Even Superheroes Cry

Heroic efforts and stunning success are not the results of optimism alone. Desperation, insecurity, and fear can often be part of the equation.

There is a well-known adage about successful endeavors. It is about eating an elephant one bite at a time.

Even when we are wise enough to know that success comes from taking one bite at a time, we might find ourselves with aches from having bitten off more than we can chew. We might find ourselves needing time to adjust and regroup.

Optimism, hope, and determination are essential attributes in successfully eating that proverbial elephant. They are the attributes most often celebrated by the adoring fan club who cheer on the hero; a fan club who seldom wants to see the gritty, sweat-stained brow, the tear-filled eyes, or the weighted-down shoulders.

A hero rarely earns that title because they seek it. It is a title assigned because they seek to do the right thing when faced with tough choices, and they seek to serve even at the cost of their own comfort.

A hero transforms into a superhero because they do not rest on past heroic actions. They do not retreat when exhaustion and failure seem more likely than success. The hero is elevated to greater status not because they refuse to cry, but because they push forward while openly crying – crying due fear, fatigue, and pain, but also from determination and hope.

Superheroes are not created by seeking inhuman traits. They are created when they embrace the very traits that make them human: when they recognize that joy and sorrow go hand in hand; when they allow tears to wash away the grit and grime so they can see the light more clearly.

Superheroes will cry, and then they will press forward with their quest.

Rest is Vital

Over the past few weeks, a number of my more able-bodied friends have discovered just how vital rest is when the body feels under attack.

The Covid-19 shots have given many a small glimpse at what it is like to live with conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and the wide array of auto-immune disorders that are too many to list. Living with debilitating fatigue, and the feeling one is ill even when they are not, even for a few days can be so frustrating. Doing so without allowing your body the rest it is demanding can not only delay recovery, but it can be emotionally demoralizing.

I was fortunate to get the one-dose shot, and was very relieved. My body seems to overreact to any shot, and I was nervous that this shot would be no different. Interestingly, the shot itself only produced mild side effects. However, it triggered one of the worst fibromyalgia flare-ups I have experienced in years.

I prepared myself for the complications I suspected the shot might produce. It is not very often I get to prepare ahead of time for a fibromyalgia flare-up, so that was a nice way to start this experience. Yet, I did not calculate into my preparations the reality of having spent a year in a pandemic world.

My body simply said, “Enough is enough!”

I have been riding the rollercoaster of feel good one day, feel horrid the next.

With a bit more time, a lot more rest, and the knowledge that I have traveled this path before, I should regain the balance I had before I was knocked of kilter.

Living with chronic pain, fatigue, and other health issues is not what any of us wish for ourselves or others, but it has taught me that rest is vital for a joy-filled life. Regardless of our situation, Rest is Vital.

In between naps, I was able to fit in another short video.

How Do I Begin?

Regardless of what change we wish to make, or what adventure we wish to embark upon, the question of how to begin can often create the largest stumbling block for us. We look for advice, directional signs, or step-by-step instructions. Sometimes we need a clear outline to follow, and other times we want only a point in the right direction.

In this modern day of information overload, often when we ask the question, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the flood of answers we are given. Maybe we aren’t asking the right question, or maybe people aren’t listening to the question we are trying to ask?

In the enthusiasm to share answers, many will rush to supply great suggestions that have little to do with the needs of the person seeking help.

This information overload – or suggestion dump – became quite evident to me recently when a new quilt enthusiast asked the question, “How do I start?” The answers came pouring in with little regard to the personal situation of the newbie. Where do they live? What is their budget? Do they have any background in the skill set?

Without taking the time to learn a bit about the person asking the question, the answers not only can overwhelm but they can misdirect. Additionally, the flood of answers may begin to seem like attention seeking rather than assistance giving. The person who posed the question may find themselves wishing they had not.

There is an old English proverb that states, “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.” Over time, it has been altered to, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Taking the time to understand the question – to understand the individual asking the question – is vital. The focus should be on that individual and not on ourselves, or worse, on our desire to promote others. When a person, for whatever reason asks, “How do I begin?”, we should do our best to remove obstacles rather than place more in their path.

Hoping that I am doing good works and not the other option, I have embarked upon Pithy Patchwork Projects. I explain a bit of my intent in this video.

Blending the Past with the Present: Moving into the Future

The joys of life are not found in the uniqueness or exotic nature of the task we do, but rather, it is found with in the way we perceive the task. When we change our focus from that of “must do” to “choose to do”, joy-filled replaces mundane.

