back-to-school-feeling

That Back-to-School Feeling

Ah yes indeed, there’s a nip in the air and the days are shorter. I’ve got that back to school feeling!

There’s always a wistful feeling in September. Summer is over, it’s getting colder, and the year is winding down. But it’s also a time for a fresh start.

Figuring Things Out

Since my mother died, I have learned a lot. Without her to motivate me and encourage me, I have found myself coasting somewhat aimlessly through life.

As you may surmise from other articles I have written, I enjoy being a mom. My Bug and my Bear are delightful people, but as children they are not the most intellectually stimulating folks I know.

It’s taken me a while, and I’ve had to beat down some guilty feelings about this, but I have come to the conclusion that I am not meant to be a stay at home mom.

I don’t get much satisfaction from running the household. I’m not much interested in cooking (baking is another story, and my waistline is paying for that). I get bored and lonely being at home all day.

I need to get back to work. The only problem? It’s so much work getting back to work.

Lighting the Fire (under my butt)

After more than 4 years of either working very little or not at all, it’s not easy to find the energy required to get back to work.

Job hunting is a tiring, discouraging and slow business. Alternatively, building up my freelance business has its own challenges. I have to go out and look for clients, market myself, and throw in lots of time and effort.

It is so much easier, once the boys are out of the house and I’m on my own, to slip into habits of inaction or switch on autopilot. Laundry, meal planning and prep, cleaning, grocery shopping… All these things need to be done anyway, and they’re easier to do than job hunting.

But they’re driving me mad.

So I’m Heading Back to School

My long summer holiday is over. It’s time to gather my qualifications, my experience and my talents, and actually do something with them.

I’m going by baby steps here. As my little Bear goes through his “Eingewöhnung” process at daycare (a four-week period of settling into daycare routine), so must I go through my Eingewöhnung of getting back to school, and gradually increase my working time as the Bear increases his time away at daycare.

Hard to do it Without Mom

Mom didn’t let me be lazy. She would offer advice and motivation over FaceTime, or show up at my home to take over with childcare so that I could do what I needed to do to get back to work. She rode in like the cavalry to rescue me from inertia and idleness.

It’s hard to find the same motivation to do it without her. But now that the umbilical cord has been so definitively and abruptly cut, I’ve got to.

For my sake, and for my family’s health and happiness, I need to figure out how to push myself to do my best, with only the echoes of my mother’s voice to nudge me along.

A Cycle of Grief and Joy

I’m starting this article on January 15th, 2018. It’s been many months since my last post, and I finally feel ready to take a stab at writing again.

On July 15th, 2017, exactly six months ago, my mother, Catherine, died. Those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed her thoughtful comments on many articles. Any words I think of to describe the grief her loss has caused seem weak or trite. It was shattering.

Two days after she died, our second son was born. It wouldn’t surprise me if his birth was brought on by the physical and emotional stress I was going through. Chico, our Bug and I had jumped into the car the day she died, and rushed from our home in Germany to Switzerland. We were only two hours away from her when she died, and just remembering the moment my father called brings back all the pain of that first realization.

When I’ve thought about writing this article, I’ve experienced something of a block. My blog articles are usually quite tidy: here’s a situation, here are some tips, thoughts or facts, and here’s a tidy conclusion.

There is no tidy conclusion here.

And though I am experiencing deep loss and grief, it’s not really about me, either. It’s about my mother.

So I’d like to try and write about my mother.

Catherine was salty.

That’s how John Beach, long-time rector at Emmanuel Church in Geneva and officiant at my mom’s memorial service, described her. By “salty,” he meant she was, as Jesus says in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:13), “the salt of the earth.”

As salt is essential for flavor and life, my mom brought flavor and life to the lives of the people she touched.

She found people deeply interesting, and loved getting to truly know people. When Catherine made friends, they were friends for life.

She also knew how to find the good in everyone. As her favorite bible passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). She looked for truth, nobility, right, purity, loveliness, admirability, excellence and praiseworthiness in everyone she met.

Catherine was a reader.

Mom thought and read deeply and widely on a number of topics: literature, politics, family, religion. In a tribute to her memory, a close friend from university said she was always in awe of Catherine’s life of the mind.

She had a great love for literature, but she also kept herself well-informed about the news and politics. She not only practiced her faith by participating in her church community, but she also read about faith, challenging and pushing herself to live her Christianity.

She was never intellectually lazy.

Catherine was a planner.

Mom always said, “I’m good at logistics,” and it was true. She organized events, travels, get-togethers–even the simplest meals–with grace and ease.

A dinner at my parents’ house, with Mom in charge of the planning, was always a success. Not just because of the food (she was an excellent cook), but also because she thought of everything to maximize everyone’s enjoyment.

