Why I Bake

Granola – before

Obviously, baking yields something delicious at the end but I don’t just bake for the result. It’s about the process, too.

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, always had something that she’d just baked on her pantry shelf. Always. She never failed. (The pantry also had a metal three-drawer cabinet that housed her “candy drawer” at the bottom where we could always go for a chocolate treat.) Chocolate frosted, only on the top and in the middle, yellow cake. The same yellow cake in cupcake form with chocolate frosting. Cream puffs, chocolate chip cookies … often the same but never boring.

My gram would take the time to bake with me and I think that’s why I love to bake. I so enjoyed being with her while we baked together and if we didn’t have time to bake together I always knew the love that went into it. Precious moments. Gram didn’t have a lot of money to buy stuff but she gave me the gift of time.

As I bake, my gram is with me. I can feel her in my heart and it makes me so happy. As I’m writing this my eyes are filling with tears which is a message that my words and feelings around this are true. (Bristol Ivy said I had “ocular incontinence” and she’s not wrong!) Baking centers and grounds me. It is something I shared with my children and with with my grandchildren; the ones of the heart and the blood ones if we are so blessed.

Granola – after

Meanwhile, it settles my heart in a bizarre year. I always know that baking something fills my belly and my heart.

Knitting does something similar but it doesn’t have the heart connection to my family like baking does. I love knitting, don’t get me wrong. I can sit and knit for hours and be “in the zone” where time is lost and my mind is focused. It’s good for my soul. I’ve been knitting a lot through the pandemic and have been experiencing a little soreness in my left arm – I don’t stop and stretch often enough. I’ve also been sitting too long and have worked over the past year to get up and stretch more to help my hips and back. Both passions have helped me to pass the lockdown time in a state of (mostly) contentedness and peace and they’ve been such a blessing. My husband enjoys the fruits of my labor on both fronts.

This week I’m rushing to finish his birthday socks. I’ve got one done and one to go.

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter Designs in Manos Alegria

Gone knitting.

Take up Space

IMG_3501

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.