An Illegal Hug

We humans really are funny creatures.

Previously I wrote about being an extrovert and really missing contact with others. Today, I stole a quick moment of contact that was wonderful.

But made me yearn for more.

Outdoor Meetups

At some point, a couple friends and I decided to get together outdoors. We meet up with our kids in quiet playgrounds, always looking for secluded spots.

Today was a sunny and warm-ish day, so we met up after school got out on an elementary school playground.

We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and the sense of joy at being together was palpable. Chatting away, we were delighted to be doing something that felt so normal.

A Stolen Moment

One of my friends is acting as homeschooling teacher for her own kids and another pair of siblings. She is a woman of incredible energy, generous and kind in spirit.

We were just getting settled into a nice chat when suddenly, one of her charges called out to her from the top of a jungle gym.

“Ms. S! I’m stuck! I need help!”

She caught sight of him and broke off mid-sentence. A look of kindly exasperation came over her face, she gave a quick sigh and moved to step past me, towards him.

Just as she was preparing to dash over, she made the slightest move towards me with her arms open.

Without realizing what I was doing, I opened my arms to meet her, and we caught each other in a quick but warm hug, faces turned away from each other.

Time seemed to stop.

Her smell nearly overcame me. I caught a wonderful mix of scents: her laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo, maybe even perfume?

It was wonderful.

I realized in that brief embrace that I hadn’t hugged anyone but my family since February. No wonder the scent of her arrested me: I’m so used to the smell of my boys that any different smells strike me as strong.

It lasted just a split second. We broke apart, she ran off and negotiated the kiddo off the top of the jungle gym.

That Hug Said So Much

Without saying anything, I felt like we had told each other so much.

That hug spoke of loneliness, exhaustion, frustration, empathy, solidarity. It spoke of need.

It was a beautiful and spontaneous expression of a need for contact.

All Too Brief

Shortly after, a nasty fall from a different jungle gym ended our visit a bit early. Someone got a knock on the nose, and needed to go home for a little TLC.

Without any expression of resentment for shortening the visit, my friend gathered her charges and prepared to head home.

I sensed that she could have done with a longer visit, a longer natter, a good yarning session.

I wished she could stay longer too, but I silently thanked her for that illegal hug.

It was a little preview of what we have to look forward to when, some day hopefully not too far from now, the pandemic is over.

Check On Your Extroverts

This morning my very dearest friend sent me a quick Whatsapp message.

“Hey, I’m free. Do you want to talk?”

“Do I want to talk??” I thought.

IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?!

DO BEARS DO THEIR BUSINESS IN THE WOODS?!?!

Yes. Absolutely. Yes I want to talk.

Her Spider Senses

My friend has a sixth sense for these kinds of things. She just seems to know instinctively when she’s needed.

Something must have told her that a little chat wouldn’t go amiss, and despite being in the office and having plenty of work to do, she gave me a call on her lunch break.

She’s a doctor. She’s done a residency in psychiatry. Psychology is a large part of her job. She has an idea of how different kinds of people are handling the pandemic.

She also knows me very well, and knows that I’m an incorrigible extrovert.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Hearing her voice was a breath of fresh air for me.

I’m very much a people person. If I cannot get social contact, if I cannot meet with other people, whether they be dear friends or even other parents on the playground, I wilt.

Seriously. I wilt.

I feel a hollowing out inside me, I feel a crushing loneliness, and I retreat to a gloomy place in my head.

That’s not to say that I can’t be alone. I very much enjoy my alone time. But I need it balanced with social time.

So when I got on the phone with my friend, though I had so many questions to ask her, and so much I wanted to catch up on with her, I proceeded to talk her ear off.

Kicking Myself

It was, necessarily, a quick call. My friend had to get back to work and I had to get my day started.

When we rang off, I stopped and thought, “Gah! I wanted to ask her about _____. I didn’t ask how _____ went!”

I had been so busy gabbing like a goose that I forgot to listen. It happens sometimes.

I regretted instantly how I had squandered our short call on seemingly unimportant blather. I ached to get her back on the phone and say, “Your turn!”

Sadly, it will have to wait until the next time we have a free moment.

