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Take an Easy Risk
The other night, a person I don’t know posted to an online crochet group. She wanted to make an afghan where puff stitches would form a specific design like a heart, flower, or initial. But she lamented not having a pattern to follow.
I suggested she live dangerously and simply start crocheting and figure it out on the fly.
After all what she was describing didn’t seem overly difficult, and she could draw out the puff stitch part of the design on graph paper to count the spaces. And if worse came to worse, she could just rip the whole thing out and start over.
I come from a long family of froggers – if we don’t like it, we RIPPIT-RIPPIT out and try again. I mean…it’s just crochet.
If it doesn’t work out, all you’ve lost is time, and you’re guaranteed to learn something along the way because (just like Edison and the lightbulb) you’ve learned one way that didn’t work, so you’re that much closer to a solution.
The person replied to my comment, admitting she wasn’t brave enough to try making something without a pattern. She’d never done something so radical before. She wanted to be sure what she was crocheting would work before she started.
She was after guaranteed results.
I understand the sentiment. I’ve also learned it’s wrong. In crochet, and in life.
After all, crochet is far more forgiving than regular life. With yarn, small mistakes blend into the overall tapestry of the work and are never noticed. And if the mistake is bigger, well so what? It’s only yarn.
Financial mistakes, relationship gaffes, driving mishaps—all dwarf the lowly crochet blunder.
In crochet, just give the yarn a pull and do it over. Sure, it can be frustrating but what a teachable moment. What a safe haven to learn.
The more I thought about it, the more I figured it only made sense to take my own advice.
Instead of looking online for patterns for a new project I’d been thinking about, I dug into my sack of yarn and decided to crochet a messenger bag for myself…on the fly…without a pattern.
Yarn in one hand and a crochet hook in the other, I started chaining away. My enthusiasm got the better of me and my original chain was far too long (think laundry bag, not messenger bag). So I ripped out chains until what I had left was about as wide as the bookbag I hoped to replace. I stopped and counted — sixty-eight (weird number!) — so I added back two chains to make it an even seventy, made a chain to turn on, and the side panel was underway.
Hmmm…how big to make it?
Grab an iPad and a couple of books and crochet until the panel was large enough the iPad wouldn’t stick out the top. Ninety rows! And when the first panel was completed, another the exact same size quickly followed. On to the next part.
Now each day the purse strap gets longer. Hopefully I’ll soon have a strip of strap long enough to stitch three sides together and loop over my shoulder.
In the end, I don’t have a pattern, just an idea, a few balls of yarn, and a crochet hook. Soon I’ll not only have a pattern, I’ll also have a messenger bag and, more importantly, the confidence of knowing I figured it out myself.
The bigger takeaway from my messenger bag project is knowing when there are problems there are also solutions – and I can figure those out.
So take an easy risk.
Design your own crochet pattern…or quilt pattern if that’s your thing.
If cooking is more your speed, throw out the recipe book and whip up your own honey mustard or tzatziki sauce.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what you choose, just take an easy risk and see what happens.
Then march forth, and sin bravely.
To: Me From: Me
’ve always had a thing for shoes. And when I was a kid, our downtown was home to about a half dozen excellent locally owned shoe stores.
Maybe it’s something in the water because Jefferson City has a long history with shoes, having been home to many shoe factories over the years. Whatever the reason — I love shoes.
My mom and I always window shopped the stores before deciding where we’d stop first. Then we’d walk in the front door and be greeted by the smell of the hunt, the glorious scent of New Shoes (they should have a candle with that smell!).
Back in the glory days of shopping, a real live person was always there to see if we needed any help or wanted to look around first. To make the experience last as long as possible, I always wanted to “take a moment to look” first, to admire all the shoes and see if any of them were talking to me saying “ooh, take me home with you.”
When I found something I liked (because…SHOES!!), Mom would get the salesperson and we’d take a seat while he measured my growing foot. Then he’d disappear into the back room to see whether the shoe I’d picked was in stock.
The suspense was killer! What if they didn’t have my size? What if they had the right size but not the right color?? What if they didn’t fit quite right?
We’d try on several pairs, maybe pick one or, if they didn’t fit just right, maybe move along to the next shop.
I always felt like a princess when I walked out of a shoe shop holding a brown paper bag with a box of shoes inside.
As I got older I took advantage of the fact my mom had a part-time job as a tailor at a men’s clothing store downtown. The best thing for me about her gig was a home base on High Street. I could ride to work with her, wait for the stores to open, and head out for a day of shopping!
Turns out, one of the most momentous days of my life was the Friday after Thanksgiving the year I was in seventh grade. It changed the way I saw Christmas for the rest of my life.
During the morning, I visited the stationery store and purchased a couple of nifty pens, bought a book at the small independent bookshop, grabbed a bag of freshly popped popcorn at the drug store, and checked out the clothes at JC Penney.
