Take up Space

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I finished reading Clara Parke’s newest book, A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting go of Yarn. It’s a sweet collection of stories and essays by knitters dealing with their “issues” around stashing yarn.

The sentence above was in the last chapter of the book. Sitting there, just waiting to kick in my ocular incontinence. (Thanks, Bristol!) It nearly brought me to an ugly cry as I tried to explain myself to my DH. Why did a book about yarn make me cry?

At camp this summer (Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat), I heard my newest favorite designer, Bristol Ivy, give me permission to take up space. To claim a space that is comfortably and happily all mine. I don’t have to be pretty or well-mannered there. I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations there, nor do I have to think about any societal rules about women (watch your weight, wear makeup, be attractive, speak sweetly, keep the house clean, cut the kids’ fingernails, don’t wear black, children are to be seen and not heard, you don’t need to know how to handle money, your husband will do that, etc.).

Hearing this was life changing for me. I grew up taking up very little space. My parents’ expectations were high but extraordinarily limited. I was taught to iron, sew and be a “good girl” with the idea that, one day, if I was lucky, I would gain a husband and a middle name. That was the reason that I went to college, too. Not to get a good education and grow as an individual but to find a husband. (The now-60-year-old me is groaning today!)

When I divorced my first husband, I continued in therapy with a series of wonderful women who helped me to identify what was important to me and to begin working on who I am today. Who I want to be. I have enjoyed the process of getting to know myself.

The idea of taking up space, however, was brand spanking new and threw open an entirely new door of personal development and a new way of thinking about my place in the world. AND it made me cry. It touched my soul to be given permission (so to speak) to take up space. To be myself, to dress as it pleases me, to speak my mind and to know that I am lovable and loved even as I am myself. To manage my own money and to buy things for myself and others. It was so incredibly powerful to hear that message and I’ve pondered (and will continue to ponder) that idea and how it applies to me and how to bring it into my daily life.

Today, when I saw the sentence above that says that women are expected to take up as little space as possible, it hit me again. Ocular Incontinence. (When I am brought to tears talking about something, I’ve learned, it’s a deep truth for me. I’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head. I am so grateful for the reminder that I have every right to take up space. And not just with my stashed yarn, either.

I have an extensive stash of yarn and two rooms in our home to use in any way that I wish. My DH is supportive of my creative endeavors (I have never hidden my yarn purchases from anybody.) I own my knitting and the supplies that I need to make it happen and I’ve always been unapologetic about it. I’ve been smart about it, too. Never would I be irresponsible and when I can’t really afford it, I head to my stash instead of my LYS. Finding a balance and being responsible are important parts of who I am. Who I have always been. But apart from my yarn, this reminds me to look at other ways that I take up space, to make some new boundaries in my life so that my time to create is sacred. Time with my wonderful, handsome DH is sacred. Time with my children and family is sacred. I want to have time to spend with all of them, and my friends, too.

So, today I put on my crazy flowered leggings and my cotton weird-edged tunic/dress and I am taking up space. I am worthy. I am loved.

 

Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat

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I went back to camp last week.

When I was thirteen, my parents sent me to Medokawanda Camp for Girls. It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute. I learned a lot about who I was at summer camp, away from the control of my parents. I learned to smoke cigarettes behind our cabin (not necessarily a good thing) and I learned that I loved singing and theater and being outside in the woods and on the lakes. I loved waterskiing, too. It was a special place and remains so today. So when I found out that there was a Fiber Arts Retreat at my old camp, I jumped at the opportunity.

Who knew that forty-two years later that the place would be just as special and that the women I met would be as welcoming and wonderful. I’m pretty sure that some will be lifelong friends.

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On Sunday afternoon, we all checked in to our cabins. I was in a “dormitory” cabin with three other campers; two that I knew (alumnae from earlier years, one a counselor of mine) and one that I didn’t. The cabins are simple but comfortable. Linens, towels, blankets and pillows are supplied by the camp and we were very comfortable. Most importantly for women of a certain age, there is a full bathroom and shower in each cabin. (I did get an extra blanket after the first night because I wasn’t warm enough. I also brought a box fan which was a good suggestion from a multi-year camper!)

Sunday night, dinner was the first official event and the food was amazing. The kitchen staff is incredibly accommodating to those who are gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian or who have allergies to food. The food is fresh and fantastic, healthy and mostly local. And it was amazing. Fresh bread, fresh vegetables, wonderful desserts and even a lobster dinner the final night. We ate well!

There was a great diversity of choices for classes, too. Weaving, writing, knitting, dying, wet felting, spinning, needle felting, and more. I took a 4-class series of knitting classes with the indomitable Bristol Ivy. Knitting being my first real love, I HAD to take this class and it was absolutely packed full of useful information that will make me a better knitter and a better knitting teacher. I learned some new skills, too.

