Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Ali and Me

A while back, I stumbled upon a website featuring a man with so much style that someone devoted a whole blog to him: What Ali Wore. The header of the website says it simply enough: "This is Ali. He walks past my work every day wearing great clothes."

I look at this man and his poses, and I think:

  1. He is a man who takes pride in his appearance.
  2. That guy probably uses a tailor. I don't know anyone who uses a tailor.
  3. I could respect a guy like that.

I have the stereotypical love of clothing that girls are supposed to have. Heck, why do you think I spend so much time knitting? And it's not even really about being in style or following trends. I just think that the way you present yourself speaks volumes about you and who you are.

I think I identify with Ali in a lot of ways: I'm happy enough with the way I dress that I don't really worry too much about what other people will think of it. But, more than that, I think I'm becoming more of a person who can make even the smallest decisions with care and with a good understanding of the consequences. I can't ever know all of them (I don't have a crystal ball, nor do I wish to), but I am grounded enough to know that some of them will be unpleasant. I know my decisions may be unpopular sometimes, but that's for me to bear...

... and for me not by crushed by them or by the people who will judge me for them. I know I am worthy, even if at times I am not popular. Ali shows that by striking his poses every day.

Here's to you, Ali. May your fashion sense never waver, and may your poses be ever stylish.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Chill

A switch was flipped in me this weekend. All of a sudden, I feel like knitting. Crazy talk.

It might have had something to do with the cold, windy, rainy morning we had yesterday. I got up like a crazy person and went out for a run in it before it got really bad, then I settled in for some good couch surfing with Rascal and knitted for most of the morning.

I knit, knit, knit, knit, and I am actually minutes away from finishing a scarf.

The leaves are starting to turn... the colours are changing from green to gold and red. I am inspired.

I want to dive into my alpaca stash and rub my face in it until I sneeze.

I want to gaze at my merinos until my eyes water.

I want to writhe amongst my silk blends until I am dizzy with glee.

And now that I've written that, it sounds somewhat uncomfortable, but it won't be. It's sweater weather, baby, and I'm inspired.

Time to make something stripy with this stuff. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Knit Practitioner

My knitting status currently sits at "practitioner." I haven't really produced anything, and I'm not really working on anything. I'm just... knitting. Here and there, I pick up the project in my handbag and rattle off a few rows, then it sits for a few days until I the urge to work on it again.

There are certain advantages to being a "practicing knitter." The urge to finish up a project so I can wear it is absent right now, so there's no angst when I can't get to it. My stash, rather than causing me guilt for not being used as quickly as I'd like, currently exists as a source of comfort on difficult days. It's also source of inspiration on weekend mornings, when I open my eyes to a brighter room and see the skeins arranged near my bedside table where I can drink in their colour as I awaken.

The most useful part of being a "practicing knitter" means that, since productivity is put aside, the sheer act of knitting is a way for me to work out nervous energy, which I've had a lot of since I changed roles at work. I'm still not knitting at work (I snack on crunchy vegetables instead, which is easier to do when you're working at a computer), but I've noticed that having a no-pressure project in my bag is a useful thing.

For example: some of you know that I am being assessed as a living kidney donor for my mother. One of the tests I did was to check for hypoglycaemia, and that meant sitting for two hours at the lab with no food in my tummy while they watched for my reaction to having a sudden intake of glucose. There's not much you can do while you're there, and there are only so many magazines you can read in two hours, so the comfort of the merino sock yarn in my hands was nice. I knitted a few inches into my scarf as I sat and listened to my tummy gurgle and watched other patients going in and out for their bloodwork. It was nice, and a great comfort.

Last night/this morning, I learned how much of a comfort my knitting is when I had to bring my little Rascal to the animal hospital. He'd been coughing and gagging the afternoon before, and we thought he'd settled down in the evening, but he had a sleepless, panicky night of pacing, panting, retching and wanting desperately to go outside to eat grass. By 4am and after him vomiting a couple of times, I'd had enough. I picked him up and drove the 30 minutes to the animal hospital with him drooling and swallowing beside me.

I've never been to an animal emergency clinic before. I thought it would just be Rascal and me and the comforting voice of a vet there, but within 30 minutes, two other people arrived with their animals. One was a dog that was having seizures. They took his dog in right away, and I sat and comforted the dog's owner before they took him into an examination room. Rascal was in having x-rays taken to see if he had anything stuck in his throat, and I was left alone to wait and listen to the sounds in the rest of the clinic, which weren't that comforting. They then decided to sedate him to scope his throat. They sent me away since it would be a long wait.

