Friday, May 27, 2016

A Bobbin A Day

While I'm avoiding hills, stairs, and ladders, I am able to walk on flat surfaces which is perfect since the paths along the lake are - relatively speaking - flat and there are several of them so I can alter the route day-to-day. The sky was...

... absolutely gorgeous on Monday when I took these pictures near the park. Along the pier, there are LOTS of bird watching tourists coming from places international and setting up their large telescopes and cameras. It's quite the scene. And interesting even though I'm not a bird watcher although I did take...

... this picture of a mother and baby ducks for my oldest grandson. When I talked to him Wednesday night, he wanted to see more and then he decided he should come to Grandma's house and see them. YES YES - that means he had a good time when he was here and that's good news since I want my family to enjoy spending time together.


Christine Houghton, above left, and Tracey Kutscheker, above right, are two of my favourite artists. I love the free form, organic feel of their pieces. If I were to paint paintings, it would be in this style and the pictures that I took of the lake would be perfect as starting points... only I'm not quite ready for paint on canvas although I did...

... experiment with paint on cardboard. These "cuffs" started life as the inner core of yarn. A friend cut them into varying widths that I covered with a sealer and then layers of paint. I kept working the layers until they looked like something. They're only okay but as a back door to trick my artist into moving in a new direction, it worked wonderfully. After two days of working with paint, I missed fabric terribly and now I'm exploring covering the cores with fabric.

Above is a pin created by my coach, Diane Ericson. It illustrates the collages she builds that are a combination of found objects, structure, softness, and versatility. The pin could be worn as a brooch or attached to a cuff bracelet or necklace. That combination of structure and softness is something I'm working toward in my own pieces. I'm glad to have this artistic inspiration to work from. Being exposed to the work of another artist is a wonderful opportunity to develop and evolve my own work - not in a copy-that-exactly kind of way but an aim-in-the-direction-of-the-essence kind of way.

One of the books I read recently talked about chunking and described chunks as similar to the letters of language. Alone each letter is not that useful but combined into words they're more communicative and when those words becomes sentence and paragraphs, the possibilities increase. The author referred to chunking as breaking down the objective into the smallest of bits - letters - and then working at each "letter" to perfect your ability to execute them before combining them into fuller expressions like words. I've read a lot about goal setting and about breaking larger goals into smaller objectives and yet I found that analogy quite encouraging. I realized my "chunks" were too big and I needed to work even smaller.

The last time Diane and I talked, I mentioned my frustration with the fact that I hadn't really done much in the past year and she said hold on just a minute.... I love that Diane keeps me grounded just as she also helps me stretch. It's a good balance. I did go back and read May 2015's blog postings though and it seems May last year was rather productive. Interesting. I always thought January and February were my best months.


This time last year, I felt the tingle of pending change which turned out to be my move. I feel it again now only I know it's not about moving. I'm here and happy. I think it's possibly about digging into my art in a more concentrated manner. I haven't worked on a major project in a really long time which is totally understandable with how busy last year was... and moving... and falling... and healing... and... and... and... however, it feels like now might be the right time for a major project.

It's possible that it's something like writing a book, or developing a workshop, or putting together an exhibit. Since these are familiar, they come to mind easily but I don't really know. It could be something else entirely. Time will tell and it'll be interesting to see what unfolds as I walk in that direction and keep my eyes and ears open for the next step on what I call my path of joy and abundance.

I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic and it's FABULOUS. The author is seven years younger than me but she arrived at some absolutely fantastic conclusions much faster than I did. Perhaps it's because at a young age she made a vow to never require her writing to pay the bills and a vow to write no matter what. While I've always been creative, I certainly got sucked into trying to make a living from creativity and that's a journey I'm not much interested in repeating. Whatever I do must be done for the love of creating with any income a bonus rather than the primary objective. Reading the book made me feel calm about what the future may hold.

Several months ago, I started putting aside things to do for this hip resting period - projects that would, hopefully, teach me how to actively rest and be physically still while keeping my brain challenged. I don't want to go stir crazy. Right now, I'm knitting a throw for the couch using some purple yarn that I bought YEARS ago for this exact reason. It's good to finally be knitting with it. I've also worked my way through a stack of knitted scarves that needed blocking and the ends woven in. Some ended up back in balls and that's okay too. I've been following up those Pinterest emails that - supposedly - have topics I'll enjoy. Not all, but some, have resonated and most especially felted works that I think could be re-interpreted in fabric. The question of how to do that idea my way occupies my mind while I'm knitting or hand stitching with my feet up or while watching TV or reading a book lounging like a princess with my hip elevated. Too funny.

