Archive | August 2017

Knitting, Drawing, and Kids

Last week was a big one: school started back up for my kids. I have a freshman and a senior. (Look at that boy! 14 and he’s already taller than both me and the girl, even in her new heels!)

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HOW? How is that possible, when I can remember them both when they were tiny and silly and goofy? I’m in total denial that my girl is a senior; I haven’t cried yet. YET. But I know it’s coming. I’m bracing myself. It’ll probably hit at the marching band Senior Night, when they recognize seniors and their parents on the field. I can’t believe that will be us this year. Speaking of band, Friday was the first game of the season, which means it was the first time I got to see both kids perform in the marching band.

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Yeah, it’s going to be a fun year. Emotional, but fun. I’m so excited to see the girl do amazing things this year and beyond.

I have been knitting a bit lately, just not as much as usual. I’ve got a second sock almost to the toe, which is good because I’m a little tired of this pair. It’s dragged on too long.

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It’s probably dragging because I’ve been focusing on the baby blanket, the second of two I’m making for a friend who recently had twins. The good news is, I’m on the second to last skein of yarn! The bad news is, I’m tired of it.

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But I love the color and the pattern and I can’t wait to gift it. Maybe I can finish this week? At least I can if I don’t get distracted by more enticing projects, like the Zuzu’s Petals I’m making in this stunning Ella Rae Lace Merino DK. Yes, it really is THAT BRIGHT!

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Yum! I just love it! And I just realized the blue theme I’ve got going in my knitting. No wonder I’m itching to cast on something new; I need some variation! I’m also ready for fall knits: bulky cowls, thick merino, hats, mittens…

Yesterday we were kid-free for a bit so the husband and I went on a fun creative date. In cleaning out my craft room yesterday, I discovered a vintage Parker pen. It belonged either to my dad or my husband’s grandmother (and yes, I do feel bad not remembering). I knew it was a Parker, and a bit of research told me it was a Vector, but I couldn’t get it open to put in a refill.

Well, that required a visit to the Pen Place. The kind woman had special pliers that could loosen the ┬ábody without damaging the pen, and of course she had refills available too. Despite finding two pens I really liked (both Lamy; I’m drawn to the smooth writing) I resisted and only bought some fun color ink cartridges. It was tough. And really only happened because my birthday is coming up so I know I have gifts coming my way!

After the pen store, we visited Blick Art Materials, since I’ve got this hankering to learn to draw. That, and I’ve always loved browsing through art supplies. That’s probably the only reason I want to to learn to draw: to be able to use all the pretty things!

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Again, I practiced restraint and purchased just two drawing pencils instead of the nifty set of eight in the metal tin. I’ve decided to earn those; they can be my treat when I improve a bit, if I still enjoy the process. What I like about this book is the encouragement that really counters my self-doubt, and the emphasis on the process rather than the final drawing. I went through the first two lessons and then my assignment was to draw three things that are special to me. The first attempts were pretty rough and discouraging, to be honest. But I kept going, and my kind family encouraged me and gave me a few pointers, and at the end of the evening I had this:

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And that pleases me! Although, looking at it now, I see a bit I can do differently to make it better. Maybe I need to try again today!

So many crafts, so little time. Sigh.

Thoughts on Creativity

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to think of myself as a creative person. I always thought creative people were the artists, the clothing designers, published authors, the people who can bring things to life just from their mind. Me? I wrote stories that didn’t go anywhere. I made jewelry for a few years, then I scrapbooked for a few years. I knit and crochet, but I use other people’s yarns and other people’s patterns and just replicate them.

But guys, you know what? I AM creative. I write stories that haven’t been written before, about characters I make up. I have three complete manuscripts. Three full-length book-type things. Sure, they haven’t been published. Doesn’t mean they’re not creative. And it doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Maybe those were just the ones I needed to get out before writing The One.

I’m always struggling with self-worth as far as writing goes, swinging from “Yes! I’m a great writer!” to “Who do I think I am, thinking someone else will want to read this?” Because I’ve never published a book, I think I’m not a writer. Well. That’s dumb. And I just have to keep telling myself that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve written short stories and novel-length stories and filled a dozen journals and I’ve kept this blog for three years now. I don’t write every day, but I keep coming back to writing. I am a writer.

