Thankfulness, how cliché.

Call it a pipe-dream, but, I intend to have a simple holiday season this year. I want to enjoy spending time with my family without any of the usual drama and stress that accompanies it. My plan is to:

A. Be as organized as possible to avoid rushes
B. Be easy-going about things, let other people's feelings come first
C. Under-promise and over-deliver
D. Remember to be thankful
E. Remember to be thankful

I know, I know. At this time of year there is so much superficial talk about "being thankful". But it really is a great concept. I spend so much of my time trying to manifest what I want in my life, that it's important for me to step back and assess what I already have. I am a fortunate woman and I need to remember that.

But, I also have my limits...

If you're anything like me, the treacly holiday TV commercials are already on your nerves. It's so formulaic: beatific little child in flannel pajamas + soft focus + twinkling lights... snore. And who really wants to see another couple "get engaged" in front of the Christmas tree again this year. Ugh.

Could big companies with national advertising budgets just try a little harder to be original. It's lazy to try to tug on our heartstrings by using sappy imagery. Do your own thing. Now, with that said, I do applaud some from the last few years. For instance, this commercial by Miller did a wonderful job of taking a trendy youtube viral video and putting their own spin on it. And how about this one from Garmin? The production value is crazy awesome and the content is just edgy enough to make it stand out from the pack. I have to say that this one from Apple did a good job of riffing on their ongoing ad campaign, but making it more holiday friendly. And I am totally dating myself, but, this Coke one from my childhood is just too sweet to forget. It marries the spirit of the holiday season to the product seamlessly.

Speaking of creativity... I am in hard-core craft mode over here so there will be a holiday projects update from me next week. I am hoping to have a productive weekend (amidst all the celebration)!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

– Cassandra

Monsters on the Sewing Machine

I'm a monster on the sewing machine!
Friday November 19, 2010, I and eight coworkers (including Cassandra) had a "charity crafting day."

"What does it mean?" you ask, in your very best Double-Rainbow sort of way. Well, let me tell you...

At our day job, one of the company benefits is a very generous, quarterly half-day off to use for community service. There are no real restrictions on how this time can be used. You could volunteer to help at your child's daycare center or go pull weeds at the local nursing home. As long as you're doing something for the greater good, you get 16 hours a year to do it - paid.

Buy this book! It ROCKS.
So, Cassandra and I were looking for something to do that would employ our crafty skills (and feed the need to make stuff) and still qualify as community service/volunteerism. That's when Cassandra discovered the book Craft Hope by Jade Sims.

This book is awesome for a lot of reasons:

  • There is a large variety of projects, from knitting to sewing to embroidery to quilting and more
  • All the projects are SUPER-easy
  • The projects are, mostly, really tasteful and fun (not too twee or folk-sy)
  • The book provides mailing addresses for the various charities that would like to receive particular items

Our intrepid band of coworkers took over the sewing room of our local fabric/yard shop. The shop provided the irons, ironing boards, outlets, trash cans, and cutting boards. We brought our sewing machines, knitting needles, fabric swatches, yarn, and whatever else was necessary for the patterns that we chose.

Those of us with sewing machines (four people total) were on task to make the Pillow Case Dress found on page 17 of the book. This dress is insanely easy to make and cute as a button. We managed to knock out 10 dresses in about three hours – even with extra embellishment added and a few mistakes along the way. I, embarrassingly, had to rip out all the bias tape on one dress because I didn’t sew it on properly. This set me back by a solid 20 minutes.

Folks without sewing machines did, mostly, knit work. Two people started the Star Stitch Scarf found on page 29 and two other people worked on piecing together the squares of an afghan that’s bound for a homeless shelter. Lastly, we had one scrap-booker who used her skills to make gorgeous handmade gift cards to go with our donations.

