Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Blues...not really... How about Summer Thoughts?

Warning: this post is word-heavy and image-light. It's a huge brain dump of a lot of stuff...

Now that I'm coming to the end of my summer vacation (aka "annual recharge"; faculty meetings begin next week), I've become a little introspective about what's happened over the last few months. 

I'm a very different person than I was 2 months ago. There have been adventures and changes along the way. Some were planned; many were not. 

As Hunter Hayes' song "Better Than This" says, 

No matter where this goes
You know I wouldn't change a single thing

But I don't even know

Just to where this thing is gonna lead
It's a mystery
Oh and ain't life a trip?
No it don't get better than this.
Oh, Boy, has it been a Wild Ride this year.

1) Health and energy: So far, I've lost almost 35 pounds in the last year. The combination of being aware of what and how much I was eating, and also increasing my exercise was the trick. Moderation, too. I love my gym and my trainer. I want to keep going. I want to stay healthy. I want to get stronger. I feel younger than my physical years, and this year I'll turn 50. I know I have more energy than I did 20 years ago. I know I'm carrying less weight than I did then. I did not know that a huge self-esteem boost would result. I did not know that my energy levels would increase. I thought I didn't sit well before without working on a craft. Now, I'm not spending a lot of time sitting! And my abs and my legs hurt...but in a good way.

2) Mindfulness: This has been a huge part of my work. Being mindful about how much and what I'm eating. Being mindful about how my actions affect others. Being mindful about how my words affect others. Being mindful about who I am, and who I want to be. Before I do/say something, I try to think about the consequences, instead of just blindly doing the task.

Meditation helps. I try to spend some time each morning meditating. For me, it's a time to check in with myself. Am I present and accounted for? Is all of me working the way it's supposed to, or is there an energy blockage somewhere? It's a time to not worry about the external things that are stressing me, especially since I can't do anything about it at the moment. It's a time to find the stillness inside, to recharge my mental batteries, to make sure my house/body is sound and secure. Often, I find that stilling my mind and checking in with myself provides the answers that I need.

And my typical mediation space is my car. Where do I spend a lot of time? Right. During the school year, I don't like to arrive, park and walk right into the energy that is my workspace. If I can take 10 minutes to set my intentions for the day before I get out of the car, I tend to be more focused and less frantic. It definitely took some practice to find the timing that makes my day look better, but it was worth it.

3) Work: Well ... besides my 2 regular jobs, the full-time school library and the part-time public library, both of which I love, I've picked up another job. Yes, now you know that I'm CRAZY! Ok, many of you knew that already...

I'm the Crochet Instructor at Purlescence Yarns. I've been teaching crochet informally for several years, and had subbed in a couple times at the shop years ago. But now, it's official. I'm paid to do something I love! I'm finishing up my first Beginning class this Saturday, and have a new session starting in September. I'm very flattered that a few of beginning students have already signed up for Intermediate Crochet.

4) Friendships: Boy, has this taken a huge leap. I've been lucky to always have friends: a few close friends, a core wider group... Wow. I love my friends! Many of my yarn friends have become my family. Some new friendships have blossomed and become integral to my life. Existing friendships have been enhanced. Lots of laughter has been occurring. This.Is.Good. There have been changes in various groups, with people fluctuating in and out. But I know that my core group of friends will always have my back. And I have theirs. You know who you are.

5) Relaxation: there hasn't been a lot of time for that. There's been too much going on. However, The Hubby and I did take a week and we went to London, England. I hadn't been there in about 12 years. So much fun! If you're on Facebook, take a look at my trip postings from June 18 to 26 or so. My FB user name is Kathy Lew Clark.

6) Music: There has been lots of music over the last year. My Home Free obsession / fan-girling has not died down. Their music is still very vocally tight and inspiring. I've branched out a little -- any group that does a cappella will catch my ear. I'm also listening to Pentatonix, The Filharmonic, T-Sisters, Honey Whiskey Trio and The House Jacks. Non-acappella groups include Hunter Hayes and Lindsey Stirling. Hayes is such a smart songwriter. Among other things, I like the fact that his songs  celebrate and are very respectful of women.