I learned about cleaning, carding and combing raw fiber from Rachel Bingham Kessler. This was a fabulous class, especially after having learned about all sorts of different yarn types, particularly worsted spun and woolen spun yarns. I learned that carding and combing fibers changes the way the fiber “organizes itself” and that’s how roving is made. I truly believe that I will be able to recognize the difference in the fiber I see and sell in the future.

IMG_3350I learned to use a drop-spindle and spin yarn! Casey Ryder from Portfiber in Portland, Maine was the spinning teacher and she made this experience so much fun. We were provided with a borrowed spindle and some fiber (two combed and two carded) and it was really fun to see how the fiber is manipulated into something you can knit or weave with! (I bought the spindle. I want to keep doing this!)

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I went to a yoga class at 7:30 in the morning, before coffee! I was so glad I did. It made me feel energized and ready to face a very hot day.

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The View

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The Studio

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The icon – with Bristol, an icon in the making

We went on two field trips. The first was to the studio of Katharine Cobey in Cushing, Maine. Katharine is a gem. A successful poet, Katharine chose to make knitting her career. Her husband built her a beautiful studio above a finger of the ocean. She has become an icon of knitting and knitting as art. She has studied the process of knitting and is perhaps one of the most wise and wonderful knitters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Katharine held a mini-class describing the ONE stitch that there is in knitting – the knit stitch. The purl stitch is just a knit stitch viewed from the back. We swatched an i-cord that was knitted and a garter stitch i-cord. And we learned Portuguese Knitting at her feet. I fell in love that day with an 80-year-old woman. I’d like to study at her feet. She is my new knitting idol.

The second field trip was to a fiber farm and mill in Waldoboro. Only minutes from camp, New Aim Farm is a working mill. Nancy and her husband are raising pigs for meat (they’ll keep one and sell the others) and some sheep for fiber. Nancy runs the mill and takes fiber from other farms and she’s very busy! It was a fascinating time spent learning about the milling process (and buying some very pretty yarn!) Nancy also is the current president of the Maine Fiber Frolic, the only fiber fair in Maine and the first of the New England season.

IMG_3352One evening I learned to needle felt. It was a loonapalooza! Once again, Casey organized a wonderful class and we had some really good belly laughs. I laughed until I cried … mostly because my loon had a very large beak. But everyone succeeded in creating a loon and we all had fun. Emily named them Zebra, LooLoo and Kandoo.

This is a beautiful place, close to nature. At the top of the hill was our cabin, the yurt, a field full of wild Maine blueberries, free for the picking. The dining hall, the Lodge, the barn and the lawn were all places for classes. Surrounded by perennials and Morning Glories, bird song and pine trees. It’s still a very special place. A place that I have visited throughout my adult life, a place that has tugged at my heart since I was thirteen.

Some of the classes that I wasn’t able to take were weaving on a rigid hettle loom, weaving an amulet and a doll as part of the Weaving a Life program. I didn’t take the slow sewing class or the wet felting class or the lichen, safflower or indigo dying classes … all of which looked like lots of fun, too. Next year, I’ll try more classes and I can’t wait to go back to camp.

I’m so grateful to have been able to return as a camper, surrounded by creative women, wise and knowledgeable teachers, and a beautiful spot. It was the best vacation that I’ve taken since moving to Maine and I look forward to returning next year!

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I’m a happy camper!

PS- I haven’t written about everything here. I’d have written for days. So, suffice it to say that it was an amazing week … a life changing week … a life challenging week. I know I’ll be working on so many pieces of my life, enhancing and creating. Check out the details at the website for Medomak Retreat Center.

 

 

Passage of Time

With the impending arrival of Father’s Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day in the past, I have done a lot of reflecting on my own experiences with my parents. How they raised me, their only daughter, in the late 50’s and early 60’s while keeping a deep and very dark (to them) secret.

Shortly after my mother passed away in October of 2008, we found out that she had given up a baby boy for adoption in May/June 1956. Had she given birth to that baby boy, she’d have been ostracized. She’d have been labeled a strumpet, a hussy, a tramp. She would not have been allowed to marry my father if anyone had known. My father, however, would have been left to continue his life as before.

Being the next child born, and a girl, I can only imagine that I was a disappointment and it explains a lot about how she raised me. She was disconnected, aloof, often angry, not encouraging or loving. She was always heavy … keeping a layer of protection around her. Please don’t get me wrong, she fed me, did my laundry, drove me everywhere. I didn’t want for anything. Except her love. None of this was my fault, of course, and I didn’t know that I was getting treatment that was different from my younger brothers or my peers. But it was different and I was scarred by it. (Thank God for therapy!)