She used her skills for her community, taking charge of organizing monthly meals for a local women’s shelter in Geneva for ten years. She was active in her church, in our schools as kids, and at her local women’s club.

Catherine listened.

Most everyone can hear, but very few people really listen. Catherine was one of those listeners.

She not only listened, but she remembered. She heard sadness, joy, anxiety, grief. She knew when to be quiet, and when to offer words of comfort, advice or encouragement.

People confided in my mother, because they knew their confidence would be respected, and that she would, either by words or just by listening, offer help.

Catherine filled our cups with her love.

Mom made all three of her children feel loved and respected. Her deep respect for individuals showed in the way she treated us as kids, and then as adults, and in the way she treated her grandchildren.

A friend in middle school once told me she liked coming over to visit our house, because my mom listened to her and spoke with her like an adult, like someone worth listening to and speaking with.

Her respect and love for us taught us to respect and love ourselves, and to behave that way towards others. She gave us that gift, and set us that example.

Catherine is missed.

For all these reasons, and so many more, Catherine is missed. Her absence is like a gaping hole in my life; a vast darkness where such a strong life light once shone.

But as my dad reminds me: there’s nothing we need to know that my mother didn’t show or teach us. She is ever-present. She appears in my dreams, and I hear her voice guiding me through my days.

Time and life cruelly march on, when it doesn’t seem possible that they should without her. But even in my grief, the life and light of my boys, my nieces and my nephews, bring joy and hope.

Her light lives on in us, and in them.

God bless Catherine.

God bless her. God be praised and thanked for her life, and her memory, and for the example she was, and continues to be

process_knitter_project_knitter

The Joys of Being a Process Knitter

I’ve often wondered, with all the knitting I do, why I don’t have more finished projects to enjoy.

Most of the things I’ve made, I have given away. I give them to friends and family to enjoy (I hope), and then I make something else.

It’s not that I don’t care for the finished products. I am excited to see how they turn out, and I enjoy seeing people wear the things I’ve made. But I’ve realized that the finished object isn’t what makes me tick.

For me, it’s all about the knitting itself. That makes me a process knitter.

Process Knitter vs Project Knitter

Process knitters enjoy the act of knitting, figuring out the techniques and the stitches, etc. If you mess up, you don’t mind tearing it out and starting again (see my experience with my Rolling Rock sweater).

As a process knitter, you’re more likely to have just one or two projects going at once.

Project knitters work for the finished product. You get excited about casting on, and about the finished product, but the time between cast on and bind of might not be so enjoyable for you.

You’re more likely to have a bunch of projects going at once, and to jump around between them.

Most people fall somewhere on a spectrum, and it’s hard to be just one kind or the other, but these are the two big categories.

The Joys of Being a Process Knitter

Dr Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at UT Austin in the US, suggests that process knitters, on balance, probably get more enjoyment from knitting than project knitters.

In an interview on the VeryPink Knits podcast, he says, “Process people spend time enjoying the moments. It’s the problem-solving and the time spent that creates the enjoyment.”

For project knitters, on the other hand, “the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and probably overall it’s hard to be as satisfied on any given day to work on something.”

As a process knitter, it’s true that I get most enjoyment out of actually doing the knitting and getting it right. It’s a puzzle to figure out, a mystery to discover, and when I get a good pattern, it’s good fun.

How to Choose Patterns for Process Knitting

Now that’s not to say that I don’t sometimes find knitting a project a bit of a slog. If I’m not motivated by the pattern, if it’s boring or too repetitive, I’ll get into a slump.

In order to avoid such a slump, I pick challenging patterns. I look for new construction of a sweater, or new stitches or techniques so that I can learn something new.

I’m currently working on Carol Sunday’s Mia Francesca, a heavily cabled number with an interesting new construction I’ve never encountered before. It’s fascinating, and I’m enjoying it immensely. It will probably be finished, however, just in time for warm spring weather.

Finally Knitting for Me

Though I’m not a project knitter, I do want to make more items for myself that I’ll be able to enjoy. Since 2016 was the year of knitting for others, 2017 is the year of knitting for me. First this cardigan, and next up will be a new shawl to enjoy.

Dr Markman also notes that knitting is a great brain training activity for three good reasons. First, the fine motor control needed to knit engages your brain in a valuable way. Second, it requires problem solving, since you often have to figure out instructions or new techniques. That requires thought, which is always brain-healthy.

Finally, the social side of knitting is also beneficial. If you get stuck, or you need help, you can call up your knitting friends or go to a knitting circle, which is also good for the brain.

So if you’re in the Munich area and you’re looking for an English-speaking knitting circle, check out my new Stitch n’ Bitch on Meetup.com!

 

Image credit: Edel Rodriguez (source from Google Images).