Shifting Perspective

I doubt it matters where you live or who you are, life perpetually lays before us an unending series of challenges and responsibilities. It just is.

Life is life.

When it gets overwhelming it’s important to carve out time for the things that bring us peace, pleasure and a way to break from the pressures and responsibilities of life.

As owner operator of a small business in a small town, I talk to a lot of people. I consider it a privilege that my regular customers allow me a glimpse into their lives. What I have noticed is that without a doubt, we are all the same. Yeah, the flavours of our challenges vary a bit, but it’s the same for everyone. Life is an ebb and flow of experiences that range from delightful to dreadful with every conceivable piece of the spectrum in between. Life is life.

When I start to feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities and the challenges they present me it’s easy to feel like I’m alone in the struggle.

But I’m not.

That feeling of overwhelm is very real. It can undermine my capacity to function well. And we all face the same struggle, every day. Often what feels like a struggle to me pales next to the woman whose daughter is recovering from a brain injury and is not the girl she was before her accident. Wow! Sharing stories about our struggles can help us to let go of the pressure (if only for a little while) and to reset our perspective.

Since opening my business I have been striving to find a healthy balance in life. It’s really easy to let business take over and the needs of my customers become the most important thing in my life.

But that’s not healthy.

Years ago a woman told me that the work she did to earn money was just a way to earn money. She had no attachment or sentiment toward that work. It was simply the thing she did so that she had the money to live her life. She considered the time outside of her work hours to be her life. Part of me admired her detachment while another part of me tried to imagine whether I was capable of doing that… or would want to.

I think for me, the bottom line comes down to perspective. When the current perspective results in undue stress, resetting it is vital. There was a time when I believed that to show anyone my struggle was a sign of weakness. I have mostly been that little duck that seems serene from what you see above the surface of the lake, but whose legs are busy, paddling like mad to keep it all together. These days, the people closest to me recognize that life is life. We can be there for each other without the need to compete, judge or blame. And what a relief that is. It makes resetting perspective so much easier.

There was a time when sewing was the thing I did to break away. Now of course sewing is my livelihood. So at the end of a day of sewing for my customers, sewing doesn’t offer me what I need for myself.  These days, knitting is that thing that I carve out space for. It’s my oasis; my mental health break. I love the fact that it can be meditative, or challenging or fun or all of that. It can be a quiet personal retreat or it can be social.

One of the things I love about our “Social Saturdays Stitching Circles” is that it creates a regular scheduled time to sit and knit with other people; to talk about our lives; to share in an activity that brings us joy, peace, and a wonderful creative outlet; to break away from the usual routine and all those responsibilities.

It’s a time to make sure that my perspective matches my core values.

Most important it’s a weekly reminder for me that it’s the close relationships in my life that deserve top billing, always.

Who knew that knitting could be that powerful?

Happy Mothers’ Day

Our relationships with our moms can be complicated. Whether we are close with our mom or whether we find it really difficult to see eye to eye with her, she’s still Mom. I love my mom and in spite of the many deeply challenging aspects of my relationship with her, I have a deep regard for her struggle to do the best she could with what she had and who she was. Being human is messy in spite of our best intentions. So today, I thought I’d share a treasured memory of my mom in honour of Mothers’ Day.

Mom was a very creative person. She sewed and knitted, gardened and along with all the other “mom” things she had to do, she ran a business with Dad. She had rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and every morning she would sit in her rocker-recliner in the corner of the dining room and knit. It got the circulation going in her hands so that she could function. For many years, she knitted commissioned garments for people in the community. She sewed and was a brilliant cook as well. She made many items including jams and jellies that she sold for years at the Salmon Arm Farmers’ Market. She was one of their founding members and was proud to have been the very first to purchase a membership: Receipt #001.

Our family was exceptionally hard-working. We grew up with a very strong work ethic, always looking for how we could improve on what we had done before. We were instilled with a love of discovery, creativity, invention and took pride in our achievements. We loved a challenge, even if we didn’t know how we were going to meet it.

I remember a particular commission piece that my mother took on. A customer brought her a picture from a knitting magazine of a sweater that looked like a landscape painting straight out of the Louvre. It had an astounding 28 colours of yarn in it. Mom warned the customer that this was going to cost a pretty penny; when they agreed to her price, she couldn’t resist the challenge.

She organized her balls of coloured yarn in mason jars; one jar per colour. The array was quite spectacular. (Pity the person who bumped into any one of those jars, though!) For this project she moved from her recliner to the couch. That was a lot of jars! As she switched colours, she would deftly move the jars, like a dance, to keep the strands from tangling. It was a fascinating, sometimes terrifying process to witness. On the days when it went smoothly, we could quietly sit and watch her work. On the days when it wasn’t, it was better to be out in the barn! It took a very long time for her to finish the sweater. The landscape wrapped around the entire sweater and continued on the sleeves. It was DK yarn and the sweater was for a large man. The amount of work was phenomenal.

I remember one night in particular that I went to kiss her goodnight. She looked up from her knitting and I realized that she was crying. I asked her what was wrong. She sighed and said that she wasn’t sure she was a good enough knitter to finish the sweater. She sniffed and then said,

“I have so much invested in it now that I can’t turn back.”

