Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Month of Brontes

I decided to do something different this month.  Inspired by my initial foray into Juliet Barker's magnificent - and rather dense - biography and urged on by Craftlit I chose to focus all of my reading in January on the Bronte family.

1. The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors:  The Story of a Literary Family, Juliet Barker (ebook)  I adore this book.  It's one of the most complete biographies I've ever read, and it seeks to remove the Bronte mythology so as to show the entire family as REAL people.  (I joked at times that the subtitle could be "A Defense of Patrick and Branwell.")  Honestly, I still have some reading to do.  At 1,000ish pages (1,600 when  I set the font at a comfortable size) which are packed with dense info it's not exactly a light or quick read....but I am so very glad I am reading it.  Perhaps when it's done I'll need to write up a more thorough review.  For now what I'll say is that I identified very strongly with the Bronte sisters - especially Charlotte.  Fascinating!

2.  Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (via the Craftlit podcast)  I can't for the life of me remember when I first read Jane Eyre, but I know I've loved it my entire life.  It pops up ever five years or so for a reread, and I always come away with it with something new to ponder.  This time I found myself considering the possibility that young Jane had attachment disorder....makes you think!  Many thanks to Heather Ordover of Craftlit for selecting this book for her podcast.  (And her reader is phenomenal.)

3.  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (via Craftlit's bonus subscriber material) OK, so I only just read this book for the first time a few years ago after seeing an adaptation on Masterpiece Classic.  My one sentence summary is as follows:  Wuthering Heights is an unpleasant book about unpleasant people.  I appreciate the fact that Craftlit did it as bonus material because there was enough commentary on the work to provide some interesting food for thought.  It'll never be a book that I enjoy reading, though.

4.  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte (both ebook and audio)  How, oh how, is it that I had never read this book?!?!  I LOVED it!  I will echo what others have's a book that feels surprisingly modern.  Amazing.

5.  Cottage Poems, Patrick Bronte (ebook)  I didn't read many, as I'm (hate to admit this) not much of one for poetry, but I did want to at least sample Papa Bronte's work.  I did...and I don't have anything to say about it.

I initially had the rather lofty goal of reading the entire Bronte catalog this month, but let's face it....that's a LOT of reading, especially when you include that 1,000 page biography! I honestly have not read any of the rest of the Bronte books, I am hereby making it my goal to read one/month until I've completed them all.

Also...I have to admit that having a theme month was a lot of fun!  I won't do it every month - that would just be silly - but I am going to throw a few theme months into my year just to see what happens.  As I happen to have a fabulous idea, February will be children's book month!  It's rather needed after all of the emotionally damaged folk in January....

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Treasure Trove

 I've wanted to learn how to make Bobbin Lace since I was 16 years old.
Every year during the Lost Arts Festival we hosted at Watkins Woolen Mill, a very sweet elderly couple would take over the guest bedroom in the house (the only time of the year we ever opened the shutters in that room!), setting up their display of all of their Bobbin Lace.  It was amazing!  I absolutely loved watching them deftly manipulating the bobbins, which would click and clack softly in their hands.  I could have spent hours in that room with them.
But I never got any further than buying a book - a book which taunted me for YEARS - a book which I gave away shortly after Gillian was born when I realized I was going to have to pick and chose among my crafts, focusing only on what I liked best.
Then last fall Gillian fell in love with Bobbin Lace, too.  She walked into a large display at the Kids' Craft Fair in Arrowrock, and fell head over heels in love.  It  was perhaps inevitable.  Bobbin Lace was literally the only craft at the festival that she hadn't had any exposure to.  The fact that there were several generations of one family doing the demonstrations, with a young boy just a few years older than she providing the bulk of the narrative, made it even more appealing.
What to do....what to do....
Bobbin Lace is, unfortunately, a rather expensive hobby to take up, which is part of why I had never gone any farther than to purchase that book.  It's also fairly difficult to find teachers.  I wanted to let Gillian experiment (and perhaps learn myself) but I wasn't all that sure it would be possible.
Until I found a kit online at Lacis.  (Do follow their link...they are amazing!)  Sean and I ordered a kit to give to Gillian for Christmas.  We didn't know if it was something she would want to continue on with (and heaven help our pocketbooks if she did!) but we wanted her to have the opportunity to at least try.  To our delight, she LOVED the kit.  True, it was pretty basic, but between the written instructions and a bunch of incredible YouTube videos we had a great start.
Then, before we had a chance to even open the kit, I got a call from my mom.  A good friend of hers had sent a large package for me.
What on earth?
Mom was bubbling with excitement when she told me, "Jytte has Bobbin Lace supplies, and she thought you might be interested in them!"
My, oh my!
 Indeed, it was everything we needed.
 The pillow.
A giant stack of patterns.
And a tackle box FULL of bobbins!
Such an incredible, amazing, generous gift!
And so serendipitous.  This is, I believe, what happens when the universe says YES.
Gillian and I have been using her kit to learn the basics, and I will soon be sharing those efforts with you.  I think I may take a break from knitting for a short time so that we can focus on learning.  I'm so very excited about our new adventure, and I can't wait to share it with you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Staring Down The Beast

