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Saying “Yes.”

No, I haven’t just accepted a marriage proposal, I’m not about to upload videos of candlelit beaches and writing in the sand – still happily single – but I have had some momentous and life-changing events happen of late. 

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A few weeks ago now, just after writing my last post, I attended the  very sad funeral of the brother of a friend, and was sitting mid-service when I felt myself filled with the deepest sense of shame I have ever experienced in my life. Let me explain…

The church was filled to capacity – I have honestly never seen it so full. People of all ages and from all faiths had traveled to be there for this mans send-off. People queued up for the chance to say a few words, offering up a prayer or a word of condolence, offering their shoulders to help bear the burden of loss that this family would be forced to carry. 

The priest, who shed his own tears too, spoke so eloquently about this man. About how he touched many lives with his energy and vibrant personality, about how he was loved by everyone because he smiled all the time, even when he was suffering towards the end of his life.

And – here comes the burning shame – how he never stayed still. He was always living his lifealways planning the next adventure and working towards making his dreams a reality. 

I know, it would be incredibly selfish to sit there at a funeral and feel sorry for myself; that wasn’t quite how I was feeling. I wasn’t jealous that this man had more friends than me, I didn’t feel self-pity because he had had more fun. 

I was ashamed. 

I have spent the last few years of my life building a little nest for myself, a little squirrel’s den to hide away in when the world gets too scary. 

And I have been hiding. During the daytime, I am hiding behind the World’s Best Mother badge, putting 100% of my time and energy into being a mum to my kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a job I cherish, and I know how blessed I am to hold this position; but I use it as an excuse to avoid putting any time and energy into me. 

It’s the same in the evenings; the kids go to bed and I curl up on the sofa and pretend that I couldn’t possibly get a babysitter if I wanted to go out – I could get a sitter in a matter of minutes, if I just picked up the phone. Why am I lying to myself? 

I made the decision, sitting at this man’s funeral, to start living my life properly again. I felt I owed him that much; if I want to be able to look him in the eye when we meet again and tell him that my extra years weren’t “wasted” on me, I need to get back out there and use up every bit of my time – the way he would have.

So; how do we start living again, after years of expertly dodging life? 

It really was very simple – I started saying “Yes.” 

You see, life throws opportunities at all of us, all the time. There is always someone who needs a hand with something, or who doesn’t want to go somewhere on their own, or who is facing something that you have been through and would appreciate your support. 

Quite often, when asked to do something, I would find an excuse, and say to myself “I’ll do that when I’m thin,” or “Someone else could do that much better than me.” 

In the past month, I have put my fingers in my ears and ignored those little inner-head voices. And life has come back to our house…

I have agreed to become a mentor at a parenting group.

I have been kayaking with my friend, who didn’t want to try it on her own. (I’m in that picture, above!) 

I have met up with friends for several nights out (some messier than others!)

I have agreed to help with a local fair, run by volunteers. 

 

If I was afraid before that my children would miss out because I was doing my own thing too, I was so wrong. My children are delighted to see me out and about, meeting friends and getting involved with various activities. They squealed with laughter when they saw me in a wetsuit, and they looked on with pride when I was thanked by their teachers for assisting with their show. I haven’t neglected them at all; I have shown them how adults are supposed to live, and they are loving it. 

 

Being Thankful for the Glimpses

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  The much-loved brother of my friend has died at the age of 36 after fighting leukaemia for 10 months. He will be buried tomorrow, so tonight, as is the tradition here, he is being “waked” at the family home. I have just been to see him and pay my respects, and did not quite feel the full force of the grief until I put my arms around his little sister, my friend, to tell her how sorry I was. Now I am sitting at home trying to find some scrap of sense in a world that seems very cruel. 

  When faced with loss and pain I always seem to find my way back to the birds in my garden. In my bleakest moments a few years ago I began feeding the birds, and their colour and their song began to seem like little gifts given just to me, often at a time when I really needed them. I began to recognise the different species that were regular visitors, and always felt thrilled when a new arrival showed up.

