Thursday, June 30, 2011

Glad Matt Bartlett isn't my kid!

As some of you know, I've been glued to my computer for the past few days watching the Casey Anthony trial. That means that Michele and Stef have been constantly entertained as they hear me clicking away on my keyboard while I'm shouting at my monitor, "Oh, yeah?! You're a stinkin' liar!!!"

This is why I never followed my father's footsteps as a Defense Attorney. Where he sees only "alleged" crimes by "alleged" perpetrators I see dirty, rotten scoundrels who should do hard time for the rest of their miserable, criminal lives. And that's just for people caught jay-walking.

Yes...I know I can be a bit Draconian at times. But, on the other hand, I'm not the least bit Machiavellian -- unless you've got a marshmallow that I happen to want to eat. Then it's each man for himself and my treachery knows no bounds.

But back to the trial.

Imagine you're a 28-year old guy who gets into the courtroom to watch one of the most gut-wrenching trials of the decade. Are you riveted by the tension...the possibility of a young woman getting the death penalty for (allegedly) murdering her own child? Are you watching intensely as each side maneuvers to discredit the other's witnesses? Are you struggling in your own mind to draw a conclusion from all the contradictory data you're hearing from people of dubious credibility?


You're sitting there like a dope giving a finger to the Prosecuting Attorney.

Now, why oh why would you do that?

"I dunno," he shrugged when confronted by a very angry judge.

He was just bright enough to reluctantly concede, "It was stupid."

Stupid? Just stupid?! Yeah...I'd have to say it was stupid. Six days in jail and $643 stupid.

The worst of it is that the guy has to admit that at 28 years of age he:
1. Earns about $14,000 per year
2. Has monthly bills of about $1500 per month
3. Has about $100 in his checking account
4. Has about $12 in his savings account let's do the math. He earns $14K. His bills each year are $18K. He's already on the road to financial ruin. And he's dopey enough to get himself sent to jail for doing something you wouldn't even expect from a 14-year old.

Holy cow!

Matt, I really hope you've learned a lesson. I hope that the people at TGI Friday's don't have to fire you for doing something so unbelievably stupid that the entire country hit itself on the forehead and gasped, "Huh?!!!" when they watched you in court.

But I do hope that your parents give you a much-needed kick in the backside and tell you to act your age. For heaven's're a 28-year old man.

(Note to TGI Friday's -- Yeah, everyone expects you to fire him.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learn all about cotton yarns in our newest issue of Just My Type

If you don't already subscribe to our newsletters, you'll want to do so right away. Or you can view our most recent issue online.

In "Cool Cotton Yarns" we teach you about the wonders of cotton yarns and we introduce you to a few that you may not already know about.

If you like to learn about yarns and knitting, you'll want to be sure to read this issue of Just My Type.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I am not a Princess.

There are about a gazillion knitters on Ravelry now. Recently, a thread started in the Namaste Farms group about ego...selfishness...narcissism. I was surprised by how many people agreed with me that we need to step back a bit from loving ourselves -- just for being us -- and maybe be a little bit more objective.

When I grew up, talking about how wonderful you (thought you) were was called bragging. It wasn't considered polite.

But things changed and my children's generation were taught that they were wonderful merely for existing. That's what prompts the lament by many exasperated HR people, "They expect a trophy just for showing up."

I don't know what started this excess of self-esteem. Maybe the hippy-dippy 60s when we all decided we were cool. But I do know where it's gotten us. Our kids are scoring low in maths and sciences compared to students in other Western countries. But when it comes to self-confidence, well, they're top of the chart.

There is a discrepancy between ability and self-esteem.

This is why you see moronic Reality TV shows that celebrate horrific behavior. Bridezilla immediately comes to mind. Sure, it might be funny to watch those girls/women/she monsters. But would you like to live with one? It would be a nightmare.

These are people who think they deserve everything. They don't have to actually earn it. They live lives of immediate self-gratification. In other words, they're hollow shells with only the facade of humanity. They are what they buy.

