Tag Archive | writing

Collector or Hoarder?

This post isn’t really about yarn. While I do have a substantial yarn stash, I’m a collector of many things, including pens. Not just any pens. Fine pens, mostly. Beautiful, well-made, unusual, not-cheap pens. I have a particular fondness for fountain pens. My collection has outgrown its current storage solution, which to me only means I need more storage. But I’m also starting to question myself. I’ve been collecting mostly based on looks, but lately I’ve been using them enough, and getting a wide enough variety, that I’m starting to develop strong opinions about how they write. Now I have a couple of pens that I think are beautiful, but I don’t love to write with them.

While I recognize intellectually that it makes no sense to keep a pen you don’t like to use, there’s that collector/hoarder part of me that wants them to stay in my collection. Partly it’s a money thing: I hate to sell things for less than I paid for them, and I don’t think these pens are valuable enough to make me a profit. And partly it’s that I’m selfish and want ALL THE THINGS to be mine, especially pretty things.

Maybe I need to focus on a different perspective. If I sell them, even if it’s a little bit less than I paid, I’m still getting some money back, and I’m reclaiming some space in my collection for something that might be delightful both to look at and to use.

Like I said, my brain knows what I should do. I’ve even done it before with yarn, sold beautiful yarns that weren’t meant for me for whatever reason. I still have a large yarn stash, but they’re all yarns I love and want to use eventually. Why am I struggling now? Not sure. Still, I think I’m on the way to being able to let go. I just need to write with them some more to make sure.

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Do you have something you struggle to let go of, even though you know you should?

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.

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!

Disappearing Act

No, YOU ran off and disappeared for a month!!

Okay, yes, it was me. And while I realize most of you probably didn’t notice my lack of posting, I did. I missed writing; I just got caught up in the spring madness of band and choir contest, concerts, finals, junior prom, ACT/SAT, plus work and knitting and reading, oh my! I guess that’s my way of saying life got in the way, and today I’m pushing all that aside to make time for writing again.

Maybe it’s because that I’ve got a little seed of a story that’s trying to get out. I’ve been working on it here and there, and it’s new and exciting and that’s kind of all I’m going to say about it right now. But I think writing leads to more writing, you know? And every time I come back to it, I remember how much I love it. I went and saw Andrew McCarthy recently as he toured for his new YA novel, and he talked about how when he started writing, he had this little epiphany, “OH! There I am!” And that’s me, when I write. Lately I’ve been feeling sort of lost, because I didn’t have the wholly creative life I was living before I went back to work. I’ve been feeling like I’d let got of a big part of myself, and I want to try to get it back. I don’t regret going back to work, really: I love my co-workers and have found some wonderful new friends, and to be honest, the salary is very helpful given our old-house/almost-senior-year-kid life. But I want to try harder to find the balance, to bring back that creative energy that filled my days before. So! Long-winded way to say, I’m back!

First, I have to show off just one photo of my gorgeous girl from her junior prom. Like most prom experiences, the actual event didn’t quite live up to the expectations and there were a couple of hitches, but they looked stunning and had a good time, and that’s good enough, I think.

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I’ve been gone too long to talk about everything I’ve knit in the past month, but my focus has been socks. Yes, I’ve become a sock knitter, I admit it. I have three completed pairs and have figured out how to make a sock that fits the way I like. I joined my first KAL, with Raveler FluffyK (from the blog The Corner of Knit & Tea). My goal is to complete two pairs of socks, and I’m pretty close to finishing the first.

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This is my first foray into socks with a contrast heel/toe/cuff and I’m pretty much in love with it. My only problem is figuring out when to break for the heel to ensure good contrast, but that’ll come in time. And did I mention how much I adore self-striping yarn?? OMG that’s a reason to knit socks right there! It’s just so magical. I knit these at work during lunch, and non-knitters’ eyes get big when they see what the yarn is doing. “But how does it make the stripes??” Magic, my friends. Magic. This yarn is Aurora Fingering Weight from Tumbleweed Yarns and it’s a joy to knit with. Soft but not limp, great stitch definition, and super-saturated colors. Oh yeah, self-striping sock yarn is going to be my new obsession. For fall I’m totally going to make some fingerless gloves too. Anyway, this sock is ready for the heel, so I’ll get that all done this weekend so the foot will be ready for mindless lunch break knitting next week. This pattern is Vanilla Latte and it’s fantastic (assuming you enjoy ribbing).