Check On Your Extroverts

What my friend did today was a good deed.

That’s not to say that I was the only one who derived any pleasure from our talk. We enjoy chatting and listening to each other in equal measure. I know that it’s a pleasure for me to sit and listen to her when she needs it, and I have no doubt she feels the same way.

But she thought to herself, “I know an extremely extroverted person who is in social isolation right now. She probably needs a call.” And that was a Very Nice Thing.

A friend on Facebook posted this the other day:

Check on your extroverts, after 8 months of this, we are not ok. I miss people. Zoom is not a replacement.

K.M. ON FACEBOOK

PREACH, SISTER.

An Invitation

I invite you all to do as my friend did this morning and check in on someone you think might need it.

I call my Dad daily. If I’m seriously extroverted, I get it from somewhere. That somewhere is most definitely my Dad.

He and I alternate chatting and listening, and while we can drive each other nuts, we also get a lot of joy out of our talks.

Even if you’re handling this situation just fine, and you don’t feel the need to reach out, do it.

Think of that friend, that relative you know to be struggling with the isolation. It could be an irrepressibly bubbly friend, or it could be an elderly relation who misses contact with family.

Extroverts tend to have the highest highs and the lowest lows. It happens to anyone who is slightly off an even keel.

A call from you may just be the high the extrovert in your life needs.

Everything’s Normal

Things have been pretty dull around here lately. So dull that when I made hot toddies on Thursday night, it was the big event of the week.

(I made them with Celestial Seasonings brand rooibos vanilla tea, and OMG they were out of this world! Here’s the recipe I used.)

The other excitement of the week was getting our Christmas tree today!

Something Like Normal

We’re doing our best to keep things as normal as possible for the boys. They’re home all day every day and they don’t see other kids, which is not normal. But within that, we try to stick to a schedule.

I think that everyone finds some comfort in routine. It helps to normalize a very abnormal situation, such as this pandemic.

But a little change is sometimes called for, and this year we’re getting into the holiday spirit much earlier than I’m used to.

So, this morning we drove out to western Loudoun County and visited Milltown Creek Christmas Tree Farm. We got our tree there last year, and the familiarity of the place was good for the boys.

Also, the magic of it.

Even More Special This Year

This year, the comfort of the tree and the lights feels almost necessary.

Despite wearing masks the whole time, we felt normal, and certainly happy as we strolled through the rows of pines and firs trying to find the perfect tree.

(The Bear did complain of hunger a bit, but that’s all in keeping with the normal theme.)

The sun was shining, and though it was cold we were able to enjoy a complimentary cup of hot apple cider out in the sunshine before driving home.

Once home, we went through the process of taking out the box of decorations, rediscovering each ornament at a time. There’s always magic in that moment, but today it seemed even sweeter.

Craving Family

This will be the first Christmas in many years that we haven’t been with family. We were planning to stay put for Christmas this year anyway, but since we haven’t been able to travel at all since January, it feels wrong.

Normally, we’d have visited Spain in the summer, maybe even Switzerland, too. Staying home at Christmas would be a rest: a chance for us to relax as a family.

But after the isolated, socially distant year we’ve had, I miss family and friends more than ever. Though I swore last year I wouldn’t travel at Christmas for at least a few years, given the opportunity to do so safely, I think I’d jump on a plane tomorrow.

In Lieu of That…

We have ornaments. Gifts from family, friends. Gifts from my mother who always did her best to make the holidays magical.

And so we put up the tree today (two weeks early, in my books!), and it warms our hearts.

Looking at it makes our loved ones who are so far away feel closer.

Thinking of My CV

In November, I participated in a career development program offered through my university alumni association.

The process was fruitful in that it helped me to identify not one, or even two, but six or seven different possible career paths to research.

Dusting Off the CV

As the career development program wraps up, one of the next steps is getting my resume in order.

I’ve kept it pretty up-to-date. I was, after all, sending off dozens of resumes earlier in the year.

However, they all went off into the void and nary a one brought much of a response.

Since March, my resume has sat undisturbed and largely unthoughtof.

Resume Blues

There are a couple of reasons I think my resume wasn’t getting much attention back when I was applying to jobs.