At the end of the afternoon, as we were packing up, the mood was really high. We all felt that glow that comes from a job well done. We’re lucky, I suppose, that, as co-workers, we all get along pretty well but being able to get out of the workplace and do something together that actually MEANS something has bound us together in a new way. We had fun. Real, laugh-out-loud fun. And, best of all, we have something amazing to show for our time spent together.

We’re already planning our follow-up day in February – and I think we’ve got a few more people interested in joining us. Who knows…if it keeps going like this, we might just have a charity handcrafting revolution!!

Viva la sewing machine!

- Alex

Friday's Child(ren).

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

Today is Friday and we're crafting for charity! You heard it people... we are loving and giving and we're not afraid to tell the world. (Frankly, we think we're "fair of face" and "full of grace" too but it doesn't fit the theme.)

A few weeks ago, Alex and I got inspired by the new Craft Hope book by Jade Sims. This awesome book is a collection of hand-crafted items desired for donation by particular charities. After looking over our options, we decided that the first project we wanted to tackle was the Pillowcase Dresses on page 17. Now, the trick was figuring out when we were going to squeeze this project into our already packed schedules. Then we had a thought...

Our employer (Company X), graciously gives each employee 4 hours of work time quarterly to volunteer in the community. You can choose to build houses with Habitat, be part of the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup crew, volunteer at your local senior center, etc. It's one of the coolest programs they have rolled out in the last few years. We did some checking and discovered that crafting for charity counts! We set up a time, and place, and our "Craft Hope" afternoon was born.

We are not alone in this adventure. Six brave co-workers are joining our efforts. We secured a classroom at Stitcher's Crossing here in Madison to gather for our stitch-and-bitch session. We are all gathering to knit, sew, and make cards for those who need and appreciate it. So it's a short post today because we're off to make things from the heart. We will give you a full report next week of our accomplishments.

Have a great weekend...


Everybody Loves Free Stuff

Ah, the holidays! It's a time of...well...stress, frankly. And the source of that stress? (besides family of course) Gift giving.

What started as a simple gesture of generosity, love, and friendship has turned into a billion dollar industry with layers of guilt and inadequacy piled on top. Just makes you all tingly for the season, doesn't it?

Between having to find the "perfect" gift for every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the phone book and the cost associated with that quest, the holidays are more of a nightmare than a hot chocolate-filled dream.

On top of it all, we crafters get to experience our very own extra-special gift stress. Here's how it works:

1. Crafter says: "I'm going to put 75 hours of my time, plus the cost of materials, into this handmade item. I am going to meticulously choose a pattern and colors that will be perfect for the receiver. I'm going to craft every bit of this with love and care for this special person."
2. Receiver opens gift and says: "Oh, isn't that pretty. Thanks!" and moves on to the next gift.
3. Crafter is crushed.

Ralphie's aunt worked hard on this
Do you see what's happening here? There's a huge disconnect between the crafter's and non-crafter's perceived value of the gift. I have family members that would be appalled if I gave them something handcrafted - regardless of how expensive and lovely the materials and finished product. I mean...only poor people and hippies "do" crafts, right? On top of that, it's hard to convince a non-crafter of an item's value when a machine-made, off-the-rack version is cheaper and looks as good. The industrial revolution really took it's toll on handcrafting, in a lot of ways.

When it's all said and done, if you want to give a handcrafted gift, the key is to keep your costs and efforts down and make the actual value of the present a little closer to the perceived value (and save yourself some soul crushing.) Here are my tips:

Use free patterns.

