Zoë: A season of love

Crickets.

That’s what we say when we don’t hear whatever it is we were waiting to hear: “Crickets.” As in, gosh, it’s so quiet that even a one-inch bug thinks it’s time to fill the silence with a bit of leg-sawing.

You’ve likely heard a whole rock band of crickets if you’ve been tuning in to the Wiseheart blog channel lately. 

my pretty girl Zoe

My girl, in better times 

It’s been a hard season here at Wiseheart Cottage. We lost our beloved Zoë the evening of July 17 after a months-long journey through illness, fragility, and depths of love and grief and joy that I had not expected to experience, despite a lifetime of dearly cherished pets.

I loved those other cats, too. Certainly, I adored my dog, Buddy, gone three years now. Lucikate, a sweet grey tabby, was so close to me that I called her “Daughter” when no one else could hear. I bawled like a baby when Merrirose died three days after Lucikate passed away, unable to face life without her sister. When my kitten Sassafrass died at 9 months of one of those awful kitten diseases, I thought I would never stop crying. And Cougar. Oh my heart, my tiny babycat Cougar, whose death still has the power to wake me from sleep, my face wet with tears.

And Sparrow. You don’t hear me talk about my Sparrow much. Yeah. There’s Reasons.

(That’s Sparrow up in the right-most corner of my main banner, rolling around on top of a cabinet. Sparrow was littermate to both Zoë and Dusty; lost at age five from an incredibly fast-moving horrible cancer. And to this day, that’s it. That’s all you get, about Sparrow, anyway. Can’t tell you Sparrow stories…yet.)

But this one, man-oh-man, as we used to say in the coastal California of my childhood. This one. This Zoë. Losing this one tore up something inside me. A corner of my spirit, probably. A whole suite of rooms in my heart, certainly, rooms once inhabited by a lively ball of opinionated calico attitude, rooms now just walls and floors where her toys rattle endlessly around the edges, as though looking for their lost playmate.

That’s how this loss feels to me. Empty rooms, where once there was a whole party of a cat. And I’m the first to admit, despite my lifetime of animal companions, how shocked I am at the depths of my grief.

After all, Zoë was, as some might think, and a few have actually said to my face, “just a cat”.

Just a cat.

She is so “just” a cat that living with her, and having the privilege of knowing her and caring for her over the past ten months or so has changed me—no, wait. Not changed. Made me more me. Made Sandi more the person I have been becoming all along. Made me more the person I wish to continue becoming.

And yet: Just a cat.

We do not hesitate to nod our heads in understanding when someone describes the impact that a cherished grandparent has had on us. And once one knows one is safe amongst like-minded animal people, it is a relief and a solace to be able to admit out loud and at length to the crater in our hearts and souls left by the death of an animal who has shared our lives.

For some audiences, however, mention that you are still grieving a small 8-pound critter with a tail and without a voice and you might be met with…crickets. And not the friendly sort of crickets, either. The kind that say, well, now, isn’t that being just a bit overly dramatic? It’s not as though she was a person, after all…

Just a cat.

All summer long, because of those three words, I’ve been stuck, unable to write much of ANYTHING, let alone some sort of blog post, update, or description of whatever yarn is tangling up my needles at that particular moment in time.

Because: Just a cat.

All right, yes. Someone did say those words to me, someone who meant well, someone who does not know me well enough to know how sharply those particular words cut. She didn’t know that in trying to make me feel better by “putting things in perspective”, that she had actually made me and my grief-riven heart feel ashamed and foolish.

Weeks of nights spent sobbing my eyes into swollen onions over my lost furry girl have taught me that if this is foolishness, then let me be foolish about more things in my life. Let me set aside my shame and, in my foolish heart, honour all that is joy in the world, all that is life in the world, all that is love in the world.

If Just A Cat, then: Just Joy.  Then: Just Life.  Then: Just Love.

At the same time as I’ve felt unable to write about Zoë, I’ve also been feeling stuck because I can’t go forward without writing about Zoë. How can I just start chatting on about the fourth sleeve I’ve knit this summer (all for the same hoodie, you understand), or the seemingly endless self-frogging socks, or my sewing machines, or any of that stuff—because, dammit, it is all just STUFF and I lost my CAT. I lost my GIRL. I lost my Zoë, my heart, my sweet kitty-girl, so how am I supposed to jot down a paragraph or two about how cute she was, show you a couple of photos, and then skip two lines, make a new heading, and then let’s talk about what you all are going to knit for fall?

I can’t, that’s how.

JustACat or no, this 16+ year relationship nourished me and challenged me and comforted me and overtook my heart so much so that now I’m also stuck because I can’t write about it, not just yet anyway. Not the way I want to. Not in any hope of doing justice to it.

There are so many things I want to say about this life–this furry life, yes, but this one life, this one small spark of joy and fur that I named after the Greek word for “life” when she was barely two months old. (Turns out that never has a being so lived up to her name in my knowing.) Swap out a vowel or two, and “life” becomes “love”, a short word, a small word, yes, indeed. In size, small; in impact, so beyond quantifying that we use the word itself as the unit of infinity: As long as love shall last. To the height, and depth, and breadth of one’s being: love.

Just a small cat. In size, not so much. In impact, on me at least: As long as love shall last.

Oh, my Zoë. My heart. On this unbelievable gorgeous day nearly six weeks after we parted (for now), your love still makes me see all of life with more reverence, more respect, more wonder, more awe, more joy. And more love. Of course, more love.

