Alone but Not Lonely

Having recently moved to a new area, I've spent a lot of time introducing myself and my daughter these past few weeks. Relocating from a big city to a village of less than 100 inhabitants has caused a certain curiosity and almost everyone I meet assumes I must have friends or work nearby. When I cheerfully explain that I'm solo I seem to be able to detect a head tilt almost immediately after. 

The first few times I assumed it was a stand alone event but I've noticed the head tilt increasing in regularity. In fact, I'm seeing that head tilt with an alarming regularity. For example, the tilt is almost always there when I'm asked if there are any siblings for Little One or where her father works. My cheerful demeanour remains unbroken as I explain our family circumstances but there it is, the head tilt

The risks associated with loneliness and isolation have been much discussed in the press after studies revealed that loneliness is related to much poorer health. People are more likely to develop unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking and depression is strongly linked to a lack of support network. I've been highly aware for a long time that I work best when surrounded by the love and positive energy of others and actively encouraged certain relationships knowing they bring me much better mental health. 

Still, I spend much of my week alone and I can honestly say that I am much happier for it. I have regular contact with supportive friends thanks to constant messages pinging back and forth each day. When I do meet up with people I soak up that time, drawing strength till I get my next dose of real life company. I need very little to feel satisfied as long as that quality friendship is in place. The difference between being alone a lot of the time and being lonely is very clear to me. Leading a very quiet life doesn't necessarily mean that someone is lonely. 

 (picture taken by my good friend  Clare Devine )

(picture taken by my good friend Clare Devine)

When we joined forces online this week for #makegoodfeelgood, my intention was very simple: no person experiencing mental health should feel alone. We have a vast and vibrant community of people who understand the need to soothe away black spots with making and stitching. What I couldn't possibly have predicted was the number of individuals who went out of their way to read through the many stories shared with the hashtag. I saw endless messages of encouragement, recognition and acknowledgement. I was stunned at the compassion I saw and the sense of a happening as we held one another's hands. 

makegoodfeelgood image

I've since received several messages from people who have since made adjustments to their lives such as seeking some professional help or changing habits that had become destructive. I myself took some time this week to just gather my thoughts on this thing called loneliness and the result is a sense of calm. What I saw when I really looked around me were the many strands that tether me when I do fall or feel fragile. 

taking time out

I am honoured to have shared so much with so many people this week and I hope that for many of you, the growing feeling that you do not journey alone continues to gather momentum beyond the #makegoodfeelgood Cyber Hug. There are wonderful charities like Mind offering support, advice and signposting to local communities that can help. Your GP or Dr is also a good first step to making positive changes when you're feeling lost and alone. Whatever stage of your journey you are at, know that there are a lot of us out there journeying too. 

Keep taking those steps xx

 

 

 

For the Love of Writing

A few nights ago I was melancholy. There were various events over the last week that left me listless, dissatisfied and a little emotionally raw. In the past I kept a journal which I poured my soul into but having stopped the habit years ago, picking up a pen now feels overwhelming.  I felt like that was what I needed though and while the blog helps my urge to write and tell tales, I don't have that same release any more.  

I started at an empty page wondering where to start. I needed to work through, cataloguing things to find a pattern, a catalyst and hopefully reach a resolution. I didn't know how to any more though. I was overwhelmed by the words I suddenly didn't have and still, there was this noise in the background, making it hard to focus. I wanted it out so I could move on. Nothing BIG was wrong. I was just blue and struggling to move on. 

So I put out a plea via Twitter, Instagram and Ravelry and found others who kept journals. A few different systems were suggested:

- Bullet Journalling (I NEED this in my life too, also I need something reflective too though..... how to incorporate?)
- One thousand Gifts. (while not religious myself, I found the idea of finding joy in each day interesting.... this could easily be included in the Bullet Journal format)
- Every few days, writing highlights and notes, collecting pages, adding details through tickets or photographs (note: I would love a polaroid for just this reason)
- 5 year diaries. A small note each day that you return to year after year. My grandfather has done this for decades. I hope to inherit these as I understand the preciousness of the daily act. 
- A journal with additional clips and sticky notes, colour coded for different types of note such as knitting, anxiety and shopping lists. I liked this idea a lot. 
- Doodles, yarn swatches and a visual index of things that have provoked a reaction. 
- Journals with prompts such as quotes or images already on the pages.
- Describing your immediate setting as a way to launch a meditative entry. 

