giving thanks

My daughter has a "jar of fun" that she dips into on occasion. Wednesday was a good day for that, since she was home from school and I was home, well, because I'm home now. Today's "card of fun" read: "Bake something to share with neighbors." So she did: peppermint fudge.
There were a few hiccups in the production, but in the end, she had some lovely packages to drop with the neighbors -- and a bit of fudge to share with our family. She loves to bundle things up, so she made the tags and tied the ribbon.
When she knocked on the neighbors' doors, they were a tad skeptical -- was she trying to sell them something? What did she want?
I just want to give you a gift, she said. Thanks for being our neighbors and all.
How's that? Just a gift, no string attached (well, except for those pretty ribbons). That's something to be thankful for.
Thanks to all of you readers as well. Have a lovely holiday.


fine dining

One advantage of being laid-off is that often I can share breakfast with Joe, who works from home. We like to arrange a tasty array of fruit, carbs and protein a la the June Taylor Dancers. We pour some fresh Caffe Verona and open up the newspaper. Sips and crunches are overlaid with "hmmms" and "grrrs" as the victuals and caffeine steadily power our brains. We ponder a story placement or length. We consider a photo. I start reading a story aloud. Joe, patiently, puts down the score sheet and listens, then nods, maybe laughs or snorts, as appropriate. We talk about the story. Then we go back to perusing the paper some more. We look up our horoscope and decide whether it's true or bogus, depending on whether we like the prescribed future.
Joe asks me what my day looks like. I tell him. He ponders, offers an idea. We riff on it until it blooms a bit more. I ask Joe about his plans. He tells me. I offer an idea. We riff on it until it blooms a bit more.
Then we clear away the dish and cups and head to our respective desks to work.
Our breakfast together shapes our ideas and our day.

And it's lots nicer than the granola bar and go-cup on the old morning commute.


say what?

The other day a woman came into the knit shop with a quest. She had a lovely, lacy shawl that her sister had made 50 years ago after their aunt showed her how to knit. This woman had spent countless hours poring over knit pattern books trying to find the pattern so that she could make another. She had taken it to her knit group and everyone had studied it, but couldn't decipher the pattern. Could I help her?
I took the shawl and studied the pattern -- loopy and airy, it looked something like knit, but not quite.
"This is crochet," I told her.
No, no, it's knitted, she insisted. Her sister knitted it.
I selected a ball of yarn similar in weight to the shawl, then found a crochet hook. I began duplicating the pattern.
Another woman who works in the shop came over to study the shawl. "Oh, that's knitted," she said.
"It is knitted," the woman said. "She thinks it's crocheted."
They both looked at me. I held out my crocheted swatch.
They stared, mouths open.
"That's it!" said my fellow shop worker.
"Hmmm," said the shawl woman. She took the swatch and studied it.
"I studied books and books of patterns," she said. "I couldn't find it. My sister said she knitted it."
She was seeking an answer, and she found it.
It just wasn't the answer she expected.


help! i need somebody ...

Hey, it snowed today! These snowflakes are actually vintage flakes, from Denver last winter. The flakes today were elusive -- here & gone.

