Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ice Cream, If I Must

If you have no time to rest, it's exactly the right time. -- Mark Twain
Perhaps ones of the hardest realities I face is realizing that I can't do everything in one day. Maybe it's the result of a life of trying to be a perpetual over-achiever: I feel that I must do it all, do it right, and do it better than anyone else has ever done it.

And then the reality fairy comes along to kick me in the butt to remind me that that is such a vain existence. I'm not perfect, and it's vanity to believe that I can be perfect through sheer force. Sometimes, things just are what they are.

I had a somewhat frustrating week: Things I thought I'd fixed got a case of the gremlins and un-fixed themselves, and a pile of work is slowly making its way towards me with the slow, deadly creep of a lava field. One of the highlights was Thursday afternoon, when I was supposed to make a presentation to a group at a meeting... I'd prepared all week, made some great slides, spent quality time preparing, only to have two-thirds of the audience get up and leave because the organizer took a break just at the point when it was my turn to talk. I'll admit: I pouted. I was angry, and I was tired. I can't guarantee I was a gracious as I could have been with the organizer when he apologized to me later. Whatever.

At least I got a free lunch and piece of chocolate ganache cake.

Since then, I've just been resting: took Friday morning off from the gym, and then just coasted the rest of the weekend. I skipped my Sunday morning long run, which, in the past, would have riddled me with guilt and constant verbal justification. But seriously: screw it. I was tired. I needed a reboot.

The rain has been helping. We're still in drought, but we got a few hours of rain this weekend: some of the first real rain the Island has seen since April. The brown fields are slightly soggy. The fires may slow down, I don't know. It was dark enough and cool enough to nap this afternoon, and when I awoke, the sun was shining again.

It was like I woke up on another day... like a freebie extra weekend day.

I'm usually so driven to pack so much into my time, but I don't know what it is right now. Perhaps part of it was a reminder from a video I happened to catch last week about the difference between "urgent" things and "important" things: Urgent things tend to be for other people. Important things tend to be for yourself... and they tend to be put last. The trick is to put the Important things first, because the Urgent things will always get done anyway.

So, I took naps, read some magazines, ate some cake. I actually made time to make an appointment with a different hair stylist to fix the run of terrible haircuts I seem to be living through these days. We went out a couple of times to pick blackberries. We downloaded Series One of Alias, which I've been wanting to watch for ages... Jennifer Garner is so awesome. I totally want to be just like her. I don't know what Ben Affleck is thinking, honestly.

And I knitted.

I'm about halfway through the front of my latest experimental top. The trouble with using yarns with such long, gradual colour runs is that I am compelled to ensure the pattern remains unbroken. I seem to have been lucky enough with my choice of yarn balls that this seems to be working out, even as I finished one ball and started another.

I'm hoping the two remaining balls I have will be just as cooperative. I actually bought the darker one, believing it to be a different colourway from the lighter one. It was kind of a cool surprise to realize they were the same. I'm still sort of haunted by the possibility that I might run out... but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I think I'll go and knit some more. And I think I'll have some ice cream, too. What the heck, right? And tomorrow, I'll be ready. And I'll have half a knitted top, too. I'd call that pretty productive for a non-productive weekend.

Happy rest day.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Tea Party and Two Dishcloths for a Top

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where -" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"- so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Today, I did a cool thing: I went to a tea party.

Ok, maybe cool isn't the best word for it. It was really hot out today, and it was a sweaty time, but it was fun and unusual.

We leave near a place called the Teafarm, and each summer, they host a Mad Hatter Tea Party. You wear a fun hat, or dress up as someone from Alice in Wonderland, and you drink tea (both hot and iced) and get scones and cake and fruit and play croquet, and well... it was fun.

It was a good time, and a nice opportunity to catch up with friends and enjoy some nice tea. We went and played "croquet" i.e. we hit big rubber balls through huge croquet hoops with mallets. I was thinking that this was just my kinda sport until my ball popped on a thorn from a blackberry bush. I don't think that's how you're supposed to do it, but I'm not a professional.

Each of our settings had a little place card with a quote. I liked mine: "I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then."

And it's true: The older I get, the more I realize how different a person I am. There are things I can do now that I never used to be able to do, and there are things I tolerate now that I couldn't tolerate before. And... there are things I used to let people get away with that I won't anymore. And there are things I do now that I wish I didn't do... but going back to what I was is not an option I'd ever take.