It's no secret that I've been dealing with the beast that is depression for years and years and years. I was all of 16 when I believe it first started, 17 when I wound up in a doctor's office and then in therapy because it was effecting my physical health, and just 20 when I started taking Zoloft for the first time.

The beast and I know each other well.

I will not bore you with extensive descriptions of our relationship. It is what it is, and I really feel no need to give the beast any more attention than it already has received. Most of my blog readers are family and friends, and they already know all too well just exactly what I've dealt with and probably don't want to hear about it again anyway. If you are curious, though, I highly recommend Rebecca Hunt's fantastic novel, Mr. Chartwell, which does an incredible job of dealing with depression in what I feel is a realistic and relatable manner. Her descriptions - which are based on Winston Churchill's own ideas - certainly struck a cord with me given my own experiences.

So where am I going with this? Why am I bringing it up?

About two weeks ago I woke up to realize that the beast had crept back into my life and had done quite a nice job of settling in and making me miserable before I had realized that it had returned. It's very sneaky, the beast, and I don't always realized that it's worming it's way back in. Sure, with twenty some odd years of dealing with it under my belt I'm better armed for the battle....but I just don't always realize what's happening while it's happening. The fact that all of my lifestyle changes over the last few years have by and large kept it at bay means that I perhaps wasn't being as vigilant as I should have been.

This time the beast chose to show up in a form of seasonal depression (AKA, Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter blues, post-holiday let down, etc.) This is both fantastic (YAY! It's easy to vanquish!) and highly annoying (Sonofab...damn thing is like clockwork and there's little I can do to prevent it.) We're guessing it was encouraged by all of our loss last year, the surgery and a highly stressful holiday season. I would go so far as to say that my beloved dog's death pushed me over the edge. For sure it's considerably worse this year than it has been for a very long time.

Irregardless, it's here and it must be dealt with.

So. What do I do?
  1. The key is really in recognizing the beast. Once that's done it truly looses it's power. Honest to God, those 20 years of dealing with it have made it manageable. Sure, it still totally stinks when I realize it has settled in...but it's been declawed and neutered.
  2. Sunshine, full-spectrum lights and exercise. All MUSTS, especially with the beast in this form. Sticking to a strict allergy diet and getting plenty of sleep is also necessary.
  3. Have you noticed that in January and February I tend to let myself get fully absorbed in gigantic/hugely absorbing projects? Last year it was the Princess and this year it's the scrapbook blanket. These projects allow me to get out of my head, provide some structure, and help me combat the beast in the best way possible....through creation.
  4. I push myself out of my safe spot so that it doesn't also become my prison. This means following through on family activities like our recent trip to the Nelson, pushing myself to see friends, and changing up some of my routine. This is all the hard part because it does go against my nature in many ways.
  5. The word NO is also very helpful.
  6. Seek outside help when needed. This time I know I don't need therapy or meds (I've done both and feel they both are very important tools that should be embraced....and not shamed.) It did, however, help considerably to have a long talk with my allergist, and I have other resources in place should I need them.
  7. I know I must also honor my feelings - because even if they are ridiculously exaggerated by the beast they are coming from a real place and must be allowed to exist and be worked through accordingly.
  8. Patience, patience, patience.
The beast is currently disgruntled as it appears its stay won't be as long as it would like.

As for myself, I have no wish to drag this conversation out any further...but I did want to be honest. I began this blog with the intent of sharing my creative life, and this is part and parcel.

I hope you all understand.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Life In General

Love those toothless smiles!

It's been a while since I did a newsy sort of post, so I thought I would take some time this morning to catch you all up a bit!
  • Tanith lost her first tooth on her big sister's birthday.  The funny part is that she had only discovered it was loose the day before!  This kid doesn't waste any time!
  • Last night I took Tanith to see the MU Women's Gymnastics team compete in their Pink Out event.  We left big sister and Dad at home and had a fabulous time.
  • Guess who's been pushing for gymnastics lessons since the Olympics?  Yep, after last night I need to figure out how to make that happen. 
  • I would also like to say that I am extremely grateful that my sweet little Pixie of a child has a first grade teacher who is so very in tune with her needs. 
  • As for my 10 YEAR OLD!!!!  (I'm so not old enough to have a child in the double digits!), she is having a birthday slumber party this evening with four of her very best friends.
  • Pray for my sanity.
  • Gillian won her classroom spelling bee again this year, and will be competing in the school wide bee at the end of the month.
  • She is not happy about this...but at least she decided to stick with it.
  • She is happy about Girls On The Run starting up again! 

