Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Time for "Grateful"

Thanksgiving is and has ALWAYS been one of my favorite times of year. Why? Because is a simple holiday where you get dedicated time off with family and friends to just be together, share a good meal and talk. There are no gift expectations - though many start their shopping over that long weekend. Again, a choice. You can choose to stay home or visit relatives near or far. You can make the holiday however simple or elaborate you choose, and I use choose simple. Very simple.

First for the recap of yesterday. This year, we stayed home and shared Thanksgiving with Bob, my Mom and Emily. We made turkey, dressing, gravy, roasted veggies, rolls, Ambrosia salad, and au grautin potatoes. We forgot all about the sweet potatoes until - too late. Ah well, maybe we'll whip some up today (the day after). We also had Pumpkin pie. Then after we ate, we took a big plate over to Grammy at the nursing home and spent some time visiting and catching up with her.

Perhaps the best part, the very best part, of Thanksgiving is the opportunity for reflection. Opposite of rushing out and raiding the malls. Instead of Black Friday, I do Quiet Friday - Look Within Weekend. Starting with Gratitude. Being grateful, and for starting to wrap up the year that has just passed and to focus on the one ahead. What has happened in 2009? And soon I will focus on how I wish to shape 2010.

Now a 2009 recap: It's been a very unusual year - there have been many highs and lows, but it is definitely a significant year. I started off hoping that the recession wouldn't be as prolonged and as severe as it has proven to be. Changing jobs in the midst of a recession was scary, even for me, a job hopper. It was a temp-to-perm position, but I was excited about it enough, that I took it. I do indeed love the job and the people I work with. It does seem like a great fit. For the most part, instead of dreading each work day, I look forward to it. It's been huge growth experience. So that has been an unexpected GREAT thing that I didn't even envision this time last Fall.

What I expected: My word for the year was "priorities" and for the most part, it helped guide me to keep my top priorities but I've also learned the lesson that priorities tend to SHIFT and need to shift when life events throw you a curve. So I've been pretty darn good at being flexible and going with the flow without letting go of my intentions. I've still met my intentions, but sometimes the route to them has been a winding one rather than a straight shot! So the Word was "Priorities" and it was achieved by another word "Flexible."

Grateful: I am grateful for many things including:

My Job - this has to be my number one gratitude this year because it was truly unexpected, needed, and a prosperity blessing at a time of great need. I feel it was God directly giving me a hand that I needed to pull me up during a difficult time.

My Husband - Bob. He's always my rock in life. My best friend. The one who knows me best and loves me in spite of my worst. I also have more fun with him than anyone else.

My daughter Emily. Our relationship has improved this year. Mainly because we've both been trying more to overcome the bumps in the road by reaching out to one another. Also because I learned that I've probably been overparenting and need to transform my role to one of Mentor because she truly is going to be an adult soon and next year is college. I will be here when asked, but stepping back has been a painful step.

My Mom - grateful she retired this year and will be spending more time with me and our family. Yay! She's a wonderful grandmother to Emmy and she's always been a friend to me. I can tell her everything.

My Friends. This is a BIG one. Both my real and my online friends. The friends in my knitting group. The friends on Ravelry - though they are an online community, they sometimes get me through my worst days and make my best days brighter.

Finding my retreat place, St. Scholastica. The Sisters there and their whole monastery - my discovery of their community was a HUGE blessing to me this year. Whenever I get stressed out, all I have to do is close my eyes and regain that serene feeling I experienced on their campus, and I'm back to my spiritual center again. They are a profound blessing to me, and I hope to retreat at their monastery whenever I feel a spiritual thirst like I've been feeling all through 2009. It's been truly a transforming year. St. Scholastica and their community of nuns is a gift of Serenity. I am THERE Sisters more often than you know. Not always physically, but my spirit is with you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Special Arrival

As many of you know, I've been knitting Prayer Shawls all throughout 2009. It has been a real pleasure for me to undertake making shawls for others when they are most in crisis or need. I'm not a big producer, and have only knit a few, yet making and giving them has been extremely meaningful to me.

Well, I have belonged to a Prayer Shawl group on Ravelry. Several months ago, we all decided to do an exchange between those in our group - a partner swap kind of thing. And we prayed for our partner and their special challenges over those 2-3 months that we were making their gift. During that process, we got to know one another much better.

My partner is Cindy Carter from Florida. Some of you who know me in "real life" saw me knitting on this shawl for her over the past few months. So the first two photos here are of the Boxleaf Stole, a design by Anne Hanson that I made for her.

At any rate, I was very happy with the way the shawl I knit her turned out, except it was a little long, but she didn't seem to mind that. She liked the colors and the stole's rectangular shape.

Next photos are of the shawl I received from her which is "Tis a Gift to Be Simple" Shawl that she designed and knit for me.

Well, I came home on Tuesday night to find the most amazing gift, made from Malabrigo's "Stonechat" colorway. When I opened the package, and unwrapped the shawl, it absolutely took my breath away. To say that it was WAY MORE than I'd expected is quite an understatement! I immediately wrapped the shawl around me, and I chose to wear it doubled up. Wrap it around you and the feeling it creates is a mantle of love, warmth and well being.

This magnificent rectangular shawl, one of the loveliest knitted items I've ever seen in my entire life, is called "Tis a Gift to Be Simple" after one of my very favorite hymns of all time. I always thought it was Quaker song, but Cindy says the song is actually Shaker.

I found that Cindy is a remarkable person who is extremely intelligent, and who is quite talented in music as well needle arts. She's the type of knitter that Elizabeth Zimmermann would have loved to knit with because she doesn't follow a pattern to the letter - but is creative enough to branch out on her own - to see how she wants to make something in her head, and to translate that in her knitting.
This is how Cindy explains the shawl's creation in her own words:

The basic construction of the shawl follows Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Stonington Shawl. I chose lace patterns for the center panel, borders and edging.

