and Fancy Tiger.

And do look up Rebecca Danger, she has toy patterns for every season and every reason.

Monster mash

I was knitting my way through a Broncos game last fall when a six-year-old sat down next to me convinced that knitting held infinitely more entertainment potential than the sporting event on offer. I showed her how the stitches worked and let her throw the yarn. When I showed her the Rebecca Danger monster I was knitting, she asked if I would make her one.

She also said, she wanted it in black. How can you say no?

It's taken a while, but here she is. Use Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky and you'll get a nice fat stuffy.

Apologies for the cat hair and fiber fill lint. Many sessions with the lint roller later and she's still covered in it.

Crocheted Cat Potholders

Now don't get all jealous. Of course you ant chenille cat potholders of your very own. Meow!

These were designed by the one and only Garlic Queen. She is the creatrix behind many crocheted wonders including these confections. Want a set of kitty hot pads for yourself? Email me and I'll hook you up with the GQ herself. I'm pretty sure she can be bribed.

Knit for Brains

Brains have been much on our minds, given the tumble-down state of aging cerebra in the Nake-id gene pool, a concern that inspires yours truly to lard her morning porridge with coconut oil and stalk Dr. Grain Brain's blog. (Do y'all think gluten's the zombie apocalypse in grain form?) Are avocados the new kale? Should we load up our java with pasture-raised butter? Are carbs the new fats?

It's enough to make a girl make a diet of Tootsie Pops and red wine.

Joking aside, there are things about the way we live and eat, which are clearly amiss. Too much sitting. Too many digital screens. Too little face time with peeps. Too much fake food. And while it's easy to figure out that exercise is a good thing, the question of what to eat to benefit our grey matter seems to be more a matter of opinion than science. But do we have the time for science?

Meanwhile, the Clover Wonder Knitter aided and abetted in the creation of lobes pictured above--a fabulous pattern by med student Alana Noritake. Hard to believe, you can purchase fully realized versions on Etsy for about $30. Lined even. I wouldn't tack down all that I-cord again for $1,000. Like sewing spaghetti to the wall.

Anyhoo, it's done and fun! Hope your brains are having a glorious day.


Knitting pattern for lung cancer research: Kim's Earnin' Turban in Pink

Why look, another iteration of Kim's Earnin' Turban. This one in the sadly discontinued Debbie Bliss Cotton Silk Aran and modeled by the lovely Melissa. 

I designed the turban for our friend Kim, in honor of her battle with lung cancer. The pattern is for sale with all proceeds going to benefit the University of Colorado's Lung Cancer Fund, which supports the groundbreaking research at CU keeping Kim and many others alive.

Lung cancer is a weird beast, not the least of which because it's the number one cancer killer of men and women in America, but also because it carries the stigma of smoking. It may be that the white ribbon lung cancer campaigns haven't caught on because the disease doesn't seem as random; it's something smokers get. But this simply isn't true. Every year, 16,000 to 24,000 people die of lung cancer who never smoked. Kim never smoked.

While I should have probably knit this turban in white for the awareness factor, I couldn't resist this gorgeous orchid, so very Pantone-color-of-the-year-2014.

In this season of giving, pass the word, make a donation or knit a turban in whatever color tickles your fancy.