Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Re-entry is my term for the transition from some kind of respite from everyday life back to the usual routine. We had a wonderful 3-day weekend, great food, weather, and relaxation. We spent some lovely time reading, walking and talking in Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Zoe had to put on her newly-mended sweater (knit way back when as my first color-work project), because she gets chilly even in 70 degree weather now that she's had her summer haircut.

Now it's re-entry time..there's a job to go to, research to start, and oh, yes, a son to get graduated and ready for 6 weeks away from home, before he comes back and then really leaves, for college, in August. In truth, there's not much I have to do for that last work was all on the front end. These last few years have been mostly his doing, and I have just been trying to survive the rapidly changing role of being his mother. (It's myself that has to get ready for all these about re-entry!)

In other news, I am up to 10 (!) finished objects! Not five, but six, sofa pillows, finished 4 hours before the deadline. The two side ones have a knitted log-cabin front, the others were made following basic pillow directions from the book Last-Minute Fabric Gifts.

Two squares for the Hokie Knitting Project ...and one hat for Dulaan...

Expect a lull in FO's as the beautiful weather lures me to the garden in the spare moments when I'm not studying!

Thoughts on being a parent

The Yarn Harlot wishes her oldest a happy 18th birthday today. Have the tissues ready...

Friday, May 25, 2007

A healthy relationship with deadlines?

I promised T that I would make new cushions for our sofa, before her parents come to visit. They'll be here tomorrow afternoon. Two out of five are finished.

Last night, after a long day, instead of working on the pillows (my original plan), we took a walk up to Highland Park, came back home, then went to a celebration at our next door neighbor's, complete with amazing chocolate cake from Premier Pastry. Now, all those things were totally worth it, even though I will probably have a late night tonight, after DD's concert, finishing the pillows.

But it got me thinking...the NEXT day after I turned in my last project for the semester, I started this blog, which as you'll notice, is actually ALL about meeting a deadline. Apparently I can't get enough deadlines in my life. On top of that, whenever I have a deadline to meet--a gift, a grant proposal, a paper--I am invariably working on it up to the last minute.

Generally this works well for me. I do good work under pressure. And it's not like I don't start in advance...I do, though not nearly as soon as people with a lower tolerance for anxiety might. But it also means that I don't always finish things by the deadline, or finish them to the level of excellence that I would like.

I think this mild procrastination is a way of rebelling against schedules, since so much of my life is dominated by them. On the other end of the continuum, one summer I had a lot of unscheduled time, and came to realize that there IS such a thing as too little structure.

So, the trick is having enough structure, but not so much that I rebel against it, procrastinate and thereby make myself nuts as I work against deadlines!

I'm not making any promises about improvement in this area, but I'll keep you posted as to how it goes!

Meanwhile, some pictures from Highland (downloaded from here) are interspersed as a reminder that some things are worth abandoning the schedule.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Growing up in rural America

This isn't directly related to my 45th year challenge, but I recently learned that a woman I graduated high school with has written a memoir. So, of course, I read it as soon as I could get my hands on it!

Publisher's Weekly describes Driving with Dead People, by Monica Holloway, as follows, "Her memoir sings with the power of a disenfranchised woman finally finding her own voice, and her brutal memoir is hard to forget."

I have to say that her ability at capturing our hometown's sense of place and culture is uncanny. Although Monica and I didn't socialize outside of high school, we were in many classes together. And, of course, I would never have guessed what she was dealing with outside of school. Nor, I'm sure, would she have guessed anything about my personal life.

The book reminded me of how overwhelming being a teenager can feel, and also of how we all find ways to deal. Monica and I were similar in that we both coped by achieving. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but as I've lived my 44 years, I have realized that tying one's identity to achievement is a tenuous proposition.

The spiritual teachers to whom I relate, such as Pema Chodron and Toni Packer, would remind me that tying one's identity to ANYTHING is problematic!

So, perhaps this is about my 45th year challenge...working with feelings of image and identity are a big part of meditative work, and as I've begun to think about my solo retreat, I've realized that it may be a tiny bit harder than I've imagined. Nearly 2 whole days with no externally-imposed schedule, no one to be responsible for or to, no one to ground me in some sense of role or identity? Yes, it might be a little more challenging than I initially thought.

Oh, by the way, if you read the book, no, I'm not in it, but my best friend is mentioned. Ask me and I'll tell you who.

Like a fine wine...

Don't age me before my time!

Several of you have written me saying, Happy 45th Birthday! No, no...not that there's ANYTHING wrong with being 45! In fact, I hope to be 45 NEXT year! I just celebrated my 44th birthday, which makes this year my 45th year!

Got it? Okay, thanks!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Carrie L. French

On Tuesday morning I finished stitching Carrie's name. The stitched name will become a part of a larger finished object, through the Mother's Day Project. Even so, I am considering this, my contribution to the project, my first finished handmade item of my 45th year.

I chose the color purple because Carrie was baptized as a Christian while in Iraq, and, according to this website, purple symbolizes penitence and mourning in Christian liturgy.

When I googled Carrie's name, several websites came up: this one from the military, this memorial from her family and friends, and one particularly disturbing site to which I refuse to link.

