Summer of intention.

I’m trying something new: a handwritten blog post!

If you made it through those 13 pages of my handwriting, thank you for your patience.

I found a couple of, um, typos (?) on page 9 that I can’t, for obvious reasons, go back and fix easily. I meant to say this:

And what I discovered is that if I gave myself the challenge to do four things—and permission to do only four things—I almost always did more.

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Pearls slipping off a string.

I had a dentist appointment today, and I decided to make a day of it and get a sub. As I confided to a friend recently, I’ve been hiding in a sad little hole. “Time to peep out,” she said.

Indeed.

Maybe I do have a touch of seasonal affective disorder. (No diagnosis like a self-diagnosis.) But winter has been dragging me down.

Maybe it’s not the weather or the season, but rather other things that accompany this time of year. Second term—my school system operates on trimesters, of all things—is notoriously challenging: snow days that take away from instructional time, holiday breaks that repeatedly make students (and teachers) forget what it’s like to be on a routine, flu outbreaks, and just general dreariness and weariness on top of it all.

(I don’t know how I would survive third term if it weren’t springtime.)

And most bleak winters aren’t made bleaker by a series of school shootings and rumblings of weaponizing school staff.

But now that it’s almost March, there budding trees, blooming flowers, greening pastures.

And there is Anne Shirley.

I have, more than once, shut off my phone screen to silence that infuriating world of Facebook to replace it with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea.

I listened to the original Anne of Green Gables a few years ago on Librivox. I’ve watched Anne with an “E” on Netflix. And now I own the Anneof Green Gables box set, and like little Paul Irving, I’m absorbed in a book of fairy tales.

That’s what it feels like.

I know Anne’s mind imagines the world in such a more fantastical way than the more sensible around her see, but even plain ol’ Avonlea seems like a dream to me.

Sometimes it angers me that the reason Anne, her friends, and the people of her village are all a-fluster is a building that’s been mistakenly painted blue instead of green. Don’t they know there are far more tragical things in this world over which to become distraught?!

But then again, it is nice to escape to Anne’s one-room school house where the children aren’t in fear of being gunned down and the most this schoolma’am has to do to protect her students is speak to them with both firmness and kindness.

This makes me both happy and sad. But a least there is happiness to be had there.

And here, as I sit by my own Lake of Shining Waters at the city park knitting, reading, writing this, and sipping what amounts to a free coffee from the local shop. The man on the bench across the lake just caught himself a big ol’ fish. There is a breeze. Muted sunshine. Twittering small birds. Honking geese.

Just a happy day.

Challenge.

I’m sort of superstitious about goals. Resolutions. Challenges.

Setting them, declaring them, participating in them almost always ends in disappointment.

I guess it’s all a choice: deciding to try something and deciding to feel like a failure when I don’t embody an arbitrary idea of success.

But still, I tweeted this.

Did I build in enough loopholes? I think I did.

During our recent snow-in, I bought this book on an emergency trip to the grocery store—obviously to buy pears—and promptly made the blingy little magnetic bookmark to go with it.

I’ve set a 52-book goal in Goodreads for 2018, one book a week. I don’t think I’ve ever read that much in my life, but so far I’m doing okay, thanks to abridged audiobooks of Sue Grafton’s alphabet detective series.

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  • B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
  • Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun
  • The Wonderling by Mira Bartók

(I highly recommend Jonny’s touching graphic book and his Twitter feed.)

I started listening to C is for Corpse, but when I finished weaving Sissy’s birthday scarf, I left off and never went back.

I’m not sure I can stick it out all the way through Y, but Kinsey Milhone is a narrator I’m willing to revisit.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is my current read. This will be at least the second—if not third—time I’ve read this one. I can never remember anything about it except that it’s good.

The yarn for Sissy’s scarf (Lion Brand’s Shawl-in-a-Ball in Namaste) is the yarn I’ve already bought this year, but I’m looking forward to getting intimate with my yarn stash.

For now, I’m working on a cowl.

The yarn was clearance at Sheepskein’s in Newburgh, Indiana—and purchased in December, for the record! It is Araucanía Aysén. The stitch is called Little Tents, something I found in Barbara Walker’s first stitch treasury.

For now, I’m quite happy with reading from my shelves and yarning from my stash.

Wool, wine, & washi tape.

Tomorrow was to be the first day back to school after the winter break, but instead we’re having a non-instructional school day (i.e. a “snow day” that we don’t have to make up) because it is dangerously cold outside.

I still have to report to my classroom, but I am thankful for the workday to prepare for my returning students, something I admittedly have not yet done. I guess I was going to wing it tomorrow… Instead, I get a soft start to the year professionally.

Personally, my year began with wool, wine, and washi tape.

IMG_3557I crocheted this hat as a Christmas present for my dear friend Kim. The yarn is Tosh DK in the colorway Tart, and the design is sort of a copy-cat pattern I inferred and modified from the awesome fur-pom slouch hat I bought from Heather at Skittish Coyote.IMG_3538The magnetic bookmarks are also for Kim. They are one of the first real Pinterest-inspired DIY projects I’ve made. Look, I made a floral set!fullsizeoutput_186aOf course, I made myself some, too!IMG_3543fullsizeoutput_191f.jpeg(Featuring Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and my bullet journal!)

I think I have fallen madly in love with washi tape.fullsizeoutput_186c(There might be more coming in the mail.)fullsizeoutput_186d(There is.)

As for the wine, I decided to try Barefoot wine for the first time as my New Year’s “toast.”