The House Jacks are directly responsible for me getting back into music. Here's my logic:

House Jacks -- founded by Deke Sharon (and others). Deke Sharon was the vocal producer of The Sing Off, and worked on Pitch Perfect. Home Free won The Sing Off. Their album "Crazy Life" made me realize I needed to get back singing. Found my choir... I had the opportunity to thank Deke for being responsible, when we went to see the House Jacks up at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.

My choir, Peninsula Harmony Chorus, will be having our annual concert, Harmony around the World, on September 20, 2014 at 7:30 in Los Altos. Anyone who is interested in coming to the show, please message me for tickets, or you can purchase online. Here's the concert info.

7) New puppy! Introducing Miss BB - aka Butterfly Brain. She is currently 9 months old, so still a puppy. We lost our dear Katja in May to lymphoma. She was 14. BB is completely on the other side of the energy spectrum.
8) Fiber: YARN, KNITTING, CROCHET, SEWING, DYEING, WEAVING.... must do it all, want to do it all right now, forget that "work" stuff, want to be creating in the last few hours I have of my vacation.

This summer has been more about planning and projects that got out of hand...

Case in point: Color Inspirations.
Way back in January, when I was dyeing for Purl Up and Dye, I had the idea to create colors that represented each of the guys of Home Free. Later in the spring, I got the silly idea that I could complete the circle. If I spun the fiber that was dyed in their color, I could knit or weave a scarf for each of them as a thank you for their music. Or Christmas. I got the idea to spin all 5 during the Tour de Fleece. What was I thinking -- to spin and ply 20 ounces during the 21 days of the Tour? Yesterday I finally finished #4. 


 Part of the reason for the delay? See #7 above. She's very interested in anything fibery, especially if I'm working on it.

See how she's helping?

Halos of Hope -- the 2nd annual Halos of Hope-a-thon was on June 28-29. This year, there were 11 of us who stayed up and knit like the wind! At the end, there were 333 hats donated in that 24 hours. Hooray for everyone who knit a hat, was knitting a hat, donated money for shipping, or even just shared that this event was happening. Every little bit helps in the fight against cancer. This year, Heather Paul started filking (new lyrics) Journey's "Don't stop believin'", and we took and ran with it. Here's our version..."Don't stop, be weavin'" (New lyrics are on the YouTube description.)

I knit 3 hats for Halos this summer.

More knitting content: 3 baby blankets happened right before school let out. 2 more need to be done. A retirement scarf needs to happen.

But I will be starting a new CustomFit sweater, because the one in my previous post doesn't fit (See #1 above). Swatching for it will happen in a minute. There is one secret project that I need to leave time for before Stitches West in February. 

And the sewing! I really am not allowed in fabric stores any more... I keep finding great fabric and want to sew it all! However, I did get back to my sewing machine last night to make a dress. It's going well, except that I discovered the bodice that I cut doesn't fit me well. I may have to re-cut it in a different size. I'm okay with that. Now that my body has changed dimensions, I'm having to rethink how I sew for myself. And I need a zipper.

Whew! Sorry for the huge brain dump, but it's been so long since I could actually sit down and work on this. I keep thinking of you, dear Blog, really I do! I'm working on creating a better update schedule so you don't have to read quite so much at a time.

Thanks for sticking it out with me, and remember: You Are Loved.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life is whizzing by...

Here it is, 3 years later (how can that be?), and my resolution to post more often has fallen by the wayside. Honest, my blog friends, I keep thinking about you, and taking pictures to show you things I'm doing, but the actual blogging part...? Not so much. But I'm back, if anyone is actually still out there!

