Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a WEDNESDAY: Proud

I missed last week, and I'm late this week, but the recurring thought for me during the tiring and difficult days I've had over the last week was, "Be proud of yourself today." It's what I've said when I've been tempted by unhealthy food or when I've been stuck in the self-pity circle. If I can honestly say I've done something to be proud of each day, that helps me through the day.

I hope you are proud of yourself today for something. I'm sure you've done something worth a bit of pride.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Feature: Sunday Snapshots

Sundays are relaxing, but productive days for me. I thought I'd share some sights from my Sunday thus far. First, I did some yoga:

Then I made some chocolate chip scones and some buns (Pandesal, for those in the know):

Then I relaxed in the Sunday morning sunshine:

I only managed one of those things on my own, in case you were wondering!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Things To Do While Running

The next two days were a trudge... I don't know whether ir was the slide-and-glide rythm of skiing, the month of wilderness immersion, or both that were responsible, but something was happening inside my head -- a cleansing of sorts, as though the damper that held down useless memories, thoughts, and information had lifted and the long-overdue mental purge had begun; old phone numbers and addresses came out of nowhere; birthdays of long-lost schoolmates. And, of course, the songs." -- Karsten Hauer, Being Caribou
I did a practice 10k run this morning in preparation for the actual race which takes place in just over two weeks. It was the first time I'd run for such a distance. I was a tiny bit worried that I wouldn't be able to do it, despite the face that I'd run 8.25k two days before.

Since it had rained yesterday, it was cool outside when I set out, and even though I was wearing a long sleeved sport top and long pants, I shivered a little in the breeze while I did my warm up. I set my watch to start timing, and off I went.

I've noticed that I get a lot of thinking done during my runs. It's very like the quote I mentioned above: lots and lots of things I haven't thought about in years tend to float into my head. Unfortunately, they tend to be things I'd blocked from my mind because they were too painful to deal with at the time... things I'd wished I'd said (or not said), embarrassing moments, things that angered or annoyed me during the work week... just not stuff I want to spend the next 10k thinking about.

I decided at about the ten-minute mark that I wasn't going to cringe my way through this run. Instead, I thought I'd distract myself with other things. Sometimes, I do math problems in my head. Sometimes, I recite lines from plays I was involved with in high school. Today, I planned knitting projects.

Now THAT was a good idea.

I spent a lot of time thinking of what I was going to knit out of some of the hand dyed yarn I bought from my friend Tara, mistress of Dragonfly Dyewerx. I looked up to the sky, and thought of this skein of BFL called Cloudy Skies, and smiled as I thought of the cowl I planned to make from it called April Showers.

I turned a corner and was immediately hit by some cold, icy, damp wind. I immediately distracted myself by the warmth of this skein of her Smooshy Sock (Merino/Cashmere/Nylon) called Killer Tomato. Ahhh... warmth...

At the halfway point, I looked down at my watch and realized how much longer I'd have to keep running for, and before I got too despondent, I remembered this lovely skein called Bodacious (probably the best name ever for a colourway)...

... and I smiled as I remembered this pattern I found the night before for it called Aase's Shawl by Kristi Holaas:

Aase's Shawl, Full Border

A Rocky Mountain Bluebird flitted past, and it reminded me of this skein of Americo I got a few weeks ago, a linen/cotton/silk blend...

... got paired with this pattern called Flutter Scarf by Miriam Felton, which I've been wanting to make for a while now.

And then I skirted around a bunch of buffalo berries that had been scattered onto the ground for some reason, and when I looked up at the silvery green leaves where they came from, I remembered a project that has been steeping in my mind for a year or so, involving tree and leaf motifs... and by the time I hit the fifty minute mark, the project had evolved into a belted cape with the motifs strewn across the back and sleeves... I may use this stitch pattern I found this afternoon, also by Kristi Holaas:

Tree Roots Scarf

By sixty minutes, I stopped thinking about yarn and knitting. In fact, I stopped thinking altogether, because I just wanted to finish. I was almost there. I concentrated on not tripping, not falling, and not hurting myself. That took pretty much all my concentration.

And when I finished, I was glad I'd had all these thoughts for company. It made a cold, long run much more pleasurable.

And here's how I finished. Not bad for a practice run:

I wonder what planning I'd get done during a marathon...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mind Control

Sometimes, it controls you. It takes hold of your mind and makes you do things. You don't want to do these things, but it happens. Your senses are no longer yours. It makes you do its bidding.

I'm talking about yarn.

Anyone who has had this experience, please stand up.

Thank you for being honest.

My latest project was created from some Mirasol Tupa.

