Monday, November 28, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Living beyond limits... but not alone

I was fortunate to find this talk posted yesterday on the TED website:

I feel the need to add a few things after watching this:

While it is inspirational to see how a young woman like this has overcome such immense obstacles, I think it's worth mentioning that western society seems to think that the main goal is to fight through life, to laugh at difficulties and to charge through no matter what. Yes, this is important. Don't give up and all that.

However, I think it's also important to note that we should not expect that we should have to face the world on all our own. I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about the will to live, and the way that we face the darkness in our lives. Lonely people, or rather, people who choose to be alone, have a tougher time choosing life. This woman had a wonderful circle of people around her that supported her through it all... and therefore, she could choose life.

I am trying my best to reach out to lonely people, not to solve their problems, but to be there to say that I understand that things are difficult. Sometimes, that's all people need to hear... no plans for improvement, no advice to make things better, no blame games... just that yes, we understand. Sometimes, that's enough for people to choose life.

In this fix-it-all world, sometimes the best fix is to share yourself. That's all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Trouble with November

If there was ever a month that needed an extension, it's November. I swear this month flies by way faster than any other month. Would someone please flip the hourglass and give me a break?

My birthday was this month, and it seems like, the older I get, the less time I get to anticipate and enjoy it. November is the busiest month of the year at work for me, and it's also when everyone starts running around trying to get holiday projects started, planning events, and attending events.

And, darn it, it's when the darkness sets in.

For someone like me, that thrives in natural light, that prefers all her photos taken in natural light, it makes for an incredibly small window to get anything done. I feel like I'm constantly in artificial light, punctuated by periods of darkness. It's funny... even though I'm still technically getting the same number of hours to do things, I just can't seem to muster the energy to do them. It's a tiring, depressing time.

Today, I wanted to take some photos of the bolero I've been working on, and I really wanted some natural light to do it. I was foiled by a headache that descended on me this morning and that stuck around until this evening. I couldn't really knit, because looking down was making me nauseous, so I decided to try out my mini muffin tray instead. (I know, it's weird... but baking during my headache always seems to help me. It's better than sleeping.)

After doing lots of stretching and getting a massage from my kind husband, I finally felt well enough to take some photos, but by that time, the daylight was long gone. Hopefully, these photos aren't too hideous, but they'll have to do. This one is the back of the bolero before blocking:

And here it is all pinned out for blocking.

I plan to make a ruffle around the edges and the sleeves with some 1 1/2 inch silver satin ribbon. I'm going to sew it onto the thinner ribbon in pleats, then sew the thinner ribbon to the edges. I have no idea if it'll work, but that's the plan anyway.

The thing is, even though I'm rather proud of myself for knitting that bolero in a week, I know that, with that ruffle left to make, it's all just beginning. I'm hoping that I'll find some more energy this week to make it happen. I think I'll have to make sure I get outside at lunch hour and see some daylight, otherwise this is going to be another very long week.

And December is just around the corner. Sheesh... when is it gonna be summer again?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Thinking about Maeve

I'm late again this week... but better late than never.

I've told many of my friends of a teacher with whom I had the privilege of working. Her name was Maeve, and she was a teacher in one of the neighbourhoods in Belfast that was regularly hit by sectarian troubles. I met her when I took a short term position teaching Primary 2 in an all-girls Catholic school. She taught the other class of girls the same age, and we did all of our planning together.

We quickly struck up a great friendship. She had great ideas and had a wonderful way of putting me at ease in a new position. She had been teaching for many, many more years than I, but she was still as eager a learner as any of her students.

Rather than taking on the traditional Belfast teacher's way of order and regiment, she had a way of listening to her students that inspired them to follow her every move and her every whim. When someone asked a question, she always stopped to listen, and then invited the others to ponder the answer. She was like a teacher in a fairy world... she spoke, and the children listened in wonder. We were working on a unit about minibeasts: the little creatures that we find under rocks and under leaves in the garden. I would often glance up and find her outside with her girls in the schoolyard, finding every single rock and looking underneath them (which was a tough thing to do in a paved courtyard). We always joined in.

One day, her class got into a discussion about spirals. The girls noticed that the snails they had collected and that were living in a tank in the classroom had a spiral shape to their snails. "Spiders make their webs like that," one said.

"That's right," Maeve said. "I wonder... what else around us is made in a spiral?"

They came up with lots of things: jellyrolls, haircurls, even galaxies. They also noted that the spiral is used in many ancient Irish hieroglyphs. The discussion went on for days. One day, a girl from her class knocked on my door, walked in and handed me a note. "You could peel an orange in a spiral!" it said in blue crayon, written in Maeve's writing.

Of course you could.

I miss Maeve. I'm ashamed to say that, after my post finished, I lost contact with her. It was like I'd stepped out of the fairy world, I couldn't find my way back in. It felt strange to try to seek her out, and the longer I waited, the more awkward it became.

