Week Fifty-Two: All Good Things

This week WordPress sent me a little “happy anniversary” notice. It was seven years ago when I registered my first blog with them — the one you’re reading now. I’ve started several other blogs since then, to focus on different fringe interests, but this is the blog that keeps going and growing, and gradually absorbing the other topics back into itself. I wonder why December 23 was the special day, when I had a six-month-old baby Tommy and three older children to take care of. It was probably time to switch to a blog from my e-mail newsletter, Wisconsin Crafter, because it was the end of a year.  I like starting new things on January 1, on Sundays or Mondays, or on the first day of a month. Launching a new initiative on, say, May 17 just wouldn’t make sense to me. How would I ever keep track of it?

But since WordPress is keeping track of it for me, well, happy anniversary to me! Hallmark’s website tells me that the traditional gifts for a seventh anniversary are wool or copper. (The modern gift is a desk set. I do have an antique desk at which I sit in front of my modern computer and write, and I do have a desk set somewhere; maybe I’ll tidy it up and use it.) I think I have bought enough wool for myself that I could knit up a little something special just for me. Copper is a bit trickier. Jewelry seems like an obvious path to take, but I don’t have pierced ears and I don’t wear rings, watches, or necklaces. I do have a few friends who make custom jewelry, and maybe they can give me some suggestions for some sort of commemorative item. A copper pen? A little hand-hammered copper bowl? I’m not sure.

Scratch that; I just found and ordered a hank of wool/silk laceweight yarn in a gorgeous tonal copper colorway. As my son James would say, “Achievement get!”

Well, now, since I’m closing out the year, I’d better be honest and take one last look at those resolutions I published 52 weeks ago.

Thusly, I resolve that, in 2013 (!!!) I shall:

  1. Blog on Chocolate Sheep again, and regularly. Dare I say, weekly?
  2. Finish the Doctor Who scarf I’m knitting for my friend Ginnie.
  3. Complete my calculus class.
  4. Learn one new cast-on.
  5. Find a Most Excellent Job in my chosen field of technical and scientific editing.
  6. Learn one new cast-off.
  7. Help my kids be awesome.

Seven looks like a good number, don’t you think?

I think I can honestly say I accomplished numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7. Number 6 just didn’t get much attention, and Number 3, as mentioned in greater detail a few weeks ago, was a spectacular failure. Overall, though, I think I did pretty well. The weekly blogging was sometimes a challenge, but I did learn how to use the Schedule function for posts so that I could publish pre-written ones when I was traveling. After a while I got used to the rhythm of writing what was essentially a weekly column, and I found I could usually produce something mildly entertaining by Thursday (sometimes Friday).

So, do I have any new and impressive resolutions ready for 2014?

No… not really. I still have a lot of unfinished business around here. I would like to become more monogamous with my knitting, and finish the really large projects I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. I’d like to start quilting again and make some more durable and functional quilts that the kids and I can use. I’d like to deepen my friendships. I’d like to be braver. I’d like to be a better cook. I’d like to study more math and physics. And most of all, I’d like to keep writing. I can’t (and won’t) promise that I will keep to a regular weekly schedule for my posts here, but it’s quite possible that I’ve picked up a very good habit and that’s when the writing will appear.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for me. See you on the other side!


Week Twelve: Chop Wood, Carry Water

This week, I’ve been struggling with dual and somewhat opposing impulses.


On the one hand, I’ve experienced a terrific burst of energy and creativity. I’ve been storing up yarn and patterns, and quilting fabric and my own designs, for years; suddenly it’s time to CAST ON. Now. Start. Finish. Work. Sew. Knit like the wind! I’m getting vivid dreams. I’m getting the urge to sketch things, make plans, open new files, and (in a purely theoretical sense, since it’s SNOWING as I write this) open the windows and let in fresh air. Spread my wings. Redefine and reinvent myself. Run run run run run.


On the other hand, I’m disciplining myself with quiet time, practicing meditation, and reading about mindfulness. I am trying to listen to the quiet, follow my breath, and be still.

Don’t do something — just sit there.

I need both things in my life. Sitting still doesn’t take away from my busy-ness as much as it prepares me for it, conditions me for it. The writing I do after I wake up and before I go to sleep is not creative writing but a way to both organize and de-clutter my mind. It also makes a safe space for anything that wants to be written about, contemplated, memorialized, or speculated upon.