"I am my Prada shoes."
"I am my Louis Vuitton purse."
"I am my Cartier watch."

How about it if we started to recognize people for actually doing something?

Natalie Redding started Namaste Farms and developed her own line of yarns. Hurray for Natalie!!!

Iris Schreier wanted to spend more time with her family so she created Artyarns. Congratulations, Iris, on recognizing what really matters!!!

My young pal Evan Citron quit his job in media sales and went back to school to become a lawyer. Great job, Evan!!! Now you can realize your dream of helping people achieve justice.

These are all just regular people who have dedicated themselves to doing something good...something that really matters. You probably know a lot of people like I do. Silent heroes who do what's right and who never expect applause. These are the people who deserve it.

Please post your thanks to regular people who deserve to be recognized for something they've actually done. Maybe they created a beautiful painting. Or wrote a poem. Or took dinner to a sick friend. Something that was done from the heart.

I think it would do us all good to read about others who know there's more to life than shopping and drowning in self immersion.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Very, very bad news for our middle kid, Laura

Alex's Father's Day card arrived today. He was a little perplexed when he read it:

Father's Day is for more than just Dads, you know.
It's for all the men who make a difference in our lives.
It's for the guys who give you advice, encouragement, and help when you need it.
It's for the kind of person you've always been to me.
I can't imagine celebrating Father's Day without thinking of you.

He showed it to me, wondering what on earth it meant. I told him.

He just telephoned Laura to give her the terrible news.

"Laura, I am your REAL father."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wow! The LA Times ran a great article about Namaste Yarns!

A while back, Adam Tschorn of the LA Times visited Namaste Farms and interviewed Natalie Redding, the shepherdess and fiber artist who not only owns it, but who cares for the animals, sheers them, then spins and dyes their wool. Adam is one heck of a writer and he put together a truly wonderful feature story about Natalie. Today it ran in the Los Angeles Times with lots of photos showing her at work.

I was very surprised to see that Adam included some bits and pieces of a telephone conversation we had about Natalie and her venture. (Thanks, Adam!) He mentioned that Yarnmarket worked collaboratively with the burgeoning yarn producer to help her launch her products, the exquisite Namaste Farms yarns, to an entirely new market.

You cannot imagine how proud we are that Natalie gave us the opportunity to help her build her business. We know how hard it is to make it in this highly competitive field, so we were delighted to be able to help someone who we knew shared our work ethic and our values. She trusted us so much that she refused to accept money from us when she sent her first shipment of yarns. And we trusted her enough to insist we pay her before we'd even made a sale.

These days when we deal so much with multi-national corporations and very big, established businesses, it feels really good to see an American shepherdess and fiber artist from the hills of California succeed with a bit of help from a bunch of yarn-peddling YarnMartians here in Pickerington, Ohio.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I love Maggi Knits...but I'm going to have to fire Michele.

I hate having my picture taken. As a matter of fact, I didn't even have a photographer at my wedding(s). But when I tried on one of Maggie Jackson's creations at TNNA the other day I thought, "This is fantastic!" I couldn't believe how one piece completely transformed my look. And if anyone needs their look transformed, it's me.

The picture to the right is me on a good day. But, as you can see, I'm squinting because I'm out in the sun. And I'm fat because I like ice cream. And I'm wrinkly because our photographer, Michele, seems to have forgotten that we paid a LOT OF MONEY FOR HER TO HAVE PHOTOSHOP!!! which, apparently, she forgot to use to tighten my skin, unsquint my eyes, and thin out my thighs.

Michele is in her early 30s, unbearably thin, and gorgeous. Perhaps it didn't occur to her that some of us might need a little help.

Okay...enough about our former staff member, back to me.

As I've gotten older (wider, wrinklier, saggier, grouchier) I've shunned the more creative styles in favor of fashions that scream, "Don't look at me!" If you've ever seen me in person, you'd know this is true. The minute you see me, a little voice in your head shouts, "Don't look! Turn away!" and, obediently, you do.