Firstly, I did not know there would be so many people lined up outside of a Starbucks at 6:30am.

Secondly, I did not know how comfy a Starbucks chair would feel after sitting in a vet clinic for two hours.

Thirdly, I really, really wished I'd brought my knitting with me. I needed something to do with my jittery nerves and to ease the lump in my throat that threatened to become full out crying any moment. I sat and ate a yogurt, then sat back and closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the newspaper pages turning and the music playing and the people coming in for their morning lattes and Saturday morning treats. It wasn't bad... it just wasn't knitting.

We're home now, and Rascal is sleeping, and I'm dozy from catching a few naps here and there. The vets thought he had something in his esophagus that was irritating it, but that he'd probably vomited it up and the resulting acid had further inflamed it. He was still swallowing hard and drooling when I brought him home, but he's got some painkillers and anti-inflammatories in him, and he's spent most of the day like this:

He's supposed to take it easy for the next few days, and we're supposed to use a harness on him if we take him out for a walk to keep any pressure off his throat. I bought him one on the way home, but I haven't told him yet that I had to get a large cat harness because there weren't any small dog ones left. He's had a hard enough day.

I think I'll knit now. Tomorrow will be another day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: A Letter For Your Locker

I'm a little late for this, but maybe it will resonate a little more as a result. 

Having had a previous life as a teacher, this time of year always does something to me. I usually have a dream where, try as I might, I just cannot get to school. I'm either supposed to be a student in the class or I'm supposed to be teaching it, it doesn't matter: obstacle after obstacle gets in my way. It's uncanny, but I suppose it's just my brain's tradition now to make me wake up with a gasp every September.

A couple of weekends ago, in the spirit of back-to-school, I came across this article in The Globe and Mail. It's one of those "advice to the younger generation" things, but this one really resonated with me, not because of the advice about kindness and not giving in to peer pressure, but for the solid financial advice:
Having money means that you can decide things for yourself and that you don’t have to rely on other people when you don’t want to. And becoming comfortable with money and how it works – earning it, spending it, saving it, managing it – is something that a lot of women (a lot of people, really) are needlessly afraid of and bad at, even when they’re cool with everything else in their lives. 
Since I moved away from home, I report every Sunday by phone to my parents. We chat about what's happening in our lives, who we've seen, what we're doing, the weather... everything, really. And my dad usually ends his portion of the conversation with the sage advice: "Save as much as you can. You can do anything if you are smart with your money."

I'm proud to say that it's that continual message, coupled with having married a man who has very similar financial values, that I am comfortable... that I can handle emergencies with a look to my funds, and that I have secured a home that I can be safe in, even if I land in unemployment due to unforeseen circumstances (and I can even treat myself to a skein or two of luxurious yarn in the meantime). It has taken a lot of abstinence, a lot of research and learning, my fair share of pitfalls and losses, and maybe I'm a little boring and a little preachy about it, but it is an accomplishment I am proud of. For me, money has always equalled hard-won freedom.

And it's something I want for everyone.

Today, I am inspired by the people out there who are clawing their way back from debt to solvency with hard work and education, and by people who are trying their best to educate their children about money and debt, and also by the people who are out there giving sound advice and information... not out to repossess or to rip anyone off, but who are truly trying to help. I think there are a lot of people who want this, not just for themselves, but for their children, and there has never been a time when the information has not been more readily available.

I don't know if this will change my annual "school panic dream" tradition, but I'm hoping that sharing this article might start some kind of tradition with others with children out there. Who knows?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dramatic Ceramics

Once upon a time, there were two vintage French espresso cups. They came to live at my house to be loved and cherished, carefully washed and dried after each use. Mint green and pastel pink, lovely and sweet, they sat each day together, two friends in ceramic.

Their friend came along with them: a sweet little creamer jug, similar in colour to the pink cup, but lacking a partner. Sad and lonely, it waited on the shelf, watching its friends being used, seeing how they had each other to complement their existence. In vain, it waited for me to find it a friend, something the same colour, or maybe of the same Villeroy and Boch family. I searched and searched, but its partner was nowhere to be found.