So how do these different impulses interact with each other? Do they crash into each other? Do they pull away from each other? Do they chase each other like snakes trying to make meals of each other’s tails? Do they twist in opposite directions to form a knot? Internally, they probably are taking turns doing all of those things. It’s difficult to keep that internal conflict-resolution process from showing on the outside, but that’s another benefit of the sitting practice, of the breathing practice, of the mindfulness practice, of the writing practice.

And this practice is difficult. I have often described my father, who just turned 79, as the oldest living undiagnosed and unmedicated ADHD patient. When I was growing up he always worked at least three jobs. He finally retired from his primary job only to work a series of post-retirement jobs and travel with my mother on trips ranging from Alaska to the Panama Canal, and from San Francisco to Maine. (They’re banned from New Hampshire, though, or maybe it was Vermont. Don’t ask.) He still gets up early and does a few hundred situps before he goes to the basement to lift weights, row, and walk the treadmill. He simply does not stop. (Unless golf is on TV, then it’s naptime!) And the older I get, the more I discover that I am truly my father’s daughter. When I was younger, I swung my legs, tapped my fingers, hummed (I thought) to myself. I ran, I rode, I hiked, I biked, I paddled. When I was in class I doodled beside my notes, made lists, passed messages to my friends. The knitting I took up almost a decade ago has given my hands something to keep busy with while my brain focuses. If you have never tried if, let me tell you that sitting quietly and emptying your mind is HARD. They don’t call it “monkey mind” for nothing. It is full of chatter that must be dealt with. And I’m not very good at it.

At the risk of driving my readers crazy, in Wherever You Go There You Are Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes one of his students as saying “When I was a Buddhist, it drove my parents and friends crazy, but when I am a buddha, nobody is upset at all.” So I’m trying not to go all “Buddhist” on anyone. I’m not in an evangelistic “three recruits and I get a zafu” program, and in many ways, this place is familiar territory to me. Some of my Zen and Buddhism books have been on my shelves for quite some time now. The wheel turns, and they are needed again for me to regain my balance. I’m writing about my own experience. If my words speak to you, it’s up to you to decide what that means for you.

But, as Bill Cosby might say, I told you that quote so I could tell you this one. In The Miracle of Mindfulness Thich Nhat Hanh quotes a line from a Vietnamese folk song:

Hardest of all is to practice the Way at home,
second in the crowd,
and third in the pagoda.

Right now I’m practicing at home, swinging five bats before approaching the plate to assess what life intends to throw at me next. (From the way it’s gone so far, I’m guessing knuckleball.) I need to do what I need to do. It’s not time to try to walk and chew gum at the same time; it’s time to walk for walking’s sake and chew gum in order to chew gum. When I try to do more, I tend to bump into things.

Published in: on March 22, 2013 at 9:39 am  Comments (1)  

Week Five: Quantum of Progress

This week I’ve stayed busy, but until a few minutes ago I didn’t think I was getting anything done. Then I looked at what I did today:

  • Went to knitting and drank one chai latte. (This list gets more impressive, I swear.)
  • Turned the heel on one sock.
  • Finished one blanket square.
  • Knitted one repeat on a scarf.
  • Gave away one of my typewriters.
  • Worked on calculus homework for about an hour.
  • Read one more chapter of Plato’s Republic.
  • Left some cookies on campus for friends.
  • Filled up the gas tank.
  • Thrift-bought the shirts for tomorrow’s Spirit Day.
  • Went to the bus service to look for our lost mittens.

The list really does go on and on. And if you look at the whole week, you’ll see more of the same. Had a new washing machine installed. Had the old washing machine hauled away. Baked a batch of cupcakes. Mixed a batch of frosting. Caught up on “Castle.” Applied for one job. Made a pot of chicken soup. Swapped out the rear axle on my bike. Little things that didn’t take much time to do, when considered in isolation.

In my fantasies, it would be really nice to spend the day doing one thing all day long. Like, read a whole book, reorganize the whole upstairs, give away all the clothes that need to be donated, sew up a complete quilt, write a whole short story, watch a complete trilogy. But I don’t get that kind of time, and I suspect my brain doesn’t work that way. Besides, when I do try to spend a day that way — if I don’t almost immediately get a call from somewhere, saying someone has been hurt, and I must come and get them Right Away — I can no longer see the tree I’ve gotten done through the forest of neglected tasks.

My task is to keep spinning the plates. Not even all of the plates — spinning most of them is fine as long as they are the right plates. Some of the plates deserve to crash or be replaced with new ones. And I need to forgive myself and move on when I think I’ve broken the wrong plate, or am not spinning enough of them.

  • Wrote one blog post.

