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Yarniversary

Today is a special day. Six years ago today, I bought my first crochet hooks and yarn and started teaching myself to crochet! It’s been a long amazing journey since then, with plenty of frustration but so much more joy and peace. Yarn has been with me through so many hard times, allowing me to focus on something other than stress or anxiety or grief or sadness, at least for short periods at a time.

Yarn brought me many friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise, amazing friends who support me online and in person.

Yarn brought me this blog, which lets me work through things in words, a form of journaling after I’d walked away from journaling years ago.

Yarn opened up this huge source of creativity in my life, something I’d been searching for through other hobbies until discovering this one. It balances out the rest of my life so well, giving me an outlet for beauty and experimentation and art.

Yarn has given me confidence, though that one isn’t constant. The other day a woman saw me knitting a sock and told me “You’re so gifted!” And my response was, “You’re sweet, but really it’s the yarn doing the work.” I still struggle with being able to take credit for what I create, but in my heart, I really am proud of what I’ve done, what I make.

Yarn introduced me to a huge number of inspiring women who are doing what they love, being who and what they want, without apologies and with great joy. I have so many role models in the yarn world, and I’m happy and grateful to be a part of this community.

I don’t remember what I did before yarn came into my life, but I’m glad I don’t have to find out now.

This week, depression is kind of winning in my head, for a variety of reasons. Some are identifiable, but then there’s that weird inexplicable depression fug that takes over and makes you all dark and numb and twisty without explaining why. I’ve been here before and I know I’ll get past it like I have before. It just sucks in the moment, and all I want to do is enjoy the comfort of yarn in my hands, and be grateful that I have that comfort available.

So, thank you for six wonderful years, Yarn. I look forward to many more.

 

 

Brighter days ahead

Can I tell you a secret? I’m almost afraid to write it in case I jinx myself but…guys, I feel optimistic, for the first time in a long time. We’ve had such a stressful year, mostly due to way too many big financial emergencies, and things were just getting stretched way too thin. I’m sure most of you have been there, or are there. It sucks a lot. But we made a plan to work forward, and we cut back our spending, which wasn’t fun, and suddenly I can see progress. I can see that our changes are working, are helping, and we might be close to pulling ourselves out of the pit of despair. We are still facing a big, expensive rehab project on the house, but if we can make it wait until early spring next year, it’ll be okay. I feel like we can handle it now. It helped a lot that I had a car repair done over the weekend that I’ve been putting off for months, afraid it would be super expensive, and it wasn’t that bad at all. That’s apparently been weighing on me more than I realized. It’s just been a really dark year in my head, so it’s lovely to feel even this small sliver of hope. (I’m knocking on all the wood that nothing else falls apart in my house or my car!)

Something that never fails to brighten my day is yarn. Last week I got these two beautiful skeins of Manos Del Uruguay in the mail. It’s their new Feliz yarn, a blend of merino and modal, and I can’t wait to find the perfect shawl pattern.

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Thank goodness for yarn and dogs!

 

Waving the white flag

Can I whine just a little bit? You can skip this post if you like, it’s fine.

We had the A/C repairman out this week. Again. We might have been their best customer this year: I believe we saw them four times between May and now. We have two units, so it was two visits per unit, but still, I find that excessive, don’t you? And thanks to one of those visits, we had to replace a heat pump with a furnace and do some other expensive crap. It was great. (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

It’s just been a stupid expensive year. We started off with some insulation to try to keep the winter temperature in the house above 62. My car needed body work, and then new brakes a couple of months later. The girl’s car needed some repair. We had our own A/C issues, plus a repair at our rental property. We had to redo two sets of wooden stairs outside once one rotted and broke, as well as redo the concrete work and build a new retaining wall. A dog got sick and along with vet bills, we added an expensive monthly medication to our vet expenses. We had to replace two tires on the husband’s car.

It just keeps coming and coming. We try to plan for projects that need to get done, but then something else falls apart and the other stuff never happens. I keep thinking things are looking up and we might get to turn this ship around, and then bam, something breaks and we have to pay for it. And this is all on top of all the senior year/off to college expenses.

I’m tired, friends. And just a little frazzled.