But still through rainbows of tears, my sweet little one. Oh Zoë.

How well you loved me, oh my JustACat.

How well you loved all of us lucky enough to be in your tribe.

How much I miss you.

How much I will always miss you.

How grateful I am to have known you.

How grateful beyond words—on beyond all the words I do have and onto those I do not have and thus cannot write, yes, beyond all those and more–how grateful I am for your love, for every whisker and paw, every purr and cuddle, every sweet black ear tuft-tip and every small meep and mew and m(e)ow; for all the songs you sang to me, songs just for me and to me and with me, songs that shaped each day and bid each night goodnight—how grateful I am, for all of that and more, for all the love and life, every day for 16 and a half years.

Thank you, sweet girl. My girl. My beloved Zoë girl.

Oh, the love we did love, my Zoë and me.

(You may point out that I have just done what I have said I could not do: Write about my girl. Perhaps. Or perhaps the above is just a sketch, just an outline, just the barest ghost of a draft of what I might, what I could, what I would write, if I were able to really write, to really tell you about this JustACat, this small life, this Zoë-of-my-heart. My now calico-coloured heart.)

Posted in Knitting | 21 Comments

So many ways to say “Thank you”

There are so many ways to say “Thank you”…and I’ll be darned if I can come up with even one of them that says what I want to say in gratitude to each and every one of you who responded so warmly to my last post. You wrote with kindness; you wrote with compassion and understanding; you wrote with shared experiences and honesty. Mostly, though, you wrote about finding something here that I find has become a precious commodity in today’s world: You told of the many ways, big and small, in which my writing has helped you feel connected to someone, something, outside yourselves.

That alone made my heart smile the most.

alpaca heart nose

This little cutie is wearing her heart on her nose. Much better than wearing it on a sleeve, says she.

It’s so easy to feel isolated these days. People work from home, or stay at home with young children, or take care of their parents, or the youngsters of relatives, or are retired, disabled, or just are in situations where a good friend is hard to find. We are tethered to our phones, to checking in on friends via text and Facebook and Instagram rather than by talking to them, voice to voice over a phone call, or heaven forbid, by knocking on their door to see how they are. For me, as for many of us, some of my friends are those I seldom talk to in person—or perhaps not at all; sometimes it seems as though my best friends are all hundreds or thousands of miles away. And in a couple of cases, it is true: Some I see once every few years; but there are at least a handful of people I care about on the internet whom I have never, ever met in person. At least one woman I’ve never met lives thousands of miles away; despite daily posts on ordinary stuff, I really, really want to just sit in the same room with her, cats draped all over both us, with time to chat about everything and nothing, and knit, and eat pizza, and laugh at bad movies.

For me, connecting with people on the internet every day, it often seems to me that we don’t have enough space to share even the so-called “Little Things” in life–the kind of things where we want to pop on over to a friends’ house and say, “Look what I did!” or call up someone to discuss the best way to pick up a dropped stitch, or to fret over a sick kitty to someone other than the other cats in the household—let alone share the Big Things. Yes, there are tutorials and web classes; there are online forums and Facebook; there are email and Instagram and texting and all the other ways our disconnected society has come up with to help us connect to one another for conversations large and small. Despite all these technical marvels, and even though all those things offer us a chance to interact with dozens of people across the world each day, sometimes it is hard to feel truly, really connected to any of them. It’s hard to know if these connections are fleeting and wouldn’t stand up to Real Life scrutiny, or if these connections are founded on something deeper, and thus are the kind we used to refer to as “kindred spirits”.

What I heard in your comments was the–satisfaction? fulfillment? joy? relief?–of perhaps finding a kindred spirit in all the Big Out There that is the internet, our modern lifeline to each other. That’s certainly how I felt reading your responses–as though I had found kindred spirits, kind and funny and compassionate ones, at that.

What a wonderful gift you people are to me.

Thank you.

Of course, I agonized over how to say “thank you”, and wrote far too many drafts, until I realized that just saying it, any which way I could, was more important than saying it “perfectly”.

 It only took me, what? Two weeks?

 I’m learning.

quilt pic tropical

Part of a quilt top I am quilting on my sewing machine. It’s my first attempt at free-motion quilting, and I think it’s kinda cool. If I do say so myself.

Specifics

I thought I might just share a few of the lovely, amazing things folks wrote in the comments. I picked these more or less at random. Mostly, I wanted to share some of the wisdom and the warmth which you people bring to this blog, in case it might warm someone else’s spirit the way it has warmed mine. This blog is not just me, the same as Knitting Daily was never just me. Somehow, you, the commenters and the silent readers, somehow, you’ve built this years-long bloggy adventure with me, and made it yours, too, in the process.

Kimberly said:

“Thank you for sharing. It’s so hard to be vulnerable, but more and more I think it’s important to show up as our full selves, including the shadow parts, and including those parts is how we can be sure our right people will find us.”

And then Marta said something similar:

“::hugs:: and ❤️ We love you, friend. I would only add write for yourself and if you’re having difficulties, chances are there are others who would benefit from your heartfelt honesty. I know I do.”

These two comments give voice to one of my greatest hopes:  That when I find the courage to be most myself, and to write about this experience, others might also find the courage to be the most themselves. I am uneasy around people who seem to be hiding a big part of themselves from the world. I don’t mean those who are private people and would no more write a blog than they would publish their private diaries; those folks are private, they are careful choosers, good gatekeepers, if you will, of what they show to whom. It’s more that vibe you get sometimes when you sense a person is faking it in some way. That gives me the willies. Honesty earns my trust and my respect. You know what? I think of such folks, the Real Folks, as being the Velveteen Rabbits in our lives. The more real we are, the more the love within and around us shines forth.

