Thursday, January 29, 2015

Butterfly in Waiting

I bought this coffee mug while my novel was on submission with publishers.  As I've written about here it was an agonizing process.

I love this mug.  You see, I'm a "The World is Ending" type of person.  It's difficult for me to see the butterfly waiting inside of the caterpillar.  Ok, let me amend that.  I see butterflies in other people all the time.  Just not myself.

The mug reminds me that somewhere deep inside of me is a butterfly too.

My daughter, Gabrielle, is all butterfly.  (Or bubbala as she calls them.)  She has only been with us since March.  Almost a year.

We met her in a hotel room at 8:30 pm.  We had just flown into Jinan from Zhengzhou.  She was already at the hotel when we arrived.

She was almost four years old and had never been outside.  That's right.  She had spent her entire life indoors.

It was a day of firsts for her.  First time outside.  First time seeing westerners.  First time she had been parted from her caregivers.

She was in shock.  She shut down completely.

When she finally did emerge, she choked us.  Told Steve she would "beat him until he died".  Spit on us.  Screamed and cried.  She lined up the dolls we brought her and hit them in the face.

Fast forward to this morning.

She decided she was a princess today and needed to dress the part.  She has preschool this morning, but that didn't dictate her fashion choice.  She went into her closet and pulled out one of her (many) princess dresses.

She is not shy about her "princessness".  It seems innate with her.   We are a jeans and t-shirt kind of family.  I can't remember the last time I put on a dress.  But Gabrielle emerged from her cocoon a full-fledged princess.  It's simply a part of who she is.

And she lets that part out.

I think this is where we often fail.  We remain in our safe cocoon, afraid that we will always be a caterpillar.  No butterflies here.

But that's not true.  The butterfly is there.  It's just hidden in the cocoon, afraid to emerge.

This morning, Gabrielle reminded me (along with my trusty coffee mug) to let my butterfly out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embracing the Wildness

I loosely spiral plyed this yarn.
There's a wildness in my life that I've been fighting.  You see, I wanted a nice, orderly life.  A quiet life.  One where stress never walked through the front door because I had everything beautifully under control.

I hear you laughing now.

My struggle to contain the chaos in my life is exhausting.  Even worse, it has robbed me of joy.  It was difficult to enjoy my kids.  Difficult to write.

Recently, I started handspinning yarn.   I bought a Louet S10 spinning wheel off of ebay and got started.  I learned to make beautiful, smooth, even yarn.  And I loved it.

Then, I found Art Yarn.

Art yarn is all about texture.  It's about learning the traditional rules for spinning and then letting the wildness in.

And that's where beauty happens.

Crazy coils! 
You get these lumps and bumps.  Wild strands of mohair.  Textures and twists that just don't happen in traditional yarn.  In order for the beauty to happen, you have to let go.  You have to embrace the bumps.

When I look back at my life, it's been the unexpected parts that have brought me the most joy.  The things I didn't plan for or try to control.

The parts that are the most beautiful are also the parts that were stressful.  Chaotic.  Wild.

Life is not a smooth ride.  It's bumpy and lumpy.  Full of texture.  Full of unexpected chaos and joy.

From now on, I plan to embrace the wildness in my life.  And when this wild ride is over, I bet that the crazy, texture-full moments will be the ones that brought me the most joy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dreams of Grace

I have been dreaming of Grace.

Recently, Grace has started making a new noise.  It's sort of an, "Un, un, un."  She does it non-stop.  I mean All The Time.

For those of you who don't know, Grace is my ten-year-old daughter.  She is nonverbal.  The sound that she's started making recently is the closest she has come to speaking.  During the day, she follows me around saying, "Un, un, un."  When she does this I joke and say that Gracie has found her voice.
Gracie laughing as I sing to her this morning

I probably shouldn't admit this, but after hours of "Un, un, un," the nonstop noise drives me nuts.

Something must be working on my subconscious though, because in my dreams, she speaks.  And I'm so happy.  Tears of joy happy.  In my dreams she says, "Hi Mom.  I love you."

The dream either ends that way, or it changes in the way dreams do and I find out that someone was playing a cruel joke and she wasn't really talking.  I wake from those dreams crushed.

I thought I had processed all of my grief over Grace's inability to speak.  Like most things in life though, it's an ongoing process.

This morning, as we waited for the bus, I sang to her.  Grace loves music.  And she loves to hear her name.  So I change song lyrics to include her name.  She laughs when I do it.  Big belly laughs.  And I can't help but smile when I hear her voice.

In those moments, it doesn't matter that she can't form the actual words.  In her laugh, I hear the words she can't say: "Hi Mom.  I love you."

I love you too, Gracie.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Days and Missed Opportunities

The phone rang at 5:30 this morning.  Snow Day.  There's a dusting of snow on the ground, so all but one of the kids are off school.  (My oldest son only had an hour delay.  He was Not Happy.)   The other five kids were thrilled.  Snow Day!  No School!  
I remember that feeling.  Waking up to an unexpected off day.  A blessing you weren't expecting.  Even the dogs were excited.  When I let them outside this morning, they bounded through the snow, sticking their nose in it.  Breathing in the crisp scent.  Tasting the clean cold.  

 Pretty much the only person who wasn't happy was me.  I had Plans today.  I planned to get everyone off to school and then sit down in front of my computer and work.  I'm behind on the second book and the edits for Book 1 will arrive any day.  Writing with the kids home doesn't work.  They are Always Talking.  They are Loud.  They are Excited that school is cancelled.

All I can see is an entire day of work down the drain.