Knitting to Alcatraz

Here I am… between room overhaulings and giving the kids their 30-minute computer time slots for each thank-you note they’ve finished writing, I have about five minutes to write this post.

Resolution updates:

  1. I am publishing this post on Saturday as I promised. Check.
  2. There is no more progress on the DNA Scarf today than there was on Wednesday. I have done 2 or 3 more blanket squares for a very long-term WIP.
  3. This week I took a day and cleared out the area in front of my closet. It’s the part of my house that really makes me look like a hoarder, because I know what happens when I put things like quilting/sewing, scrapbooking, and knitting supplies out in the free-range areas of the house. They (and the things around them) get ruined. This particular project I would have spread over three days, but I didn’t have three days. Did it in one. I still have some items that don’t yet have a proper place, but I’m working on it ad I can actually use my closet, which makes me feel better and calmer. (Today, the dining room. The Pinewood Derby is next Saturday, weigh-in is next Friday, and Jack and I still have “cars” that are blocks in the box.)
  4. School starts on Tuesday, so my g.p.a. is still intact. 😉
  5. I did get in a Wii “run” and the scale said I lost 1.1 pounds since Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or whenever it was. I think this puts me right back to where I was last Wednesday, but the important thing now it that I have a downward trend upon which I should capitalize.

Since January 1
Saturday blog posts: 2 of 2 (plus a bonus post on Wednesday)
WIPs completed: 1
Needles liberated: 1
Clutter reduced: filled a garbage bag with adult-size clothes for the thrift store, plus three pairs of shoes.
Grades: school hasn’t started yet
Pounds lost: I’ll get back to you later

OH WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT!!!! I can’t forget this. If you are in the U.S., please plan to watch the Fox premiere of the series “Alcatraz” on Monday night. Air time is 8pm Eastern, 7 Central, everyone else you can work it out. I was not originally planning to watch this show even though it has a possible time-portal concept, but now I’m definitely watching the pilot because one of my sister-in-law’s songs will be played on the show. Her name is Lydia Loveless, the album is Indestructible Machine, and the song is “How Many Women.” I’ll tell you now that most of her songs aren’t, ahem, eligible for air time such as this. Pesky FCC. Lydia has been described as a “pissed-off Patsy Cline,” if that gives you an idea. She’s on tour right now and this could be a huge break for her (and therefore also my brother, who plays bass in her band) if people watch the show and start buying the song and the album. So please, help spread the word and give it a watch and a listen.

Published in: on January 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

And this year I mean it.

Happy New Year everyone…. I might be back.

2011 was a rough year for me, as you know if you know me via Ravelry, Facebook, or Real-Life™, and I don’t want to rehash it here. But I would like to resume my blogging ways and share my knitting (now including crochet!) adventures, my quirky sense of humor, and my funny kid stories as I used to do.

I would like to publish new posts every Saturday, but to kick things off I’d like to amuse you all (especially you, “Stephanie”) with some New Year’s resolutions.

  1. I would like to publish new Chocolate Sheep posts every Saturday. (Stop laughing, Lauren.)
  2. I’m going to finish all the projects on my WIP list. (Stop laughing, Brandy.) But since I also have new projects for which I would like to cast on, I want to do my projects in pairs — finish one WIP for each new project. The only way this works is if I finish the new project too. I might also include a Needle Liberation Tally as I go along.
  3. I’m going to work to reduce the clutter in my home. (Stop laughing, “Stephanie.”) Actually, the best way to do this is to finish projects or to find people who could use the supplies I’ve been hoarding reserving for future use. That means I will also have to create scrapbook pages, digitize photos, and maybe even make quilts.
  4. I’m back to school for a B.S. in Physics with a minor in Math and, this semester, back to work at school as well, for 15-20 hours a week. I got an A in my first course (Intermediate Algebra) so I’m coming in with a 4.0 grade point average. I would like to keep an A average now, in this my remedial year, so when I start this fall to take on Calculus and Physics I will look and feel like I can handle it. This semester I’m taking Precalculus and Astronomy.
  5. Is five a nice round number? Well, this year I want to finish a goal I made progress on last year. I vowed to lose 50 pounds and actually lost at least 20 before life threw me a doctored slider in September and I stopped exercising. I need to find ways to get healthier on a busy schedule. I won’t be at home all day with access to a Nordic Track, an exercise bike, and a Wii fitness system — so I will have to reduce my calories and stay active in other ways. Goal weight is about 140 pounds, so I will try to keep you posted on that.