(Thanks to you both, Marta and Kimberly.)

From Karen, a perfectly reasonable question:

“Thank you for posting, thank you for sharing, thank you for being you! Why do we feel guilty sitting down to knit in the middle of the afternoon?” 

I have no idea. I wish I knew and could kick that particular guilt to the curb. Anyone have any clues about this one? It really bugs me! (And thank you, Karen, for the rest. xo)

Fighting Back: Making Stuff

So, yeah: Depression. And its all-too-clingy sidekick, anxiety. I do the breathing thing. I do the meditation thing. I do the meds and doctors thing. And for me, because a big part of the emotional turmoil is a wicked case of seasonal affective disorder, I have The Lights and keep our drapes open so I don’t sit in the dark very much. We have a huge skylight that really helps. Still: Here is kind of a bad place to live for someone with this particular quirk in their mental makeup. It’s not just the dark, it’s the cabin fever. Growing up on the West Coast, even living a big chunk of my adult life in Colorado (LOTS of sunshine even though it snows a fair bit), I’m used to just popping in and out of the house whenever I think about it, grabbing a few minutes to sit outside and read between chores, going for walks all year round, eating on the patio…here, of course, during the cold months, one does not simply pop in and out of anywhere! There are the layers and the coat, re-checking the weather forecast to see if another layer is called for, then the boots and the mittens…and really, I guess I’m just not enough of a Real Canadian yet to want to sit outside on the patio in subzero temperatures even if the sun is shining and the sky is a brilliant blue.

sled on the sidewalk

I love this photo, which I took outside our front window just a few hours ago (it’s Tuesday night now, as I finish this up!). About half an hour later, I saw this pair come back the other way, this time with Dad pulling the older kid on his sled and Mom pulling younger daughter on her (tinier) sled. To be fair and feminist: I admit I don’t really know which gender the kids are, but I made my best guess given the colours and designs on their clothing. As in, a bright pink coat with Elsa on the sled for the little one…This is a REAL Canadian family, folks.

One of my not-so-secret weapons against the dark, is, of course, working with my hands and my words. Throughout it all, I keep on Making Stuff, both to feed my spirit, and to heal my heart. That’s what I used to call it when I was a kid, Making Stuff, except that when I was a teenager and young adult, I, of course, substituted a somewhat spicier Anglo-Saxon word for “Stuff”! At some point along the way, however, I realized that calling my creative endeavours by that particular cuss word (“steaming pile of…” is one way the word is commonly used these days, if you need another identifier) was actually a spectacular way of putting down and minimizing myself and my creativity. It was as though I was constantly saying that what I was making was worthless, that my time spent being creative was a waste, and the ultimate place for all of my creativity and my  Making was the septic tank.

“Making Stuff” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I don’t really believe any longer that being creative is a waste of time, and I’m trying to see my Making Stuff more positively, as others have told me they see it. I’m trying to weed out the old phrase from my vocabulary.

Another place where change is hard. But then someone goes and writes something like this, from Sylvia:

“Sandi, I’m with your for the long haul!! I started reading your stuff at Knitting Daily, unsubscribed from that after you left … and have been yearning for your voice ever since.”

…and this, from Lori:

“Sandi, I’ve been following your blogs since Knitting Daily. You can’t make me stop…you just can’t.”

Um. Wow. I’m gobsmacked. See, this is why there are simply not enough ways to say “thank you” properly in our language. (Hugs to both of you.)

Sweater Progress

I clearly need something warm. And brightly coloured! Hence, my version of Lisa Kay’s Undercurrent Hoodie. Here’s how I’m doing so far on that:

I’ve finished the back of the sweater to the neck, cast on for the left front, and am now just a few rows past the last decrease at the waist. It’s “just” stockinette stitch, but I don’t watch much TV, I get antsy sitting down to knit in the middle of the day, and it’s sooooo easy to get distracted by housework, paperwork, the internets, and other shiny crafty projects when all I have is Stockinette Stitch or Garter Stitch to keep me company. These two stitch patterns have been the cause of most of the sloooowwww progress and unfinished projects in my queue. (Self-knowledge is power, I suppose. I am now using the promise of a pretty, soft, warm hoodie as a carrot to get me to do at least a few rows of knitting each day. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be accountable to you nice folks. You will clamour for photos and updates, right?)

I love the colours. I wasn’t sure how the colour repeat was going to look when knitted up; when I started the left front, I started a new ball of yarn but consciously decided not to start it at exactly the same place in the colour repeat, mostly because I don’t want any sort of regular horizontal stripes across my body! The colour bands are wider on the front than on the back — half as many stitches to work in each row, so the yarn is used up at a slower rate–and when I start the right front, I will make sure that I start in a completely different part of the repeat. I like the more random look of the colour progressions which result, rather than having it looked like I painstakingly planned out the stripes beforehand.

left front or back

Left Front: Now, with wider bands of colour!

