Friday, February 5, 2016

Ramblings Eight Years Later

Feb 4, 2016: I drive to work, already a feeling of loneliness creeping in. They don't Know, and I want to be with people who do. I crank the worship music streaming from my Spotify account and slip a tissue beneath my sunglasses as I struggle to catch tears before they make history of my make-up for the day. The skies are sunny and clear, and yet a clould enshrouds my morning commute. The outcry of support from people who love us is already showing up. They always show up, and I love them for it. They were there that night eight (I can't believe it's eight) years ago. Standing in the cold as 9:00 p.m. turned to 10:00 and then 11, 12, and 1:00. They were at our door in the morning, standing at the threshold. They came in droves. The camped on our floor. They held our hands and our hearts. They're still there today.

Feb 5, 2016: 6:33 a.m. and the first personal message arrives, the second chimes on my iPhone at 7:44 a.m., then 9:23 a.m. and 9:24 a.m. My Facebook feed is flooded with remembrances and private messages from people who Know. It's been eight years today, and it occurs to me, incredibly, the the Youth Group he pastored has passed him in age. I long to post pictures (some updated photo from something fun we shared), and I'm struck with the reality that he is frozen in time...forever 22. I have nothing new to show. Nothing new to share. I clutch onto my memories with both sorrow and joy. His big brother, Justin, (Cole looked up to him) shoots us a text, and I text back gratefully "all this remembering is good, but it's also hard." Every year brings something new in our grief. We learn to get on with life, and Cole would want it that way. We move about most of the year with our hearts feeling alive, and in this way, I suppose one could say that grief is (easier?) But there is nothing natural in the order of time for a parent to bury a child. It is always expected that your child will bury you. And so we treasure in our hearts what we have left, and treasure anyone who has a stake or share in keeping that memory alive. I am so grateful for the messages from our friends and family who Know. This day is hard, but I want to live it. I want to remember. I want to cry and laugh and love.

This day is for him. And I think over the last eight years that we have all learned to breathe and laugh and eventually find our ways, but This Day, this one day in particular, is for him. This is the day I wear a deep and bright blue. It's the day I remember the sounds of  fresh inexplicable grief. It's the day I remember bright sunshine and birds and the sound of feet stepping in perfect unison while nobody spoke...just because there were no meaningful words to say. For those of you who knew, thank you for Knowing. Thank you for standing at our door, with us in heart, for flooding our phones and Facebook. Cole loved words of affirmation. He loved you.

--Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise...when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, "Blessed be the Lord."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Making Improvements on Something I Do Well

There is always something for us to learn. I'm an advanced knitter. (I can't believe I can say that!) I can navigate my way through a pattern and even modify techniques (from time to time) when I don't like the method recommended by the pattern designer. My stitch-gauge is even, and the garments and pieces I make yield a look that says "hand-made"...not "home made". (There is a difference.) And yet I find that there is still always something new for me to learn when it comes to my knitting.

Determined to increase the hours I spend with my favorite craft each day, I have been making incredible progress on my latest sweater project. With the fronts and the backs both completed, I am half-way through the first sleeve.

Learn to knit here.

Invariably looking to what's next in my patterns, I scanned ahead in the pattern instructions to see that the pieces should be blocked before finishing them together...and since I know I will be impatient to seam the finished components into a completed garment, I decided to block the front and back of the sweater while I am still knitting the perfect rows that make up the sleeves.

It was an ideal time to test spin a blocking mat and set of blocking rods I recently purchased. On past projects, I would soak then pin the garment down on a towel placed over my guest room bed, or steam-block on my ironing board (if I was in a hurry). I have never liked the peaks which occur between the pins where the fabric is lightly stretched to shape, and blocking rods were the ticket to an even stretch for the finely-misted alpaca silk fabric.

In our vast and wide world, it seems we can always learn a new way to do something we already do well. The key is being open to a new experience.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Juggling Choices and Hoping They Don't Drop

Lately, I'm bursting at the seams with things I want to do. Slammed in with seemingly thousands of things that I (without doubt) must take care of on my days off, I scheme of new projects I want to work on, and personal goals I want to accomplish.