I've been left with lots of ideas that I like so I wanted to share them with you. I might try and develop a 'system' and share it again, inviting you to join me. 

Do you write? And if so, how? Come tell us over in the group. There's more than just me who'd appreciate the inspiration I can assure you!

Still

Sometimes amongst all the chaos, the constant movement and the endless (endless) work, you need to stop and be still. Taking time for yourself is always hard but it's something I struggle with even more as a mother of an oh so Playful Tot. However, unless we take risks we don't know where our boundaries lie right?

I've been scrunched up into myself lately, brow furrowed and just living for the afternoons in with the Tot, rolling around on the floor and completely lost within each other. I've loved it. With Unravel coming at the weekend though and so much social strength needed to cope with crowds of people and banter, I knew I needed to push myself a little. 

With a trusted friend I tried something new..... Art, lunch, let the girls run wild and then? Stillness. 

I wonder if it will stick?

Slow Burning

A discussion picked up on Twitter the other day about the pleasure in a slow and steady knit. It was quite apt given the garment I just finished and FINALLY took pictures of but I'll talk about that a bit more in a minute.

What we agreed was that while wearing knits was wonderful, it's always with slight sorrow that we bind off. I find myself eager to get to that finishing point, to have my hat, to wear my shawl, to share it with other knitters who will 'ooohhhh' and 'ahhhhhhh' along with me at the clever pattern features and gorgeous yarn. However, I always feel slightly bereft at the point of cast off. I wish I was at the beginning again with all that fresh promise. I love the first few sessions of knitting on a new project. It's like making a new friend.

It's often when you're at the end that you've really hit your stride and can do the pattern repeat instinctively and of course, that's when it all speeds up and you're suddenly almost at the Bind Off. To be fair, there's also been projects that I've cast off and thought 'Oh thank God, I'm never knitting that again!' As a general rule though, slow meditative steps in our knitting should be celebrated as much as the 'quick knit' and the instant gratification that it promises. There's lots of workshops out there for you to speed up your knitting. I know I'm slow but I love every piece just as much.

If hats are fast and dirty, sweaters and socks are slow burners for me. I just don't knit that fast. It irked me when I first learned to knit as I wanted all my sweaters to be handmade and never to have to buy socks again. This is absolutely ridiculous at the rate I knit and even this far into knitting, with a back catalogue under my belt, I'd not make such a silly pledge.

It was rather lovely though to photograph these two slow burning projects at long last because I took them at a very steady pace which means I adore wearing them all the more.

Julissa in Miss Babs Yowza!

The first is my Girl Crush Sweater. I settled for photographing it on my sister (oh she had a lot of modelling to do that weekend) so this doesn't quite show it's full glory, but still, a special sweater all the same.This sweater saw me through the discovery that I was pregnant, the big move from North to South London, settling into a home full of some pretty enormous DIY projects, the arrival of my daughter and then finally settling into Motherhood and feeling I had run a marathon! Each stitch has a story and I smile each time I reach for this sweater. I will always think of the many moments I retreated into its' comforting lace and cables when there was some huge changes going on in my life.

Pyrite Socks in JFA Buffy Toughie

Then, finally, there is the Pyrite Socks and I adore them. I bought the yarn after a visit to Asti's farm and each time I look at the beautiful colours I think of that magical countryside holiday with close friends and our family. Meeting Asti was the icing on the cake and we've formed a friendship that I treasure.

So I am now slightly lost and a little perturbed about my next knitting plans. The Ravellenics always unsettles me, making me feel that I should run to keep up and then, as is so often the case, I shrug and retreat into my slow, plodding knitting and remember that I'm just not that way inclined. I prefer to be the person coaching the team; I'm better suited to enjoying other people's glory than my own. I won't even model my own sweater for goodness sake!

x

The Day Christmas Finally Came...