Alex is always after me to wear trendier clothes while I check out the patterns at Quaker Jane and consider whether Plain Dress is more up my alley. (I have to confess that I actually made this pattern because I thought a priest's cassock would make a really neat coat.)

Anyway, Maggie and her assistant at her TNNA booth put me into a variety of their gorgeous tops and I couldn't believe how nice they looked. On me! Really...I can wear them and not look:
a. immense
b. crazy
c. like my usual boring self.

This was quite a revelation. Now I'm hell bent on knitting myself up several of Maggie's "transformational" fashions. They're easy and they come as kits so you get everything you need including the gorgeous buttons that match perfectly.

There are a lot of fantastic styles and great colors that I might never have chosen because I'm...well...boring. The brilliantly un-boring Maggie has created some terrific modular designs that aren't complicated at all and that are very flattering for virtually every shape. (Even mine. I'm not exactly pear shaped. More like a tetrahedron with legs.)

If you're more creative than I am and you don't need to depend on the full-blown kits, I think you'd really love Maggi Knits patterns and yarns. Maggie is one heck of a fashion designer who made her name in ready to wear. She was the first Irish lady to become famous in this field, and she's a feisty little gal with a sense of humor and a taste for the irreverent that I absolutely love. Let me put it this way: If Maggie and I were together in Vegas, what happened in Vegas would stay on police blotters throughout the civilized world.

If you were lucky enough to attend her fashion show at VK Live in New York last January, you'd know exactly what I mean. She's dangerous. I love her. And I'm going to knit a bunch of her patterns -- like the one she lent to me for these photos.

With the help of Maggie Jackson and Maggi Knits, I can continue to be as boring as I want underneath, but I'll toss one of her fabulous styles over my head and voila! I'll be a fashion icon just like the model, Iman. (Oh...I've got to tell you. I was flicking my TV one Friday night when there she was: Iman. My nemesis. Sure, she might be married to the man I love, but I got to sit at home in my Clorox-stained night gown, gloating, while I watched her trying to sell harem pants on QVC. Yes. There is a God!)

Anyway, take a look at Yarnmarket's selection of Maggi Knits kits, yarns and patterns. I know you'll look great in them. If they can make boring old me look okay, imagine how fantastic they'll look on you!

Read our Spotlight on Anny Blatt and you could win an Anny Blatt prize package!

We just sent out a Spotlight on Anny Blatt that tells you the history of the company and introduces you to their head designer, Anne Molineau. It's also filled with information about their books, patterns, yarns and projects you can find at Yarnmarket.

The company has an interesting history. And the designs are...well...exquisite!

We visited Paris for the Anny Blatt autumn 2011 fashion show, and if you'd like a preview of their styles, be sure to read our Spotlight and then check out our article in

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Freedom 55 no more?

My Mom sent me a link to an article indicating that our generation would not be retiring at age 65. As a matter of fact, we may not be retiring at 75, either. How does 84 sound to you?


If you're like me, you count the days until retirement...because retirement means you can sleep in until your cat (or dog) stands on top of you with its paws on your chest, staring at you until you wake up to feed it. Of course, as soon as it's fed, it leaps onto your bed for a snooze that lasts most of the day. (The plus side of this is that it gives you an excuse to not make your bed.)

Retirement means you can stay up late watching late, late the 11:00 o'clock news. And retirement means you never again have to attend one of those meetings where they use words like "EBITDA," "forced ranking" or "right-sizing."

Ever since I took my first full-time job 37 years ago, I have dreamed of the day I won't have to squeeze myself into The Pantyhose of Death, try to keep my naturally curly hair from naturally curling in the humidity, or slather my face with makeup that has never adequately covered my freckles, zits or wrinkles. Or, to be more accurate, freckles, zits AND wrinkles.

For 37 years I have dreamed of the time that I'll have time to read, write, and find out what color my hair really is.

Yes, there's a lot I've planned to do after they hand me a gold watch (or a Medicare card) and tell me, "Thanks so much for pretending to like working here while we pretended to like employing you. You owe us $842 for all the photocopies, pens, writing pads and sticky notes you've swiped over the years, and we're really sorry about losing your 401K back there in 2001...and again in 2008."

