2

The Lowdown on Slowdown

I saw Passengers the other day with my super knitty pal Troy. Having not seen any real trailers about the movie beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really really liked it.  It doesn’t hurt that Chris Pratt is pretty dreamy in an old-fashioned, boy-next-door kinda way. As a six degrees of separation side note, my sister-in-law went to high school with him (!). I sure don’t remember any guys at my high school lookin’ like that…… (Sssshhhh… don’t tell R. Darling I said that – we went to high school together!). Granted, lots of dudes get better with age ;)

Anyway, daydreams aside, I was struck by a particular scene in the movie and have been thinking about it ever since.  Jim Preston (Pratt’s character) is asked why he would choose to spend 120 years in hibernation in order to start a new life on an unknown colony far from the life he knew on Earth. He thinks about it for a moment and then says that back on Earth, when something breaks, it is replaced instead of being fixed. As someone who works with his hands for a living, he implies that he wants a simpler life where we value what we create. When I think about what a life like that would mean, I envision a place where people would live more intentionally. We would care more about the things we were doing and the people with whom we chose to populate our lives. Mindfulness, I believe it’s called.

Top to Bottom: Chrysanthemum, ?, Bellini

Top to Bottom: Chrysanthemum, ?, Bellini

I have been stuck on this thought ever since.  And not just because of the pretty face and slick Hollywood film that brought it up. It’s not a new thought, and certainly not unique to my existence.  It’s easy enough to define, but more difficult to apply to every day life. But I know I need it.

I was listening to The Minimalists‘ Podcast the other day and they described an exercise they have asked people to do in the past that allows them some clarity when reflecting on what’s important in their lives and what would really make them happy. On a sheet of paper, you write “Today” and list all the things you need or want to do today.  All the stuff that feels important at this moment.  Turn the paper over and title that side “Someday”.  Write down all the things you want to do someday. Now, what would happen if you switched the titles of the two sides?  If “Someday” became “Today”? Would your life be richer, more-fulfilled, and have more meaning?  I think yes.

So I am finding ways to make “someday” into “today”.  I dyed yarn 3 days this week and developed 3 new colors for the Etsy shop.  Normally that would have fallen under “someday” but I made the choice it would be today and I am so much happier for it. And people, happy is really where it’s at.

5

In All Seriousness….

I am depressed.

There, I said it.  Or rather, typed it. At this moment I am also looking over my shoulder, afraid someone will see what I wrote, afraid someone I know will read this and gasp with shock. They will point their fingers at me and cover their mouths in horror as if I have just contracted some horrific jungle disease. I am more frightened to publish this than I would be to bungee jump from the Empire State Building in a saran wrap thong. Actually, yes, let’s do that thong thing instead.

This post was supposed to be about knitting, or how much I am looking forward to the upcoming year, or how great my holidays were. I wanted to be able to tell you those things. But I wouldn’t be keepin’ it real and, as many of you know, I’m kind of a fan of keepin’ it real. So – Confession time: All I want to do right now is stuff my face with chocolate and roll up burrito-style in a big down comforter and cry myself to sleep in a dark room. But I can’t do that. I have a husband and a 6 (almost 7) year old son who depend on me to function like an adult. I cannot afford to be selfish and wallow in my self-destructive pity. Trust me. I’d love to. I’d really love to.  But it’s just not possible.  And actually, that’s a good thing.  How can I expect to move forward if I don’t force myself to get up every day and do all the things I need to do to keep everyone else healthy and happy?

dont-stay-where-you-are-quote-image

However, I am determined that there must be a way to get myself out of this d-word situation (I can’t even type “depression” without breaking out in a cold sweat). Shouldn’t I be happy and healthy too? I have tried medication and therapy (my insides are on puree mode as I confess this). They work. They really do. But I want to try it on my own this time. And I think this year should be about me. It sounds selfish to write that, but if I am barely functioning on this planet, what kind of life is that? What kind of mother and wife would I be if I was just going through the motions every day? That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s getting pretty old.

I know you’re asking me, “So, smart ass. Just how are you going to do that?” I don’t really know yet. I do know that many doctors and scientists have been touting exercise as a natural anti-depressant, sometimes going so far as to say it works better than medication. I know I feel better when I exercise. So step 1: get some exercise.

I’ve heard good things about meditation too. This one makes me roll my eyes a bit, but I have an incredibly skeptical, cynical, male friend who has actually tried it and claims it works. If he says it works than I’m guessing it’s the friggin’ holy grail I’ve been looking for. I also know that clutter, unfinished projects, disorganization in the home, can all contribute to stress and anxiety. This is a problem I feel I’ve discussed often here at the blog. I’ve been working steadily over this past year to let go, let go, let go. It’s hard, but I’m getting better at it.  I read everything I find on the subject and am constantly re-homing or donating things.  There is always more to do and I plan to keep going.  Just this morning I got on my new iPad I received for Christmas and downloaded several podcasts.  A couple of them were just for fun, but I found a few that I thought might at least give me something to think about as a way to reinforce the habits I’m trying to establish this year as I make my way to a better existence. If any of you have listened to “Good Life Project”, “The Minimalists Podcast” or “The Hilarious World of Depression” I hope you’ll let me know what you think!

