Monday, August 26, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Listing Forward

"Those who do not move, do not notice their chains." -- Rosa Luxemburg
I think it was only recently that I became a list-maker. I resisted for a long time, imagining myself to be too "free and easy" to be bound by something so inane as a list. I think that, as I've begun to take on more responsibilities, the to-do list is the only thing that helps me to see I'm making progress through the mountain of work that might sit in front of me, one little challenge at a time.

It's these small challenges that have been driving my life recently: changing the things I eat, the amount of time I exercise, the way I approach problems. When we moved this summer, I made a list of things and packed one box a day from this list. I learned how to spend thirty minutes less on the couch each day. I changed from 2% milk to skim milk. I'm trying to stop saying, "The problem with you is" and instead saying, "When I did that, I did not help the situation. Let me try to do better." And, as I slog through these challenges, at times I cross things off my lists, look up, and I see how far I've come.

I look around to the people around me, and I see this forward movement: a friend of mine is moving toward a new job, more in his field, what he's wanted for a long time... another friend is working with her dog, trying to find a way to figure out her dog's issues, one walk at a time... Yet another friend is trying to get out of a terrible work partnership by seeing it as a chance to learn to be more authoritative and respected, and gosh darn it, it's working... slowly... surely...

One day, as I was driving home from work, I realized that I'm becoming less patient with people who are determined to stay where they are, however unhappy they are in that state. I can sympathize, because for a long time, I thrived on the adrenaline of dredging up old, unhappy emotions, reliving the upset until the catharsis of tears or anger would burst through me. But I think I stayed there because I thought the way out was too far out of my reach.

I had to learn that the only way out of quicksand is to move slowly, one small movement at a time.

Perhaps this is why I like handmade things. I am amazed by the process, however slow, of things changing from one thing into something else. Knitting thousands of nupps into this shawl was aggravatingly slow, but the result was well worth it. Ripping out the shoulders in this sweater was hardly inspiring, but it's one of my favourites now. My projects this summer are slow off the needles, but they're growing, one peaceful row at a time.

Perhaps it is also that, the older I get, the more aware I am of the passage of time, and how precious it is. I'm realizing that I can't just wile it away, fretting and worrying. It's good to make use of the time I've got. I can't just stay in one place... I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, breaking the big problems into little tasks to cross of the list.

Today, I am inspired by the big changes brought about by small challenges. Sometimes, even when you feel like the smallest creature faced with the biggest mountain to climb, it's easier to think of it as a bunch of trips from one rock to the next. See the example below for your reference. He's never been one to worry about big climbs:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lunch Box, Handbag, Gym Bag, Knitting Bag?

I got promoted this week. Different job, new responsibilities, new challenges. It's a position they were grooming me for, and I made the grade earlier than they expected, so up I went. I was sort of doing half of my previous job and half of the new job until this afternoon, when I moved completely over to the new gig. I'm excited, and a little freaked out.

I'm most excited by the prospect of having my own office, not because I hate people, and not for prestige...

I just want to have my own little space to knit during my breaks.

I'm torn about the idea of bringing my knitting to work. To date, I haven't knit a single stitch at this job. I just don't know if I want to go there, you know? All the explaining... "What are you making?" "Is knitting cheaper than buying your clothes?" "You can get cheaper yarn at Walmart." "Will you make me a sweater/scarf/mitts/huge mofo blanket?"

The upside is that I would get a few minutes to knit a few rows, and have some time to myself to boot. It's a busy job... we're all a team, people are counting on you, things moved quickly. It's fast, yet supportive.

But sometimes, you need a bit of yarn time.

As I was moving my things over this afternoon, I looked over to the one wall that has a random table sitting against it. I think that might be my little break space. It's far enough away from the door to hide, but not so far away that I can't hear when someone needs me. Maybe it needs a little table runner and a vase, a tray, one of my nice tea cups, a bowl of sweets... maybe a huge pile of yarn to sleep in...

Yeah, they won't get that.

Anyway, I'm proud of how far I've come in seven weeks. I've got a lot to do and a lot to learn, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to change directions in my working life. And, given that I work with people who understand that the creation of things takes time and effort, maybe I won't feel the need to shy away from them with my projects.

So next week: lunch box, handbag, gym bag, and knitting bag. Wait'll I bring my spindles in. Hoo boy, this could be an interesting time!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Turn Down the Rude

Someone said something incredibly rude to me today. I sat and fumed about it for a while, let it roll around in my head and my stomach, and then thought to myself, "Well, some things never change." I'd like to say it was said out of malice, but it was really just said out of thoughtlessness that is part of his normal repertoire.

But for the rest of the day, I decided to turn the volume down on rudeness. I decided to think about all of the kindness that has been shown to me recently...