That should be plenty! See you on Saturday….

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 10:24 am  Comments (5)  

Meeting expectations

I always knew I was my own worst enemy. No sooner do I vow to Get This Doctor Who Scarf Done No Matter What, I decide I just have to make matching hats for the mittens.

One hat down, another hat started, two hats to go.

But tonight, I swear, I will work on The Scarf. After tonight’s Top Chef and a round of playing the home game (eight key ingredients, two cooks, one dish each, no desserts). I mean, I only have 190 rows to go before I add the tassels.

So, of course, I started on some Secret Holiday Knitting too. That shouldn’t slow me down a bit, no sirreeeeee!

But other than that, the order should probably be Doctor Who Scarf first, Adipose, Tilting TARDISes Cowl/Scarf (did I mention that one in the last list? it’s lovely lace), Gigi’s Triangle Shawl, 198 Yards of Hell, and then whatever’s left. With, of course, Hats of Hilarity and Christmas Knitting tucked in between each of those projects.

Did I mention there is a birthday and a wedding coming up? And that I thought when school started I would be able to work on some quilts when I wasn’t studying for my Apple Hardware and OS Certification? Oh crap. I might find out I’m human after all.

Time/spacewise, I started reading the introduction of my scholarly edition of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, only to discover his primary influence for the work was a book called Flatland published by Edwin Abbott in 1884. Well lo and behold, I have already bought Flatland, so after finishing the Time Machine intro I will read Flatland first. This is all because I finished Cosmos a couple of days ago, yay me.

It’s all part of the plan. Hang on tight.

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Knit, knit like the wind!

I’m not sure how this happened. I was perfectly happy with working on (or not working on) my few Christmas knitting projects, then everything just exploded.

I cast on for a Marquette-colored huge lap blanket for my husband. This is supposed to be finished in time for the tip-off of the first game, November 8. So far, this looks doable.

I pulled out project yarn for two three additional Christmas projects. One of which “needs” an orphan ball of white mohair, how does my mind come up with this stuff? Oh yeah, they might need to be done by Thanksgiving.

I swatched for (and thus internally committed to) the NaKniSweMo project for November. (Upside Downers from Patons! In Plymouth Encore!)

I decided to finish two lap quilts for Christmas presents. One is in the quilting stage, and the other has a half-pieced top. They’ve been dormant for a year and a half.

I have two freelance clients hoping I will get work done before Thanksgiving.

Did I mention we’re going to Ohio at Thanksgiving? One knitting meetup, one possible child handoff to the ex and his family, a huge family meal (not at Mom’s house!). But, at least eight hours of driving each way, so prime knitting time.

Le sigh. But I’ve been sneaking various podcasts into my brain, so even though I’m not caught up from when I loaded up the iPod about two months ago, at least there’s progress. I’m scared to sync the thing up with the computer. You have 32 new podcasts. Would you like to download them now?

On the plus side, I’ve been taking a lot more photographs of my current and past projects for my Ravelry records. If you’re Rav-enabled (now there’s a Freudian slip!), there’s a lot more to see there now. Please come and visit! I even rescued a picture of the Packer Hat from the blog and reclaimed it on my hard drive. Flickr is helping me save it now. (Is there a way I can post my WordPress media library contents to my free Flickr account and thus save all my previously blogged photos? Hmmmm?)

Over and out, it’s time to cast on. 🙂

Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 7:58 am  Comments (5)  

Finishitis outbreak

This house is wholly contaminated with finishitis, so if you’re in need of a little mojo just raise your hand.

Yesterday it was the Red Scarf. Once I figured out who I wanted to give it to, it sped along like a banshee. Now it’s done, washed, blocked (it turned out to be just 50% wool but what the hey, it was curling, it was worth a shot), rolled, and stuffed eased into a container and almost ready for giving. Just needs a tag and a bow.

Today it’s the Ravenclaw Scarf. All knitting is essentially done. I just need to bind off the stitches, knot up all the joins, and sew the ends shut. The pattern calls for fringe on each end, but I don’t think that’s essential for boy Ravenclaws, do you?

In addition, I finished the T-shirt quilt on Friday, and it was shipped out to the recipient today. Picture… eventually.

Now I’m cranking on a Secret Project that I’ve had going for a while. I have six skeins of yarn to go, and just switched from Skein One to Skein Two.

And now that I’m thinking about it, I think I only have four projects on the needles right now — the Secret Knitting Project, one acrylic mitten (waiting for me to learn mirrored increases for the thumb gusset), the Packer hat, and Tyrone. I’m not making any predictions, mind you, but it sure would be nice to get each project over the little hump that it’s on, and have everything off the needles by the end of the year.

