Monday, June 22, 2009

Ask Me How I Know

What I learned this weekend:

Drummers not only have a lot of stuff, they have a lot of heavy stuff.

Carpenters not only have a lot of stuff, they have a lot of heavy stuff.

Both of these kinds of stuff, in addition to being heavy, are also of extremely high quality and have price tags attached to prove it. They also must be treated with care, stored with care, and - in the case of the drummer/carpenter in question, packed with care. For the drummer/carpenter who owns these heavy, expensive things also has the talent, skill and experience to transform these raw materials into more than the sum of their parts. And these things therefore deserve respect, both for what they are, and for the beautiful things that they will become through the work of his brain, his heart and his hands.

I know this because the drummer/carpenter in question is also The Love of My Life, and the house that he has owned for almost twenty years is going on the market the day after tomorrow. It's a beautiful, exciting new beginning for him, and for us. And it was a metric shiteload of work to get it all packed. But the new beginning is more than worth every hour we worked, and every bruise, scrape and sore muscle I have (which at last count was all of them).

And you know what else? I know longer feel the least bit guilty about my stash. It has the same potential, and deserves the same respect. And dudes? Yarn is a whole lot lighter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Perfection and Pink Socks

I just this morning finished listening to Tal Ben-Shahar's excellent book, The Pursuit of Perfect, and have been thinking a lot about it over the past week, listening or not. Partly because it's a great book, partly because I definitely fit Ben-Shahar's definition of "perfectionist" in many areas of my life, and partly because of my friend at work.

My friend is an extraordinary woman, and the very best part of my day job. She is whip-smart, a great writer, funny, thoughtful and compassionate to a fault. We share a love of language, a history of nerd-hood, a bit of hyper-sensitivity and a tendency to get distracted. She is my sounding board, my email editor, my giggle-time-out when I can't possibly stare at my computer for one...more...second. I miss her when she's on holidays or when we're both on deadline and unable to see each other.

My friend also functions as the office psychiatrist: hers is the office people flee to to cry, to vent, to bitch about their teenagers, to seek advice on office politics, to look for chocolate. And whenever these little dramas surface (large or small), whether she has the time or not, she stops what she's doing and gives the crisis of the moment her full attention, her advice, her kleenex, her macaroons.

Her day doesn't end there either: she's also wife to a busy man who adores her, and a mom to two of the most well-behaved and well-spoken children I have ever had the privilege of meeting - at 3 and 5, they call me "Miss", give me hugs when I look sad, and ask nicely before playing with the polka-dot bird/pen on my desk that they both love. She keeps a garden, owns a home, and feeds a family. Like I said. Extraordinary.

But my friend doesn't see it this way, and that's why I've been thinking about her, as well as myself, as I listened to Ben-Shahar's book. She's been sad lately, because with all the balls she has in the air, her focus is on those that occasionally fall - or perhaps more accurately, don't arc quite as beautifully when they fly through the air - rather than all of the ones that are zipping along quite nicely, thank you. "Good enough" is the same as "bare minimum" in her mind, and she's beating herself up because - even though all are full-time jobs - she is struggling with the fact that it may be beyond the reasonable limits of time and energy to deliver at work (at an exceptional standard and three days early), keep an immaculate house, be the full-time mom who volunteers at the school, have a Martha-Stewart-quality garden, and have dinner on the table on time.
I understand this, because I too struggle with this idea of the "good enough" life being anything short of the "perfect" life.

I recently finished some socks, and I look at them differently because of all of this. They're Rick from Cookie A.'s book Sock Innovation, made from two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Tuscany colourway.

The second sock took me too long to get started, the gauge was off because I didn't swatch, there are a couple of times where I missed a yarn-over and had to fudge in the next round, or knit through the front of the stitch instead of the back. My ribbing is a bit sloppy in places, and probably should have made the heel flap a bit longer. In total, being generous, I would say there are about 25 mistakes in these socks.

Breaking with well-established practice, I gave these socks to my friend at work in spite of all of these little disasters, because a knitterly instinct is to wrap those hurting in the work of our hands. She was a wonderful recipient, proclaiming them to be comfortable and squishy, and even going so far as to bring them back to work the next day to wear while she wrote and show off to those who visited.

Usually, I keep socks that aren't "good enough" to give away, only gifting those that I deem 100% successful and keeping the lumpy ones for "just me". But this time, thanks in part to the book, I allowed the love I have for my friend to make the decision, rather than my perfectionist ideals. There are many mistakes in these socks, but, as hard as it is to concede, there are also literally tens of thousands of stitches that are right. The colours are still breath-taking, the pattern is a brilliant design of form and function, they fit like only hand-knit socks do, they are a tangible representation of hours of my time, my love, and my good intentions.

They are beautiful. And they are good enough. Just like her.

Friday, June 5, 2009

15 minutes, On the Horizon

Oh. My. Gawd. What a day.

I am a weird combination of morning-person and not-morning person, in that I wake up early, but am completely useless for the first hour I am awake. My usual routine is to pour myself the first of many cups of coffee and read my email while I wait for the caffeine to kick in. So this morning I was doing just that... poured coffee, stumbled to computer, opened inbox. Four emails, one birthday-present-shopping related, one from Brenda Dayne, one ebay reminder, one junk.

Rewind. Re-read. One shopping, one ebay reminder, one junk and ... Whaaaaaa. . .

A couple of weeks ago after I posted my Stitches in Time blog, I realized that I had inadvertently titled it the same as a recent episode of one of my two* favourite podcasts, Cast On. It then dawned on me that the piece might actually be a good fit for the current series and, in a brief and rare moment of courage, I submitted it. I didn't even dare hope that I would get a response: Cast On is arguably the godmother of all knitting podcasts, it's long-running, wildly popular, and really, really wonderful. It is my Saturday morning ritual, the hour a week I really do set aside for myself to just knit, and listen, and drink coffee, and be quiet. The essays are almost always my favourite segment, though Brenda has a voice and manner that I would listen to even if what she was reading was the phone book. That she talks about knitting makes it wonderful beyond measure.

I almost regretted having the audacity to submit my little piece, and promptly forgot about it. And today, one shopping, one ebay, one junk, one Brenda Dayne.

I opened it, fully expecting what a fundraising colleague of mine used to call "KFO letters", Kindly... well, you get it. A polite form email thanking me for listening, and taking the time to write, and... thanks but no thanks. She liked it. She read it. And she likes it. I had to read the email about 4 times (this was after all only coffee number one) before it sank in. Brenda Dayne liked my essay. And is going to use it. On the podcast. For real. I'm still reeling.

*other favourite: Limenviolet.