Thursday, 24 December 2015

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS... with apologies to Mr. Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a gift was wrapped, maybe 'cause I'm soused.
The baking's done and frozen outside with some care 
Everyone best like them or I'll be a damn grumpy bear.

CatMate is nestled... adding more fur to the bed.
I doubt he's dreaming, just snoring instead
I'm still in my pj's... braless of course.
Watching Doctor Who, a marathon in full force.

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter,
I limped from the lazyboy... me face covered in batter.
Away to the doors I muttered, 'oh balderdash'
Peered through the window and checked out the mountain ash.

The sand on the crest of the newly shovelled snow
Made it easier for the neighbourhood dogs to go...
When, what to my bleary eyes should appear
That damn YEG magpie squawking with cheer.

With the little ol' bird, so annoyingly quick,
I knew the lil' bastard was up to his tricks.
More rapid than swallows his curse shouting it came,
He whistled, and cawed, and shouted out names;

"Now, merino! Now, 'paca, now, chashmere and llama!
On, angora! on qivet! on, camel and 'paca!
To the top of the shelf! to the top of the cupboard!
Now Stash away! Stash away! Stash away all!"

And then, in a instant, I heard with some awe
The prancing and pawing of each little claw.
Eating the cookie dough, and turned quick around,
Up on the deck railing YEG Magpie came with a bound.

He was dressed all in his feathers, no more no less
No clothes he wore... sad I was, I must confess...
A bundle of fluff he had flung on his back,
He was looking for a spot to drop his wee pack.

His eyes -- they looked wary, he wasn't too merry!
Those iridescent feathers was none too luminary!
His sad little beak was chomping some chow,
While his wings kept flapping all crazy and how;

The stump of a chip he held tight in his beak,
It was all he had, he looked a tad bleak;
I offered him cookie dough, some raisons for his belly
The closer he came, well, he was a bit smelly.

Soon he was perched on the edge of the bowl,
Bobbing and diving; overeating was his goal;
With warmth on his back and a gentle touch to his head,
Soon gave him to know he had nothing to dread;

He squawked not a sound, but went straight to his pack,
Unloaded all his fluff; dropped pretty needles with a good wack,
And placing his head on the side of me nose,
I tied on him a wee muffler, with a tear, I must disclose;
He sprang from the deck, along with a whistle,
Away he flew with the speed of a missle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he flew out of sight,

Thursday, 12 November 2015

of love and loss

I was adored by my father... which makes his death on July 30 a hard loss to live with but live with I must. It has been a tough few months with hospital visits and overnight stays holding his hand all the while working and managing my anxiety attacks. These are bittersweet memories. While these and other memories of my father may fade as I grow old, the love for first born will never be forgotten. 

My father was a story teller... a true seanchaí. Even while he was in the hospital, he charmed the staff with his stories and flirty blue eyes. He had a true Irish soul. It wasn't until I visited Ireland for the time did I realize how deep his Irish soul was. Every tour guide, bus driver, B&B proprietor, publican in the local or the lads in the same local... they were all story tellers. They would drawn you in with a story and there was no going back... the lilt didn't hurt. That's when I fully understood how Irish my father was even tho he never stepped foot on the ol' sod. His Irish grand parents, Sam and Martha McNeill Mills influenced him in so many ways as my father influenced me.  His soul is my soul as we both love storytelling. 

Blue Heart
In honour of Da's blue eyes
Dad charmed young and old, friends and strangers, men and women... his charm came from a genuine love for all he met. He had no malice. Considering he lived in his wheelchair for nearly 30 years he was one of the most positive people I knew. My brother is the charmer and I'm not nearly as positive or as patient or as kind as my father was but I'm working on it. It is his spirit of forgiveness that I am trying hard to emulate right now. You see, a 'friend' betrayed my trust some time ago and while that person is no longer in my life, the damage caused to others is coming to light. I don't do well with betrayal. The last person who betrayed me nearly destroyed me so while forgiveness is hard, I must for my sake.  

If I am to honour my father's memory, I must also honour his greatest gifts. While dad is no longer with me, may his strength and twinkly blue eyes continue to envelope me on my journey of life.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Let the vacay begin!

How many times have we said, "I really need a holiday!" but did nothing about it. Well, after the past few months of managing the panic attacks, work issues and did I mention panic attacks... I'm now on holidays. A holiday that requires flights, hotel and the dreaded bathing suit. Being a woman of a certain age dealing with internal solar flares... I'm getting over the bathing angst and getting ready for some poolside knitting and napping.