Joy can be found even in the common activities which are often viewed as mundane. While blending fiber may not seem be a mundane task for those unfamiliar to the world of spinning yarn, it is labor. Depending on the size of the project, it can be quite laborsome. It is work done in preparation for the final objective, and a task that we chose either to see as mundane or joy-filled.

It is very likely that I have now gone beyond the midpoint of my life. As I look forward to the of life ahead of me, I reflect on the past and blend those memories into the daily activities of the present. The experiences of my youth have taught me to seek joy in the tasks that I do – even the daily tasks that are not necessarily unique or exciting. Seeking joy and blending the lessons of the past with the present is how I hope to move steadily into whatever future I am blessed to have.

Imperfect: Embracing the Joy

One of the greatest challenges a crafter/maker/artisan faces is the challenge of accepting imperfection. Knowing when the results of one’s effort is enough to feel satisfaction rather than dismay is not always the easiest of tasks. Sometimes it requires more practice and skill than the crafting/making/arting (is that even a word?)

Embracing the joy of imperfection can help a person accept the imperfect nature of their creation. Learning to laugh when well-laid plans go awry is not always simple, but it does change one’s outlook. Creativity can flourish when laughter is present.

I laugh a lot in this week’s video. I share many imperfect quilts. With one particular quilt, I show my effort to “fix” an imperfection. I will leave it to the viewer to decide if it is an improvement. At the end of the day, I like the fix enough to hang the quilt on my wall. It may never be my favorite, but it is certainly cheery.

Goals Accomplished

Over the summer I began dyeing and spinning a collection of yarn. The intent was to have a ‘countdown to Christmas’ collection of squishy packages for my children. When I began the challenge, there was speculation that my daughter would be returning to her Peace Corps assignment before Christmas. I thought it would be wonderful for her and her brother to both have something they could do together as they counted down to Christmas.

About midway through this goal of mine, it became clear that my daughter would not be returning to the Peace Corps this year. My desire to get the fiber spun was even greater as it became clear 2020 was going to throw more hurdles into our lives.

As the deadline to get my son’s packages in the mail approached, I wondered at the sanity of dyeing so many different hanks of fiber. With only days to spare, I wrapped the little 50 gram yarn balls and enclosed them into the box that would take them across an ocean.

On Thanksgiving Day, the yarn was indeed in the same country as my son, but as with most things military, there was confusion. So the day after Thanksgiving my son retrieved the big box of mini packages and began the countdown with two squishy bundles to unwrap.

Each day (or every other day as schedules permit) my two kiddos unwrap and share photos with each other. They are counting down the days, not just to Christmas, but to the end of 2020.

I think many of us are counting down the days until 2020 ends and we can enter a new year with hope for less strife than 2020 has presented. For many, 2020 began with hopes, dreams, and goals that would be disrupted – even shattered. For many, as 2020 marched along the only goal was to see it come to an end.

For me, my goal for 2020 – for any year – is to find as much joy as I can, and to find ways to share that joy with others. Tears, disappointments, strife, and hardship may make me stressed and filled with sorrow, but despite the stress and sorrow, I still find joy. Long ago I learned that joy shines a light into even the darkest corners of our lives and minds. We must seek that joy, open our eyes to that light. At times this may be hard, sometimes very hard, but it is a goal for which the hard work is worth it.

The goal of finding joy in our lives each day is one worth accomplishing. It is one of the many goals I have accomplished this year, and one that I hope I can accomplish in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

For those who have been following my Christmas Countdown Collection journey, this week’s video shows some of the finished Granny Squares. I have also put together (with the help of my daughter) a pattern for download for any who wish to join the Granny fun.

Pattern to download.

Inspiration, Memories, Holiday Joy

Confessions of a Crafter

During the holiday season, my world seems to be inundated by inspiring social media posts and videos. So many wonderful new things to try, hidden among some crazy crafting fodder. I enjoy watching videos of projects coming to life, even ones that show crafts that I know I will never take on. Every so often though, I will decide to join the crazy train of a popular craft. Yet, I prefer when my new crafty undertakings are able to overlap with my current arsenal of creative techniques. Finding an overlap is not always easy. Clay work, for instance, is still rather a stand alone. Although, I have made my own polymer clay buttons, so there is some overlap with my sewing projects.

Good organization skills and proper storage techniques come in handy when there are multiple crafty people living under one roof. The joke about the entire house being called a craft room is not much of a joke when so many rooms hold craft supplies. With the constraints of limited space and a need to actually live in the house rather than just craft in the house, I am hesitant when I feel the urge to take on a new type of crafting endeavor. However in the days since I last contributed to this blog, I have finally succumbed to the ever popular world of blinging up a project with gems.