The first is unavoidable and can’t really be changed: I haven’t worked a desk job since 2014.

That’s not to say I haven’t worked, but it takes some doing to spin the work I’ve done into strong CV points.

The second reason is that my CV is a bit all over the place. Literally and figuratively.

I’ve worked and studied in all kinds of places. And I’ve done a little of this and a little of that. Potential employers may look at my CV and see someone who doesn’t really have a focus. They might wonder if I’m really all that interested in their company or their job offering.

Fair enough.

A Resume Tells a Story

In the end, your CV tells your story. And if you’re not really sure about how you want your story to go, that comes across when discerning recruiters read your resume.

I think that’s what’s happening with mine. I don’t know what my story is.

Sure, I’ve done lots of things and been in lots of places. I have qualifications and valuable skills. But does my CV show how I have use those skills in a coherent “story line”? Am I making it clear that the job I’m applying for is the logical next chapter?

Time to Write

The next step in my career development path is to research and write.

I need to research the potential career paths I’ve identified, and then write my story so that my chosen path (or paths, because I’m sure there’s not just one) fits in as the next chapter.

Not to mention reaching out and doing some networking!

All this does need to happen. But when? When will I have the time? I seem to have the time to write on my blog, so I ought to find the time to do this.

Honestly, I am kind of letting the pandemic and the fact that the kids are home act as a barrier to action. Perhaps I can make it my new year’s resolution to shake off that mental barrier.

No Christmas Shopping Mojo

I am a terrible shopper.

I’m especially bad at clothes shopping. I get bored and frustrated quickly, and can only really shop for clothes in good company. Otherwise I wilt.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, I make the classic mistake of only thinking about Christmas gifts as the holidays approach.

This, I have learned, is not the best approach to Christmas shopping.

Good Christmas Shoppers

I suspect that people who are good at Christmas shopping are people who shop regularly.

They know who they want to buy gifts for, and when they’re out shopping throughout the year, they always have an eye open for a good potential gift.

I’ve known people who have a hideaway in the back of a closet or under some stairs where they keep the potential gifts they’ve accumulated over the year.

These people are the BEST people to get gifts from. They’ll give you something they found at a craft fair last spring, or in a gift shop in Vienna in September.

I wish I were one of those people! Instead, I am a:

Christmas Shopping Disaster

Suddenly, the holidays are nearly upon us, and here I am with few gift ideas and even fewer shopping opportunities.

I was so proud of myself last year: I had remembered to keep an eye open for Christmas gifts starting in late summer.

As a result, I was well-prepared with some great stocking stuffers and other presents.

In 2020 Though…

Thanks to the ongoing global pandemic, regular shopping has been curtailed for most everyone. We’ve barely gone anywhere since March and nothing’s been happening, so where are we supposed to have shopped?

This year, a lot of our Christmas shopping will have to be done online. But online just isn’t the same!

Shopping online limits the possibility of a serendipitous find–the stumbling upon something that makes you think of someone you love.

I know that Etsy and other platforms offer a whole range of lovely gift ideas, but being rather a kinaesthetic person, I have trouble really visualizing something when it’s in a 2D picture on a screen.

I like the experience of seeing, touching, holding and feeling something before buying it.

“But Jane! Don’t you knit?”

WELL YOU MIGHT ASK!

I do, indeed.

But, as with Christmas shopping in general, I only ever remember to start knitting for Christmas in October or November.

Then I make grand, ambitious plans and end up injuring myself trying to knit it all.

That’s precisely what happened last year when I knitted my mother-in-law an exquisite lace-bordered shawl (which she adores and I was so proud of, but OUCH MY SHOULDER!).

Christmas Shopping in 2020

I’m just warning anyone expecting a Christmas gift from us: It’s going to be small.

Our boys will be getting a gift from Santa, one from the Three Kings and maybe a pile of books from us. We’ll make up and send packages to our family, and we’ll do our best.

In this year of illness, death and mourning, I desperately want to brighten up everyone’s holiday by sending them the perfect gift.

But that is an unrealistic expectation, and it’s not healthy for me to put that much pressure on myself.

