Practicing Gratitude: Noticing

20/30

I've been intentionally focusing on gratitude for many years.  

It started when I was in the middle of chemo . . . when I didn't feel terribly good and the days seemed really long and I worried about my future and felt like I had lost my center.

I started keeping a list of all the things in my day that were good; things that connected me to myself -- and the world around me.

It helped.

I kept doing it.

It turns out that one of the easiest "first steps" in developing a gratitude practice is . . . noticing.  Simply noticing and acknowledging the things in our lives that we are grateful for can foster feelings of contentment and joy, respect for what we have, and connection to the world around us.

IMG_1146

I know that intentionally noticing and acknowledging things we're grateful for each day is powerful because it's kind of like . . . a vicious circle.  The more we notice the good things in our lives, the more we are able to notice the good things in our lives.  Y'know?  And that creates an ever-expanding circle of good.

The things we list don't have to be the big things (although that's often where we start) -- like family and housing and health and jobs.  They can also be little things we just . . . notice . . . when we start paying attention.  Bird song.  The scent of hand lotion.  The flow-y way my pen writes.  The fact that I hit a green light just when I needed it most.

I decided to try a new approach to my gratitude list-making this month -- building on that "vicious circle" analogy.

I grabbed a piece of illustration board, and starting with a heart, I drew some outwardly-expanding lines.  Each day, I write down my gratitude list for the day within the lines.  Now, I'm starting to use my watercolor pencils and a waterbrush to bring color to my list.

IMG_1145

Acknowledging my gratitude makes me feel good.  I share my good-feelings with people around me.  And then they feel good.  And they share their good-feelings with the people around them.

Start a list.

Let's spread gratitude's good-feelings all around.

 


Sundays are for Poetry

19/30

IMG_1134

Wild Geese
    by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Look Up

18/30

In the summer, when blooms are everywhere, it's easy to see the beauty around you.  Even as fall creeps in, it's easy.  Because the leaves put on quite a show.

But in the late fall, as winter edges ever closer, that's when it's tough.  The blooms have faded and the leaves are gone.  Everything is bare and grey and shades-of-bleak.

But. . . that's the time to look!  To really take notice!

IMG_1124

Blooms are fleeting.  Here and gone.  

Turns out it's the underlying structure that really counts!  Because that structure remains long after the beauty is gone.

Take a look.

Notice.

 


TGIF

17/30

Here's one last look at Alabama (oops -- there actually might be one more, later in this post).

IMG_1118

I can't stress how cool it was to be driving along country roads in Alabama and just . . . suddenly spy a cotton field.  I know that it's no different, really, than finding corn fields in the Midwest, but it's all relative, and for this northern girl, it was a delight!  On our drive back to Nashville, Vicki and I pulled over on one of these country roads to get a closer look at the cotton and take a few photos.  (I can just imagine the folks in the nearby farmhouse . . . "Dwayne, would you look at that?  Folks have stopped to take pictures of our damn cotton again. Northerners. . . ")

Anyway.  Let's TGIF.

T - Thinking About

IMG_1114

Thanksgiving!  I've gathered all my recipes, and I'm making my lists.  It's time to get organized!

G - Grateful For

IMG_1116

I am so grateful for my grand adventure last week, but after returning home mid-week to a couple of action-packed days, I am grateful for a (relatively) quiet weekend . . . so I can do a bit of digging out and get myself on track for the holidays.  (And I have quite a pile of . . . stuff . . . to work my way through.)

I - Inspired By

IMG_1117

Yeah.  You guessed it.  I am inspired to MAKE ALL THE THINGS again.  I want to stitch and knit and sew and and try new things and touch all the fiber!  That Alabama Chanin workshop was just what I needed in the fiber-inspiration-department.  (I even decided to forgo my regular watercolor class next semester and sign up for rug hooking instead.  So stay tuned.)

F - Fun

IMG_9473

These two show up tomorrow!  They'll be visiting all next week (an extended visit as part of their Farewell Tour before they head to San Jose in January), and it will be great fun to have them around.

TGIF, everyone!

 


Three Tourist-y Things

16/30

Vicki and I  didn't just hang out at The Factory this past week on our big adventure.  We also visited a few area hot-spots and had some tourist time.  Here are three things we did: 

1 -- Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall (Te-lah-nay's Wall)

IMG_1097

This wall (one mile long and 4-6 feet high) is the largest unmortared wall in the United States.  Tom Hendrix (who died earlier this year) built the wall to honor his grandmother, Te-lah-nay, who walked for 5 years back to Alabama from Oklahoma, where she had been displaced by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Trail of Tears).

IMG_1098

The wall is quite amazing.  Powerful.  Spiritual.  It feels like holy ground.  Visitors leave offerings along the way.

IMG_1099

It's an amazing place -- and I'm so glad we took the time to drive out and wander the path.

2 -- The Swampette Tour

IMG_1100

To set the tone, let's have a bit of a soundtrack (click here).  (This is some 1974 Lynyrd Syknyrd realness here; kinda fun.)
Did you catch that third stanza there???

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they've been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?

I had always wondered what the heck they were talking about.  Muscle Shoals? Swampers? Huh?

IMG_0942

Well.  Now we know!

