The Knitting Mirror

Have you ever hear of the “The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater”? It’s a concept that states that if you knit a sweater for your partner before you’re in a long term, committed partnership or married, it will result in a break up before the knitter completes the sweater. There are abundant cautions and anecdotal advice to NOT embark on knitting a sweater for a partner before “happily ever after”.

I waited until 20 or so years into my relationship to start a sweater, a cardigan specifically, for my husband.

It took about 3 years from start to finish.

Of course I knit many, many other garments and accessories along the way as well as sewed many pieces of clothing. I started teaching beginning knitting, I broke my ankle, a global pandemic broke out and lots of life happened all within the timeline of knitting this cardigan. All of this, stitched into the cardigan.

I wasn’t worried about the curse, but, I came understand why it exists and why many knitters have possibly experienced it.

Knitting is a mirror. It reflects what is happening in the knitters’ life at that moment providing a window into the events surrounding the rows. Stitches can be tight with stress or loose with relaxation. It can be the latest and greatest pattern, a popular colorway from a hot new yarn dyer, deep stash yarn that’s been saved and now found its’ home, a technical piece or an easy bulky object of accomplishment. There is a knitting pattern, yarn, needle, colorway that can fit every and any mood of a maker.

It was springtime when we took our kids to a birthday party located close to a favorite yarn shop. We had the luxury of dropping the kids off and having a few hours to ourselves. Since we rarely have dates, it felt special. I suggested we go to the yarn shop to select the yarn for the cardigan. It has already be half a year since the pattern was chosen and other yarn options rejected; the recipient with discerning taste had to pick the yarn out himself. I’ve learned over the years that if he chooses it, whatever it is, it will have a higher likelihood of being embraced. I steered him away from fingering weight to worsted and we settled on DK. He picked out an amazing yarn, I dutifully knit a swatch, did some measurements and math, casting on just a few months later while in Taipei, on his summer birthday. I thought here I am, demonstrating my commitment to making this sweater, full of meaning with this auspicious beginning. I intended to be a monogamous in my knitting as I was in my relationship, giving it my full attention.

I did for the back panel. And then…

Let me explain.

This was a pattern from a designer I had never knit before. It was constructed in a way I have never done before. The cardigan is made in pieces and then seamed together, with the collar knit last. The back panel went so fast that I thought I could totally knit myself something since this hubby cardigan was going to take no time to knit.

I now know, as a knitter, I have a hard time picking back up a project that I’ve already started when I already have a sense of completion. It’s kind of like second sock syndrome but in this case it was “I already knit the back and I still have to do the front panels, sleeves and collar”?

I knit two sweaters before I picked the hubby cardi back up, fresh with determination that I’d finish it by Christmas. That got me through one front panel when my new puppy chewed my knitting needles. So there it went in timeout (along with the puppy) awaiting a replacement. A poncho, a few hats for a friend newly diagnosed with cancer, another hat for a 50th birthday and…

It was not going to be done by Christmas.

The stops and starts also mirrored how things were going in my partnership, I suppose. If you’ve ever been in a long term relationship, be it familial, friendship or romantic, you know that there are ups and downs. These ebbs and flows corresponded with the enthusiasm for the knitting. This happens anytime when knitting for others. Cast on in love, gratitude and with the intention to give a physical object representing all the wonderful feelings you have for the recipient. The longer that item is on the needles, the more opportunities it has to go through different stages in a relationship. This is why there’s the boyfriend (or partner) sweater curse. It takes a long time to knit sweater and therefore can go through a lot in the time it takes to knit it. If you start off starry eyed and full of expectations, it may or may not be same when you cast off.

Throughout this entire time, my husband was awesome. Not once did I receive commentary or sideways glances when I had something other than his cardigan in my lap. Everytime I presented a finished piece he was so thankful. Steadfast, encouraging, supportive and kind. All the reasons I wanted to be in a relationship with him all those years ago. It kept me going. Plus the yarn he chose was a joy to knit.