Remember the church group that gained notoriety after Matthew Shepard's death, for protesting at his funeral with signs saying "God hates fags"? They're still out there. One of the links that came up was a woman's account of the day that she went to protest at Carrie's funeral. She claims that "God killed Carrie because God hates America." Why does "God hate America?" Because of the fags, of course.

As a Buddhist-influenced spiritual practitioner, I really try to bring compassion to every situation and every being. This one, I find hard. My immediate reaction is amazement and anger. And that's without even getting into the homophobia, which is so extreme as to almost be laughable.

How dare they affront Carrie's family and friends like this? To have to face such hatred while mourning the loss of a loved one is inconceivable to me. I hope that my small part in the Mother's Day Project, through which I got to know Carrie just a little, will do a little bit to counter-act that negative energy.

Nearly everything in bloom in my garden at this time of year is purple...a fitting tribute...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blog inspiration

Isn't that a beautiful family! These are some of our very best friends, with a blanket I made for the newest member of their family.

The blanket they are nestled in was inspired by the log cabin madness of Mason Dixon Knitting, along with the Scrappy Blanket at Philacraft. Blogs like those are a big part of the inspiration for my own blog.

Yes, I know it's bright...babies like bright colors, right?

It was simple to do, and I loved watching all those bright colors come together, not to mention reducing my stash of yarn. I gathered yarn in yellows, oranges, and reds, made 6 log cabin squares using colors pretty much at random, knitted a strip of orange for the middle, then crocheted them all together. For the back, I used three different fabrics, with a red fabric binding all the way around, using the same binding technique as Philacraft used in the Scrappy blanket.

Since I don't have any finished objects for my 45th year to share with you yet, I thought I'd take a moment to share one from my past. I should have one(small)FO to share by the end of the week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Walk a mile for Mother's Day

Sometimes we miss the wisdom in cliches because we've heard them so much that we stop listening. Mother's Day is rife with cliches, so today I'm taking a moment to really think about it.

Mother's Day in the U.S. was first proposed as Mother's Day for Peace in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe. This year, I've volunteered for The Mother's Day Project, a project to remind us that war is personal. I've been sent a piece of muslin with the name of Carrie L. French, a 19-year old U.S. soldier who died while serving in Iraq. I will stitch her name, return it, and it will be used to create a tote bag, along with the names of the other 79 women who have died (so far) serving in Iraq. When the bag is complete, each stitcher will get to carry it for a while. We will document our experiences stitching and discussing the bag.

Carrie had graduated from high school just a year before she died, where she was a varsity cheerleader. She joined the National Guard to pay for college.

My own son will graduate from high school June 21 and leave for college in August. After a particularly painful time in our relationship, when I was trying to describe to him how I felt, he said, "I can only imagine what you're going through. I really won't be able to understand it until I become a parent myself." Ah, how true. Reminds me of that cliche about not judging someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

Parents, especially mothers, face a lot of judgment in our culture, for all the "mom and apple pie" rhetoric. There is one thing I know about being a parent. I love my kids fiercely and I want the best for them. I imagine that most if not all parents feel the same way. (Yes, I know there are parents who are abusive and downright mean, and I'm not excusing their behavior, but I bet even most of those parents wish they could do better.)

Although I haven't walked a mile in the shoes of Carrie's parents, I will think of them often as I stitch her name. And the next time I think of judging another parent's style, I will remember that they cherish their children as much as I do mine. And that what all of us parents need is more support, not more criticism, as we stumble through, and sometimes soar, in our own parenting journey.

p.s. To my kids, thanks for giving me a reason to celebrate Mother's Day! I love you!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My new project

I turned 44 this year. It has been quite the year, actually the past 5 years or so have been years of growth borne from life's usual difficulties and of course lots of joys. For some reason this year feels like a turning point. Maybe it is because my oldest is going away to college, or because I have started working on a Ph.D. or just because I feel myself moving (I'm not there yet!) to a stronger and wiser place.

One of my colleagues at work, who is a serious bicyclist (I am a commuting/recreational cyclist), wrote on my card "Now you need to bike your years in miles." I thought...I could do that! Well, maybe not today or tomorrow, but before the snow flies, certainly. Then I thought, what else could I do 44 of? Actually, I decided on 45 because it's a nice round number, and technically, this is my 45th year.

I meditate some and do yoga some, but I've never made a serious commitment. I've done silent group retreats, and one solo retreat during a key transitional point in my life many years ago, so my second goal will be to go on a 45-hour solo retreat, at some point during the next year. I don't THINK 45 hours will be much of a challenge, but taking the next step to 45 days would be way too long for me! The point of this goal is to make a deeper commitment to spiritual practice.

Deciding on my third goal was easy. I love knitting especially, and dabble in making all kinds of things, from sewn items to handmade paper to homemade preserves. This goal won't be as easy to execute as it was to decide on, because I tend to flit from one project to the next without completing things. I probably have at least 12 knitted UFO's (I refuse to count the exact number!). So this goal is to complete 45 handmade items. They can be things I've already started, in fact, that's part of the point.

Thanks for reading about my journey! It should be an interesting year!