Love is in the air and the tuition bill is in the mail…….

What a wonderful time of the year. Winter’s snow is gone; Spring visited for a day or two and Summer’s heat has already greeted us. But to me, the most wonderful undertaking is the season of high school graduations. My son, my last child, will be graduating soon. I have a mental checklist of “Lasts” and this almost completes it. College searches are long over and May deposits have already been cashed. Soon, we will be watching our sweet child marching up for his diploma. This makes my heart heavy and happy. There are no others behind him that will need my devoted attention and that’s okay with me. I’ve enjoyed raising all my children. I wouldn’t say we sacrificed anything, because that implies we went without, or missed out. They’ve enriched ours lives, and still do.

Having visited endless college campuses with various children, the college search often reminds me of finding your true love. Nowadays, the college search can last longer than some marriages. You innocently start looking for a college. There are many ways of initiating your knowledge about a school. You can hear about colleges through ads, friends, or guidance counselors. It’s such an emotional time that it is much like developing a love interest. What starts as a practical, fact-based process, soon becomes an emotional attachment like no other.

Much like dating, you meet online. This is window shopping at its finest. The college website entices you with dreams of grassy knolls, beautiful dorms, delicious food, gorgeous students and a secure future. Dating websites make similar promises of hope, happiness and a future. But neither can really guarantee the construction of a foundation for a lasting connection. In both instances, you are curious. You ponder deep questions, “Are you as wonderful as you appear?” You look for the good qualities, “Oh the buildings are beautiful and there are concerts on campus!!” The attraction builds.

Instead of meeting at a café for a speed date, you schedule “the” campus visit. It’s love at first sight. “He’s so tall and handsome.” to the college visit’s “Oh there are so many cute boys.” You’ve forgotten the practical and rely on your heart. In both cases, the attraction is superficial. You engage in a conversation, sharing thoughts. You tour the college, attracted to the new gym and dining hall. All things “new and shiny” are wonderful.

Next comes enlightenment. “You live with your mother?” and “You look nothing like your picture!” to the college love fest “It costs how much?” You suddenly start looking at your attractions in a different light. You ponder whether the initial information exchange is accurate and if you have a future for a growing number of reasons.

Finally, the commitment stage. Is there really a commitment, the understanding and sharing of values? “You don’t have a job?” to the college buzz kill “I have to take a math class?” You start looking more closely at both loves. He suddenly looks more like a paunchy, balding middle-aged man than a hunky romantic interest. Your dream college is situated outside of high crime housing projects and won’t guarantee you a dorm next year.

Harsh reality sets in. There is no real attraction. You don’t exchange phone numbers and give a full-body shudder as you part ways. Your “first college choice” has dropped to the “Only If They Give Me Money” list. You now know the difference between attraction and love. You are wiser. You are beyond falling for admissions cheerleading. You look beyond the student tours and notice what isn’t mentioned. You know love can be fleeting. Your “pro” and “con” lists grow. You start looking at state schools and re-evaluate your choice of majors. You know that you can make changes and take chances. Life is an adventure that needs to be taken. You’ve learned to look past the “something shiny” attractions and know what is worth exploring. Go learn and go love!

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I knit so I don’t unravel….

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I haven’t mentioned knitting here, even though it’s part of my tagline. It looks like all I do is cook, but I do much more. Well, maybe not much, but a few things other than cooking. I love to read and knit. My biggest joy comes from my knitting.

As I’ve titled this post, I knit so I don’t unravel. You can pick your own knitting meme, but this one’s mine. Who thought knitters could be so funny? I see them posted on Facebook all the time. They make me chuckle.