Each step in the sweater provided an education. It felt like it was written in a foreign language, unlike any other knitting pattern I had tried before. I loved the challenge, the learning; I was growing as a knitter.

There was a point when all the panels were done and I thought it wouldn’t fit. I had done the swatch and blocked it! I did measure and chose the right size but in the interim time between cast on and that point, my husband had really started to work out and I wasn’t sure the shoulders and biceps would fit into the cardigan anymore. I forged ahead, knitted fabric can be forgiving, bodies change and this exercise was for the better.

At this point in the sweater’s life we were well into the Covid pandemic. (I had also knit a fingering weight sweater, a shawl, another two sweaters and….you get the picture.)

Then, seaming.

Seaming is like flossing your teeth. It’s absolutely necessary but you kind of dread doing it but afterwards you feel good. Seaming is also like magic. It brings all these random pieces into one cohesive piece. It takes time and focused attention. No reading, watching tv or even listening to a podcast for me- just seaming. A 24 hour power outage gave me a power start and I was on my way with the finish line in sight. Yes! With the seaming behind me and the fit looking like it would be close, I picked up the collar and started the final leg in the journey. Settling into the couch one night to knit, I heard a crack. I broke my needle with my knee! No! I could not endure another pause!

I quickly ordered a replacement but then we had a huge snow storm that delayed the mail. Instead of putting the cardigan down as in the past, I weaved in every. single. end.

The needle finally arrived and one million short rows later, I finished the collar. Excited and thrilled at being done with the knitting I blocked the sweater immediately upon binding off. And then, while drying, my husband and I got in a fight. I don’t even remember what it was about but it took the wind out of my cardigan giving sails. I had worked so hard (although it took a long time) and in the final step, I didn’t even want to give it to him. I chucked it in his direction when it was dry and said here you go.

And do you know what? It was just the bridge we needed to make up.

I’m biased but damn, that cardigan looks good.

Managing expectations

What a year it’s been. I’ve worked hard to make sure that my kids have had a normal as possible existence in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and as one friend of mine said: it takes an immense amount of energy to do so.

Walking in the woods

Or does it? Doesn’t life require an immense amount of energy most of the time?

The period between Halloween and Chinese New Year, for our family, is a constant barrage of generosity, sweets, delicious food and celebrations. We have birthdays, holidays and traditions all packed into a few months of the year. Each time the season arrives I imagine I’ll finally execute the calm, hand-crafted time where just being together is enough. No need for presents, parties, candy, cakes or special recipes. No alcohol. Lots of exercise and low/no tech activities. All handmade gifts.

Something like that.

If there was anytime I could achieve this lofty goal of a stress free, handmade holiday time of pure joy it would be during a covid lockdown where all the other superfluous demands of the season weren’t possible or allowed.

It has been long said that expectations breed resentment. But not having any expectations is unrealistic so we land at managing expectations. We have been coached to expect that a New Year means a new beginning and that all that was wrong or difficult will vanish at the stroke of midnight. We can set goals and intentions once again that will carry us to being better human beings.

Winter beach

Now, as 2021 is more than a month into existence, we see that it’s not better or different. It just is. Instead of being disappointed that midnight wasn’t magic, it’s realizing that the magic key lies in the everyday, little decisions we make and not grand resolutions or unrealistic ideals. It’s about living our values, whatever they may be, instead just talking about them. A few handmade gifts instead of all of them. Getting outside each day instead of committing to run a marathon. It’s a mix of hope and reality, joy and hard work, reaching far and being ok with where we land. The pandemic has glimmers of an ending but there’s still a long road ahead. It will still be a long time before I can hug my family or share a meal (like actually sharing a bite) with a friend.

So I will continue to manage my days, my hopes, fears and expectations. I’ll still dream big and probably take on more than I should. I’ll still aspire to that handmade holiday (how many pj pants do my kids actually need?) and be realistic while living our values.