I say this today because I realized recently that many of my friends on Facebook seem to miss their parents and were deeply loved by them. Sadly, I don’t have that same feeling. I’d love to have them back to ask them questions about why they did what they did. Why they kept the secret after we were adults. Why they never told me they loved me or were proud of me. (They really didn’t unless it was after a fight and then it would be, “of course we love you” said in anger and frustration.) My brothers had a different experience. Psychologically, I’m certain that it was because I was the first born “after the adoption” and I wasn’t a boy.

I was encouraged to find a husband and marry … that’s why a girl goes to college. I was born to have babies, that was where I would find happiness and fulfillment.  I was taught to iron and sew, to play the piano and guitar. I was given ballroom dancing lessons at Mary Jane Spencer’s. My peers were encouraged to pursue a career, told they could do anything that they set their mind to. I didn’t know that until I had children of my own … and had been in therapy for depression and a failing/failed marriage that lead to an ugly divorce.

img_0121.jpgToday I am happier. At nearly 60 I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for the life I was given and I know that my parents never meant to cause me harm. They did their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough to give me wings to fly. I had to find those for myself.

Today, one of the things that makes me happy is yarn. Everything around yarn. I love people who use yarn in their creative endeavors. I love the animals who provide the fibers and the process that leads to the yarn being available to buy. I love feeling it and working it into a garment. I love the shop keepers and the customers. I  am grateful for the shared wisdom of women and men who share my craft and the love of yarn. I love that I have found a wonderful man with whom to share my life. He loves me as I am even when I don’t.

Life hands you some bizarre twists and turns and I’ve learned that it’s all about what you do with them that makes you who you are. I am grateful for them all because I like where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all those experiences. I’m strong and resilient and happy. I’ve started over many times and I’m sure I’ll start over again.

Speaking of starting over … I started something new yesterday.

IMG_3065Born out of frustration with the fit of my nearly-done Malabrigo sweater, and in an effort to use some of my stashed yarn, I cast on the Brambling Shawl.

The Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy was one of the projects in A Year of Techniques. It’s a study in Intarsia – the use of two colors in the same row. The yarn used in the pattern (and that I bought) is Fyberspates’ Cumulus. It’s a lovely blend of baby Suri alpaca and Mulberry silk. The project calls for five colors (camel, slate, plum, sea green and silver) and is worked from tip to tip with increases and decreases to make a triangular shawl. I’ve just gotten started and have yet to add the second color, but I love being able to learn a technique with practice.

So, tomorrow I will celebrate my husband who is a great father. Patient, loving and kind. I will also celebrate the fathers in my life, my brothers, uncle, cousins, and my own dad who did his best. He did teach me to love pistachios!

Gone knitting!

 

Knitting for Good

kfc_poster2008As knitters, it seems that we are programmed for using our craft to make the world a better place. Knitting chemo caps, hats and mittens for the homeless, blankets for women in domestic violence shelters, sweaters for penguins, purple hats for babies, helmet liners for soldiers, “knockers” for mastectomy patients. The list of charitable knitting ideas is endless. You can find something to knit that makes the world a better, softer, more loving place.

penguin sweatersI’ve knitted almost all of these opportunities. Almost. Most recently, I’ve knitted “knockers” for women who have had breast cancer and have had mastectomies. I’ve also knitted a couple of hats for children who have undergone chemotherapy.

Knitted-KnockersNow, I’m working on a hat and mittens to go to one of my students’ granddaughter’s second grade special needs class. Every year her class gets a hand-knitted gift from their teacher. Last year Alice knitted 21 sets for the class all by herself. This year, my Friday Knitters are helping. I am knitting a “hunting orange” hat and mittens because what second grade boy wouldn’t want one? We do live in Maine. after all, and people love to hunt here! Even if you don’t hunt, you (almost) need to wear that eye-piercing orange to walk to the mailbox or if you’re going for a walk in the woods. We even put it on our pets!

redhatsKnitting for good is a wonderful way to give back. I am so privileged to be able to knit and afford to buy yarn and needles (it’s an addiction!) I am happy to be able to knit for others who may not otherwise have access to warm, cozy garments. I don’t care to have my name attached to it, my giving is nameless and faceless. The “payback” for me is knowing that I’ve been able to do something for someone else. And it feels so good.

 

Gone knitting!

My Daughter’s Wedding

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My daughter was married on September 30th in New York. It was a perfect weekend spent with my family and now-extended family, too.

IMG_1670IMG_1680.JPGWhen a family grows by birth or by marriage, it is a time to count your blessings and celebrate life. I counted my blessings so many times that weekend.