A further note on this yarn (Noro Kotori, 75% wool, 10% cotton, 8% viscose, 7% silk): If you are thinking of trying it out, be aware that it is a singles yarn—it’s just one strand, not two strands (or three or whatever) wrapped around one another. It is fairly well spun, so it doesn’t come unravelled, however, it can pull apart with enough of a little tug. I’ve had it pull apart mid-row (mid-stitch, actually), which was not exactly happy-making. Once I growled enough to satisfy my inner Grump, I simply undid the last five or so stitches, picked up the newly separated end, and continued on as if I were adding a new ball of yarn. (Your method may vary: I often weave the end of the “old” yarn in and out, exactly as I would with floats on two-handed stranded knitting.)

Don’t know how to do that? Not sure what two-handed stranded knitting is? Of course, you can look it up on the internet, if you want to. I suggest searching for videos by Philosopher’s Wool; Eugene is the one who taught this technique to me and he did it in three minutes at a show and wow, it is dead simple.

That said: My wife Melody’s research (no, I didn’t make the tiara she is wearing there, that is my wedding tiara!) is (partly) on the different ways folks learn things, so if the vids you google don’t help and you’d like me to help out some way—another vid, or step by step photos, or whatever—let me know. You know how I love to teach fun things to y’all!

Another comment…this one from Mary Lou:

“Your way with words is as wonderful as your way with yarn. Hearing your description of depression, anxiety, and self-doubt helps me understand and interact more compassionately with the people in my life who are suffering with similar symptoms. I’ve always enjoyed your voice in writing, and am so happy to have found you in your post Knitting Daily life. You make a difference. Thank you! Looking forward reading future posts. Off to knit…”

To make a difference. To help grow more compassion and more joy. What more could anyone wish for? Thank you, Mary Lou, for zeroing in on the important stuff.

Oh, and another last one, from Jerri:

“Thanks for your bravery and honesty. I started following you for the knitting and have stayed all these years because you are a real person and not afraid to show it. Many of us out here appreciate that you tell it like it is. Keep it up.”

I am so grateful to you, Jerri, and all the rest of you lovely folks, for sharing yourselves with me in the comments. You see, you give me the bravery to do what I do. You’re the reason I keep pounding on these keys–well, that, and I cannot seem to stop myself from writing! This was true for all the best bits of Knitting Daily, as well: I fought for this thing and that thing on KD–because I knew you wanted to read about those things. (The pushback I got over writing those Bust Dart posts? Well, now! Those wouldn’t have happened except for the lot of you shouting BUST DARTS BUST DARTS so joyfully all over the place. And the Gallery Girl posts, wow. Those got me in a wee-ton of warmish water. You folks begging for more, more! was the reason I was able to continue doing the Galleries for so long. Really).

I suppose I really do write for Real People, mostly because I wouldn’t have a clue how to write for the other sort.

Time to get this up and posted, (And yes, it ought to have been two posts. I tried, but just couldn’t figure out how to break it up. Oh well!) I’ve got some more sweater knitting to do!

You all give me love & hope in winter’s dark. Thank you.
–Sandi

fab five at fireplace

Stay warm. The cats seem to have this down to a science. Clockwise from top left: Dusty, Zoë, Ben, Tim, and Tessa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Depression, Just Life, Knitting, Making Things, Ponderings, Sweater Knitting | 3 Comments

Hello, 2019…here we go!

Well, hello there, friends!

Two things: An Admission, and A New Sweater Project

IMG_1022

Part of the New Sweater Project…I’ll explain this one later!

First the Admission.
If you want to skip down to the Sweater Project, scroll on down!

It’s been a while. I’m going to be honest with you and admit some things that are hard for me to admit. I’m going to admit them anyway because I believe that these things are getting in the way of me moving forward with my writing, my creativity, and my life. In a nutshell: I’m stuck, and I want to get unstuck. And at this point, I might as well admit what’s going on, not in the “poor pitiful me” sense of sharing, but because it’s the truth, and I have a really hard time writing and pretending to be something I am not. And one more reason: I bet I am not the only one who feels this way.

A list, perhaps?

1. I am depressed. Pretty badly so, in fact. So depressed that it is definitely getting in the way of me doing things and making changes. (Yes to therapist, meds, other needed medical care, thank you. I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself; depression is a tough battle to fight.)

2. I’ve got a rather large side order of anxiety.

3. I’m also suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.

4. And on top of all that, I cannot seem to find meaning in any sort of making things. I feel lazy when I knit; I feel as though I am wasting time if I sit and make something.

5. Due to 1-4 above, I am struggling with self-esteem issues, partly because I’m not living up to my own expectations, let alone the expectations of others. Partly because a life without meaning is just a short step away from feeling worthless.

So There. I’ve said it.

I haven’t wanted to write about these things, because, welllll…because I don’t want to come across as a depressing whiny person. So I stopped writing…until one day, a friend of mine, upon hearing about my writing woes, asked me what I was afraid of. “Driving away readers because I’m too boring, or too depressed; showing my weaknesses and troubles to the world; letting people know that my heart is broken and I’m having a hard time finding meaning, let alone self-esteem or pride, in anything I do these days.”

My friend looked at me, and said, “So, what happens if you were to just go ahead and post one of your depressing blog posts? What are you afraid of”?

Me: “People won’t like my blog, or my writing, anymore. They’ll unsubscribe, and folks will avoid me because I’m depressed, and no one will want to hang out or be my friend anymore.” (Yeah, I know. The standard fare of depression, biting me big time.)

And my friend, bless her, looked me straight in the eye, and said: “So what? So what if people leave your blog, and so what if people stop wanting to read your blog? So what if some folks won’t hang out anymore?”

