Rhythm of Life

Finding the rhythm that makes life a joyous journey is not simply finding one melody or tune. In our world of 3-4 minute songs, we are in constant need of playlists that fit our mood or inspire our activities. Our journey through life does often resemble short bursts of chaotic noise, or calming melodies, or soulful ballads.

Finding the rhythm that works for us can often require frequent changes in playlists or channels.

As I grow older, I am finding that I gravitate to only a couple playlists, and have all but abandoned others. Rather than making new lists, I simply adjust and refine. I add and remove songs – refining my playlist much like I find myself refining my life.

I also am finding that I enjoy the rhythm of a quiet room. No room is without noise: there is the typing of keys; the air systems, heating and air; the sound of birds outside my window; and the occasional sound of humans nearby or in the distance. Oh yes, there is also the furry roommates who demand love and attention at least a couple times each day.

Long ago a friend asked why I always needed the radio on, and why I could not just sit in a quiet room. I responded that quiet was unnatural. Nature is not quiet, and our human attempts to block out sound is simply not natural. There is always sound unless we force it out.

I need fewer artificial sounds these days, I certainly need fewer sounds designed to distract me from my environment. Life itself seems to be creating its own pleasant symphony. Much like the great masterpieces in classical music, the rhythm of my life has quiet melodic moments punctuated by dramatic blasts of emotion.

There is a life coach out there who talks of getting rid of the things in life that don’t bring you joy, and I can certainly appreciate the guidance she gives. However, I think that finding one’s own joy also hinges on finding one’s own rhythm. Music is emotional, and life is emotional – often times emotional in ways that do not inspire joy.

Finding our own rhythm is not about eliminating sorrow or anger or pain. It is about learning to follow those dramatic blasts of emotion with melodic, soothing moments. Allowing ourselves to breath and listen – allowing ourselves to embrace the undulating rhythm that is life. When we do this – then all that is in our lives becomes something that gives us joy.

Quilts, Fibers, Aging, and Silliness

As I near the anniversary of making my first video, I find myself amazed at how much I have learned. Certainly video making has had its learning curve. Yet, it is what I have learned about myself that amazes me the most. When I began this new adventure, I would have been anxious and even horrified by the silly video-short that wraps up my latest vlog.

Covid-quarantine hair notwithstanding, a year ago I would have struggled with accepting the person I see on the screen. Now I can find joy and whimsy in the person – the whole person – who allows herself to be filmed.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of a major turning point in my life. I went from being/feeling healthy to something else entirely.

As with most who find themselves challenged with trauma, tragedy, and underlying health issues, I travelled through many phases of adjustment, including anger, denial, and the belief that I could control the outcome. Finally in this past year, I gained a greater understanding and perspective of just how much I have faced in these last decades, let alone, what I faced in the earlier years of my life. With a more clear understanding of the past, I was able to feel at peace because was able to stop longing for what I could not have, and instead, I began to truly celebrate who I have become.

None of us want to believe we are vain. Although vanity is not always a bad thing, it is a crippling thing when it prevents us from embracing life and from sharing our life with others.

Aging is a part of life, and for some, the events of our life speed up the aging process. It certainly has in my case, but then again, my body and mind have never really been in sync.

As I compiled this latest video, I recognized that vanity and fear of aging could prevent me from sharing a silly video-short with the wider world. This gave me pause and had me reflecting all that this past year of vlogging has taught me.

After reflection, I decided that I would continue embracing the joys of life and the pressing onward with my healing. Yes, my healing. Being able to see myself as I am and not as I have wished I could be is indeed a sign that I am healing.

My Mid May Vlog

In this video, I share updates on what I have been doing, provide a quick fiber dyeing tutorial, and share a ridiculously silly demonstration of basting a king-sized quilt with my husband on a breezy day.

The Promised Pattern

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.