I’m grateful for my wonderful husband who loves me and supports my crazy yarn obsession. (Note the picture above of us all in front of Purl Soho!) I’m grateful for my “new” big brother and his family that we’ve had in our life for almost ten years now. And that he is once again healthy. I’m grateful that my other brother Rick’s back is healing. I’m so thankful for the friends and family that gathered for my daughter’s wedding and for my new son-in-love’s family and friends, too. I’m thankful for friends who cooked us a wonderful brunch, for the beautiful weather, an adequate AirBnB apartment that allowed us to rest. Mostly I am thrilled and grateful for the happiness that I see in my daughter. I am so grateful for the man that loves her. I’m grateful that she’s found her person.

When I was pregnant with her, as the due date got closer, I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough love in my heart to give to this second child of mine. I loved her sister with all of my heart. When I held her in my arms for the first time, I found that there was an infinite amount of love in my heart for my child and that I would do anything within my power for them. I feel that way today as much as I felt it then.

On Sunday we had brunch at the home of friends in lower Manhattan. It was a perfect opportunity to let the bride and her new husband spend some time with their friends who traveled from all over the country for their big day. We had a walk around Battery Park and the 9/11 Memorial Site. It’s a remarkable area, full of history, and my heart healed a bit more. I had not visited my old work site at the World Trade Center since before the attack.

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Being a mother means living with your heart outside your body. My heart is full today with the memory of my daughter’s wedding and having my family around me. I will never forget.

Life is good!

Gone knitting.

Fathers’ Day or Father’s Day?

On this father’s day, I celebrate my dear old dad. He lived a “charmed” life but even lives of the very fortunate have some heart ache. My grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after my grandfather passed away. The children were divided up amongst friends of the family while she was institutionalized. Her heart was broken. Dad was an attorney in Hartford for a successful law firm that became one of the biggest (and some would argue, best) in the state of Connecticut. He was admired and respected. I didn’t really understand who he was until he was gone and people shared some of his stories with me. Stories that he never did share.

In dad's writing ...

It was a secret he and my mother kept until their deaths. 

I found this cartoon among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her house. I didn’t understand it except that we’d always heard the story that dad wouldn’t marry mom (a legal secretary) and he was dating others so mom moved to California to get away from the heart ache. Today we know that the truth was a bit different – mom had become pregnant with my father’s child and moved to California to conceal the pregnancy. Once the baby boy was born  (on Mom’s birthday, May 28, 1956) and put up for adoption, she returned to Connecticut and in September of 1957 my parents were married.

The cartoon above now takes on special meaning in our family. This must have been when mom was returning to her life in Connecticut. My future parents had me in July of 1958 and my two brothers in 1960 and 1963. We, too, lead a charmed life according to most. I’m quite sure that their secret burned a hole in my parents’ hearts and in their marriage, too. Neither of them ever “forgot” that baby boy. It was a secret they kept until their deaths.  When my father died from a heart attack, they were in the process of being divorced. My mother followed him in death in 2008 after ten years with Alzheimer’s Disease. Is it possible that their secret had an affect on their lives and their deaths?

My dad was born in 1922 and if he was still living today he’d be ninety-four years old. I miss my dad today. I miss him often. I wish he was here to see my kids “adulting” and to see all four of his kids all together. I would love to be able to introduce him to my big brother who I found nine years ago and who has been integrated into my family with my “new” (and only) sister. How fortunate we are to be add siblings in our 50s! I think dad would be proud of us all and he’d be thrilled with his ten grandchildren. He’s missed so much in the thirty-plus years that he’s been gone. I still think about calling him when I have questions or challenges. He was a wise adviser, a great provider, a good man. I have fond memories that I hold dear of Saturdays at his office, automat lunches, watching for the church steeple on Sunday mornings for a penny. Smelling the “root beer trees” in the woods around our house and his battle with squirrels who always won. I cherish the memories.

rrsailingHe was only three years older than I am and I sure know that I’m not ready to die yet. I imagine he felt much the same. I hope that those of you who still have a father in your life take the time to spend time with your father today and as often as you can. (Your mother, too, if you’re that lucky!)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I sure do miss you.

Gone knitting.

 

Life is Good!

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This is the view from my studio chair this evening. I love when the shore across the lake is all lit up in the afternoon. It really is magnificent.

Today was a good day. Good morning, good day at work, happy to be home and then this view when I looked out the window.

Our plants are blooming and most survived the winter and it feels good to be home. Here are a few pictures of the plants that I took today. I’m no photographer but I sure do love to see things grow!

Wild rose, “ever blooming” rose and yellow iris. The iris have been here forever and continue to spread all across the shore. The roses are both new. Rosa Rugosa (the wild rose) is a native plant and fully expected to live happily against the lakeshore. We shall see about my friend Janet’s gift from last year but I love these flowers. They are fragrant and low-maintenance and bloom all summer long.

How did we get so lucky?

Gone knitting.