Bobbin by bobbin, I am finishing the second quilt for the guest room. I stitch some lengths with my right foot and some with my left foot on the presser foot to take the pressure off my hip. LOL - I'm an ambidextrous sew-er. A bobbin a day eventually gets you to finished. There's about 24" or roughly four more bobbins to go. Once I've finished the quilting, I'll straighten the two quilts to the same size, sew on the binding by machine, turn it to the wrong side, and slip stitch it in place... which I prefer... even though I could sew it on completely by machine... because... as I already said... handwork is fabulous thinking time and...

... I love a good question to think about. In my journal time, I study three resources - a daily inspirational reading, a book about spirituality, and a book about creativity. The books are constantly evolving. As I finish one, I start another. It's not a deliberate pairing so it always amazes me when they're on the same topic on the same day, which you'd think might happen infrequently but actually happens quite often. I always see that as God's way of sending me a strong message. Since the topic is obvious, the message often is too. In this case...

... I've been reading about happiness, about enjoying personal creativity, about why skills trump passion, about deliberate practice, about why talent is overrated, and about stretching and reaching. They all talk about having activities that are just over the edge of your ability. One book calls it slightly uncomfortable while another labels it the sweet spot. Both mean that space where you can't quite do what you want to do, yet you really want to do it, and you're reaching for the next level.

In The Law of Happiness, author Henry Cloud discusses how spiritual wisdom and modern science can change your life. He writes: One of the great findings of the flow research is that to experience flow, you have to get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself to a challenging level. It's all about being alive at deep invested levels. Make sure you are choosing activities and ways to spend your time that fully engage you. Pick worthwhile things to do that make time go away, as opposed to "passing the time."

In The Little Book of Talent, author Daniel Coyle gives 52 tips for improving  your skills. Tip seventeen is to embrace struggle. He writes: The struggle and frustrations you feel at the edges of your ability is the sensation of constructing new neural connections. Your brain works just like your muscles: no pain, no gain. In an earlier tip, he identified the comfort zone as a place where your work is successful 80% or more of the time, the survival zone as a place where your work is successful less than 50% of the time, and the sweet spot as a place where your work is successful 50-80% of the time. Hmm...

... that certainly does make you think. Why is it that we want to learn and grow, develop and evolve, and yet we also want 100% success 100% of the time... or I used to... and now I see that as paint-by-number and I find making a "mistake" that I need to recover from far more satisfying.

There are times for sitcoms, mindless knitting, fluffy novels, and simple projects. For me, they are the resting place but they are not a place that I could inhabit for any length of time. I get bored. I'm happiest in that sweet spot. And I think that's what the tingling is about - moving just over the edge of comfortable into the sweet spot. And I think that's why Elizabeth's book was so calming. Stretching and reaching doesn't have to be for any other reason than you love what you do and you want to do it better and - quite possibly - through that process encourage others to love it more and do it better too. I hope so.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - books

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Year Or A Day

Resting is a LOT of work. It's going to be a long month and possibly longer. Maybe with lots of practice, I'll get better at it. For most of the weekend, I knit. On Monday, I read and rested. On Tuesday, a friend was here for the day and we talked, knit, sewed, and went for lunch. On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked in the studio and I have a finished dress to show - YES YES.

The procedure on my hip went well. Trying to work with the tension bandages did not. I am way too curvy for stretchy things to stay put. The bandage either rolled up, rolled down, came apart, or fell off so I eventually switched to shaper pantyhose, cut the feet off, and wore those... for the first six days... at which point I gave up because by then the swelling was back and my right thigh was already two inches bigger than my left.

When the radiologist looked at the ultrasound, he said, I know what you have - trochanteric bursa - which is the technical term for hip bursitis. Apparently right where my hip hit the stair nose is exactly where the bursa sack is. He says I've definitely injured it and possibly burst it and treatment ranges from cortisone shots to orthopedic surgery depending.

The confusing part for me was that the trochanteric bursa is on the side of the hip but not where the actual hip joint is. It's separated by tissue and bone. Who knew. I kept saying it's not on my hip plus a key point of diagnosis is that it's too sore to sleep on. Apparently, I have a high pain threshold because that's my favourite side.