I know it will be okay, and we’ll muddle through just fine. I keep telling myself all the “cheer up” things I can think of, and in my head I know they’re true and sometimes they help. And yet, I worry, and it’s been hard at times to manage my depression/anxiety crap. It ebbs and flows, and I really do think I might be on the upswing, as long as I can keep the house from falling down around me!

Plus that’s what I have my knitting for, right? (Well, and meds too, thankfully.) My knitting has definitely been therapy for me the last several months and right now my Dotted Rays shawl is my favorite. It’s so soft and squishy and soothing, garter stitch over and over…

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When it’s done, it’s going to be the coziest shawl ever, I do believe. Yarn is Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20, which only seems appropriate. I need some zen in my life!

You know, every time I write posts like this, I worry that they’re too honest, that I’m sharing too much, and maybe I should just journal. But…whatever. It helps me to write them. And maybe it helps others to know they’re not alone, or to show those who haven’t experienced it that depression isn’t always a “cure it and it goes away” kind of thing. 

I’m in a funk

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He would have been 74 today. Except he’s not because he got cancer and died almost six years ago, and that sucks a lot. Usually on days like this I’d write a thoughtful post about what a great person he was, and maybe something about how I’m processing the grief. But I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like going down that rabbit hole because I know it’ll freshen the pain that has softened and dulled. I don’t want to feel it fresh and sharp again. Maybe that’s one more step in the process. I don’t know. I don’t really want to examine it that fully. I’ll just say that I miss him, some days more than others, but at least I know it gets easier to bear as time goes on.

I’m in a funk today anyway, and I’m not sure if it’s the date or what. The dogs have this new thing where they wake up super early, like 4:30. We think it might be Grace needing to pee because of her steroids. We were able to halve the dose a couple of days ago so maybe that will get better. But still, this morning I got up with them, let them out, and then curled up on the couch to doze for another couple of hours. Better than nothing, but not as good as real sleep in a bed. And I have a sinus headache. And I have all the social obligations this weekend, instead of two whole days to knit.

So yes. I’m clearly in a funk and need to find a way out. Maybe I’ll spend some time with my socks this morning before I have to do all the things. I finished one sock last night, one for the girl, and it’s good. I like it.

IMG_5757You can’t see the sparkle, can you? But know that it’s there, a twinkly little strand of stellina. It’s in my Wonder Woman sock, too, which is quite fun to knit.IMG_5758

With any luck, some sock knitting and extra tea will brighten my morning and make the rest of the day go smoothly. And even though the dogs are buttheads sometimes, being around them is usually a treat too. They’re good. I like them.

Grief Redux

Grief is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You think you’re making progress, and really, you probably are, and then something comes along and takes you by surprise and kicks you in the gut. And when that happens, it can feel as hard and as fresh as when the grief was new.

I lost my dad a little over five years ago. No. No more euphemisms. I didn’t lose him. My dad died in April of 2012. I’ve been able to say that, in my head and out loud, for quite a while now, without needing to cry or feeling the sharp twinge in my heart. I felt like that was progress. Still do, actually. It took a long time to move past the vague euphemisms, and when I did, it often made me tear up just to say it.

So, yeah. I’ve been making progress, doing well. I’m happy. My life is full and rich, with as many up as downs. I still think of my dad every day but not with the sharp pain, more like a faint ache that I know will always be there. Some days it’s stronger than others, but it’s not crippling. It’s just…a brief sadness.

I’ve recently gotten back to my pen hobby. For years, I’ve collected pens. At first it was any fun pen, but it’s gotten more refined, and now I think it’s fair to say I’m a pen snob. I love beautiful, high-quality pens. I love gorgeous fountain pens. And when I was cleaning out my collection, culling some I no longer wanted, I started poking through all the pen boxes I’ve got, and I found the box for my MontBlanc. Inside, I found a letter from my dad, from when he gave me the pen for Christmas one year. It was a company gift and he’d used it for years, until passing it on to me.

That letter ripped off the scab a bit, and it hurts. I miss my dad. He was a wonderful man, a kind and gentle person who gave everything to make his family happy.  There’s so much I wish I could share with him now. And I can’t, and that sucks so much. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t remember how much it sucked, and being reminded is…not fun.

But I’m grateful to have the letter, which I’ve tucked back inside the box to discover again in a few years. And until then, I’ll write with his pen and remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did.

