For my birthday 10 years ago, my husband and I were in Morocco. We’re birthday people. Big birthday people. We both love making a big deal about celebrating - for richer or poorer - throughout our marriage. He surprised me by whisking me away to a city I had never heard of and I left convinced that everyone must go at least once before they die. I had never even heard of it at that point, but it took my breath away instantly. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a city so quickly and I’ve always wanted to go back since then.
Fast forward a decade and I found myself looking for self-striping yarn. For some reason, most of this yarn is either acrylic or an acrylic blend. It felt like searching for a unicorn. But then, I found the perfect 100% wool with a scrubby, rustic texture that looked like someone had taken their paintbrush to it and I was transfixed. The shift from teal to azure to white to mustard to terra cotta took me back to the Moroccan coastal town that captured my heart.
As soon as I hooked into it, I knew I was working on something special. As the shells, scallops and posts layered like sedimentary layers, beauty was building row by row. The color combo was like channeling the memory of a short, but powerful, experience. I remembered the intricate tiles on the wall at the restaurant where we ate tapas. I remembered the sounds of the bright blue wooden boats clacking together while they were moored. I remember the white and wood combo of the B & B with a center courtyard you could look down to from 3 levels up. There was a resonance between the creative stimulation of the yarn and the process of crocheting the wrap itself. As the layers progressed, it seemed to unlock forgotten memories and new ideas at the same time.
It doesn’t surprise me that there has been a resurgence in slow, applied creative arts. Technology isn’t bad, but the tactile experience of something is different from a digital rendition. People often ask how I have time to crochet so many things, but it usually isn’t so much about making a concerted effort to carve our crocheting time or tackle a project for a specific deadline. Rather, I just swap the fiddling I would do on my phone with fiddling with a crochet hook. And you know what my smart phone doesn’t do? Relax me. It can distract me and entertain me, but it never leaves me feeling more calm and peaceful.
But crocheting does. It takes my compulsive urge to fiddle with things and channels it into something. Not only do I end up with a usable product at the end, but I have been on a journey that melds stories from where I’ve been with blue sky thinking about possibilities. It flips my flippant need to fidget for a beneficial purpose. It gives me an outlet for more joy, generosity an color in my life. Sometimes you stumble upon something where the materials, creative process and meaning are so resonant that you unlock ethereal harmonica in your work. The Essaouira Sunset Wrap was that for me and I hope it can be that for you too.
When wheels have left a runway or driveway, that’s when I feel like a vacation really begins.
I had my first day back at work after a delicious beach vacation and I had no fewer than 5 people tell me, “You look so relaxed!” I’m glad to hear this, but what do I look like normally?!? It is remarkable what a break can do.
When wheels have left a runway or driveway, that’s when I feel like a vacation really begins. That sense of leaving my cares behind does seem to equate with physical distance for me. Even taking a day trip, where I both wake up and go to sleep in my own bed, does wonders. My husband and I joke about our differences. For him, a chance to unwind at home is the ultimate indulgence. I tell him he could be a shower salesman or advocate because he firmly believes in the power of “life-changing showers.” For me, showers are a chore. Another job to be done before you can go on with the adventure of your day. I’m much more likely to advocate for the influence of the “life-changing car ride.”
I think the physical space triggers a healthy process of getting mental space for me. This year, I’ve had an awesome mentor at work and one of the first things she talked me through were perspective exercises. She had me visualize holding a chocolate bar in my hand, unwrapping it and smelling it. I was salivating and felt the intoxicating desire of wanting to eat it. Then she said to imagine putting it on a table. How does this change my perspective of it? What do I think and feel? What if I move it across the table? And then move the table across the room? Now put it in a TV commercial across the room. All of the intensity and desire washes away.
As someone who gets 1000% invested in every problem I am facing, this is a radical shift in thinking of me. I am certainly not advocating we run from our problems, but learning how to set them down, get some mental space and then return isn’t just good for our mental health, it also leads to clearer thinking and better problem solving. I have been trying to practice my perspective taking this year. While it isn’t coming naturally to me, I am improving. I can even see this in my crocheting. The art itself helps shift my focus from other concerns and making up my own patterns is an exercise in problem solving. Sometimes I’ll spend a couple of hours straight, trying and ripping and trying again. I can start to get frustrated and feel hopeless, but guess what - if I put down the hook and come back to it later, that’s usually when I have a breakthrough!
On my vacation, I wanted to crack the code to a triangle shawl I wanted to create. I kept getting the angles wrong. Either too many or too few increases. Just when I thought I had nailed it, I would get further along and see a subtle slant. I went away from it for a night and then I realized - my corners were off! The fixing didn’t need to happen across the straight sides, I needed to tweak the corners. I quickly popped the loop on my hook again and - voila - I got it.