I’m thinking, what? So I answered more honestly than perhaps I had really meant to. Me: “Well, that would be the end of me, the end of the reason I’m here. I write because that’s who I am and what I do. And people liked the old Sandi because she was bubbly and happy and silly. And so I’d be all alone in the world.” (Oh, c’mon. Anyone out there ever felt that way? Even briefly? That’s why I’m ‘fessing up to this: Because I know I am not the only one.)

Friend: “You still are all those things. Maybe not as much, because the depression is blunting your energy and your creativity. But you haven’t lost the core parts that make you YOU. If some people unsubscribe from the blog, well, then they unsubscribe. But not everyone will unsubscribe. Some people will hang around because what people love about you is your honesty, your openness. They love you because of your vulnerability and your willingness to admit to not being perfect. They love you because you can connect to their own vulnerability.”

“In Knitting Daily, what did folks love? They loved it when you talked about making mistakes, about trying new things, about being frustrated with a project and not knowing how to do something but going ahead and doing it anyway. They loved it when you showed them that you were just like they were, just another knitter, not some sort of perfect crafty goodie-two-shoes. There are plenty of perfect knitters to read about; sometimes, though, people just want someone they can relate to, someone who gets it, someone who is just like them. Those sorts of people will stick around.”

“And other folks will come along and find you, and then sign up to read what you write, because people are hungry for connection, they want to know that everyone else’s life is NOT perfect, that someone out there is having just as much a hard time as they are. They’ll come to read your stuff because you tell the truth about what it is to be human, not because you are perfect and every post is a paragon of great literary writing and awesome perfectly photographed creativity. They appreciate your ability to connect to vulnerability, your kindness, and your approachability.”

Me: “Oh.”

(I know: Wise friend. She’s a keeper.)

Depression Session

The infamous “they” say that depression lies, that it tells you lies about yourself, about how others view you, about your self-worth, about everything, really.

I think “they” are right. IT LIES. Just because I am afraid my writing is boring and meaningless, doesn’t mean that it is. Just because I cannot feel my own self-worth anymore, doesn’t mean that I am worthless. Just because I cannot see the meaning in my life, doesn’t mean that my life is meaningless.

It’s as though I am having a case of inner glaucoma: Depression is blunting what I see in myself, and anxiety fans my fears into flame.

That’s what I have to say. I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I am not asking for anything. I just needed to tell the truth about where I am and what is going on, because I think once I stop feeling as though I have to fake it around everyone and pretend nothing is wrong, well, then….maybe I can start to breathe a bit again, and just be who I am and what I am. I want to stop pretending; I want to stop making excuses why I am not writing and why I am not showing up on this social media board or that one. I just want to BE, and maybe if I can admit all this, then I might just be able to be a little more at peace with myself about it.

And who knows…who knows what might happen next? Funny you should ask….

A New Project

After years of not knitting sweaters, I finally decided that I was tired of doubting myself (I am the Paca Princess, the Knit a Sweater for You Not for the Model In the Magazine woman, after all). I’m tired of telling myself that I cannot actually practice what I preach and that I cannot really knit myself a decently fitting sweater. Because: Foo on That.

I just want something pretty, and colourful, and warm. If it doesn’t fit me like a glove, well, then, it won’t be the last sweater I will ever knit, and I can learn from my mistakes and do better on the next one, right?

Years ago, I bought a sample sweater from The Yarn Cupboard, a shop near Syracuse that I love (the owner is a wonderful person, the selection of yarns is great, it’s a lovely shop with lovely customers, so what’s not to love?). It was a hoodie, actually, made out of very colourful stripey yarn. I loved that hoodie! I wore it for days and days and weeks. It was soft, and it fit me perfectly, and I loved putting the hood up when it was chilly (I’d never had a real hoodie before), and I loved the pockets. The yarn was a wool/cotton/silk mix, so lovely and soft, and well. It was a nifty sweater.

IMG_0062

Look! I finally found the one-and-only picture of myself in That Hoodie ever taken! (Thank you, Google Photos Search feature.) This is the beloved hoodie sweater that started this whole thing off.

I went to a show on the East Coast somewhere later that year and ran into a friend (different friend than above) whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Turns out she was having a tough time of some sort. It was cold in the big auditorium where she was minding a booth, so I lent her the hoodie because I had another jacket with me.

Oh my Bob. It looked adorable on her. I mean, completely and utterly adorable. And she loved wearing it. And so I did the obvious and gave it to her. No really. I gave her the hoodie I loved because she is my friend, and it looked so cute on her, and she deserved something nice right about then.

I was OK with that. I still am. But a couple of years ago, I started wanting a hoodie, a hoodie just like the one I had loved. I couldn’t figure out what the pattern had been, so I emailed the shop owner, and thank goodness, she has a great memory. The pattern is Undercurrent Hoodie, by Lisa Kay.

Because I know you’ll ask, here’s the yarn I am using:

Noro Kotori (75% Wool, 10% Cotton, 8% Viscose, 7% Silk). Colour: 5 Lot: A; 100g/280m. Suggested needles: US 6-7 (4-4.5)  (6-8?). Gauge: 16-18 sts = 4”/10 cm and 24-26 rows =4”/10 cm. (To get gauge, I used US Size 7 (3.5mm) for the smaller needles and US Size 8 (4.0mm) for the larger needles.)

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Back of the sweater: Done!

It took me only a few weeks to finish the back of the sweater, and now, I am almost done with the ribbing at the hem of the left front.