This will be a long process I fear, this road to well-being. I hope I will not become some annoying evangelist or exercise freak, that you will continue to come here for more than just my boring discussions on mental health (because I now dye yarn – squeee!). But I cannot promise I won’t sneak in a progress report here or there. This summer I found out that a woman I’ve known since college as a fierce, intensely self-sufficient, strong, intelligent woman whom I admired very much, has been battling depression for a very long time. I was shocked yes, but not because I was horrified or felt she was a pariah with a frightening contagious disease. I was shocked because I would never have guessed that someone as amazing as her could have been reduced to the hopelessness and helplessness I feel every day. For her to announce this, on Facebook, to remove the stigma for others gave me the strength to allow me to admit it to myself. And maybe if I can admit it to you, I can give you the strength you need to face it if you are struggling too.

So Happy New Year to you! Because, yes, 2017 will be happy. It better be, or there’ll be no one to blame but myself.

2

Summer Mom Fail

I had a plan.

My child was NOT going to sit around inside all day this summer, rotting his brain on TV and Minecraft. We were going to do a project every day, something that was fun, but also educational. He was going to read to me consistently and do his summer bridge workbook pages. We were going to have a great time together, spend lots of time outdoors, and he was going to love summertime with Mom.

Ha ha ha ho ho ho hee hee hee. Feel free to snort your beverage of choice through your nostrils at my cheerful optimism. Personally, I suggest something not carbonated.

I thought I was so prepared. I made a huge book with all sorts of activities I found on Pinterest. Beginning in May I spent hours looking for the best projects and purchased (little by little) a huge tub of supplies. I grew to love Pinterest (remember when I asked this? What was I thinking?!) with an all-consuming passion that still exists to this day. Ah, adorably naive pre-summer me! How sad that you disappeared so quickly after that last day of Kindergarten.

We are halfway through summer and I have nearly given up. The workbook pages get completed, but intermittently. Uptown has read only 9 books to me, and nearly every one involved crying, cajoling, frustration, and bad feelings all around. We have done maybe 5 of the projects I thought we’d do this summer and most of them were fairly spectacular fails. Whenever I bring up the “busy book” it is met with promising interest, only to fade into lackluster participation.

And I am failing at this Mom thing. I am exhausted, unsure how to engage my child because I am so wiped out, angry that he seems incapable of doing anything that doesn’t involve a screen and disconsolate I can’t make this summer thing work. Someone please tell me that it’s o.k.; that I will not have created a mouth-breather who still lives at home when he’s 32 (there’s one of those just a few doors down!) just because I couldn’t keep us on track this summer.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, very little knitting is getting done. But I did manage to finish one project and add a (insert sarcasm here —›) whopping 198 yds to my Stash Dash 2016 total.

Death Star 2

This is my second of these crazy pillows and it was made for a high school friend who had to have one after seeing the other one I made. If you want specific project details, you can check out my post for the previous pillow, which went to the son of a college friend (incidentally my ex-boyfriend who then married my college roommate, ha ha!).

So here’s the updated Stash Dash 2016 list (all Ravelry links):

The Joker & The Thief and the Embroidered Apron are still in rotation, but I broke The Rule of Two and added in a third project, the Summer 2016 KAL from JLFleckenstein. So far it’s a lot of fairly mindless garter stitch using yarn from my stash (counts for Stash Dash – yesssssss!!) which I really really need right now.

Alright troops. Break’s over.  Back to mom duty!

1

Stashes, Dashes & Knits

I’ve been trying to write this post for close to three weeks. A collision of home projects, end of the school year activities, a rapidly accelerating canning season, some secrety squirrel projects I’ll show you later, and just plain old exhaustion, have kept me from sitting down long enough to do anything but wolf down some food and go to sleep. Just ask my Fitbit. Except, how come I am walking close to 35 miles each week just doing regular stuff and I’m still at a distressingly sad level of fitness?! It’s just not fair.

Never mind. Summer is here!

Uptown is now a First Grader. What?!  When did that happen? Wasn’t it only just over 6 years ago that this happened? He’s thrilled to be done with school for a while. Me? I’m not so sure. Right now we are still in the honeymoon phase and there has been plenty to do. But I’m waiting for him to drop the “I’m bored!” bomb on me any day now. I think I’ve cleverly blast-proofed myself though with a thing I call “The Boredom Book.”  I’ll tell you all about that another time after we’ve caught up.