I can't remember the last time I paid for a pattern because there are tons of resources on the web. Granted, you may only be saving $5-$10 but, if you're making more than a couple of handmade items, this can add up quickly. My favorite resources are:

1. Ravelry - Also known as "Facebook for knitters." There are, literally, thousands of amazing free patterns (as well as patterns for sale) on this site. The very best part is that, for most patterns, you can look at other people's attempts at making the piece. This gives you invaluable insight into the pattern's difficulty level and flaws. I can't recommend this site enough.
2. All Free Sewing - This site is incredibly comprehensive - with patterns for everything from accessories to quilts to holiday projects. The clean and easy interface makes searching for patterns a breeze. The site even has video tutorials. You are going to love this resource.
3. Craft Bits - Most of the free-craft project sites online are aggregators - they gather links to free projects on myriad other sites. Craft Bits, as best I can tell, has all "original" content so you're not popping off the site every time you click a project link. I also really like the site design and I find the projects appealing. One specific tip for this site: scroll down! There's tons of content below the fold on every page. It's easy to miss it if you don't think to scroll.

Keep materials cost in line.

Let's be honest, it's easy to want to buy that gorgeous yarn that's $20 a skein because the scarf is for your mom. But, honestly, she'll probably never be able to tell the difference between that and the $10-a-skein version. The key to this one is: know your audience. If the person you're crafting for has an eye for good materials and you KNOW they'll appreciate the color or hand of the piece at the end, go ahead and look for the material on sale somewhere. Otherwise, buy materials that are "good enough" to make the piece nice but not over-the-top. My favorite resources for reasonably-priced and sale goods are:

1. Knit Picks - Knit Picks is an all-around great site for yarn crafters. They have beautiful tools, like their interchangeable circular needles set (I seriously covet these), but they also have great basic yarns for ridiculously low prices.
2. - This clean and easy-to-navigate site is one of my favorite resources for fabric. Their selection can be light - especially in specialty fabrics, like decorator (upholstery) weights - but most of the time, the styles are really tasteful and the brands are higher-quality. The thing I love most about this site (besides the amazing prices) is that, under each fabric "swatch", they list the number of yards they have in stock. Saves me tons of time if I know how much yardage I need.
3. - You may have a Joann Fabrics in your area so this may be redundant but... not for nothin' Joann is a great resource for craft supplies and their online store has damn-near anything you'd need. The quality tends towards the middle and the prices are reasonable (not super-cheap) - but you can be assured that they have what you need and that, if you need to return anything, their customer service will do you right.

The 5-minute Skirt:
Finally, don't pick difficult projects. This one is easy, people. If it's a gift, make it something you can complete with plenty of time to spare and that it's easy enough that you won't be struggling. That way, you'll spend less total time on the project and your finished piece will be top-quality because its instructions will be well within your comfort zone.

So, there you go. My tips for making the 2010 holiday season a little less stressful. I think what it boils down to is this: if the person you're making a gift for won't appreciate the time, money, and effort that went in to your handmade creation then to heck with 'em. Go buy them something that they've seen on TV and save yourself some heartache. ;)

- Alex (bah-humbug)

Dream Sweaters

I have a dream that my sweater press is filled with practical hand-knits. Cardigans and pullovers in all colors and textures just waiting to fit me like a glove. Not a store-bought machine knit in the bunch. My Ravelry queue is full of patterns for these dream sweaters. So, this past year I picked a pattern from the list and I knit my first sweater for myself - the ever-so-popular Liesl sweater by Ysolda Teague. I knit it in a beautiful mushroom brown that goes with everything. I love that dang thing so much that I'm sure I wear it too often.

With dream sweater #1 accomplished, and my sweater press begging for more, I set my sights on another practical sweater project for next year. (One sweater a year is reasonable, right?)  I had found a gorgeous vest and even bought the yarn, until Alex pointed out that it looked like "fat on a stick" [ed comment from Alex: Look...someone has to tell you the truth. That sweater-vest would have made you look like an overstuffed sausage!], and, on second thought, she was right. So I think I'll stick with a regular sweater. There are a few cardigans in the running, and since I am in the mood for daydreaming, let's talk about them.

The first sweater I want to talk about is the very popular Tea Leaves Cardigan.
Photo by madelintosh

I love the simplicity of this sweater. I can see myself wearing this a ton if I make it in a practical color. Something is telling me to make this one in gray. I'm not a big fan of multi-color yarn, but I could be persuaded on this design to use something a little varigated. I might just have to use the actual madelintosh yarn this pattern calls for.(Check out the madelinetosh site for gorgeous hand-dyed yarns!)

