Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Lovely Sky

This is a story about finding out that hard work is worthwhile. Everything your parents/teachers/grandparents told you about working hard and it building up your character and all that is true. It's gratifying, especially when it comes back to warm your heart.

A few years ago, I was the president of our local Humane Society, a fledgling group that needed a new leader. I stepped forward and said I'd do it. I had lots of ideas and a good work ethic.

The next ten months were filled with hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, my phone ringing off the hook, days full of worry, and people... more people than animals in many cases.

But Sky was worth it.

Sky was a dog who had been adopted by someone from another Society, but found that she didn't match the family's lifestyle. Sky was described as a Husky, but we've since decided that she is part Border Collie and part something else (Shepherd? Lab?). When I first got word that Sky was going to join us, I immediately emailed my HR person, who told me they'd been thinking about getting a new dog for their cattle farm. A couple of months later, they made the decision that they'd take her home for sure.

On a rainy afternoon, I went with another lady who volunteered with me with the Society, and we picked up Sky, who was outside, sitting chained up in the rain. Sky leaped into my car backseat, where we'd placed an old double comforter, and she lounged there asking for belly rubs until we made it to my house. There, we met her new family, and she went home. That was three years ago.

This morning, I got a phone call out of the blue from her new mom. "Adriene," she said, "I just wanted to call you to tell you what a wonderful dog Sky has turned out to be."

I'd been hearing all sorts of stories about Sky from her new family:  how she ate a pair of boots and a sandal, how she enjoyed rolling in... stuff... how she loved being around the cows... so this sentence didn't surprise me. But...

"Sky loves the calves," her mom said. "She looks after them and sleeps with them, and the mother cows trust her completely. One of the calves has pneumonia, and the calf's mother trusts Sky to look after the calf while she goes out to pasture. We went out to load the calf to bring it to the vet, and we found Sky lying next to her with the calf's head on her paws. Sky was gently licking the calf's face."

I smiled and cooed and ooohed and ahhed... wonderful things to hear.

"Last night, one of the horses had a colt, and Sky was right there outside the fence, watching carefully and waiting. And this morning, we found Sky right in the same place, and the colt was lying next to her on the other side of the fence while the mother was busy eating. It's like she's the official babysitter."

I heard a few more stories about how carefully Sky looks after her "babies," even chasing off coyotes that ventured too near. I thought back to the day I picked her up... and I was so grateful that we could give her the chance to have a home.

And a chance to be herself.

I won't lie:  being president of a Humane Society is emotionally exhausting, and I won't be doing it again anytime soon. It's stories like this, though, that remind me that I made a difference, not just to Sky, but to:
  • Bart (now Leo), the horse-chasing border collie that now lives happily with two collie sisters
  • Ernest, the stray cat that got to live in a 5000 sq. ft house
  • The Bucket Kittens (Leelou, Charlie, Suree and Bug), found abandoned in a bucket but who all have wonderful homes
  • Bear, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever that is living his fantasy with his forest ranger dad and his family in the mountains
  • Lily, the Tuxedo cat, who has a couple of dogs and a man under her command
  • Tubitha, the cat who "wasn't fat, just has an overly small head"
There were more... and there were others I didn't get to know that well, but found homes because of the work we did, the reports I wrote, the policies we created, the money we worked endlessly to raise, the phonecalls we took no matter what... they're all alive and happy.

Because we worked hard.

So, if you're slogging away at something that seems heart-wrenching and never-ending, I'm betting that there's going to be a great payback some day. Keep at it. You'll be so glad you did.

I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Thought I'd Mastered This in Kindergarten

I learned to count from my mother. Most mothers I know sit and count with their toddlers... one finger, two fingers, three fingers... one duck, two ducks, three ducks... four cars, five cars, six cars... I even learned to count in two languages. You can do that sort of thing when you're little.

In kindergarten, I'm sure I learned to count even better... maybe even up to TWENTY.

So, how come I can't count now?