I hugged her and kissed her and told her that I knew she could do it. I told her that I hoped one day I could be half the knitter that she was. She smiled and kissed me and sent me off to bed.

When she finally finished the sweater, she was relieved and proud and yet still pointed out every flaw that she saw (and she saw plenty). They didn’t look like flaws to me. I was so proud of her and I told her so. I told her that I thought she was a super-hero,

a bonafide Wonder Woman!

She gave me a strange look and shook her head and told me, “Don’t tell anyone how many mistakes I made.” She lamented that no amount of money could pay for the amount of work, care and concentration that went into that sweater. I asked her whether she regretted taking it on. She sighed heavily and said that now it was done, she was glad she did it. But she would never do another one like that again.

That sweater inspired me. Watching my mom plugging away at what must have seemed like an insurmountable task impacted me deeply. Sometimes when I feel like there isn’t enough of me to get through what I have to do I remember my mother quietly knitting into the night, tears of self-doubt on her cheeks, persevering. I remember the finished sweater. I take a deep breath, shake off the self-doubt and carry on.

Thanks Mom.

Happy Easter

With Easter weekend upon us I found myself reminiscing. My two Omas lived in Germany; one near Hanover and the other in Neu-Ulm. When I was a little girl, the way we distinguished between them was that one knitted and the other crocheted. Each of them actually did both, but they each had their preference.

Leading up to Easter, we could always expect a parcel from each of them. 

  • One would include colourful crocheted dresses made up of what I called the “birthday cake stitch” 
  • and the other a knitted sweater or cardigan.

 Each would also contain some candies and other little trinkets that were not available in Canada. Besides the anticipation of simply opening the parcels, I remember feeling breathless as I waited to see what my Easter dress would look like.

To me, as a young girl, the fact that both Omas always got my size right was nothing less than magical. I honestly believed they had supernatural powers that allowed them to always send something perfect for each of the five of us kids. In hindsight, my mother obviously talked to them and told them what we would like and what our sizes were. When I would gush to mommy about how amazing it was, she would just smile. 

Never once did she unravel that mystery. 

I’m so glad that she didn’t.

I remember a tiny change purse that looked like a lady bug, Maoam chewy candies in a great big Costco sized bag (these would be doled out throughout the whole year). Pastel coloured candy-covered chocolates and Nürnberger Lebkuchen. But mostly it was about the dresses for me. My mother knitted every day from the time I can remember until the day Alzheimer’s took it from her. She had arthritis in her hands and that hour of knitting first thing in the morning was how she kept her hands from seizing up. 

I knew how long it took to make a garment out of balls of yarn. I knew how much work it was. 

Even though I rarely got to see my Omas in person, I knew without a doubt that they loved me. Only someone who really loved me would put that much time into making something out of yarn in my favourite colours, just for me.

And now, I carry on that tradition. I show my love for my family through my knitting. And they know how long it takes; and they know that only someone who really loves them would put that much time into making something out of yarn just for them.

I wish you all magic, joy and love.

Holiday Startitis

Thanksgiving has come and gone and suddenly there is a cold bite to the air. There is absolutely no denying that fall has arrived. The heater is on, the windows are closed and I’m reaching for my hand knitted socks and sweaters. The shift has happened in my store, too. I’m noticing that the chunky yarns that were being ignored in favour of cotton, bamboo and linen are now getting a lot more attention. Customers are dropping off their winter gear for repairs.

I’ve always been partial to fall. I love the changing leaves, the nip in the air and that I can bake again without it making our home unbearably hot. Along with a sense of urgency to get all my outdoor chores finished up before the snow arrives, I find myself wanting to take time to cozy up my home. The days are already noticeably shorter and the nights are definitely colder. In the evenings I want to curl up in a comfy chair with a knitting project. Although Continue reading “Holiday Startitis”

Beginners

At the last Social Saturday Stitching Circle in my store, I was teaching a raw beginner (adult) to crochet. My husband happened to come in and quietly observed the process. Later he suggested I write a blog post about what I taught her. I argued that there are lots of YouTube videos to teach beginning crochet. And he told me that what he meant was that he saw me teaching her how to be a beginner. He thought it would be valuable for others if I shared that. So here we go. Continue reading “Beginners”

Beach Knitting

At a recent Social Saturdays gathering, we were discussing our summer recreational activities, or in some cases, lack of recreational activities. I was personally lamenting that last fall I realized that an entire summer had passed without me going to the beach even once. Now, as a life-long resident of British Columbia, living in a gorgeous mountain resort town, there is something akin to sacrilege in not even going to a lake for an entire summer. I confessed that I had yet to go to any lake this summer so far and that this was weighing heavily on my conscience. The beautiful, hot sunny weather was making it very difficult to want to stay indoors to work, and wasn’t helping even one little bit.

One of the ladies commented that the only way that the beach really appeals to her is if she can be knitting there. We talked about what we perceived other people’s perceptions would be, regarding knitting at the beach. At the end, what we decided was that we actually really didn’t care about what other people thought of us beach knitting.

What mattered was that we could get outdoors on a splendid summer day, hang out in the shade enjoying a soft, warm breeze while we engage in an activity that we feel passionate about.

Continue reading “Beach Knitting”