Well Christmas festivities finally began to get underway today and I was so relieved. It felt like I should be doing ALL the Christmas fun and frolic now that we have a little one and the pressure to just BE THAT MUM is enormous. My blog reader, Facebook timelines, Twitter feed and Instagram feed have just been filling up with images of babies meeting Father Christmas, making salt dough ornaments and all kinds of Christmas merriment. Us? We'd not even located the Christmas baubles let alone worked out if they're shatterproof when savaged by a small pudgy playful hand.

I stoppped looking at my phone midweek and just felt so much better for it. Do I need to make her a kitsch Christmas sweater, a stocking, a garland, an ornament, a scrap book of images that is perfectly annotated or rush around to every Santa's grotto in a ten mile radius? The thing is, she's 13 months and at the moment, it's all just wonderment and baffling to her so any small gesture is enormous to her and a mummy who can stand upright at the end of the day seems far more healthy to me. I want things to be nice and special but seeing as her current favourite thing to do is career round the kitchen with a mixing bowl on her head, I figure I've got a few years yet before I need to start the whirlwind with full gusto. I can just aim to get the mood and the magic will come, right?

So with deadlineageddon finally past I announced 'We are getting festive this weekend, dammit'. Such a perfect holiday sentiment no?

I made baby friendly mince pies using this recipe from River Cottage and store bought pastry because you know what? I don't have time in my life for pastry. I will. Just not now. I have limits.

We mulled wine and decorated with Ella swinging us through Christmas in the background.

We made a roast dinner for ultimate comfort afterwards.

Then we sank back and basked in the glory of Christmas finally arriving and I resolved that I would try hard not to succumb to the idea that the holiday season is about what I did to make it perfect rather than a holiday season that was full of love and warmth (and plenty of mulled wine- hurrah!). I felt amazingly snuggly and festive suddenly and I was surrounded by my loved ones and they all looked pretty chipper too.

Tomorrow we're going to the farmer's market to get some festive treats and let Playful Baby pet a sheep dressed as a reindeer. Yup. That's my version of queueing for hours in a shopping mall to see Father Christmas. I'm hoping little one never realises the difference...!!

Happy Holidays!

Journey Blog Tour

It seems fitting that I'm breaking my blog/recording silence to indulge in this particular blog post. Deadlineageddon very nearly sucked anything playful out of me this month and I feared I might never find my way back to here, my little corner of the internet where I get to talk about fun knitting things, recipes and occasionally muse about life in general. 

Welcome to my leg of the Journey Blog tour. 'Journey' is a collaboration of hand knits from Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook (of Love in the Mommyhood fame) and is inspired by the journey of self-discovery, independence and the path back to yourself. This really resonates with me right now and I felt an immediate affection for this book. In planning my post for the blog tour, I started a thought process that went something like this:

Oh! Self discovery....... a journey.... Vancouver Island.... I should knit something out of my holiday yarn that I bought when I visited the West Coast ...... I should share how I taught my friend to knit while we travelled near the island...... and tie it in and....


You get the idea. 

I was just running away with myself, thrilled to be thinking about knitting one of the wonderful patterns from this book till I sat and made myself re read the words Shannon and Jane start the book with. Before you even launch into the fabulous collection that includes two garment patterns, a shawl pattern, a sock pattern and two accessory patterns, there is foreword that shares the sentiment that drove the publication of this book. Shannon and Jane worked together on Jane's previous publication 'Island' which I was very lucky to review last year. That friendship has taken them both to unexpected places in their creative journeys as they worked worked together to make all their differences and shared interests into this wonderful publication put out by the publishing company they have now established. 

No publishing journey is easy and to do so as friends is incredible. The warmth from the friendship seems to ooze off the pages that are filled with stunning photography by Nicholas Kupiak  (he also did the photography for Island). It made me stop, think, and gather myself. Why would I add a deadline to this? The book is beautiful and makes me want to curl up with it and a mug of something warm and delicous and read it from cover-to-cover. Yep, even the knitting patterns because they are so thoughtfully written and laid out so you just know it's going to be a pleasure to create. 


