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!

2

Cross-Stitches, Bitchez.

 

Stitchin’ It Up Right

 

Yeah, that’s right. I’m bi-craftual, yo. Actually, I’m multi-craftual if you want to know my dirty little secret. I like ’em all.

Before there was knitting, there was cross-stitching.  My aunt got me hooked in high school and I had one project or another in the hoop for many years after that. Something about the counting, the neat and tiny stitches, and the beautifully glossy flosses appealed to me from the start.  I know. I’m a weirdo. But then, wooly true love and pointy sticks came along and I dropped it quicker than bargain bin yarn in baby poop brown.

So what’s up with the cross-stitching? I needed a gift. And I needed the right gift.

Let me tell you a little story.

Once, I was in my 20’s working hard on my mad scientist street cred at WSU (I used to be a microbiologist at a university before having my son).  It was a good time; friends, lots of free time, making my own money, youth, all that fab stuff. Then I met the love of my life and I had to decide between a job and a life I loved and the man I adored.  Of course I chose love (wouldn’t you?!). So I had to say goodbye to that life and it was hard, but not as hard as I thought it might be.  They had a little party at my boss’ house to send me off and a surprising amount of folks showed up.  Many brought cards or a small gift, which truly surprised and touched me.  I hate being the center of attention and it was all a little uncomfortable, though undeniably thoughtful and sweet.

One of the post-docs I worked with frequently, let’s call her Maggie, brought me a little gift. And to this day, it remains the most perfect gift I’ve probably ever received. Not the best gift, or the one I loved most, but the most perfect gift.  I’ll explain.

Maggie and I worked together frequently as I mentioned.  Though we were friendly, I wouldn’t say we knew each other particularly well.  But we chit-chatted daily and shared a lot of lab equipment and reagents and buffers and stuff. One of the things we passed back and forth often was a timer.  A lot of the procedures we were running required varying amounts of time in various solutions or apparatuses, so careful timing was necessary to run an experiment well.  At least once a day I cursed at the timers in the lab.  These timers could only be set in increments of 1 minute.  Meaning, if you had a 45 minute experiment, you had to push the damn button 45 times to set the timer.  I’m getting pissed just writing about it. What kind of IDIOT makes a timer like that?!

When I opened Maggie’s little gift a huge smile broke across my face.  She had given me a timer that could be set manually to any increment of time I wanted at the mere touch of a couple buttons.  I was stunned. It was the perfect gift! It was personal, yet not extravagant or too unnecessarily intimate. It showed forethought and highlighted the fact that not only had Maggie been listening to the nonsense I spewed from day to day, she understood and sympathized. It wasn’t expensive, so I didn’t feel abysmally undeserving, but it was exactly what I wanted and needed. Truly a perfect gift.

And now I needed one too.

This little project will be a set of jar-toppers for gifting canned foods.  A mom friend I know from preschool (not too well, but well enough to meet for coffee now and then with a few other moms) just had a birthday on Monday and we have a group coffee date coming up next Tuesday. I wanted to bring something not too big or expensive, but still thoughtful, personal, and useful. We taught her how to can this summer and she gave canned items as gifts for Christmas this year.  Jar-toppers, I thought, would be something she could use. And she could keep them for herself is she liked them, or gift them away if she hated them. Win-win. As she’s a single mom with very little free time, instead of gifting the kit itself, I decided to stitch these up for her. They’ll be ready to use whenever she wants them.  I hope she’ll find these to be the perfect gift (not best, not most loved, but just right).

 

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?

2

The Waiting Place

Military Ribbon Afghan


Today I find myself in The Waiting Place; that pause between what has been and what is to come. Christmas overload has ended and the New Year is still patiently waiting its entry into the world. I reflect on what I have and have not done over the past 365 days and what I hope to make manifest with the birth of a new year. But there is a prevalent calm here in the waiting place.  I have the promise of something exciting to look forward to, yet no expectation that I must act upon that promise just yet.  I am waiting in pregnant stillness, like a runner at the starting line. Will this year’s race be for endurance or a flat-out sprint? I don’t know yet, only that I can and will run when it’s time.