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Knitting provides me with more than an end product. Knitting gives me a sense of purpose and a feeling of productivity I don’t get elsewhere. Sometimes when I pull out my knitting, people will ask me why I am knitting a scarf or socks, when you can buy them for less. It’s quite simple; knitting gives me pleasure. To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than to knit something for a loved one. I love spending time searching for the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn and color. The color, especially, has to call out to me. When I look at the skein of yarn, it has to remind me of someone. I can’t just buy yarn and then use it for anybody. So, if I knit you something, I have thought of you long before I started actually knitting. That’s special, right? I bring my project with me to work, friends’ homes, waiting in the car,  anywhere I go. Years ago I had a bracelet that would dangle a ball of yarn. I would walk the kids to the bus stop and knit a few rows. While I was making dinner, I would step back and knit a bit. That’s when I started using machine washable yarns so dinner stains would disappear. Ooops. Live and learn. I like using my time wisely (ok, just give it to me here, laugh at me later!) When I knit, I intertwine a bit of my life into my project. (see what I did here?) I hope that this sock, or scarf, or shawl brings someone comfort and happiness from knowing that they are special. Here are a few things I knit my daughters:

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Just a little sock love for my girls! They keep their feet very warm. I love picking out the colors. You can buy socks, but none like these! I learned how to knit on circular needles. It was life changing. Socks are much easier to knit. When I use double-pointed needles, I’m always making mistakes and twisting end stitches. The technique using circular needles for socks is called Magic Loop. It IS magic!

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This is my first pair. I made them for me. I used a worsted weight yarn. The instructor said that people with big feet always seemed to use heavy weighted yarn. So now there’s yarn psychology? Who new? Should I follow a yarn diet? It was not a “feel good” moment. I now use fingering or lace yarn to compensate for my insecurity. Oh life, you kicked me but I didn’t fall!

Like learning anything new, knitting has at times frustrated me. There’s always something to learn. I started knitting in prehistoric times, you know, before the internet. Now on YouTube, you can watch a video on how to knit any kind of stitch. I used to pour through knitting books and magazines, trying to learn from pictures and sketches. Sometimes I got it, other times, not so much. I got very good at frogging, or tearing out, rows with mistakes. I learned some valuable lessons. On THIS OLD HOUSE, they say “measure twice, cut once”. I apply the same concept here by always checking my pattern as I go along. It’s better to catch an error right away than having to frog or fix a stitch several rows down. Even when I correct mistakes, I felt like I have accomplished something. You might think controlling some yarn and two sticks would be easy, but it’s not. Trying something out of my comfort zone is challenging. I relate knitting to “real life”.experiences. Over the years I have learned a lot about myself from knitting. “Keep it simple, stupid” is a motto I take to heart. I will take small risks, but only those I am comfortable taking, such as learning a new stitch or technique. If a pattern is beyond your ability, your frustration and the cost of the yarn will become your focus. I find that using a simple pattern and a beautiful yarn produces much reward. I have had to ask myself why I was knitting at times. I had to pull away from looking at knitting magazines that toy with your emotions and fashion sense. Some of those things are just unwearable and not practical. Those magazines don’t tell you why you are knitting and how you should keep knitting. Like life, you learn as you go along. Knitting is many things to many people, but it should always bring joy.

In thinking about writing this post, I did some research. There have been many articles that address wellness and knitting. The researchers have found that knitting reduces stress and anxiety, much like meditation. I could have saved them the trouble of the study and told the researchers this long ago. I fall into a Zen-like state when I knit, the needles clicking calms me. The rhythm is intoxicating. The feel of a wool yarn between my fingers is soothing. I find my mind wandering when I knit. My subconscious gets busy, and I often solve many of life’s problems while knitting.  I don’t need to use any psycho-babble to know that knitting is wonderful.

Knitting and access to knitting has changed over the years. Now you can find it all on the internet. Even when I’m not knitting, I think about knitting. There are blogs and websites dedicated to knitting. Sometimes thinking about it is more fun than actually knitting. I struggle when it comes to actually starting a new project. It is a reflection of me in real life, starting new things can be difficult, but you do it.

Everyone should do something that bring them joy. I do many joyful things; reading and cooking,  are a few of the things that bring me joy. The world is busy and complex. It’s very easy to forget about yourself and doing something that brings you joy. Don’t forget it. I know sometimes you have to put your needs aside, but don’t tuck them away forever.

Now, go out there and create something. Be joyful!

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