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Left front ribbing

Over the next bit of time, I am going to write up how I go about modifying this sweater and knitting it up, so if you’d like to follow along, you are most welcome to do so! Let’s see if I still have my sweater mojo. Who knows, there might even be BUST DARTS!!

If by any chance, you are knitting a sweater as well or would like to knit a sweater, maybe you can knit along with me and share your sweater adventures in the comments. It’s not exactly a true knit-a-long, but I thought it might be fun to revisit How to Make a Sweater That Fits You by seeing if I can do it myself!

Note: I used to have a workbook and online software for sale that taught folks how to do this on their own. I’ve taken down the link for two reasons: the server the software was on went kaput, and I’ve been playing around with updating the booklet with newer methods and better information. Stay Tuned!

OK. Soooo….I’m going to hit Post now. Courage!

See you on the other side!
xo Sandi

Obligatory Cat Photo

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Tessa, enjoying some lap time. She’s three now, and yes, she does indeed have thumbs. Three on each front paw, in fact. (They are all covered by fur into one large thumb, but there are three separate pads under there…and three separate, and very sharp, claws.)

Posted in Depression, Just Life, Knitting, Sweater Knitting, Tessa, True Friends | 32 Comments

Fear, gratitude, and hope (with purring)

I’ll be honest: Yesterday (Monday) was a very scary day. We thought our sweetheart kitty Zoë might leave us; I was on a plane headed for home (back to Ontario after 5 days in Vancouver) and so was out of touch for hours. Meanwhile, M was busy talking to doctors and overseeing Zoë’s care from home, being a complete hero.

Zoë is home now as of 6 pm Monday; and what’s more, she’s very much still with us, hungry as a horse, pushing her head into our hands to demand the proper amount of cat worship. She’s also weak, frail, her kidneys have gone south very quickly, she’s wobbly on her feet due to a potassium deficiency, and so on. The good news is that she’s stable at this point; even so, M and I are taking turns keeping a close eye on our still very sick girl.

We have to give her sub-Q fluids every day for the rest of her life; the countertop is covered with medicines, instructions, medication spreadsheets (carefully updated by Hero to Cats, Melody), and we are keeping careful notes in the daily kitty journal we have kept for three years running on all 5 cats (so we know who barfed up what when and other such gripping data).

Why, yes, we both did grow up with physicians and nurses in the family, how did you know?

Despite everything: We’re so, so very grateful The Queen of Purrs Reigneth from her purple poof once more, even if her reign might possibly end sooner than we had hoped. 🐈👑🙏🏼

The good news is that since M brought her home, she‘s eaten several small meals with gusto (!!! in total: an entire can of wet food in twelve hours!), had several lusty drinks from her fave flowered bowl, and when I got home at 1 AM, promptly pushed her way over to my leg, made a Grade A+ Snuggle Attempt, and PURRED.

She’s alert, bright-eyed, following me around and bossing me around as usual by meowing the songs of her people, begging for pets and scritches…

Yep. And this is the cat one vet advised us to consider euthanizing 24 hours ago.

(Uhhh…Yeah. Nope. Thanks for playing. Not.)

She’s definitely quite sick; the next week or so could be very difficult; we know she’s not out of the woods yet. One vet thinks she might last a few days to a couple of weeks; another a few weeks to a year. … Zoë says she’s happy right where she is, thank you very much; it ain’t over until she says it’s over. 🐾🐾❤️

She’s on her fave purple fuzzy blanket. We have the heating pad on low; she’s resting, she is walking better, and clearly wants to be part of the party here, observing her Queendom from her heated throne, meowing out orders now and then as she purrs and makes batches of kitty biscuits when we stop and gently rub her belly.

We’re still scared for what the immediate future might hold; that’s part of being a parent or guardian of any frail being. However, at this moment in time, she seems to be responding well enough to allow us a measure of cautious optimism. She is so attached to her moms that just being home appears to be the best medicine we can offer right now.

It helps that this little 9-lb bundle of tortie love has a major case of Diva and Catitude. 👑🕶🐾🐾💐✨💖

A day, a week, a month, a year? Who knows? One day at a time, as is true for so much of this wonderful, beautiful, fragile thing called Life.

Zoë sends you purrs and soft snuggles. M and I send love and gratitude for all the kindnesses and prayers and thoughts and support sent by all you amazing friends and family.

Xoxo

P.S. I have wonderful stories to tell you about my trip to Vancouver. Zoë says she will supervise my work personally to ensure I post about all that other good stuff (including yarn from a gorgeous yarn shop in Vancouver!) in a timely manner.

“All on good time, my pretties, all in good time…”

P.S. #2: Zoë politely but firmly reminds her U.S. subjects to vote as if your lives depend upon it. Because they pretty much do depend on it, more now than ever. Vote your conscience. Vote for Now, and, more importantly, vote for the seven generations yet to come.

All our love, and best brightest hopes in the darkness.

—Sandi, Melody, Zoë, Dusty, Tim, Ben, and Tessa

Posted in Knitting | 5 Comments

A door to the Undiscovered Country

I’ve had folks ask about my last FaceBook post, as in: Why are you going to Vancouver, and why are you so excited about an Open House at Vancouver Scool of Theology?

For those who don’t know: I went to seminary in Berkeley, lo, these many years ago. I got about 2/3 the way through before I had to drop out for all sorts of GrownUp Reasons. Most painful decision of my life. I have always wanted to go back and finish what I started. And, yes, this means I have always felt called to the ministry, ever since I was in high school.