We really don't do enough self care. We're conditioned to care for family, overextend ourselves at our jobs, say yes when asked to do things for others, volunteer for everything and then... do it all over again before we even consider taking time for ourselves. Knowing ones own limits is one thing... adhering to them is another. Heaven forbid you say no to someone without thinking you're getting the evil eye for being selfish. We know that self care is important for if we don't care for ourselves, we'll have nothing left to give to others. Yes, we all know that but...

If we don't listen to our hearts and minds they will shut down on us. Mine did... the anxiety levels were so high that a month off and medication was required. I failed to listen... to act... the body and mind forced me to action. We all know people like me... and we say to ourselves, "That'll never be me." Surprise! 

Part of my self care, including my time off was to begin to say no and not feel guilty about it. Not easy but it's a lot easier than I thought it would be. I still don't do well with large crowds (my wee knitty groups don't count) that require my attention but I'm starting to go out in crowds that I don't have to do anything but just watch the goings on. So I'm heading off to California to help celebrate my HearstSister's birthday with style... hanging out at the House of Mouse (the ultimate over-stimulating crowd sensation)... and quietly knitting by the pool resting the weary soul under the bright sun. 

We all must care for ourselves... it's not a selfish act. Not taking care of ourselves and pretending nothing is wrong is the selfish act. I learned the hard way. So... time to find the passport, load the music on the iPod, put the finishing touches on me new tote and more importantly, sort out what knitty projects to bring... possibly warn the hotel cabana boys! Let the vacay begin!

Monday, 18 May 2015

sunshine makes everything better

Well, getting knocked out of Sock Madness was a wee blessing in disguise... monogamous knitting is not for me. No matter how pretty the socks were, the idea of only knitting them till they were finished drove me crazy. Mind you in a good way as I have two brilliant pairs of socks in less than a month... but there were so many other patterns calling my name.

Yes... I have cast-onitus... hence why I'm not a monogamous knitter but I'm ok with that. It's the journey and not the destination for me. This past month, the journey for my mental health continued... in a good way. Spending time on doing what I wanted and not what I needed was very freeing.

Somehow... with our longer days and warming sun, this indeed helped bring about a brighter outlook. If someone told me three months ago that I would be acting-director for over a month, I would've laughed at them. If someone told me three months ago that I would be planning a holiday in LA to visit my heart-sister in June, I would've laughed at them. If someone told me three months ago that I would be knitting for sheer joy and not using it to hide in dark rooms with, I would've cried.

Focusing on self-care is not selfish... it is necessary in order to be healthy... to give back to others. Focusing so much on the destination while forgetting to enjoy the journey along the way, one ends up missing all the little things on the path. Or ends up stalled along the way with no fuel left to move.  Along with a major detour that stopped me in my tracks, I had no more fuel. Finding alternate fuel sources wasn't easy but having amazing people around me to help get past the detour has been an amazing source of light and strength.

Like my Mil Pasos shawl... it really is about one step atta time. Yes, sometimes a step forward may also mean a stumble or three along the way but... just keep moving. Now move I must on that wee baby blanket, the silk shawl and cotton tunic, another tote... oh, Squirrel... deck knitting!!! Yup, sunshine does make everything a wee bit better.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Mindful knitting or some such thing...

I can't seem to count to three... sitting in a lovely corner at a recent knit retreat and I had to tink back a section over and over again on a new project because I couldn't count to three. I also started a simple crochet chevron baby blanket over the Easter weekend and it took me three days to complete 20 rows because, feckity feck, I couldn't count to three!

Maybe it was because I was knitting so feverishly to complete the round two sock madness socks that it just wore me right out. Maybe it was because my back has been acting up that I couldn't go to the gym for my trainer to torture me. Maybe it was because I've not quite yet adjusted to returning to work after my leave. Maybe it's a bit of everything that has turned counting to three an elusive task.

I absentmindedly bought a copy of the Love of Knitting magazine to peruse over while at the retreat. It's what one does at retreats... read, chat, knit, eat, chat and did I mention knit and eat? Then I read one of the articles... "Mindful Knitting" by Mark Lipinski and it resonated with me. I do wish I discovered this earlier but let me sum it up for you...

  • Slow Down... it isn't about the pace you knit but about paying attention to each stitch you knit
  • Let Go... while I may never work one project at a time, I can let go of things I know I will never complete
  • Open Up... to new techniques, new stitches, new ways to be creative
  • Think Back... cuz it's not about the end product but about the journey... towards a better me
The past few months of managing my panic attacks and learning new ways to deal with the stresses of work has been stressful all on its own. This Slow Stitching Movement is certainly well worth learning more about. Our world moves too fast. Maybe we all need to be more mindful of whatever it is we're doing. Time to be more focused... more deliberate in what we do... time to slow down and reconnect with ourselves. If we all do a little more of this maybe we can then be more mindful of each other.

