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Yes, I am too jazzed to sleep.  I should have gone to bed two hours ago, but was having too much fun practicing knitting with beads, watching how-to knitting videos, and getting lost in the amazing knitting blog Sapphires-n-Purls. The dimple stitch? Who knew?? It’s gorgeous. And I watched the entire thirteen-minute video!

Knitting is about so much more than actually knitting the project – it’s about the planning, the yarn shopping (oh, those yarn shops…they should come with a warning!), organizing “the stash”, including all those needles. Needles is a whole category in itself…fixed or interchangeable tips? Addi Turbo? Bamboo? All so enticing. I am determined this fall to overcome my fear of circular needles! Actually, it’s not the circular needles per se I am afraid of, it’s that damn twisty cord between them! But I realize much of the problem stems from using needles with plastic cord. So, I will invest (and I don’t use that word lightly) in some good-quality Knitpicks or Addi Turbo needles with non-twist cord. I am also going to devote time to beading…I absolutely love knitting with beads! It’s fun, and looks wonderful. And there is no much you can do with it! I’m very inspired, as I sit here with one eye ogling my little glass bowl of silver beads waiting to be added to my Lucy Neatby fiesta wool – the silver looks amazing against the turquoise, yellow, royal blue, purple, and green wool…would make a lovely scarf or wide wrist band. Christmas is coming…!

So is NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month. Last year I participated in this writing competition, where you write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, typically 1667 words per day. It was not only fun, but challenging in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I became motivated to keep up with the word count – the NaNo (as we call it, affectionately) word meter that tallies your word count every day and produces a graph to show your progress. It is very satisfying to see that graph grow every day! And oh yes, then there’s the story you’re actually writing…seeing it come to fruition through your diligent effort is VERY rewarding! I haven’t gone back to edit my story, not much anyway. I have re-read it, and I still like much of it. But my thoughts are already on my new novel, so far titled “The Length of Days”. Very briefly, it’s a novel about finding joy. Sometimes real events from within the writer’s own life find their way into a story and, as I told a colleague today, one of my characters may well also be fighting the battle with circular knitting needles! Not to scare you off…the book is not “the joy of knitting”!

I’m also pumped because I ran two 10K runs in a row, yesterday and the day before. I have run countless 10Ks, but I rarely run on consecutive days – no reason, it’s just worked out that way and the by-product is that I also have not had any running injuries (other than from adjusting to new running shoes, but that is another blog post, not yet written!). My running partners and I have had a series of things occur among us – illness, shoe issues, muscle tightness – that have pretty much prevented a smooth improvement in running, for all of us; however, this seems to be at an end. I am really itching to start increasing the distance of our long runs…I want to run one 15K before Christmas, and maybe…maybe…a half marathon in the spring.

I could easily have put this blog in three of my blog site categories…that’s just how things happen with me – one thing leads into another and sometimes they mix and mingle. But I love it. However, all this thinking and planning and video watching and getting out all the tools and practicing with beading…even writing this blog…just jazzes me! It’s now two hours past my usual bedtime, and I’m not sure I will be able to sleep! My mind is a-go. Liam, my cat, is not impressed – his usual efforts to get me back into our routine were not successful, and he has given up and is now cuddled up to the back of the laptop, with his head resting on a bag of wool!

However…sleep I must. After all, tomorrow is a running day.

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The Writing Life

Writing.  I am a writer.  I’m even a novelist.  …”published novelist” is yet to be, but I’m working on it.  The whole NaNoWriMo experience has changed me, I must say.  It dissolved the belief that I might not be able to complete a novel, for one thing.  So that concern is gone.  It also gave me something to call “finished”.  There is something in a finished product that changes its creator, whether it’s a finished novel or a finished knitted project – in my case, that would be the felted knitted bag I completed just after Christmas 2011.  I’d knit the darn thing in about a month, here and there, sitting and watching TV…it wasn’t difficult, and with felting projects you don’t have to be perfectionistic (did I actually write that?) with your knitting as it’s all going to meld together into a smooth new fabric once you wash the hell out of it in hot water, so who cares if you twist a stitch?  But I put that bag away for about a year after I’d finished the actual knitting of it, thinking it would take too long to seam together, and then I was nervous about the felting process…  As usual, when I took the project out it took all of a half hour to seam together!  An entire year with that bag sitting in my stash of unfinished projects, and it took a bloody half hour to finish.  And another half hour in the washing machine.  Talk about agitation! LOL  (come on, you know…agitation…washing machine…?)  And now whenever I look at the finished bag, it makes me smile!  I love it.  I keep it in sight, on top of a bookcase where no purse should be…but it covers up another unfinished knitting project very nicely :-).