Life has happened in the intervening years, and I was beginning to think I would have to give up on my heart’s desire because (a) too old, (b) not worthy, (c) fill in the blank. You name it, I worried about it.

Something clicked this past summer, and in September, I just finally said out loud, “I am going back to seminary, aiming for September 2019 .”

Be careful what you say outloud, for the Universe and the being I like to call The Ancient Love of Days are both listening and just might hear you.

In early October, something just clicked, and since then, I feel as though doors are slowly opening to Parts Unknown in that most Undiscovered Country of all, the Future.

I got an invite to attend this Open House on Nov. 1. And so, that’s where I am headed this next week.

I have made no big decisions. I haven’t got anything worked out yet. I have no clue where this is leading me. And I will, of course, look at the excellent seminaries here in Toronto as well as my original school in Berkeley.

All I know is: I’ve been listening to the Creator gently tapping on my wall for decades. Now, a door has opened, and I will regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t step through to see where it might lead.

Now, before anyone panics and thinks I am off to become the sort of christian who goes to Trump rallies…Hey. Have faith. I am myself, and I cannot be otherwise. I am still and always the crazy, wacky, tree-hugging, talker-to-animals, speaker of hard truths and woman struggling towards a life of kindness and compassion that I have always been. Ministry ideally calls us to seek the best of ourselves in service if the Good and Gentle; frankly, based on my past experiences, I suspect I will have rough edges smoothed and sour notes trained to proper pitch, becoming ever more the woman I have always been, stronger and more grounded, more able to participate with humility (I hope) and compassion in the day-to-day healing this world (and I myself) so desperately needs.

So, yes: Still excited. And still terrified, as is normal and natural each time one steps off the familiar comfortable path onto a new, uncertain path, especially if one does not have map nor flashlight.

Thank you for your support and love.

Somehow, I have a feeling that even those of you who had no clue what this was all about are probably not terribly surprised now that you know.

Fibre news, knitting/spinning progress reports, and possibly a finished object next time! And of course, I will be looking around beautiful Vancouver to see what exciting fibre-y goodness I might find to share with y’all!

Take care. Have courage these next two weeks or so, even though strong men shout to shake the world to its foundations, even as people struggle to remember what true freedom means; even as it seems the song of justice is getting harder and harder to sing. Trust yourself; speak what you know to be true, vote your conscience; and encourage others to do likewise.

Never forget:

We, the People of the United States of America.

WE. THE. PEOPLE.

United we stand. Divided we fall.

C’mon people now..let us love one another right now.

Xoxo 

Posted in Knitting | 16 Comments

Dear Canada: You’re Stuck with us now

(N.B.  Dear Fellow Grammar Nerds: Apologies in advance for the wanton switches in pronoun focus below; I’m a wee bit exhausted.)

Unless otherwise noted, the wonderful photos below of our Big Day were taken by Anne Blayney.  She basically rocks, and made a great day even more special with her lovely kind silly support. Also: Butter Tarts!

Our Big, Happy, Life-Changing Day

There are very few days in one’s life when one can actually feel one’s life changing with every breath as the day unfolds. The birth of one’s first child. The birth of each child thereafter. Your wedding day. The day a parent dies. The day you receive the keys to your very first, very own home (and your very first, very own mortgage!) The first day of the dream job you never thought you would get. Each and every time you move through such a day, you are aware that your life will never be the same.

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All photos courtesy of Anne Blayney unless otherwise indicated.

Yesterday, Wednesday, Sept. 19th, was such a day for Melody and I. We drove north to Kitchener, Ontario, as citizens of the United States, and permanent residents of Canada; we drove home several hours later as newly minted Canadian citizens and still loyal, grateful citizens of the United States.

We are now full citizens of two of the most inspiring, beautiful countries in the world, countries who each celebrate freedom and human dignity, who believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to liberty for all.

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Canada’s newest troublemakers citizens! 

We feel like the luckiest people in the world right now.

The Ceremony

It was an AMAZING day; 48 new Canadian citizens walked out of court yesterday at about 3 PM. Judge Wong and his clerk Ryan (apologies to Ryan for forgetting your last name!) clearly love their jobs, and both made us feel that Canada welcomed each and every one of us individually. In addition, both had obviously spent quite a bit of time studying our files and learning how to say our names properly. A lovely touch, and quite a feat considering there were 26 different countries/languages represented!

The judge met briefly with each of us after handing us our certificate (I am bringing it tonight, it is beautiful, plus I am proud as a peacock about the whole thing!), asked a few personal questions (such as what our journey to Canada had been like, what we did for a living) and welcomed us personally.

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Our personal meeting with Judge Wong, who is a wonderful, kind man. Clerk Ryan is to the right; Ryan is completely hilarious and made the entire ceremony run smoothly whilst setting us all at ease with his kindly and silly sense of humour.