(Thank goodness I'm now at a place so small that my annual bonus is not a gazillion stock options at $42 when the stock is selling at $28.)

Anyway, my Mom tells me that my early retirement simply isn't going to happen.The article suggested that as a result of our trillions of dollars of debt, mortgage crisis, outsourcing of jobs to China and continuing increase in life expectancy, the "experienced" like me should seriously start thinking about planning their second career. Huh? Even recent grads are having a heck of a time finding work. But I'm to embark on something new?!

Being pragmatic people who want to be fiscally responsible, my mother and my step-father are currently reconsidering their own retirements...and thinking that perhaps they, too, should get themselves jobs.

My Mom says she's decided to be a doctor. Doctors make oodles of money.

My step-father's joining the NHL. He's always wanted to play hockey.

I'm a few years younger, they say, so they think my next career should be something that's physically demanding. Like maybe a Navy Seal or a fireman.

But if that doesn't work for me, I think I'll settle on rock star or ballerina.

Then, after I make my millions of dollars playing to sell out crowds around the world, I'm going to retire to the south of France in a small (but tasteful) chateau where I'll teach myself physics and chemistry and invent a new source of energy that tastes like marshmallows and completely covers freckles and wrinkles.

PS to the Foo Fighters
I will not be available to join you on tour until after the Knitting Guild conference in Minneapolis in July.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Noro, Stacy Charles and Filatura di Crosa are featured in our newest Yarnmarket newsletter

If you subscribe to our newsletters, you likely received your copy of the June issue this morning when Jan sent it out. But if you don't subscribe, don't despair! You can read it online.

This issue features romantic new fashions and great ideas for warm weather wear. You'll love the new styles from Noro, Stacy Charles and Filatura di Crosa.

Be sure to read our Yarnmarket newsletter -- online or in your email today!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Advice you're never supposed to give.

My step-daughter, Laura, is always asking for advice. She's very curious (hurray!) and loves to absorb knowledge -- from what to plant in her New Jersey garden to how to find spiritual enlightment. Currently, she's learning to navigate the stormy waters of corporate America so she now asks about the business world in addition to all her other questions. A while back I shared with Laura some little lessons I’ve learned along the way. She asked if I could write them down for her, so I thought maybe I'd share them with you. I'd really love it if you could add to them so Laura and I can learn from your experiences, as well.

Several years ago, I attended a seminar entitled, “Managing Stress.” It was taught by Michael Douglas, a psychologist who also worked with the Columbus city police. He’d been invited by my employer, CompuServe, to speak to us and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized how lucky I was to work for a company that invested in the education and betterment of their staff. I learned so much through the courses offered by CompuServe's HR department – thanks to people like Judy Reinhart, Berry Berkov and John Meier – that I will forever be grateful to them.

I was so impressed by what Dr. Michael Douglas told us sometime in the 1990s that I wrote down some key points that I carried with me in my binder from job to job. Here are my "Lessons learned from Michael Douglas" Many, many thanks to him for sharing his insights with a know-it-all thirty-something in the 90s.

1. Don’t accept stress. Dr. Douglas said that the course was mis-named. If you’re “managing stress” you’ve already let it in and you’re now trying to deal with it. Don’t let it in. You don’t have to accept all the crap that people unburden on you.
2. Be where you are. If you’re standing in a line up at the bank, don’t be worrying that you’ve got to go to the drug store, the grocery store and the cleaners. Be where you are. Accept it. Enjoy it. I think this has gained in importance as cell phone usage has increased. It seems that no one is content with being where they are. They want to be with someone…anyone…because they can’t stand the thought of simply being alone with only their own thoughts to keep them company. If you’re a fan of Eckhart Tolle, this will resonate with you. (Dr. Douglas told us this long before Tolle wrote his books.)
3. Lower your expectations. If you’re constantly being disappointed by people, you’re expecting too much of them. Make sure that your expectations are in alignment with what people can do. Don't set them up for failure.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
4. Believe that everyone is doing their best. Nobody is intentionally trying to screw up. Everyone’s doing the best they can…under the circumstances. If you believe this about people, you’ll be far more understanding and charitable toward them. (Again, Tolle would likely agree.)