So Christmas will be small this year. We’ll be celebrating quietly at home. No traveling for Christmas for nearly the first time in a decade.

But we’ll be thinking of those we love, and looking forward to another year when we can all be together.

Meantime, here’s James Taylor singing “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.”

That Being Said…

So the other day I was all, “Bah! Humbug! Let’s not start celebrating Christmas too soon!”

Well, today my house is all decked out in Christmas decorations.

It turns out, I have small children.

Christmas Is Irresistible to Small Children

The lights! The decorations! The colors! The traditions!

It was all I could do to keep our kids from writing their letters to Santa and los Reyes Magos before Thanksgiving.

(Quick aside: in Spain–and many other countries–the Three Kings bring gifts on January the 6th. Since our Bug’s birthday is January the 8th, we put in a special request to their majesties to come on New Year’s Day. They’re very obliging.)

And so, we pulled out the box of Christmas decorations. We took one look at it and decided it was too meager.

Thankfully, Trader Joe’s had pretty table wreaths. And Target had adorable decorations. And the Bear needed his own Christmas stocking! (Shockingly, I haven’t made him one until now…)

The Bear really likes trains. Like, really likes trains.

What About the Humbug??

Believe me, there’s still plenty of humbug in me!

But it is true that the kids’ excitement for Christmas is infectious. As we put up our mix of sentimental old decorations and new mass-produced ones, I felt a bit of that humbug melt away.

I was reminded of my favorite Christmas decorations growing up. The beautiful glockenspiel. The brass angel candle holders. My parents’ modern wooden nativity scene.

I remember how magical they seemed to me. How taking them out and polishing them each year sparked the magic of the Christmas season.

So I let a bit of the humbug go.

But not enough…

To put up the tree yet! DARN IT, I WILL NOT YIELD!

Bah! Humbug!

CHRISTMAS STARTS AFTER HALLOWEEN?!?!

Okay, I knew it was early here, but WOW! That is VERY early, indeed!

The boys were surprised (and delighted) to find Christmas decorations in the stores practically the day after Halloween.

I, however, was dismayed.

TOO EARLY!

First of all, I LOVE Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

I love how it’s all about food (something I can get behind), getting together as a family, and being thankful together. There’s very little commercialization.

It seems to me to be the only unadulterated (read: un-merchandized) holiday left.

So what do companies and retailers do?? Why, SKIP OVER IT ENTIRELY, OF COURSE! The only money-making part of Thanksgiving is Black Friday!

Bring Back the Twelve Days!

I think, even in a year as crappy as 2020, it’s such a shame to rush so early into Christmas, at the expense of Thanksgiving.

People still celebrate it, of course, but with their Christmas trees up!

And I can totally understand that lots of people need it this year. But here’s what I propose:

Let’s make a move back to celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas!

Yes! That’s right! Christmas celebrations used to begin on the evening of December the 24th and lasted until January the 6th (Epiphany). That’s twelve days of partying! Merry-making! FUN!

WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT??

Surprised?

If you go to church, you know there’s the “Advent season” (the four Sundays before Christmas), and there’s the Christmas season.

There is some debate as to whether or not the “Christmas season” lasts this long, but in some church calendars, the Christmas season actually lasts until Candlemas! (That’s the 2nd of February, in case you didn’t know.)

But at the very least, Christians can all agree that the Christmas season lasts through January 5th and ends with the celebration of the Epiphany on January the 6th.

(As an aside, Epiphany is the celebration of when the three wise men came and presented gifts to the baby Jesus. In Spain and in many other Latin cultures, presents are actually given on Epiphany, not on Christmas–all the more reason to KEEP PARTYING UNTIL EPIPHANY!)

Historical Christmas

There’s a little history for you! This is where the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” comes from.

Historically, since this was a dark and rather unproductive time of the year (nothing’s growing, not much doing…), it was a time when people made merry.

Christmas trees (introduced to English culture by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Albert, in the 19th century) weren’t traditionally “trimmed” or lit until December the 24th.

In our house, we never put up the tree before Christmas Eve. But we kept it up through Twelfth Night (not just a Shakespeare play! Also, the 12th night after Christmas).