Next in the order is Old-Fashioned Girl by Verena Design Team.

Photo by Vikant Crafts Publishing, Inc.

What a cutie! I have the notion to make this one in black. The diamond pattern would really stand out with such a dark color and the cables wouldn't be too bulky. The only thing that concerns me about this pattern is that only 17 people have made this sweater on Ravelry. I usually use that sort of thing as a gauge on how user-friendly a pattern is.

The last one I am going to dream about today is the Coraline sweater by Ysolda Teague.

Photo by Ysolda

I have already made a sweater by Ysolda, as I mentioned above, so I know her patterns are well-written and her sweaters are flattering. I particularly like the little smocking detail on the yoke and the tiny buttons. The color in the photo shown is pretty yet practical so I could go that direction, or, maybe a moss green?

So enough with the daydreaming... I need to get to knitting and sewing my "have to's" before the holidays!


TV Broke My Heart. Again.

I hate AMC.

Yesterday I learned that yet another outstanding new show - Rubicon - got canceled after one season. Not for nothing, they fared better than Lone Star, a critically acclaimed show introduced in Fall 2010, which was canceled after the airing of the second episode. And, as with Kings before them, I grieve. I grieve hard.

To add insult to injury, "Bleep" My Dad Says is still alive and kicking - shitty laugh track and all. Even the all-powerful Shatner couldn't elevate it out of the toilet after the network defanged the original concept.

 Now, let's be honest. I love me some bad television. I'm not immune to the lure of a badly acted crime drama (read: NCIS) or a flat-out train wreck (read: Hoarders.) But, for chrissake, when the television landscape is primarily inhabited by low-brow, cheap-to-produce dreck, it makes a media fanatic lose heart. And, when the truly original, innovative, well-written, thinking-man's shows are summarily dismissed with nary a look in the rear-view mirror, the fanatic's heart breaks.

Yes. Yes. Yes. There are plenty of examples of great tv that have been renewed or even saved-by-the-power-of-fandom. Yes. Yes. Yes. I can fill my evenings with smart, well-written shows like Dexter and Fringe and the new Sherlock. But it doesn't take away the sting when an amazing show is ripped away from me before I'm ready to let it go.

Now, I'm happy to be corrected, so speak up if you have information that I don't, but I'm pretty sure that the reason that great shows get canceled is because the system is intrinsically flawed. It's not because the show isn't good. It's not because people aren't watching it (or won't, if given half a chance.) It's because the industry is still basing their decisions on an outdated ratings system. "If X number of people watch this show, then we can sell ad space on the show for $Y. Therefore the show is a success."

Anyone who can immediately see the flaw in this logic, please raise your hand...

The system hasn't caught up with technology. Who the hell watches tv in real time anymore? And, honestly, who watches commercials? I'm going to make the argument that really smart people who watch tv are probably more likely than the average bear to own a DVR or watch their shows online or own Boxee or AppleTV. As a result, their viewing habits are being discounted - or left uncounted, as it were. How is this fair? So, we get to be stuck with Teen Mom and Jersey Shore because the industry can't catch up?

Of course, this argument is completely two-dimensional. I know that there are myriad factors as to why a tv show gets canceled. But I think that this is as good an excuse as any. I mean, any other theory would need to examine the fact that we, culturally, might actually prefer Jersey Shore. What kind of people does that make us? Then we can get into the philosophical argument surrounding the television industry's responsibility to provide us with smart entertainment as opposed to mind-numbing crap. Should we expect them to actually CARE about our minds? Or should they just be allowed to exist in a bubble of capitalist greed without a care in the world?

Okay...that rant exhausted me and I'm not even sure I made a cogent argument. I think I'll go home and see what's on the Tivo. And not be counted.

