August 01, 2017

The Tao of Socks

I have lived in many homes, cities and states in my life. As a child, the place I had the most memories in is this humble home in Hammond, IN, that my parents rented from the time I was 8 until I was 13. That was by far a record as I can recall having lived in 9 different places up to that point. That record was not broken until I bought my first home at the age of 21.

This is the place where my love of socks was born. Clearly, this home was important for many reasons. I know I've mentioned we were poor, but occasionally during these years, when I would go to the grocery store with my mom, she would let me choose a new pair of socks from the rack of dollar socks that was near the registers. I would labor over this decision. I would be nearly giddy with the choices. I would take home this prize and I would wear them pretty much nonstop all weekend. You cannot imagine the joy a simple pair of socks gave me.

As a result, I grew up to have a bit of a sock obsession. It was a well documented joke in my family. When I was in my early 20's and had to have surgery on my toes, my mom made me a bouquet of socks in a vase and brought them to me at the hospital. Of course I loved it! My girls have been gifting me with socks for as long as they have been buying me gifts. I still get that little thrill with a fresh pair.

 When I think of where my deep gratitude comes from, I am often led back to those moments, standing in front of that spinning rack of socks. It may sound silly, but imagine a little girl with so little, that a pair of dollar socks made her deeply happy. I know most people could not imagine that. I know my own girls could not. And while often my heart breaks for that little girl, I also can't help but be thankful because I can't imagine that I would be the person I am today without those experiences. Bitterness cannot grow where gratitude lives.

It seems it was a natural transition for me to become a sock knitter. When we look back on our lives, it's easy to see how all the moments before, bring us to where we are now. And I love where I am now, so I have to love what brought me here.

Sock knitting is meditative for me. I love wearing them of course, and I love choosing the yarn combinations and patterns and will often obsess over these choices as I used to obsess over those sock choices as a little girl, but more than anything, I love making stitch after tiny stitch, round and round in a circle, sometimes with no other thought than what my needles are doing, sometimes with silent prayers, memories of the past or dreams of what's to come, until suddenly I look down and I have this little object that gives me joy and which will hopefully make the person they might be gifted to just as happy as they make me.

For the past several months knitting socks has been a special kind of therapy for me, shifting my focus to something positive, giving me something I could control, healing my spirit. Hand knitted socks, aren't just socks to me. They are love filled hugs for your feet and when I give a pair to someone, I am giving them a bit of myself knit into every imperfect stitch.

July 09, 2017

Shifting Perspectives

I took half of these pictures exactly two weeks ago on the Sunday before my surgery. I admit that I have spent a good portion of my life the last few months living in fear. That is never my choice but sometimes it seems almost unavoidable. For a period of time. I think that's key. If you spend all of your time living in fear, well, you aren't really living. You are missing out on the beautiful every day moments that are happening in your life right now, while you are alive.

 The very oddest thing happened to make me wake up to this mallow plants. I planted these at least three seasons ago and every year, the enchanting, plump Village bunny that loves to visit my garden, would mow them down to the ground before they had ever really gotten their heads more than a few inches high.

Soon after we lost our sweet Millie, the bunny stopped visiting. I had always thought the bunny was afraid of her but it now appears to me that the bunny came to play with her and now sees no point in visiting and eating my flowers if there is no golden retriever to frolic with. The point of this story though is that I was so deeply wrapped up in my fear and grief, that I almost completely missed the fact that I had mallow growing in my garden for the first time in my entire life. I couldn't stop thinking what a shame that would have been and I began to feel my perspective shifting.

Ten days ago I had my surgery and while there was an incredible amount of fear leading up to it and still some residual fear, mostly due to my history with blood clots, I am healing, slow and steady, body, heart and soul.

