Notes from the Sick Couch

I am trying hard to transition off the couch and back to the desk (my big goal for today: last for a full day at the office). I spent three solid sick days at home, on the couch, in my jammies and sheep socks:

It was cozy, but it was less fun than it sounds, primarily because I was too sick to knit.

On the fourth day (which was actually day seven of being sick), I switched from sheep socks to a sheep scarf and tried to go to work:

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I lasted for about three hours before I realized that where I actually needed to be was Urgent Care, where I was promptly (well, not promptly – there was a long wait involved before the doctor gave his prompt verdict) diagnosed with a sinus infection and prescribed antibiotics.

I’m still feeling rough, but at least I’m vertical and less dizzy than I was, and my voice is coming back, and my sinuses hurt marginally less today than they did yesterday. I’m hopeful that not only will I last all day at work, but that I’ll feel like knitting for a few minutes (or more!) tonight.

In the meantime, I now have a whole lot of new shows to love and/or explore. If you are sick, or if you just want to hunker down on winter nights with the TV, here are a few you might to add to your queue.

  • I did watch all of Making a Murdererand would definitely heartily recommend it; it is very well-done and completely captivating and also thoroughly maddening.
  • Then I stumbled onto a Netflix show I’d somehow missed hearing anything about: Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston. I’m only two episodes in, but it’s pretty cute (if a little too sitcom-y for my usual tastes). It’s very fun to see these four actors (now all in their 70s) in a comedy together.
  • I also finished Master of None, which I had started watching before Christmas. I think it’s completely brilliant.
  • And then, after more than one friend suggested it, I started Mozart in the Jungle, and it is FANTASTIC. My husband isn’t quite as entranced with it as I am – the fact that the conductors and musicians don’t actually seem to know how to conduct or play their instruments is a huge stumbling block for him. I completely ignore that fact and find it a thoroughly charming show.

In addition to these four shows, (all of which are on Netflix), I received some other really great suggestions in my comments section here, as well as on my Facebook page (including Jessica Jones, Happy Endings, Continuum, The Bletchley Circle, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Longmire, and Foyle’s War).

There’s enough there to last me several illnesses, but I am very, very hopeful that I will soon see the end of sickness for awhile. And as soon as I feel close to normal, I am hitting the reset button on this new year!

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On the 9th Day of Christmas … I Collapsed

Thank you for your very kind words on my post yesterday. I’d planned to come back today and actually talk crafting, as well as do some crafting, as well as take the Christmas tree down, as well as make some progress on my doctoral project (one of my goals for 2016), as well as many, many other things. Instead, I am collapsed on the couch. I’ve been sick the last few days but seem to be much worse today, so I guess I’ll just sit here and catch up on my Netflix queue. (Making a Murderer, coming right up!) 

 

I’m wearing new jammies and sheep socks I got for Christmas. I’ve got orange juice, chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, and tissues at the ready. I’ve got knitting nearby in case I feel like picking up the needles (right now that feels doubtful). And I’ve got a dog to cuddle with. What am I missing? What do you find most comforting when you’re ill? And what shows or podcasts might you recommend if this lasts longer than a day or so?

Hello, New Year

I see your hope and optimism, your big dreams and courageous goals. I see your positive thinking, your ambition, your resolved commitment. This is going to be your year – for happiness, for financial security, for physical fitness, for love. I see you wishing all the best for the year ahead, for friends, for family, for strangers. I see it all, and I cheer you on, and I hope all good things for you, and for everyone.
As for me, I’m stepping through this threshold a little more cautiously this year.

Christmas, without my mom, was difficult but not as overwhelmingly painful as I’d feared. Then my aunt died that afternoon, and that brought fresh grief for my whole family. But the funeral, the time with family, the holiday gift-giving and celebrating – all of it was sweet. And my mom’s absence was so large that, in a way, it felt like its own presence. She was everywhere I looked. She loved Christmas and was an extravagant gift-giver, and I saw her in everything we did.

The turn into the new year has been more difficult. I didn’t expect it, quite honestly. I was braced for the grief of Thanskgiving and Christmas, but not this. Part of it is the flood of memories of New Years Eve past, which we always celebrate with my parents. But more than that, I think, is the sense of how hard and strange it feels to be entering a new year without my mom. It’s like the turning of the calendar is taking me further away from her. What’s more, I am daunted by the realization that the new year may hold more unexpected losses and unforeseen grief. This time last year, I had no idea how hard 2015 would be, and how many losses it would contain. 

