Saturday, November 27, 2010

Warm Toes/Warm Heart

Here are "lucky socks" that I made for Emmy so that she can enter into her finals week at college feeling more confident about test-taking. They are just simple ribbed socks that I started a long time ago. The yarn is County Clare in Socks That Rock that Lynn of ColorJoy gave me over a year ago. Aren't I slow? I started this socks and then, for some reason, had set them aside for so long! Then when I needed to make Emmy a quick pair of socks to put in her college finals "care package" I was able to pick these up and whip them out quickly.

I've developed a policy where I am going to knit one project at a time instead of the multiple projects I usually work on all at once. Here are my new knitting "rules":
  • One small/quick project on the needles at any one time. These are items such as hats, socks, mittens, scarfs, accessories.
  • I do one NEW project and then either complete or FROG one old project before casting on another new one. These County Clare socks were an example of an oldy but goody.
  • I can have 1 afghan and 1 sweater on the needles concurrently, and work on those larger projects in between the newly started shorter projects. In this way, I can get the bigger things gradually done. These usually take me forever and a day, but this way I feel work on them a bit in between and hopefully not feel overly stressed out by them.
  • This "one at a time" policy does not apply to spinning, as I seem to be able to work on multiple projects at one time on my three wheels and not have any angst or difficulty in completing projects. This is probably due to the fact that spinning is just so darn relaxing!

What I am finding is that on the "in between" projects for the UFOs that there are many UFOs in my closet that have remained there for so long because I just plain don't want to do them anymore. So I'm going to be more "frogging" than finishing on many of those old haunts. And you know, it feels really GOOD to frog because I didn't realize, having those things hanging out in the closet are stealing some of my mental/creative energy just fretting about all that I have unfinished and undone.

For my "new" project this time, it is Nikol Lohr's Bunny Hop Slippers. It's a thrummed slipper pattern that I highly recommend. Nothing is warmer or cozier than thrums! I was always unsure of how to knit them before, this was an easy way to learn how. It's a free pattern over on Ravelry and the pattern shows you how to do them right in the instructions.

Here is the pair of Bunny Hop slippers that I completed after the other day for my daughter. She wanted hers without the bunny face, ears and tail, but on the next pair that I make for me, they will have ears, eyes, tail details.

If you need a quick Christmas gift or whatever kind of quick gift, I can't recommend these highly enough. They are fast. Take 1 skein of chunky yarn or two skeins of worsted held together. They are a great stashbuster. Inside, you use shredded roving for the thrums. I did the actual knitting on these in about 2 days, but it took me several more days to find the big lime buttons.

If you are making them for children, you use a smaller needle. On these, I used size 9s and made the women's small size.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Thing

I appreciate all the kind thoughts that readers of this blog (yes they are few but they are really caring, insightful people) have expressed to me in response to my last post. First off, thank you EACH so much for your comments to me in private. You are wonderful.

Though I was a bit discouraged last week when I wrote, being a solution-oriented person, I'm now focusing on fixing some of the stuff that is bothering me. And I've received great feedback and ideas from the loving peanut gallery here and elsewhere. I will be sharing some of those ideas in upcoming posts, after I try some things out and see what works.

Anyhow, clearly the thing that has helped me a great deal in these past few weeks is to get focused on doing one "doable" thing at a time - I called it "The Goat Approach" after that Oprah article I read. While I must say that I don't always succeed in doing this - whenever I get "lost" having this "put the next foot in front of the other" approach really seems to be working, at least in making me feel more calm and competent if nothing else.

So I believe this is the approach, rather than the word, I will finish 2010 and enter 2011. With that approach, I feel I can take the best actions needed to turn things around and more fully experience the present. One thing. That's all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Navigating Life - Maybe I Need a Spiritual GPS?

I've had a long-life issue with getting lost. It's no secret to anyone who knows me. I could get lost in a dark closet if you spun me around twice.