With NaNoWriMo you get one month to finish your novel.  30 days.  1666 words a day.  Or in my case, 2000 words three times through the week, and 5600 words on Saturday.  But technically, the only thing that happens if you don’t make the 50K word requirement is that you are not a “winner”.   This could play havoc with one’s ego.  Good!  Egos need to be played havoc with from time to time.  And I let mine run amok…it was so much fun to do!  I got into the challenge of the word count, so that was the initial motivation, but the true motivation was my story.  Which is why I was writing at all.  But I needed something to get me out of my head and into my creative side.  It doesn’t take much…just writing “The…” gets you writing.  Or I would actually have….FUN with it, and “allow” myself to write badly.  And “badly” more often than not turned out to be “well”.  You just never know how it’s going to go.  And those moments where you’re lost in the story, fingers flying across the keyboard as you try to type as fast as your creative mind is telling the story…those are moments to be cherished.  Those are the ones where I suddenly stop, look around, and go “what time is it??” and see that absolute hours have passed.

So joining NaNo this year served more than one purpose, but the main one is that it got me out of a writing rut, or a non-writing rut.  I know now that I can write a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  And that ending is very rewarding.  I used to look at “endings” as a loss of something, as they often are, but even “good” endings can feel sad, like when I ended my education for my degree – although I now do not feel a compunction to go back to school for anything other than sheer pleasure in taking a language class, I felt sad at the ending of the role of “student”.  I had identified with it and liked it.  It took awhile to let it go from my psyche, but it wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be.  And now I’ve added the role of “writer”.

And what a community I’ve joined!  Holy cow…I’ve met so many people this past year who write, some of whom are published.  It’s wonderful.  I’ve joined an online writers group of knitting friends on Ravelry, the knitting website.  So now I write in the company of writers who knit.  At work I’ve just met another writer who works in my building and who will shortly be published – Aretha C. Smith.  And I’ve decided to start a writers’ group at the university where we all work.  Aretha’s publishing journey began a year ago when she made a new year’s resolution to finish (there’s that word again) a novel she had been writing for a few years.  Once she met that goal she didn’t hesitate to submit the story for publication, and the rest is writing history.

This is the writing life.  It’s a community of people whose passion is to tell the story their creative spirit wants told.  It could be romance (Aretha), sci fi, how-to, Young Adult (Nicole), or murder mystery (me).  E-books or paper.  Published or not.  But most of all, writing is a process, like running – a night of bad writing is better than no writing at all, just as a bad run is better than no run.  Tonight is Ravelry writing night.  I have no idea what I’m going to write…I will let my protagonist, Alex, decide how he wants to behave and I will just be the conduit for his story.  Happy writing!

Hello world,

I’m back!  Not sure where I went, actually…nowhere, really.  Life just got in the way.  It has been known to do that from time to time…

I was looking at my Categories and realized that none of them have changed.  I still cook, knit, run, write, and have that ubiquitous “uncategorized” aspect to my life (don’t we all??)  That’s a good thing.  But I have progressed in all categories, and they are all active at this moment.  I still cook, and I still cook mostly vegetarian, but I still enjoy a good peppercorn steak with fries.  I still knit, and have even finished a project or two since the knitted cowl :-).  I’m slow, but I persist.  I still run.  It’s what keeps me sane.  I have a few running buddies, and I truly thank God, or the Universe, or the running goddesses, or fate, or karma…you get the picture…for them.  They are:  Stephanie, Wendy, Lisa, and my daughter, Stefanie, who I am thrilled to say has been and come back from the Canadian military base at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

What else?  I’m always on the lookout for good beans, peas, and lentils recipes –  love my legumes – and still make my Curried Apple Dhal…yum.  I’ve done some fun knitting projects, and am currently knitting a Christmas gift for my daughter…who knew that possum fur made good wool??  I bought a gorgeous New Zealand wool – 60% merino and 40% possum, that actually gets softer the more you handle it!  It’s beautiful.