It was a beautiful, deeply moving ceremony. And, on top of all of that wonderfulness, God graciously granted Melody and I a very special gift. After weeks of searching for a guest who could share this special day with us (after all: it was on a weekday, smack-dab in the middle of the day, in a town about 2 hours away in commuter traffic), literally two hours prior to the ceremony as we were in the car driving to the ceremony, a friend (a knitting friend, of course!) messaged us that her boss had given her the rest of the day off just so she could attend our citizenship ceremony! We were completely overjoyed that Anne kindly gave up her afternoon to be there. (I am also quite sad that we didn’t manage to get a good photo of ourselves with Anne! A passing gentleman held her camera and pointed and clicked, but he must have been from another dimension or something because all the photos he took came out very strangely overexposed.) We’d been a tiny bit depressed that we didn’t have anyone there to celebrate our big day with in person, despite the fact that dozens and dozens of our friends and family posted their congrats on Facebook, email, Twitter, and elsewhere. We knew we were not going to be truly alone during the ceremony; we knew dozens of you people would be there with us in spirit. But…there is just nothing like having someone sitting right there, cheering you on, snapping photos like a crazy person, clapping for you, and offering their love and support right there in real time. To have that sort of support right there in the room was wonderful.

Plus, as part of the celebration, Anne thoughtfully provided us with wonderfully sticky butter tarts to eat after the ceremony. We sat on tiny, rickety, colourful iron chairs outside, in a wee corner park at the end of the block, and laughed and talked and shared our favourite parts of the ceremony, and had a truly wonderful time.

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This amusing cardboard frame was sitting off to one side in the courtroom. Anne and I simply couldn’t resist! #unofficialphoto

It made all the difference. Thank you so very much, Anne. You’re now part of our family history in a very special and unique way. Couldn’t have asked for better.

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Official portrait: Judge Wong with Sandi and Melody Wiseheart, showing off our shiny new certificates of Canadian citizenship. Hooray!

Posted in Knitting | 13 Comments

Still Here, Still Obsessed with Yarn (and Cats!)

Hello, fine bloggie friends! It’s (past) time for another missive from Sandi’s YarnLand and Cat Worship Facility.

This month has been Cat Appreciation Month at my vet’s, and August 8 was International Cat Day. So, in the spirit of the all this, here is a pic of the whole Fab Five all in the same place at the same time.

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Do you have any idea how many pictures I had to take to get one, just ONE decent photo of all Five of my Fab Furbits together? That’s actually the reason that this post is going out a bit late: I was combing through my gigabytes of cat photos (don’t judge, let those amongst you without disk space filled with cat or dog pictures toss the first catnip mouse), and I didn’t find that one until a few days ago. (There was also the fact that I hadn’t organized my photos in a while. That was painful.) I do know that it took me at least a year of trying to get that one, taken in February of 2017. Clockwise from upper right corner: Dusty (male), then age 13; Tessa, then age 1; Zoë, then age 13 (Dusty’s littermate); Tim, then age 7; and Ben, then age 1.

And yes, Tessa does have ginormo paws. That one paw right there on Zoë’s shoulder has eight toes. Well, to be accurate: Five toes and three thumbs; each toe/thumb has its own pad and is completely functional. Her other front paw has the same number of toes/thumbs, although one of the thumbs has an atrophied muscle and thus is not functional, and thus is for display purposes only. Back feet have six digits each.

Yes, we are keeping an eye on her. If she shows any hint of being able to actually use those thumbs, any of them, well then, I guess we’ll be in a whack of trouble, won’t we? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tour d’ Flail

The Fibre

The project I chose for this year’s Tour d’ Fleece was to turn 4 0z of gorgeous hand-dyed Finn fibre plus a similar amount of shiny silk into Yarn. Preferably nice yarn, but we all know how fibre is…has a woolly mind of its own.

I started with this.

Silk and Finn fibres

Top to bottom, above: (1) Green and blue hand-dyed Tussah silk, source lost in space and time; (2) lovely (if somewhat compressed) 100% Finn wool, hand-dyed by Dan Brewer of Gnomespun (note that the compression happened on my watch, not on Dan’s; I may have been a little overenthusiastic about packing my bins of fibre for the move into this house); and (3) some bits and bobs of the same batch of Finn, recaptured from its hidey hole under the sofa where I suspect it was re-appropriated to the lovely Ms. Zoe’s own stash.

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Who…me?

Ahhh….Ms. Zoë. She is gorgeous, but she is also a fellow Fibre-Hoar if ever there was one. I have to be very careful to make sure she is closed out of the room when I am drumcarding, otherwise, I will turn around to find her laying on her back right in the middle of a newly made batt, rolling around on it, purring as if it were a pile of México’s Finest. (Catnip, you sillies, what did you think I was going to say?).

The Tour Begins

Let me start off by saying that I have been a bit out of the loop this year, what with my father’s death, re-connecting with relatives after several years (which meant becoming a semi-active Facebook user, oh-my-dog, the wormhole that is social media!), eye surgery, new glasses, new braces, working on our Canadian citizenship papers, and the inevitable new homeowner’s first real round of Home Improvement, Canadian Style. (I’ll get to these breathtakingly exciting topics sooner or later, but Not Today.) (Tease, tease, tease.)

This meant that I actually had No Idea when the Tour itself started. I randomly picked a Saturday to begin, got in a lovely couple of hours doing fibre prep, and only afterward went on Rav to discover that it was actually the first day of the Tour d’ Fleece in truth! The rhythms of the fibre seasons, they are in my blood.

I originally started off just playing with the Finn (above), a new-to-me sheep breed. Then I found the green and blue silk fibre in my stash, so of course, that meant dragging out my scale, my bobbin winder, and my trusty drumcarder. (Let the fun begin!)

Over the next few days, I spent happy hours blending the silk and Finn, making happy batts, and spinning some samples.

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I think I may have something here.

Pretty Batts Pretty Paws

Tessa and her Mighty Twinkle Toes seem to think so.

Posted in Knitting | 8 Comments