The design for this shawl came to me in a dream. I had stayed up late on Ravelry looking at ideas for a pattern (right, like you never do that!). I love the pattern browser. Anyway, nothing seemed to really fit what I wanted to do for Chelle. The next morning, I woke up knowing exactly what the shawl would look like. I wanted something that would express the simplicity of faith, inspired by the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” and the Shaker aesthetic. Strong, geometric, functional and straightforward.

The center panel is adapted from a lace pattern in Eugen Beugler’s Symmetry in Silk. The border pattern of alternating triangles is from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, page 264, Pyramidal Lace Check. The 4 sides of the square shawl, and the square center lace motif represent the 4 Gospels. The triangles in the border are a reminder of the Trinity. The shawl is edged in Godmother’s Edging, traditionally used on christening shawls, and chosen as a reminder of our baptism. The Godmother’s Edging pattern is also from Walker’s Second Treasury, page 361.

Simple Gifts at St. Gregory of Nyssa

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘tis the gift to be free,
‘tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.


When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,


‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Spinning Progress

As I mentioned last week, I got a new spinning wheel and after experiencing some initial frustration with plying (see the rat's nest I created here):

But I went to two different spinners' groups - one in St. Joseph last week and one on Tuesday here in my area that really really helped!! They clarified what I was doing wrong. Basically, whenever you ply, you are supposed to spin the wheel counterclockwise but I was occasionally plying clockwise out of habit. I didn't realize what I was doing, so I was really messing it up.

But I'm doing much better now. In fact, I'm getting excited now about the possibility of dyeing my yarn with Kool-Aid dyes. I haven't done that yet, but am collecting Kool-Aid packets and starting to read about it on Ravelry.

I have been trying to spin every single day for at least a little while so that I stay in practice. I started spinning over a year ago, but there were so many things I didn't know how to do, especially plying, that I just let it go and didn't do much with it. Now I'm really eager to plow ahead, try to do a little bit every day and gradually branch into doing new things like yarn dyeing. It will be fun.

I am still knitting a little bit too. I am working on a short cardigan out of Crystal Palace Merino stripes yarn in an autumnal colorway. Here's the completed back. That's all I have finished so far. 2 fronts and 2 sleeves left to go.

Have a good week everyone.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Birthday Wheel

Well, after the glum post last week, my birthday weekend has taken quite a turn for the better. Tomorrow (November 8th) is my actual BD, and let's just say I'm one year shy of the big 5-0. Yikes.

Anyway, my sweet Bobby made this birthday extremely special by getting me a new spinning wheel. This is a combined birthday, Christmas/Hannukah, and anniversary present all rolled into one in advance, but it warms my heart that he wanted me to have the wheel in spite of the uncertainties that dog our lives right now. We both feel "cautiously optimistic" about our personal and collective future. So those of you who have written to me with well wishes and concern - bless you!

During the past few months, I've been wanting a new wheel. My 1970's model Ashford Traditional has served me well in my first year of spinning, but she's a single treadle with one ratio and very small bobbins. And she's a bit clunky and not extremely cooperative in traveling to various knitting/spinning guild get-togethers. She's a old girl, don't cha know (nearly as old as THIS old girl). Therefore, she prefers to sit at home rather than being squashed into my small Toyota.

I was considering 4 wheels: the Ashford Joy, the Ashford Traveller, Louet Victoria and last but not least, the Kromski Sonata. Well guess, which one I picked? Ta Da Da DA . . . . . . . . . the Kromski Sonata, in Walnut finish, won out.

And now time for the official unveiling!!!

While we were unpacking her from the box, my dog Domino remained unimpressed. In fact, he dozed.

Here's Bob working away, studying the directions and working on the assembly. (There's not much assembly involved, but there's a little when it comes straight out of the box like this).

So we finally got it together and in good working order. And afterwards, both of my boys were pretty wiped out. But the wheel and I were both wide awake and stayed up spinning until quite late.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

One Thing After Another

The last month has just flown by in a flash. All time seems to go fast, but this month in particular. I feel like I'm constantly rushing from one thing to another, just like a hamster on a treadmill, but sometimes I feel like a hamster whose foot has gotten TRAPPED in the treadmill and I've fallen on my face.

Anyway, things haven't gone particularly well this month. I'm still trying to lose that bit of weight that had crept back on -- it's harder taking off than keeping off, let me tell you but the important thing is I'm making progress.

Also, Bob is laid off from his company now. We're not in horrible financial shape yet, and are luckier than most to still have our medical benefits to continue, at least for a few months. But there is the overall worry of the horrible economy and being 50 in the job market, as he is, isn't as easy as being 25. Plus, I'm still not officially hired on with the company I've been temping with for the past 6 months. So things in the career department are still scarily "up in the air."

I'm trying to just hang on and continue to hope things will get better.

A few weeks ago, I finished the beautiful autumn-colored shawl that I was making for my secret swap partner. I got it mailed out to her the other day. After she opens it, I'll post photos of the shawl here on my blog.

Aunt Eve came to visit this weekend. I love having her. It's the one assurance that I'll get my house cleaned up a bit - having company to visit is very motivating in the housekeeping department. I wish she could come during better times. It seems like nearly every time she visits, I'm coping with some sadness or problem - last year it was my brother's death and my Grammy going into a nursing home. This year, it's Bob's job loss.

I did finally finish my Tapesty Regia toe-up socks that has been on the needles (can you believe it) nearly TWO YEARS. Yes, though I love knitting socks, I tend to poke along on them and go extremely slow.

I'm hoping the treadmill slows down a bit this week, but if it doesn't, I'll run with more joy in my new cozy socks.