Now, if you'll excuse me... time to get ready for round 3 of Sock Madness and remember how to count to three...

Friday, 13 March 2015

You look fine...

I learned long ago how to hide my inner anxiety. So much so that I became of one of those 'strong women' with an 'arty flair'... a nice way of saying a little eccentric. I'm ok with the eccentric bit... my inner self tries to channel Auntie Mame! I was also ok with the strong bit until 'being strong' over took me and didn't allow me to fully acknowledge dangers of holding everything in.

Here's the other thing about hiding... when someone asks "what do you have to be anxious about? You don't have kids/not physically ill/have a good job"... yada yada yada... so not helpful. Judging as to what level one can be considered incapacitated based on personal perception is very destructive and heaven forbid you look fine. We do a huge dis-service to people with mental health issues by judging them on what we see on the surface or telling them that they shouldn't feel that way because others have it far worse. I'm guilty of that... face it, we all are. Being on the receiving end of the raised eyebrow and judgement because I should have no real reason for having anxiety/panic attacks made me a tad angry and well, frankly... a little ashamed of my past behaviours. I did the very same thing and I'm not proud of that. I prided myself on being open and accepting... huh... I wasn't and being on the receiving end of such judgement was humbling.
Yes, I am a strong person and love where my strength has taken me in life and it will be that strength to help carry me through this. It is that strength that will help me be more gentle with others. It will be that strength to help me find, use, create whatever it is I need to help un-lock what has hurt and held me back.

It's interesting that the Sock Madness (you know, that crazy speed knitting competition) qualifying pattern is based on a Harry Potter spell "Alohomora"... to unlock doors/windows. Knitting and a really good latte has become my personal Alohomora spell for un-locking my locked up brain cells and releasing the anxiety. This pattern... one stitch atta time, one door/window unlocked atta time... has brought me another step closer to myself.

Yes... I will soon be as fine as I look... but until then I'm off to the local coffee shop for another latte and a wee bit o' knittin...

Monday, 2 March 2015

madness... sock madness

I'm kinda wishing my leave was this month... it's sock madness time! For the uninitiated, this is a wee sock speed knitting competition and frankly, work is getting in the way of play. Well, that happens all the time but never more so than madness time. I also find it rather ironic that this is happening after I return to work from my stress leave... my own personal madness time.

While I will never beat the fastest knitters... within 24 hours a pair was already completed and I barely have the cuffs done... I do enjoy the challenge of improving my skills. This is something I have control over... my skills, my time, my choice. I understand that's part of my anxiety issues... control. Nothing like challenging that with a little mad competition. The challenge is that I have no control over the patterns for the competition. I must knit the pattern as per specs within a designated time frame... no creative adjustments, no deviations, no changes what so ever.

More often than not, it all turns out fine... just trust the pattern. Kinda like life... there are things we have no control over but just have to trust. It is hard when the trust has been abused in the past but bit by bit, trusting again becomes a little easier. Kinda like the knitting... bit by bit, project after project, the skills become more refined and the end product worthy of praise.

Now… to get me arse in gear and knit during breaks, lunch, meetings… ok, I might be pushing it during the meetings. The boss frowns on that… if he only knew that’s what keeping me from hurting him!!!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A step forward...

"You don't have to talk about it... we can sit and knit"... perfect words said by Vanessa. And sit and knit and drink tea and eat chocolate and watch old movies we did. "You're not having a good time, are you" was all that Diane needed to say as we walked about the Muttart Pyramids. "Strong people need help, too" as Trish and Co held my hands.

It really is the small things that stand out while working through the anxiety attacks. Big things are too overwhelming so it's easy to stay home in the quiet and watch the world go by but steps must be made to move forward... albeit small ones. Going to the market was a big step as it meant being in a crowd. Sitting on the City Hall steps with Diane and Shannon, coffee and butter tarts while watching people was the perfect way to get used to the noise. I didn't stay too long but it was again, a step forward.

Sitting in the yarn room and knitting has been my constant companion... and many a project has been completed. Baby Blanket, Big Honkin' Shawl, a wee bunny and a project bag. Surprise... and a new shawl was started. This wasn't in the plans... there are three pairs of socks on the go that need to be finished cuz the needles are going to be required for Sock Madness (that's for another post). 