As I’ve started to notice the impact perspective taking has, I’ve been continually stunned by its power in helping my mental health and problem solving. Knowing the benefits makes me choose to seek out opportunities for mental breaks. I no longer view them as indulgences, but as essentials. Even small tips like when you are told to look up from your computer periodically, to look at something green or to just move where you are working starts to unlock these benefits. Since the physical act of moving to a different space unlocks this thinking shift for me, I am trying to seek it out. I want to do more road trips or mini adventures. I know my husband would rather have the time at home for some life-changing showers, so if anyone else wants to be my adventure buddy, let me know and we can hit the road together.
The opportunity to embrace coziness doesn’t just give being cold a silver-lining - it makes me yearn for it.
What is it about being cozy? It’s a word with no synonym that fully captures the same essence. Being cozy sparks so much joy in me. No wonder my favorite things are inherently cozy (or cozy adjacent) - tea, beautiful old children’s books, warm chocolate chip cookies and moleskine journals. In this context, crocheting (or some sort of yarn craft) seems like an inevitable hobby for me. Yet, as much as I adore being cozy, it makes me wonder - is it possible to be cozy without having first been cold?
As a kid, Winter was always my favorite season. This worked well since I grew up in a place known for our interminable winters. I love the magic and wonder of snow, but the thing that solidified its “favorite season” status were the cozy perks: open fires, hot chocolate, snuggly slippers and all the wonderful things that would flop if you tried to replicate them in Summer. I love being cozy, but if you don’t start as cold, you just get uncomfortable. It is the process of warming, of moving from discomfort to comfort, that makes coziness bliss. (I’ll note that I don’t share my husband’s love of going from being hot to cool.)
In my early 20s, I encountered a strange change in my relationship with cold and warmth. I developed an idiosyncratic allergic reaction to contact with the cold. If I held a cold can of Coke, my hand would swell up. If my skin was exposed to the cold, I would get hives. When I sat on a freezing bench for my sister’s Homecoming game - yup - not fun. These hives would always make my skin get a rush of warmth. With the Raynaud’s I’m dealing with at the moment, if my hands get cold (which is often) my hands turn red and get a rush of warmth when the circulation corrects itself. These sensations are all unpleasant, but it seems like the cold -> warm progression is never far from my mind.
Living in Sydney - as stunningly wonderful as the weather is - I am always missing the four distinct seasons. Whenever I get the chance, I love going up to enjoy the crisp cool weather in the Blue Mountains. I got to go there this weekend and it was pretty darn close to being magical. Facebook will probably tell the story that we were at 110% awesomeness, but there were a few detractors. We had some cranky kid issues, DH couldn’t come and I got a massive headache as soon as I got home. Aside from the not-so-great things, I was able to relish many cozy things. We drank hot chocolate, we had fires and we even spotted a bit of snow. This meant we could bust out some of our lovely crocheted cozy-makers that we rarely get to use. Mr. 6 sported his beanie, complete with a hedgehog family of four. Miss 8 had her stripey scarf and I donned my Gstaad Messy Bun Beanie. Each item, stemming from our interests and personalities, being worn like a proud hug. It was perfectly pleasant and reminded me of my youthful love of Winter. If e. e. cummings thinks that Spring is when the world is “puddle-wonderful” then Winter is when the world is “cozy-wonderful.” The opportunity to embrace coziness doesn’t just give being cold a silver-lining - it makes me yearn for it. Crocheting turns my cozy-wonderful whims into lasting memories. Both for times of actual cold or in our emotional winters, something handmade packs an extra cozy punch. Long after my hands can’t crochet anymore, I hope the things I make will bring coziness to the lives of others.
I’m in a mentoring program at work that is pretty great. I’m an extrovert and an external processor, so having regular meet ups with someone to talk about life and goals and challenges is remarkably fulfilling. One exercise was called the “Wheel of life” and you evaluate the different areas of your life (work, relationships, finances, health etc) and think about where you would like them to be. Do you know what I rated the lowest? Social life. I gave it a 2 out of 10. Pretty crappy, but that’s what I was feeling.
I have amazing friends and I especially love being in Australia so I’m close to friends that I was away from for years. But between working full time, crappy health and being pretty darn pooped every evening and weekend, my social life isn’t great. It was weird thinking about it and trying to put a number to it because it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice I made. Instead, it is the result of just letting life happen. When you have babies it gets so much harder to go out, so you get out if the habit. Then adding in work and having some health set backs means that a lot of time you’re kind of in survival mode. Social life is one of those things that is never an essential requirement, so it gets deprioritized. Before you realize it, you have friends you consider close, but you see them about once a year.
It’s one of those frog in a pot of water scenarios. Life gradually cranks up the heat, but you don’t notice. Eventually, you’re fully cooked. My social life is fully cooked and needs some TLC. So I’m hoping to make some changes. One is to make more effort just to reach out to people. Email, text, phone, whatever. The main thing is engaging and this doesn’t depend on living close or big schedule changes. It’s more of a habit change. If I swap 5 minutes of fb time for emailing a friend, it’ll be a big improvement from what I’m doing currently.