It started with the yarn purchase. I got them at The Loop in Calgary last year, during their grand opening sale.
Me: Hello, yarn!  
Yarn: Hello, stranger. Will you take us home?
Me: Hmm... I like the inky blackness of the black, but I also like you in cream. 
Yarn: Is blackness a word? 
Me: I dunno... 
Yarn: Just take both of us home. 
Me: I dunno...
Yarn: Come on... do it.. dooooooo it... 
Me: Oh... ok... 
Last September, before our trip to Utah, I dithered about whether or not I should take it with me. I knew I wanted to make something with it, but I just didn't know what. Since I hadn't decided on a project yet, I thought I'd better leave it behind...
Me: Yarn, you can't come with me. 
Yarn: But why? Whyyyyyy? 
Me: I don't know what to do with you yet. You'll just take up space. 
Yarn: But we're squishable. Go ahead... squish us... 
Me: Well... 
Yarn: Squish us... squiiiiiiiish us... 
Me: Oh... ok...
And I swear it wrapped itself around my hand and forced itself into my travel bag. But it didn't get made into anything. I wound it into balls during the long drive, and when I came home, I placed it on my shelf. It stayed there, waiting for me, but it didn't leave me alone. I would walk past it, and I would hear:
Yarn: Plaaaaay with us. 
Me: Huh? 
Yarn: Plaaaaay with us. We're waiting for you. 
Me: But... but... I don't have any plans for you yet. 
Yarn: Plaaaaay with us...
And then, I'd spend the next few nights, tossing and turning before I fell asleep, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Finally, a couple of months ago, I figured out what I was going to do with this yarn: a cowl with creamy, leafy patterns and a stretch of inky black simplicity. It came to me as I was falling asleep one night, and when I got up, I picked out the stitch patterns and started working on it. I knitted and ripped out stitches over and over again until I could replicate what was in my mind. Even when I wasn't working on it, the yarn spoke to me: Plaaaaaaay with us...

And finally, it is finished. And I am very, very happy with it...

... even if it is kinda... looking at me...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Fun With a Grain of Salt

During the long drive down to visit some friends in Colorado last week, I rediscovered The Vinyl Cafe on CBC radio. I'd heard of the great Stuart McLean and of his famous storytelling, but hadn't really spent much time listening to him until then. I'm so glad I did. I love stories. I love hearing them, I love telling them, and while we traveled along the highway, a smile spread across my face and I could feel my ears trying to open wider as I listened. I loved the musicians that played in between each story, and I made up my mind to keep listening to the show as often as I could. Since then, I've discovered that you can download and listen to the show off schedule, and we've been listening to shows over the past couple of evenings since then.

One of the stories I heard was about two of his characters, Sam and Murphy, and how they were out in the countryside visiting Sam's grandmother and her husband. His grandmother is a dreamer, her husband (her second husband) a sturdy realist.

One evening, the boys are outside, lying on the grass, watching the stars, and they see what they are sure are UFO's, three of them, streaking across the sky. They run in to tell the adults what they saw. Margaret, Sam's grandmother, sees Smith, her husband, getting ready to tell them that they were nothing but shooting stars, but she stops him in his tracks with a look. Instead, she asks them to describe what they saw, and by the time they are heading up the stairs to bed, they are talking about to whom they should report their sighting. Later on:
"Why didn't you want me to tell them?" said Smith. Margaret was folding up her knitting.
"What," she said, "that it was just a shooting star?"
"A meteor," said Smith, "not a star. Probably no bigger than a grain of salt." Margaret stared at him. "That's the truth!" said Smith.
"Smith," she said, "what sort of fun can a boy have with a grain of salt?"
"But those are the facts!" said Smith.
"Smith Gardner," said Margaret, "Life would be tedious if all we did was stick to the facts."
I saw my first shooting star while sitting out with our friends in Colorado. That might seem hard to believe for some people, but I grew up in the middle of a city in a place where the mosquitoes eat you alive if you're out in the evening. The opportunities to see such things were rare for me, and when I finally did see one, I was quietly amazed.

I spend a lot of time with a lot of scientifically-minded people. This is great because I am never without someone who can explain facts to me. My job entails relating these facts daily to people who want to learn them. Facts rule my day.

But my first love is a good story, and my second, great flights of fancy. And I despise those that feel the need to squash those moments when my dreams take off.

There's a time and place for the facts.

When we're looking at fairness, law, medical expertise, yeah, I want facts.

But when I am trying out ideas for decorating my house, knitting my projects, planning my vacations, thinking of the future, let me dream a bit, would you? I need to think big before I can finalize my plans with facts.

Because really: what sort of fun can I have with a grain of salt? Not much... unless I'm a french fry...

Mmmm... fries...

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Brain in a Snowglobe

We're on our way home after spending the past few days visiting friends in Colorado. It takes about 20 hours of driving, which is a long time, but not so bad for someone like me who spent most of her summer holidays as a child exploring most of the United States in the back of her parents' station wagon. It is not surprising that I have learned to occupy myself during long periods of travel.

The drive was punctuated by several things to entertain us. Sign reading, for example. "Back up! You missed Johnsontown! Why? Shops! Good food! Souvenirs!"

