Monday, November 30, 2015

Viewfinders and Vulnerability

I just started working on a new project. I am making an infinity scarf with a wonderful hank of yarn I received last year for my birthday, held with a second strand of a matching mohair. The pattern is called the Viewfinder's Scarf, I would imagine, because of the sequence of holes in the lace which make up the pattern.

Can you see that? It really is a three-row pattern of creating holes with yarn-overs and decreases between a rows of knit. Stealing away some precious moments for myself, I sat to work a few rows on my Viewfinder Scarf while I considered what I might say at a women's event where I was asked to share later that evening... and then it all came into view. This year, I have been working on my vulnerability, and as I clicked out a few rows of this Viewfinder's Scarf, I couldn't hep but think about how this pattern of lace holes really represents vulnerability. You see, when we open ourselves (allowing these viewfinder holes on our hearts and spirit) we allow ourselves to receive, and yet when I think about that, it occurs to me that it's through these same holes that we pour out ourselves to others.

The holes let us breathe. They keep us accountable, for they become viewfinders through which people can see into our soul. Lace is created in knitting by patterning holes through increasing and reducing stitches, and the fabric produced is a thing of intricate and complicated beauty.

Have you had some holes in your life this year? Have you found yourself reduced at times? I want to encourage you that we can see the beauty in the making of you. This year, I am thankful I have had the courage to show more vulnerability. I'm grateful for what I have allowed myself to receive through those holes, and for what I have been able to pour out of my holes to others.

Monday, November 16, 2015

From Blur to Brrrr!

This morning, I noticed my weeks have gone from blur to brrrr! This time of year is always especially fast for me. The span of weeks between halloween to my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and Thanksgiving transpire rapid-fire. Before we know it, December is here and it's a rush to begin and finish preparations for Christmas with the family.

Each year, it is our favorite family tradition to gather for our annual family photo shoot around Thanksgiving. When the kids were young (you know, before digital photography), we would gather in the park while my husband shot off 36 photos at a time before reloading a cartridge of film into his 35mm Nikkon and setting it back onto the tripod for another series of shots. Those years are filled with hilarious stories of grumbling and threatening the kids, teeth clenched, to smile and look natural.

Our kids still gather with us each year during the holidays, now with their own toddlers in tow, to have our traditional photo shoot. They wait for me to release our color-of-the-year for the shoot, and we have a great time seeing what everyone does with the theme.

This year, with all the blush and eggshell sweaters, peacoats and accessories in store-front windows, I decided to claim them for our annual colors. Adding "ash" (a medium gray) to our scheme, I sent the scheme to the kids via group text and waited for the response.

Having finished my latest knitting project, I realized I had a blush and eggshell infinity scarf I began last year, before I abandoned it to give my son's cardigan my full knitting attention. Resurrecting it from my WIP bin, I began fervently working ten rows of blush before switching to ten rows of eggshell as I began what will become a series of chevron patterns in the alternating colors. 

...And now the race against the calendar is on.

This year, the family photo shoot occurs the week of Christmas, when our kids who are traveling to in-laws for Thanksgiving will all be home again for Christmas. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone in the soft and muted hues. What are you looking forward to for the holidays?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Go Tell It On the Mountain

It was a year in the making, and then I saw that moment when it all comes together with perfect clarity and purpose. I sat, looking as I neatly stitched out the last piece of the cardigan I had been working for an entire year. Four full seasons ticked away as my needles clicked out precise rows of stockinette stitch in a extra fine mink yarn.

And yet that's not all that was clicking away. Just as I was wrapping up the end pieces of my cardigan, my husband and I were invited as guests to lead at a singles retreat for our church. We headed up for a "mountain top experience" just out of Zion National Park, but hadn't really expected that the experience would be both actual and theoretical.

Sometimes, all the things we do in life can become a twisted mess. We tap out the day to day routines with precision and we don't even notice how weary we have become in the doing.

The weekend became illustrative to me in ways I hadn't expected. I had gone to bless others, but in the process, somehow, I emerged restored... filled-up, not poured out. Life sometimes hurts, and with those experiences behind me, I couldn't help but feel in the resolve a sense that they were genuinely finished.

Symbolic as it may be, it was on the road for our trip that I also finished my cardigan. A year in the making finished up... just like the season of my life that year had prepared me for a weekend of sharing with others.

Casting on a new project, I felt a sense of refreshment... my heart full of expectation for what's next to come.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning the Value of Being Still

It's incredible to me (really, unbelievable) how this year has gone by, nearly unnoticed, in a whir. Seemingly moments ago it was January and I was writing about change and moving, and now we are decorating with pumpkins and preparing for harvest festivals. As the end of the season for us at our mountain home draws near, I steal away bits of time to think about everything we have experienced over the duration of three seasons.

I write about knitting and what knitting reveals to me in life, yet I find there is little about my knitting over the course of several months. I settle into my favorite spots to open my project bag and contemplate the work on my needles. It has been a year in the making with this particular project, and during that timeframe, I admit (when no one else can hear) that I've become bored with the project... the tedious neat and tiny rows of purl and knit that create the fine gauge of stockinette stitch. It is beautiful work. The yarn is exquisite. It feels amazing to the touch... and yet like many things in life that require an extended commitment without evidence of progress, my amusement with the project has waned.