In the past, I have made embraced glass beads for my blinging needs. This was a frugal way to use materials I had on hand, as well as a permanent way to attach bling, but glass beads have their limits. Working with freestanding lace embroidery turned out to be one of the limits. I knew that hiding the attachment stitches on delicate lace ornaments would be difficult. So after many years of resisting the urge, I took the plunge and purchased a hot-fix gem tool and an assortment of gems. When the supplies arrived, down that rabbit hole I dove into a magical world of sparkling light. What was I thinking by resisting this craze for so long?

Fortunately over the years I have learned restraint. So I don’t think my home will be blinged up, nor will my husband worry that his clothing will start to twinkle in the sunlight, but the ornaments I make each year may very well sparkle when the lights of the Christmas tree are turned on.

Another Video

After taking a couple weeks to rest/play/craft, I sat down and tried something new – a vlog rather than an inspirational mini tutorial. It was not my intent to ramble along for such an amount of time, but I now understand why my favorite knitting vloggers vlog for nearly an hour each episode. It was quite to my surprise that I realized how very long I had been rambling about inspiration, projects completed, memories, and lessons learned. I do not know how many people will ever watch the video in its entirety, but at the end of the day I am so very pleased that this vlog has been created. It is a glimpse into my world, my head, my life, and it has brought me joy. I hope that it will bring others joy too.

Thankful for Memories

The Autumn and Winter holiday seasons inspire me to be creative, and flood me with memories of times gone by. So many of my memories include the practice of creating something that can be given to or shared with others.

I awoke this morning from a troubled dream. It was nonsense, but the crazy chaotic scenes were all too familiar. It was a reflection of the many times I overdid my efforts to make the holidays special for others, and in the process, overwhelmed myself. The overwhelmed me is not a person I like to recollect.

With age and greater understanding of my limitations, wisdom has emerged. This year, a year of stressful uncertainties and worries, I have made a commitment to myself (and my family) to maintain balance – or at least try my best to do so.

I have focused my creativity on projects that not only bring me joy, but represent all the things I didn’t do because I was busy doing too much for those I love. I am still giving and sharing, but now I am focused on sharing inspiration and joy rather than physical things.

I have long lived by two adages. The first relates to eating an elephant one bite at a time, and the second that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him one.

This year it my goal to share these truths rather than cookies, quilts, or hand-knitted hats. Hopefully by doing so, I can feel the joy of sharing, and not the chaos of overdoing.

Better Late than Never?

Creativity is a marvelous thing, but sometimes creativity can lead one to an avalanche of unfinished projects. The positive flow of energy that can come from beginning a new creative endeavor, may in-turn, devolve into a negative sea of stress. The question then gets asked, “Must I finish what I have started?”

In the world of fiber arts, there are many UFOs cluttering up closets and spare rooms. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, UFO stands for Unfinished Fiber Object. After many months, even years of living in dusty corners, these UFOs may resemble those other objects bearing the moniker of UFO. For after awhile, Unfinished may very well be replaced by Unidentifiable, and may lead the project to be tossed through the air and into the rubbish bin – flying, you might say into the trash.

While I doggedly try to avoid ever throwing away a project, I readily admit that there are times when one simply must toss out a UFO. Certainly recycling is the best option in these cases, however it is not always feasible. What is feasible, and is a must, is not allowing negative thoughts to beat unceasingly down upon us. Recognizing that while “better late then never” is a catchy phrase, sometimes it is not anywhere near the truth. When our health is in question, it is best to let go of the thing that once gave us joy but now causes us distress.

I began dyeing over 10 pounds of fiber a few months ago, and began spinning it up shortly after. It gave me joy and I have now completed it, but in these last weeks, it has been a bit stressful. The time constraints rather than the project itself was making this project less joy-filled. There were many days when I had to have a serious chat with myself over whether I should halt the project and call it “good enough”. Fortunately, I did have just enough time allotted to stretch the project out and give myself some rejuvenation and healing time. This factor, in-the-end, was the key to success. Even still, I paid a physical price for my determination to finish.

Sometime our bodies and our minds just need a break. Sometimes they require more than rest, they require a bit of a fresh start. During these times, there is nothing wrong with dusty UFOs taking flight. Of course the relief of de-cluttering the closet will never equal the joy of completing a project, but sometimes the peace it can bring is a joy in itself.