But last weekend, I met this little candy dish. It beckoned to me in a vintage shop. It called me back again and again as I walked through the shop, and the shop owner recognized what was happening and let me take it home for a very good deal. I thought it would be a nice sugar bowl to go with the creamer jug. It seemed to be just right in its proportions, with its cute little knob on the lid and all. It is Asian, not French, but maybe, just maybe it would be friends with the creamer jug.

I introduced it to the creamer jug. They looked each other up and down, sizing one another up, two different ceramics from different parts of the world. And yet, they seemed to want to be together.

And so I brought the rest of the family along, and together they sat, unsure, not quite the same, but still intriguingly similar. Will it work out? Will they live happily ever after? Will the candy dish be able to take on its new role, or will it be forever an outsider, a stranger from another part of the world?

Luckily, I had a back up plan: It came with a friend. I was going to put it in the spare bedroom, but if it doesn't work out, at least they'll have each other.

Perhaps all will be well, who knows? If it gets ugly, I'm going to have to break it up somehow, everyone to their own shelf until they learn to behave. The world of vintage ceramics is full of drama, after all...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Di Nuovo, Con Spirito

I took piano lessons as a child, and throughout high school and well into my university years, I played many instruments. I sang at weddings, played the piano and organ for church, accompanied many singers on stage. Music was a big part of my life, and still is to a degree. Every so often, my musical theory pops back into my brain. I'm sure I heard a bird sing in an augmented fourth the other day, for example. He would have gotten a D in my theory class...

I got a little surprise when I looked out at my little garden this morning: my one little strawberry plant, which I thought had finished fruiting for the year, was showing off a little white blossom. When I looked more closely, I saw that there are at least three more blossoms coming. What a way to squeeze a little more out of the summer.

And the first thing I thought of was the musical term: di nuovo, con spirito.

Once more, with feeling.

My new workmates are good at this: squeezing out just a little more effort, a little more kindness, a little more patience, even when they have worked all day, sometimes for twelve hours in the bush, sometimes after twenty-one days on shift. They come in, and they give me a smile, no drama, no tantrums. And it inspires me to try hard to do the same.

That also reminds me of another musical term: a bene placito. You play your piece, and as you get to this section, you are instructed that this part is "up to the performer..."

As are most things in life... Bravo!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When We Venture Afield...

There are certain things that always happen when I travel:

1) I will seek out and eat peanut M&M's. This goes back to my childhood when I spent a lot of my summers in the back seat of the family car, driving all around North America. Peanut M&M's were one of my dad's driving treats to keep him going while driving for epic stretches of time. We used to buy them in the Target in Fargo, which was one of my family's regular destinations (and is a much nicer place with much more interesting people than the Coen brothers ever described). Now, when I spy them in a gift shop or gas station, my heart yearns for them, and I indulge in sweet memories.

2) I seek out green spaces, no matter where I am. This weekend, on short trip to the big city of Vancouver, I could not be there without finding a few trees amongst which to frolic. I want to be among Tolkien's Ents, wherever I go.

3) I will stop dead, often in mid-sentence, to photograph bits of nature, like this tree using this stump as a support. If you squint your eyes, it kind of looks like a skinny lizard with an incredibly long neck basking on the stump...

4) I will find something to fiddle with during the drive/flight/boat ride. Lately, it's been magazines and my new smartphone. This time, I ACTUALLY spent some time knitting.

This scarf has been in the works for just about a month now. I started it during the ferry ride on my last trip to Vancouver, en route to a wedding further inland. It's been languishing on my coffee table for the past few weeks, where it gets a row or two knitted onto it when I find the energy. This weekend, I finally pulled it out and spent some quality time on it.

It's really not based on any kind of pattern. I started it out using the stitch used in Arlene's Easy Lace Stole, thinking it would be a nice, mindless pattern to keep me trundling along. After a few inches, though, I remembered that mindless patterns drive me crazy, and I threw in a few stockinette squares along the way to keep my brain engaged.

I'm enjoying watching the colours emerge as I knit along. They make me think of the fallen leaves in the autumn that get mixed in the mud on the trails that I like to walk so often. There's something distinctly Canadian about this scarf. Perhaps it has something to do with it being a Fleece Artist yarn. Whatever it is, something about it feels like home...

Anyway, what little knitting I get in these days is still a blessing to me. I'm glad to have it for company during my little jaunts here and there. It's like the best little travel aid there is.

Oh, and something else that happens during travel: we all come home exhausted and glad to be home. Behold: the beast is demonstrating how we all feel right about now. Travel is fun, but home is always the best place to be.