  One bird that I always wanted to see was a long-tailed tit, a very sweet little ball of pink feathers with the longest tails of any of our native birds. I never held out much hope though, I assumed that if the birds don’t live in this area then I am never going to see them through my kitchen window, so I was happy with the stunning goldfinches and tiny redpoll and all of their little friends. 

  One afternoon though, following several days of very heavy and exhausting appointments to try to organise some help for my daughter in her time of anxiety, I happened to turn and look out at the bird feeders, as I often do. Flitting about, and lifting my heart, were seven beautiful long tailed tits. They swarmed like a cloud of exotic butterflies, just long enough for me to take one quick snap with my camera and call quietly to the both children to come and see. I had to lift my boy so he could see out of the window, and my girl stood on the other side of me on her tiptoes. We stood like that watching the birds that I had waited so long to see, until, just like that, they were gone again, leaving no trace that they had ever been at all. 

  Since that magical moment, those little birds have never been back. The one photo I managed to get is so blurred that it is unrecognisable but I treasure the memory of that moment, because it was another little gift to remind me how special life is, with the usual perfect timing that convinces me that there just has to be something more to all of this.

  Maybe every blessing in our lives is like a bird, flitting in and bringing joy, and then leaving us so suddenly. I feel so very sad that one of the most beautiful birds in my friend’s life has flown away, and can never come back. I hope, I really hope, that the joy and love he brought when he was here will get her through the pain of losing him. 

 

Still fighting in the Hunger Games

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   I have finished the project that was dubbed the “Hunger Games Blanket,” so-called because I was using it to distract myself from food cravings in the evenings. (NOT starving myself, I might add; but trying to break out of emotional/boredom/mindless eating habits.) 

    Although I had a bit of a wobble in the middle when I found myself beginning to loathe the yarn I was trying to use up (it’s gone! gone! never to darken my door again with it’s hairy gloominess!), on the whole I enjoyed the idea of crocheting my cravings away. Whenever I felt like I needed a biscuit, or I heard some tasty snacks calling me from the kitchen, I occupied my mind instead with colour changes, sewing in a million ends, and planning the changes of direction in order to form a square. Looking at it now, it reminds me a little of the different coloured fields in the countryside that surrounds us.

  It’s not huge, admittedly it is a lap blanket rather than a full sized throw, but it is going to be donated to a residential home this evening along with the granny squares blanket I made earlier in January. We have just had a huge snowfall and a drop in temperatures too, so I hope it will bring a little warmth and colour to someone who needs it. 

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Since finishing this, I have slipped in the snow and landed very heavily on my outstretched hand – a silly and very painful way to land! Luckily nothing was broken but the jarring pain travelled the whole way up my arm, shoulder, and neck. According to my daughter, it was hilarious – and I did make a very funny outline in the snow. It may mean no crochet for a little while though, although the time off will be a great opportunity to get all of the other little jobs done; organising the stash, re-writing the project wish list, and finalising the design for my goal-weight top! 

  Hope you are all taking care in the snow, and staying warm. Looks like the winter is not over just yet! 

 

 

It’s that time again…

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I was almost convinced that my four days of liquids-only-sipped-through-a-straw might have caused massive inch loss all over; after all, there has to be some perk to feeling that rough, right? But no, the inches haven’t dropped off, and I think that might be a good thing. Nobody needs to be encouraged to starve themselves, right? Besides, I think a serious calorie deficit causes your body to hang on desperately to every shred of food that goes in, like a famine survival mode. So, tonsillitis as a weight loss tool? Not good!

However, I have to admit that even though the numbers might not be showing huge losses, things are heading in the right direction. You may have noticed there are no half-inches on any of the measurements; I’m a bit fussy about whole numbers and fractions, so I am waiting for the whole inch to come off before I put it down as a loss. So it’s all good, all very positive, all very encouraging. And look what came in the post, to keep me on track…

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It’s the yarn for my top – the one I hope to wear when I am slimmer again. (No, not just one ball, there are another 11 the same as this one!) It is a lovely soft grey, not anywhere near as shiny as the photo makes it look, but with a nice sheen to it. I can’t wait to get started. I hardly ever make anything for myself; maybe I should, if it would keep me focused on my diet and my healthy lifestyle? Now there is a thought…

My big treat over the last fortnight (before the tonsillitis) was a trip to the cinema with the kids  – and of course there was popcorn. I felt I had earned a treat, and I also think if you deny yourself something that you really like (popcorn is a big part of the cinema experience!) then you end up miserable and unhappy. It was delicious!