You see, I love knitting shawls. They are my go to project because I love wearing them... my accessory of choice. When this pattern popped up and I read the description I knew it was to be. Mil Pasos means Thousands Steps in Spanish, steps you make every single day of your life... and sometimes, one step atta time is all it takes. So, one kind word at a time, one stitch at a time... one step at a time... 

Friday, 6 February 2015

something caustic...

 In-spite of finding three ordinary yet positive things each day, I haven't been feeling very productive the last few weeks. Understandable so says my doctor... burn out/anxiety attacks takes a lot out of a person and there's just so much Netflixing one can do. British dramas aside, I needed to accomplish at least one thing this week. Doing laundry and I noticed my soap making supplies collecting dust in the corner... huh...

So lavender soap it is but it's been a while. Weigh scale, essential oils, sodium hydroxide... check... wait, where are my gloves? Been burned a few times with errant splash spots that gloves are definitely a must. Did I say it's been a while? Well, after miss measuring the oils and hunting down towels to wrap the soap after it's poured I nearly mess up with the handling of the lye.

Take a step back, re-read the 'recipe' and focus. If the lye isn't mixed properly, it's caustic properties can do bad things. Interesting isn't it that it can burn through the skin on it's own yet mixed in the correct amount with some oils... a little time to balance out the ph and voila... rich soap is created that one can use on even the tenderest of skin.

Isn't that the way... something good often comes from something bad. May not seem like it at the time...  often time is needed to just find the balance. Like soap making, lye has been added to my life and some protection is needed to help guard my soul till balance is reestablished. So while I stumble along and work towards managing the anxiety... Netflix, knitting and a few fun excursions it is till I rediscover my balance.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Letting go ain't easy

A week ago today was the panic attack that brought me to my knees... and into the doctors office. Each day I come across such sayings as... let go... this too shall pass... when one door closes... one day atta time... yadda-yadda-yadda. All good things to say but often, not the things one wants to hear but I am trying to listen. That's not an easy task by any means. What is a bit easier (not by much mind you) is finding three things each day to help me get back to me... something I said I would do. While a few days have past since disclosing my messy life, I have been keeping track of my three things... it's riveting reading...

Barely got my knitting out in the waiting room when I got called for my blood tests
Finished a baby blanket
Heard CatMate snoring in the other room... and giggled

B-fast with friends
Going to the market and buying 2 skeins of merino for price of 1... and I wasn't even looking for yarn
Found German chocolate for a Grimm themed knit swap

Finding two 'lost' partially knitted pairs of socks
Registered for Sock Madness
A nap

Now to toss a coin to determine which pair of socks to knit from my super bowl.

Oh, and the good thoughts floating about the universe on my behalf... thank you!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Coming out of hiding

I'm not really hiding in the truest sense but it has been a while since I've even bothered to write. Maybe I have been hiding... or just too tired/busy/unmotivated/uninspired... I could go on but writing the blog just seemed like too much of a chore that I just wasn't up for. 2014 was year... a year that need not be relived.

Here's the thing... I'm on stress leave from work for a month. Lot's of little things piled up that just became too much. Work demands high with little direction/supports... family members sick... helping friends go through stressful times... but the scariest moment... baby brother had a heart attack that, even as I type this, the lump in the throat has returned. From his first day, I have protected my baby brother... it's what big sister's do but I couldn't protect him from this.

Welcome the return of the panic attacks in full force. I was able to manage them quite easily with deep breaths and a short walk... but not this time. It all came crashing down and thankfully, my doctor let me whimper in his office with no pressure to hurry up. And I realized this... Anxiety/panic attacks are not signs of weakness. They're signs of having tried to remain strong for too long.

Hiding has become very easy. I'm a true introvert. I'd rather curl up on the sofa and knit than be with people. Being with people all day is exhausting for me as I have to be "up" all the time. Oh, I can do it... chairing meetings/managing projects/talking to people is all part of my job and I'm reasonably good at. But because I do it all day means there are times when I want none of it on my free time. Hiding for an introvert is really easy... an introvert suffering with panic attacks and hiding becomes a coping mechanism all be it a poor one.

Not this time... oh, I will hide for a wee bit in order to restore, find by balance and strengthen my resilience but I won't retreat into myself so much so that I can't escape. Time with friends... visiting local spots... exercising (insert grimace face here) and knitting (surprise)! Lots and lots of knitting... learning new skills... conquering techniques... and knitting just for me!

Here's the hardest part I will commit to... posting three things each day that help me come out of hiding... three ordinary little things that help me come back to me.

  1. disclosing that I am in hiding
  2. having a yarn stash so I can shop from home
  3. date tonite with my niece at the gym
Now... if only I could retreat to my heartland...