I'm taking a little break from homework to get a little thing off my mind.
People ask me for help. This is fine -- good, even. I'm all about helping people. But there are two kinds of help I'm not keen on: Resistance to help and theft help (those aren't the best names -- I'm a bit at a loss here. Bear with me.)
The first kind of help has to do with employment advice. Folks ask me to help them find employment (I know, I know -- I'm laid off! Why ask me?). But actually I can help them -- except that right after they ask for help, they tell me all the things they're not interested in doing.
Well, I can't help there. Because my approach is this: If a door is open, walk through it. You don't know what lies through that door, and you can't afford to dismiss it without looking. It's like "Let's Make a Deal," where you have to trade in your winnings for something behind one of three doors -- it might be a bright shiny car or it might be a donkey or some other unsavory thing. Except in this case, if you've been laid off, you have nothing to lose. If there's a donkey on the other side of the door, and your mission in life does not include having a donkey, then you just say, "No, thanks." Nothing lost.
I offer this advice, then step away. I don't have time to persuade people of the advantages of this approach. They can do it or not. They can continue to pursue a dream job that may or may not exist right now, or they can take opportunities that come their way.
Tomorrow (well, today), I am walking through a door that opened. I don't actually have a chance to do the thing behind the door right away, because I have some other commitments. But I didn't say no. I said, "I have some other commitments, so I won't be able to work for you. But I'm really interested in finding out more about what you're doing. Can I come anyway?" And they said yes.
So I'll go and I'll learn and I have every reason to believe that I will gain from the experience. Learn what you can and don't say no. That is the gift of being laid off; you have time to explore. And, for me, maybe later the knowledge that I gain and the people that I meet will become a larger part of my life. And if not, I haven't lost anything but a few hours.
I am, as regular readers of this blog know, working in a yarn shop two days a week. This is a good thing; it is moving me forward in ways I can't explain quite yet. This door opened almost immediately upon my layoff. I walked through it. I have a PhD in literature and rhetoric. I could be doing other things. But this is a thing that moves me forward while allowing me time to pursue other endeavors. And I have learned a lot -- things I can learn only by working in a yarn shop.
And the yarn shop brought me to the other kind of help I'm not willing to give. Someone came in to ask for advice on a pattern I've been working on. I was working on it in the shop, so the person knew I was familiar with it. This pattern does not belong to me; it belongs to the designer who developed it and who sold it to a magazine that now sells it online. It has a trick or two that I'm willing to help a crocheter work through. But it quickly became clear that she wanted me not to tell her how to get past a tricky spot, but to tell her how to do the whole thing. I can't do that. I told her how to get it online, but then she told me why that wouldn't work for her. That was the end of the help I could offer.
Joe and I met with our financial adviser today. She seemed surprised that we weren't more stressed about the fact that I don't have regular employment. Well, here's how it is: We can do our work and be stressed or we can just do our work. Stress is counter-productive. I have my moments (btw, the picture on that post is of the bit of crocheting that I'm talking about above). But they are fleeting. Mostly, I focus on things that are moving me forward, and I have faith that one or all of them will pay off in time.
Faith is good. Nurturing it is the help that people need.


an abundance

Look! Every leaf from every tree all of a sudden between today and yesterday! Whoosh!
That's how it's been with me and job possibilities. They are raining upon me. It is an abundance and makes me want to dance about -- though the ground is slippery and I have to watch that I don't take a tumble. My original post-layoff plans are still simmering as well, and I'm still taking that bird-by-bird approach.
There is one job that I especially would like to do -- it promises to be engaging and challenging and employ many of the things that I love to do, as well as allowing me to learn new things. And lest you think it's all about me, I feel I can do good things for both the company and its consumers. The job is kin to this :

an autumn rose blooming amid the tumbling leaves. And I'm ready to plunge right into it..

or maybe this metaphor is better:

(and, yes, I took all but the rose picture today -- crazy nature. I took the rose picture Wednesday, but it's still blooming ...)


not my type

I met a buyout buddy last week for lunch, to talk over life after being laid off. He was about to head out for the last-day canvassing before the election. After Tuesday, though, he was taking a break from the newspaper. He's found that he's still too wrapped up in it -- he cares what's happening with it, and it stresses him. So he's taking a break until he can read it without caring about the story behind the story.
I'm having the same issues. I can see the nips and tucks and desperate measures playing out on the pages. I can see work that is undone or overdone. I can see typos and missteps and odd judgment calls. It's hard not to care, after all those years.
It is part of the newspaper's job to engage readers, to make them shout at the page, write letters to the editor, engage in a dialog.
That's not what's happening with us. We care too much about the type itself on the page, how it got there, why it is where it is.
We need to let go. This is probably some step in the grieving/ recovery process. We need to fully separate. Then maybe we can engage again, on a different level.


having a ball

Hey, look at that! I had to make three lame things before I made that (ok, technically speaking, I didn't have to make three lame things before I made that -- it just happened that way.) This is a clear ornament wrapped in sparkly yarn crocheted into a lacy snowflake pattern. I made it up -- not the concept, just this particular wrap. There are books of crocheted ornament covers -- many in questionable colors (think royal blue and that yellow that appliances used to come in). I wanted a pretty simple, pretty dazzling design, one that I could teach to others who have minimal crochet experience.
It takes a while to develop something simple. I kept trying to get to the end before it was ready. Finally, I let it ease into itself, stretching around the glass. Once, I let it go too far, and I had to ratchet it back again. Easy-like, of course. That's real glass.
And then, it was done. Fits perfectly, like I'd planned it that way. So what if the most interesting part is on the bottom. So what if I have little kinks in my back -- kind of like those little chains in the crochet. It's something I've been meaning to do and it's done. And tomorrow I might just do another.


swap city

This was today's main activity -- out with the old, in with the new. You'll find some more details here.
And frankly, it's left me tuckered. More anon.