I tried the little mini bottles of Sweet Red Blend and Red Moscato. They’re both okay. I’m no wine connoisseur, so I don’t have much commentary there, other than this: The Sweet Red tasted better (read: sweeter) than it smelled, and the moscato threw me for a loop on the first sip before finally growing on me. I’ll probably stick with my Oliver Soft Red, though.

Cheers!

New, again.

IMG_3370The gap between Christmas and the new year is always an interesting time. It is the lull after all the frantic holiday preparations—despite attempts at serenity—and before things return to “normal” with a whole new calendar.IMG_3299I like it…IMG_3442…mainly because school is still out, but the stress of the holidays is subsiding. But also, as I imagine most people do, I find it a time of both reflection and looking forward.IMG_3320Looking back on 2017, it is hard for me to put a finger on any one thing, any one feeling or event that defined it. I started out bitter and angry, and from that, this blog was born. Then in the spring, I found renewal and energy. I reacquainted myself with dyeing fiber and opened the Etsy shop. I introduced myself to embroidery. I worked almost maniacally churning out fiber goods, and then, the school year started.IMG_3360Being a teacher this year has been a whirlwind. During the first half of this calendar year—the second half of last school year—I became detached from the workday, which had become an existential drain on my psyche. That was a positive move. But when the new school year came around, I allowed it to require so much more of me. Yes, it was by choice. I began the year not detached, but invested. I went all in. And once you go all in with anything, backing off isn’t easy. And once you go all in with teaching, there is very little time for anything else.fullsizeoutput_183bSo the creativity and making—that which defined my springtime recovery—all but ceased.IMG_3361I did read a few books. These three very different ones come to mind: Stephen King’s IT, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, and Lindy West’s Shrill.IMG_3279Also, I did a little making in the form of these hats and mittens to donate.

(I know the hats are mostly not identifiable as such. I barely took progress pictures, much less ones of the final product.)IMG_3252IMG_3276IMG_2554fullsizeoutput_1839IMG_3388And then, when Christmas break snuck up on me, I threw myself into handmade Christmas presents.IMG_3414Felted coasters for my sister.fullsizeoutput_181bfullsizeoutput_181cHandwarmers for several.fullsizeoutput_1823fullsizeoutput_1818Woven scarf for my littlest niece.fullsizeoutput_1825fullsizeoutput_1824fullsizeoutput_181aCrocheted hats for my dad and brother-in-law.fullsizeoutput_180eCoffee cozies for my mom.fullsizeoutput_1802fullsizeoutput_1808fullsizeoutput_180cJumbo knitted blanket for my husband.fullsizeoutput_1863.jpegThen I found a new fun thing to do: LEGOS!fullsizeoutput_1812IMG_3519fullsizeoutput_180bAnd lastly, I’m going to try keeping a bullet journal in the new year. I’ve enjoyed setting it up over the past few days.fullsizeoutput_1811fullsizeoutput_180fIMG_3525See you in the new year!

One-inch picture frame.

I’ve been trying to do little.

This isn’t necessarily laziness, but rather productivity in small amounts.

Doing too much of any one thing or too many things at once wears on my brain these days.

In Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird by Bird, she talks about her one-inch picture frame, the one she keeps on her desk to remind her that she doesn’t have to tackle the entirety of a writing project all at once. She can just focus on one small area, accomplish one small task. Right now, that’s all she has to do. And then, she can focus on another tiny corner of the big picture. Eventually, inch by inch, it all adds up.

I love Anne Lamott.

Her advice here applies to more than just writing projects, of course.

Daunting things, like this school year that’s about to start in T-minus-thirty-seconds, can much more easily approached a little at a time.

This snippet of wisdom, the one-inch picture frame, is not entirely novel advice. It’s akin to the proverbial one-bite-at-a-time elephant and the old line about breaking large tasks into smaller chunks.

But for my brain, which tries to do everything at once, this worldview the size of a postage stamp is helpful. It sets up blinders so that I can’t even see the rest of the elephant. The picture from does away with the idea of a large task.

There’s nothing but this one stitch. This one word. This one breath.

This one inch.

That, I can handle.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been stitching small lately, giving myself no more space than a square inch to stitch words and pictures into fabric.


I like the challenge of designing something that has to fit within a grid of just a few stitches.

And I like the freedom to forget everything else, except the one little block of space my creativity occupies for the moment.

Getting centered.

Literally and figuratively. Centering my cross stitch pieces and finding emotional and mental calm.

Let’s start with that second one.

(Click here to jump directly to the cross stitch centering tutorial.)

•••

You may be familiar with Julia Cameron and her iconic book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. If you’re not, it’s just as hippy-dippy as it sounds, which is probably why I enjoyed it.

When I was at my first MFA creative writing residency in 2012, both my mentor and a classmate recommended Cameron’s book to me as a way to let myself write more freely, without thinking so much. See, the book takes the reader through a series of activities to help unlock creative energies, and one of the main components of the process is Morning Pages.

Morning Pages are simply three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling meant to clear the mind—or unearth ideas that were previously hidden under the rubble of uptight thought—ideally written early in the day before worries and obligations take over. The pages aren’t supposed to be shared or published. Instead, they have a throw-away quality that lowers the stakes so the writer can babble on without worrying what anyone else will think.

(The Artist’s Way isn’t just for writers. It’s for anyone wishing to live a more creative life. It just so happens that part of that discovery process, according to Cameron, relies on writing through one’s thoughts.)

In short, the purpose of Morning Pages is to get past perfection.

To get past self-consciousness and inhibition in order to make messes, out of which personal revelations and innovative ideas are born.

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