In the last 3 years, I have continued knitting and crocheting and spinning, and added dyeing and weaving to my bag of fiber tricks. I've completed lots of projects, frogged a bunch, acquired yarn and fiber, spun fiber into yarn.

I finally finished the Susie cardigan  (Ravelry link) last October, 5 years and 2 days after I started it. The recipient wore it EVERY DAY for months, except for washing it. I haven't even put the clasps on it because she wouldn't take it off long enough for me to do so! I made it in Dream in Color's Classy in the Good Luck Jade colorway. No hood, just a garter stitch neckline.

Purlescence Yarns continues to be my home-away-from-home. I've gained so many dear friends through my association with them, and people that I now consider to be family. Kevin has just started his Tails of a Sassy Fiber Monkeh blog. Mari has her Just The Food, People blog too. Sandi, Kaye, Nathania -- I love you all!

We had a blast teaming with Pam Haschke for the Halos of Hope-athon, a 24-hour knitathon to create hats for people undergoing cancer treatment. Halos of Hope is an all-volunteer organization that distributes these hats to cancer centers across the US and we're proud to have provided 230 hats in 24 hours. I even pulled an all-nighter, which I hadn't done since college, a thousand years ago.

The 2nd annual Halos-of-Hope-athon will be held June 28-29, 2014, from 10 AM Saturday to 10 AM Sunday. We'll see if I manage to stay up this time, as I will have returned from London just 2 days before that! Hope to see you there.

Stitches West is still our biggest event. I was lucky enough this year to be part of the Purl Up & Dye team, creating color on superwash merino fiber. Such a fun time, playing with color! I bought several braids and am loving spinning that fiber into yarn.

For example, here is my chocolate cherries colorway still wet (top), before the color is set, and the bottom picture is the final spun product, a 3-ply fingering weight. The finished product is more rose-colored than red in real life.

School is as wild and crazy as ever and I still love it. Last year, I got a new part-time librarian and spent time training her. However, she started the job in August 2012 and went on maternity leave at the end of February, so this school year is the first full year she's been present. She's been a great help, with lots of great ideas and energy.

I've started to get more engaged with my own health. Some numbers were heading the wrong way and I just felt pretty blah about myself. So last June, I started working out at the gym that had just opened near school. LOVE IT! I'm working with a personal trainer who keeps me going. In addition to the increased physical activity/strength training, I'm also being more mindful of what I'm eating and how much of it I'm eating at a time. So far, I've lost almost 25 pounds, aiming for maybe another 5-10 more. I've had to buy new clothes (terrible problem to have, really) since I'm down 2 sizes.

Another project that I'm really pleased with is my CustomFit sweater. If you haven't heard of CustomFit by Amy Herzog, and you're a knitter, go check it out right now! You input your measurements, your swatch measurements for whatever yarn/needle size you would like to use, and your design elements (cardigan/pullover/vest, neckline, sleeve type/length, etc.) and CustomFit will return a pattern to you. Simply follow the pattern. It is written out for you. You don't have to figure out which size directions to follow. You don't have to figure out how to modify the shaping to fit your specific needs. AND IT WILL FIT! I will be making more sweaters. The next one will be for Kelli out of the same yarn I used here, Cascade's Eco+ in the Aporto colorway.

Music has also come back into my life in a big way. I had mentioned previously that I was singing with a gospel choir. Well, that group is no longer active. :-( In December, I was watching The Sing-Off, an a cappella competition show. The winning group, Home Free, completely captured my heart, and I'm obsessed by them and their music. (Ask anyone that knows me about the Home Free obsession!) When I heard their album release in January, it made me realize that I truly needed to be singing again. After a few months of searching, I've begun singing with the Peninsula Harmony Chorus, a local a cappella group.

Thanks, Kevin, for reminding me that I have this blog to update. I also post on Facebook as Kathy Lew Clark and on Twitter as PurpleYarnQueen, if you want to follow me at either place.