Last year's personal word for the year was "Find" but that feels like it was all wrong. Instead of finding stuff and making better use of what I have, I've had a confusing, scary, and very insecure year. Not a disasterous year. Some of my friends have suffered much worse - i.e. a devastating flood, a cancer diagnosis, that kind of disaster that is much worse than the ups and downs I've experienced. But even knowing that others have it worse doesn't always help. I just feel lost.

And this year has really sucked in a lot of ways. My husband has been unemployed, then employed on a contract job for a few months, and now that the budget cuts are tight again at year's end, he's unemployed again.

My daughter has gone off to college - but things haven't been easy for her either. It's been a difficult and turbulent transition. I'm proud that she's trying to find her own way, even when it's a big struggle - she's pushing ahead and fighting very hard to make a new life for herself.

The weight and fitness routine that I was so proud of for the past two years have somehow fallen by the wayside in the past 6 months or so. I'm really not eating crazy or bingeing or anything like that - I just keep gradually packing on more and more weight as my stress level rises. It's almost like my body is rebelling saying, "No, I'm not going to stay thin, I'm going to hold onto everything I absorb and keep it." What's up with that? Weird.

I don't want to whine. I really don't and that's not the purpose of this posting.

I just need to start pondering my word for next year and I'm almost afraid to. I've never looked onto a new year with downright dread or fear before, but that's how I'm feeling.

Thank goodness for spinning. It's the only thing that really relaxes and calms me anymore.

One insightful thing I read today on is that a car's GPS only asks you two things - 1) where are you now; and 2) where do you want to go? Your GPS records where you want to go and alerts you when you are off course.

For a long time, I've been recording what I eat and how much I exercise, but maybe I really need to take a closer look at where I've gone off course and sabotaged myself. I must be getting off the route in many different areas of my life.

Time to reevaluate the goals I've set for myself and see how I'm getting off course.

Maybe next year I don't need a word? Maybe I just need to listen to what that inner GPS says, and instead of putting it on "mute" I need to turn up the volume and listen a lot more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What in the World Am I Trying to Prove?

"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." - Katharine Hepburn

As someone who just recently had a milestone birthday, I must have been wanting to prove that in spite of the years, I am still young in body and spirit - sort of. I've always prided myself on being open to new experiences and avoid getting into ruts. I decided that I needed to find more FUN fitness routines than the treadmill, which is starting to get a bit hoo-hum.

So naturally when my friend Elysbeth started talking about how she loves skating and has been doing it regularly lately and getting rather fit, the idea intrigued me. Pretty soon, I was asking a 26 year old friend at work if she'd like to join me for a skate night at the local roller rink. Now keep in mind, I didn't ever roller skate much as a kid, and I haven't been on a rink since my daughter was a Brownie Girl Scout. Even with the troop skate outing, I stayed mostly on the sidelines.

Last night we went. I strapped on skates, practiced a while on the carpeted area, then shakily hit the rink. To say that I'm an amateur is an exaggeration. I'm a total wall hugging control freak who was terrified of falling. I fell. Three times. All three times I fell on both my butt AND my right wrist (I'm left handed).

Then I noticed I was the oldest person there - oh except for one very athletic senior who was wearing knee guards, wrist guards and elbow guards.

Then after my Guardian Angel had set on my shoulder all night protecting me, I heard a whisper in my ear and a twinge in my wrist that said, "Remember, if you shatter your wrist, you won't be able to knit or spin for a good long time." Suddenly, this roller skating adventure seemed less adventuresome than foolhardy.

"Okay, I've had fun - let's go while I'm still in one piece." We left. I am still looking for a fun form of exercise - but one a bit less likely to endanger my knitting.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Goat Report

What did I learn from goats during this past week?