Spate by Jane Rochmond, (c) Nicholas Kupiak
So instead of frantically casting on, I partook in some imaginary knitting. Wanna know what I made first? I made Spate, the wonderful textured fingerless mitts that Jane Richmond designed for the book. I worked them up in something yummy from my stash that's been marinating for a while and I was so thrilled to find a stitch pattern that showcased such subtle variegation. I knit these mitts to wear while I walked with my little girl and needed my fingers free to help feed the ducks, retie the strap on her shoe or pocket one of the many leaves she hands to me to look at as we walk along. In my journey of self discovery, it has been the balance of finding time to be the person I used to be and a mother. Working out how I reconcile the amount of time and commitment it takes to raise such a sturdy young thing with the knit addict whose every waking hour used to be spent with needles in hand or writing about knitting journeys, is a tricky one indeed. 


Antrorse by Shannon Cook, (c) Nicholas Kupiak
I then got really flamboyant and cast on Antrorse, Shannon's amazingly snuggly looking sweater design for the book. The clean and simple lines to this sweater are just wonderful but the pattern is repeated enough throughout the body of the sweater that it won't be dull to knit. There's also buttons and every good crafter has a beloved button box. I have buttons hoarded and collected from all over the world, from my mother's stash and even from the Giant's mother's stash. They are precious and perfect for browsing over on a rainy afternoon while you consider your choices. 

I WILL cast on from this book and I will sample some vintage stash to do so because Jane and Shannon have reminded me of the pleasure that can be found in knitting when you just slow down and stop to look at the pictures.

You can find other wonderful posts about Journey from other bloggers and podcasters:

MONDAY || CELTIC CAST ON
TUESDAY || TRULY MYRTLE and THE YARNIAD
WEDNESDAY || TANIS FIBER ARTS
THURSDAY || HEY PORKCHOP, NOODLEHEAD and SKIRT AS TOP
SATURDAY || SINGLEHANDED KNITS

A huge thank you to Shannon and Jane for inviting me to be part of the Journey tour. The fun doesn't stop with this post as there will be more details of the patterns on the podcast next week (yes, next week. I'm committed to that). To purchase your copy of Journey, please either visit Ravelry or Marian Rae Publications. 


Letting Go

It's just turned 1pm and so far today I have done the following: stripped guest bed, put on first load of laundry, prepared breakfast for family, dressed myself and little one, cleaned bathroom, cleaned up after breakfast, tried (& failed) to get little one down for a morning nap, unpacked delivered grocery shopping, put a second load of laundry on, finished off the soup I started last night, hung out laundry, put away clothes and toys, changed a light bulb, realised new light bulb is wrong size, sent a few emails, took little one on bus to get some fresh fruit and vegetables, made lunch, tidied up lunch, finally got her down for a nap, washed up everything and tidied kitchen, prepared dinner for tonight and lunch for tomorrow and got our bags ready for swim class once little one wakes. 

Why am I listing this?

Today a conversation, or theme has been following me and I wanted to write about it. I am not good at letting go when it comes to the house. I grew up in the kind of house where there was never a compromise on house work. Laundry was always attended to, things were clean and we rarely ran out of store cupboard things. Over the years I've worked hard to cut loose a little but the best improvement I've made in my perfectionism is admitting that when it comes to chores, I don't let go easily. In admitting this, I got better at managing it and believe it or not, that list is about half what it would have been ten years ago. 

Becoming a mother is a little similar. You have to admit that there's the person you want to be and then the reality of who you really are. For me, I wanted to be this calm, easy going zen like mother who let things like soup on the floor go and laughed in the face of routine. I'd thought I couldn't have children from the age of about 19. I'd been told it either wouldn't be possible to conceive, keep the baby or deliver safely. So in my mind, if I ever imagined being a mother, I would be the perfect mother because the sheer fact that I'd managed to have a baby would overrule any uptight behaviour. When I discovered that I was pregnant, that was the mother I wanted to be. 