And there it was.

That moment when you realize what the whole thing is showing you. I have often found with life that the relationships and things I value the most, were the ones into which I had to put the most work or dedication. Mothering. Marriage. Friendships. Even the objects that are worth the most to us are often those which were obtained through hard work or sacrifice. It is the history and time of a thing which makes it an heirloom.

As with my year, I have lost track of time as the shape and pieces of this sweater have come together. Knitting for hours, I would examine my work and wonder if I had progressed at all.  Yet as I reach the final stretch of the last sleeve before I can carefully seam the pieces of the cardigan together, I realize that what I have created for my son through love and perseverance is a thing of great beauty.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Borrowing Farmhouse Charm from a DIY Pallet Project

What to do with the large wall in my dining room, I wondered. The formal dining room in our new home has large expanses of wall space, and the area behind the table is a focal point falling at the end of a long corridor of living space. We had discussed a large mirror to reflect the furnishings and space leading into the room, or perhaps a great piece of art paired with a buffet table. Yet we couldn't quite find something we both felt was absolutely perfect for the space.

Spending a little time out of the Vegas heat at our mountain treehouse (as we like to call it), we wandered into the Lofty Nest, a local consign and design store in the village. My husband found a place it sit down while I browsed through the beautiful vignettes in the shop. In a stroke of creative brilliance (in my opinion), the shopkeeper had fashioned wall display units with vintage weathered pallets. We loved the idea, but couldn't convince her (through no small amount of negotiation and encouragement) to sell us four of the perfectly aged pallets.

Coaching us on a variety of techniques which could be used to "weather" pallets, she assured us we could duplicate the look.  We loaded up a foursome in the back of my husband's Expedition and determined to make it work. Gathering our list of necessities, we set out give the DIY project our all, but we were less than completely pleased with the outcome yielded by our first mixture of vinegar and steel wool.  The stain rendered the pallets a dark walnut brown, not the fantastic ashy-grey we hoped to achieve.

On a subsequent trip to the mountain, we made a concerted search for discarded naturally-weathered pallets behind businesses, trash dumpsters, and vintage cabins where no one had been for decades. Collecting six we thought were acceptable, we loaded a stack of four again into my husband's Expedition for the trip back home after hosing and brushing the earth and webs from the old weathered boxes.

Screwing the pallets (topside down) directly into the studs behind the finished wall, I bit my nail beds with self-doubt while we fashioned an arrangement of two-on-two just above the height of the electrical wall outlet. 

Adorning them with a collection of items I found in my house, the Lofty Nest, and Target, my heart leapt with excitement over the finished wall. The cross-supports of the pallets provide narrow shelves inside which to nestle electronic candles and picture frames, while the vertical boards give support for eclectically arranged wall-art and lanterns. 

Peering down the corridor of space from the entry, I am pleased with the transitional French country farmhouse charm of the room. I'm not sure why I (invariably) second-guess the design work I do for my own home. Perhaps it's the emotional attachment to the space that creates the self-doubt. Whatever the cause, I find when I just go with my instinct, things simply turn out as I planned them in my heart.

Friday, September 4, 2015

To Busy to Be Lonely

It's been a big week. With kindergarten (incredibly) starting for our little guy and my husband traveling to spend time with his brother and sister before school starts on the east coast, it seems like blur of micro-changes over the span of 8 days.

When my husband is out of town, I keep myself busy working on little projects, sandwiched between spurts of me-time. The change of pace helps pass the time and keeps me from feeling lonely.

I knit. I read. I catch up on home projects. I take my little guy to a movie or do something just the two of us. This time was no different.

I sheepishly admit that I stripped (last year) the stain from the circa 1920 library table we use in our kitchen dining room. The first couple of weeks, I kept the table carefully covered to prevent us from penetrating the unprotected wood, but as weeks turned into months, I abandoned the ceremony telling myself I could sand it should something happen to the unfinished surface, then silently cringed every time I set down a plate or glass of water.

My girlfriend was refinishing a table of her own and posted some pictures of her progress on her Facebook page. With a few days on my hands, and the supplies already waiting on the countertop of my laundry room, I was charged with determination to tackle the work. Slipping on some latex gloves, I opened my well-shaken gel stain and posed to make the first contact with the table top. There is always (for me) a moment of last-minute hesitation right before I plunge fully-committed to the job.

It was all good.

Energized by my progress, I moved right around the house putting an end to the little projects nagging for completion. I installed spice racks in our cabinetry, purchased the last chair I needed for the living room,

and even managed to find some quality time with my mom when we shared a gluten free pizza with a glass of wine for lunch.

My husband will be home this evening, and I can't wait to see him. All my favorite times are with him... he is my best friend, my boyfriend, my security. Yet, I'm thankful that I have learned (as I have grown over the years) to enjoy being alone with myself. I'm okay with me.