Stealing a moment to read one of my favorite blogs, I stumbled upon a pattern for knitted slippers (coincidentally, something I have been thinking I need). Typically a barefoot person at home, I find myself reaching for something nearly-barefoot to wear over the all-hardwood floors since we moved to our new home.

I'm drawn by my guitar...longing to strum something easy just to sing along, or practice the method of picking strings instead, then my heart shifts to my knitting. Yet once I have knitted a few rows, my mind wanders to personal goals, and I find myself taking a break to upload a how-to video on my blog site.  I am ever convinced that there is a never-ending list of things we can do with our time. I marvel at how anyone might be bored with so much from which to chose... and watch the clock ticking my day away much more quickly than I would desire as I negotiate the minutes between what I have to accomplish and a mixed-bag of what I want to do.

At the end of the day, I guess there is much in my life that I genuinely enjoy. While I can fuss over my quandary of what to do next, it is with a thankful heart that I have much from which to chose.

Monday, January 11, 2016

And the Winner Is.... The Have-To's

Today is the perfect Vegas-winter day for curling up on my favorite chair with my knitting. The ever-blue skies are intermittently disbursed with clouds of thick puffy white and the sun is cheerfully shining over the valley, while a yarn bowl brimming with fuzzy soft baby alpaca and an interesting pattern of stitches beckons my heart. I love the feel of the yarn intertwined on my fingers and the soft fabric of the sweater elongating with every finished row. Instead, I sit at my desk chair counting the minutes at the outset of my workday and struggle to focus on something other than wanting to be at home.

I realize the unfairness of the proposition that I would rather be at home than at work when my work-week is an abbreviated three days and mid-week. Fair or not, the certainty is no less. I dream of doing something with my knitting professionally, but struggle with the practicality of the idea. And so on days like today, I am trapped somewhere between my dreams and my desires, and the reality of what is. I know there is nothing unique or special about how I feel… nor is my predicament a byproduct of our modern world. For centuries, I am quite certain, people have balanced their lives between what they really want and what they simply have to do.

There is something about the weather today that makes me long for my favorite place in our home and the delight of knitting… even more than I normally do. I love being home with my husband and family. I love the comfort of the place where we make our lives, and attending to the details that make us… well, us. It’s where I am at my best.  I know all these things wait for me at the end of my day, and it’s this simple knowing that gets me through.

So I sit at my desk and peer across at  the window with a longing to be somewhere else today, (somewhere I belong…where my heart is at home).  And as a war is waged between my emotions and brain over what I want and have to do for the next 6 hours, I watch the second hand in my mind click off the minutes until I can be home where I imagine my yarn wagging its tail with excitement when I return to be where I belong.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ringing In the New Year with Eco

It's 2016 and I'm ringing in the new year with a fresh project in Eco Highland Duo. It's been awhile since I've knitted for myself, and the feel of this yarn wound around my fingers is ultra soft and simply delightful.

When I first began knitting, I remember (vividly) casting on my second project ever. I sat in my favorite LYS with a group of women I barely knew and began concentrating on my gauge swatch. Four hours later, I had completed my 4" square to perfect gauge. I was aghast when my instructor congratulated me with excitement then told me my next step was to tear it out and re-join the used yarn with my yarn ball.

Five years and many projects later, I have come to understand that the key to making great handmade knitwear is taking the time to check your gauge with every project. I know my knitting style well enough to know that I will most likely need one needle size larger than the recommended needle to get my gauge, and that I can predict my achieved gauge accurately by knitting only half a gauge swatch.

A knitter's technique is unique to her (or him) and my style produces stitches of even size and tension. I can whip up a gauge swatch now in just a few minutes, instead of the painstaking four hours it took to knit my first one so many years ago. And although I can pretty accurately predict my gauge, I would still far rather invest the time to insure correct gauge than waste endless hours knitting inaccurate sizing.