Handmade pj bottoms

I look forward to when this period of time only lives in our collective memory but I don’t expect any time soon.

Building community in unexpected ways.

Watching the sunset on a summer evening.

Every night my family sits down for dinner and we ask “How was your day?”. Before the quarantine, shelter in home times, the question was sufficient to elicit a decent enough response from my boys and husband; we all got a good sense of everyones’ day. Now, the question can seem hollow and insincere since we’re all together all the time, by the time we hit the dinner table we already know how everybody’s day has been. Still we all crave the ritual, the sense of normalcy it provides and the connection it delivers.

This also happens with the different knit and friend groups I talk with via one of the many online options available to connect. People want more than small talk. They want real connection, genuine conversation and to feel kinship, even if it’s through a screen. But the screen is the hard part. At least at the dinner table I can see my family in real time and we can (generally) read the body language and know when one of us is going to speak. It’s hard to develop that online. So how do you create community and connection through the screen?

Before Covid hit and demanded we stay at home, I hosted a couple of in-person knitting groups. I’d meet a friend for a sewing date, a walk or a meal. Occasionally I’d have a chance to take a fiber class. By most people’s standards I was moderately social; loved seeing people and going places, loved staying home.

Now, many months into this, I’m finding what ways are best to connect with my family and friends. The key element is having an activity to go with the conversation. It helps our brains relax and our hearts to connect. Before, if I talked on the phone, I most definitely was doing something else as well like weeding, cooking or knitting. Now that many conversations and activities have moved online, if there is an activity to go along with the conversation, we’re able to be present and engage much more deeply. It’s hard for our brains to read all the non-verbal cues that we need to connect in real time over a screen. If we have something to do, it kind of tricks our mind. We stop looking at ourselves on the screen and focus on what’s in front of us. For family gatherings, we often play a game. My knitting groups have transferred quite nicely to being online because we have needles and yarn to keep our hands busy.

A silver lining is that we don’t all have to be in the same place to participate in these online gatherings. In my knitting groups, a good friend can join from Australia and another from New Jersey. I’ve “seen” my family all together more times than any other year. I’m able to continue to challenge myself and actually sew through my sewing dates with another good friend. I was able to be part of an amazing retreat that was held on the East Coast, something I wouldn’t have been able to join had it been held in person. Traveling at the beginning of a school year is not possible. And I’m finally able to teach folks how to knit via online classes.

Getting ready to teach my Learn to Knit class.

To be honest, I’m warmed and surprised how these different groups have been able to thrive within these limitations. I’m equally saddened about the connections that are no longer growing because of them. Nothing takes the place of in-person conversations, gatherings, celebrations, walks and hugs. I miss hugs. There’s no replacement for any of it on an online format. It’s not the same and part of it is letting go of the expectation that be the same. We won’t ever go back to the normal we knew, we’ll just arrive at a new normal. Now is the in-between time, the hardest place to be in any journey and we’re being forced to think, relate, connect outside of the box, outside of our norms. We all are navigating through it as best as we can. And so I keep committing to creating and holding space for community where I can, seek out new ways to connect with my people when I can and find joy in the ways that it works, right now.

Sewing as a bridge

Living in the Seattle area, we’re at the epicenter of the US corona virus outbreak. They say people fall into two categories when it comes to the virus: underprepared or over-prepared; panicked or nonchalant. Our family falls into the prepared but not panicked camp. We’ve been meaning to be smart about earthquake preparedness and this was the push we needed to get it done.

The hardest part of it all is not knowing; being in the middle. There’s no way to prepare for the unknown. School is no longer in session for now. Husband is working from home, but for how long? No gatherings of groups of people, but for how long? It’s like I’m walking on an icy bridge from what was normal to the new normal, aiming for the other side, hoping I don’t lose my footing.