Every so often, we'd turn on the radio to see what the local stations were playing. In Wyoming, we heard this ad: "Ever wondered why they have braille on the buttons at ATMs? Maybe it's for those people who like to drive by feel! Bring all your autobody repairs to Jake's Autobody on Main!"


Watching out the window, I'd see all sorts of animals: various and sundry livestock like cows, horses, and the occasional flock of sheep, still somewhat naked from their seasonal shearing. One time, I swear I saw a group of Thomson's gazelle grazing in a field with some brown cows. Given that we were somewhat removed from Africa, that was a bit of a surprise... But then again, they could have just been some deer.

And, of course, sometimes I'd knit.

The problem with knitting during travel is that I am somewhat prone to motion sickness. It's like having a brain in a snowglobe: easily shaken, and takes a few minutes to settle down. It never used to be a problem for me: as a kid, I would burn through novels a-plenty while we drove through Death Valley, or Illinois, or Wisconsin. Nowadays, I'm lucky to be able to look down at a map without my brain spinning.

That means that any and all travel knitting must meet the following criteria:
  1. No lace. This is no time for reading a chart or checking stitch counts.
  2. No cables, unless they are simple braids that can be done without a cable needle. I'm pretty sure there are at least two cable needles marooned forever under the passenger-side seat.
  3. Colourwork is possible, but only if it is a project that is well-established and only uses two colours.
  4. The entire project must fit in one large freezer bag. I don't like risking the loss of a sleeve in the middle of the Midwest because I took it out and left it somewhere.
So that leaves boring ol' garter stitch or stockinette scarves, right?

Maybe not.

This is Lazy Cole, my version of Brigit Freyer's Lazy Katy shawl, which I am knitting in King Cole DK that I got during my visit to Belfast a couple of years ago. Fitting that this travel project is being knit with a yarn purchased during my travels, no?

It's a good travel pattern, at least for the moment. Simple, steady increases and not much counting required until I get closer to working on the border. The yarn is slowly changing colours, which keeps me motivated to keep on knitting. "I'll just keep going until I finish this colour," I keep muttering. It's been a fun diversion, and I'm excited to see how it looks when it is finished.

For now, we have another day's drive ahead of us, and I get another few hours to knit, which is a pleasure, as long as the motion sickness stays at bay. If it rears its ugly head, I can always go back to listening to the radio or watching for gazelles.

Ah, travel...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Not Just For the Birds

So, I watched this movie last night with some friends. It wasn't a movie I thought I'd be thinking about the next day: The Big Year, with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. The premise? It's about the competition between birders (bird watchers) to see as many different types of birds as possible in one year, A Big Year. One is the champion, another is a successful businessman who is also a long-time birder, and another is a bird-lover who is scraping together his funding and who is living with disappointed dad, and all want to be the champ. They travel all around the world, ride on dodgy planes, bike through the Alaskan wilds, tramp through deep snow, all to see birds. And in the end, some people find love and improve their lives, and others don't. La de da, and the good guys win.

Awwww. We smiled, we groaned, then we all went to bed and slept well because the good guys won.

This morning, I woke up and hubby and I went out for a day out, and as we drove along, I was thinking about that movie. One of the lines was, "Why don't you want people to know you're doing a big year?" And the answer was, "Because it might make the others try harder to beat me."

And I thought about how I was feeling last week when I was fighting through a few days of weariness and near-burnout. I was battling through fear of failure. I was not sleeping well. And well, I think it's because I'm kind of going through a big year myself: reinventing my body, and reinventing my mind. And some people know I'm doing it, but I only talk about it to a small group of trusted people.

And it's because there's two Adrienes inside of me: the one that wants to do better, and the one that wants to beat me. And I don't want the one that wants to beat me to get any more power, because when she's feeling strong, I don't sleep, I can't concentrate, and I get slowly buried by the negativity.

The irrational part of me feels that, if I talk about this big year thing to too many people, the Adriene-that-wants-to-beat-me might try harder to win. "If you fail, they'll ALL know," she says. "If you fail, they'll ALL say 'I told you so,'" she says. "And then what a fool you'll be."

But that's not the Adriene that is writing this blogpost.

The truth is that the world really isn't full of a**holes. And the more I talk about this thing I'm doing, the more positive energy I get. And most people really don't want to see others fail. Most people will give you a leg up when you need it.

This is the evolution of me... and it's a long, painful process. But the thing about evolution is that it doesn't happen with one individual. It happens over generations of individuals. And the more individuals involved, the better it works.

Heh, who knew a movie with Jack Black in it would trigger so much depth of thought.

Oh, and here's a picture of a bird I took a couple of years ago. You know, just to tie this whole thing together.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Last Thing I Pack

On the road again this morning, this time to visit our friends in Colorado for a week. Here's my "Do Not Forget" list. Was there any doubt?
Rocky mountain high!