I've been working on Anne Hanson's Butternut Scarf using two balls of Hempathy that have been sitting in my yarn basket for a couple of years (which is the case for most of my yarn, really).  I've been in love with this pattern ever since I saw it in Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle book a while back. When I finally figured out where I could get the pattern, I got it as soon as I could, because I knew it had to be mine. Excellent... yarn and pattern, all ready to go.


Except I made it through about three-quarters through the first of the two balls of yarn I had and realized it was really going to be too short.

I tried shopping through other people's stashes on Ravelry, from people who claimed they would trade or sell them, but unfortunately, nobody returned my messages (that's a whole rant right there, but nevermind).

I thought about just ordering a single ball online, but that just seemed like a waste of time and postage.

I thought about just leaving it and living with it. Yeah, right.

So, I ripped it all out and am starting all over. But, that's not the hardest part.

The hardest part is counting.

I worked out the math for making a skinnier scarf:  a pattern repeat of 14 stitches plus eleven for the border repeat plus 3 for the beginning and 3 for the end... right... so I want a scarf yea wide... I need 45 stitches.

Do you think I can count to 45???

I have higher education. I graduated with a Bachelor of Education with Distinction. I am good at math. I can convert gauge for knitting in my head.

But I can't get past 23 stitches.

So, at some point, this scarf is going to get done, and I'm going to love it because it will be the scarf I've been waiting for a couple of years to knit. But... but...

... I may need a tutor and a lot of milk and cookies before I that happens. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Working Hard with a Smile

In the mood for a cliché? Sure you are. Here's one: A smile is a frown turned upside-down.

Barfing yet? No? Good.

In an effort to be as positive as possible, I've been trying hard to plaster a smile onto my face in as many situations as possible. I even push out a chuckle here and there. And the odd thing is that it really works. I feel happier and more positive about things.

Last Friday, I started a running program to see how I would do. I took Rascal with me, thinking I'd be able to get him some exercise while I was at it.

Rascal is a creature of habit. He gets up, I let him out, he pees, he eats, he goes back to bed. Hubby gets up and eats breakfast, and then he takes Rascal out for a 40-minute walk. Then he hangs out, sleeps, maybe plays a little, barks out the window throughout the day. Then, I come home, and I take Rascal out for another 40-minute walk. Needless to say, he is well-exercised and is pretty happy all-around.

So, on Saturday morning, I changed things up a bit. I let him out, he peed, then he came dashing in for his breakfast... except, instead, I put his leash on and we headed out for a run. He thought it was fun for a while, until realized he couldn't linger at his normal stops as he normally does. It went something like this:

"Oooo! We're running!" he'd say. "Oooo! I need to sniff this post!" And he'd stop, and I'd run past, his flexi-leash slowly extending to full length. It would tug, and he'd be pulled away from his spot.

"Uh, hey... I wasn't done!" But then, he'd start trotting along, reluctantly. Then, a ground squirrel would dart across the path.

"Oooo! Squirrel!" he'd say, and he'd zoom past me, ears flopping along, nearly pulling my arm out of my socket. He'd stop to sniff the hole the squirrel disappeared into, and I'd run past, flexi-leash extending... and then, a tug, and he'd be off again.

"Oooo! We're running!

And so it continued.

I could have been frustrated, but I chose to laugh each time I saw his ears flopping away as he raced past me, or at the perplexed look on his face as I ran past him. "What the heck... Mom doesn't usually go that fast... Oh well. Oooo! We're running!"

It made for a relatively easy run, punctuated by small amounts of Rascal's silliness. The best part was when we approached a lady walking ahead of us, and he started thinking we were chasing her. He looked back at me as he trotted, then back up at her, and then he started getting faster and faster, wagging his tail in delight, until he dragged me up behind her. When he touched his paw to her leg, she jumped a bit. Luckily, she thought it was cute (Rascal, not me) and stooped down to pet him as I ran past.

"Gotta go!" he said. "We're running!"

I don't know if I'll be able to take him with me all the time, but it made me realize that the tough things, like running, really are made better with a smile.