This is not to say that I don’t have my own big dreams and deep hopes for the coming year, because I definitely do. It’s just that I’m entering this year from a more tender, more vulnerable place than before. I’m more aware of my own fragility, of the fragility of everyone, of everything. This means I’m starting 2016 with less a sense of steely determination and more a sense of a soft heart. This feels like a good thing (even though it’s a hard thing), because it is giving me clarity about what really matters, about what lasts and what doesn’t, about what to hold lightly and what to embrace fiercely. And it is leading me to a more profound desire for real relationships, authentic selfhood, and a daily commitment to kindness and gentleness and compassion. 

I am writing this on my phone, from the road, which feels appropriate. Because I am on a journey – we all are – and even the best parts of it will pass. So will the hardest parts. I don’t know everywhere this road will lead, but I have a better sense of the kind of person I want to be as I travel. And I have a clarified commitment to be kind to fellow travelers.

It could be that you, too, start this year from a place that doesn’t feel entirely celebrative or optimistic or determined. If so – I see you, too. I see you, and I hope you will be gentle with yourself, and kind. 

In the meantime, whether you are in a happy place or hard one, Louie would like to cheer you on:

  
Happy New Year, dear readers. (I’ll be back soon with crafting!)

A thing I used to do quite a bit (Vinyasa yoga)

uttanasana - forward fold

uttanasana – forward fold

Several things in my life seem to have shifted over the last year or so, and that includes in the realm of physical activity. For a number of years, I considered “runner” part of my core identity. Even when I was injured and couldn’t run, I still thought of myself as a runner and was steadily rehabbing to make my way back. Last winter, when I discovered I was dealing with a particularly persistent injury, I decided to take a different approach, and, in the words of everyone’s favorite Frozen song, let it go.

I’m not saying I’m never going to run again and I’m not saying I’m not going to be a runner again, I’m just saying that I decided to quit holding onto that desire/hope/identity/wish/reality so hard. I chose to see my injury as an invitation, an opportunity to step into a different way of being and see what came of it. Some day soonish, I’ll talk more about this, including telling you more about what I’ve been doing instead.

In the meantime, there is this. I had something happen this weekend that served as another new invitation, and, unlike an injury, it was totally welcome – and exciting. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I spied this pic in Lolly’s feed:

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I was immediately captivated and totally IN. I used to have a regular practice of Vinyasa yoga at a local studio here in Ann Arbor. I love the studio and love my teacher, but I got to a point, work-wise and life-wise, where I just couldn’t fit in classes anymore. I thought maybe I could keep up on my own, but I haven’t. At this point, it’s been about a year and a half since I have practiced. But it is calling to me now, and seems an especially good thing to supplement my other current physical practices (as well as my other spiritual practices). This challenge seems a perfect opportunity to bring yoga back into my life. I love that the focus of the challenge is on alignment. I love the gentle direction of the hosts. I love the push to just practice yoga wherever, whenever, and however I can fit it into my sometimes-chaotic life.

This is a picture I took a little more than six years ago, practicing Balasana, or Child’s Pose.

Yoga Baby

This weekend, I feel like a beginner again, at least when it comes to yoga. I am embracing my beginner identity, settling into my child’s pose, and prepared to see where this daily practice takes me.

I don’t expect I’ll be posting much about this over here on the blog, but if you’d like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram as earthchicknits – and join in, if you’re interested!

p.s. If anyone wants to recommend some great yoga leggings or pants, I’m interested! All my yoga gear is feeling kind of old and outdated. I have a fat gift card from Amazon waiting to be spent, so if I can purchase them there, all the better. But I’m not limited to that, so hit me with your best recommendations!

 

Advise me :: knitting for travels in a developing country

People! I’m sorry for my radio silence! This month has been a flurry of activity – traveling, getting ready for traveling, holding down the fort while my husband has been traveling – wash, rinse, repeat. It has been intense. And very little knitting has been done (but oh do I have something fun to show and an amazing story to tell related to it).