Reality is a hard lesson and it's one I think so many women have to come to terms with in the first year of being a mum. I suspect it will be a lesson that I revisit over and over again at each knew phase of Playful Baby's life. Chatting to a friend today she said 'I really had to let go of my ideal image of motherhood though'. It struck a deep chord. 

I think we all put expectations on ourself as mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, partners and co workers. I think the difference between who we hoped to be and who we are can seem enormously vast. It's hard to navigate this chasm of difference when the fantasy seemed so appealing in the first place. 

Letting go doesn't mean giving up on that ideal. It just means I've stepped into the chasm where I can see both sides from where I stand. Hopefully I can take a little of each, mix it up and build a bridge between zen, chilled mum and the mum that drives herself so hard to have a clean house with fresh baked goods each day. 

It's now 1.30pm and I still have half a day left to tip the balance a little. Perhaps I'll sit here just a little longer, snuggled up in hand knits and ponder what fun route we'll take on the way to swimming. The emails and writing can wait till tomorrow. I need to sing, point at the ducks and laugh with mini one instead. 

1000

I took a picture a few days ago that I promptly deleted 5 minutes later from my Instagram feed. It felt like too personal a picture in some ways, too full of meaning and yet, it also doesn't mean a thing to anyone else but me. 

Want to see the picture? 

See? Nothing too worrying there other than some clutter in the middle if our living room. They say a picture can say a thousand words and this one has plenty. It's the meaning behind it that caused a friction inside of me about how much I wanted to share and what I think I want to write about now that I've started documenting moments like this in my life. 

Firstly there was a sideboard in the middle of my living room. It's a lovely white side board that a fab friend rescued from being dumped and other friends brought to live with us. It sparked a cascade effect....

When we moved in just over a year ago, I had visions of lovingly creating a home for the Playful Baby to be welcomed into. I would sand down and paint this shabby dresser also captured in the photo. I would knit cardigans for her for each season (note the cluttered knitting baskets). Our house would be a calm and creative place. 

A year later the dresser is fine as it is, thank you. The cardigans? No. The sideboard? Helping to rehome various things that means we can finally get the last boxes unpacked. Yes, a year on we are still unpacking. Mind you I should explain a little more. We have packed and unpacked a grand total of EIGHT TIMES. 

Yes really. 

Our lovely house sprang leaks and we needed some pretty major bathroom sorting before little one even arrived so we unpacked and repacked as builders came and tore down and plastered and tweaked. In the meantime I went in to hospital and held tight- this was one impatient baby! Our little home was suddenly a cause for huge anxiety and we began to panic that we might bring our baby home to rubble!

With the support of wonderful friends and family we were ready just in time for the Playful Baby's early arrival and we hoped to restart on other work once we got the hang of things a bit. In the meantime we set about learning how to best care for a rather active and curious little one. It wasn't calmer but it wasn't rubble that's for sure.

Leaks have an annoying habit of causing damage and worse still, returning. Then there's the neglected hardwood floors that suddenly I decided were a 'death trap' the minute little one got remotely mobile. Suddenly we were back into this urgent state again and what's more with a baby. As combinations go, I can assure you, this is not a great one.

So the end result has been 8 sessions of packing and shifting of furniture and please let's not forget the clean up operation every time. It's been quite a year. 

So we stand at a point where I have declared my sanity can only be saved by unpacking every last box and finishing house projects for 2013. This sideboard meant we now have a functional living room and in turn the loft room can now be sorted till a time when we have the time/ energy/ funds to address it fully. In the mean time, functional will suffice. Cardboard mazes won't. 

That magazine on top of the sideboard? That's me planning for playful times: baking and cooking. Food remains a tricksy issue with PB still struggling with a poor digestion when it comes to dairy. We're getting there and now I'm testing the waters for us both. (Not rewarding myself with super ice creams has been tough, let me tell you).

So this picture tells a tale of a playful woman pushed very hard this year. That's why it felt raw and weird and not really blog worthy. I'm sharing it anyway because you know what? It IS personal........ it's either me or those flipping boxes. Today, I'm going to unpack another. I AM!