I tried a new approach, to less multi-tasking and more focus on doing one thing at a time, with full awareness. I promised to try it for seven days, and report back on it. So here are my impressions from doing so:

Goat wisdom:

  • I am amazed at how very often I am multi-tasking, in ways that hadn't even occurred to me before. I don't ordinarily even drive to work without the radio on or a book on tape playing while I drive. This week, I drove to work without my usual distraction in the way of seemingly harmless entertainment and was amazed that I had time to focus on my workday ahead, to think about some problems and possible solutions, and to walk into the office fully ready to get to work with some things already preplanned. Plus, coming home, it was the same. I was able to think about some things I was grateful for and prepare for my evening with my husband. I'm not sure if I drove any better or not, but I felt more aware of what I planned to do and to reattune myself to transitions from home/work and work/home. I found myself looking forward to that unharried "windshield time" alone with my own thoughts.
  • At the office, instead of keeping up my constant thread of incoming email messages and texts, I turned off my cell phone completely, as well as my Outlook work mail and my yahoo email account. I allowed myself certain periods of the day to check it - before getting started in the morning, at lunch and at 3:00 in the afternoon, and then again in the evening to check and respond to my personal email. That seemed to keep my mind off the newest, flashiest thing and onto my work at hand. Instead of having several spreadsheets and work projects open in Windows all at once on different panes of my computer, I kept as few as possible open and tried to focus on one task at a time. I felt I got some kinds accomplished work-wise this week that were important and had a stronger feeling of accomplishment all week.

  • At home in the evenings, if I was watching TV, I only allowed myself to be with my husband and watch TV. If I was knitting or spinning, I did that without doing anything else. I spent less time knitting and watching TV, but seemed to get more accomplished. I worked only only ONE knitting project this week - which was the Slouchy hat for Emily. It was an easy project, made from my previously home dyed and spun yarn, but I was able to easily and effortlessly finish it this week and felt proud that I had it done in time for her visit from college this weekend.
  • I had more, but shorter, meaningful conversations with my husband in person and my daughter by phone. We had better communication and got some decisions made that had been up in the air for a while.
  • I worked on getting more planning down on our Guild's Spring Retreat. I'd been letting it slide a bit the past several weeks but realized we'd better get moving on it. I managed to set up a meeting for us all to meet again, and organized and gathered the material we will need to do it more effectively.

  • I started thinking about and planning quick gifts that I could make this year for people's Christmas gifts, saving me some money, which is in short supply this year. I even tested out making some of Nikol's coconut handscrub, and it didn't turn out half bad!

  • Bob and I spent one evening dedicating just ONE HOUR (we set a timer because the task was unpleasant) to finding and purging as much junk in our sub-basement as we could find. It was amazing what we managed to clear out of there in just one focused hour of effort together.

  • I used an egg timer as an excellent tool this week to make myself clean out a drawer for 30 minutes. I used it to motivate me to exercise 3 times this week for 20 minutes.

  • The hardest goat time of all was when I was riding passenger on a 3 hour business trip each way, and my colleague was driving. Normally, I would have pulled out my knitting and gone on "automatic pilot" for 3 hours distracting myself with sock knitting - and maybe even with an MP3 podcast playing in my ear. Instead, I used the time to engage in a very deep, meaningful conversation with this colleague both about the client we were getting ready to visit and how we might be able to meet those needs. We discussed everything in depth, and in paying attention, we were fully prepared and had an excellent meeting. On the way back, we talked about our company, our working together in our two jobs to combine efforts more effectively.

  • I ended the week feeling much less harried, more centered in myself and prepared for the weekend.

  • This weekend, I've been a little more harried and distracted, falling back into some of my old "mind numbing" ways of doing errands and doing several things at once. It felt all the more jarring because of the focused way I led the first five days of the week.

  • What proved most effective and felt the best was keeping my attention on ONE THING, but not for nearly as extended period of time than I usually do. I gave myself frequent breaks and changed activities much more frequently, but getting more done during each focused session.

  • Unpleasant tasks didn't seem nearly as unpleasant if done for a limited period of time.

  • I rewarded myself by doing FUN things, like spinning for 20 minutes (when at home), or checking my email, or talking on the phone with a friend for stress relief. Or taking a brisk 15 minute walk with a colleague in the middle of the day.

Upshot: I'm going to be doing less multi-tasking in the future as I really see the benefit of single-minded attention. I also realized that it's a lot harder to do than one might imagine, but the results are surprisingly refreshing.