In 24 hours – 24 HOURS! – I am leaving for 10 days in Nicaragua, where I will be leading a team of 11 teenagers and 8 other adults on a mission trip, installing water filters in a rural village, working with a youth empowerment project, and helping with children’s health and hygiene education. It is going to be AMAZING, and I am so excited. We have been planning and preparing for this trip for more than a year, and it’s hard to believe it’s finally time to go!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

I am basically all packed (a minor miracle!) except for two major details: what reading to bring, and what knitting to bring. I don’t expect to do my usual daily knitting (getting up early to spend a quiet hour with the needles and unwinding at night with a little TV and fiber). But I will have plenty of travel time for knitting. Several hours of flying and hanging out in airports tomorrow and on our return, as well as a good number of hours on buses and trucks once we’re there.

Here are the parameters:

  1. I want to bring only one project (or one type of project – i.e., not multiple needles sizes or multiple balls of yarn).
  2. It needs to be something I can knit without having much of a pattern in front of me (like, if I can write down the directions on an index card or in my notebook, that would be fine; even better is if I don’t need to refer to a pattern at all).
  3. It needs to be something that’s not too precious, in case I lose it or it gets dirty or otherwise ruined.
  4. It needs to be relatively small (i.e., packable and not too bulky).

So, if it were you, what would you bring? I know socks is probably a no-brainer, but I’m not feeling that. I’m sort of thinking shawl (unsurprising, I’m sure), but it would need to be something that would take minimal concentration (i.e., not much of a lace pattern). I’ve also thought maybe baby hats that I could leave in the country (if I do that, what’s your favorite simple, easy-to-memorize, baby hat pattern?).

Thoughts?

(And if anyone wants to suggest what kind of reading I might want to bring on the trip, that would be great, too! I’m leaving my iPad and Kindle at home, so it needs to be an actual book. I’m still working my way through A Dance with Dragons but thinking a 1000-page hardcover book isn’t ideal for my travels….)

My New Year’s Whimsolutions

I know that the whole idea behind New Year’s resolutions is self-improvement, but I’ve always wanted to read a resolutions list that included fun or decadent commitments that had nothing to do with whipping the self into better fiscal/physical/mental/relational shape. Things like, “drink more wine,” or “play more laser tag,” or “eat good chocolate.”

This year, I decided to make that kind of fun list myself. I still have my same old list of self-improvement resolutions, of course, and it is remarkably the same from year to year (sad but true). But this year, I decided to make a more whimsical list, too. A list of “whimsolutions,” if you will. And here it is.

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my actual writing, via the Penultimate app
(perhaps another resolution should be “better penmanship”)

1. Wear false eyelashes. I mean, c’mon! What’s not fun about that?
makeup :: eyes

I’ve played around with these a little bit in the past, mostly for Halloween costumes, and it’s always super-fun. My normal eyelashes are light, short, and sparse, so false eyelashes are a very fun change. I’ve been experimenting with individual lashes recently (and not nearly as heavy eye makeup as I’m wearing in this shot). My favorite false eyelashes tutorials are from Lisa Eldridge. (I don’t mean I’ll wear false eyelashes all the time, but I want to play with wearing them more.)

2. Learn to speak elvish

Wait! Before you geek out on me, I know – “elvish” is not itself a language. But it would have sounded much less fun and interesting if I had said I wanted to learn to speak “Sindarin,” right? Anyway, my husband just finished reading The Hobbit to my kids and me, and we’ve also now watched the first Hobbit movie and the first LotR movie, and I think it would be fun to be able to toss around a few phrases in Orlando Bloom’s native tongue. So why not?

3. Play the Wii U

This one really isn’t for me but for my kids, and part of my effort to take myself less seriously and quit thinking I have too much to do all the time. My kids really, really want me to play the Wii with them more. I am not a gamer, and if I’m going to be hanging out on the couch, I would rather be knitting or spinning (i.e., getting stuff done). But my kiddos are only going to want to play games with me for a few more years, so I need to just get over the fact that I don’t understand half of what’s going on in the games (and care very little), and just play already!