And the afternoon..the afternoon was reserved for shoe shopping.
I had saved up some money, so as soon as I finished my brown bag lunch I was off! My quest for the afternoon: the perfect pair of shoes to go with what I planned to wear to church on Christmas Eve.
My outfit was a red, white, and black plaid wool skirt, cut on an A-line, and since Mom had made it the plaids matched up perfect on the center front seam — plus it had a nice swishy swing when I walked. She’d also made a red satin shirt with a Peter Pan collar and a black narrow-wale corduroy jacket to go with it. I had the cutest little gray mouse pin with googly eyes that I planned to wear on the lapel.
Now — with a lead-up like this, you know my 12-year-old self was not just on the lookout for “shoes,” she was hunting for high heels.
I finally hit pay dirt at Schell & Ward, where I found this utterly smashing pair of black heels — wing-tips with T-style Mary Jane straps, and thin stacked wood heels that stood about 3 inches tall. Perhaps the heels aren’t much by today’s standards, but for first time high heels, I was thrilled!
I developed a crush on these shoes when I looked at them, and I as I tried them on I fell deeply and passionately in love. I saw the light. I heard angel voices singing.
These were The Ones.
My first high heels.
When I went to the counter to pay for them, the woman behind the register asked me if I wanted them gift wrapped, which kind of startled me because she’d seen me trying the shoes on. She knew I was buying the shoes for myself.
Why bother with wrapping them?
Ms. Olderandwiser looked at me, then ushered me into a secret society, “They’re for you?”
“Then you definitely need to get them wrapped. All women should buy themselves at least one gift at Christmas time. That way even if all the other gifts are a bust, you’re sure to find at least one thing under the tree you truly love. A girl’s got to take care of herself. You’re worth it.”
With that she ripped off a sheet of shiny red and green wrapping paper and got to her work. Ribbon crisscross the box in the upper left corner. There was was crinkle ribbon curled with a scissors, there were bows.
This was a GIFT.
A few moments later she slipped my beautifully wrapped shoebox into a plastic Shell & Ward bag, and I went on my way. As I walked out the door with my to-me from-me Christmas present, I felt like I’d upgraded from princess status to Queen of My World.
I’ve thought about that day many times over the years. The sales clerk took my money and handed me shoes I’d bought and paid for, but she still gave me a gift. During the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, when I looked at that festive package tucked underneath our Christmas tree, the lights reflecting off the ribbon, I heard her saying, “You’re worth it!
When Christmas Eve rolled around and I opened that package so I could wear my new shoes to church, I was absolutely giddy with excitement. Almost as if what was inside was a total surprise.
And maybe it was…because what was inside was a symbol that, while it’s good to do kind things for other people, it’s also wonderful to be good and kind to yourself.
All too often we’re not.
I wore that pair of shoes for years. Had the rubber on the heels replaced at the shoe repair shop. Then finally, one day I gave the Mary Jane T-strap a tug and it gave up the ghost.
I probably should have made a boat, put the shoes aboard, and set it aflame to give them a proper burial.
Over the years since then I’ve thought about how 30 minutes in a shoe shop in downtown Jefferson City changed the way I view the holidays.
Every year since then, I’ve made sure to buy myself something. Even during years when things were very lean, there was always a way to give myself some small gift — a book, a single pristine chocolate truffle, a cheap pair of dangling earrings. Some years when I felt more flush, I’d splurge on something bigger like a pile of fabric and thread for a new quilt, a beautiful sweater, or several skeins of yarn and a new crochet hook.
As I’m writing this at the end of a long, crazy year, my 2020 To: Me From: Me gift to arrived in the mail yesterday. I know what’s inside — a necklace I saw in a Facebook ad a couple of weeks ago — but I’m still excited to open my package on Christmas morning.
This year I hope you indulge in a To: Me From: Me Christmas gift, too. There’s still time to pick out something that’s just for you…from you!
Pro Tips: Support small business owners. Find someone local. Small businesses are more likely do free and fabulous gift wrapping. But even if you order online, see if they’ll gift wrap it for you.
And be sure to send me a selfie of you unwrapping it!
PS — works for birthdays, too!
Be the Joy
There’s a McAlister’s Deli in the town where we live, and we often stop by in the afternoon for a tall, beautiful glass of iced tea for me and a lemonade for my son.
Oh, who I am kidding–we’re there almost every day, and because McAlister’s gives free refills all day long, sometimes we end up there two or three times.
It may sound goofy, but that glass of McAlister’s iced tea never fails to bring me joy, especially during the long hot summer season, but on cold winter days, too.
Because we’re often there on our iced tea pilgrimage, I make a point of trying to learn the names of the kids working behind the counter. I do my best to ask how they’re doing in their classes in school or what their big plans are for the weekend. I try to remember to say “Have a good day/night” on my way out the door.