My mini-goal this fortnight is to continue with the de-cluttering. It’s been very therapeutic, and creates a much calmer atmosphere in the house. Plus, I have discovered there is money to be made selling your clutter online, woohoo! (Yes, I have always been late to the party, but I get there in the end!)

I hope everyone that is following a similar path to mine is still feeling positive and motivated. Things may be going slowly, but they are going, and that is all that matters. Imagine looking back on this journey next year, or in five years time…we won’t feel the annoyance and the impatience, we will just feel the pride and the satisfaction. Keep going!

My treasure, and my Treasures

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There has been very little crochet done here lately, I have been laid low with a bout of tonsilitis that hit me so hard I half convinced myself it was some kind of flu, plague, or tropical disease (note to self – NEVER google your symptoms again!)

So here is a little story from my week that really perked me up…

The picture above is the inside of my button box. Many of you might have a similar one, and you will know then that it is not just a storage solution but also a place of inspiration. Many times I have built a cardigan around some sparkly buttons that I have found, or a little toy based on some googly eyes that were lurking in there.

It has also been incredibly useful for keeping the children entertained. I try to do most of my crochet in the evenings, after the children are tucked up in bed, so that when they are awake they do not have to feel that they are “sharing” my time. However, when the pressure is on I sometimes have to work on something during the day, so I will get the kids involved; I will ask them to find me 4 matching purple buttons,say, or 5 in the shape of a flower. My boy would sit for hours sifting through the treasure box, while for my girl it is more a case of ” Can I borrow this one for my dolls dress please?”, which is quite pleasing to hear. 

Anyway, this past few days I have been dealing with uncontrollable shivering, pounding headaches, weakness, muscle pain, and the sore throat, of course. It has been a miserable time; the only time I ever feel a bit fed up about being a single parent is at times like this, when I don’t have anyone to tell me to stay in bed while they take care of the children. I try to take the attitude that times like this make me stronger, and bring us closer as a family – and they really do.

My kids have been amazing this week; my daughter has been making sure I am warm enough, helping me up the stairs, she even woke me with a warm drink – not hot, as she knew that I wouldn’t want her to use the kettle! It’s touching to see her trying to be a grown up, but I am very glad that my little illness is a short term one, and she can go back to being a child again now that I am nearly back to full health.

My boy has also been supporting me; he took off his little coat and put it around my shoulders, when I had the shivers. I feel I have raised a 4 year old gentleman, and I am proud that he is so caring. He also gave me a present…

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He came home from school excitedly clutching this single, tiny button. In his class, you can “win” buttons for good behaviour, and then you go to the front of the class and place them in the big button jar. When the jar is full, the class will win a reward, such as extra time in the playground. It’s a great way of getting the class to work together, but how did one of the buttons end up in our house?

“That’s great, you got a button, I’m so proud,” I said, “But….how come this one didn’t go in the jar?” 

“Well, you don’t have one like this,” he answered, “So I knew you would be happy if I brought it home for you.”

So, to the kids in my son’s class; I’m sorry, but I have to keep this one. It makes me smile every time I look at it, just like my son knew it would. I’m feeling better already. 

Fat and Fit, thanks

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So, I have this friend…which is a really hateful way to begin a post, I know…but I have this friend, and I love her to bits, but she has a real knack for saying some really hurtful things – completely unintentionally.

This morning, for example, she handed me a flier for a new activity programme being run in the town. It sounded great, and I do enjoy being active, but when I read the small print….it was being aimed at people with obesity issues.

I said to my friend “Look, I can’t do this, I don’t have a BMI of 32.”

Her reply; “Are you sure? Have you checked? You can’t be far off it. It would be good for you, it’s for people like you, who don’t do anything.”

Well, thank you for crushing me just a little bit, there, with your kind concern and your good intentions!