The activities to avoid are the activities I've been doing in order to heal the hematoma only that turned out not to be the whole problem. It sounds like it was hematoma plus bursitis so... I'm still resting... avoiding hills... avoiding stairs... and playing in the studio while I wait to see the surgeon and discover what is next.

Joyce, my neighbour across the street, is ninety. She shares a house with her daughter who is in her early sixties. Living together makes it possible for both of them to have a house and they seem to do quite well. Joyce enjoys her garden, flowers, walks and puttering in the yard. She also likes baking. I received a basket of biscuits warm out of the oven that I immediately added butter and honey to and enjoyed thoroughly.

I've been taken very good care of with calls, emails, and visits from friends and family. THANK YOU so much for all the well wishes after last Friday's post and for the understanding around Chloe. Now when I think of her, I think of her happy with Shirley and it's great.

The dress is Vogue 9112, which they describe as an asymmetrical, seam-detail dress. Marcy calls it the Cirque dress.  This garment either took a year or a day depending on your perspective. I cut it out in May 2015 to take to the Design Outside the Lines Retreat  and then didn't work on it until yesterday when I sewed it from start to finish. It's a very simple and fun design.

The fabric I used is an ancient piece from the stash - a black eyelet with two scalloped edges. I cut the collar with the scallop along the top edge and then cut off the rest to use someday. Apparently, someday was now. That's not usually how it goes.

Here's what the collar looked like. The straight edge is where the finished edge would be. A length of scallop was cut extending from each edge and then turned and stitched in place with a narrow zigzag. The excess fabric underneath is trimmed away.

I made a video to show what I mean. If you have any feedback on how I can make these videos even better, I'd appreciate hearing it. They're fun to make and hopefully helpful.

AND... this is what the collar looks like on the dress. It's very soft but the tucks give it body and help it stand and hold a shape. This fabric was in stash forever and ever and ever because I just couldn't think of what to make it with it and then I saw this pattern made up in white eyelet. I can't remember where or if that fabric had a scalloped edge but I'm really glad to have finally used my fabric with this pattern.

Typically when I cut off a selvage, it ends up in stash waiting for an opportunity. After I'd sewn on the collar, I was looking for a way to finish the armholes and auditioning different binding options when the thought occurred to use the scallop on the armhole... and then on the hem... which took virtually all there was... and turned out perfect. How fun!

Although I cut the dress out in a larger size, I was able to adjust the side seams to fit. Above are my two dress forms. My upper body now fits the one on the left. My lower body is probably somewhere in between. Counting calories and watching what I'm eating has been a bit harder this last couple weeks but moving to the smaller dress form is certainly encouraging.

I knit a capelet for a friend who is going through a rough time. I'm hoping to take it to her today... if it's dry from blocking. It's a red merino wool/silk combination yarn and has three repeats of the lace pattern around the lower edge but otherwise it's the same as the teal one I made in December. Quick, easy, attractive and a warm hug because my friend is always cold.

An eyelet dress needs an under-dress. I want to work on that today and - hopefully - wear the dress on Saturday night to a "welcome home" party for a friend. If the weather is nice, that is. Right now, it's threatening rain which is bad for sleeveless dresses and excellent for studio time.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - possible hip solutions, a finished dress

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Miracle Meeting

This afternoon is the procedure on my hip. Afterward, my right leg will be wrapped with a tension bandage from the hip joint to the knee joint, night and day for a - tense - LOL - month. I absolutely intend to behave and give myself every opportunity to heal and hopefully I won't have to go through this again. Inside, the house is ready. Outside, I didn't finish the to do list. Oh well. What's done, is done and the rest will have to wait.

One project I did finish was to replace the numbers on the front of the house. Originally, they were attached to the post in the carport and were showing their age. I didn't want them on the post and it would have been hard to attach them to the rock front so I used a black primer and some bronze paint to refinish a pegboard and then spray painted the numbers silver, screwed them in place, and covered the whole thing with an exterior clear coat. I still need to figure out how to hang the plaque but at least our house can now be identified.

I had wanted to sand the surface of the porch, refinish it with an espresso colored stain, and add a railing far right. No sanding. No staining. No railing. But... there are three planters, two of which act as a barrier at the "dangerous" end while all three add pretty to the exterior.