But fun and games were had during these 12 dark, cold winter days. And the tradition of lighting things up continues, as we try to dispel the cold, dark and gloom of winter with artificial lights.

Why The Twelves Days Matter in 2020

This has been such an epically awful year. I can understand that people are especially anxious to get into the Christmas spirit ahead of time.

But it’s such a shame for it to come and go in one day on December the 25th.

I say we should go back to some of the old traditions: feasting, pranking, singing, dancing, exchanging gifts and (yes) drinking over the course of 12 days.

We’ve waited so long for Christmas, and for 2020 to be over. It only feels right that we should see it off with a bang.

Here’s how Christmas USED to be done!

Rethinking Food

Yesterday I finished reading The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz.

This book isn’t new. It was published in 2014, and boy! Did it make a splash when it came out.

Basically the conclusion is this: nearly everything we think we know about healthy eating is wrong.

Saturated fat is not bad for you.

Cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of risk of heart disease.

Dietary fat found in butter, red meat, eggs and cheese is good for us. In fact, it’s necessary for healthy body functioning.

A Complete Upheaval

For decades, we have been told that the best possible diet involves cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, and that if we are not getting healthier or thinner it must be because we are not trying hard enough.

But what if the low-fat diet is itself the problem? What if the very foods we’ve been denying ourselves—the creamy cheeses, the sizzling steaks—are themselves the key to reversing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease?

In this thoroughly researched analysis, Teicholz meticulously combs through all the data that is the basis of the low-fat diet recommendation.

It turns out that the low-fat diet is based on a hypothesis. It was a hypothesis that there is a connection between dietary fat and heart disease.

That hypothesis has never been proved. And in fact, Teicholz finds in her analysis that study after study showed either no connection, or a very tenuous one.

But because of forceful personalities in the early nutrition science world who were pushing this hypothesis as truth, every time a study came up with unsatisfactory results, they were either manipulated or ignored.

To learn this is truly shocking.

The Result

This startling history demonstrates how nutrition science has gotten it so wrong.

How overzealous researchers, though perhaps beginning with the best intentions, through a combination of ego, bias, and premature institutional consensus, have allowed dangerous misrepresentations to become dietary dogma.

Americans today are heavier and unhealthier than we have ever been. More than 42% of Americans are obese, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.

And despite adhering to the USDA and NIH’s recommendations to reduce meat, egg and dairy consumption and to increase grain, vegetable and fruit consumption, as a nation we have never suffered more from chronic weight and diet-related diseases.

Incredible

In seems unbelievable that nutrition experts for the last 60 years could have been so incredibly wrong. That what we know to be fundamentally true (namely: vegetables & fruit are the healthiest foods, animal fats are the unhealthiest) can be so completely wrong.

Yet it’s true.

In fact, in the six years since her book was published, the scientific evidence backing Teicholz’s research has grown, and the studies have become even more robust.

More and more evidence is now pointing to sugar and carbohydrates as the main culprits in these diet-related diseases. And while more research is needed, it is not clear that whole grains in large quantities are that much better for us than refined white flour.

My Takeaway

This book was a dense read, and I didn’t get through it quickly. In my Goodreads review I gave it 4 out of 5 stars for that reason.

But the takeaway from this book, for me, was huge.

Though I had heard about the Atkins diet, and at one point it seemed that everyone I knew was cutting carbs, I had dismissed it as a fad (I even remember repeating the misinformation that Dr. Atkins died of a heart attack!).

But this year, when I started to increase my exercise and get really serious about tracking my food to trying to lose weight, I was feeling so incredibly frustrated that I felt hungry all the time.

That’s when my aunt recommended Atkins and The Big Fat Surprise. She said, “Just read the books and then decide what you want to do.”

I have read them. I’ve read them and I have given myself permission to eat more butter, more cheese, more eggs and more meat.

And by God do I feel good! And OH MAN DOES IT TASTE AMAZING. After an initial feeling of withdrawal, I eventually realized that I wasn’t obsessing over food anymore. That I was feeling satisfied after every meal and that feeling was lasting longer.

I’ve lost nine pounds. I feel more energetic. I feel less guilty about enjoying bacon at breakfast, or cheese for a snack.