The changing of the leaves has brought me to ponder this turning of the season in my own life (what? you think I should take up Hallmark-card writing?) But really, how can one avoid thinking about it? We are upon a brand new political season, one that promises hope after a long, hard winter -- though there will necessarily be some turning of leaves there as well. It will be a while before spring arrives.
A friend sent an essay on Autumn from "Let Your Life Speak" by Parker Palmer, who writes: "In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time -- how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the 'road closed' sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown."
Yes, all that -- and the aching beauty of dying in the dye of the leaves leaving.


casting on

So, today at the knit shop someone came in for help getting her scarf started again. She had end-stitch issues that resulted in a snarly mess of something that wasn't a scarf. So we started over. And for the life of me, I could not remember how to cast on. I was completely baffled by it. I knew there was a way to loop the yarn onto the needle. I'd done it a million times. But it wasn't happening. Fortunately, a customer was on hand to take over. She showed the long-tail method, with a little ditty involving going around and behind and through the hole. It worked for both teacher and student. As for me, I can't even recall the ditty right now.
This is what happens when the mind is dazzled by details. Basic information goes out some other hole.
The shop is very busy. In the past couple of days, several people have left a lot of money at the store, in exchange for balls and skeins of lovely, sparkly, fun fiber. Hardly any practical stuff. Some are for presents. Some are presents for the knitter herself (we had one fellow come in -- he was looking for a copy of "Naughty Knits" for his girlfriend). Several have come in to learn to knit (don't ask me! I can't even cast on!), several to relearn after several years away from the craft. The slumping economy is not evident in the knit shop. Some are openly celebrating the election with good gifts for themselves and others. At least one was wallowing in perimenopausal self-nurturing (we support this, keeping the AC low and the mood high). A blind woman came in to see what bright colors she could gather, to make hats to donate to others.
All good. All dazzling. All a new kind of challenge, staying up & alert for eight hours.
So some things slip through the hole. They come back.
I remembered, later, how to cast on. And I cast on 100 stitches to start a new project. The picture there does it no justice -- it's babykid mohair in a lovely moss green. I have 58.5 inches to go.



Like that thing? It's cool.
I had to do & redo it three times. I'm OK with that.
Yesterday, I would not have been OK with that. Yesterday, even the ding of incoming mail was enough to set me off. Today, not so much.
Stress is the collision of expectation with reality. Yesterday, I expected to be able to do a set amount of work in a given time. And the reality was that the time had to be spent differently. It took me a little while to recover from the collision and adapt to reality. Once I did, life was better.
And today, I was able to do that work. And I was able to do and redo this thing three times.
And did I say: I'm OK with that.


write now

I find I get crabby if I go a day without writing. I've been doing a lot of thinking, but two days at the knit shop, followed by a day of frolicking with the children, kept me from sitting down and actually writing. And, now that I'm here, I find that there's not much to share writing-wise. I had to abandon my fiction-writing plans for a time and my nonfiction is off-blog right now.
Much of my work this week was meetings to set up ventures. This is good. But it's not writing.
Here we go: Let me write to you about a remarkable woman named Karolyn Cleveland. I went to her memorial service on Wednesday. She was 97 and sharp as a tack -- sharper. She was felled by pneumonia which came quite suddenly and took her very quickly.
Karolyn called me last year, to talk crafts. I met her at her new home, a graduated-care facility. She had her own apartment. Her son, who had had an aneurysm, was in skilled nursing at the same facility. Her daughter-in-law, who also had had an aneurysm, was in assisted care. Karolyn visited both daily. She made sure that her friends got out of their rooms at least once a day. She logged miles down the hallways each day. She reminded younger friends of things they let slip -- not by telling them the correct answer, but by encouraging them to stretch their own memories to come up with the answer.
Karolyn drove a car into her 80s. But when her grandson totaled her car, she decided she didn't need to replace it.
When a fiber friend of mine moved to the same facility, I told her to be sure to look up Karolyn Cleveland. My friend moved in on Monday, and Karolyn introduced herself to her on Tuesday. They enjoyed several fine adventures during the few months they were friends.
Karolyn and I had some good conversations about knitting and about charity crafting. She told me once that the folks around her had amazing stories -- but too often she didn't learn them until after they died. Here is the amazing story of Karolyn Meyer Cleveland's life. And here is another.
Thank you, Karolyn, for sharing yourself with me. I'm sorry we didn't have that last conversation. I'll catch up with you later.