Sunday, November 30, 2014


Advent, the church season during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is supposed to be a time of watchful waiting, of expectant reflection. My intentions every year are very good around November 28th, but the combination of holiday stress and aggravation results in those intentions falling apart by December 9 or so. My experiment last year, making a personal Advent challenge for myself of blogging daily on the prescribed word of the day, was somewhat more successful. In Type A eldest child fashion, I managed to maintain focus a little better in the context of a competition.

The writing is already on the wall this year, or should I say, not on the wall. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has noticed a *ahem* tail-off in the frequency of posts. A bloggy reflection each day is not happening; no need to set myself up for certain failure. But I did still want to participate for the grounding benefits I received last year.

This year's advent word project is run by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a place that holds a special place in my heart because both boys dined at this monastery during their respective pilgrimages with church. It challenges participants to post just a picture each day. That may have been the challenge last year too and I probably just wasn't paying attention and made it harder than it had to be, as I have an unfortunate tendency to do.

I think I can manage a picture and perhaps a few words via Instagram and Facebook.

There I go making it harder again. My goal is a picture. JUST A PICTURE.

Today's word was look. As of last night, I was undecided on whether to take the challenge on, just one more thing in a long list of things. Maybe I would just read the word and do a little reflecting in my head. When I opened our front door to let the dog out first thing, however, this amazing view presented itself, and the words of my favorite Advent hymn popped unbidden into my head:

People, look east: the time is near.

Sometimes life is like that: the decision is made for you. Those types of decisions are usually for the best, anyway. I am still undecided about whether or not to put it here as well every day. Too much social media sharing-ness? Maybe that decision will be made for me tomorrow.

Friday, November 28, 2014

lots of thanks giving

So much that my post is a day late...

I am thankful for my sons, most especially that they love each other, and (mostly) get along with each other, and treasure each other's company to the point that they all piled into Primo's bed when he came home from college and stayed up until midnight talking and reconnecting. We found them like so on Thanksgiving morning.

I am thankful that my family loves to do some things together—not all things, that would be too much to ask—but enough that everyone is willing to get up and out the door at 7 am on Thanksgiving Day to run a Turkey Trot together. In the cold. And snow. (In addition to the snow on the ground, it started snowing as we were standing on the start line. Something to add to my life list, running a 5K in the snow!)

I am thankful for a loving extended family, that welcomes others into the circle without hesitation, and heartily enjoys being together and teasing each other and discussing the intricate plot points of the Serial podcast. (You haven't listened to it yet? Seriously! Go listen! And then tell me who you think did it.)

I am thankful for little knitters, whose enthusiasm is enough to keep my feet to the fire.

Most of all, I am thankful for this wonderful man, pictured with my not-so-little niece.

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving, to give us a time to count our blessings at least once a year!

Monday, November 24, 2014


It's one long exciting cleaning haul around here. Yesterday was my workroom, which hasn't been done since before October 4, 2013.

Not a typo. Over 14 months ago. How do I know? Because in addition to the wreckage pictured above which speaks to long and total neglect, at the bottom of a particularly large pile, I unearthed the pattern notes from the wedding bolero I finished on that date. It was an archaeological crafting dig. I also unearthed (in a different pile) a DVD that Netflix had sent me on June 2, 2014. I watched it while I cleaned and tossed and organized, and it wasn't worth waiting 6 months to watch. (For the record: Run, Fatboy, Run. Do not recommend.)

One the plus side: I can walk in the room now and maybe even get some work done in there, if I am ever home to do it. All of my outstanding projects are organized into bags with the relevant yarn and notes. Needles have been put back into their proper places so I can find them when needed.

One the minus side: it was more than a bit sobering, all the plans I have, added to the increasingly stark realization of how limited my time is. Sort of a mortality sense of the relationship between my available time and my plans for my knitting, one very small and one very large, producing a steep slope of disappointment (I have been helping Secondo with algebra lately).

Using an excel spreadsheet, because excel makes me feel like I am somewhat in control in an out-of-control situation, I cataloged all my works in progress, and came up with a whopping TWENTY-FOUR. Eek.

Now to prioritize. Some of this is design work. Some needs to be reworked, some needs to be worked on, some just needs to be finished. Some are long-neglected items, though I did pull the plug on a few. Christmas is coming, and though I don't have any special projects planned this year, I do have a few requested items that should get done sooner rather than later.

Hmm, even at a bag per week (wishful thinking), that would take me up to June. Just in time to get another DVD from Netflix. Luckily tomorrow is my day in the shop! So I hope to finish up a pressing pattern, that people are waiting for, and maybe work on one other project.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

cleaning up

Not me doing the inside of course, because I am too... Well, the word that rhymes with dizzy. Even more, the outside landscaping desperately needed to be done. My husband bribed Secondo to come and help in exchange for cold hard cash.