The Mad Hatter was mad... but maybe madness allows wisdom to come through without the coating of self-consciousness we all put on things we say.

As always, I brought home a little bit of tea, even though the hubby said I wasn't allowed (the cupboard is kinda full). But in the end, he'll enjoy it just as much:

I brought along my knitting, but I didn't work on it. It turns out I don't knit well in the heat. But it's an interesting project. I'm experimenting with some cotton yarn at a light fingering weight from Schachenmayr called Tahiti. It's in this lovely gradient that goes from dark charcoal grey to bright white. I'm trying to make a tunic out of two simple rectangles, inspired by a pattern from this summer's Interweave Crochet called the Summer Marsala Tunic. I'm trying to knit the front and the back on the bias, from one corner to the other, like two big, rectangular dishcloths. 

I giggled when I looked at this photo, because, when people ask me what I'm making, sometimes I say, "A thong," just to be silly. This photo looks like a big pair of underwear. It's the heat. It makes me stupid. But anyway...

I started out with much smaller needles (3.25mm or size 3), but soon fell back to my favourite size 6 needles, as it made for a much nicer, floatier fabric. I'm also throwing in a strip of linen stitch at intervals, because I like linen stitch, and I felt like it needed something else to make the texture more interesting.

I'm not sure how it'll turn out, but I'm optimistic that it'll be something wearable. I won't know until I'm done, and if there's one thing I've developed over the years, it's the tenacity to finish the projects I start. You never know what you'll get out of experiments, but you always get SOMETHING. It's just as the Cheshire Cat says: You're sure to get somewhere if you keep walking long enough.

I think I'll make a cuppa tea now.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Weekend Winging-It-Win

The trouble with leaving me alone with a bunch of clothes that you've told me are on sale is that I'm going to try them on. And the trouble with me trying things on is that I'm either going to hate everything I put on, or I'm going to love everything I put on. Both of those situations are good and bad.

What I mean to say is: I was waiting for my turn at my esthetician's salon on Friday afternoon. She sells clothes as well, and she had a bunch of them on at 50% off because she is clearing them out. They're generally not the sort of thing I wear, but I'd had a rough day, and I thought I'd play around a bit and see what I liked.

I was heading towards the hating-everything-I-put-on stage, which I was ok with, when I saw this dress on the hanger:

It was unremarkable to me when I first looked and it, but I approached it, lifted the skirt, and thought it was a lovely colour: a wine red with a ruffle down the front that opened into a slit. All of her clothes are a bamboo-cotton blend, so I tried it on. Long story short: it came home with me.

I tried it on again when I got home, and I thought it needed something... something around the neck...

I woke up the next morning and lay in bed thinking about it. I got up and started looking around online for some inspiration. Later that morning, I made a trip to the yarn store and came home with some silver crochet cotton and a couple of small steel crochet hooks.

After a few false starts and a lot of thinking, I made this:

I winged it from a few photos on line and with a little help with a crochet motif book I picked up last year.

If you look closely at it, there are some glass beads in each little "leaf." I wanted to give it just a hint of glitter:

I tried it on and wasn't sure about it, but then I put on the dress and put my hair up, and I knew it was exactly what I wanted:

Now that's what I call a winging-it-win.

The leaves kind of stick up sometimes, and sometimes they are turned inwards and outwards, but I don't mind that so much. I just like the trailing look of it along my neck. I'm pretty proud of it, and it was a nice little weekend project.

It wasn't the only weekend project, but we'll get into that another time:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Long Run, A Little Dog, and A Shawl That Looks Like a Slug

Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself. -- Amy Poehler
It's taken me all week to recover from my first half marathon. It's also taken me all week to decide how I felt about it all. There was a lot to think about.

But I'm getting ahead of myself: Last Sunday, I ran a big, long run in Vancouver on the morning of the second day of a heat wave.

The hubby drove me to the drop off area, and I cried a little because I was scared. It was hot for 7:30am. Heck, it would have been hot for 12:00 noon, and it was only going to get hotter. I made sure I drank a lot before I got to the site, made sure I used the porta-potty when I got there, then drank some more. I stood in my corral, and hugged a lady who told me she was terrified. I was terrified, too.