Wow. It wasn’t until I wrote that, that I realized how true it is. I keep coming back to writing.

With my yarn, I put colors and textures and patterns together. I’m the one who chooses what will go with what. I don’t think I’ve ever used the recommended yarn for any pattern, and I don’t think I’ve ever even made a pattern in the same color(s) as the designer. I take their ideas and put my own spin on them. That IS creative.

And for a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine the yarn and the writing. I want to write a book where yarn/knitting is a focal point. I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked yet. But I’m going to keep trying.

I don’t know why, but I am flush with creative energy right now, and it feels awesome. The focus has turned away from knitting and back toward writing, but that’s kind of typical for me. I tend to focus obsessively on one thing for a while, then move on. I’m not done with knitting, not at all! I spent three hours at a football game last night and was delighted to have the time to knit on the baby blanket. But in the evenings, or weekends like this, my brain is gravitating toward writing.

Not just writing, either. I’ve always wished I could draw well, and I always told myself I just couldn’t do it. Then a few days ago I was admiring a selection of drawing books and the husband said, “Why don’t you try it? You never know.” And for some reason, this time I agreed. Why not, indeed. I didn’t have to show anyone if I didn’t want to. I might not be great. But what if I could make pictures that pleased me? That would be pretty cool. So I might be heading to the library to check out some how-tos for beginners (if you have recommendations, please share!) and I’ve got a little sketch pad and a drawing pencil itching to be used. And because it’s uncomfortable and scary for me, I’m going to share my first attempt, a cube copied from a book.

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It’s not great. It’s a first attempt. I don’t think it’s going to come naturally to me the way it does for my kids, or the way writing does to me. I’m not going to be the next big artist, and that’s all right. For me, it’s okay that it’s recognizable, and it was fun.

I guess what I take from all of this is that I’m redefining what success means to me. Success is about the leap, the journey, the effort. And I don’t want to be afraid of success anymore.

Anniversary Mini-Break

Today, the husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. Yep, two whole decades. That’s half my life. And the majority of those years have been pretty darn good, so I think we’re ┬álucky. To mark the occasion we both took the day off work, spent last night at our favorite B&B (Southmoreland on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City), and spent today antiquing. We were hoping to find more Mission-style furniture for our house, but didn’t find a thing. We hit a couple of small towns that were kind of sad and run-down, though we did find a bookstore. And look what I found at one of the antique stores:

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A yarn section!! It wasn’t a great selection but I still walked out with two lovely skeins of sock yarn:

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And at another antique store, I found these little goodies. I didn’t need either of them, but at $2 each, they still came home with me.

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We were a little discouraged at not finding any furniture treasures, but we ended the day in Parkville, MO, and found an awesome store called Cool Vintage Watches. They had watches, of course, but they also had several vintage pens too. I really liked the silver/gold Montblanc ballpoint, but that didn’t really fit my budget. Instead I brought home this beauty.

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It’s a Sheaffer Targa 1020 M in Imperial Brass with a 14k gold nib. It came with the converter but also takes cartridges, and since I don’t have any bottled ink, I put in one of those and it writes like a dream.

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The pen is in beautiful shape. I can’t find a flaw anywhere. Plus, I already had a stainless steel Targa, so it pleases the completist in me to have a brass one as well.

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It came with this nifty brass case, which has only a couple of tiny scratches on the bottom.

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So, yeah, happy anniversary to me, right? I’m really pleased with my finds, and it was a treat to spend a relaxing day with the husband. We don’t get those as often as we’d like!

Raishan Blanket

Yesterday was rainy and cool, and I was able to spend it all indoors doing whatever I chose. And mostly I chose to knit and cuddle with puppers, especially Jack.

 

I watched Southside With You (good movie, man who played Barack was especially great) and The Green Mile (one of our favorites, but the boy watched it for the first time) and Supernatural (not my choice, the girl’s). By the end of day, I was weaving in ends!

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This project took a month and three days, but because I’m not a huge fan of making blankets, it felt like longer. Still, I’m delighted with the finished piece. The photos don’t show how neon-bright the green really is!

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Pattern is Raishan by Laura Cameron, and it was well-written, interesting, and fun to knit. Yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted Brights in Sour Apple. I used almost all of seven skeins after making some modifications to the pattern. You can see my Rav page here.