While in the waiting place, I am keeping busy.  We are building legos and resting, taking things at our own pace.  I am resurrecting half-done projects (like the one above), hoping I can start the new year with a clean-ish slate. In a couple more days the time for action will arrive. I will make my lists, start my planning, and begin my journey down the road that will be 2016. Until then I wait. And that’s just fine with me.

 

1

Thankful 

Tomorrow will be a busy day for me.  For the first time in nearly 12 years or more, my husband will be working on Thanksgiving and I will be entertaining our family nearly alone. But don’t feel sad for me (not that you would, but just in case you were going there). I have so much to be thankful for!

Today I am preparing some foods in advance for the very first time so that I can spend a little more time visiting with family tomorrow instead of cursing at the gravy and potatoes to “boil faster dammit!”, while begging the turkey not to cool off so fast. And while I am chopping, baking, boiling, mashing and mixing today, I will have lots of time to reflect on the good things in my life.

I have a “Counting My Blessings” book that someone gifted me many years ago, and I got it out early this summer to work on with my 5 year old son. We were going through a big “I want…”, “I need….”, “Get me…..” sort of stage and I wanted him to spend some time thinking about all the good things he already has and how material things aren’t necessarily needs, but more like wants. It was nice to sit down as a family at dinner and each think of three things we were thankful for.  Unfortunately, it’s fizzled a bit because things got busy and no one wanted to do the activity but me.  I got tired of saying, “come on guys, please think of something to write down!”, and becoming that kind of person, forcing everyone to do something they should just want to do on their own. But I still think it’s worthwhile to write it down and it’s fun to reflect on past entries in the years that follow.

So here’s my list for this day before Thanksgiving 2015…..

Things I am grateful for:

  1. I am grateful for Maketober last month. Though I was a bad blogger and did not post often enough to make it legitimate, it did push me to finally open my Etsy shop and I couldn’t be happier that I made this leap. It’s been a slow start, but my wonderful friend Knitting Up North honored me with a purchase the day I opened, and I’ve had nearly a sale a week since then (the little project pictured up top is for the shop). This could be the start of something wonderful (for me)!
  2. My son. Obviously! I never thought I’d want a child. But when I miscarried before becoming pregnant with my son, I realized I really did want one. And since the moment he was born, I’ve been grateful that I didn’t miss out on the true gift only a child can give you. Yes it’s tiring, frustrating, monumental, and all consuming, but to have him wrap his little arms around me and tell me I’m the best most beautiful mom in the world? Truly irreplaceable.
  3. My husband. Another no-brainer. But without this man, I’d be adrift. He is my best friend, my biggest fan, and everything I could possibly wish for in a partner.  I’m damn lucky and I know it.
  4. My home. I may ruminate at times that I don’t belong here, but I am certainly lucky that other people think I do.  With the bitterly cold winds blowing outside today, I am supremely grateful for my warm cup of coffee in my cozy dining room.
  5. My hands. Meaning, the fact that I can, and enjoy making things.  There are so many good things that stem from this small gift. I can cook for my family, I can knit for others, I can read, I can carry on traditions, I can fix things, I can open my own shop. The possibilities are endless.
  6. You. The person reading this, yes, you! Even if you stop for a moment and never visit again, it means so much to me that you did take that one second to look at a picture, or read a few words. A momentary connection, but a connection just the same. It’s so nice to feel a little less alone!

I could think of so many more, but six is a nice even number. My son always lists the same three: “My parents, My house, My dog.” I always tell him to get creative, try to think of something else, but maybe I shouldn’t. He’s kind of on to something there…..

Wishing all of you celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, a most joyous holiday filled with multitudes of things to be grateful for!