This year's goal for the yard was to pretty up the front and the right side. Along the side, I removed the massive piles of rocks and tarps and created raised garden beds for vegetables. Down by the tree, there are strawberries. In the other sections, I planted carrots, beets, cucumber, zucchini, and butternut squash.

I also planted two sweet tomato plants and one tomato plant where the fruit is blueberry sized. The small pepper plant is cayenne and there are two bell pepper plants in the front garden.

Along with the bell peppers, I added mixed lettuce, radishes, and green onions to the flower beds in the front since there was more room there than along the side. It's very common here to have vegetable gardens in the front yard or mixed in with the flowers. The begonia was a gift from my youngest son and looks wonderful at the edge of the porch. I plan - eventually - to build the porch skirt from recycled wood pallets. One of the women in my Monday night knitting group loves woodwork so I'm hoping she might want to help me.

I have a few knitting projects lined up for the next month. Right now, I'm working on a purple throw for the couch. I started laughing the other night when I realized that my yarn, my pajama pants, and the throw pillows were all the same shade of purple. Apparently, I'm in a purple phase.

In early February, I made a very difficult decision that I didn't talk about on the blog because I was much too fragile for any negative feedback. When my daughter originally asked me if I'd take Miss Chloe, I didn't particularly want a dog but in order to make things easier for my daughter and since I had the help of my husband and sons, it was doable. With the move... and the fall... and living mostly alone... having her was more difficult. Not only did I feel like a single parent but I felt like a horrible single parent because she desperately needed some obedience training and her behavior was becoming a major issue only I didn't have the time, money, or energy to give her what she needed. Instead, I chose to find her a new home.

Because I was new to the area, Jessica and I discussed the best options and decided to go with the SPCA. They have a fabulous matching system. When I interviewed them prior to taking Chloe in, they assured me they'd find a good home for her in no time at all and described exactly the situation I knew she needed. I found out later that there were eight parties trying to adopt her within a day.

The day I was to take her, I spoiled her rotten. We went for a long walk and I let her play in all the mud puddles and she got to eat all the chicken treats and have peanut butter twice and we spent a lot of time cuddling. I think she knew. She'd been very cuddly the week before and when we got into the car to drive to the SPCA she was almost eager and excited as opposed to anxious. I was thankful.

As I carried her into the building, I burst into tears. It was SO difficult. The reception room was full when I went in and suddenly it was empty and the woman who remained to help us was incredibly kind. She said they had a kennel ready for Chloe and would I like to take her to the kennel or have them do it. I said I wanted to. They asked if I wanted to take her first or do the paperwork first. I said the paperwork. They asked if I wanted Chloe to stay with me or if they could take her to another room. I wanted her to stay. There I am crying and trying to fill out blurry forms with wet drops and Chloe is exploring the room and coming back with kisses to tell me what she's found. She was so cute and precious and not at all anxious The staff loved her right away.

When I told them the car was full of her things, they went and got them and then set up her pillow, blanket, and toys in the kennel they'd prepared along with a new set they provided. I walked her to the kennel, snuggled her, gave her a kiss, threw her peanut butter treat into the back so she'd be distracted, and then walked away... bawling. Thank God she didn't start barking or crying. I couldn't have handled it.

I had asked to be notified of when she was placed and what her new home was like and within a few days I heard that she was doing well and now living with a retired single woman. That general description is so similar to mine that I felt guilty for not being able to cope but I also knew it was the best thing for her and me at this time. The woman at the SPCA had said I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but it will be okay. Yes. It would be.

Right after Chloe moved, I went to visit my daughter for eleven days which made the transition somewhat easier but in April I missed her so much. When I thought about my choice, all the reasoning I'd debated previously was still valid and I'd still made the best decision but it was hard. I prayed that I'd see her and know that she was happy and healthy.

Tuesday was a very strange day. Even after resting all day Monday, I was exhausted and went back to bed in the morning. And then I was super talkative at Starbucks during my journal time and it took longer than usual. And then I sized all the pictures from the weekend. And wrote the blog. And went out to the garden to work only I didn't seem to have the energy for a day of throwing rocks especially when I peeled back one of the tarps to expose even more rocks. So. Done. With. Rocks.

I decided to come in and have a cold drink and then go to the garden center. I'd just bought a new magazine on upcycling and I read through that... which took more time... and then just as I was about to walk out the door my phone rang and it was a friend who said I'd been so much on her mind that she just had to phone. We talked for about 45 minutes meaning I went to the garden center much later than I'd expected.