- Alex

It's Chilly in Houdini's Room

With all the holiday projects waiting to get done, yeah, what do I do this weekend? I start something that has nothing to do with the holidays... a duvet cover for my 19-month old, Bogart.

In my defense, his room is really chilly and I just can't let my kid freeze. I was zipping him up into a sleep sack, and it worked great - until, after a week, he became Houdini, magically getting out of it without even unzipping. This child never ceases to amaze me. It's too bad too, because the sleep sack was really keeping him toasty.

Last winter, I found a twin-sized down comforter on sale. The plan was to cut it in half and make two crib-sized comforters out of it (two sections that were 42" x 64" each). I completed the one for my older toddler, Finn, (yes, I have two...) - Sesame Street themed of course. And now that Bogart is older (and cold) it's his turn for some goose-down goodness.

I began by spreading out the twin-sized comforter on the floor. I measured the length and marked my center point where I needed to cut. I then did my best to sort of "clear the way" on the cut line by moving the feathers off to each side as best I could. I marked the center line with a pen and then marked another line 1/4" on either side of that line. Those new lines are my stitching guides. I sewed a straight stitch along both of those guides and then cut down the center line. By sewing those seams first, you save yourself from a "feather explosion" when you cut. There will still be some rogue feathers, but it is quite manageable. To finish it off cleanly, I sewed some white single-fold bias tape along that raw edge.

I also want to mention a neat little trick I learned (years ago on TV) from my dear friend, Martha. I took some extra bias tape pieces (about 8 inches long) and tacked them in at each corner to make ties. (See photo.) The inside corners of the finished duvet cover will also have bias tape ties. This way you can tie the comforter into the duvet and there is no slipping around. Works like a charm.

I bought the fabric for this project quite a while ago. I knew I wanted to do a "woodland theme" in Bogart's room, but I wasn't sure where to start. When I was shopping at my favorite fabric/yarn shop, Stitcher's Crossing, I saw the perfect fabric to use a jumping off point. (You can see it peeking out of the fabric pile in the photo above.) It's from the "Frolic" line by Wendy Slotbloom. I chose three designs - this, this, and this - to make the duvet. Of course, I have big plans for the rest of the room, all inspired by this fabric.

 Yesterday, with a cup of hot tea by my side, I got out paper and pen to measure and plan my duvet design. This project is a lot of straight stitching and hemming, cinchy. Should be finished in the next few days. Let's hope it turns out as cute as it is in my imagination! I'll post the finished product as soon as it's done.

- Cassandra

The Fates (and why I'm not a "sexy cat.")

My days of dressing up for Halloween ended around the time I got too old to be a "sexy cat" or a "sexy nurse" or a "sexy mummy." This is also when I stopped going out for Halloween and relegated myself to the role of candy-pusher to the neighborhood kids. Frankly, I can't compete with a 21 year old "sexy hobo" so why even try? I also don't do cos-play, as I've mentioned previously in this blog, so the possibility of seeing Alex in costume is pretty slim.

All that changed this Halloween. I know, it's a shocker. But I have a really, really good excuse.

On October 29-31, 2010, Neil Gaiman hosted a weekend celebrating his book, American Gods, at the most wondrous roadside attraction in the U.S., House on the Rock.

Now, if I had my way, I'd spend this entire blog entry talking to you about House on the Rock. Since I discovered its existence in 1996, it's been my all-time favorite place in the world. But this post is supposed to be about my return to costuming so I'll leave it to you to learn more about this magical and purely insane place on your own. Suffice it to say, people either love it or simply don't understand it's appeal. Here's hoping you're the former.

The mystical convergence of Gaiman, the book (which I love), and the Attraction is heady stuff. I was damn-near drunk on the idea of this weekend. Then, just when I thought it couldn't get better, I learned that there was a costume contest in which the prize was a ride on the House on the Rock's famed carousel.

