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January 2015

Little Bit of Truth

I'm just getting over a rather nasty flu-ish bug (that hung on for far too long).  I've used more than a few throat lozenges since the beginning of the year.  (Like . . . they're in every coat pocket.  And in my purse.  And gym bag.  And in the cup holder in my car.  You know.)

It wasn't until just yesterday, though, that I took a closer look at the wrapper.

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What do you know . . . A pep talk in every drop!

Nothing you can't handle.  (A little bit of truth . . . on a throat lozenge wrapper.)

 


Knitting: The Dark Side

When I post about knitting these days, it's usually to share nice, finished, well-behaved projects in lovely, staged photo shoots.

Well.

Not THIS day!

After finishing this most lovely shawl . . . and then after getting "stuck" on a certain hat pattern . . . I just sort of felt like knitting a sweater.

But . . . which one????

After perusing Ravelry (for far too long), I decided that I was in the mood for a pullover.  And,  ultimately, I decided on this one.

But . . . in which yarn????  (Because I have plenty of options to choose from.)  

After an extensive stash-dive, I decided to try some of this lovely stuff.  It's been kind of burning-a-hole in my stash . . . after I picked it up last year for a song -- at a "discontinued close-out" at my local yarn shop.

I knew, from the start, that I was treading in deep, dark water.

First, I'm not a fan of top-down sweaters -- and especially not when they're pullovers.  (Wonky necklines and such.)

Second, I only have 900 yards of the yarn -- with little-to-no chance of getting more.  (Because discontinued.)  (And I tend to be one of those knitters that always has to break into that one, last skein --- even if just for 3 feet . . . just to bind off.)

But I decided . . . I'll risk it!  (After all . . . this year is all about The Journey!)

So I got started.  And I was right.  The neckline was wonky.  (Although that might be salvaged with the finishing.)  And I was hemorrhaging yarn from the git-go! (All that texture.)  After using three of my nine skeins, I was only this far along . . . 

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I got Serious.  I did the maths.  (I was definitely going to be cutting it short on yardage.)  I tried it on.  (Maybe I wouldn't like the fit.)

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But I did.

I decided to go ahead and knit the neck ribbing -- and start weighing every couple of rows or so.

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I made careful notes.  I did some more maths.  I weighed again.  I knit half a sleeve.

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It became ever-more-clear . . . that I had entered the Dark Side. 
I was over my head!
I was definitely not going to have enough yarn.
I didn't want to go through the hassle of begging Other Knitters to sell me some.

Enough was enough.

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I called it quits.
I ripped.

Sometimes knitting just doesn't . . . add up!  
And it's best to quit before you drown.

(But I did learn that I want to knit this particular sweater again.  I just want to use yarn that I have PLENTY of from the start!)


One More Thing

There is one more thing I can add to my list of Things to Make Winter Less Bleak . . .

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Kalamazoo Beer Week!

Yes, we hold our craft beer near-and-dear here in Kalamazoo (home to some truly great craft breweries), and in mid-January, when you might argue that winter is at it's very bleakest, we  celebrate with Kalamazoo Beer Week -- a full week of events and activities designed to "support the craft beer experience."  

There is even a KBW shuttle to get patrons safely from one event to another!

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Yep.  Winter seems a bit less bleak this week!


Beating Back January

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January is such a bleak month.  It's long.  It's cold.  It's snowy.  It's dark.  There isn't any of the excitement and busy-ness of December.  

Just a long, long, bleak slog of a month.

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(My backyard.  Before last week's big storm.)

Although it is nice to just hunker down and hibernate through the rest of winter,  I try my best to beat January back.  What do I do. . . to make winter less bleak?

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1.  I give myself pedicures.

2.  And then go barefoot in the house.

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3.  I tend my indoor plants.

4.  And I bring fresh flowers home from the grocery store.

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5.  I read gardening magazines and catalogs. 

6.  And I dream about my own garden plans.

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7.  I get out with the dogs as much as I can.

8.  And I keep myself moving.

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9.  I light a candle and turn on some twinkle lights.

10. And I dream about beach vacations!

What about YOU?  How do you make winter . . . less bleak?