As I drove in, there was a parking spot immediately and then a lot of congestion and more parking spots on the opposite side. I opted to drive around the congestion because I wanted some gravel and I didn't want the young man to have to carry it too far. I parked, got out, turned around, and there in the car in front of me was a fluffy white puppy. If she'd been going crazy, I'd have known right away it was Chloe but she was so calm and well-behaved that I was mostly sure with a small bit of doubt.

At first I tried to walk away but then I had to know so I waited until a woman came out of the store and walked in that direction. I asked if this was her car and she said yes and then I asked what her dog's name was and she said Chloe... which made me cry... and then I asked could I hold her explaining that she used to be my dog. What a wonderful woman. She - Shirley - said of course, hurried and unlocked her car and passed Chloe to me. I held her for about twenty minutes while we talked.

Shirley wanted to know the story and was so understanding when I explained the combination of the stress of my husband's illness, the move, the fall, the feeling of single parenting and so on. When I said I'd felt guilty that our general descriptions were the same, she told me her age which is almost twenty years older than mine and said that at this point in her life she now has time for training a dog but that when she was my age she couldn't have handled it either. It made me feel a lot better.

I learned that Chloe has since been trained to go off leash, to come when she's called, to heel when out walking, to sit when a car passes by, to stop barking at everything she sees, and to be somewhat less anxious although she's still having trouble with separation anxiety which is typical for her breed.
All of these were things I knew Chloe needed and I also knew I didn't have what it took to provide them.

I am SO GLAD that she is happy, healthy, and enjoying life with Shirley. Seeing her was not only an answer to prayer but such a miracle meeting. On my part, if I hadn't gone inside, I wouldn't have answered the phone and if I hadn't answered the phone, I wouldn't have been delayed going to the garden center. On Shirley's part, she lives in a community twenty minutes away, rarely comes to the garden center, and had been twice that day. SUCH a gift.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - answers to prayer, understanding

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why I Missed Friday's Posting

My daughter and her family arrived on Wednesday the 4th and left early the following Monday. The 4th is my son-in-law's birthday and we got a chance to spoil him which is always wonderful. Howard had holidays so he was here as well and our two boys came out for Mother's Day and I had my whole family with me. What a wonderful treat that was.

There are eight of us with the adults and the two grand-babies. Daimon is three and Keith is eight months. I'm quite confident my son-in-law is not always sure what to do with me but he's an excellent sport in putting up with my eccentricities. I did warn him when he was dating Jessica that if he didn't like me, he should perhaps run. He didn't. He makes her laugh and that's fabulous. I'm looking forward to seeing how they age together.

We had the boys to ourselves one night while their parents escaped for some alone time to celebrate their ninth anniversary. They - the boys - were very well behaved... of course.

When I was a little girl and we would visit my Dad's family, we'd sometimes walk the mile into town to go to the general store and buy soda pop and jaw breakers so it was especially fun for me to take my oldest grandson to the candy store and let him buy something with his own money.

While he was here, Keith started sitting up. It's nice to share one of those first. With Daimon, he rolled over for the first time at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

The pond in our back yard was quite fascinating. Grandpa and Daimon are having lunch while watching the ducks and the turtles. We also spent a lot of time looking at the baby flowers (buds) and watering them.

Howard had a particularly difficult weekend with his health which makes pictures like these even more special. Daimon is making wrapping paper for Jessica's Mother's Day present.

There are a lot of men in my life. At left, all the boys. At right, the uncles and the grand-babies. And below, me and my babies.  I have wonderful children. I'm very proud of them and delighted that we have a good relationship. For me, that's ultra important.

Monday, I literally spent on the couch re-energizing. Today is my throw the rest of the rocks day so I'm about to head outside and work on the final garden bed. Howard suggested that I mow the lawn instead but I told him the lawn would bug him and not me and he would therefore find a way to get it done if I didn't... however... the rocks would bug me and I'd have to look at them for the next month or longer so I needed to get them done before my leg appointment on Friday. I have a list for the week that includes throwing the rocks, grocery shopping, cleaning house, and starting some knitting projects for the sit still period. It'll work. I am determined to be good and get this leg thing over with.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - family... and 11.4 pounds lost

P.S... I'm wearing Katherine's Vogue 8691 top and Marcy's Vogue 9060 skirt