An endless train of articles, updates, information often conflicting, discussions, assumptions and cancelled plans and activities are speeding past at an alarming rate. No amount of knitting or reading fiction is holding my attention. I’ve been here before, tittering on the edge of anxiety with the need to distract my brain from the immediate circumstances. And generally a big sewing project is what can shift my brain from “what if” to “right now”. Sewing is something that still feels new and requires my full attention. Even with several years of sewing under the belt, it still demands complete engagement. Sewing is one thing providing traction on this icy bridge of unknown.

There are some larger projects that have been in the cue for some time and I’ve used Elise Joy’s Want TO DO LIST to organize them a bit. First on my list is the Wiksten Haori in Merchant and Mills Dauphine Jacquard Cotton. Then I’d like to sew a Zadie Jumpsuit…or maybe a Yari Jumpsuit or maybe both! Then a black Linden sweatshirt and black Gypsum Skirt. The list gets longer from there: Avery leggings for my tap class (which is online now!). Hudson pants (because I’ll be in sweats for the foreseeable future!) and perhaps a Hinterland dress, Wilder Gown, or Felix Dress (we’ll be able to go out again, someday?). So many possibilities. This doesn’t include pj pants for the kids, the mending pile and a quilt idea I’ve been tossing around. And as of today, these ideas are shelved to hopefully make fabric masks for those on the front lines.

Things are moving fast right now; each hour with new information and mandates. In Seattle, the kids will be out of school until at least until the end of April. Distance Learning has begun. We’re practicing social distancing and questioning if take out is ok or not. We walk on the trails by our house, careful to stay 6 feet away from anyone we encounter but that’s hard as everyone seems to be outside. It’s part isolating and part unifying. I love the family time, family meals, the closeness while strengthening my tolerance for the squabbles, increased volume and lack of alone time.

One the other side of the coin, I don’t have much time to work on all the projects. In fact I have less time now that I’m with the kids full time. We weren’t supposed to have this time all together but now that we do, I’m doing my best to be present. The most common question these days is “what now” from my younger kid. The WANT TO DO LIST is now coupled with a NEED TO DO LIST. I’m brainstorming tons of ideas of what we can do but it all takes an immense amount of energy.

This is HARD. EXHAUSTING. FULFILLING. I have so much gratitude to be in this space. And I miss my friends, family, classes and the freedoms I have always taken for granted.

As the routines begin to form and we find this new normal, time will emerge for my needs and wants. Right?

Well. A girl can dream.

Anyone Can Knit! (if you want to)

My learn to knit cowl pattern

Last week while sitting on the cold bleachers during tennis lessons (inside thankfully) I was busy knitting the body of my newest cast on the Carbeth Cardigan.

A person asked “Are you knitting?”

Since I knit a lot in public, I often get this question.

“Yes, I am knitting, a sweater in fact. Do you knit as well?”

“No. I tried once as a child but was horrible at it and never tried again.”

Or sometimes the answer is:

“No, but I’ve always wanted to learn but I could never do that!”

“It’s so complicated!”

“I don’t have the patience.”

“I think I’d like it too much!”

To which I always reply: anyone can knit, if you want to.

Truly. Anyone can knit! (If the desire is there.) It’s just a series of steps and each one learned unlocks the next. Knitting is not everyone’s jam and that’s ok. It’s just one valuable skill that can have many beneficial side effects. Knitting builds community. Knitting provides an activity for busy hands without using our electronic devices. It’s meditative, can help with anxiety, stress and is good for our brains. Personally, I have a hard time waiting. Waiting in meetings, waiting at appointments, in the car, on vacation, for my children. Idle time where I’m not in control of what’s going on is so difficult. Knitting does not erase my discomfort entirely but it helps so much in those situations. The anxiety I have felt when in unpredictable situations is calmed by knowing I have my knitting. So, if I need to wait, I can wait. I’ve become more flexible. We live in a very demanding world with all manner of things calling our attention, time and resources. Knitting is a gift and a tool I have to manage all that comes my way. And it’s a gift I want to pass on to others.