And hey, if I make it to my 10K in the fall, I'm gonna have an even bigger smile then. Until then, Rascal can help me feel the burn.

Jane Fonda has nothin' on him.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Octopus-Thing Necklace

Check out the weird thing I found crawling across my dining table. Is it a squid? An octopus? An alien life form waiting for my dog to walk past so that it can attach itself to his face?

This octopus-thing is actually my rendition of Kirsten Johnstone's sev[en] circle necklace (and no, I don't know why there are rectangular brackets in there). I made it with about one and a half skeins of Mirasol Hacho that has been sitting in my stash for a couple of years. It's a clever knitted necklace made of seven rings, all joined together in the back.

It being April, the chilly mornings are still hanging around, so it has come in handy this week to keep my neck warm, without actually being a scarf. It's a perfect way to use up some leftover dk or worsted weight yarn that doesn't have quite enough yardage to be a full scarf or shawlette. I used the pattern as a starting off point and improvised from there. Since most necklaces tend to be too short for me, I added a few extra stitches to the circumference of each ring to make sure it would sit at a decent spot on my neck.

So, creepy as it is sitting on my table, it's a pretty sweet neck adornment. And the best part?

I know it's not going to attach itself to my dog. Not that he'd complain... he's still finding ways to make my knitted objects his own!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: My Second Life

A couple of years ago, while waiting for a flight, I stopped in at an airport magazine stand and bought a copy of Runner's World. I was not a runner. I'm still not a runner.

In it was an article about this man:

I still have this magazine. I pull it out when I'm feeling sorry for myself. It helps to remind me that things aren't as bad as they could be.

I'm thinking seriously about doing a 10k run in September. I'm sitting here, thinking about the pain, about the hard work, and I'm afraid of it. But... I'm trying to figure out how to change myself to be healthier, and to overcome my past, a life of living with a heavy body and a brain full of fear.

So, this guy gave himself a second life. Maybe I can, too...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Captain Awesome and Her Easter Egg Scarf

I bet you didn't know that I'm Captain Awesome. At least... I've got a shirt that says so.

I bet you also didn't know that a Lacy Baktus Scarf could look so good with a Captain Awesome shirt.

Well, I think so, anyway.

I really can't believe it's taken me so long to find this pattern. It works so well with the crazy colours in this yarn. The simple eyelet pattern is just right to break up, as Lorna's Laces calls, the active colourway. 

I also really can't believe it's taken me so long to knit this yarn up into something wearable! The colours remind me of little baby chicks and Easter Eggs, which is fitting because I finished this last weekend during Easter.

Know what else? 

I really can't believe I could look so frickin' young and hip with it on. How's that for awesome?

Told ya. I'm Captain Awesome. Did you ever doubt it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Amazingly Complex

The complexity of things - the things within things - just seems to be endless. I mean, nothing is easy, nothing is simple. - Alice Munro

Today, I asked someone the question, "How do you separate people from their actions and from the things they say or do?"

The reply I got was, "You can't."

Well, it wasn't that short of a response, but it was more like this:

"We have a natural tendency to put people in boxes, to say, 'he is this kind of person,' and be done with it. That makes it easy for us, because it gives us the security that people are predictable. But, when you take the position that people are amazingly complex, then things change. People become the amazing product of their life's experiences, both good and bad. And when you think of where people must have come from to be the people they are today, and you temper that with compassion, then you are able to think more easily about why people do or say things, instead of the things they do. That doesn't mean people's actions aren't right or wrong; some things people say or do are inappropriate. But it helps you to know what to do next."

So, you are amazingly complex. And, since I'm human, too, I guess I am as well. And I'm hoping that, by taking on this perspective, I can more easily understand the things that are said and done that are hurtful, and find ways to work through them to make life easier.

Easier said than done, but it's amazing what compassion can do.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gimme an Easter Sheep

So, what's with dyeing eggs for Easter anyway? I mean, I liked doing it as a kid. I admire the intricacy of a traditional Ukrainian Easter egg, the whimsy of a child's design, the springtime pastels of the wrapped chocolate eggs... but I don't usually go out of  my way to dye one myself.