Now...carousels in and of themselves aren't all that interesting. Not even when the horses go up and down (which they don't at House on the Rock.) But the House's carousel has the dubious distinction of being:
  • the self-proclaimed largest carousel in the world
  • a carousel without a single horse (only other creatures)
  • a carousel that no human beings have ever ridden.
I'm not entirely sure I believe that last one since I know that the original owner of the property used to have legendary parties there, but it's cool to think that I might be one of the lucky few to actually get to go on the thing.

My friends Lindsay and Laura and I decided, at the last minute, that we'd be the Norns - the Fates of Nordic Mythology. We had to choose a character from the book and this seemed appropriate (since we were three women) and just random enough to create some interest. The Norns are only mentioned a couple of times in the book and we liked their "cameo" appeal. So, at noon on Friday (the event started at 7pm Friday night in a town 45 minutes away) I started sewing.

The day before I'd found a pave velvet in three gorgeous jewel-tone colors at Joanne Fabrics - and it was on sale for $2.99 a yard. I, literally, held it up to my body and measured a double length for a tunic dress. I settled on four yards of each color. Then I got some gold triple-cording for belts, some gold elastic for tying up the "sleeves" (Greek style), and three yards of a gauzy white for head scarves. My vision was to simply double the fabric, cut a hole for the head and then run a seam up both sides. This worked, for the most part.

I did mine first, just in case I screwed it up. The basic idea worked fine but it turned out 4 yards was more than plenty. First I held my arms out and we measured the tunic width from elbow to elbow and then cut off the extra width of the fabric. This leftover will make an awesome scarf or even lap blanket. Of course the length was crazy too. To use up some of the length, I made the back longer than the front so that the dress would have a train. Then we simply cut the front to hit the ground around my feet. I didn't hem anything because we didn't have time but no one noticed. For the head hole I found the middle of the width and cut three inches in both directions. The fabric curled in on itself so I didn't need to hem and the "boat neck" affect left a nice drape in the front. I did secure the two "ends" of the cut with a piece of fabric in order to keep it from ripping during wear. Finally, I just ran up both sides, leaving a generous armhole. As you can see in the photos Lindsay and I wore our tunics "Greek style" with the entire sleeve gathered at my shoulder with a tie and my friend Laura wore her sleeves down. Both were right according to our Google image search.

Finally, I made "belt backs" with strips of the velvet. These had a pocket on each end in which the cording ran through so that the cording was only in the front. We didn't have enough cord to do a double belt for each of us so this was our compromise. We liked that the belts gave a pop of color to the tunics and tied our three outfits together.

The whole construction project took until 4:30pm that day (with many breaks for tea, ice cream, and talking.)

In the end, we were bested by people with more time/money/ambition then we. But I'm glad we tried and it felt good to run around with like-minded people in costumes. The post-contest party was a blast with hundreds of people running around House on the Rock in costume in the middle of the night. It was the definition of magic and a good time was had by all.

Even me - who doesn't dress up.

- Alex

Every stitch is knit with love

Now I'm going to just say it like it is, I'm not a hugger. Aside from my husband and children (or situations where others need a hug because they're crying or something) I'm not inclined to dole out too much affection. Those who are close to me know this. Most friends choose to hug me anyway... I think they love weirding me out. As a rule, you know I love you when:

1. we laugh together really loud, really often
2. you are the recipient of my hand-made items

As much as I grouse about crafting for others, I do it with love. Something compels me to make things for the little ones in my life, as well as big people who will appreciate the work that goes into the project. I'm not a hugger, I'm a doer.

I think I learned this behavior from my maternal grandmother. I grew up in the same house as her, and she is a very handy lady. She can cook, knit, and sew circles around me... and she is 85. My growing-up years were spent watching her make things for bake sales (seemed like weekly), taking her turn doing the washing and mending of the alter cloths and robes for the church, knitting for every new baby, and more. She's not a hugger either, she's a doer. Last winter I decided to make something just for her.