If you want to learn to knit, I can teach you.

The Red Sweater

First day of the New Year

A few things have come to light in the past couple of months, weeks, days:

I’m a sweater knitter.

Knitters tend gravitate to one type of garment or accessory. A sock knitter, a shawl knitter, hat or sweater knitter. When it’s time for me to cast on a new project, a sweater or cardigan is usually chosen. Hats are fun and quick; shawls are nice to have but with all that knitting, having a sweater at the end is more worth it. Socks are still something that remains to be knit. Identifying primarily as a sweater knitter is a recent revelation; it’s all part of getting to know who I am more as I get older.

I can trust my gut.

The first instinct to cast on a particular design is usually right, even if it takes a long time with many projects in between before it’s completed. This helps in realizing I can trust myself instead of questioning the choice and/or getting distracted by the new and pretty. Sweaters continually challenge me, teaching new skills with each designer’s choice of construction and methods but still allow for me to knit in my everyday life. A few projects are always on the needles at one time: an easier project that can go to meetings, knit night and fill in the other spaces of a day paired with a more technical project that requires my eye glasses and undivided attention. Depending on what stage a project is in, they can be interchangeable. There’s no monogamous knitting happening but there is an unspecified number of projects that can tip the scale from just right to overwhelming. At some point in time it’s best to cast off a few projects before beginning a new one.

Joining the sleeves

When I finish a project, the question always asked is “How long did it take you to knit it?” and well, there’s never a direct answer. A year, but with 10 other projects in-between. A week? A month? Knitting isn’t a speed sport. It comes with me everywhere. In every project there’s a point where the knitting is nonstop. As if there’s nothing else on the needles and no other project to work on; no house work to do, no meals to cook or kids to take care of. It’s usually when the project is close to the finish line…or a deadline is looming or it needs to be on my body now!

I work well with deadlines but have a hard time self-imposing them.

I’d rather teach someone to knit than knit something for them. Teaching someone to knit is rewarding and enjoyable. You learn a lot about a person by the way they learn to knit.

I wear what I make. And each finished project gets better and better.

Finished but unblocked

And now that the red sweater is done (it still needs to be blocked but I can’t stop wearing it!) the dreaming of a new sweater has already begun.

The making umbrella

I have an old journal entry saying something to the effect of “I learned to knit. I don’t think it will really stick. Oh well.”

How wrong was I!

My first sewing machine although I have no memory of using it.

Throughout most of my life I’ve been surrounded by some sort of making. My Grandma Lou was an incredible seamstress. She made all my dad and uncle’s clothes, often matching, when he was a young. She sewed all of my Christmas and Easter dresses when I was small and my one and only flower girl dress. She made dolls and had a sewing room where you had to wear shoes because there were always straight pins on the floor. That room was piled high to the ceiling with fabric and all kinds of crafting notions. She sold her creations at craft fairs and was able to get her hands on coveted Cabbage Patch Dolls that were so popular when I was a little girl.

MyGrandpa Mike and Grandma Lou

My Grandma Annie taught me how to crochet. I made rag rugs at first and then a few blankets. She made hot pads: yarn covered bottle caps linked together which I still use today.

My Grandpa Eddie and Grandma Annie

My mother always made our Halloween costumes growing up, provided ample supplies to make Christmas ornaments and always had some sort of kit she was going to finish embroidering. (Full disclosure, I have a few of those types of kits too…waiting to be made.)

There aren’t many pictures of the things that were made but the images are still vibrant in my mind. Most of this making happened when I was a small child and I usually watched it all happen but never doing it myself (save from the crochet that I learned when I was a teenager) but always the proud recipient. All of the dresses below were handmade, I believe, by my Grandma Lou.