I graduated with my B.A. (English) in May.  Yay!  That was a long 8-year part-time journey, but oh so worth it.  I work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and one of the benefits is that my tuition is a taxable benefit.

I am running on average three times per week at 7K runs per day…perfect.  And I try to get in one 10K run per week.  A good week is 28-31 Kilometres.

I took part in NaNoWriMo this year.  My first time, and I am a “winner” (along with the almost 299,999 other participants!). Such a fun adventure.  My novel is a murder mystery, and my word count was 50,557 (you had to write 50,000 minimum).  I intend to expand it to at least 80,000.  I am also now very motivated to continue a murder mystery I began a good 6 years ago…!  This has been a wonderful experience, and could not have come at a better time in my life – no school, my daughter was still in KAF, and I had no other responsibilities other than to myself.

So, now I intend to bring this blog back to life.  Same ol’ categories, same ol’ same ol, but I think…with a new perspective.  And I just re-read my previous post from December 2010…the difference a year made…some things have not changed.  But the energy continues to move forward, and that is the thing that makes the difference.  Life is not static, no matter whether we think it might be in a given moment…it is evolving, and all we can do is go with the flow, and be the best person we can in a given instance.  So, in that vein, let’s welcome this new year of 2012 that is just around the corner, and trust that it will unfold as it should.

Cheers.

So it’s December 30, 2010 and I’m thinking ahead to 2011. I don’t need New Year’s Eve specifically to mark the transition from one year to the next; usually I start the mental and emotional transition about a week prior to the new year.  I like the ending of a year, and particularly the end of 2010 since this was the year I turned 50 (last June).  I thought my 50th year would be somehow special and yet these past six months have been quite stressful, and not entirely happy.  I know…happy is relative…and I would say I’m happy now, but I’m also happy to be exiting the past six months and to be entering the next.  I’m continually reminded of the duality of life and, being a Gemini, it’s part of my psyche to understand it, to appreciate it, and to revel in it in many ways.  But there are times when I’d like life to be a little more one-sided, i.e. I’d like to check off a bunch of stuff that had been on my “bucket list” without necessarily adding anything new to it.  I also don’t have a great track record for finishing things, although I love to start them.  This is particularly true of my creative side – I am one of those knitters who has more unfinished projects and wool stashed in a closet than I care to admit, not to mention the bags of unfinished cross-stitch projects calling my name from the deep recesses of various craft hideaways.

More importantly for me now, though, is that I am just on the verge of completing my Bachelor of Arts degree.  Finally!  I’ve been working on it since 2001, and I hadn’t realized how much it had actually been dragging me down until I completed two of the final three courses in December.  One more to go in January, with graduation in May…yay!  I have already one foot out the university door, mentally, and I am really looking forward to receiving my diploma.  This is a huge item to cross off my life’s to-do list.  I wish I could know for certain that I will be successful in taking the degree forward with my life and securing a “career” from it, rather than getting by in the “job” I’ve held for the past 16-odd years.  I also want to have FUN.  I’ve managed to continue to do a lot in my life while working full-time, studying part-time, and maintaining my fitness level, but I think I had identified with the label of “student” long enough that a part of me is nervous to now remove it…who will I be if I’m not a student?  However, as I have had to let go of a number of other labels I identified myself with over the past 20 years, letting go of one more really won’t be an issue.  It’s more the unknown of what will replace it that concerns me now.

I sometimes wish I was one of those people who knew by age 4 what they wanted to be when they grew up, and their whole life was focused on it, and now they’re the “thing” (doctor, nurse, lawyer) and they love it.  Here I am at age 50 asking myself what I want to “be” when I grow up.  Somehow it’s a more daunting prospect!  I have plans A, B, and C, and I’ll explore all of them in 2011.  Part of me feels excited, but again, that duality of life is present in that I’m also nervous about the unknown – I’m heading into the rest of my life on my own, with less security than I’ve ever had.  Some days I want to just jump into a whole new, exciting adventure, but other days I really feel I need someone to jump along with me, to hold my hand.  Hopefully 2011 will also bring the right intimate relationship to my life.  And that’s the thing about endings – they often create space for a new beginning…a little sign from the Universe that that is in the works would be appreciated!

So, here’s to ending 2010 and cheers to beginning 2011.