That still leaves me with three quilts to finish, though, so maybe I’ll need to come up with another plan.

For the new year: Mr. Beth has proclaimed that I am not permitted to cast on for anything that does not start with S-O-C. Loopholes, anyone?

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 1:46 pm  Comments (5)  

Three sides live

Yesterday we had a snow day. It was the kind of day that (apparently) makes kids think that whenever there is snow on the ground, there won’t be school. It didn’t look bad at all in the morning, but when the Eldest came running back to the house, we began to think something was up.

“Mom! Dad! This guy in a purple car said there’s no school today!”

After telling him not to trust everything told to him by guys in purple cars, we turned on the TV and the radio and eventually heard that school would indeed be closed. This isn’t as simple as you think. The school told us that cancellation news would be on the Madison radio and TV stations (no call letters given), and if we lived in Jefferson “proper,” I’m sure that’s how we would have found out. But our phone exchange and cable package are actually tied to the Milwaukee area, so it did take a while for the news to come across.

We’ll become better parents eventually. I swear, someday we will.

Meanwhile, with everyone at home (except for Dad, who hoped in vain that he would get a snow day) we watched as the snow started to fall, then changed to freezing rain, then switched back to snow and piled on. At about 3pm it all stopped, and I got out the snowthrower to help our landlords with our driveway. They even rescued our mail from the mailbox, which had been knocked from its perch earlier by the snowplow.

Knitwise it wasn’t a good day for catching up. I’m chugging away on a Secret Project of a new type to me, the kind where the stitches increase and increase and increase until, whammo!, you’re done. I’m not up to Whammo yet. And since I have several more skeins to add before I get to Whammo, I’m pretty sure it won’t be a Secret Christmas Project.

Something happened on Ravelry a couple of days ago that I thought was pretty funny. Some knitters were kicking around the idea of an Elizabeth Zimmermann KAL with her Knitter’s Almanac, and I mentioned that I was going to be pretty busy in January (writing a book and all), but if someone gave me a copy of the Almanac for Christmas, I’d jump in when I could. A knitter replied that she had two copies and would gladly swap one for something.

She lives in Devon. England. I live a few hours from Pittsville (WI), home of Schoolhouse Press. I wonder how many miles this book will have on it before it comes “home”?

I also checked out her blog. Note that we have the same spinning wheel except for the finish (mine is more like honey). Ain’t Ravelry fun?

But here’s the Really Big News: Last night I finished the third side of the T-shirt quilt. In order to make it easier on my back, I kept the quilt folded up except for the part of the binding I was sewing down. It brought the work closer to me and, apparently most importantly, I couldn’t see how much further I had to go until I was almost done. At that point, I had five inches to go, and couldn’t not finish.

One side left, vacuum gently, press the binding edges down, pack and mail.

Piece of cake.

And did anyone catch the Anthony Bourdain Holiday Special the other night? It was a riot, especially if you’re the kind of person who thinks The Ref is a good Christmas movie. If you can’t catch this On Demand, or in a rerun, I’m so sorry. It was extremely snarky and rude, and very very funny.

Spam Post of the Day

Contrary to popular belief, the end of the year is one of the best times to look for, awesome descion

Published in: on December 12, 2007 at 8:49 am  Comments (3)  

Halfway around

Three cheers please, last night I made it across the second edge of the T-shirt quilt. So, the top and bottom have their bindings sewn down (with some fudge room at the corners where I’m not sure how the final finishing will go). SO, I have to pin down the other two sides and keep cranking, then it’s back to Christmas knitting full time as soon as I get that quilt in the mailstream.

Next month I am putting knitting on hiatus (except for mittens) while I put together an even more important and long-delayed project. However, since I’m one of those poor unfortunates whose soul feels she can cross it off the list as soon as she’s talked about it, I don’t dare talk about it. When it’s done I will be promoting it heavily, so don’t worry, I won’t let it pass you by.

So, hmm, what else is there to talk about? This week has, so far, been about tragic losses. Not mine, but people I am just one link away from in the Kevin Bacon game. A beloved pet, a newborn baby, a classmate from high school. Love and pain are being all mashed together, and that’s not even counting the tragedies I’ve been finding out about on blogs.

I don’t have any answers. I just wish I could knit faster, and I wish that knitting faster could heal the world.

Published in: on December 10, 2007 at 1:43 pm  Comments (2)