When I saw what job he had been assigned, I pointed out that no payment would have been required if my husband had told him he would be working with fire. Hose at the ready of course, as always when anyone is using this thing.

Terzo elected not to come outside, even if money was involved, thinking that would get him out of work. Not so fast, my friend. I popped in every so often to make him run the vacuum cleaner, do the dusting, etc. So now we have a clean house in addition to the clean garden, or at least as clean as an extremely reluctant ten-year-old can make a house.

Friday, November 21, 2014

busy busy busy

I am sick of this word coming out of my mouth. "Where have you been?" "Busy! So busy." "What's going on?" "The usual busyness." Blah blah blah. So on and so forth.

Of course I am busy. We are all busy. Everyone is busy. It's inherent in life. When I was in high school, my writing teacher forbade use of the adjective "nice" as a descriptive. "Nice is a nice word," was his phrase.

Same thing with busy. Busy is a busy word. What am I busy with? The quality of the busy must be considered. Some busyness, when you are raising kids and running a business (or two), is expected. But some busyness is more meaningful and fulfilling and necessary than others; even being busy has its own hierarchy of worthiness.

Going back to work outside the house, take two, because that college tuition must be paid somehow, has sharpened my focus with regard to how I manage my time and most especially my busyness. Using it as a cudgel on those around me is a bad habit that I am trying to avoid, not always successfully. A few weeks ago on a particularly hectic morning, Secondo started to tell me some tale of high school drama, and I cut him off. "Sorry, I can't listen now. I'm too busy. Can you tell me later?"

Ouch. No excuse can justify my thoughtlessness; whatever I was doing at that moment wasn't that important. Of course later never came. It remains to be seen if I have permanently lost my status of confidant with those stupid words.

This article suggests banning the word from your vocabulary, and I'll be starting there. Prioritizing and being more mindful of my busyness will be the next step. Is this current busy worth it? Do I need to be this busy? I should never be too busy to listen.

All these deep musings about busy were kicked off by this article about the trap of busyness. It made me think, is putting myself into ceaseless motion an attempt to avoid something in my life?

I started to think long and hard about this. What is it that I am seeking to avoid? Why am I throwing myself into these activities and task-making? The answer has slowly come to me over the last few days and it turns out...

I will do anything to avoid cleaning the house. That is a busy I want no part of. Also, it doesn't really matter. The mess in the picture above? 90% kids. I took the time to clean off the dining room table of all my various projects for tonight's guests, and fake-fancify it with a tablecloth to hide the dust, and some candles to distract from the dust bunnies on the floor...

I returned from work to find this display of cat mayhem. Another reason why I am fully justified in not bothering to begin with.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

dusty is a lousy model

One of the big requests for a second project by the beginner knitters in my classes has been for fingerless mitts. I have found that even knitting in the round on a circular needle is a bit of a mind-bender for most beginners, so double-pointed needles are right out.

It shocks the mind that, sixty or so years ago, the first knitting project tackled by most high school girls was argyle socks. Talk to women of a certain age about knitting, and that's a common refrain: the last thing they knit was argyle socks. Usually right about the time they are discussing how difficult they find knitting in the round on a circular needle to be. This boggles my mind, because argyle socks are not an easy thing to knit, and certainly not a beginner sort of project. I have never attempted them, in part because I don't have anyone in my life who would be interested in wearing them, but also because they are a lot to get your mind and hands around. Although they are knit flat, you have to manage a crazy number of bobbins wound with various colors of yarn. Obviously not a travel project, and since portability is a key component of almost everything I undertake, that also knocks them out of the running.

From Bear Brand Hand Knits for Men circa 1952

But this didn't stop teenage girls in the forties and fifties. It was the done thing to knit them for your significant other, so knit them they did. Some with more success than others, I suspect, but it is yet another comment on the lengths to which teenage girls will go. At least then it was the relative innocence of socks.

So back to my present-day fingerless mitts problem... I decided they needed to be knitted flat and then seamed. All three pairs of samples have been knit, and I managed a quick photo shoot on Thursday, but photos of the unisex pair didn't look quite right. I asked Secondo to help me, and being the kind cooperative soul that is usually is, he readily agreed. We needed a prop... Not pinecones or a coffee cup. Thanks to Gale Zucker I now know: No. Done to death.

So we asked Dusty to assist.

The first challenge was getting him to look at the camera. I would call him, he would look up at the person who was petting him.

Or at the car driving by on the street. Neither of which, of course was me. This dog is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Then he got completely out of control and started barking wildly, pretending that the person wearing the gloves was trying to pull his ear off.

Though upon second look at least the knitwear in that last shot is in focus.

My final shot of the session, taken accidentally and discovered when I went to review the photos:

Apparently all he wanted was a picture of himself, with no knitwear in sight.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

bluebirds of november

Today was one of those days that I wished I had a zoom lens for our good camera. I spotted a flutter of activity near the garden this morning right after breakfast... Four bluebirds!