I think that Maeve inspired me to slow down and to really delight in working with others, especially children. I've learned to try to listen as carefully as possible, and to value everything they tell me. One of the reasons I left teaching in a classroom was because I felt like there was never any time to listen... always rushing, always marking, always keeping on curriculum. But no listening. No pondering.

Maybe someday I'll be like her. I'll find my way back into that fairy world and be able to wander through, delighting in all around and using every single brain cell in my head, every single one of my senses. She can't be the only one in the world like her.

But she is one in a million... in a spiral galaxy of millions...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The P.O.P. Formula

Warning: I'm going to be talking about physics today. You will not require a degree to read this post, but It seemed fair to give advance warning. Definitions used are from

Definition: Infinity
  1. The quality or condition of being infinite.
  2. Unbounded space, time or quantity.
  3. An indefinitely large number or amount.
  4. The amount of time it takes for Adriene to knit a project.
Perhaps that last definition is yet to be recognized by any respectable dictionary, but at the rate I'm going, it's really only a matter of time.

I've been dragging my feet with my knitting lately. I usually spend a good chunk of each evening working on my current project, but I spent most of my evenings last week having bubble baths, scrubbing my feet, surfing the web, and drinking tea. Those aren't such bad things to be doing, but considering that I've been working on my current project for almost twelve weeks (including the time I put it down to work on other things), this kind of activity can only be described as procrastination.

Definition: Procrastination
  1. v. To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.
  2. n. Adriene's way of life.
Sad, but true.

This situation improved somewhat yesterday when I got out some clothes to try on for a fancy event I was attending that evening. I don't get many opportunities to wear "the good clothes," so it's always a lot of fun to pull them out and admire them. I managed to figure out three different outfits: one for last evening's event, and two more for events that are coming up... except one of the outfits I wanted to wear for a future event was a dress that has little cap sleeves.

I hate my arms. I'm working on trying to remedy that situation with daily exercise and healthy eating, but my arms are well... enormous. There's no talking me out of it. Elbow-length sleeves or longer, that's my style. But this dress is one that I bought years ago when I lived in London. It was a splurge purchase just after I got a job and started making sterling pounds. It was a lot of money for me back then, but I loved it.

But I've only worn it once.

So, I decided that I could wear a bolero cardigan over top. I only have one such item of clothing, and it's black. It just wouldn't work with this lilac-coloured dress. Silver would be perfect, I said to myself.

My mind immediately went to two skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima I purchased last summer. They would be perfect... but only two skeins? Could I pull it off?

Definition: Obsession
  1. The domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
  2. The idea, image, desire, feeling, etc., itself.
  3. The state of being obsessed.
  4. The act of obsession.
  5. How Adriene spent her Sunday.
I spent all day today thinking of ways that I could make this project work. I took out all my yarn (and that's a lotta yarn) and looked through it to see if there was anything else I had that would work. It was a good thing to do. While doing so, I managed to tidy up and organize all my skeins into one space (mostly) and used the box that my spindles were gifted in to store some of my smaller balls of yarn and my spindles. Nice, huh?

Definition: Productivity
  1. The quality of being productive.
  2. The rate at which goods or services are produced especially output per unit of labor.
  3. What happens when Adriene gets herself organized.
I decided that there was nothing for it: I am going to make this project work if it kills me. I've since spent time this evening swatching and counting stitches and looking through pictures and patterns for inspiration. I think I can do this. The only question is: Can I get it done in time?

This is where the physics comes in.

When I am in a state of procrastination:
  • Productivity = 0
  • Time spent on projects = infinity

When I am in a state of obsession:
  • Productivity > (is greater than) 0
  • Time spent on projects < (is less than) infinity
Therefore, if I keep at it, I think I can get this done in time. I've got just about three weeks to finish it. I've wound the yarn, made my swatch, checked my gauge. It's go time.

That's the P.O.P. Formula: procrastination, obsession, productivity, as it pertains to knitting and Adriene.

Somebody write this down. It's important physics. Watch out, Stephen Hawking. You're gonna need to spend some good brain time on this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turning Thirty-Mumble-Mumble-Mumble

It's my birthday today. I turned thirty-mumble-mumble-mumble. It's been a nice day. The folks at work got me with a good surprise and we ate fabulous banana cheesecake with lots of fresh berries and whipped cream. I'm not ashamed to say I inhaled it. It was good stuff...

My hubby made his world-famous mocha cake for me (If you haven't heard of it, well maybe you're not of this world). I haven't eaten any of it yet, but he had a piece while I had a nap after work today. And yes, he did ask me if he could have a piece before he did.

We went out for dinner to our favourite restaurant, a small Greek restaurant where they make their own pita, yogurt, tzatziki, hummus... it's awesome. We smell strongly of garlic right now, but that's a good thing during cold and flu season, you know. She loves our dog (we walk past the restaurant almost every day) so she usually gives us a free bit of dessert. It's good to have dog fans!