As with everything we do in life, repetition yields familiarity. The ability to recognize the count of rows and identify stitches is as familiar to me now as recognizing my face in the mirror. Everything that was awkward with learning to knit, has become as simple to me as drawing my next breath.

Of course, there are always new things to learn. As we balance what is familiar and true with that which is new and uncertain, we become a richer, more interesting, version of ourselves.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday After Christmas Blues

Today is a tough day. It's Monday morning after the Christmas holiday weekend, and I awoke with a sense of loss commingled with gratitude for a few days with my family. There is a feeling of emotional fragility and a sense of mourning as life falls right back into step with the busy-ness of everyday life and "have-to's".

I tell my husband that I wish he could stay home with me's one of those days when I want to hide in the safety of him. I miss my boys. The plane ride between us means I don't get enough time with them, and the time we have together feels balanced on the beam of closeness and annoyance with the activity and noise around us... and as they board their flights for opposite ends of the country, I am left with the feeling that there is a chance I may have disappointed them in some way.

The holiday season can be a mixture of emotions for people. There are dozens of reasons that people can feel a sense of something's-not-right. I think in this world, we come to the table with our own brokennesses. We are busy. We are weighted down with obligation and worry. We worry about ourselves and the people we love. We fret about finances or the abundance of pressures to do, do, and do more. On some level, we even pride ourselves how much we can take before we break down, completely unaware of the toll the stress takes on our bodies, our minds, our hearts and spirits.

Families are complicated. As our children mature and build lives of their own, the layers of complexity of relationships and expectations within the family structure deepens.

And yet one constant strand remains. I hold tight to the depth of rich and unending love and appreciation I have for my family. Without question, I look forward with unfettered anticipation for the next minute I can see them face-to-face and can breathe in the essence of my boys.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Peace on Earth with a Pencil-Slim Christmas Tree

We have all had days like today. One of those times when everything (and everyone) is...well...just difficult. I have been working over the last week with an insurance company on writing a homeowner's policy for our mountain home. (Cut to scene of wind-gusting snow flurries on a mountain top). Not only is our little slice of heaven on Earth (apparently) in a brush-fire zone, but the insurer would like to see the (wait for it) original installation brochure for the forty (count them, 40) year old wood burning stove in our living room.  Sure. I have that on hand. (Not even close.)

So, while I scurry to jump hurdles and hoops for the underwriter at the insurance company, snow drifts pile high on the mountain making it next to impossible to acquire help with our quandary. With the stress accumulating in my shoulder blades (where it inevitably appears) in the form of burning sensations and the sense that my head is (suddenly) far too heavy for my body to support, I make a ridiculous show of breathing deep and "embracing the peace" (as our kindergartener has begun to say).

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch", the appliance repair man who completely disassembled my dryer a solid three days ago, is unable (because he is oh-so, so busy) to return until tomorrow, and my husband is out of underwear and my "little" is fresh-out (pardon the expression) of clean socks. So I cancel my 1:30 p.m. guitar lesson with an apology and explain to my teacher (as she suggests a glass of wine at 10:00 a.m.) that wine is not yet globally accepted (in most social circles) as an actual breakfast drink.

It never ceases to amaze me how the smallest of things can turn a day around. Steeling myself for an incredibly cold and windy day in Las Vegas, I (begrudgingly) set out for my Monday errands...and then it happened. I wanted (in our new home) to set up a second Christmas tree in our formal living room. I found it...and it was on sale...not one of those mamby-pamby 10-15% off-ers, but a legit I-cannot-believe kind of sales where you get an extra 5% on top of the 50% off.

So I packed up my display model (without a box) in a zip-up vinyl bag for trees, and made my way home feeling my spirits somewhat lifted. The 9'-0" tree was a perfect fit for my formal dining room, and I hoisted the thing out of my car and had it decorated with my 5-year-old Little in less than 30 minutes. Viola!  With a glass of red wine and the storage boxes stowed carefully away, my afternoon was salvaged in the blink of an eye. With my spirits lifted, the day didn't look so bad after all.