There were two major recording studios in Muscle Shoals (Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio), and the Swampers were the studio musicians with a unique and awesome sound.  R&B, gospel, country, and rock stars from around the world came to Muscle Shoals to record with with Swampers.

IMG_1101

We toured the studios (Fame is still in operation; Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is now a museum) where so many (SO, SO many) hit songs we all know and love were recorded.  It was AWESOME.

(Want to learn more?  There is a great documentary out there called Muscle Shoals that tells all about the studios and the Swampers.  Fascinating.  Tom and I watched it as soon as I got home.)  (Here's a link to the trailer.)

3 -- Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

IMG_1102

When the workshop was finished, we drove to Nashville for a couple of days.  We spent Sunday afternoon at Cheekwood Estate, visiting the gardens -- which are beautiful in any season.

IMG_1104

The gardens were in the midst of their holiday transformation when we were there -- with staff installing amazing light displays on the grounds.  So . . . half-price admission.  Bonus!

IMG_1103

It was a lovely afternoon -- so nice to get out in the fresh air and walk around for a bit.  Time in a garden is always restorative.  We also visited two special exhibits in the estate, and they were wonderful.  (Unfortunately, the estate museum itself was closed for holiday decor, so we missed out on seeing that part of the grounds.  From what we glimpsed from the upper levels, it looks wonderful.)

It's always fun to play tourist in a new place!

==========

Join Carole for more Three on Thursday posts. 

 

 

 


The All of It

15/30

I'll just begin by saying Alabama Chanin is a magical place.

IMG_0978

It's not just being surrounded by the sample garments everywhere (seriously . . . it was like my Pinterest board had come to life right in front of me).  It's not just the bins of fabric scraps in every corner.  It's not just the perfectly designed work spaces or the charming quilts on the walls or the chairs (oh, the chairs. . . ) or the button jars.

IMG_1094

It's really kind of . . . the All of It.

Even time moves differently there.  Speeded up in a sort of fiber-y warp speed thing.  (I know that sounds kind of crazy, but every day we were shocked by how quickly time passed.)

IMG_1093

The 3-day workshop was perfectly paced.  There were classes on technique and construction and embroidery, mixed in with open studio time and one-on-one instruction, mixed in with a behind-the-scenes tour of The Factory, and - of course - a chance to meet Natalie Chanin and hear her speak about the history of the company and her own path.

The first day, we had several hours to make our decision about what we wanted to make as part of the workshop.  (An Alabama Chanin School of Making kit of our choice was included in the price of admission.)  When I first saw the hours attributed to this particular task on our schedule, I kind of rolled my eyes.

Because how hard would THAT be?

I mean . . . I've ordered kits online before.  I am already very familiar with the various styles of kits available.  I traveled to Alabama with something already in mind.

Let me just say . . . HA!

I ended up needing Every. Single. Moment. of the allotted time to make my choice!  Turns out . . . that having access to all the sample garments to try on . . . and color swatches to play with . . . and stencil swatches to pore over . . . and embellishment and embroidery options to consider . . . just complicate the process.  So. Many. Decisions.

In the end, I chose to make the wrap dress.  In black with a grape under-layer.  With the Magdalena stencil.  With some beading.

But don't be looking for a progress shot quite yet.  Because I didn't even begin to work on it.  Instead, I worked with a sample swatch to try out different stitching, beading, and appliqué techniques that I might want to use (kind of like a knitting swatch).  With a project as big and involved as this wrap dress will be, I want to make some decisions before I even get started.  And that sample swatch was the perfect thing!

IMG_0973

Another really great thing about the workshop is that the instructors tailored their teaching to the things we wanted to learn, individually.  Once I saw the crocheted snap covers that are standard for Alabama Chanin garments, I wanted to learn how to do them for my coat.

My.  Are they ever fiddly!  (Because tiniest of crochet needles.  And thread.)

IMG_1095

The first one I tried took about 2 hours.  (And lots of swearing, but I was quiet about it.)  It turned out quite wonky (because tension was a big issue for me), but it'll work.  

IMG_0970

The next one only took about 45 minutes (and significantly less swearing) -- and it was much neater.  Only 4 snaps to go now.  And then I can finish my coat.

Our instructors were wonderful.  Patient.  Generous.  Incredibly skilled.  They always showed us the "Alabama Chanin Way" (because they have Standards), but also encouraged us to go our own way and do our own thing when making our garments.  I very much appreciated their attitude and relaxed approach to Making.

IMG_1002

Making this trip to Alabama turned out even better than I had imagined or hoped!  It was such a pleasure to meet the other women in the workshop (and what a varied bunch they were!), to experience Alabama Chanin up-close-and-personal, to meet Natalie Chanin herself, and to just . . . live among those incredible garments for a few days.

IMG_1081

It was just . . . inspiring.  The All of It!


Postcard from the Edge

14/30

Dear friends,

By the time you read this postcard, I will be somewhere between Alabama and Michigan.

9354FA98-4D20-4191-B61A-4B935AAE86F4

It’s been a lovely week - filled with inspiration and creativity and ideas.  So many ideas, in fact, and so much inspiration, that I wake myself up in the middle of the night ... my brain just churning with techniques I want to try and things I want to make.

Time to head home ... with a suitcase full of stitching supplies, a brain full of techniques and ideas, and a heart full of wonderful memories of my time in Alabama.

More to come once I settle back at home!

Cheers,

Kym