On Frolicking, Snow, and a Poem

We had our first snow yesterday.  Not much.  But enough to cause some roadway havoc.

I always love the first few snows of the season . . . but the dogs?  Oh, they REVEL in it!  They race around the yard, frolicking.  They rub their faces in the snow and dig and roll and chase each other.  It is Pure Dog Joy!


Watching them play in the snow always makes me think of this perfect poem by Mary Oliver, from her book Dog Songs.

The Storm (Bear)
    --- by Mary Oliver

Now through the white orchard my little dog
    romps, breaking the new snow
    with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
    hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins,
until the white snow is written upon
    in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
    the pleasures of the body in this world.

Oh, I could not have said it better


Have a wonderful weekend!

A Few of My Favorite Things . . . Three, in Fact

My holiday decorating is complete.  I sorted and shifted and unpacked stuff earlier this week -- figuring out which things sparked joy, and which things just felt like obligation or expectation.  What emerged is holiday décor "lite."  My house looks bright and festive -- but a bit more low key than some years in the past.

This year, I'm relying heavily on twinkle lights, poinsettias, and branches cut from evergreens in my garden.  No tree - or at least . . . no big Christmas tree in the traditional sense.  And no ornaments.  Just a few of my favorite things.  Here's a peek at three of them:


1 - I have several Swedish advent candle holders, and I love setting them up each year with my little collection of jultomte (Christmas gnomes).


2 - I love this little Santa.  I've had him for years and years and years -- and I recall spending a bit too much on him way back when I first brought him home.  It turned out to be worth it, though, as he has brought me joy every year since.


3 - And these stockings were just too perfect to pass up when I found them a few years ago.  They're a definite favorite! It always makes me smile to see them hanging from the mantel.  (And the dogs like them, too.)

How about you?  What are your favorite holiday decorations?


Be sure to stop in at Carole's today - to read other Three on Thursday posts.




Knitting as Meditation

Lately, when I wake up, I grab a cup of coffee and I sit down with my knitting.


I don't check my email.

I don't look at the news.

I don't even refer to my plan for the day.

Or my to-do list.

I just sit and knit.

(I do feed the dogs first, though.  Because that's how we roll here.)


I find that knitting in the morning is a perfect way to center myself and prepare for the day ahead.

Except when I'm knitting a complicated pattern (lace or tricky cables, for example, or anything involving a lot of counting), I find knitting to be a form of meditation.  The stitches on the needle are much like . . . rosary beads or mala beads . . . one after the other after the other.  Matched with my breathing.  Letting my mind quiet.  Calling for a peaceful heart.

(With the added bonus of watching a sweater emerge right under my fingertips.)

I am participating in Project Peace again this year, although I've decided not to cast on for the actual project this time.  Instead, I'm continuing with my current sweater project.  I am following along with the daily peace prompts -- but knitting my own project instead.  Someday I may knit the actual pattern for this year's Project Peace (I did purchase it) -- but not right now.

What AM I knitting?


This sweater.  I'm much further along now than I was when I took this photo outside.  But it shows the actual color of my yarn - and the texture - much better.  Now that I've divided out the sleeves, the knitting is going much quicker.


Maybe I'll have a new sweater before spring . . . 

Whatever the timing, I'm enjoying my morning knitting-as-meditation!


See what other knitters are up to today over at Kat's!

Flowing on in to December

"Christmas can't be bought from a store . . .
Maybe Christmas means a little bit more."


So . . . my November was all about gratitude.  

I loved that.  It was grounding for me -- to be intententional about giving thanks and acknowledging the good in my world.

Now, though, we've flipped the calendar to December.


And, yeah.  I know that December is the "month of giving" and all.  But . . . it's also the month of crazy.  

And shopping.

And promotion.

And expectations . . . for creating that "perfect" holiday.

I'm trying to work out how to keep that gratitude-frame-of-mind I so carefully crafted in November . . . flowing on into December. 

For me, this holiday, it's going to be about:

Less expectation . . . and more gratitude.
Less frenzy . . . and more fun.
Less busy . . . and more reflection.
Less obligation . . . and more meaning.
Less perfection . . . and more delight.

And plenty of twinkle lights, too!

Practicing Gratitude: Three Final Things


"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
                                        ---Gilbert K. Chesterton


And . . . just like that . . . November draws to a close.  As I wrap up the month and pack away these NaBloPoMo blog posts, let me just offer these final three things I'm grateful for:

  • Thank you all for being here every day. 
  • Thank you for joining the conversation with your comments.
  • Thank you for creating this rich virtual community.  When I first dipped my toe into the blogging world, I had no idea how much you all would come to mean to me.  Thank you, my friends.

Now that NaBloPoMo is finished for another year, I'll be returning to a more regular M-F posting schedule (for the most part).  Which means . . . I'll be back tomorrow!


Stop over at Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts today.



Practicing Gratitude: Gifting with a Side of Poetry


It's that time of year when knitters (and makers) everywhere get really serious about creating handmade gifts for people they care about.  


(Yes.  That's a sock.  But don't get excited about it.  I finished it over a year ago, and haven't even cast on for its mate.  This post just needed a sock picture, so I dug it out of the drawer for just long enough to snap a photo.)  (It's back in the drawer now.)

