Seeking out the pauses

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Walking in Aiea, HI, taking in the beautiful sunset

Beginning with Halloween and through Chinese New Year, it is the busiest time of year for our family. We have all the holidays as well as two birthdays. Add in other friend’s birthdays, holiday get-togethers and travel to the already full schedule of school, violin and life in general, each day is filled to the brim; each moment bursting. And you hear coin phrases to slow down, minimize, say no; appreciate it all because it goes by so fast, enjoy and soak it all up! So many expectations of yourself, your family members and the desire to have it all go seamlessly without tears. Lots of effort in trying to meet (and exceed) everyone’s expectations; to please, to help, to create memorable memories. Otherwise, why do we even do it all? What other option do we have aside from staying under the covers?

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A walk, taking in the changing leaves

 

Last week at my son’s school they had a mindfulness expert come and talk to the parents. It was very hard for me to be present while working on the two and three minute exercises. I shared my story that I’ve tried these “mindfulness” techniques but they never seem to work for me, for our family. And then in one of the last silences of the meeting, I realized that I spend more time talking about this narrative than actually practicing any of the techniques. They don’t work because there is no muscle: I haven’t exercised them with any sort of consistency. It’s been easier to throw my hands up and say it’s hopeless; nothing works! Stress is permanent, cooking dinner or the bath time tension is here to stay.

Then I jump to the story that this holiday season is going to be so hard and so busy; let’s race to the end of it. Then things will be get better, slow down. Again, spending more time dreading/anticipating than actually getting tasks done, enjoying it or being present.

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Our view as we wait in traffic

To be truthful, there really aren’t many things that I would take off my list or say no to: it’s all good stuff, all the things I like doing this time of year and it’s pretty paired down. But here’s my goal: to let go of perfection (who cares if we use the stained napkins or if the bunt cake sticks to the pan or the kids talk with their mouths full?) and to seek out the pauses in my mornings, afternoons and evenings. Moments of presence, moments of quiet. And these moments will not be found in large quantities, separate from the daily demands. To me, this realization is key. Waiting to have time to be mindful means it will never happen. Seeking out the pauses inside the busyness is what’s required.

From the pictures, you can tell these pauses and moments have been there, I just haven’t been present enough to acknowledge it. Instead I’m waiting until the next thing that needs to be done. There is no habit or muscle built to seek out these minutes of time consciously. I don’t recognize that in these little moments, I can pause, settle and be still. I’ve always been waiting for a large swath of time to be reinvigorated, re-energized, restored.

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A little knitting before school pick up

Because I’m choosing to host Thanksgiving, celebrate birthdays, travel to family, see dear friends, I also choose to start a different narrative. One that acknowledges that it will be stressful, at times overwhelming; something will be burnt or forgotten, feelings may be hurt, but along side it all is the notion to take a pause, breathe and look around in little moments of my day. Be present. It’s the one tradition I’d like to cultivate this season and pass on to the next.

Journey to the Knitted Hat

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On the way to Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, WA

Knitting and I met in my child’s parent and tot class three years ago. The parents made the needles and we wound a small ball of cotton yarn. The needles were huge but smooth from sanding; it was a clunky and awkward start. The “washcloth” has since been unwound and used as play yarn and one needle broke while being a drum stick.

That was Spring.

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Working on the ribbing of my Barley Hat outside.

I moved on to making a ribbed scarf for my son and that took about a year to complete. I used the handy I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting to teach myself to cast on,  purl and knit. Starting with ribbing was challenging but I finished it. It is around big brown teddy bear’s neck.

That was Fall.

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First hat fitting

From the scarf, I decided to try knitting a cowl. The first one turned into a mini shawl (cast on too many stitches and wasn’t using a pattern) and the second one turned out alright. Then I made one for my son (successful and he still wears it) and attempted to make one for my younger son but bound off the edge too tight and made it into a hat. Kind of two steps forwards, one step back and while I liked knitting, I wasn’t quite sold on it yet.

That was Winter.

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Blocking in the bathroom

This past February, I was yearning for a creative project to keep my hands busy; it’s so helpful in the hours of caring for children. Sewing was great but not portable.  Crochet and hand sewing were too repetitive on my hands. Knitting was really perfect and so I pressed on. Another scarf/cowl/hat was not needed and truthfully, I really wanted a sweater. Somehow I remembered a post from Soulemama about the Annabel Cardigan and thought, why not? Inviting a dear friend to knit along with me, together we tackled our first knitted sweater. Along the way we got some wonderful help from Patricia at The Tea Cozy Yarn Shop and we were done by July. Not bad for a first sweater knit in the middle of busy family lives.

That was Spring and Summer.

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Drying; the hat hot air balloon.

But I realized by jumping to a sweater, I hadn’t learned some other basic techniques, especially being mostly self-taught, so I took a step back, and took a class at the amazing Tolt Yarn and Wool Shop to learn how to knit a hat, use double pointed needles and pick up a few other tips and tricks. My first hat, the Barely Hat, was a fun, quick knit. I had no idea! Hats really should be the first project for a new knitter. The details are on Ravelry.

In the last few months, through the Wooful Podcasts, many countless websites and Instagram feeds, and most importantly a serendipitous re-connection with an old friend who is a knitting wizard, my world has opened to this fabulous fiber community. There is so much to learn; it’s terribly exciting. It’s given outlet to my desire for creative expression and handwork while meeting the demands of my daily life.

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The finished hat

It took a while but the knitting bug has bit hard; I’m officially hooked. My trusty Fringe Supply Co. Field Bag filled with a project or two comes with me wherever I go.