Another thing I love is getting together with people, but I hate the hassle of finding a time that works and sorting out all of the logistics. So I’m thinking of instigating something like a monthly crafternoon. Maybe on the second Saturday if every month. If something happens regularly, you don’t have to stress about making it work for everyone because you’ll get another chance. And if I is always the same, it removes the mental load of planning for all kinds of variables. I love crocheting, but I love it even more when I’ve got friends to share it with.
Still a kind of half-baked idea, but I’m putting it out there because I think it could be great and also to make it a bit more real. Now, if only I could figure out a way to get all of my friends all over the world together in one place, I’d be set.
I wonder what it is about losing something and finding it that exponentially increases its preciousness to us? Winter has finally hit here in the Southern Hemisphere. I was wondering why I couldn’t find my jacket anywhere and then a fuzzy memory of “putting it in storage” came to mind. Unfortunately, I could not remember where I put the storage bin. Fortunately, I’ve got kids - one in particular who seems to have photographic recall of everything. She said, “Oh - I think I know what you’re talking about.” Went to my room and emerged with my jacket! (I think this is the payment for all the times I find things the kids can’t - even though they’ve looked “everywhere!”) I was very happy to have my coat, so I wouldn’t be cold, but what I was still sad about was not having the fingerless gloves my mom knit me last year.
A fun twist on the autoimmune stuff I’m dealing with was that I started to experience Raynaud’s syndrome - when my hands get cold, I have some circulation issues with fingers going white and then red when the blood returns. Fun times. Anyway, my mom has this lux cashmere yarn and knitted me fingerless gloves. The same Mom who won first prize on the first knitting submission she ever put into the Minnesota State Fair. My award-winning mom made me a ridiculously wonderful pair of gloves and I lost them.
At Christmas, we traveled to Minnesota and I looked “everywhere” - but couldn’t find them. I knew it would be cold and I wanted to take good care of my hands, but it didn’t work out for this trip. Ever since we came home I’ve been wracking my brain to recall where they were. I kept thinking it must be hidden in a nook or cranny where we’ve let crap accumulate, so the solution is cleaning and clearing until the turned up. Sadly, no matter where I cleaned it purged, I couldn’t find them.
Fast forward to a week ago, when my dear daughter found my coat. I put it on and felt a funny lump in the pocket. You know the feeling when there’s something in your pocket from a long time ago and you’re 80% sure it’s good, but it could be old used Kleenex? Well, I put my hand in and was welcomed by the silky-fuzz touch of cashmere. It was the gloves! Jackpot!
It reminded me of when I was a kid and I had a Christmas stocking (also knitted by my mom) and when we would first hang them up, sometimes I would go and grab a penny and tuck it into the bottom. Then on Christmas, I loved feeling like I got an extra bonus penny. Even though it was still only a penny, I loved it so much that a couple of years I even left it in the stocking when it was in storage so I could get it out when we decorated for Christmas the next year. There’s just something about going without something and then having it again that doesn’t just change your perspective, it changes your emotional attachment.
I couldn’t believe it when we were decorating for this past Christmas, my daughter ran and grabbed a coin to put in her stocking. I had never told her about me putting the penny in my stocking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that, but there must be something hard wired that compelled her to do it.
I’m not entirely sure what the difference in our attachment to something (or someone) is after a time apart, but the first thing that comes to mind is gratefulness. And maybe gratefulness is the point where our perspective and our emotions converge - we don’t just think differently about it, we feel differently about it.
And it may sound like it is just a materialistic thing because I just wanted a penny. But I really think it is different because everyone knows the surprise triumph of finding $5, $10 or $20 in their pocket. Regardless of your cost of living and the impact this might have on your budget, there’s something about not having something and then having it again, that transforms how we interact with that money.
I’ve been thinking a fair bit recently about when you get something back that you didn’t have for a while. It’s been 2 years now since I got the Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. Even though my life is surprisingly normal now, it isn’t the same. When it was really bad, I couldn’t use a knife and fork, let alone crochet. For about 3 months, I couldn’t use a pen properly and struggled with typing, for about 12 months, I couldn’t do safety latches or childproof things and even now I struggle with opening bottles or using ball point pens. But as I started being able to do things again, I was thrilled and just wanted to relish it all!
Hence the crocheting website. I’ve been crocheting for nearly 25 years, but now I’ve really thrown myself into it. I am also fully aware that I may not always be able to crochet, but while I can, I want to make the most of it. I don’t know what my journey has in store, but I do know that I don’t want to take things for granted. I look back on my crochet photos as happy memories and I feel deeply and profoundly grateful.
And maybe gratefulness is the point where our perspective and our emotions converge - we don’t just think differently about it, we feel differently about it.