After three months of spinning and knitting, I not only have a finished shawl, but I also have a pattern. I love how this worked out and I will be making another just as soon as I spin up another fleece.
Check out my latest video where I show-n-tell this capelette and share some of my unwinding with fiber and fabric.
Regardless of whatever caused the need to heal, learning that it is okay to laugh even as the healing continues is an important lesson. Laughing can be a way to cope and a way to reconnect with joy. As long as there is empathy, and there is no malice, laughter can be just the medicine our bodies and minds need.
In a world where we are becoming more conscientious of how our actions affect those around us, we need to pause and consider how laughter can be a harm rather than a help. Empathy helps us recognize that even with the absence of malice, laughter can hurt rather than heal.
Empathy is vital for healing laughter even when the only one in the room is ourselves.
I spend a good deal of time laughing through my struggles, especially in my little videos/vlogs. I have had time to face and process my body’s rebellion over the last few decades. I have cried my tears, gnashed my teeth, and shouted my anger. I allow myself to acknowledge frustration rather than bottle it up like I did for so long. My family can attest to the fact that I suffer in relative silence when I am in physical pain, but I am a mess when I have a head cold – a completely sad mess. I can laugh at how ridiculous I behave when the sniffles prove to be from a virus rather than seasonal allergies. I can laugh at myself, and I can even encourage my family to chuckle with me because I have learned that I don’t always need to be strong, resilient, or stoic in the face of illness or infirmity.
Empathy is the ability to share the feelings of another.
Life is teaching me that in order to have empathy for others, we must have empathy for ourselves. We cannot have empathy for another if we do not allow ourselves to feel empathetic to our own struggles, pains, and frustrations. If we are always trying to feel perfect, look perfect, or be perfect, we will struggle to have empathy. Our laughter, even when lacking malice will not heal, but will have real potential for harm.
When I record and publish a vlog, I challenge myself to focus more on self-empathy and focus less focus on the blunders. It is my hope that as I joyfully laugh though my struggles, others can learn to give themselves permission to laugh as well.
I laugh, and I struggle, and I laugh some more in my latest video.
Sometimes when the mojo seems lost, looking at the everyday items around us can often provide inspiration. In this case, the packaging that made a frozen desert appealing, inspired a wooly fiber project. Working through the project helped the mojo resurface.
The mojo wasn’t lost, it was just buried under world-weariness and needed a lift.
The journey of life can lead us to the certainty of the truths we seek, but only if we avoid the pitfalls that can come due to expectation.
Expectation can often be the biggest roadblock faced on any journey. Expectation can even scuttle a journey before it begins. Remember, expectation is only a belief in something, whereas, it is on the journey that certainty can be found.
Truth is both simple and complex – the greatest of all paradoxes. Truth is more than just a belief, it relies on a preponderance of evidence. Sometimes this evidence has little value or certainty for anyone other than ourselves, but that does not mean the evidence is not valid. It may simply mean that we are seeking a small understanding of something much greater than we are yet ready to perceive.
If we remember that expectation is simply the starting point – the hope, the belief, the dream – and that the journey provides the data, the trial, and the proof, then we should move beyond belief and gain the true knowledge life offers to teach us.
One of the things I love about hand crafts is that the process of doing the craft reminds us that we are the element of change – we are the magic that transforms one object into something greater than its original state.
On New Year’s Eve we find ourselves hoping there will be some magical force that will change the days ahead into something better than the days of the past. In recent years, it seems we cannot even make it through a full week into the new year without having this hope diminished.
When we realize the magic is inside our own selves, then we begin to understand that the hope for a better new year is a hope that can be achieved.
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?”
One of the easiest but most enthusiastically received gifts I have given over the years is the simple gift of homemade hot cocoa mix. In a world where hot chocolate packets are readily available and fit so nicely into the novelty mug, why would anyone take the time to make their own mix? Yet, the personal touch of mixing cocoa powder with just the right amount of sugar to achieve a rich, dark, but sweet blend of flavors simply can’t be beat. When this gift is coupled with the Mug Rug, a whimsical version of the traditional cup coaster, the simple gift is elevated to another level. The mug rug may be basic in nature, or elaborate and personalized, yet it is the effort and thought that makes it a token of well wishes and seasonal joy.
As I show in my Vlogmas 2021 video, there are many ways in which the simple mug rug can be made, and I am sure a quick internet search will provide endless ways to stir up a batch of hot cocoa mix. As with any gift giving, the most important thing to consider is the person you are giving the gift. One of the reasons I like the cocoa mix I use is that it is very basic, leaving the choice of milk and of any additional flavorings up to the individual. I find this helps avoid pitfalls associated with food allergies, etc.
One note on my preferred hot cocoa consumption. I add the cocoa mix to an empty cup, then I will add any additional flavors to the mix. (Peppermint oil, Butter Rum Extract, OR a blend of dried Cinnamon/Clove/Ginger – these are three of my favorite flavoring.) Then before I add in the milk, I add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream to the mix and stir/whisk vigorously. This will transform the dry mix into a wonderful paste that is ready for the milk to be added. I will add cold milk, and then microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, stir again and check to see if the liquid needs an additional 30 seconds of heating. Of course, I could preheat the milk, but I tend to only do that when making a large batch to share with others.
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.