I don’t understand; this girl has known me pretty much all my life. And I run – I have been a runner since I was about 18, with the occasional “rest periods” that some runners have when they are just not feeling the buzz.

Since my youngest started school full time in September, I have been lucky enough to be able to fit in a run after I drop the kids off in the morning. I may not be eating up the miles in the way that I used to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still do it!

My friend, my beautiful, kind, funny friend has fallen into the trap that many people do; she thinks that, because I am big, I spend my days sitting on the sofa watching talk shows and eating crisps. I felt so cross that I came home and went out for a run, just to prove to myself that she was wrong – not a very good reason for a run, but even a bad reason is still a reason. Within just a few minutes I had forgiven her for her blunder, and felt like I was flying. There is no drug that can give a high like that, or clear the mind quite so easily. The post-run snack of an apple and glass of water is somehow made so much more delicious because of the burning lungs and scarlet face that accompany them.

I realise that sometimes people need to see something before they will believe it; and I will admit to being more of a private runner than one who will walk around all day in their running gear. I don’t post on Facebook about my “Best.Run.Ever” or my “6 mile hill session before lunch, legend” in the way that some people do. I gave up long ago trying to join in the fitness conversations with the skinny mums at the school because they made it clear that someone of my size couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to feel the burn at one of their aquafit classes or bodysculpt, or whatever the latest trend is.

I have a brother in law, as thin as a rake, who likes to sneer at “fat people.” He makes fun of anyone of size, regardless of what they might be doing at the time. If they are coming out of the shop with bags of shopping, we will hear “They they are, look, on their way home for a mid morning snack,” or they might be walking the dog, and then we will hear “Go on, keep walking, another 50 miles and you might fit into your trousers properly.” Nasty, poisonous comments from someone who obviously thinks that thin is good, fat is bad. I would argue that “fit” is best, regardless of size. And I could run that skinny man into the ground – he may well beat me in a sprint, but give me a few miles and I would leave him for dead.

Anyway, enough about negativity; this post was meant to be a positive one. This post is for anyone carrying a few extra pounds who is sick and tired of the whole world thinking that they are lazy, greedy and stupid – amongst other things (I had an ex once who refused to believe that I could be cold, because in theory, my layer of fat should have been enough to keep me warm. That is why he is an ex now, the idiot.)

Big people can be fit. Big people can enjoy the same highs from exercise and enjoy all the benefits of an active life that a thinner person can. So if your size is stopping you from giving it a go, be brave and go for it. Get out there and get that buzz, don’t let the thin people hog it all to themselves.

Don’t worry about people staring – if they stare, it is because they wish they were doing it too.

Falling Out of Love…

Image ..with a yarn.

 

With apologies to the manufacturer of this yarn, whose name I cannot remember; when I bought this I imagined a lovely wrap or shawl in deep, natural colours, blending into one another and creating a thing of beauty. 

Now, when I look at it, I see dental floss used by a stinky witch. Or the spun hair from a shaved ogre. Or some other things that I can’t really type here without blushing.

The picture doesn’t quite show how dark these colours are, the flash bleached them out a little. I feel so disappointed, the yarn that I had such high hopes for is now a real drag to work with, and has become a lesson in stubborn-ness for me, rather than a project to bring me joy and satisfaction. (I will NOT be beaten by this ball of yarn! I will continue to beat this stash into submission, so help me!)

The colours are so dark that my eyes can only cope with working on this in natural daylight; but it’s not just that, it’s the hairiness of the yarn. What I thought was going to be lovely fuzzy softness quickly became very annoying to work with.

Never before have I got it so wrong when choosing a yarn! Has anyone else ever been besotted with a yarny purchase, only to come crashing back to reality when it comes to actually using it? I hope I am not the only one!

But it’s not all bad, I managed to incorporate this hairy beast into the blanket I am currently working on (dubbed the “Hunger Games” Blanket by some lovely fellow bloggers!) and now that it is surrounded by patches of other colours, I don’t hate it so much. So the yarn is almost all used up now, and the blanket is going to an old peoples’ home when it is finished, so it will be keeping some elderly gentleman cosy while also being far, far away from me. Everyone’s a winner! 

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