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Five . . . One Little Words

After participating in One Little Word for several years now, I find myself eagerly awaiting what the new year - and my new word - will bring me.  Because I have learned some important personal lessons with each of my words!

(I know.  It sounds kind of wacky.  But I've discovered that there really is power in having a year-long focus on One Little Word.)

The whole thing started in 2011, the first time I signed up for Ali Edwards' One Little Word project.  My word that year was MOVE .  I chose that word because I felt like I needed some inspiration to get myself moving - basically, to get off my butt!  (You see, I'm a daydreamer at heart.  I can sit, quietly, and think about things all day.  Which is fine.  But.  Sometimes you need to get those dreams in motion.)   That first year, I got totally overwhelmed by the "project" end of things:  scrapbooking, supplies, keeping up with the monthly prompts.  In fact, I was so focused on the "project" that I didn't get much out of the "process."

What I learned that first year . . . is that I wanted to try it again.  (And that was a way to MOVE, when you think about it.)

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In 2012, my word was SHINE.   I started out strong with the prompts and my word in 2012 -- but quickly flamed out.  (It was the scrapbooking!  Totally not my thing.)  What I learned from my word that year:  Do it YOUR way!  Shine YOUR light -- and don't reflect someone else's.  I learned to be inspired by the process, without feeling the pressure to do the projects.

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In 2013, my word was SURPRISE.  I was hoping to surprise myself that year . . . and I did!  I learned something completely simple -- and very obvious (although it wasn't at all when I began).  You can't plan to be surprised; you can't set off looking for surprise.  You need to be open to being surprised -- and, when you are, why . . . you discover that surprises happen all around you, all the time.  (Surprise!)

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Last year, my word was POSSIBILITY.  It turned out to be my most transformational word yet -- which was what I was looking for when I chose it.  (Just in a whole 'nother way!)  I expected to disover "new somethings."  But what I discovered . . . is that I really needed to clear out and create space for possibility in my life.

This year . . . 

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And by now, I know that I'll end up someplace I really can't quite imagine right now.

So that's . . . Five One Little Words.

Five lessons.

(But not five scrapbooks.)

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If you're joining along in Ali Edwards' class this year for the first time -- and you're finding the scrapbooking and supply lists and prescribed projects a bit overwhelming or daunting, let me know.  I am a completely rogue participant at this point.  I use Ali's monthly prompts as inspiration -- and then I do my own thing.  (It's my way to SHINE.)

Also -- it's never to late to join in.  Click here to register for Ali's class.

 


On Hunkering Down

It's Friday . . . and we've got a blizzard-ish thing going on here in my neck of the woods.  And it's rather frigid.  Brrrrr.  

Good time for some hunkering down.

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Which is no problem for me.  I have nowhere to particularly go today, plenty of books, plenty of yarn, leftover soup, pots of tea, and a good store of wine (for tonight).  

(I love hunkering down when it's snowing!)  (Best part of winter.)

I woke up this morning thinking of this Robert Frost poem, and thought I'd share it . . . 

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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Happy Friday, y'all.  (Stay warm.)

 


Throwback Thursday: Good Chemistry

Last weekend, Tom and I quietly acknowledged a very special anniversary.

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January 3 marked 30 years since the defense of Tom's PhD dissertation.  

That's his published dissertation, there on our bookshelves, between Principles and Applications of Organotransition Metal Chemistry and Advanced Organic Chemistry.

Tom's Dissertation Cover Page - Jan 7, 2015, 12-10 PM

On the one hand, it's so . . . unfathomable . . . to me that so much time has passed.  (Because I remember that time of our lives so vividly.)  But, on the other hand, it's not so unbelieveable after all.  (Because so much has happened since then.)

I actually didn't take any photos of Tom on that incredible, pinnacle of a day.  (And I did a lot of photo-documenting even then.  I just didn't do it very well . . . with my little Instamatic.)  But here are some throwback shots from that time in our lives.

Here's a (really bad) shot of Tom and one of his fellow students (now a chemistry professor himself) in the lab.

Tom in lab

Grad school . . . four-and-a-half years went by in a blur (although it was often a total slog) . . . coursework, TA-ing, cumulative exams, the dreaded "orals", hours-upon-hours (upon hours) in the lab.

Finally, when his boss agreed that he was "ready," the writing-up began in earnest.