When I reached the age where I really wanted to learn how to sew, embroider and knit, my grandmothers had already passed and my mother had long forgotten how to use the sewing machine. I don’t recall that any of them actually knew how to knit.

A lot of that knowledge has been lost; most of the threads are broken. Just one small string has been woven through time and carries the essence from my grandmothers to my hands. I wish I could go back in time and learn from them. What felt like an infinite amount of time available as a child was cut short. If only I had spent more time learning from them when I could. But it’s hard to know that at 8, 19 or 24 years old. So while I have to go to classes and teach myself, I do feel their presence in my work. The drive to work with my hands is in my blood. That thin thread has become stronger as I kept circling back to making throughout my life.I believe all of these dresses were handmade by my Grandma Lou.

Now that I have a few steady years of making clothes and knitting garments, and a lifetime of its presence, I crave for the next step. How do I expand this umbrella of making? How do I grow deeper, more grounding roots in my craft practice so knowledge grows and carries on instead of being lost? Can I develop my ideas and lift them from hobby to profession? Where does my making go from here?

I’ve realized that I really enjoy teaching people to knit. It’s such a useful skill to know on so many levels: stress relief, ability to make your own clothes and accessories, an activity that doesn’t require a screen or battery power. It can be the foundation on which community and friendships are formed.

Creating community is something to be valued. Bringing people together for a shared experience which makes space for people to talk who otherwise may not is really important. While in Taipei, Taiwan this past summer I summoned the courage to connect with Taiwanese knitters, inquiring if there was an English speaking knitting group I could join once or twice. I ended up being warmly welcomed into a thriving group of extremely skilled knitters. It was wonderful that the craft connected a group of women who in turned welcomed a stranger from another country and all because of the shared love of fiber.

There is a desire to share the joy of making outside of the four walls of my guest room/sewing space. There is a call within me to continue the making traditions I witnessed growing up. I want to strengthen that thread from my past to my present and into the future, deepening my skills and making practice while encouraging others to connect and create.

So…what’s the next step?

Knitting the long road

After 1 year and 2 months of on and off again knitting, I’ve finally finished my Churhmouse Poncho. The intention to knit this poncho was set 4.5 years ago when I first began to knit. I purchased yarn, Rowan Tweed and was ready to go but I didn’t cast on immediately.

The Easy Folded Poncho is a perfect example of what has become a trend in my knitting practice. The poncho is fabulous project for a new beginner. That’s why I chose it. But it also is just a giant rectangle of stockinette stitch. Knit on the right side and purl on the wrong side, for 50 inches. That’s over 4 feet! So while I had the yarn, I never cast it on because other more shiny, challenging and exciting designs stepped in front of the line. And that Rowan Tweed eventually became a Junegrass Pullover. Many other yarns auditioned but I still didn’t cast on.

I tend to find a pattern that I just have to knit, purchase the yarn and then….I don’t cast on. Maybe the yarn is better for a different project? Maybe the sweater won’t suit my body shape after all. Or I already have 3 or 4 projects on my needles, discover that tempting sweater, purchase yarn and pattern to cast on once I finish a project or two. When that time arrives, the inspiration to cast on that yarn and pattern pairing may be gone. And the stash grows. Yarn once destined for a the perfect pattern is put on hold.

As time went on, I found I couldn’t let go of the idea that a poncho would be a perfect addition to my wardrobe. I looked at other poncho patterns but none had the same appeal as the Churchmouse one. After spending a good amount of time on Ravelry, I decided on Yoth’s Best Friend yarn in Cracked Pepper, held double was the match and it was cast on a short time later.

As I traveled deeper in my knitting journey, the poncho revealed itself to be the ideal social knitting project with its’ miles of stockinette stitch. It was also great to pick up when break was needed from more complicated work. And since it was just stockinette stitch, forever, it was easy to put it to the side. During the time the poncho was on the needles, I knit 4 whole sweaters start to finish, completed one WIP sweater and cast on 2 others (still WIPs) plus 5 hats and one shawl. I almost ripped out the Poncho to use the yarn for a different project so. many. times. Each time I was ready to do it, I’d remember that I really did want the poncho and kept knitting one row at a time.

