Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Hitting the Target

I work at a place where most of our work occurs out of town at worksites in remote areas. A lot of our employees are daddies who have to go away from their families for three weeks at a time to earn their living. It's the trade-off for living in a beautiful place like Vancouver Island; few people are able to live AND work here.

Once a week, we have a teleconference with all of our sites. Each site usually has to share something safety-related that they learned that week. One of our employees started off by telling us about the importance of doing a walk-around of your vehicle before you get in and drive. He learned this the hard way, because someone had neglected to close the tailgate of the pick up he was driving. "When I got to the hotel," he said, "I realized all the kits were still in there... but my suitcase was gone."

And then he continued to say how he'd lost his clothing, his work supplies and gear... and then his voice broke when he got to the part about how he'd lost all the little mementos that his children had given him "for when daddy has to go to work."

And my heart broke.

Last weekend, on a long shot, I posted a message on Facebook with the situation, a description of the suitcase, and a map of the general area of where it might have been lost. I asked people to share it, in the hopes that it might get to the right person. It got shared and shared and shared, and I had a little tiny hope that something might come of it in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, I got an email with a message that said, "We found the suitcase you are looking for." It had a phone number and a name.

I called. The lady who answered told me how she had seen the suitcase fall out of the pick up, and how she retrieved it and tried to find the owner. She told me how she'd opened it up in the hopes she'd find a name and some kind of contact details. She found the work gear, the clothes, and the little gifts from his children. She didn't know what to do with it, until she had seen this post that had eventually been shared to a community page she frequented on Facebook.

I have never made a more rewarding phone call as the one I made to the owner of the suitcase.

And you know what I'm so happy about? I'm happy that this thing we call the Internet was used for something really, really good. I must stress: I posted this message from here in Vancouver Island, about something that was lost 1,235km from here (about 740 miles). And it got to the right person.

In an age where people use the Internet to voice opinions that they don't necessarily have to stand behind...

Where people can anonymously post videos of people doing horrible things to others...

Where it is used to share hurtful, painful thoughts...

What if we tried to make sure we didn't give air time to the bad stuff out there, and we remembered to use this thing we have for the good stuff?

For words of encouragement, inspiring stories, beautiful photos of our families, things that make us smile and think and create...

What if we did? What a truly wonderful global community we might create.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Head Above the Waves

Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.
- Tyler-Nnott Gregson 
Yet another week flashed past in a blink of an eye, and yet again, I find myself only getting to my projects on a Saturday. Gosh, I'm frustrated with that. I'm so hoping that life slows down a bit so I can make more time for it. I feel sad looking at all my neglected skeins of yarn, all waiting to become something beautiful.

I'm glad to finally have the other two ladybug dolls finished. I had one almost finished this time last week, and the other one lay around in pieces all week until I finally got to it today. It really didn't take me all that much time, but it's a job that requires a decent amount of concentration, and was therefore something I didn't want to undertake with a work-weary brain. Still, they're cute... and they're done!

I can finally go back to my selfish knitting... and back to this stole that I started working on at the beginning of the month. I took it with me on a trip to a rocky beach back then... 

And it has since grown...

The yarn is some superwash merino dyed by an indie dyer who isn't in business anymore (sadly). It's a cool colourway called "Drain Ewe" - sort of a nod to a vampire theme. I love how striking the red is next to the black. I'm looking forward to blocking it to show off the simple lace. I'm using a pattern from Knitty called Wisp, a simple pattern that is perfect for some mindless knitting...

Except it's not quite so mindless, because it's full of a bunch of knit-two-togethers of one regular stitch and one yarn over. This means that I'm constantly tugging at the stitches to get my needle through it evenly. If I was really smart, I would have changed it to ssk stitches, which I find much quicker, but hindsight is always 20/20, and there ain't no way I'm ripping this out now!

Meanwhile, life moves wearily on. The hubby and I are very, very tired dealing with our little Rascal. He has been diagnosed with an inoperable tumour which is pressing against his sciatic nerve. It is wrapped around a portion of his bowel, which causes it to inflame every so often, rendering him weak and unable to walk some days. It's a strange thing: sometimes, he is perfectly normal, wagging his tail and running around with a toy in his mouth. Other days, I find myself holding his limp body in the middle of the night, his eyes glassy, his face unresponsive to anything I do. Some nights, he sleeps almost throughout the night. Others, he is up and wandering, uncomfortable and unsettled, and one of us usually is awake as well, unsure of what to do, unsure of what he is thinking and feeling, only knowing that this is not normal. I reach Friday exhausted and sleep-deprived, but grateful that we've made it through another week with him.