This past week, I very suddenly lost one of my best friends, Renee. Maybe you know her from her blog or Instagram account. We were very close and such a lifeline for each other, especially the last few months as we both found ourselves facing some of the biggest challenges of our lives. I loved her dearly and am so sad that my doctor doesn't want me to risk making the trip to say goodbye at her funeral. I miss our daily talks about life, challenges, joys and yarn. I believe I was put in her life to help comfort her when she needed it and while now I could use her comfort more than anything, I have to believe she was put in my life to reinforce to me that we don't know what tomorrow will bring, so make the most of today. She was also a shining example of what deep faith looked like.

If I'm being honest, even as I'm learning all the lessons that life is throwing at me this year, even as I feel myself growing and changing, I'm tired from it all. I don't want to learn anymore for awhile. I want to sit quietly and knit and watch BBC, and make lists and dream and pretend the world is always a beautiful place where people are lovely to each other and treat one another with kindness, respect and grace.

You learn a lot about yourself and the people around you during times like this. Some of it positive. Some of it not. I am trying to focus on the positive and working towards a zen like acceptance of the rest. That does require a little practice.

I have learned though, that changing your perspective can be such a beautiful thing. Looking at something in a completely new way, sharing a new experience with people you love, trying something you've always wanted to do. Being brave, even when you're scared, trying new things even if you might feel stupid or God forbid...even if you might fail.

This is what we are here for. To love, to live, to go out into the world and explore, see and learn. New experiences and dreams are what keep us interested and interesting.

I've realized there are so many places I still want to go and  things I still want to do: write a book, play the cello, learn to tap dance, take a cooking class in Italy, knit a sweater, travel the English countryside, go to Maine, make croissants from scratch, learn to paint, visit the PNW, take a pottery class, sew a quilt, become a better photographer, sew a skirt and the list goes on and on. And obviously I'll never get to everything on the list...or maybe I will. I plan to give myself at least another 46 years to try.

I have a new watch that reminds me to breathe, it reminds me to get up and move but as far as I know there is not an app that reminds you to live, really live, your life every day. That is something we have to learn on our own.

I have to say the most important thing I learned through this process, although I was not oblivious to this fact, is that I am married to an amazing man who is here for me no matter what. Usually unconditional love is reserved for parents and their children and dogs and their humans, but my Sweet Man has always loved me unconditionally. He has been my tower of strength even through his own fear. He has held me and comforted me for the past several months and for the last 10 days he has taken charge of my medical care doing things too unsavory to mention here and doing them without hesitation. He has cared for all of my needs, journaled my medical stats, set alarms every 3 hours through the night and fed me pain pills, water and crackers. He has cared for me medically, physically and emotionally with the gentlest of care and the deepest of love. As I stood in the shower one night while he gently bathed me and washed my hair, hurting and feeling exposed and mangled and vulnerable and sobbing, that man looked me in the eyes and told me that I had never been more beautiful. I wish that is what love would always look like for every person. No matter what life brings me, I will forever be grateful that it gave me that.

While I still have another surgery ahead of me in the next month or so, I'm ready to get through it and move on to the next chapter. And I just want to say this- I am not cancer. Cancer is something that happened to me, a life experience that is now a part of my story for better or worse. I am not a victim.  I do not want people to think of me and for their first thought to be that I had cancer. I am not interested in dwelling on this sad chapter, just as I am not interested in dwelling on any of the sad chapters that came before it. This, like everything that came before, alters my path a bit and makes me more fully the person I am meant to be, which is just a person living my life the best way I know how.

Having said that, I want to thank each and every one of you for your positive thoughts, prayers, emails, texts, notes, gifts, flowers, meals, errands and the pure and beautiful outpouring of love that was sent my way. It made such a difference for me and I felt stronger for it. I am full of gratitude for it. There were days when I was sustained by it and I could never find enough ways to thank you for your generosity and kindness. People are so incredibly lovely. I leave you now with this picture of the daybed swing my guy built, where I soon hope to be doing a lot of recovering.

With my sincerest gratitude and love,