Those four little reminders have helped me more times than I can count. “Be where you are” is probably the one I refer to most often, and I’m surprised by how many self-help/spiritual authors also try to teach this message. Be where you are. Don’t be dredging up hurts from the past to torture yourself with guilt or feelings of diminishment. Be where you are. Look around. The world is beautiful. Enjoy it. Be where you are. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. If you’re in pain, learn from it. If you’re feeling ecstasy, be thankful for it.

Okay…now here are some of my own little bits of advice I’ve offered Laura in the past. Maybe you’ll want to share them with someone you love.

5. Be an adult. You’re now in charge of your life. Your childhood is over, so get over whatever disappointments it might have brought you. Stop blaming parents, teachers, siblings. Grow up and take charge of your own life.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people are very kind. Don’t be afraid to say, “I need help. Would you be able to help me?” You’ll be surprised that people will go out of their way to assist you.
7. Ask how. For years I sat in meeting after meeting making requests and being told, “No! We can't do that!” Then it finally hit me. Don’t ask, “Can we…?” Instead ask, “How can we…?” That one word “how” packs a lot of punch.
8. Say thanks. If you’re going to complain, learn to compliment. I’m the first person to write a letter when I think I’ve been mis-treated as a customer. And I’m also the first person to write a letter commending a staff member when I feel I’ve been treated well.
9. Make people smile. Be goofy, or complimentary, or helpful. Assume that everyone you see is carrying around an enormous sack of pain. Lighten it a bit. Go out of your way to be nice to people. You’ll feel good about yourself...and you just might do someone else a great deal of good.
10. Acknowledge and accept what you feel. If you’re sad, acknowledge it and embrace it. There are many, many times when you should feel sad. If you weren’t sad, you’d be a heartless monster. But make sure you know the difference between well-deserved sadness and clinical depression. Depression will consume you. It will convince you that you’ve never had a happy day in your life. Get help.
11. Accept that you’re not perfect. Admit your mistakes and apologize for them. Sincerely apologize! Don’t try to blame others or share responsibility for the mistake with them. If you expect yourself to be perfect, you’re going to spend a life of bitter disappointment. (See “Lower your expectations.”)
12. Don’t hurt people on purpose. This is just plain mean. And if you should happen to hear something ugly about someone, don’t feel compelled to pass it along to them. Instead, stop it from spreading to others. An insult is still an insult even if you preface it with, “I heard someone say that you’re a…”
13. Don’t think you’re all that hot. You need only enough ego to survive. Anything more than that can work against you. If you’re constantly telling yourself or others how great you are, you probably aren’t that wonderful.
14. Be you. You are not the brands you buy. You are not the car you drive. You are not the celebrity you worship. If you think you are, your sense of self is out of alignment. (Or, as St. Ignatius would say you have “inordinate affections.”) Get in touch with yourself or get therapy.
15. Be quiet. The world is a noisy place. Think of what it must have sounded like before the Industrial Revolution. Birds chirping. Wind blowing through the trees. These are the sounds of nature. Take out the earplugs. Turn off the TV. Enjoy the quiet. Ahhh… (Now you know why I take vacations at monasteries.)
16. Be curious. Read. Think. Ask questions. Explore. Learn. Act. Life is not about "having." It's about "doing."
17. Be courageous. I'm a scaredy cat. Really. And there's nothing I hate more than heights. But a couple of weeks before my 50th birthday I walked out onto a little platform, high above a river at the Kawarua Bridge in New Zealand where bungee jumping was invented. I was scared to death. Trembling. But I stood out on that platform, raised my arms and did a swan dive deep into the chasm below. I have never been so frightened in my life. And I've never felt so alive. I can't tell you how good it feels to overcome absolute terror.

Well, that's my list. I hope you'll add to it!