Giving Handmade Gifts: Holding onto the Joy

Sharing our joy with others helps us find our own inner peace, but we can only find this peace when our hearts and minds remain focused on the sharing and not on the receiving. The moment we fixate on how our handmade gift is received, we have shifted our focus from our act of giving and are now concerned only with the gift we expect in return – the recipient’s gratitude.

Giving a handmade gift to someone we know personally, as opposed to an anonymous donation gift, often leads to concern over how the gift will be received. This concern has the potential of undermining the joy the process of making has given us. Expectation of gratitude is a dangerous path to enter when we are on our handmaking journey. It is fraught with pitfalls which can cause us and the recipient of our handmade item emotional harm.

When we treat all gifts as we treat the anonymous donation gift – in essence, when we simply hope that the item will find itself being loved, even if it must pass through many hands before it finds its home, then we can hold on to the joy that is the byproduct of our making and our giving.

The guiding principle I live by when I give a handmade gift is this:

If I make the gift with love and the intent to give it unreservedly, then the joy that I gain in the making and giving is the only reward I will expect.

Living by this principle is not always easy, and even the best efforts can still allow in feelings of disappointment, but focusing on the joy of making will usually fend off such disruptive feelings.

Our desire to share our creativity, our time, and our talents with others is a worthy desire. When we make a gift for someone, and we make it with love, the joy we get from the making is the greatest reward. It is the process of doing, of making, of giving, of serving – it is this process that blesses our lives with joy and helps us find the inner peace we need.  

My daughter thinks I may be a bit more eloquent in the last section of today’s video.

Vlogmas 2021 – Because Why Not?

For many, YouTube Vlogmas has become a way to “break out” of the restrictions of a quarantine and travel without leaving the comfort of one’s own home. I particularly love to follow vloggers on their trips to see holiday lights and visits to Christmas markets.

For many, these vlogs help replace the sense of belonging and community that they feel is lost because of changes in society (changes that may have even happened before a pandemic). For some, simply sharing in the joy of others, even virtually, removes the cloud of loneliness that often accompanies infirmity and illness.

Whether its watching them decorate their homes, knit sweaters and scarves for gifts, or prepare their favorite holiday food, I feel a connection with these vloggers, and not because I now vlog. For me, the connection with these vloggers comes because I feel they share both my love of the holiday season and my love of sharing joy with others. The vlog, much like the physical items we give, becomes a gift from us to whomever is in need of the gift.

So this year, I have decided to make my own vlogmas contributions. I doubt it will be an annual tradition for me, but this year I hope to share holiday joy and inspiration through sharing some of my handmade treasures (many made by my own hands, and some made by the hands of loved ones).

While my first vlogmas video is on the longer side, the subsequent ones should be a shorter and contained to a specific theme.

Be Kind to Yourself

As the big crafting season begins, I have been thinking about one of the most important lessons life and aging teaches. Be Kind to Yourself – it is such an important thing to do all year long, but as crafters, it is something we often neglect to do as we scramble to make just one more item before the holiday deadline.

In my latest video, I talk a bit about how bad I am with this lesson life keeps teaching me. After showing of few of my latest projects, I change gears (around the 20:57 mark). Even when I am trying to be kind to myself and not over-do it, the unexpected can happen and force me to slow down even more. Learning to find peace and joy when the brain and body war against each other is not always an easy lesson to learn. It is, however, a worthy lesson to learn.

I hope you enjoy my video – pieces or the whole – I have enjoyed sharing it.

The free pdf pattern for the placemat I share in the video is here for your enjoyment if you wish to download it.

Liberty: Joy and Sorrow

Liberty, even when it allows for the foolishness of mankind to flourish, is better than bondage.

We must be cautious not to forget that personal liberty should not come at the cost of the liberty of another. The wise understands that liberty, responsibility, and compassion are intrinsically intertwined. Without all three, it is easy for liberty to become nothing more than a mask for self-interest, greed, and apathy.  

Once liberty loses its meaning due to the foolishness of mankind, it becomes easier to convince the unwise to give up liberty in hopes of preventing the sorrow generated by foolish behavior.

Rather than rejecting liberty, it is better that we learn to find joy even when surrounded by the sorrow mankind generates through its foolishness. Liberty with foolishness and sorrow will always be better than bondage.  

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.

Liberty and the Absence of Internalized Fear

As we liberate ourselves from the expectations of man, and from our own internalized fears, we can truly embrace our potential to serve mankind in a way that brings peace.

Brings peace to our own souls, and hopefully aids others in finding their own peace.