And now, because this is for one twin, I need to knit another baby blanket. I’m doing the same yarn in Razzleberry, a bright blue, but a different pattern. This time I’m doing a garter rib blanket, something simple enough I can take to work for lunch-time knitting, and maybe it will go faster. A girl can dream, right?

Today, the girl is at work and the boys are off getting haircuts, so I have a rare morning with the house to myself. I’m off to knit in peace and quiet!

The Power of Thanks

One of my favorite moments from our recent vacation was when my husband thanked me. I’m a pretty typical Type A person, one who has to make lists and plan everything down to the smallest detail. Sometimes I feel like that trait is more obnoxious than helpful, both to me and to others. But this time, it was good, because I was prepared for almost everything the trip threw at us. And at one point, when I answered one of my husband’s suggestions with “I already looked into that and here’s the answer”, he paused, seemingly surprised, then thanked me for the time and effort I put into planning the trip.

Friends, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but that little gesture felt huge to me. It’s not that my husband doesn’t appreciate me; I know he does, just as I appreciate him. But I do think that after 20 years of marriage, we might have gotten lax in telling each other something as little as “thank you”. We take each other for granted too often, and forget how important it is to express appreciation without wanting something in return.

Those small moments, like my husband thanking me, are part of my mental “You Don’t Suck” file. I saw this on Twitter recently and loved it, because I DO have a YDS file. I have one at home and at work. When I started my new job a year ago, there was much I didn’t know. I felt incompetent and inadequate too often, despite my faith in my intelligence. I started collecting emails where people encouraged me, where they said nice things to me, where they thanked me, and I look back at those when I have a day that kicks my butt.

That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to create those moments for others. There’s so much darkness in the world right now, so much hate and anger. I share in that sometimes, but I can’t sustain it. I need to balance it with the good and the love. So when I see a woman with gorgeous blue/purple hair, I tell her. When someone at work helps me fix a problem, I thank them for their patience with me. My husband manages our retirement accounts so I don’t have to worry about them, and when I realized I never told him how much I appreciated that, I thanked him, simply and sincerely. When my daughter does extra jobs for me without complaining, like running to the grocery store at the last minute, or starting dinner before I get home, I try to thank her every time. Sure, she’s part of this family and benefits from those things too, but her time is just as valuable as mine, and when she uses it to help me at the last minute, I do appreciate it, and what’s the point of keeping that quiet?

If someone makes me smile, makes me feel good, my goal is to tell them. It doesn’t matter if that person is a friend, a stranger, a superior, an employee. If they’re a person, and I’m guessing they all are, they all appreciate sincere thanks.

I think this is why I did well as a manager. I wasn’t the person in the office telling them what to do. I was in the thick of it, doing it myself, asking them to help me, and thanking them every day for their effort. Even if all they did was smile and help customers all day, I thanked them, because a positive attitude is infectious. We all have stuff going on in our lives that can bring us down, and sometimes it’s really hard to set that aside to focus on the task at hand, and I appreciated that effort. And if it was too hard one day, and someone asked to work in solitude in the back, I appreciated that too.

As a manager, I was charged with leading a team to success, and I knew every day that my people were working hard to HELP ME achieve that goal. I couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t do it if they were unhappy. So I did what I could to keep them happy. I worked alongside them, laughing as much as possible. I encouraged them, even when the task was too big. And I thanked them. All the time, as much as I could.

I recently ordered some earrings on Etsy, from a young girl just starting out, and in my package was the most wonderful thank-you note, complete with kitty sketch. It was delightful, made the experience so much more than just a purchase. It was a connection with a person, a kind, funny, talented person, and we need those connections desperately. It’s why I always sent a thank-you note with everything I sold; I wanted them to know that there was someone behind that knit hat they’d just bought, and that someone appreciated them.

The world can be mean and scary right now. So I’m going to laugh at cat videos, swoon over cute dogs, sing along to good music, share the great books I read, and I’m going to thank people. Starting with you, reader: Thank You, truly, for taking the time to read my words. It means a lot to me. It’s lovely to know that I’m not terrible at stringing words together, that I’m not alone in my thoughts.

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Now it’s your turn. Go find someone to thank today!