Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shedir Chemo Cap

Yesterday I finished my Shedir hat. I started this a few weeks ago, using a skein of Rowan Calmer that I've had for years. (I bought it at the Knitters' Mercantile, in Columbus Ohio, in 2006; I was just starting my second stint with National City Bank, and spent a week at the office there.)

With all those cables, I don't know why I thought this would be a quick knit! But, if not quick, it at least was not difficult. At the beginning of each round, I had to figure out that round's stitch sequence, but then it was pretty straightforward to repeat that sequence. I made a couple tweaks, where I thought maybe the pattern had typos, and a couple 'design elements,' where I inadvertently used the wrong stitch (nothing dire, of course).

The main part of the hat has eight rows that repeat 5 times. I was worried that I would run out of yarn, so I skipped one repeat. I think I would have had enough yarn after all, and I think the longer hat would have been better.

However, I think the hat is still wearable, and if the wearer has no hair, it may stretch down a tad further. This hat is a gift for a friend who's currently receiving chemotherapy, so the 'no hair' consideration may well apply.

Gretchen Rubin recently wrote a blog entry titled "Remember the Dog That Doesn't Bark." She refers to a Sherlock Holmes story, in which the great detective finds a clue in the fact that a dog didn't bark. Rubin's conclusion was that we should recognize, and find happiness in, the problems that aren't part of our lives: the job search we don't face; the car accident we haven't been in; the cancer we don't have.

Part of me winces at this idea; it doesn't seem right to link gratitude with such negative ideas. And yet, ubiquitous as cancer is, I am grateful that I am not facing it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Happiness Project

While riding a bus one day, Gretchen Rubin started thinking about her life, and realized that she was taking it for granted. She decided to embark on a project to change her perspective.

She wrote:
"I've got to tackle this," I told myself. "As soon as I have some free time, I should start a happiness project." But I never had any free time. When life was taking its ordinary course, it was hard to remember what really mattered; if I wanted a happiness project, I'd have to make the time. I had a brief vision of myself living for a month on a picturesque, windswept island, where each day I would gather seashells, read Aristotle, and write in an elegant parchment journal. Nope, I admitted, that's not going to happen. I needed to find a way to do it here and now. I needed to change the lens through which I viewed everything familiar.

All these thoughts flooded through my mind, and as I sat on that crowded bus, I grasped two things: I wasn't as happy as I could be, and my life wasn't going to change unless I made it change. In that single moment, with that realization, I decided to dedicate a year to trying to be happier.
Inspired by Benjamin Franklin's chart to track his practice of thirteen designated virtues, Rubin came up with her own chart, on which she could record her resolutions and score her daily performance ('good' or 'bad').

She then had to come up with the resolutions. This took some pondering, but she came up with twelve focus areas (one per month), and, for each of these, "happiness-boosting resolutions that were concrete and measurable."

While developing her resolutions, Rubin gradually identified a set of general principles, which she distilled into her personal Twelve  Commandments:
Be Gretchen.
Let it go.
Act the way I want to feel.
Do it now.
Be polite and be fair.
Enjoy the process.
Spend out.
Identify the problem.
Lighten up.
Do what ought to be done.
No calculation.
There is only love.
She also came up with a more random list, "Secrets of Adulthood." My favorite is "What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while."

 The rest of the book (by which I mean "most of the book" - the discussion of her goal areas and resolutions and chart and Twelve Commandments comprises the introduction, "Getting Started") consists of a chapter for each month. In these chapters, she describes that month's area of focus, the corresponding resolutions, and her efforts to keep those resolutions.

I found her book to be an interesting read. The structure of her program allowed her to choose goals and resolutions specific to her own situation, likes, dislikes, needs, and so forth. I wish she had gone into more detail describing the process of making these choices, but it seemed her real purpose was to document her experience in following those choices. I did enjoy reading her experiences, seeing how she changed over the year, and how, as a side effect, her family benefited from her project.

I felt her approach was more realistic than others, and something normal people (like me) could tackle. Here is her take on it, also from her introductory chapter.
I had fun coming up with my Twelve Commandments and my Secrets of Adulthood, but the heart of my happiness project remained my list of resolutions, which embodied the changes I wanted to make in my life. When I stepped back to reflect on the resolutions, however, I was struck by their small scale. Take January. "Go to sleep earlier" and "Tackle a nagging task" didn't sound dramatic or colorful or particularly ambitious.

Other people's radical happiness projects, such as Henry David Thoreau's move to Walden Pond or Elizabeth Gilbert's move to Italy, India, and Indonesia, exhilarated me. The fresh start, the total commitment, the leap into the unknown - I found their quests illuminating, plus I got a vicarious thrill from their abandonment of everyday worries.

But my project wasn't like that. I was a unadventurous soul, and I didn't want to undertake that kind of extraordinary change. Which was lucky, because I wouldn't have been able to do it even if I'd wanted to. I had a family and responsibilities that made it practically impossible for me to leave for one weekend, let alone for a year.