Speaking of FluffyK, my other main WIP right now is a cowl pattern I’m test-knitting for her. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say, but I will say I’m enjoying the knit and so far the lace pattern is turning out beautifully. The pattern calls for around 450-500 yards of DK, and I was so good that I shopped from my stash! I’m using Berroco Fiora in a gray color called Tybee, and I think this will be the perfect spring/fall lightweight cowl.

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I’ll keep you updated and show you the FO as soon as I can, and you can watch her Ravelry design page for release info. The pattern is called Wood Sorrel.

Okay, well, I didn’t really plan this out to be a FluffyK-themed post, but the other thing I wanted to show off is the new yarn I got in April. Yes, she spins yarn too, and because I begged pathetically she’s my friend, she spun a skein especially for me. It was the only skein of yarn I purchased in April, and it was totally worth it.

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Isn’t it stunning?? The colorway is named Sinister Foxy and it’s all wound and ready for me to cast on, as soon as I have the time! If you’re jealous, you can check out her Etsy shop here. She’s also a tech editor and prolific knitter, so she doesn’t have a ton, but it’s all OOAK and beautiful. And heck, while I’m at it: find her on Instagram as fluffykira. She posts lots of pretty things!

This was fun! Thanks for being patient with me, friends. I’ll be back soon, because I do want to share the progress on my Harvest cardigan. But for now, it’s a beautiful morning and I have much housework knitting to do. Happy Saturday!

Back to work?

It has been four years since I left my last full-time position, and, maybe surprisingly, I’m ready to go back. I have been home when I was needed most, I’ve gotten my kids past the most critical stage and now that my daughter is old enough to start driving herself around, I can reach for more. I wouldn’t change anything about the last four years. It was absolutely what I needed to do.

But this is what I need to do now. I miss contributing something vital to the world, something on a bigger scope. I miss being part of a team that’s working together to make the world a better place, one step at a time. I love my creative endeavors, but they’re small, low-impact, solitary. I miss collaboration. I miss using my brain to learn new things and then helping others learn those things. I loved being a trainer, loved helping my peers and staff grow. I loved making a difference in clients’ lives. I’ve got these writing skills, and I feel like I could be using them in so many more ways. I could make an impact in the community…and that’s thrilling.

In no way do I mean this as a criticism of stay-at-home parents. I’ve done it in two long stretches now, and appreciated it both times. Parenting is a huge responsibility, and I admire and respect those to do it full-time. I *know* it’s a job, and a hard one. But it’s also a personal choice, and what works for one family may not be the best choice for another. It was the right choice at that point in time.

But now, my kids have grown up a lot. For that matter, I’ve grown up a lot after all the things I’ve faced the last four or five years. I have more to give, and I want to make a bigger difference. I will still knit, though I might focus more on what sparks my creativity and less on custom orders. I will still write and work on getting my book published. I will still proofread for other writers, though it might take me a little bit longer. But I want to do more. I want to challenge myself. I feel like this is my second wind, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

 

I’m a good girl

You’ll be pleased to know that I stayed focused and got a lot of “must haves” done yesterday! (Or maybe you won’t, but let’s pretend, just for fun.) I made my list of chores for the week and half are already crossed off. Sure, they’re the easier ones, but it’s a start. When I can do that, get a workout in, AND get some work done, that’s a good day. I finished the first pass through the sci-fi book I’m proofreading (it’s the sequel to Mostly Human by Antoinette Houston. I’m not a sci-fi person but I have fun reading these.) and I got a few rows done on the mermaid blanket during Jeopardy! and I even managed to do some fun knitting before bed, starting another set of fingerless gloves. IMG_6084I needed another travel project, and these are perfect.