So how do we keep engaged in long term project? How do we remember the intention of why we decided on a certain pattern and yarn. How do we keep the inspiration fresh, the motivation present on our current project when it’s so easy to be distracted or imagine the grass is greener elsewhere?

Sometimes ripping out the project is the answer when inspiration has taken flight and doesn’t circle back. Other times, focussing on the process instead of the outcome is helpful in the road to completion. Not actively buying yarn for projects that can’t be cast on immediately is another strategy. (Yarn store to storage bin isn’t always the best path.) Finding ways to remind yourself why this pattern and this yarn was the best choice at one point in time. Stick with it! Making an effort to filter out the constant messages that you should want/have the new, better and different.

Most of the time you just have to do the work in front of you, especially when it comes to long term, staple wardrobe items. It’s a mix of process and product knitting. It’s about rediscovering the inspiration that was present at the beginning each time you pick it back up while enduring the slog of the knitting at hand because the result at the end is worth it. What better reward than finally wearing something you’ve had on the needles for so long?

Knitting my poncho has taught me a few things: I benefit from having an easy project and a more complicated one on my needles at the same time. Following through with the yarn and patterns I already have builds confidence in my knitting practice. Knitting serves as a concrete reminder that with patience and determination, small bits of time add up to a finished piece you in which you can be proud. And most of all: casting off a long term project can feel just as good as casting on something new.

Traveling in kindness

We made it to Taiwan. I’ve have never traveled on a plane before with a broken bone. I’ve traveled many times sick (apologies to those former plane cabin mates) but never with the need for a wheelchair escort. And to be honest, there has never been much cause to pay attention to all the wheelchairs that do wheel around the airport… or anywhere. Once when I was 9 and broke my leg, I was in a wheelchair. I don’t remember for how long, maybe a month? The memory that stuck was when there was a need to use the bathroom and I was stuck on the couch while friends played with my wheelchair. Only when you can’t move as before do you realize how able-body centered our whole world is set up. And when you’re back to moving about (if you’re so lucky) it’s easy to forget. This time, my awareness had grown.

We arrived at the airport in the middle of the night. Crutches, with thick gel pads recommended by the guru cast fitting technician under my arms, kids and as minimal of a packing job as possible, we checked in for our flight. The scooter left behind and the unknown ahead.

We then experienced and witnessed such kindness as I became, for a moment, part of a club of which I never wanted to be a member. Our attendant expertly wheeled me through the airport, always at the perfect speed for my family to keep up, always knowing where to go and what line to move to the front. He, with a gentle assertiveness, asked others to move aside and got us through security in mere moments. While I got the extensive pat down, he helped my family with all the carry-on baggage, aiding in putting the Tetris-style packed bags back together and moving us along through the airport maze to the gate. Appearing again when it was time to board, pushing me to the plane door and stepping away to help the woman ahead of me by gingerly placing her on a wheelchair for the plane aisles. I was struck particularly by this scene as these strangers helped this elderly woman with such care and dignity. Never rushing, never impatient. A task they repeat countless times during their work day.

And once I passed into the care of the airline stewards, the kindness and gentle attentiveness continued throughout the flight.

We had the thankful privilege to upgrade just a bit so I could elevate my leg on the flight. The agent I spoke to was eventually able to get us in the same row, just not next to each other. When on the plane, the gentleman on the aisle agreed to switch and we were all together. The stewardess came countless times to bring me my crutches that were stowed in the closet, even bringing them un-asked just before landing. And the same calm, kind help met us on the other end. Going through customs and immigration was so pleasant and stress free.

When I fly, I generally have a good side helping of anxiety. Never the main course but always there. This flight, my circumstances demanded I let go and ask for help. I literally had to sit down and let others, complete strangers, lead me from one place to the other.