These conversations are all very casual, but I want the people who bring me my tea to know that I see them. It just seems the decent thing to do, and I feel good about myself as a human being when I do it. In that regard, it’s a purely selfish motive.
But here’s the thing — over time, I’ve noticed a change in the way the staff at McAlister’s treats us. When we walked in the other day, Jon called out from behind the counter, “Welcome to McAlister’s to my favorite people!”
I did my “Finding Joy When You’re Just Not Feelin’ It” recently at a local venue, and during the Q & A session afterwards, someone asked me what to do to encourage the people around you to be more joyful, particularly if they’re not.
I answered, but the longer I’ve thought about it the more I’m convinced I gave the wrong answer.
What can you do to encourage people around you to be more joyful when they’re not?
Nothing. Not one blessed thing.
Because in the end, the only person I can change is me, and the only person you can change is you.
People give a lot of lip service to “be the change that you want to see in the world,” but when it comes to joy, that’s really true.
If you want to see more joy around you — then it starts with you.
- Greet the kids behind the counter with a “hey, how’s it going?”
- Say please and thank you.
- Learn and say the names of the sales people you come into regular contact with.
- Go out on a limb and hold a door open for someone, and if they’re grouchy and rude in return, that’s on them, not on you.
Be the joy you want to see in the world…even if you’re not feelin’ it. Because if you do, you might just start feelin’ it after all.
It’s Groundhog Day!
Each year on February 2 our family watches the movie Groundhog Day.
This year because of the Super Bowl, and because we’re from Missouri (Huzzah, Chiefs!), we made due with the Groundhog Day commercial and decided to catch up with Phil, Rita, and Larry later on in the week.
And that’s what we did last night.
My husband and I saw the movie years ago when it first came out. I remember thinking it was cute and funny. Then four or five years ago we thought our son (who loves groundhogs) was old enough to appreciate it, so we watched it that year on the appropriate day.
He loved it so much it’s become a family tradition, just like the Halloween and Christmas Peanuts specials.
Last night as the action began to unfold, I was struck by how fresh the movie still is for me. Groundhog Day — a romantic comedy fantasy — reflects real life.
Have you seen this meme?
There’s a lot of truth in that, and I think that’s why Groundhog Day stands the test of time.
(If you’ve never seen the movie–fair warning–major spoilers ahead!)
Sure there’s exaggeration as Phil lives through the same day over and over and over again. By some estimates, he lived Groundhog Day more than 12,000 times, so around 34 years worth.
But here’s the thing — if you’ve been an adult for any amount of time, living on your own, responsible for yourself — you realize that there’s a certain amount of sameness to daily life.
- What shall we have for dinner tonight? No, we didn’t have chili two nights ago — two nights ago was spaghetti.
- Didn’t I just wash these exact same clothes? I thought I folded these same shirts last night?
- What do you mean the car is out of gas? I spent $25 to fill up the tank just the other day.
- Do you believe in deja vu? Because it seems like I’m always stuck in traffic, stopped at this same traffic light on my way across town.
I relate to the panic Phil Connors experiences when he realizes he’s living the same day over and over again. Some days I feel the exact same way.
Unable to figure out why he’s stuck in a loop, Phil attempts all manner of things to deal with the repetitive nature of his new life. He tries to seduce women, working day after day to perfect his efforts to get Rita and Nancy into bed. When that doesn’t work, he turns to extremes like robbing armored cars, stealing the groundhog, and repeatedly killing himself. But still he wakes up at 6am each and every morning to Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”
How many people do you know who cope with the daily grind of life in one of these ways?
Unfortunately, I know people who have partied and played too hard, trying to run away from the demons chasing them. I’ve watched friends date this, that, or the other one, not because they like or care about the other person but because they are scared to be alone.
I’ve known people who chose to end their lives by committing suicide.
The great lesson of Groundhog Day is the way Phil comes to terms with himself and his place in the universe. He does the things he can. He saves a man from choking on his steak and catches a kid falling out of a tree. But he also realizes that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t prevent an old man from dying.
After all his false starts and failures, Phil eventually changes the only thing he can change — himself. He takes piano lessons every day until he’s good enough to play with a jazz band. He learns to speak French and create complicated ice carvings. He listens to the people in Punxsutawney, reads books, and becomes part of the community.
Groundhog Day is about the transformation of an unhappy, cynical man who doesn’t like himself, to someone who understands himself, knows he’s not perfect, and shows himself empathy and compassion.
And finally, one day he gets everything exactly right…and wakes up on February 3rd.
In many ways that’s the great lesson I‘ve learn over a lifetime of my own Groundhog Days.
Each day I wake up and hope I can get everything exactly right. And even though I don’t know that I’ve ever succeeded, I’m always glad to wake up on a new day — another chance to “get it right.”