Now, I need you guys to send me some willpower: I’m going to the yarn store with the mother today. She wants a scarf to go with a certain dress, so we’re going together to pick out a color. I really really need to be good and not come home with extra yarn, so please send good mojo, or juju, or whatever. And tomorrow, I’ll be sure to show what I come with anyway. Sigh.

Here, have a couple of pupdates: IMG_6081Jack follows me around all day long. This is what I have whenever I’m working in my craft room.

IMG_6083And this is why my couches are a wreck. Both of them are in front of big windows, and the puppies have to keep watch whenever possible. I guess I’d rather have happy puppies than pristine couches. (Not sure the husband agrees.)

We had big storms yesterday and last night and this morning everything is bright and shiny and sparkling. Even the power lines have little rainbow droplets. Hope your day is bright too!

The Yarn Harlot Speaks

Have you ever had an experience that was so fantastic, so true and honest, that it speaks to you right at your core? That it leaves you feeling high afterward? Maybe the word verklempt applies here. That was me last night, after spending the evening at the Knitting in the Heartland event. It was AMAZING. No other word for it. I can’t believe I even considered not going. It was my first knitting conference and now I know how wondrous it is to be in a big room filled with people who speak your language, who understand what knitting means, that it’s not just an idle hobby. It’s so much more.

I mean, I walked into the hotel and there were people in the lobby just hanging out, knitting. Not one, but several. I got in line with all these other nice women who were friendly and helpful, and they were knitting! Or if they weren’t, I could see the yarn in the project bags they were carrying. I think they said there were 300 attendees. IMG_5653As I waited, a nice knitter sat next to me and we chatted about our knitting and friended each other on Ravelry. Then the magic truly began: Stephanie began her speech.IMG_5654

If you ever have the chance to hear her, GO. She is hysterical, so down-to-earth and casual and then she’ll drop these lines and have the whole room laughing. Plus she’s Canadian so she says things like “arse” and “eh” and it’s not an act, it’s just her and it’s delightful. She had me in tears at one point from laughing so hard. But it was more than just the funny stuff. It was about the “more”: How generous knitters are. How smart and persistent and creative we are. How knitting does wonderful things for our health, particularly our mental and emotional health. It was about self-esteem. She talked about how we need to own our power as knitters, embrace our talent and skill. We need to stop belittling ourselves before we can expect others to stop belittling us.

One of my favorite parts was when she pointed out often we deflect compliments of our knitting by saying “it was easy”, or “I just followed a a pattern”. Yep. I do that. No, she said, just say “Thank you.” Because it wasn’t easy. It took time to learn the skills, to practice to a point to where you can correctly follow the pattern to create that piece of art. To take it further, it takes creativity to match yarns with patterns, to put together color schemes and stripe sequences. It’s NOT easy, but we sometimes think it is because we love doing it so much. Like Stephanie, like so many other women, I am guilty of low self-esteem much of the time. There are a lot of things I don’t do well. It’s hard to be a mom–I mean, it’s great, but you don’t get a lot of validation that you’re doing a good job on a daily basis. It’s hard to be a writer–the writing is great but sharing it and being rejected sucks. So for her to tell me that yes, my knitting is beautiful, that it speaks to my talent and skill, well. I needed to hear that. Maybe we all did, because after the speech, I had women stopping me to tell me how gorgeous my Hitchhiker was (I wore this one. Loved it, except it gave me a rash where it touched my neck. Oops.) and I practiced saying, “Thank you!”

Okay, so the talk (which lasted an hour and a half, including questions) was fantastic, but then she signed books, and I’d brought one with me, of course. When I got up there, I mentioned that she’d tweeted me and told me I should come, and that I was so glad I had, and I could actually see her face light up with recognition! And then she was gracious enough to allow me to take a selfie with her. IMG_5656See? Amazing. Sighhhh. I want to move to Canada and live next door and be her best friend. (Except that’s really hard, apparently, moving to Canada. They don’t let just anybody in.) Heck, I want to BE her.

That would have been enough. That experience made the long drive in heavy traffic and construction worth it. But there was MORE: the market! However, this post is long enough, and that one will be equally long because OMG the market! Yes, I bought stuff. Probably too much. Tune in tomorrow to see what I got!