Monday, December 8, 2014

Friends that Stick Closer than a Brother

I have heard it said that there are friends who can sometimes destroy us, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. I don't know about you, but I have experienced the sting of truth of this very proverb. Though the proverb, in most translations, points to one who sticks closer than a brother, I know there are people in my life during the here and now who demonstrate the proverb in living translation.

This past weekend, my husband and I (our little guy in tow) traveled the 4 1/2 hours by car to San Diego to be with some friends at a time of the year when they need a little extra love. Four years ago, we met our friends for the first time, for the simple purpose of supporting them on a journey through which we walked about two years ahead of them, and we have grown to be (for each other) that kind of friend.

We know that when we spend time together, none of us needs to be the best of who we are... or anything at all. There are no expectations over which to feel disappointed. No pressure to be anything but the sheer truth of who we are in the moment. There is comfort in knowing that variety of deep love and acceptance.

There are no worries about what to do, for we can just hang out together sipping a glass of wine or take time to plan a great day of adventure... it's all the same to us. This year, we spent a day in Sea World because our little guy had never been. It was a taste of bittersweet to our friends, for memories of their son experiencing Sea World at the same age as our little guy brought with it both feelings of loss and sweet remembrance. There were moments in the day when our friends just needed a minute to withdraw, and other moments of respite joy and distraction. Whatever came our way, we just were in it together.

I know that December 7th is the hardest day of the year for them. I know that the simple act of being there for them gives them comfort in knowing that someone remembers and understands their pain. We don't need to make it better or come prepared with some great words of wisdom to fix the pain they feel.

We can just point to the way we have walked before them, and offer a loving heart and hand.

For at the end of the day, that's all we are called to do when the tide rushes in.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It Doesn't Matter if You Win or Lose...But it Does

Our little guy was watching a little television in my room while I was getting ready for my day... there are great shows on PBS for little ones, and he was absorbed with an episode of Sesame Street. Throughout the show, I kept hearing a repeated theme and statement, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose; all that matters is how you play the game."

We have been working with our little guy, lately, on this concept of playing games. I find him saying, "I win/you lose!" when he (legitmately) wins a game of tic-tac-toe, and I feel the need to shape his attitude over winning. But my message is less about it not mattering who wins, and more about the grace involved with winning.

I don't agree with the well-intended folks at Sesame Street that it doesn't matter if you win or lose. Of course it matters. Teaching my little guy that it doesn't matter (in my opinion) is to say, in essence, it doesn't matter if you really do your best or even try. I believe in life, we should always do our best. When doing our best produces success or a win... good for us! Yet when doing our best alternatively leads us to something which fails and we are graceful in the loss... then in a sense, I guess there is good in that too. It matters. Of course, it matters.

With my knitting, I pay careful attention to selecting a great fiber for the project I want to knit. I know that giving my best to the pattern instructions yields the best result, and when I don't get it right, I tink back until I am able to successfully complete the instruction. That careful attention matters, for it is the stuff that sets my knitting apart so it looks handmade... not homemade. There is a visible difference and it matters to me.

I know when teaching children the most complicated of concepts we sometimes need to over-generalize, but I want our little guy to reach his own greatness (to whatever extent that is). I know it matters, for no child dreams of mediocrity.

So of course it matters if we win or lose... it is silly to pretend it doesn't matter. But what matters most is the grace we show with the result we achieve.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Use Your Head

I have often talked about trusting the pattern, when things seem unclear, in order that things can turn out the way the designer intended, and I hold to that philosophy as one of the simple truths of my life. Yet what is clear to me is that there are also times when using common sense and judgment is what we need to create the outcome we desire. When adhering strictly to the letter of the pattern yields a result that I can (clearly) see isn't correct, it is time to rely upon common sense and critical thinking.

This weekend, I came to a point that required short rows in the Fireside Cardigan I am knitting for our little one. The pattern instructions said to pick up and knit around the right front, back and left front edges before beginning the one-by-one rib edging around the sweater. No specific number of stitches was designated, so long as an odd number was achieved, and I was to place a marker (for the beginning of short rows) at the 76th stitch on the right side.

Only that 76th stitch did not occur in the middle of the back collar... it was off to the left side of the sweater near the shoulder. The instruction didn't make sense, but (nonetheless) I decided to trust the pattern. I could see the short rows were creating a wider collar on one side than the other, so three rows in, I tinked the short rows out, re-read the instructions and began again. Still, another 6 rows into the 8 row instruction, it became painfully clear that the designer had intended those short rows to begin at the back center. (So I tinked out the 6 rows again.)

Deciding that the designer must have picked up 152 stitches around her sweater, I placed the marker at the center of my own version and began again the short rows. What it created was a rise in the back side of the collar which folds down, evenly resting on both sides before the buttoned placket.

I think sometimes we can be blinded by simple instructions. I see this when in my own life (and sometimes in the lives of my Christian friends), we hold so tight to the letter of what is written that we forget that what the Designer intended to create is grace, mercy and love. How often I have missed seeing an opportunity to create goodness because I have been too focused on the words to see the intent.

And I love that I can tink back when what I'm creating is less than what I hoped it would be.

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?