Pithy Patchwork Projects: Nine Patch

In an effort to help answer the question, “How do I begin?” or more specifically, “How do I begin quilting?”, I have embarked on a project of creating simple patchwork quilt projects.

I believe that pointing in the direction of a path, and providing a map, is often better than holding a person’s hand as they journey on the path.

It is with this philosophy that I have embarked on my current adventure to create simple patterns and accompanying videos. No fuss and nothing to sell, just tip-n-tricks, and a bit of pithy ponderings.

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There are many wonderful tutorials on the internet and in libraries, both in book and video formats. These materials can help the quilter on their journey, and I highly recommend seeking them out. However when I am asked the basic question of how to get started, I often do not have a concise direction in which to point. So I have resurrected a project I began years ago, and I have tried to make it better fit into the modern world – a world where the video helps us learn when classrooms are often out of reach.

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I have created a playlist on YouTube for ease in finding these specific projects. In this first project video, I demonstrate the basic construction of the classic Nine Patch block and the construction of a small quilt featuring this block. I have also created a PDF pattern for free download.

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.

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.

Emotional Detox from Creative Thinking

November heralds in the winter holiday season, and what can be the beginning of an emotionally stressful time of the year. With so many major holidays arriving back-to-back, the joy of the holiday season can often become overshadowed by obligation or loneliness. We can feel pressured or misunderstood. Sometimes, even as we are surrounded by family and friends, we can feel isolated and alone. With Covid-19 forcing many to change traditional plans, the emotional stress may be even harder to combat this year.

I suspect many people will feel conflicting emotions of guilt and relief as they find that extended family get-togethers are cancelled. Attempts to replicate them virtually may cause distress rather than solace, and may cause one to question if there really is a way to still have connectivity while social distancing.

One of the lessons 2020 should be teaching all of us is that when faced with a major roadblock, we are better off looking for a new road forward rather than simply trying to adapt our old traveling patterns to get us where we want to go.

Patching over a problem is never as effective as creating something new that eliminates the problem all-together. Certainly there is value in a patch or in making the old work for a new day, but when we have the opportunity to create something new, it is good for us to give it a try.

As we embark on creating new 2020-inspired activities, success will be more likely if we evaluate what made the old activities so important to us. By understanding what the old provided, we are better set to include key attributes into our new endeavors. Most importantly as we experiment with a new way of celebrating the holiday season, it is vital that we remember the old ways didn’t become successful traditions without growing pains.

Creative thinking and collaboration can lead us through this difficult time. The process, in itself, can be a celebrated moment in our life if we allow it to be. If we focus on what made us love the things of our past, and then seek to find ways to replicate that joy in our present circumstances, we may very well find that the 2020 Holiday Season is one of joy rather than toxicity. It just requires creative thinking and a willingness to embrace the future rather than simply long for the past.

Tips for Emotional Detoxification

  • Go for a walk and get some fresh air. If you can’t get outside, watch YouTube videos of other going for nature hikes. It really can help.
  • Color outside the lines – whether it is something new, or something you are already proficient at, try letting go of the constraints of perfection.
  • Finger paint – allow yourself to make a mess. The greatest work of art is the laughter-filled journey and not the finished object.
  • Share a video/audio message with a friend. A video or audio recording of a message is easily done with most cell phones. Rather than simply sending a text, emoji, or meme, try sending a short recording.
  • Virtual Creative Play-dates – virtual creative play-dates, (not just for the kiddos) can be a fun way to socialize, work on projects, or simply try something new with companionship.
  • Be kind to yourself – if circumstances prevent the above, you can still find a way to be kind to yourself. This should not be a last resort, but it is the foundation of all the above. Kindness to others must begins with kindness to ourself. If this is something you struggle with, then please seek assistance from a medical professional or a local or national hotline for mental/emotional health. You are worth it and are not alone.
I took my own advice – here is the video showing how I played with making natural dyes. There is also some footage of me getting some fresh air – it really can clear away life’s stresses, if even for just a moment or two.