And more important, I didn't want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen. I knew I wouldn't discover happiness in a faraway place or in unusual circumstances; it was right here, right now - as in the haunting play The Blue Bird, where two children spend a year searching the world for the Blue Bird of Happiness, only to find the bird waiting for them when they finally return home.
The subsequent chapters describe, month by month, small step by small step, the changes she makes. By the end, I couldn't help but think, hey, I could do this, too - assuming I could get past that vague part about figuring out what resolutions will lead to my happiness.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

WMU Turkey Trot

This morning, I ran the WMU Turkey Trot - my first 5K! My goal was to finish, and I expected to do that in about an hour. I did indeed finish, and I ran it in just over 57 minutes (that's the unofficial result, based on looking at the clock as I ran in).

Here's a motley-looking crew, at the beginning of the race. I am not in this group; I was deliberately hanging out in the back.

I knew there would be hills, but my goodness. We immediately had a long uphill run, past the Bernhard Center. I ran it, at my typical pace, but it took a lot out of me! Somewhere in the intramural fields, I dropped back to a walk, and I stayed walking through the next hill, up Howard Street. But then I was able to switch back to five-minute runs, with short walk breaks, and I finished the course running.

I'm guessing that I ran for about half the time. That group of people behind me were walking, and they were in no hurry, so I passed them when I started running again. I confess, that gave me an inordinate sense of pleasure.

Jim snapped this while I was removing the chip from my shoe - I don't look too bad, do I?!?

Now I guess I'll go for a walk with Bonnie and Tonks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A WIP Becomes an FO *

I finally finished my Cerus Scarf. I love the yarn, and the way the linen stitch scattered the colors about. This is yarn that I bought at the Fiber Festival in Allegan, the first year I went (2008?). It's been percolating in my stash since then, and I think this was the perfect project for it.

Knitting a lengthwise scarf is a bit daunting, but only slightly so. I swatched before starting, and so had a pretty good idea how many stitches to cast on, in order to get the length I wanted. But while it was on the needles, I really couldn't judge how long the scarf is, so I had to knit on, in somewhat blind faith, hoping for the best.

And, hurrah, the knitted swatch did not lie to me. The finished scarf is just over 5 feet long, which is a good length. I am happy!

Meanwhile, the Shedir chemo cap is progressing nicely. There is a lot of cabling, and I keep losing my cable needle, and that slows me down a bit (tonight it fell into a box, and I hunted a good while before thinking to look there). But I've finished 35 rows, out of 83, and soon the decreases begin, and then it should move along faster.

The chemo cap is not good 'meeting' knitting, but I've discovered that the owl blanket is. So, although my recent meetings have been the sort that aren't conducive to knitting, I'm still making some progress on that project.

WIP: Work in Progress
FO: Finished Object

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall in Kalamazoo, With a Side of Snow

Just sharing a few photos. These first two were taken the other day. I realized that, by taking photos from different perspectives, our home has quite a different look.

This first shot is from Piccadilly, showing the back of our home, and giving a good idea of the trees around our house:

I shot this photo from the park. That stretch of trees, along the west side of the park, is a nice addition to our home's landscaping.

This is just a view of some of my favorite trees - the red maple that we planted years ago; the pine tree that was once a Christmas Tree in the living room (that was before our time); the tree / bush by the west window in our living room:

These next two shots were taken when Bonnie and I left for our walk at lunchtime today:

Yes, that is snow

The snow didn't last, of course, and by the end of our walk, the weather had shifted from winter back to fall:

I love this weeping willow, or whatever it is...

It continued to snow off and on through the afternoon, and into the evening. Really, it's been quite lovely!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunday Lessons

I want to remember several things from our church meetings this week.

This Sunday, we held our monthly Fast and Testimony meeting. Before this meeting, most members have fasted for two meals, which serves two purposes. The money that would have been spent on those meals is donated to help others, and the abstinence from food helps us focus on spiritual, rather than temporal, aspects of our life.

This monthly worship service is then turned over to members, to share their testimony, i.e., their personal witness, as the spirit moves them. This week, many of the testimonies were sweet and tender.

One of my favorites was a young boy (between 3-4 years old) who walked up to the stand and said, with straightforward conviction, "I know that the church is true. It's really, really true!"

A young man (12 or 13 years old) hesitantly shared his testimony. I had the feeling he was giving us something precious and new, as he cautiously shared his witness.

Then, in Sunday School, we studied Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus. We read 1 Timothy 1:5.
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
Referring to this scripture, Meghan (our teacher) described her experience in Testimony Meeting. She was already seated, waiting for the meeting to begin, when Rebecca and Vanita came in. Vanita is one of our more elderly members, and whenever she makes it to church, it is because Rebecca has helped her and given her a ride. On this occasion, Meghan watched as Rebecca placed a pillow on the pew, and helped Vanita get settled on it. She folded up Vanita's walker, and stored it carefully. She unfolded a lap blanket and spread it across Vanita's legs. During the meeting, she arranged for the microphone to be brought to Vanita, so she could share her testimony without having to walk to the podium.