The pack started moving forward, and soon, our feet touched the starting line, our timing chips fired, and we started running. It was hot... humid hot. I could tell that my sweat was going to come, and that it might not evaporate the way I needed it to.

The first 10 kilometres were pretty good. When you enter these races by yourself, you find yourself just looking around and listening to the people around you. Some people chatted away to their running partners, and some were like me... just running along, breathing in and out, listening.

And then the hills came, and it became a moment to moment kind of experience. But I didn't panic, and I didn't crash. It was slow and steady. I drank fluids as often as possible, fuelled myself with chews and with my energy drinks like I planned to, ran through sprinklers when I could, and poured water over my head at each aid station after the halfway mark.  Somehow, I ended up running next to a guy dressed up as Elvis for the second half of the race (unless I was really hallucinating, but I can't say for sure). The hardest part was crossing the heated concrete of the Burrard Street Bridge. The city closed half the lanes to accommodate us, so it was full of cars with very ticked off people. I remember the heat shimmering off the concrete, up into my face, drying my sweat at the same time it was produced.

Eventually, I got to the point where I was searching for the finish line. I wanted to be finished. My eyes strained over the bobbing heads in front of me, and when I saw it, I started to pick up speed. When I watched the video at the end, I found out that was actually sprinting. I didn't know I could do that.

And when I got to the end, someone put a medal around my neck. Someone handed me cups of water, which I drank greedily. I walked through the crowds over to the tents, and found the tent for The Kidney Foundation of BC and the Yukon. I'd never met them before, but they knew I was coming. People I never met before took one look at me, read the name on my bib, and put their arms around me to hug me.

Through the generosity of my friends and coworkers, I raised $3,761.17 to help them support other families, just like they supported me.

I met a woman who had run the 5k that was running parallel to my race. I was admiring her running shoes, and she told me that they were a gift from her son, who was in the hospital waiting for her and her husband. "He's doing dialysis right now. I wanted to give him my kidney, and we were a match, but the anatomy of my kidney is too complicated for him to accept."

And I told her that everything would work out... that everything would be fine. And I thought about all that time I spent running that morning... about how he was in the hospital waiting for his mom and dad the whole time.

The run was hard... but the tough part for me was over.

My final time was slower than I wanted to be, but I had to make a decision near the beginning of the run: run to the program and risk being seriously ill afterwards, or run it as smart as I could and see what happened. And what happened was I finished it with no pain, and without getting heatstroke.

I found the hubby, and I got into the car with my sweaty clothes, and we drove towards the ferry terminal. We found a leisure centre, where the woman behind the desk watched me stagger in with my race bib still pinned to my front, and let me in for free to let me take a shower.

We went into the port. We were too early for our boat, so we went and relaxed at the Starbucks. A woman left her dog with us while she went off to run errands. He was a cute little surprise.

On the boat, I took out my crochet project, and finished all the yarn. The second half the pattern was confusing, and it didn't match the first half: the decreases weren't working out properly. But I decided that it was just like my race: not quite how I imagined it, but still a pretty good result...

... even though it kind of looks like a striped slug.

The stitches are quite striking.

It took me all week to feel normal enough to actually block it, and it's so hot right now that I only managed to throw it over my shoulders for a couple of bathroom selfies before it was too uncomfortable to wear. I think I might use it to fend against the A/C chill of the office this week.

So, how do I feel about all this?

I wish I was faster. I wish I had felt more prepared. I wish I felt lighter, that I felt more like a real runner.

I wish I knew how hard the week after was going to be. I've woken up each night feeling hungry and sore, with aching muscles and swollen feet, feeling lonely and depressed and disappointed that I wasn't faster.

But... I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot about myself: about what happens when I am faced with a long stretch of road that I'm supposed to run on. And I'm proud that I took it on. And no, I won't do it again. It's not my distance... too long for me. And maybe that's was the point. I needed to learn that I can't plan every single thing to my advantage. I can't calculate everything into submission. It was a race that didn't quite go according to plan.

But it's a freakin' cool medal.

I bought new running shoes the other day, and I signed up for another race: a 10k in November. And you know... now that I think of it, I'm proud that 10k is an easy race now. I know how to do that.

And I'm glad I can go back to my yarn and spend a bit more time with it. I spent some time last night, day dreaming about what I was going to make next. I feel like I've come home and found and old friend waiting for me.