  • Having spent the bulk of November and December knitting gifts for other people, I find that I'm seriously balking at making any more gifts. 
  • What on earth do I still have to do? 
  • I have two presents that need to be finished up and at least three babies to knit for.  It's a lot. 
  • What do I really want to be doing? 
  • Sweaters.  Sweaters for myself.
  • And a gigantic push to finish the scrapbook blanket.
  • But mostly sweaters.  My friend Shelda and I may have made plans to do a sweater project this year that ties in nicely to my 'stop looking like a hobo' birthday resolution.
  • I also want to spend a lot of time with my spinning wheel.  I do have a rather large amount of fiber right at the moment....fiber that could be used to make my SWEATERS! 
  • Problem being that my wheel has some serious problems right now. 
  • Sigh.
  • That's right, my beloved Lendrum has developed a nasty wheel wobble.  It worked itself loose last summer (which is very unusual) in a rather dramatic fashion - literally I was spinning along when suddenly the wheel was knocking back and forth on it's access - and since then it's not been the same.
  • I spoke with the lovely people at the Yarn Barn last weekend, and they contacted Lendrum for me.  They all agree that the wheel has worked itself out of alignment, and the fix is supposed to be fairly simple.
  • I've followed all of their advice, and nothing is working. 
  • It's entirely possible this is user error.  I am, unfortunately, not a very mechanically minded person, and it's possible I'm just not getting the wheel balanced right.
  • However I am worried that it can't be fixed.  Wheels are way too expensive to just toss and get a new one!
  • The plan is to schedule a trip to the Yarn Barn to see if they can help me in person.
  • Fortunately, I have Gillian's wheel to work with until then.

  • We had a wee doggy adventure a week ago.  A great Dane puppy (3 months old and already 25 lbs!) followed the girls home from the school bus stop.  A quick trip to the Central MO Humane Society followed so that we could file a found dog report and check to see if she'd been microchiped (she wasn't).  I am a soft touch, and couldn't leave her there overnight, so we brought her home with us.  The long and short of it is that it was very obvious that she had to belong to a loving home.  She was too well cared for, too well socialized, too clean, too good on a leash, too potty trained, too valuable, etc. to have been a stray.  We had a great evening with her, but then I took her back to CMHS the next morning so that they could handle the return to the owner....which happened just a few hours after I dropped her off.  (We also wanted them to have to pay the fine to get her back.... a small, but important wake up call.)  I know that even with the best of owners sometimes things happen and a dog gets loose, so I'm not judging...but I do hope they had enough of a scare to tighten their security.   
  • The puppy adventure produced two results in our family.
  • 1.  I know absolutely that I am not ready for a new dog yet.  In fact, it may take a considerable amount of time before I am ready. 
  • 2.  Some of the questions I've had regarding how I want to go about getting the next dog have been answered.  I will be writing a post fairly soon about the thought process and what we are considering. 

  • Other stuff:
  • I had some really strange issues with my tummy this week.  While it's entirely possible I had a mild bug of some sort, it also occurred to me yesterday that it may be related to the tea I drink. 
  • Soooooo......I'm off of tea for a while so I can test that theory.
  • I've dealt with a lot of loss with the food allergies, but if I lose tea, too, it's going to be bad.
  • I've been working to get our family diet cleaned back up since the holidays.  It's rather rough going just now. 
  • I'm looking in to becoming a substitute teacher. 
  • Quite frankly, there are things we want to accomplish in our family that are only going to happen if we have a second income.
  • I have very mixed feelings right now, and that's really all I can say about it.
  • I'm debating a half marathon in the spring.  There's a local training program I could join...I'm just not sure if I really want to start working for distance running again. 
  • I DO want to start lifting weights, and that's on the agenda for this coming week!  Working on building an at home program.
  • My knee has been complaining...and the ONLY thing that fixes that is strength training.
  • I'm fighting a touch of my (usual) post holiday blues. 
  • We're working on a rather thorough whole-house purge/organization/deep clean. 
  • To be followed (I hope) by some cosmetic work that will make the home more comfortable for me to live in.
And with that, I must go.  I have a slumber party to prepare for! 

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Quiet Interlude

In case you were wondering....this is what I've been doing lately.