These were the unanticipated gifts of this entire travel experience: kindness, a sense calm and little stress. And of course, the extra, elevated leg room was key. Not much knitting happened and we all slept.

The summer of day dates…or not.

We decided over 6 months ago that this would be the year to take our kids to Taiwan for language summer camp. It’s a dream my husband has had since they were born. And we are set to leave soon. We’ve imagined the summer as one where the kids would do the camp and my husband and I would use the days for day dates. We haven’t had much time just the two of us since our kids were born. This would be our first opportunity for extended time together. Exploring, eating, talking, relaxing and seeing all that Taipei has to offer.

Enter fractured ankle, crutches and The Boot. Oh, and a scooter.

So yeah, I fractured my ankle recently. While walking. Every plan we have for this trip is being re-examined, changed and many things have to be let go. (Right now I’m on a long, long hold with the airline to see if I can get more leg room for my boot and crutches. Ever been on a plane with crutches? I wonder how small the bathroom will feel now!).

It’s so hard to let go. It’s so hard to rest when you have to do it. It’s so hard to be dependent on others.

Every morning I wake up I have to re-calibrate, find perspective and determination to start the day. Showers: a feat in balancing. Going downstairs: only one trip with all I need in my backpack. Cooking: takes 10 times as long. And every morning I’m trying to start with gratitude. Gratitude for exceptional kids who are stepping up; an extremely positive husband (who can be more of a pessimist in real life); an ankle that will heal. That we can afford the medical bills. A 100% survival rate. Thankful that I’m a stay at home mom with no directing job at the moment so there’s no worry getting to work.

To be honest, I wish it wasn’t so hard. I kinda feel bad that it does feel so hard. I want nothing more than to be completely content with knitting, mending, and embroidery while sitting on the couch, kids swirling around. And I am, for the most part.

But I’ve even had to let go of my original making goals for this trip as well. And while that may seem trivial to some, making is very much what helps me keep a healthy mental outlook.

My idea was to sew a mini capsule wardrobe complete with a loosely structured color story: black, white, navy blue, rust and coral. I had a few things made but was waiting until after Squam and the end of the school year craziness had passed. Gypsum skirt, Wiksten shift dress and tank top, black linen shorts and a Willow tank were on the list. It was ambitious but when a deadline is looming, I work best.

Needless to say there is no capsule wardrobe coming to Taiwan in the way I envisioned. It will still a capsule of sorts with a mix of handmade and ready to wear, but curated to make sure it works with crutches and The Boot. I had to order a million shoes to find two that would work with The Boot. (Thank you Zappos!)

This past week, the illusion that sewing could be accomplished still tugged in my mind. I really didn’t want to let it go. But reality is that my ankle needs to be elevated for most of the day not pointing down while I negotiate the sewing machine foot pedal or going back and forth between the ironing board and sewing table with crutches.

I guess I need to remember to be kind to myself. It’ll take some time to get on board with the current reality, especially when it’s so different from what I had planned and imagined. I’m not the best at being flexible. It’s the re-adjustment phase that’s most difficult.

So once I move through this most difficult transition from what I thought the trip would be like to what it really is, I hope to be able see what our day dates might look like with crutches or the scooter. Maybe bubble tea downstairs, maybe across the street for lunch. Maybe just the apartment. Not dressed in my “Taiwan Capsule Wardrobe” but in the “The Boot Wardrobe”, it’ll still be in clothes that feel good. Letting go of what is no longer possible and being open to what may be revealed under these new circumstances is the goal. Most likely there will be other trips to Taiwan were I can run my feet to the ground all over the city. This trip is about being present and letting go.

At least one suitcase will be packed with far too many knitting projects and supplies for an embroidery idea waiting to come to life. Plus reading! When have I had a chance just to knit and read the day away? It’s sounding better already. Day dates with my husband and….myself.