HOWEVER

It is, I think, very important to note that eating a high-protein, high-fat diet is EXPENSIVE.

Meat, eggs and cheese are not cheap, especially if you’re trying to buy organic or free-range. A low-income mother could not afford to feed this kind of diet to her kids. A person struggling to make ends meet doesn’t have the money to eat a high-protein diet.

I am fortunate that I can afford to eat either meat, fish or eggs daily. Not everyone in this country has that chance.

And it’s heartbreaking that those who need health food the most are the ones who are suffering the most from diet-related diseases.

They’re also the ones who are dying of covid-19.

Getting out of the House

It’s amazing what getting out of the house can do–even for a brief period.

Yesterday morning, I volunteered on the COVID-19 information hotline at the Loudoun County Health department.

It was my first volunteering stint in a while, and just the fact of being out of the house and doing something other than childcare from 8:30am to 1pm was amazingly restorative.

A Mad Rush

Luckily I woke up to pee at about 3:30am, because that’s when I realized that I had entirely neglected to set my alarm for the morning. Bad habit I’ve slipped into the last few months…

I set the alarm, and went back to sleep, only to have weird dreams about odd deadlines.

I woke in a cold sweat at 6:00am, and my first thought was: I have to make the boys’ lunch before I leave!

Before I knew it, I was dressed, had put on some make-up (it HAD been a while!), dressed a child, and was in the kitchen with three pots on the stove. Between feeding the boys and getting their pasta salad lunch ready (why couldn’t I just give them PB&J? What’s WRONG with me??), I nearly forgot to feed myself.

Thankfully, I remembered to eat AND have a much-needed cup of tea before stuffing a hunk of cheese in my bag and rushing out the door.

On Duty

Once I arrived at the call center (this was my first shift there), it was all business.

The stress of the morning melted away, and my focus shifted entirely. I read through the FAQ materials, made a note of some important information I was likely to need, and met my fellow volunteers.

By the time the phone lines opened, I was ready.

For the next four hours, I was in the zone. My focus was entirely on the callers, on answering their questions, figuring out where they could find the information they needed.

By the time the shift ended, I felt like I’d been productive and helpful, like my energies had been expended usefully.

Return Home

I came home with a spring in my step, renewed energy and recharged batteries. When I opened the door and heard, “Mama!!” and was walloped in the abdomen with a hug from an enthusiastic 5.5-year-old, I smiled down into his face and felt excited to spend the afternoon together.

For the rest of the day, when the Bear woke up from his nap, I was game. I felt like I could take anything they threw at me.

Instead of feeling like I needed to get some alone time ASAP, I felt like I had more of myself to give. We played, we laughed, and it felt really good.

Unlike the Previous Day…

The contrast with the previous day was too marked to pass unnoticed.

On a typical, socially-isolated, distance-learning day, by the time 4pm comes along, I keep glancing at the clock. I’m exhausted, spent and ready for a break.

At 5pm I start to make dinner, and that’s when the boys are allowed to watch TV. I always feel a stab of guilt about it, especially because the Bug spends so much time on the computer for school. But it doesn’t stop me from letting them.

I pop something on PBS Kids, Amazon Prime or Disney+ and retreat to the kitchen, quietly closing the door at the top of the basement stairs behind me.

There in the kitchen, I can listen to my audiobook or some podcasts, or even sneak over to practice on the piano a bit before I get dinner going. It’s a little time to do something for me.

More Days Like Yesterday

I want more days like yesterday. Whether it’s volunteering or working, I want to have something that takes me out of the home context for at least part of the day.

Using my brainpower, energy and focus for something else gives me more of all of those for my kids.

It makes coming home to my little princes so much sweeter.

A Review of “Knitting Comfortably”

I’m an old dog.

Well, maybe not old. But definitely middle-aged! And learning new tricks is no picnic.

Regular readers will know that I have been off the needles again. The knitting needles, that is.

In an effort to reduce discomfort and avoid injury, I purchased myself a copy of Carson Demers’ book Knitting Comfortably: the Ergonomics of Hand Knitting.

It arrived the other day, and I have learned many, many things. For instance…

I’M DOING IT ALL WRONG!