Though I strongly suspect their appearance was correlated with the impending storm (it is sleet-snowing outside as I sit cozily and dozily inside typing this), I am not sure what the connection is, or why they were so interested in that particular box. Bluebirds do fledge in it every spring, but that could just be coincidence.

Shortly after that, the first snow geese of the season, that I have heard anyway, came honking by overhead. Everybody was aflutter over the approaching storm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

getting over myself

Thank you all for your comments on my post about a dedicated creative space last week, both thoughtful and perfectly to the point. The vote was unanimous, and I agree. I am going to keep my time on Tuesdays in the shop.

Yesterday found me working on a quick project for one of my classes, this time on fingerless mitts knit flat. The KISS principle continues to elude me, but just one simple pattern seemed too... I don't know. Too little? Too easy? I have come up with three different patterns, so students can choose their level of difficulty. The basic idea is simple, just knit it flat and seam it up the thumb side, leaving a hole for the thumb. My hope is that students can see the possibilities that different stitches present on the same basic background, and not be intimidated by a little patterning. I'll post them once I get all three done and find three hand models! That class starts next week, so I need to get them finished as soon as possible. As usual.

I have reflected a lot lately on my process of designing, both in my head during the quiet time in the shop, and in a great telephone conversation with a new designing friend. It is hard to know, at least for me, when I have hit that sweet spot on a design and it does what it should do. I suppose the first part of the equation is figuring out exactly what the design should do, and then work backwards from there. I tend to have more success with a design when I take that more logical, practical route, than when I throw things willy-nilly against a wall to see what sticks. The latter has been my modus operandi with designing for the last year or so, and it has been less than successful.

The other part of the problem is that I still resist thinking of myself as a creative person. When I was a small child, I had a rich imagination and enjoyed all sorts of creative pursuits. One by one I allowed them to fall away, as I turned to what I perceived to be more "valuable" practical endeavors. Unfortunately, I caved to what this article about creativity explains so well: creativity is not seen as a positive by the vast majority, including me most of the time. I continue to question and doubt the validity of this work, and this line of thinking is most definitely not helpful.

First change in thinking: view myself as creative. 
Second: consider this as a positive thing. 
Third: recognize that practicality has its place in creative pursuits, too.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

rest day

Which on a farm is not really rest, but it was the first time in a very, very, very long time that all four of us were home and had a hour or two to get some much-neglected tasks taken care of. So it was more like home day.

All sheep were given pedicures and fresh clean coats. We had to start haying them about two weeks ago when the grass gave up the ghost, but we had no time to get the coats on then. I am hopeful that we caught the fleeces in time.

Fence lines had to be cleared before they were completely uprooted (literally) by encroachers.

Pastures had to be mowed down, now that enough had died for us to be able to attack the remainder (because we didn't keep up with them during the season like we should have). That's Terzo on the mower. Secondo is just visible with the yellow shirt in the background, fixing fences.

And other various tasks not as interesting as the ones listed, so that's saying something, but we do feel slightly more in control outside the house. Inside the house, that's a whole different story after houseguests this weekend, including Primo and two of his friends camping out in the family room. The house felt so wonderfully full that I have absolutely no complaints about the mess. And I have absolutely no idea when we will get around to tackling it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

a room of one's own

I am tapped out, in case that isn't obvious. The recovery from October isn't yet complete though I am getting caught up, somewhat.

The only knitting I am getting done is trying to keep one step ahead of the knitting class demand. As soon as the beginner knitters finish that class, they clamor for more... but as I am not teaching in a yarn store, it requires significant planning to make sure that I have a suitable project and supplies. So far I have a hat class that teaches how to work in the round, and I am hoping to roll out a fingerless mitts class (worked flat, then seamed) in the next two weeks.

This past Tuesday was the first that I haven't had classes since September, by my choice. I needed a day to sit by myself, where most of my world didn't know where to find me, to work on a hat pattern that uses Robin's art yarn. I went to a women's college, and I am well aware that Virginia Woolf's book dealt more with the lack of education and opportunity for women, but the title suits the situation in the store. Traffic is very light on Tuesdays, and I can get a lot of creative work done with minimal interruption. So I sat quietly, and just worked away on a huge project that I wouldn't have had a prayer of even getting around to at home, where work, clutter, e-mail, laundry and other demands derail me.

The irony, of course, is that Ms. Woolf would pooh-pooh my need for such a space to do traditional women's work. The fact that such work has come full circle, to be reclaimed and even celebrated by women, would baffle her, I think.

I talked to the shop owner today, and I need to make a decision: stay working there on Tuesdays, or give it up? If I don't teach those days, I don't earn anything for being there. But the space and set-aside time seems valuable, and maybe even necessary, for carving out a place devoted to just my creative work. Lately, it tends to get pushed to the bottom of the pile, and if I don't value it, then no one else will.

Should I keep the room of my own?