Like the evening our landlords invited us over for drinks and snacks on their deck. I brought some blackberry tarts I made that day. They gave us margaritas (well, that's what I had. Hubby had a beer), and lots of fun conversation. I think I might have been drafted to join their dragon boat team, but I think I better check that with a little less margarita on the brain...

The day before our wedding anniversary, I came home and the hubby said, "I got you a present," and pointed into the kitchen. There I found this bunch of spinach:

And, while I was mustering up a polite "thank you," he gave me these instead:

I know that we're supposed to be kind to each other on our wedding anniversary, but I've learned that many people don't get even that, so I think it's worth mentioning.

Today, at work, I was helping a co-worker figure out a problem at the photocopier, and she saw my wedding rings on my middle finger and asked about them. I told her, "Yeah, those are my wedding and engagement rings, but I wear them on my middle finger because they don't fit on my ring finger right now."

"Why?" she asked. "Did you lose some weight?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Like, a lot of weight?" she asked.

"Yeah, I lost eighty pounds last year," I said.

And then, this woman I've only known for a few weeks put her arm around my shoulders and gave me a hug.

I'm so grateful for the kindness I've felt recently. I don't know if it's just that I'm around kind people. Maybe I'm just more in tune with it... that I'm open to receiving it. And maybe I'm learning to be a bit more kind to myself.

I read George Saunders' Commencement Speech to graduates a Syracuse University this year, and his advice to "err on the side of kindness" seems to have trickled into my life. I am grateful. I know I said that already, but I am so very grateful. I really can't believe my good luck.

I think I'm going to show myself a bit of kindness and get to bed early. G'night, all.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Sometimes, you're the butterfly, and sometimes you're the caterpillar...

And sometimes, you're the wrinkly thing that comes out of the cocoon trying to figure out what the heck just happened. But it's not long before you start flying...

The other day at work, I was sitting at my desk and was just... tired. Really, really tired. Thankfully, it was a relatively quiet week at work, so I had the chance to just sit and breathe, and I decided right then and there that I needed a break. I've been working hard, not just at work, but at life in general. I've been trying to do it all: work, exercise, house-work, marriage, blogging, and that yarn-thing that I think we call knitting.

I looked around with my bleary eyes, felt my aching muscles, thought about how I struggled through my morning workout, and shuddered at the thought of doing the same thing the next day. I thought about how I'd skipped my Monday post and felt the pangs of guilt I'd been pushing away all week. As I drove home from work, I started thinking about the knitting project I'd been carrying around in my handbag, the fabric sitting in my wooden trunk at home, the recipes I wanted to try, the clothes sitting in my sewing basket, waiting to be altered... And I started wondering about this blog and whether or not it meant enough to me for me to continue. In some ways, it would be nice not to have the responsibility...

It was then that I decided that I wouldn't get up early the next morning and get to the gym and pound out a workout before going to work and cranking out another day of work. Maybe I was over-trained and over-tired.

I got home and did my evening chores, then sat down and picked up my knitting, determined to get a few rows out of the way... and as soon as I knitted them, I was ripping them out in frustration over all the errors I had made. By the time I was finished, I was four rows further back than when I started. What was I doing? Was knitting even for me anymore?

That evening, I ran a hot bath. Before I got in, I went over to my bookshelf and scanned the shelf for something to peruse while I soaked, and my eyes came upon this book, For the Love of Knitting: A Celebration of the Knitter's Art.

I got into the bath, sank down into the water, and carefully opened the pages and started reading. I was soon lost in the stories of people's experiences of learning to knit, first projects, laughable experiences in yarn shops, sad stories of lost loved ones and how this craft connected it all.

Then I read this from Betty Christiansen's contribution called "Her Hands":
It's easy to take this gift for granted, like a loyal friend, like the woman who taught me, like a heartbeat, like breath. But while I don't like to entertain the thought, the truth is, I don't know who I would be if I couldn't knit.
Who would I be if I couldn't knit? If I wasn't a thing-maker? If I stopped making things, and stopped writing about the making-of-things?

It was then that I realized in my eagerness to "do it all," I'd slipped into a different mode. I didn't do things anymore... I was someone that made sure things got done. And that's different.

Get up. Get to the gym. Get the workout done.

Get showered. Get dressed. Get to work. Get the work done.

Get home. Make the next morning's smoothie. Pack the next day's lunch. Get the dog walk done.

Do the knitting. Get a project done so I can blog about it. Hmm...

I'm not sure when my yarn adventures went from being something I did to something that needed to get done, but I don't like it. Making things was never about cranking out objects. It has always been about the process: about spying yarn and luxuriating in its texture, daydreaming about its destined purpose, marveling at its progress, loving (or hating) the result.