He has started a course of chemotherapy, which for dogs is a course of pills that can only be handled with gloves, along with a course of oral steroids to help with the inflammation. For the last 3 or 4 days, his appetite has been normal... and I encourage this by mixing his kibble with warm rice and a tablespoon of the finest filet mignon available in a package:

His medications and his food appear to be working, because he's back to begging to go outside to sun himself on the deck, even if it is only for five minutes at a time:

It's a good thing he's cute. And I think that, now that he gets warm meals and is currently sleeping on the spare bed, this might be the normal way of life from now on. Geez. Ah well, he's worth it. I just want him to be free of pain, whatever it takes.

And while life seems very tiring these days, I still insist on keeping faith that I will eventually stop having to live my life just barely keeping up. It will all fall into place somehow, and it will be for the best in the end.

I mean, really... I have way too much yarn for it to turn out otherwise...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: When Food is Love

As someone who spends a great deal of time working on controlling my emotional eating, writing a blogpost title like the one above is like walking into a nursery school and screeching out a string of profanity. Blasphemy, in text. Sensationalism in a phrase.

But yesterday, I came across the poem below from dailygood.org and it was the most inspiring story of humanity I've read in a while. It is a simple story of a day in an airport when someone did what she could to make another person's situation better.

I walked into a job this time last year where I had little to no experience to share. What I could do was share whatever I could, however insignificant I thought it was at the time. And it was through that that others could find out what I was capable of, and I found my niche.

And I think that, when you give what you can, even if you think it's not all that useful, it often turns out that what you give tends to be exactly what people need.

This poem is about someone who gave her time and patience to someone else, and about how that someone else shared a bag of home made cookies with others... and made a terrible day into a truly lovely one. Please enjoy.


Shared Words, Shared Worlds
--by Naomi Shihab Nye, May 03, 2013

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,

I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ladybugs and Post-Apocalyptic Skills

The Ladybug wears no disguises.
She is just what she advertises.
A speckled spectacle of spring,
A fashion statement on the wing....
A miniature orange kite.
A tiny dot-to-dot delight. -- J. Patrick Lewis
I stumbled upon that little verse earlier this week. Such a fortunate happenstance for my latest finished object: Laura Beth by Mia Zamora, a little girl in a ladybug costume... which, now that I think of it, is kind of ironic, given the lines in that verse.

I don't normally enjoy making toys, but I have to admit that this thing is stinkin' cute. As soon as the I got the hood onto her, I exclaimed, "Holy crap, this is so cute!"

Antennae on and wings attached, she got even cuter.

And maybe she's not so cute with her bodyless friends...

Anyway, she's going to be delivered to a friend I'm seeing today, who is getting it in exchange for a donation she made to my MS Bike event a couple of weeks ago. I meant to get them all done at once, but my schedule just wasn't allowing me to do that this time. With one finished, I feel like the other two should be a smoother ride, now that I've worked out how to sew the bits together. It's been a good learning experience, filled with lots of firsts:
  • First time embroidering hair
  • First time stitching a mouth
  • First time using craft eyes
I kinda feel like I added a few badges to my scout belt. Perhaps they are not exactly what you would call survival skills, but it feels pretty good to know how to do them. In a post-apocalyptic world, I'll be the one adding craft eyes to stuff. You laugh, but I'll be in demand, you'll see.

Wow, ladybugs and post-apocalyptic skills. Can you tell I've had a long week? Sheesh.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Dancing Through the Parking Lot

A short one, but a good one:

I saw this video the other day, and it made me smile. Some might think that he's "simple" and that "he doesn't know better." But maybe, just maybe, those of us who glorify the "misery" in our lives don't know better. Maybe we think we've seen it all, but perhaps we refuse to look at the things that are worth seeing, like the supportive people around us, the people behind the emails, and the smiles we bring to each other through the tough crap we go through.

Food for thought...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Inappropriate Clothing, Ladybugs and Managing Your Maid

There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. -- Unknown
July: hot days, very little rain, intense sunshine. What to wear? Shorts and tshirts? A sunhat? Lots of sunscreen?

What better clothing for a hot summer day than a knitted alpaca scarf?

This scarf has been off the needles, blocked and ready to wear for a couple of weeks now, just in time for the heat. Yes, timing is everything, and mine is crap, apparently. I love this cowl, though. It's made from gift yarn that my friend Linette gave me just before my kidney donation surgery, and I was determined to make something from it as soon as possible. It's a free pattern from Patons, but I made it with much lighter yarn than the chunky weight suggested in the pattern. It's full of errors (I flipped around the order of the cables in there a couple of times), but really, who cares? I am loving the transitions between each shade. It reminds me of the ripples on the top of a Mars bar... chocolate, caramel, ripples... mmmm...

