Do You Give Back?

Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.

I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.

Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.

Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.

When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”

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.

A Full Year

It has been one year since I began making and sharing videos, and it has been a year full of so many wonderful adventures. Now with the beginning of another Tour de Fleece at hand, I took some time to select the fiber I hope to spin and reflect on the stories that accompany most of my fiber. Like many other spinners, I enjoy purchasing fiber from the breeders who know and love their animals. It is such a joy to learn of the animals, and in some cases meet the animals that provide me with such lovely fiber.

It has been a joyful year of fiber, filming, and fun. I look forward to another year yet to come, and anticipate all the new challenges I will give myself in order to keep growing as I unwind with fiber and fabric.

Keeping Things Simple

Every year when Tour de Fleece nears, the chatter includes discussion of challenges and goals. Tour de Fleece (TdF) is a wonderful opportunity for personal challenge, and for growth as a spinner. In years past, I have spun through large quantities of fiber and tackled challenging spinning techniques. This year I plan to take a different approach – to go Wild & Free – to keep it simple.

In its own way, this will be the challenge.

The only prep for this year’s fiber has already been completed – everything has been through a bath (except for some of the alpaca which may or may not get spun this TdF). I have Angora, Pygora, Cashmere, Alpaca, Bison, Mohair, and many different sheep breeds to choose from. Each day I will spin 1 ounce of fiber (different animal every couple days), and will ply the singles every 4-5 days. Certain fibers will spin up fast and others will take longer – 1 ounce of fiber can take a long while to spin when it is ultra fine Angora, but is a breeze to spin when it it Leicester Longwool.

No carding, no combing, no dye, and maybe some time spent spinning in nature – 23 days of keeping things simple.

I put together a short video of my sample spin. This sample helped me decide that 1 ounce rather than 2 was wiser if I hoped to get anything else done each day. Plus it reminded me of just how much I do enjoy spinning Wild & Free.

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