It was never a conveyor belt of production. Maybe that's where it all went wrong.

I got out of the bathtub, dried off and got dressed, poured myself a big glass of water, then sat down and picked up my knitting. I did it slowly, deliberately, watching the colours, feeling the twist of the yarn. I thought about the day I bought it, how desperately I wanted to take it home, and how it was originally destined for a two-colour project.

And I felt better.

I woke up this morning, and after a day and a half of eating and sleeping and more eating, my body is looking for the vigorous exercise it is accustomed to, perhaps with better sleep routines and less compulsion. Tomorrow, if I'm feeling up to it, I think I'll go for a run, then sit on the deck and knit some more, and maybe go and wade through the stash for fun.

System rebooted, no fatal errors found, restarting in safe mode for now...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hot Days, Kettle Shrug

August... hot summer days, bright mornings and evenings. I love the summer, but I admit that, by the time August comes around, I'm kind of ready for a change. Perhaps it is the long days: I feel the need to make use of all the daylight, and therefore I'm up earlier, go to bed later, postpone dog walks until the cooler part of the evening, and well... I'm tired.

I've also been surprised by the hot, dry days in our new hometown. The general belief by most who don't live here is that it rains all the time in British Columbia, and that they don't get the hot, dry days that most of the rest of the country gets in the summer. I believed it myself, until the hubby, ever the logical, pointed out the weather statistics, and he was right. And not only that: I've been living through it. It's hot. It's dry. I get it now.

Therefore, taking photos of finished knitted projects is kind of a drag, no matter how pretty they are. I was determined to get them done today, though, because I have a few busy days coming up and I wasn't sure when I'd get another chance.

So, behold: The Kettle Shrug, made with the yarn from my blog friend, YarnKettle.

It's a little snug, but I think that might be partly due to the fact that I'm a little warm and... expanded... from the heat. It works well over a little tank dress or tank top, and I'm quite sure that, when the weather calls for a little more coverage, it will be used well. It may get some early use because the air conditioning at the office makes for some chilly days sometimes, so coverage of any type is welcome. This might be a tad more professional than the blanket I wish I had sometimes...

I really like how the star stitch worked with this yarn. It's quite pretty, and looks really good with the variegation. The yarn is surprisingly difficult to photograph. It's much more red than what you see here, but for some reason, no matter what settings and filters I applied, it was determined to be plum-purple.

It was a long project from start to finish, especially for something that only took one skein of yarn. I was surprised even as I entered the start and finish dates on Ravelry for it: started in June, finished in August. That's a long time. I'm glad I stuck it out.

So next, I've wound a skein that I blogged about a few weeks ago: a big skein of Fleece Artist in light fingering weight. It's a lot brighter in the yarn cake than in the skein, which was not what I was expecting. It also snapped near the end of the larger yarn cake, so I ended up with one smaller one, which will be ok for stuffing into my bag as I work on it. And what will I be making with it, pray tell?

I have no idea.

I do know that I need to focus on making something I can wear during the not-so-glorious days of summer, because goodness knows that the warm weather will not last forever. I'd like to make a garment of some type, but I'm not sure what 999 yards of fingering weight yarn will get me. I might have to get pretty creative with it.

For now, though, I'm off to get a glass of ice water and lay down near the fan. Happy August, everyone!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Top-Heavy Brain

These flowers grow outside the thrift shop downtown. I walk past there most days, and I've always admired their ivory-white, magnolia-like blooms. I have no idea what kind of flowers they are, except that they look like a perennial and that they must put on a show every year when they come into blossom.

A week or so ago, I noticed that one of them had fallen over. weighted down by their tremendous blossoms. It was sad to see something so beautiful toppled by its own body, its roots unable to hold it steady in sudden breezes.

I had to take a break from everything last week: from knitting, blogging, and well... everything. I forced myself to put my projects down, and to just sit and rest. I could feel myself growing top-heavy with all the thoughts racing through my mind, from the time I woke up at 5:30am to go to the gym to the time I went to bed after prepping all my stuff for the next day. I seemed to be approaching burn-out, trying to do everything perfectly and on time.

I didn't want to topple.

I've used this long weekend just to rest and to think about things... about how I have a tendency to tackle everything full-on and without rest until I fall over. The lessons I am teaching myself about being kind to myself are hard to follow, but they need to be learned. And if I need a break: if I skip the gym one morning and miss a blog post or just don't feel like doing... anything... well, that's ok, too.

Someone staked up the flowers, and they're growing nicely upright again. I think I've got a stake in the ground now to prop me up while I offload some of this brain-top-heaviness and chill out a bit. I think it's working, because last night, I actually felt like knitting, and I felt like finding a project to work on. I might just wind a skein this afternoon and daydream about it a bit.

It's nice to feel rooted again.