In the meantime, I'm still working on the toys I sold in exchange for pledges for my MS Bike Ride. Despite the fact that I usually don't like making toys, they're a good project to have when the thought of any knitted clothing makes your eyeballs sweat. I'm using Mia Zamora's pattern called Laura Beth, which is an adorable little girl doll wearing a ladybug costume. I finally got some safety craft eyes yesterday, which I inserted last night. I learned that, yeah, you should really put those suckers in before you close up the head - what a pain! I felt good about getting that part done, even if they're kind of creeping me out right now:

During my trip into town yesterday to get the craft eyes, I stopped into a vintage shop and found this lovely leather handbag, which jumped onto my shoulder and came home with me. It was only $14, in perfect shape, and is large enough to carry my wallet, phone, keys, and other various sundries, but small enough not to become the bottomless pit my current handbag has become:

And on the same street, I visited a used bookstore and came home with this treasure: a British cookbook from 1932. It's well-loved (there are some pages I'm going to have to be careful with), and it is full of all the post-war, Downton Abbey-type stuff that I find delightful to read.

There's a chapter on Household Management, which details how you should entertain if you are not fortunate enough to have a maid:

And there is a section about balanced daily menus, which surprised me by being exactly what I believe a balanced daily menu should look like:

In all, I know I haven't been all that chatty on the blog recently. Work and life just seem to be very hectic these days, but during my morning run this morning, I thought to myself: If I just keep moving, I'll finish this run. And I realized that, now, more than ever, I have a very strong faith in my body that I can get through anything. As I ran on the rocky path I was on this morning, I knew my feet would find the surest and safest route. And in the same way, I have a very strong faith that, even though I'm not posting all that regularly right now, things will fall into place sometime.

Anyway, it's hot, and this laptop is getting warm. Off to go make those creepy heads cute somehow.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

2014 Thus Far

Halfway through 2014, and I find myself reflecting on what life has put before me in the past six months. So far, I gave my mom a kidney, trained myself back up to my previous fitness level, had lots of changes with my work responsibilities, and am now taking care of my sick little dog. And yesterday, I learned more about what I am capable of doing.

I did my 75km bike ride for the MS Grape Escape Bike Tour yesterday. I can safely say that it lived up to all of my expectations: It was difficult, it was long, I was stinky at the end, but it was ultimately rewarding. I can also safely say that, even though I'm proud I did it, I will not be doing any more bike events. I did it with the hope that I might finally find enjoyment in cycling, but I really didn't. I'd say that a few months of training and a 3.5 hours riding in rain and drizzle was enough of a trial to know that for sure.

That is not to say that it wasn't an interesting ride. I started out with my teammates at the start line, but we quickly got separated as most of them were doing the shorter route. The tour is designed for people to stop at different wineries along the way for short rests and wine-tasting to make it fun (with careful monitoring by the organizers to make sure nobody was on the road riding impaired). I decided to forgo the tastings and just ride as long as I could to get it done. I did make one stop at about two-thirds of the way through at a beautiful winery called Zanatta for a bathroom break, water refill and snacks. Apart from that, it was ride, ride, ride, often all by myself on the road, with nothing but the rain and the road markers for company.

This is not to say that the others had it easy. We all had our fair share of soggy feet, sore bums, and wet hills, especially the particularly inspiring hill (?) on the second-to-the-last kilometre. In the end, it was wonderful to meet all my teammates at the end to give them hugs and congratulations on a challenge completed.

Today, I'm taking it easy. We just took Rascal out for a short walk. His health really is a roller coaster these days. Sometimes, he looks like he's at death's door, barely eating, barely able to walk, barely sleeping. Other days, he's a totally different dog, eating, trotting around, even playing with his toys, just like he was back to normal. He has seen a specialist, and we are discussing treatment options, as surgery for his tumour is out of the question. I am grateful that we made the decision to have pet insurance, as it makes decisions about his health slightly less stressful to make. Right now, we cuddle him and talk to him as much as we can.

Later on, we'll go out for lunch, get some groceries, and then I'll sit down and work on some amigurumi toys that I promised I'd make in return for some pledges for my bike event. They're not my favourite thing to make, but the little legs make me smile with their weirdness. I still need to get a couple more supplies to finish them up, but I'm finding that I'm enjoying making them more than I thought I would. It's a challenge in and of itself.

Maybe I'll take a break from challenges for a while... except I'm starting a paddleboard yoga course tomorrow. You'd think I was finished with being wet and soggy, but apparently not. This could be interesting...