Now yarn, THAT'S different.

My yarn amigos and I managed to finally figure out a date to get together to practice all the skills we learned last year at Olds Fibre Festival. It seemed like the yarn gods were against us: first it was getting a date when we could all make it, then waiting for the yarn we ordered to arrive. Finally, last Friday, we all sat around the kitchen table tying up the skeins and getting them ready to dye.

I won't lie... I was like a drunken wool-meister. "I love you guys," I uttered, more than once that day, with a big, goofy grin on my face.

Here's a shot of some of the skeins I dyed hanging to dry. The one on the extreme left got a bit tangled, partially due to my shoddy skein-tying, and partially because I loved it so much that I think I groped it into a big, stringy mess...

And here's a family shot:

I have very little colour-theory under my belt, and I have very little understanding about how to mix colours. I was really, really surprised at the results I got. I was nervous... worried that I'd just make a big, black mess.

I lifted the first two skeins out of the soaking water, and as I stood over the steaming crockpot, I had to talk my brain out of the fear.

"Come on," I said. "Just do it. Put it into the dye."

"You know three colours, Adriene," my brain said. "Red, white and mess."

"No, I can do this," I said. "Just breathe."

"I don't want to inhale the vinegar fumes," my brain said...

Eventually, I did it, and it was like magic. The colours absorbed into the fibres, and magically, I knew all the steps I needed to do to get the colours I wanted: a little more brown, a little more brown, maybe a few drops of black, oh, and there's coral over there? That's exactly what I'm looking for...

So, here's the order of the magic:

Possibly the most amazing part of the day was being able to over-dye some of the leftover yarn from The Puppy Shawl from my previous post. It's amazing what a little blue can do! The only thing is that I found one more skein hiding in the stash... oh well...

 So, who needs eggs, when you can dye the fibery wonder that is yarn? Easter Bunny? Pah... gimme an Easter Sheep any day!

Friday, April 6, 2012

THAT'S How You Wear It...

So, I made this shawl a couple of weeks ago. As you may recall from a previous post, I was unsure how to wear it.

I got up one morning this week, and headed down to the living room, opened the blinds, and thought to myself, "I better tidy up in here."

I turned around...

And what did I see?

The Puppy Shawl.

Leave it to Rascal to figure out the best use for my things...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: A World Where Women Support Each Other

So, here's the ugly reality about women:  they are catty. That is a vast generalization, but there's a reason I have tended to gravitate toward male friendships over the years. It's only in the last few years that the number of female friendships in my life has increased.

I have a great respect for women. I think we are strong. I think we have strengths in areas that many men aren't as strong. I think we have an understanding of undercurrents, and a special way of observing the world.


I've been to fitness classes on my own... in fact, I love exercise in solitude (well, I don't LOVE it, but I prefer it). Perhaps this is because of conversations I have heard amongst other women after these classes where they criticize other women in the class. I'm sure I've been guilty of it in the past.

When I taught school, which do you think was tougher: teaching in an all-boys school or an all-girls school? The girls. Can you say psychological warfare? Intimidation? Guilt?

And as an aside: some of the women who get the worst criticisms I've ever heard are mothers. There is not another more criticized person on Earth.

Women, think about it: when you hear of a broken heterosexual relationship, who do you blame? Do you blame the man? If you do, what do you call the woman he runs off with? Floozy? Loose? Or do you wonder if she was just another human being with the same mindset as the man?

When you hear of a child who died in an unfortunate accident, do you blame, or do you mourn? Do you feel anger or compassion?

What I really want is for women to just consider each other as a sisterhood... as PEOPLE, HUMAN BEINGS, deserving of respect and compassion. Just a little bit of that good ol' compassion. No judgement, just... empathy. Feeling. Respect.

I think it's hard enough to be a girl in this world. I don't think we should make it harder for each other, for our sisters, mothers or daughters. I think we should just take a second and make a promise to ourselves to respect everyone in the same way we want to be respected.

Let's try, ok?