4. Watch some hockey

I’m a baseball fan through and through, and I have little to no interest in any other spectator sport (most notably football, about which I agree with George Will – “Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”) Well yeah, hockey is violent, too, which is one of the many reasons I’ve never been interested in it. However, hockey is the one sport at which Detroit pretty much always wins. And after the heartbreaker that was the Tiger’s postseason, I’m ready to see what all the fuss is about. Also, the NHL Winter Classic is being played this afternoon in the Big House, right down the street from the Little House (i.e., my house), and it’s hard not to be excited about something that is such a big deal in my town. So I plan to watch today, at least a little, and root for the Red Wings. I don’t really know anything about hockey – I have truly never watched a single game (where I come from, hockey is just not a thing). But I plan to consult this handy guide for How to enjoy hockey when you really don’t understand hockey. One of my kiddos really wants to watch more Detroit sports of all kinds, and I think it would be fun for the two of us to learn about hockey together.

5. Paint my nails

When I was in my early 20s, one of my professors told a group of us in casual conversation that he could never take a woman with painted fingernails seriously. For some reason, I allowed that bit of ridiculousness to lodge into my psyche in such a way that I quit wearing fingernail polish for more than a decade. I wanted to be taken seriously! It makes me mad to think of how I let his tossed-off comment shape what I did with my own body for years. (I still painted my toenails, always, but never my fingernails).

A few years ago, when I realized how stupid that was, I began to buy nail polish. A lot of it. In fact, over the last few years I have collected a lot of nail polish, and sometimes I wear it. But mostly I don’t feel I have the time to paint my nails and let them dry – I rarely keep my hands still enough for that (as I’ve said above, I am always focused on getting stuff done). Well, that’s ridiculous! That’s me, once again feeling I don’t have time to do something fun and whimsical. And that stops now.
nails :: Meryl

6. Play music

This is meant to encompass both the playing of music on CD, iPod, Pandora, etc. and the playing of music on the piano and guitar. I love music, my family loves music, we all play instruments, and I want us to do more of it together. Every day should have some shared music in it, shouldn’t it?

7. Read more fiction

I read a lot, but I’ve noticed that this year, almost all of my reading has been nonfiction – for school, for work, and for my own edification. In my free time, I read a lot of news, and then my other reading tends to include crafting, cooking, and health/nutrition/fitness. This is all to the good – I love that kind of reading. But I miss fiction and don’t want to just save it for vacation reading. (By the way, if you are a reader and you’re on Goodreads, find me there).

So. That’s my list of whimsolutions, a common theme of which is “take myself less seriously” and “have fun” and “quit thinking I don’t have time to do stuff that doesn’t seem to accomplish anything.”

I hope you have happy goals for this new year, and that 2014 is a year full of good things for you and yours.

In Memory of Tink

On Tuesday night, we began decorating our Christmas tree, and I hung up some of my most special, most prized ornaments:

little crocheted angel

little crocheted angel

I have ten of these incredibly intricate crocheted angels. They are so precious to me not just because they are handmade, but because they were made by someone very dear to me. Leila Claire “Tink” DuVall was a founding member of my first congregation (I am a church pastor) in rural southwest Georgia. It was a small church in a small town, and we were a close-knit little group. Tink lived down the street from our church building, in the nursing home, where she had lived for decades; she was physically-disabled and was in a wheelchair. Every Sunday, she would come down the road in her wheelchair for church.

Tink was a crocheter and a knitter, and I believe she did other handicrafts as well. As you can see, she excelled at the very tiny detail work. She gave these angels to me my last Christmas in Georgia, a week before I moved up here to Ann Arbor. I adore them, and look forward to hanging them on my tree each year. As I hung them up this past Tuesday night, I thought of Tink with gratitude and admiration. I always treasured these angels, but it was only once I learned how to knit and crochet that I truly understood the skill, the work, the time, and the patience involved in making these. There is no way I could ever make one of these angels, let alone ten, let alone the many I know she has made over the years and given away. It truly staggers me to consider.

Last night I got a phone call from Tink’s brother, another person very dear to me. He called to tell me that Tink died on Tuesday, killed when an ambulance that was transporting her to the hospital (due to illness) had a wreck. It is such a shock, and such a loss, and it has weighed on me all day. At the same time, I feel a sense of awe and connection, knowing that on the same day she died, I was thinking of her, touching gifts she had made with her own hands for me years ago, being touched by her life and by her generosity and by the many gifts she gave me and others. I am so grateful to have her legacy gracing our tree, and to have had her life touch mine.