 I had a small amount of mustard-yellow fine mohair yarn in my stash for a while. Yellow is my grandma's favorite color so I decided to try my hand at lace knitting and make her a neck scarf. I was knitting along just fine for about 5 inches....until....scratch, scratch....teary-eyes....I can't see. I discovered that mohair and I didn't get along very well. My eyes were really swollen and red and kind of scaley. I felt like a cat with a hairball stuck in her throat. It was very unattractive.

However, I did what every good knitter would do, I went into denial and kept knitting. Certainly, it wasn't the mohair. It couldn't be! Must be my hand lotion, or the chlorine from the swimming pool, or my shampoo! There were visits to 2 different doctors and various remedies (including changing my hand lotion and shampoo) - and, yet, I still kept knitting. Eventually, I had to admit that it was the yarn but I was making this for my grandma and, dang it, it was going to get done!

After weeks of itchy eyes, I finished the lace scarf. It was lovely. I packaged it up to mail to grandma, took my knitting bag to the cleaners for a good de-mohairing, and vacuumed everything. It took a few months for my symptoms to go away, but they eventually did. I had truly suffered for my art, and for my grandma.

Alex modeling the scarf for me before it hit the mailbox.

Alex's post from Monday is the inspiration for telling this story. It made me reflect on my relationships with the people that I care about. Do they know that I care? I know how stingy I am with affection. Then I thought about the yellow scarf. I thought about how important it was to me to finish it and give it to my grandma, even if my eyes itched. I was making it for her because it reminded me of her. I thought about her every time I picked the project up. I know it's lame, but, I think that is when you can say "there is love in every stitch".

So what, I'm not a hugger. But, I just might knit you a sweater...



I just found out that someone I knew, and cared very much for, died last year.

He was my boss and co-worker for a short period of time. But, even after I left the company and he subsequently moved across the country, we remained friends. I visited him in Los Angeles a couple of times. He reciprocated my annual Christmas cards. We talked on the phone periodically - just to catch up.

Then, as it happens, we drifted apart. He left the industry that had brought us together. My life got infinitely busier with a teen-aged son and a job with some responsibility. Every 6 months or so, I'd think of him and wonder how he was faring. It became increasingly hard to find him with Google searches and his seemingly meteoric career path had suddenly stopped in its tracks. And I started to worry.

You see, my friend was diagnosed HIV positive when we worked together. I don't know how many people knew this but he had told me and, while he was always upbeat and optimistic about his life, carrying this knowledge meant that I got to worry about him - even if it was my own, private worry.

I guess I always assumed that we'd cross paths again someday. That, somehow, we'd find each other on Facebook or LinkedIn or some mutual friend would mention that he'd seen him and gotten his email address. It never occurred to me that he would die before I got to talk to him again and catch up on our lives.

There's little information in the obituary but I'm assuming that he died from complications from AIDS. He was 45 years old and had moved back to the east coast prior to his death to be closer to his parents and siblings. This is the tell-tale sign of a chronic, mortal illness - going home to die.

Someone built a "guest book" on where people can leave messages for the family and friends of a dearly-departed. My friend's page is a cavalcade of names I'd forgotten - long-ago coworkers, bosses, and acquaintances all eloquently expressing their pain. It's a huge comfort to me knowing that I wasn't the only one who regarded him as a special light in their lives. I want to reach out to these people and commiserate, but I feel guilty that he's been dead for a year and it's new news to me. What do I say? "Sorry I'm just now grieving but I was too busy to know what had happened?"

When it's all said and done, there's nothing I could have done differently I guess. I made the occasional effort to keep up with where he was and what his life was like but I feel like a heel for not trying harder. I'm going to miss him worse now than I've missed him for the past 8 years because before, at least, I knew that we'd reconnect - someday.

Rest in peace, Dan. I hope that they're right and we still have a chance to find each other again. My life is less without even the possibility of your friendship in it.

- Alex