Hard at work

They gave Tom an unused office in the chemistry building for him to use while writing up.  When looking back at this photo of Tom, hard at work, in "Thesis Headquarters" (as we called it), the first thing to notice . . . no computer!

Right.  Back in late 1984, PCs were not in general use yet.  No one we knew had one -- not even the university professors.  

Tom wrote his dissertation by hand on legal pads.

And his loving wife quit her day job to type it up -- on a word processor (really just a standard electric typewriter with a baby screen and a bit of memory)!

(And we're still married!)

(I also drew all the chemical structures in the dissertation - and there were MANY! - using stencils and drafting tools.  And lots of white out.  This was before any of the computer drawing programs were available.)  (Stone age, I'm telling you.) (And you can see that the typing was no picnic either.)

 

Drawings - Jan 8, 2015, 8-05 AM(I can't begin to explain how much work this all was.  Not only the intellectual work of doing the research and writing the dissertation . . . but also the emotional work of believing in yourself and pushing through.)

We "staged" this picture when Tom found this description of "the prototypical grad student" in CSU's student newspaper one day while he was writing up.

Prototypical grad student

(And he did subsist on caffeine and alcohol.  And a lot of pizza, as I recall.)

So.  Here we are, 30 years later.

Congratulations to my Palladium Mediated Mad Scientist.  WELL DONE!

 


A Kind of Stuck

 Soundtrack . . . 

 

I didn't have much time for knitting earlier this fall, and all of the time I did have was spent on this project.  Once that was complete, I didn't really know what to knit next.

So I just kind of . . . got stuck in a moment . . .

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Knitting hats!

Six* of them.

Same pattern.

All in a row.

Not even for Christmas gifts.  (Except for that dark blue/black one you can barely see in the photo above.  It's the first thing I've knit - so far - for Brian's girlfriend, Lauren.)  (And I did wrap that one up and put it under the tree for her.  Sadly, no photo.)

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When you want some instant knitting-gratification, there's really nothing better than a great hat pattern paired with lovely yarn.  

And there's a quick payoff, too.  Both Brian and Tom think it's the "best hat you've ever knitted for me."

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 I have a feeling this isn't the last time I'll get stuck in this kind of moment!

(Ravelry details here.)

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*  I actually knit seven-and-a-half of these hats.  One was a total knit-over (because I forgot to switch my needles after the ribbing and it would've been far too small for the intended recipient).  And I started a seventh with some colorful yarn (you can see it in the first photo in this post), but it looked like clown-barf when knit up, so I ripped it at the half-way point (I gave it a good chance) and decided to move on.


This Year

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Last week, I shared my two-word intentions for the new year in a blog post.  Those two-word intentions are really just place-holders for me . . . of more detailed goals or aspirations or hopes-and-dreams (or whatever-you-want-to-call-thems) I have for the year.

Today, Carole asks us to share our intentions for the year, so I'll provide some of the "backstory" for my two-word intentions.

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Ten Things I Want to Accomplish This Year:

  1. I want to go through All the Things and reduce-reuse-recycle.  Seriously, I'm in a PURGE mode!  I mean . . . What am I keeping some of this stuff FOR, exactly?  How did I come to have it in the first place?  What do I think I'll ever DO with it?  Do I need it?  That kind of thing.  I have just started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying . . . and I say Let the Magic Begin!  (Maybe I'll even have a garage sale.)
  2. I'm going to use what I have.  Yarn.  Art supplies.  Ingredients.  Lotions and potions.  Chapstick.  Pencils.  If I already have it, I'm going to use it.  Period.  (I'll save money, too.)
  3. It's time for a little freshening up!  I've lived in my current house for 12 years now.  It is time for a little . . . rejuvenation.  Seriously . . . I hated that valance in the library when we moved in.  I really don't like it now!  I'm not talking about anything major, but a little moving-around and touching-up.  Maybe some new rugs and a curtain or two.  (And maybe some new windows and a new slider, but that's a whole other thing altogether.)
  4. I want a labyrinth in the garden.   I haven't sprung this one on Tom quite yet . . . but we had to have a tree removed last fall (diplodia tip blight. . .)  so some space has opened up.  I love walking labyrinths, and I think we can incorporate a small one into our space.  (It'll give me something to ponder and plan, now that winter has returned.)  (And Tom loves to dig.)
  5. (Okay.  Let's just all roll our eyes over this one. . .)  I want to become proficient with PhotoShop.  I know.  This has been on every goals-list I've put together for 6 years.  But this time . . . I mean it!  Sure.  I've already completed THREE PhotoShop classes (online AND in-person).  But this time, I'm committed.  (I'm not going to let LAYERS intimidate me again.)  (I mean it.)
  6. I want to explore my creative side in a more intentional way.  I'm no artist, but I do feel like there's some untapped . . . expression . . . in there, ready to break through.  So I want to try some new things and take some artistic risk this year.  (I've even taken a huge step in making this happen.  More another day.)
  7. I want to get back to strength training.  I've pretty much got the cardio-thing down when it comes to fitness.  I mean, I run regularly, I spin, and now that I'm not working (!) I'm back to my dance and kickboxing classes.  But . . . I've really let my strength training go.  I'm getting back to Pilates and I've discovered a new class at the gym called "Body Pump."  (Trendy as hell, sure.  But effective.  So there.)
  8. I want to stitch more.  I say MORE ALABAMA CHANIN in 2015!  I love the AC shawl I made last year -- so much that I bought a new AC kit right before the holiday madness began (this time, a t-shirt).  I'm eager to begin.  You can bet that I won't leave this kit - untouched - in my closet for two years.  (Like the last one.)  I'm not intimidated anymore.  (And yesterday Vicki sent me a link to an AC project featuring grids.  I am giddy. . .)
  9. I want to Go Someplace.  Actually, let's make that plural.  I want to Go Places!!  My sister and I are starting to get itchy again.  Tom casually mentioned Mexico last night. (I'm All In.) (Even though he wasn't talking about the two of us going to Mexico.) And I'd like to take some small trips, too (Pittsburgh to see Erin, local adventures with my Mom, Chicago with Tom).  (Who knows where I'll end up. . .)
  10. I want to reach and grow and try some new things this year -- but I also want to settle in with the things I love best.  Hanging out with Tom.  Reading excellent books.  Digging in my garden. Knitting and stitching and creating.  Listening to music.  Enjoying poetry.  Sipping some wine.  And keeping up with friends!

How about YOU?  What are your intentions (or aspirations and goals) for the year?

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JOURNEY: The Beginning

So.

Why JOURNEY?

Begin here 1.4.15

Last year, when I chose the word POSSIBILITY as my "one little word," it was because there was some sort of . . . pull . . . deep inside me for . . . 

something ELSE
something DIFFERENT
something MORE

I thought, then, that I needed to consider new possibilities for my life.  And, at the time, I thought I needed to add something (a new project, new creative ventures, more this, more that).  I never thought about what I might leave behind.  

What I discovered over the course of my year of POSSIBILITY was quite shocking to me!  As the year rolled on, I slowly began to realize that in order to explore/find/discover new possibilities, I first needed to make room for them.  I understand now (because hindsight always makes you wiser) that adding something "new" . . . without considering what was "already there" . . . would have been a horrible mistake, and wouldn't actually help me at all.

(Ah.  The power of one little word.)

So my year of POSSIBILITY . . . became a year of creating space!  I started with my closet.  Most unexpected, but so satisfying.  (And still ongoing, truth be told.  Paring down happens in stages. . . as I realize how lightly I really can pack!)  It moved on to the garden, where I did a lot more digging-up than planting-in last year.  It moved into my head - in a very big way - where I started thinking very hard about commitments and priorities and passions.

And that's when it really hit me.

What I discovered was this:  My time (and my heart) were beging consumed by my job -- a job I'd actually been "tricked" into accepting (can you say "bait-and-switch"?), didn't ever want, and was holding onto for some weird sense of obligation.  My original search for new possibilities, I now understand, was actually a search for my own heart.  Because I felt so empty and drained from the demands of a job I didn't want to have in the first place.

So I cleared space.

I quit.

Today is my first "official" day without that particular job in my life.

Now, my JOURNEY really begins.  I've cleared space -- and now I'm heading out for uncharted territory.

I'm not sure where I'm going, but I know I'm on my way!