And presents? I was really lucky this year. My brother got me a pair of shoes I fell in love with last month (they haven't arrived yet, but I'm sure they'll be here soon). It's nice to have a brother that doesn't mind getting pretty shoes for you. I already have the same pair in grey, and he got me the black pair. Being a woman with large feet means that it's really only recent days that pretty shoes have been available in my size. I'm taking full advantage of that!

My mom got me a purse. She's always had really good taste in purses and handbags, and every time she gets me one, I get compliments on it from everyone I meet. This time will be no different. Such a pretty colour! I think I'm going to use it as my spindle bag...

... because hubby got me a Golding spindle! I actually got two because, when I asked him for it, we figured it would be cheaper to get another one to combine the shipping because it was the same for any number of spindles from them. I can't remember which one he actually paid for, but I don't care. I took one of them for a test drive with some wool/silk pencil roving this afternoon, and man, do these things spin! They go and go and go... totally cool. These really are the Rolls Royce of spindles, and I'm so proud to actually have them.

I think I might treat myself to a bubble bath and foot scrub tonight and head to bed early. This is usually such a busy time of year for me that I'm usually either sick with a cold or too busy to enjoy my birthday, but it seems to have worked out well this year. I'm grateful for the well wishes from all my friends and family and for another year of life. It's been a while since I felt that way.

So, bath and bed... and maybe I'll dream of all the pretty things I'll spin with my trusty spindles and spinning bag...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: The Thing You Need to Hear

This one is going to be short and sweet because I'm already one day late, and I'm quite tired tonight.

Keep this message and put it in your pocket. Take it out when you need it. Give it to a friend when they are having a hard time. Sometimes, it's not advice or a favour you need: it's just the reassurance that there will be another chance.

There's always another chance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eavesdropping on Yarn Gossip

White yarn: So, here we are. Another Sunday on the dining table.

Green yarn: Yep.

Evilla Colour-changing yarn: How long do you think we'll have to sit here?

White yarn: I dunno. I only just got here on the table. She re-wound me last week after I sat in the basket for two years all tangled up.

Green yarn: What kind of yarn are you, anyway?

White yarn: I think I'm acrylic. I don't really know. I lived at the Salvation Army before I came here.

Evilla: Ghastly. I'm from Estonia, you know.

Green yarn: As if anyone knows where that is...

White yarn: Whoa! What happened to that guy?

Evilla: That's one of her first attempts at using the ballwinder. She wound it a bit too loosely, and she needed to stick that toilet paper roll through his guts to keep him from falling apart.

Green yarn: Gross. I think I'm gonna be sick.

White yarn: You do look a little green... *snicker*

Green yarn: She looks kinda rough.

White yarn: She came with me. She's also from the Salvation Army. We don't know what she is or where she's from. We call her Amnesia.

Evilla: Poor thing. No pedigree. Just a mutt of a yarn.

Green yarn: I wouldn't say that. You never know. She might end up being a real gem of a yarn.

Evilla: Pah! Such a low-grade thing, unlike me. I am from Estonia, you know.

Green and white yarn: We know...

Green yarn: Who is that?

Evillia: That's that fancy silk blend she got a couple of years ago at Olds Fibre Festival. She hasn't even been wound yet.

White yarn: I bet she uses her before me. I saw her walking around with her the other day.

Green yarn: That seems fair. I think she's been here since before us.

Evilla: No! I was here first! And I have much more yardage and have been sitting here wound in a cake for a much longer time than her! I am tired of being put aside and forgotten here on the dining table!

White yarn: You know, you're right. We should do something about this. We should try to get her attention... make her notice us! Shake her up a bit!

Green yarn: Uh, guys?

Evilla and white yarn: What?

Green yarn: None of us have arms or legs. How are we going to do this?


White yarn: You and your dumb ideas, Evilla.

Evilla: How dare you talk to me like that! I am from...

Green and white yarn: We KNOW!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Betcha Never Thought of This One

This video put a huge smile on my face today. I actually laughed in sheer delight.

I loved it so much for these reasons:
  1. It's awesome.
  2. When I think of ukeleles, I usually think of Hawaiian guys in floral shirts and Mai Tais.
  3. It takes an idea and totally turns it on its head.
These days, I feel like so many people think they've seen it all, and they have all these pre-conceived ideas of things. "I know what that's going to be like, and I know it's going to be terrible." Where have all the open minds gone? Why all the assumptions, folks?

When you see me sitting on a park bench with my knitting needles, what do you assume? That I'm a dull, unmarried spinster with no life and nothing interesting to say?

If I'd let my assumptions about ukeleles and the people who play them get in the way tonight, then I would have never seen this.

What a shame that would have been.