I exaggerate. (But not much.)

Posture? WRONG. Knitting chair? WRONG. Lighting? WRONG. Yarn tensioning? WRONG. Pairing needles and yarn? WRONG.

You get the idea.

Okay, to be fair, it’s not a question of right or wrong. It’s a question of ergonomics, and balancing productivity, efficiency and safety.

A Balancing Act

In his book, Demers makes it very clear that there is no incorrect way to knit: no one method that is superior to any other (though there is one he pooh-poohs).

How we knit is a balancing act, and he uses the image of the 3-legged stool to demonstrate. Ergonomics (or comfort) is the seat, and the three legs are what I mentioned above: productivity, efficiency and safety.

He then breaks down the elements that contribute to each of those three aspects of ergonomics and addresses them in relation to knitting.

My favorite part of this book is that Demers is himself a knitter, and truly understands how much knitters love their craft. He is just as passionate about yarn and patterns as the next knitter is!

He pairs his understanding of the knitter’s psyche with his expertise in ergonomics brilliantly, and the result is an engaging, clear and easy to understand (and apply!) book.

Applying the Concepts

You can start applying the concepts from the get-go. He begins with a discussion of posture, which (according to the physical therapist I saw back in early 2020) is the source of my problem.

What the physical therapist could not tell me (because she is not a knitter and didn’t even pay attention when I showed her how I knit), is exactly how my posture was causing me pain.

One chapter into this book, I already had significant changes I could apply. And since I had been on complete knitting rest for 10 days or so, I was starting with a clean slate and could gingerly experiment.

Here’s where the old dog factor comes in.

Old Dog; New Tricks

You know what they say…

I learned to knit in 2012 or 2013. It’s not like I’ve been knitting forever. But once you get comfortable with it, it then becomes very hard to change how you knit.

I had already made an effort to change the way I tension my yarn (you can see my video in this post). However, that wasn’t enough to remove the pressure from my shoulder.

More drastic changes were clearly in order.

In addition to changing where I knit, I have to change how I hold my knitting. Up until now I’ve tended to hold my knitting up to look at it more easily, but doing so pulls my shoulder forward and puts pressure on both my shoulder and my elbow.

What I need to do is lower my knitting into my lap (or to a cushion on my lap) and try and keep my forearms parallel to the floor. It’s not easy to do this, as my arms have a tendency to creep up as I keep wanting to look down at my knitting.

But part of the exercise is to learn to trust that my hands know what they’re doing, and that unless I’m working a complicated stitch pattern, they can be left to their own devices, with only an occasional glace.

It needs practice, and I must constantly check in with myself to see how my shoulder is handling it. So far, so good.

Don’t Overdo It

Another change is a behavioral one: I mustn’t allow myself to sit and knit for long stretches of time. We’re always told that sitting for long periods is bad for us.

But that’s so easy to forget when we’re doing something as enjoyable as knitting!

I need to set a timer, or simply stand up to knit. I’ve got to remember to give myself plenty of breaks and ease back into it.

Not Just About Knitting

Demers’ observations and advice apply not only to knitting, but to any sedentary activity (think: using the computer, poking at your smartphone, or driving).

All of these activities involve neck strain (looking down), pressure on wrists, elbows and shoulders, and awkward postures.

So this information is not only valuable in the context of knitting, but also for computer and keyboard use, smartphone use and driving.

Final Word

Don’t buy this book unless you’re a knitter. I don’t think it would even be that helpful for crocheters (though you could definitely get some useful information from it).

But if you ARE a knitter, no matter whether you’re experiencing discomfort or not, YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.

Not only will it help you improve your knitting comfort immediately, it will open your eyes to some potentially unhealthy habits that can endanger your long-term knitting ability.

Don’t risk it. It’s not worth it. If you love your knitting as much as I do, you’ll want to make sure you can keep knitting comfortably for as long as possible.

Click here to visit Carson’s website and order your own copy. (I have not been paid to write this article, and clicking this link doesn’t give me–or Carson Demers–any money. Unless, of course, you buy his book, which would give him money. Not me. But if you want to send me money, I am on PayPal. Just saying.)