I'm not knitting-for-Christmas this year, myself (although I do have one gift recipient who desperately needs a hat, so there is that), but I thought I would share this gratitude-related poem about receiving the gift of socks to inspire all of you gift-knitters and gift-makers out there.

Ode to My Socks
         by Pablo Neruda

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
with threads of
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
of that woven
of those glowing

I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
as learned men
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
and each day give them
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
and what is good is doubly
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.


Happy gift knitting, my friends.  And if you'd like to read other knitting tales today, hop on over to Kat's for Unraveled Wednesday.

Practicing Gratitude: Giving Back


Although it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere I go, it's still November . . . and I'm still thinking about gratitude and giving thanks.  The other day, I wrote a post about giving -- focused on being a philanthropist and making financial gifts to charities.  But there's another side of philanthropy: volunteering -- or what many people refer to as "giving back."

We can practice gratitude by volunteering our time and talent . . . offering vital help to people in need, making our communities better places to live, and supporting causes we care about.  When we volunteer, it's pretty obvious that we're helping others -- but volunteering also benefits YOU: the volunteer.

  • Volunteering provides a connection to others and to the community, and helps make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Volunteering brings a sense of well-being.  Like all the gratitude practices, volunteering makes you feel happier by countering stress, increasing self-confidence, and bringing a sense of purpose.
  • Volunteering encourages new learning and skill-building. 
  • Volunteering brings a sense of personal fulfillment and purpose.


When it comes to volunteering, I think the real trick . . . is finding the RIGHT volunteer experience.  Not everyone volunteers for the same reasons.  In fact, there has been quite a bit of research to figure out just what motivates a person to step out and volunteer. Researchers have discovered five primary motivations for volunteering:

  1. Values. Volunteering to satisfy personal values or humanitarian concerns. 

  2. Community concern. Volunteering to help a particular community, such as a neighborhood or ethnic group, to which the you feel attached.

  3. Esteem enhancement. Volunteering to feel better about yourself or escape other pressures.

  4. Understanding. Volunteering to gain a better understanding of other people, cultures or places.

  5. Personal development. Volunteering to challenge yourself, meet new people and make new friends, or to further your career.

It turns out that your motives for volunteering don't really matter all that much, in the end.  What's most important about volunteering . . . is that there is a good match between WHY you feel like volunteering and WHAT you're doing as a volunteer.  The better the match, the more likely you are to enjoy and benefit from your volunteer experience -- and the more likely you are to keep doing it!

I've done a lot of volunteering in my life -- from belonging to service organizations in college to school-related activities with my kids to weeding with the Master Gardener program and serving on community boards.  

None of them, though, really hit my "buttons" for volunteering.  I was doing these things because I felt I should.  I never really figured there could be more.  I actually thought maybe I was just a selfish person . . . who didn't really like to volunteer, but it turns out the things I was doing just didn't line up well with my personal motivations for volunteering!  


I discovered this earlier this year, when I became a tutor for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council.

You may remember that right after the election last year, I decided to find out more about refugee programs in my community.  I was specifically interested in ESL programs for refugees, and I was immediately welcomed into a growing group of nonprofit organizations, service agencies, and individuals hoping to make a difference for newly-arrived refugees in the Kalamazoo area.  But . . . there were plenty of ESL tutors already . . . and what this group desperately needed at that time was child care for refugee children while their parents took English classes.  I knew right away that that was NOT for me.  

I was disappointed . . . but decided to run with my interest in literacy.

I found an adult literacy tutor certification program through the KLC, and completed the training - hoping to be matched with an adult "learner" (as we refer to our students) looking to learn to read. In February, I was paired with a student -- a man about my age -- who is really motivated and working hard to improve his reading and writing skills.  We meet each week to read and write and spell and laugh together over phonics rules.


For the first time in my life, I have found a volunteer activity that must be a perfect match with my personal motivations for volunteering!  I look forward to working with my learner each week; I celebrate his progress; I am totally in his corner!  I feel like I'm making a difference -- and my volunteering has purpose . . . in a way weeding or chaperoning field trips or serving as Choir Boosters Treasurer never did (for me).

If you have never really found a volunteer activity that makes you feel GOOD about what you're doing, maybe you just haven't found the right volunteer activity for YOU.  Take some time to evaluate your own goals, interests, and motivations - because it's different for everyone. 

And . . . follow your heart!


Attention KNITTERS and seekers-of-peace!  It's time to sign up for this year's Peace Project.  You can read all about it here.  I've already purchased my pattern, and I have some yarn picked out.  Although I don't plan to complete the project during the month of December, I will be following along with the Peace Prompts each day.  Because we can all use a little peace in our lives!





Like Clockwork


It's happened in some form or another for 25 years now on Thanksgiving weekend . . .


Some years have included much hilarity and laughter, while others have featured drama and even a visit from paramedics.  Whatever the case, we have a lot of fun.  (Well.  Except for that year with the paramedics.)

We've been doing it for so long now . . . that baking, building, and decorating gingerbread houses together has provided a special set of memories for us.  It's great to be able to unpack that box together each year.

Plus . . . we get charming little gingerbread houses to add to our holiday décor!


Like clockwork!