Last day of Kindergarten!

Just in time for the last day of school, I blocked Frisson (which I mentioned here) as an end of the year teacher’s gift for Uptown’s Kindergarten teacher. R. Darling was kind enough to take a few photos for me, along with a couple other projects that had been languishing, undocumented, in the closet for a while. I’m going to spare you the usual FO rigamarole this time around because I’m sure your eyes are already glazed over due to my self-important blabbing (and because I’m too lazy and just want to post this b*tch already!), but suffice it to say, this was a super fun knit.  I love how it turned out and I will surely be making another.  If you want more details on the specifics I’m skipping this time, feel free to check it out on my Ravelry project page here.

Frisson

The main reason I wanted to post today was to talk about Stash Dash 2016. You can check out the details at the Ravelry Group or at my friend Knitting Up North‘s blog here. I participated (rather poorly) last year and plan to participate (probably just as poorly) this year too.  According to the Knit Girllls, whose podcast I don’t listen to because I’m stubbornly avoiding the whole podcast thing (don’t ask me why), Stash Dash is: “….a virtual dash to use up stash and/or finish some WIPs. Crafts included in stash dash are knitting, spinning, crochet, tatting, and weaving.” So even though I participate unofficially, and craptastically, I still get some sh!t done and that’s always a good feeling.  Never mind that the only knitting I do lately is the 20-30 minutes I get during Uptown’s evening swim lessons. I mean, it could happen.

Swim Lessons

So here’s my Stash Dash 2016 list (in totally random order & all Ravelry links):

I just recently found out that I have a brand new niece arriving in early November, so I have a feeling the list will shift a little.  But in keeping with my Rule Of Two, I am currently focusing on only The Joker & The Thief and the Embroidered Apron.  To be honest though, it’s been damn hard not to cast on for some baby frivolity!

And as a special prize for your visit today, I’ll leave you with an earworm from the album that inspired the title for today’s post (yes it’s in my CD library, and yes I rock the crap out of it all the time!).

4

Happy Craftentine’s Day!


For those of you who celebrate – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hope your day is filled with lovely things like chocolate and flowers (or wine and knitting, if that’s your thing). I would have loved a day like this one that I’d clean forgotten about, but instead we are recovering from colds and all spread around the house doing our own things.  Ah well.  Some other year perhaps.

This year Uptown and I made valentines for his Kindergarten classmates.  In previous years I slaved away hand making valentines for his co-op preschool friends and Uptown was rarely interested in deciding what they should look like, much less involved in making them (2013, 2014 – no post, but we made these2015).  To be fair, “slaving” is hardly what I did.  I loved his co-op and all the folks we knew there and it was truly a labor of love to make fun gifts for all the kiddos (and often their siblings too!).  This year he has been so excited by the whole Perler business going on in our house that I thought he’d like to make fuse bead valentines for his class.  So I hit Pinterest hard core and looked for the perfect idea. After some discussion we settled on this pattern and this tag. By using glow-in-the-dark beads we combined a tag he liked with a pattern I thought was cute and easy for him to do.

He was into it – at first. But once I had all the supplies assembled (a week and a half early mind you!) and he realized he was actually going to have to make them himself, the light went out.  A week and a half of grousing, bad attitudes (on both our parts), pestering, lecturing, and whining (on both our parts) ensued, during which time only two valentines were actually completed. And then, as happens to even the best prepared moms (a group in which I am never included), we were slammed with a doozy of a cold. Two days before the class party and still only two valentines were ready.

So we suffered through it.  I cajoled and extolled the virtues of starting a project on time so “these things won’t happen”, he leaked boogers and sneezed virus everywhere while plopping teeny tiny beads on a little pegboard with feverish fingers. I’m the worst mama in the world.  But I was going to make him keep his word (he’d promised!) and I was NOT going to do it for him. We survived – barely. The valentines were made. But Uptown had to miss the party due to his fever. Was it worth it? I don’t know. Will I do it again? Hell no.  Next year we’re going to ruin the planet and buy some of those insipid, cheesy, impersonal paper valentines and he can write his name on them and be done with it.

I’m out.

6

The Things We Do For Love

Perler Beads!

 

My son has recently discovered Minecraft.  I’m ashamed to say that I do let him play it on my ipad from time to time.  His will be a tech savvy generation, no? But I seriously do not understand the draw. The graphics suck and it seems jerky and, yes I’m being judgy – pointless. Early on I tried to figure out how to play because he was so frustrated trying to figure out how to do things on his own and wanted help. I thought maybe I could assist.  Ha ha!  Silly Moo Moo (Uptown’s special name for me)! Did you really think you could understand?  Come on. But leave it to my kid to teach himself everything he wanted to know by watching Kids’ Youtube videos (good thing people like publishing tutorials).  How can you fault a kid who knows what he wants and then goes and finds the answers for himself? I almost feel like letting him play is teaching him something. Seriously, the kid is nearly 6 and he can do this?  Oy.

