Monday, November 17, 2014

50 Shades of Thankful

November is a busy month at home. Nestled up next to the Thanksgiving holiday and the kick-off of the Christmas season, are my wedding anniversary and my birthday. I love November for all of those reasons, but I love too the change in the weather. November is that season when we transition into long sleeves, light sweaters and enjoy all things pumpkin.

This year marked my 40/10th birthday. My husband (the sweetest guy in all the world) planned a magnificent surprise party. In all my life, I had never had a surprise party... and I was quite overcome with emotion.

He didn't overlook the smallest of things.  From the private labeling of wine in my honor and red carpet entry, to purposeful inviting, decorative details, and pre-party activities to get me out of my home for its transformation, each individual detail was exquisitely planned. Sweetening the surprise, were two of my sons who required flights to be there, and extended family and friends who came from (literally) all over the country. I was humbled, flattered and blessed by the whole... well... fuss.

There is something... I don't know.... half-century sounding of the word "fifty" that labels one "aging" to me. Celebrating my 40/10th is more in line with how I feel at this stage in my life. Although I have experienced a great deal, there is still so much for me to experience.

This afternoon, having picked-up and knitted around the collar edge of a Fireside Cardigan I am knitting for our little guy, I came to an instruction I hadn't yet learned. Setting my keyword search for "4 St buttonhole", I found an online tutorial, and then (awkwardly) worked the series of five buttonholes. Like so many other areas in my life, it seems that no matter how much experience I may have... there are still things waiting to be discovered.

As we approach this Thanksgiving season, I am so grateful for life's abundance. Most of all, I am thankful for my beautiful family and a husband who is my boyfriend too, even after all these years. I am thankful I have good friends to love. I am grateful for my surprise party which was every bit what celebrating a 40/10th should be.

And I am grateful that on this side of 40/10, there is still so much to learn.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Life and Death: How Our World Can Change Overnight

There has been a lot of media surrounding the life and (now) subsequent death of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year old woman who chose to end her life before brain cancer took hold of her faculties.  As I read all the media and FaceBook postings, it is with a sense of understanding that no one can really know for sure how we would feel if faced with the same circumstances. I know its easy to think we know, but until we have stood in the same place as someone else, we cannot truly know for sure.

This weekend, it was clearly Autumn when I tucked our little guy into bed after tricks or treats, and snuggled up with my husband for a night's rest. Yet the world clearly looked differently when the sun rose again the next morning and we emerged from our room to share our favorite cup of coffee on the mountain.

As I settled into my favorite chair, cup and saucer in hand, I thought about how different our world can look just overnight.

How difficult it can be when life shuffles all we know to be true, and we are confronted with a new reality without the courtesy of sufficient notice.

My husband and I know how quickly life can change... how in a blink of an eye our world view can reshape, changed forever by loss and grief.

We cannot know how many days we have left. Life moves, things change, people pass away.
Yet when we look in that rear view mirror, we can see time well-spent together... and for that we are comforted and grateful.

There is no way for us to know what may come along the horizon. We can only choose for today.

And hope we choose well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inside Out But Right Side Up

Sometimes, things are right-side-up when they are inside-out. We've all done it.... mistakenly come up with something that is awesome in this mess that we call life. We screw up a recipe that comes out fabulous, or stumble across great outfits because the individual wardrobe pieces fell together in the closet, quite by happenstance, in a way we never would have dreamed to assemble.

This weekend, I bound-off my Flore sweater by Julie Hoover. It's a seamless pull-over sweater knitted in the round, requiring a color change every alternating 20 and 13 rows.  It knits as a simple stockinette stitch, and while I was working the sweater, I considered leaving those clean, perfectly knitted, stockinette rows exposed. But the Flore sweater gets its carefree style when you turn the entire thing inside out, making the wrong side, the finished right side.

Knitted with two colors of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend, it's unimaginably soft and cozy.

I love it when something comes together well, and you feel great about putting your name to it.

When my kids where young, I had a story recording I loved to play at night called, "Ride Side Up Stories for Upside Down People". They were quirky little stories read in a soothing tone by a professional storyteller... stories about imperfect things turning out perfectly.

As I turned the Flore wrong side out to be right side up, I couldn't help but think about that collection of quirky children's stories. I remember all the times in my life I was just sure things were disastrous, only to look back in the end and see that things worked out well after all.

Things don't always turn out the way we plan, but one thing we can know for certain... if we're open to possibilities, it can all turn out for good.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Time for What I Want

Lately, I'm all over the place. For some reason, beyond my own awareness, my mind is on spin cycle. Exhausted, I lie down (over the weekend) to "take a nap", and my husband looks me over, cross-eyed, and suggests I take my temperature. He knows. There is no way a nap is going to happen.

You see, the moment I make my feeble attempt to lie down for an afternoon rest, my mind whirs with my never-ending list of "what else's." I think about things I could be enjoying (other than the simplicity of an hour or two of extra rest). What if one of the kids calls to chat? I think about household projects I need to finish (or start), and what I could be (or should be) accomplishing.... and of course, I could be knitting.

Our treehouse in Utah is my favorite place to "chill". Yet even on the mountain, it's impossible for me to nap. As soon as our little guy and my husband are individually settled in for an afternoon snooze, my mind is swimming with the possibilities available to me. I could sit on the deck with an afternoon glass of wine, enjoy the beautiful weather, take in the sight of wildlife feeding, settle in with my Kindle, strum my guitar.... or I could be knitting.

Life is crowded with a hefty list of have-to's, and truth be told, when presented with the opportunity for extra "me time"... I don't want to miss a minute.