In each action, Rebecca showed charity out of a pure heart. It was a perfect lesson for us all.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Four Knits: A WIP Update

I took photos yesterday of my WIPs (works-in-progress), so I can provide a bit of an update.

The color on this photo is deceiving. This scarf is really blue, not purple. This is the Cerus Scarf, designed by Hilary Smith Callis. It's basically a linen stitch, knit lengthwise. I'm shooting for a width of 5.5 or 5.75 inches, and I think I'll be there in a row or two.

This is the Sophie Rabbit, designed by Ysolda Teague. As you can see, Miss Rabbit is nearly complete; she just needs a couple ears. They are a bit tricky, but I've got one under way (there where the DPN's are making her look like a voodoo doll), and hope to finish her up soon.

Just yesterday I started this chemo cap. I'm using the Shedir pattern, by Jenna Wilson. I expect this will be a fairly quick knit (quick by my slow standards, anyway).

Finally, here is my owl blanket. Again, the color is less than perfect - this blanket is really a very rich, brilliant green. I'm using a slightly modified version of the Sleepy Owl Blanket pattern, designed by Lori Emmitt. I've nearly finished 4 rows, and have 5 to go after that, so this one is further from being complete! But it's a pretty straightforward knit, and moves quickly.

I have one more WIP, a pie wedge lace shawl, but it's moving so slowly I'm not even mentioning it...!

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Goal is To Finish

Well, I did it. I've registered for Western Michigan University's Turkey Trot, and will run my first 5k on November 19.

I think it was January 2010 when I wandered into Gazelle Sports to buy a pair of running shoes. Armed with shoes and a training plan, I started running.

I stuck with that plan for a month or so, and then tapered off. Later in the year, I tried again. I tended to run in the morning, and it was always a challenge, using a watch and flashlight to time my walking & running. Of course it was winter, so mittens made it even more interesting... In any case, both times, I fizzled out.

In March of this year, I started training again. This time, I used the Couch-to-5k running plan. Similar to the plan that Gazelle Sports used, it was a combination of jogging and walking. Geared to increase the jogging over time, the goal was to be able to run a 5k in nine weeks.

Best of all, I found a podcast that would handle the annoying issues of timing. Laura, with her lovely British accent, told me when to walk and when to jog. I loved her cheery "Off you go!" when it was time to run, and her encouraging "That was fantastic!"

But even with Laura's support, I petered out again. I did weeks 1 and 2 twice, then week 3, and then I did week 4 twice. I'm looking at my running log to see this, but I don't remember why I was moving so slowly through the plan. It was mid-May when I stopped altogether, and I'm sure that was related to the weather, and to walking Bonnie.

I try to walk Bonnie every day, and our favorite time is at lunch. (Well, that is my favorite time; Bonnie's favorite time would be "now," any time of the day!) When the weather gets warm, I shift her walks to morning, and I'm guessing that's what happened in May - my running yielded to walks with Bonnie.

So. In September, Bonnie's walks shifted back to mid-day, and I started the Couch-to-5k program, again. This time, I've moved steadily through the plan, and tonight I did the second run for week 6. That means I've been running 8, 10, 20 minutes at a stretch. It's amazing to me.

(I remember years ago, when my sister persuaded me to run with her. I think we were both home, on break, from college. We ran from our home to the nearby grade school; I think it was .5k. Lori did great; I lay down on the ground and pondered the benefits of just dying right then and there.)

Granted, this will not be an elegant 5k. I've told my friend, "My goal is not speed; my goal is to finish." I've been using to track my runs, and I see two issues. One is that, based on my averages, I am expecting it will take me an hour to run the 5k. I'm okay with that.

More challenging is that my runs won't be near 5k in length by Nov 19. I'm guessing I'll have to run twice as far as usual, and that could be tricky. My thought is that I'll run the equivalent of a training run (28 minutes by then), and then shift to a mix of walking & jogging to finish the 5k. I'm okay with that, too.

Finishing fast can be a goal for another day. For this 5k, my goal is simply to finish.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Year in the Life of a Blog

Bonnie and I have enjoyed our walks these past days - the trees were beautiful in the sunshine.

A blog that I follow shared a lovely quote from John Burroughs, so appropriate in this fall season:
"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days."
I encourage you to check out her blog, We Heart Yarn - the photography is stunning. (And I just now learned how to make that link open in a new window. Hurrah!)

Today is the first blogiversary of Robin Gets a Life: I published my first blog entry on November 2, 2010. I've just skimmed the year's posts; it seems that I've been consistent in publishing, but not entirely consistent in quality. Can I share my favorite posts? (I'm going to, but feel free to ignore.)
The Trees Play Dress Up. I like the photography in this one, and I am pleased with the mix of poems and photos.

Self-Restraint. This was better writing than I find in most of my entries, and still makes me smile.

A Memoir of Love and Loss and Life. This was a review of a well-written book, which should probably get some of the credit for the well-written blog entry.
My goal for the next year: more carefully crafted entries, which will require more care and tending of my blog.

Oh Mom - focus on the writing,
and skip the dog photos!