Cabled Cowl

And here is the cabled cowl (neck warmer):  I used the recommended wool, Patons Roving, in “cherry”…and it really does look like the colour of cherry popsicles…my favourite :-).  So yes, I had issues with this project, namely that I didn’t think I was making the cables correctly, the operative word, it turns out two months later, being “think”!  Thinking does get me into a lot of trouble, most of it unnecessary.  After repeatedly unravelling the three to four inches I would typically complete, and starting over only to unravel it all again, I finally managed to just keep knitting enough to see the beautiful pattern emerging.  I was doing it “correctly”!  I just had to get out of my own way and let it be.  (Head shaking occuring now…mine, but probably yours too!).

I have a hard time learning the knitting lesson that one has to actually knit the damn thing long enough to see the pattern emerge and, with cables, long enough to see how they intertwine.  Not all cables intertwine quite so much as the ones in this cowl; usually, in a sweater, for example, you will have a vertical row of cables interspersed with vertical rows of stocking stitch, with the plain knitting offsetting the cables, highlighting them.  In this project, the cables form what I call a chaotic effect – continuous cabling throughout…probably what accounts for its being a neck warmer.   It’s half-done now, and I will finish it before Christmas, which will work out fine as here in Nova Scotia the “real” winter weather often doesn’t arrive until after Christmas, so I can console myself with the fact that I didn’t actually need a thick, cabled neck warmer up til now!  I’m looking forward to wearing this, maybe with my navy blue pea jacket.  And the roving wool is so soft and thick…this will definitely be a toasty-warm accessory.  Now, if only I could figure out how to wrap the text around the image!

Here is the mug hugger I made for Stefanie:   I used Patons Decor “Dark New Green” (a.k.a. “army green”), and two “camoflauge” buttons.  I was having some issues with the cables for another project, a neck warmer, so thought I would practice the  procedure on something small.  And I was happy to see that not only was this a fun thing to make, but it was really easy…and Ecco! (as we say in Italian)…here it is!   I will make one for a friend of Stef’s who is also in Edmonton preparing for Afghanistan, and I believe I will contact Ottawa to suggest this become part of regular military kit.  🙂

Yes, I’m kidding about Ottawa!

Back from Oblivion

Wow, hard to believe I’ve been away since August…well, e-away at any rate.  Excuses?  School, for one – taking two half-credit university courses while working full-time can put a dent in one’s free time.  Running…gee, I hope my body will fall into muscle-memory mode when I eventually do get my butt in gear and out on the road.  Sigh.  I was taking a half-marathon training clinic, but for a number of reasons have taken a break from it, and now am in the crunch of schoolwork, with two essays due and two exams coming up, all to be finished by December 10.  Yay!  My motivation is that this means only one more half-credit course before I graduate.

My daughter is in Edmonton at present, undergoing some pre-Afghanistan military training.  She’ll be home for Christmas, but returns to Edmonton in January and leaves for Kandahar in April, returning January 2012.

I’ve been knitting, though!  I made Stef a cute cabled “mug hugger”…using army-green yarn and camouflage buttons :-).  Hey, I stand behind our troops, and she likes military “accessories”.  I wonder if DND would approve camouflage knitted texting gloves??  I’m making myself a cabled neck warmer, which is finally showing signs of life!  More about it, and the pic, at my Knitting category.

Cooking has been more practical lately than creative, although I hosted Thanksgiving dinner here in October, and that was absolutely lovely, if I do say so myself.  Hard to believe (for me), but I had never cooked a turkey before…it was always either my husband or, later, family and friends, so this undertaking was a big one for me.  I loved it!  I made fresh rolls, a pumpkin cheesecake, cooked some standbys like garlic mashed potatoes (thanks, Stefanie, for putting that together!), carrots/turnip, and I tried a new recipe – Brussels sprouts with bacon…yum.  I have been the one to make the stuffing all these years (sausage-apple, this year with the addition of fresh chopped sage), as well as cranberry chutney, so those had to be part of the meal.  Makes me hungry just writing all that :-).

With Christmas approaching, I expect to be spending more time in the kitchen.  I will make my traditional French-Canadian tourtière, and I’m sure some other goodies.  With the term finished as of December 10, I hope to squeeze in cooking, knitting, and running.  Now, enough procrastinating…back to my essay!