What did you do with your "me" time this week?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bracing for the Embracement of Change

Things change. If there is one constant that we can depend upon, it will be that no matter what, no matter how careful, things change. We grow and mature, our experiences shaping us into the self we are tomorrow. We anticipate change around us throughout the year, marking each one with celebration and looking forward to decorating the next season to come. We barely have our stockings and tinsel tucked neatly away in boxes, when we're adorning our front doors with red wreaths of hearts... all the while dreaming of egg hunts and planning for tulips and baskets tied with gingham.

I realize, as I reach toward my own "what's next", that I too have changed in many ways. Of course, there are core characteristics of myself that remain true and constant, but my experiences... my realities... soften the edges of opinion and I grow to be a better version of what I may have been before.

Our 4-year old little guy, with whom I spend much of my days, recently has begun to say, "I'm right... You're wrong." (Whether or not he actually is.) With my head cocked to the side and a wry smile, I gaze into his eyes and say, "Mason, we can be right, or we can be happy. Which one do you want to be?"  "I want to be happy!" he replies without a moment's consideration. It's a large concept for a little one to absorb, but in my own way, I'm letting him know that sometimes in life, the details are less important than the experiences and our relationships.

Last weekend, my son was attacked on the streets of D.C. for no other reason than for who he is. It was a hate crime, and the assault left us all reeling. He, with a sense of surreal disbelief for the hatefulness in a world that is seemingly modern, and us, with a sense of helplessness for being unable to shield, comfort, and protect him from our considerable distance away. We were blindsided by the sheer senselessness of it all.

It occurs to me that as my life's experiences expand, my mind and ability to extend grace in the world increases exponentially. Things change. We change. Life changes. And with it, the variation of color enriches our world view, even as we stay true to who we are at our core.

Change can be hard, for it marks for us the end of what we knew before as it embarks us upon a new direction. Yet each season holds a beauty and grace of its very own... opening its hand to offer us blessings we would never have known, had the course of our lives never changed.

In knitting, a change of color occurs in one of two ways. Either the thread has inherent shade variation resultant from the "hand-painted" dye process, or it results more decisively by cutting the string and beginning the next row with an entirely different ball of yarn. So it is with my life... some changes occur naturally, and others by the resolve of my own heart and my mind.  And while one is more gradual than the other, they both lead to a thing of beauty.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's OK to be a "Snob"

A "Yarn Snob", that's what they called me... and I guess to some extent, it is true. The first project I ever made, (the first time I even cast-on) was with a hand-painted baby alpaca on a set of Brittany bamboo needles. I had simply walked into my LYS, told them my story, and asked "How do I select what to use?" The shopkeeper suggested the tool she liked best, and I trusted that she would know.

Since then, I have moved to Addi Clicks as my own choice for needles, and I still, without waiver, choose natural fibers and high-quality yarns. I have found that if I try to knit with a synthetic yarn, the yarn doesn't yield the quality of fabric and stitch I desire for my project.  The truth of the matter is that cheap yarns don't knit well... the twist splits and the fiber doesn't feel great in your hands.

The same philosophy is true with most things in life. You never find a celebrity chef recommending you purchase the cheapest processed foods for a dish they demonstrate, for if you want an excellent result, you need excellent ingredients. Likewise, a skilled musician will always look for a fine instrument with which to create beautiful sound.

It's funny, but when you think about it, you'll also never win someone over with a cheap version of the Gospel either, for what the human spirit craves... what we're drawn to... is greatness. We want to seek justice, love mercy... walk humbly.

To do something well, requires that we commit to the best of it and the best of ourselves. Sure there are times we fall short, and that's what grace is all about.

So while some may tease me and say I'm a yarn snob... the truth is that I'm just setting myself up for the best possible result.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Wonky Log Cabin Blanket and a Wonky New Discovery

I hate knitting baby blankets. (There... I've said it.) Truth is, part of the knitting addiction for me is the little stages of gratification that come from finishing components within a garment... those little bursts of "completion" within the overall project. Knitting a baby blanket, however, is seemingly endless row after row of the same thing, while praying (fervently) for enough length to be finished. It's an sacrifice of love, therefore, when I decide to knit a baby blanket for some precious little one who is waiting to meet the world... and... well... me.

One of the online sellers I follow showcased a collection of Big Bad Wool patterns and yarns. I couldn't decide between the patterns, so I ordered up them all.  Sitting "criss-cross-applesauce" on my living room floor with the patterns splayed out before me, I surprised myself by choosing the Wonky Log Cabin pattern for our Avery Grace.

Casting on, I was intrigued by the discovery that each of the "logs" in the pattern were an individual component of the blanket. I can do this, I thought, and began the repeated process of finishing an individual "log" each night, then proudly tacked my signature knitting label and a note for my daughter-in-law to "wear it out".

It's funny how sometimes we discover renewed enjoyment in something we thought would be drudgery.  I decided to knit the blanket out of my profound love for my daughter-in-law and our little Avery Grace who had yet to arrive, yet in this decision to do something out of love, I found the gift of satisfaction and joy was waiting in store for me.

There was about a half-ball left over when I cast off the last of the Wonky Log Cabin Baby Blanket, so I decided to knit a face-cloth for my sister with this little bit of left over fiber.  Selecting one of my favorite logs, and adding a garter-stitch border (so it would lay flat), I cast on and set about making a hand-knit wash cloth.

Wrapping the cloth around a hand-made soap, I had a gift for my sister's birthday.

And while it was by no stretch of the imagination as time-consuming and involved as Avery's little blanket, it occurred to me that sometimes, it's the small things we do for people that really matter.

For at the end of the day, most of us already have what we really need...  and all we really want is just a little love.