Unfortunately it’s become a HUGE obsession.  Rarely does a statement issue from his mouth that does not include something about Creepers, Steve, Redstone, Endermen, or what happens when lava meets water in Minecraft world. I feel he’s barely scratched the surface of what you can do with the game (which is fine with me) and already I feel my eyes glaze over when he starts Minecraft speaking.  But I have found a way to make the Minecraft obsession a little more productive and a little less boring for me. Enter Perler Beads.

During the holidays, one of Uptown’s advent gifts was a small Perler kit of a penguin. Immediately, he wanted to make more.  I don’t know what it is about junky plastic stuff, but kids just love it. But the awesome thing about this activity is the fact that he is working on fine motor control, distinguishing shades of color, and counting.  I’ve heard these can even improve hand-eye coordination. And guess what?  Pinterest and the interwebz are positively swarming with free Minecraft patterns.  Yesterday I set him up with a few (here) and he just kept wanting to make more and more.  Fantastic!  We can satisfy the love for Minecraft without even touching the iPad.

Of course today I find myself huddled over a giant vat of Perler Beads (22,000 to be exact) sorting, sorting, sorting.  Because apparently that’s how I roll.  Do not give me something that needs to be categorized or sorted out, or I will obsessively work like a little monkey until that sh*t is done. Ah, the things we do for love.

As for my socks, they are coming along nicely as well.  I treated myself to a new pair of needles with my Loopy Ewe end of the year credit and I’m so glad I did.  These are 40″ Chiaogoo Lace circulars, size 1.5 and they rock out with their socks out!  WAY better than the Knit Picks fixed Harmony circulars I was using prior.  The joins are super smooth and the cord has very little memory (unlike the Knit Picks Harmonys) which makes knitting magic loop so much more enjoyable. My knitting motto this year is: Socks for ’16 and I have a feeling these will get me there.

 

Los Monos Locos

4

What’s Up 2016?

Monkeys & Legos

Ah, hello Day 2 of the New Year! Or are you no longer new now that you are 2 days old? No matter.  I am still feeling the brand new optimism that comes from the arrival of a new year.

Lists and plans are still a thing of the future today.  I’ve got time and I will get down to business when I’m good and ready.  Today I am working on my first project of the new year and cooking my Mom a batch of my Dad’s spaghetti sauce.  It feels auspicious that I am doing both these things on the second day of the year.

The holidays always remind me of my Dad.  We would wait for all our favorite Christmas specials to come on TV after dinner. Hurry! Charlie Brown Christmas is starting! Now it’s all on demand, but back then we had to make sure we were planted in front of the TV on the proper channel or we’d miss out.  There was something special about not being able to pause or rewind our favorite specials.  You had to be present both physically and emotionally.  I kind of miss those days.  But mostly, I miss my Dad.  He passed away in 2009 and sometimes I almost forget he won’t answer the phone when I call or give me a whiskery kiss and tell me not to take any “wooden nickels.” But I keep him alive making his spaghetti sauce.  He taught me his “recipe” many years ago and I almost never cook it, choosing the speedy cheater method I’ve developed over years of college and young professional life rather than the low and slow day long approach his recipe requires.  A couple years ago I didn’t know what to give my Mom for Mother’s Day, so I decided to dig out my handwritten recipe from the cooking lesson Dad gave me so many years ago, and I made her a batch.  My Mom, notoriously hard to please with gifts, practically shed a tear.  You’d think I’d delivered the moon and stars. Today, I’m giving that gift again.  But really, it’s a gift for both of us. We both get to start the year with my Dad.

As for the socks, they’re auspicious too. I knit a pair of Cookie A’s Monkey socks a couple years ago and really enjoyed both the process and the result.  My plan (as yet fully unrevealed) for 2016 is to knit a lot of socks.  That’s all I’m really committing to you see: a lot. No specific number, no limiting myself to only socks this year….. why stress? But more on that later.  Anyway, back to the Monkey thing.  The pattern I cast on for is a version of the Monkey socks, but toe-up and purl-less.  It’s called Los Monos Locos and has been in my queue since April 2011 (!). Though I loved the Monkey pattern and really want a pair for myself, I thought it would be more fun to work on my queue at the same time I work on my sock problem er, goals.  So I cast on and guess what I discovered while surreptitiously slurping photos for my Ravelry project page?  The Chinese Astrology Year of the Monkey begins in February.

How’s that for auspicious?