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The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

Life After Depression

Four years. Is that a long time? Or not? My instinct is to say it’s not. As I approach my 40th birthday, four years is a blip. But today, Facebook reminded me that it was four years ago that my life changed completely, and it feels like eons ago.

Four years ago last month, my dad died. Yep, it was hard. It pushed me into a dark place, a place I was on the verge of anyway. Suddenly I was no longer emotionally able to maintain my current life; I realized I wanted more. More than working 50 hours a week as a retail store manager. More than saying goodbye to my kids one morning and not seeing them again until the next night. More than asking my MIL to take care of my kids and take them to activities and pick them up when I couldn’t. More than seeing my mom twice a year when one of us could visit the other.

Thankfully, I’m married to the best man in the world. He agreed we could scale back the budget to allow me to quit my job and stay home with the kids while I figured out my next step. I didn’t know what it would be; I still don’t know if I’m “there” yet or what. But wow, what a difference those four years made in my life.

I see my kids every morning and I greet them when they get home from school. I’m able to drive my daughter to flute lesson and band camp and auditions and study sessions and all these other things that would have been impossible before. I’m able to get a few minutes of conversation with my almost-teenage son before he disappears into his room to play video games. We eat dinner together as a family every single night. Instead of a pet-free house, we have two dogs who bring me great comfort and joy.

And during the day, I create. In those four years, I finished and revised a book. A whole book, that I’m now sending to agents in hopes of getting it published. I’ve proofread books for clients, several books, and I love that process. I learned to crochet, and then knit, and I sell my little beauties to people who love them. Through the yarn, I’ve found a wonderful friendship with my Knitting SIL. Through this blog, I’ve found a wonderful community of writers and knitters and all-around fabulous people. As one of my readers commented, I have a very rich, creative life, and somedays I’m overwhelmed with how lucky I am.

Now I can’t imagine being where I was four years ago. Remembering the job itself makes me cringe. I do miss the people, my lovely Creeker family, but thankfully I still have many of them in my life.

I still miss my dad. Of COURSE I do. I desperately wish he were still here. But this seems to be the way it goes: you have to go through something terrible to get that push to do what you’re really meant to do. Life is short and all that jazz. I can tell you the words, but until something makes it true for you, it won’t work the same. At least that’s my theory. Losing my dad set in motion a chain of events, including getting my mom and siblings in the same town for the first time in decades, and having them all around me has been one of the best blessings ever. It brought us together; it helped me get through the hard times.

I’m happy now. My life is peaceful and joyful and colorful. Those four years were rough and bumpy and jagged and sharp, and now I feel like I’ve reached a smooth part, where the lows aren’t so low and I can get past them more quickly. Thank goodness for my husband, my kids, my mom and siblings, my puppies, the friends who were truly there for me when I was struggling. Thank goodness for kind, gentle doctors. Thank goodness for antidepressants and thyroid meds and melatonin. After three years of taking them, I’m almost completely off the happy pills and doing well, but I know they’re there if I ever need them again.

I am one of the lucky ones. I know many people, too many good people, who have struggled, will continue to struggle, with depression forever. So many times, depression is ongoing and constant, not the (relatively) short experience I had. So many times, the meds don’t work, or you can’t afford the meds, or you’re ashamed to ask for the meds. So many times, you don’t take the time to see a therapist because you think you can do it alone.

But sometimes you can’t, and THAT’S OKAY. Trying meds, even lots of different meds, is OKAY. Seeing a therapist is OKAY, probably one of the best things I did, and I highly recommend it to everyone, not just people suffering from depression. Don’t just say you’re “fine” if you’re not. Find one person you trust, and tell the truth. Let them help you.

Here’s what I’ve learned over four years:

  • Smoking DOES cause cancer, and cancer CAN kill you, and it SUCKS for everyone involved.
  • There can be beauty and great meaning in death.
  • Time does help heal. Wounds don’t go away, but you can find joy again.
  • A family of four can live on one salary. It’s hard sometimes, and I worry about money a lot, but this is still the best choice for me, for us.
  • Most people are truly kind.
  • It’s worth it to keep fighting. Life may be short, but it’s beautiful. Find the beauty.

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