I don't want to look at things this way.  I know each day with my kids is a gift.  One I should cherish, because one day, I will be gone--or they will.  Life's surprises aren't always Snow Day good.  Living with Crohn's Disease has taught me that.

But like my mother before me, I struggle (a lot) with anxiety and depression which makes living in the moment (and appreciating the unexpected gift of a full day with my kids) difficult.  Instead of smiling at the snow with them, I worry that I will fall even more behind.  That worry snowballs into never getting paid, losing the house, and my kids living out of our car.

Ridiculous, I know.  Yet I can't stop this brain loop.  It's endless.  And it's been getting worse recently.  I'm at the point where sometimes, I can barely function.  

But I'm trying.  This blog entry is my attempt to remind myself that I don't need to hold the world together.  I can relax and enjoy an unexpected day with my kids.

We don't talk about anxiety and depression, and I'm not sure why.  I have no problem sharing my struggles with Crohn's, yet I worry that if I admit that I struggle Every Day with anxiety and a depression so deep I feel like I'm drowning, that people will see me as weak.  As a failure.

I need to face this down.

You might have noticed that the focus of my blog has changed recently.  I'm talking less about writing and more about the small things that bring me joy -- like knitting and spinning.  This is deliberate.  I need to learn to appreciate the moment.  To live mindfully.  And to do that, I need to focus more on the beautiful things in my life.  The small things that make me happy.

In doing so, I hope to learn to enjoy (and even embrace) the Snow Days in my life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What's On the Needles?

A few days ago, I found this pattern for FREE on Craftsy.  That's right, free!  (Who doesn't love that?)  It's called Easy As Pie, and let me tell you, it is.  I've been on a lace knitting kick and I had a gray and white skein of Interlacements yarn in my stash.  I lost the label, but if I'm remembering correctly, it's called Spiderweb.  It's a gorgeous blend of light grays and white, and it really does look like a spider web, especially when combined with the Easy As Pie pattern.   

It's just a series of yarn overs combined with ssk (slip slip knit) & k2tog (knit 2 together).  The pattern is only worked on the right side which means the wrong side is just basic knitting and purling.  So.  Easy.  But the outcome is gorgeous.  I've only been working on it for a day and already I have a nice bit of fabric and the design is really showing!  If you're new to lace knitting, this pattern is a great place to start!

Finally, a word about Craftsy.  I LOVE this site.  I love learning new things, but between writing and parenting six kids, I don't have time to go out and take a class.  Before life got so busy, I used to take classes from an art college in Cincinnati.  My schedule is a bit unpredictable now (meaning I can't leave the house without a child or two -- or six -- clinging to me!) but Craftsy allows me to take classes on line whenever I have time.  It's the perfect platform for someone like me who wants to learn, but can't necessarily keep a predictable schedule.  Give it a shot if you want to try something new.  It's not expensive and it doesn't take a lot of time--my 2 prerequisites!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tutorial - How to Use a Blending Board to Make Rolags

I recently bought a Fancy Kitty Blending Board, and I love it!  In this video, I show you how to use it to make rolags.  Rolags are a way of preparing your fiber before spinning.  This preparation is great for woolen spinning.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Big is Your Shadow?

This is Percy.  He's my writing buddy, my gardening pal, and my blanket warmer.  I love this little guy.  Last year, I was at Petsmart getting food for my other two dogs and there was Percy.  He was this odd-looking little dog in a crate, and everyone passed him by.  (My husband says that's because Percy "fell off of the ugly tree", but obviously, my husband is blind.  Percy's adorable!)  

I talked with the woman in charge of the rescue organization, and she said he had been at Petsmart for several weeks, but no one stopped for him.  (Sad face here.)  It was love at first sight.  He was mine.  I was his.  I called the husband and cajoled him into yet another dog.  Percy came home with us that day, and he's been my shadow ever since.  

The first few months Percy was with us, he didn't make a sound.  My other dogs are wild.  When the mail truck or the UPS van would drive past, they would Freak Out.  Barking.  Jumping.  General Craziness until they had "rescued" us from the UPS man.  

Not Percy.  

He'd sit quietly shaking beside me.  

Fast forward to last night.  I was taking the dogs out one last time.  I had the two big dogs leashed and ready to go, when three large deer ran across the street.  Percy saw them and shot out of the house, barking like crazy.  He ran down the street after the deer.  (I wasn't worried.  Percy has a very good recall.)  My two oldest kids were with me, and I had them hold the big dogs while I called Percy.  

Percy had chased the deer into the woods a few houses down.  As soon as I called him, he herded the deer back across the street and then came bounding back to me.  He looked like a jack rabbit jumping through the grass.  

My kids were laughing as Percy returned.  He is after all, only 14 pounds.  But all I could think of was here was this little guy (emphasis on Little) who just a year and a half ago was too scared to even bark.  Now, he's not only found his voice, but he's not afraid to chase three large deer through the neighborhood.

He doesn't see himself as small.  Instead, he sees himself like the shadow he's cast in the above picture--much bigger than he really is.

It makes me wonder how we see ourselves?  I know too often I feel small and inconsequential, but I think that we are all more like Percy than we realize.  We all cast long shadows.  We just fail to realize it.  As a result, we fail to chase after things that excite us.  We settle for living small lives.

I don't think we have to do this.  I think we all have the capacity to be as big as Percy.  I think we can all find our passion and chase after it.  Even if it's three-deer big.

Dealing with stress while writing and parenting.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Conflict in Fiction

In this newest video, I talk about the different types of conflict in fiction.