Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A New Day . . .

Even as I have let things go, I still find myself running to catch up. 

I feel like I'm stuck in a time warp - a Groundhog Day loop of getting it all right for a day and then watching it all come crashing down, only to start over again.  I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing.  It's a bit irritating, but it is kind of nice to get the chance - over and over - to get it right.

Get what right?  Get food right.  Get practice right.  I fight so hard to be perfect when I know that it is pretty much completely counter-productive to any form of success.  And still, I fight for it over and over . . . and then I slide down the slope - I skip a practice when I know I have less than a month before I compete, or I eat something not best for me, or too much of something else because, you know, it's a celebratory occasion . . . Really?   Really?

And then, finding myself like Sisyphus, at the bottom of the hill, I start again.  You would think I would have it all figured out by midlife, wouldn't you?  Um . . . yeah, no.  And so, every day, I work to be gentle with myself, and I work to listen to my body, and I work to create an atmosphere of success and openness where I can flourish. 

And as I am working my way back up the hill, I wonder if other people struggle the way I do . . .

Do they have to catalog every bite that goes in to their mouth?  Every step they take?  Do they have to practice constantly to get errant fingers to cooperate?  Do they have to start over every effing day?  And what if they do?  Their story is not mine.  And so I work to stop comparing myself to others . . . I mean, really, it's neverending, this business of letting go. 

I read somewhere once that if we took everyone's troubles and struggles out and put them in a basket for all to choose, that we would each still choose our own - because, you know, the devil you know is always better than the one you don't.  I have been extraordinarily lucky in my life thus far - and I have been good at many things, successful at many things far beyond what I could have ever dreamed.  That I have been struggling with two things I'm not quite as good at, is really no surprise - the surprise is that I chose these things.  In the past, I was never willing to fail the requisite number of times to succeed - and so I chose only things I was good at - things that came easily to me.

That I'm struggling so mightily now seems important somehow - that wherever I get and whatever progress I make is somehow sweeter because I am having to fight mightily for it.  And in the grand scheme of things, is it really that devastating that I have a the same spare tire (very common in middle age when our bodies often change shape) around my middle that my mom had?  And if I never get out of Grade 4 as a piper, will the Universe collapse?  No, certainly not  :-)

Time marches on - and these things are only important to me - they have no greater impact outside my sphere of existence.  And truth be told, I'm sure most would find them petty concerns - and yet, they are mine and are important to me.  But even as I struggle, I am grateful for every day, because I believe I will have many days to come to get it all "right."  Many days, where others may not . . . and yet, tomorrow is promised to no one, so I had best get cracking here - it is, after all, a new day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let It Go . . .

I have often bitten off more than I can chew . . .

I have continued to downsize not only in my home, but also where and how I expend my energy and time.  For seven years I have been nominally "in charge" of what we call Church Lady Knitting.  It's not like it's a big job, but it's time for me to step down and for someone else to step up.  I have a hard time with stuff like this, even when I know it's the right thing to do.

I was thinking this morning about all the things I have let go in the past six months or so . . . In November I stepped down as the newsletter editor for the Illinois African Violet Society.  In December, I stopped regular production on my podcast, All About African Violets.  At the end of December the Year of Stash Socks group that I co-moderated on Ravelry retired.  Now I have given up Church Lady Knitting, and in early June, I will step down as VP of the Illinois violet society.

I also gave up - about a month ago - being strictly ovo-pescetarian.  While it was exactly what I needed for my health, over the long term it became unsustainable for me.  The fact that we had the most brutal winter since I was a kid, certainly didn't help.  But I got the go-ahead to add meat back in once a week.  I don't always have some every week (I didn't last week), but I really like it when I have it.  I still follow the "rules" of the Strict Program for Three Months, but I get to have meat now.  So - pretty much now we're talking about the Mediterranean Diet, which really makes everything a whole lot easier in my life.

 I'm going to let another thing go - Project Zero.  I originally planned for it to just be the last three months of the year, and although it continues on Ravelry, I have realized that here on the blog, it's really not where I want to be directing my energy.  I continue to finish up knitting projects as I can - but spinning has taken a back seat since last July and Tour de Fleece.  It's not gone forever, just resting for now. Many of the remaining goals on my reserve list pertain to spinning.  They will get done - just not anytime soon  :-)

So - all this letting go . . .

Clearly I am still being led to open myself up for whatever is coming next.  I still have no true idea of what it is, but it looks more and more like it's piping.  I continue to spend nearly all of my available time practicing.  In fact, when I'm not working I think I'm either practicing, thinking about practicing, writing about practicing, listening over and over to the MP3s of my teacher playing my competition tunes, or dreaming about practicing.  In for a penny, in for a pound - this morning, when I woke up at 3 a.m. to pee, I realized I was running my 2/4 march in my head.  :-D   OMG Seriously!

Nearly all my Highland gear has arrived.  I have a few more things to  do - like change out my drone cords and personalize my pipe case (there will be a million just like it at every Highland Games this summer), but I think I'm in the groove now.  Another piper friend turned me on to a book called The Musician's Way.  So far, it's awesome, awesome, awesome and it's really helping me.

I love piping.  I always have.  This last year is the first time I have ever had any desire to compete - I'm holding on for the ride and seeing where it takes me.  I'm focused on what I need to accomplish in the next 6 1/2 weeks, and I'm letting go of all that might hold me back . . .   

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Small World, Isn't It?

On Saturday I had a friend over and we had a really enjoyable afternoon.  There's nothing particularly noteworthy about having a friend over . . . but there is an interesting story to this particular visit.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a handwritten note in the mail.  Well, I love getting personal mail - who doesn't?!  However, this was addressed to me using my first name - which I have not used for more than 30 years.  Anyone who knows me well enough to send me a hand-written note knows that.

I looked at the return address but did not recognize the name - but the address was on my block.

Curiouser and curiouser . . .

I opened it up and it said that if I was the same person who had lived on a certain street in a certain town back in the day, I should please call the writer because I would be surprised to know who my neighbor on the corner is!

Well, I was that person who lived on that street in that town - the note was from D, a childhood friend!  She and her sister and I were thick as thieves when we were kids - until I moved away to California in one of my mom's semi-regular moves.

What a wonderful afternoon we had catching up - sharing old photos and memories, and finding our footing toward friendship again - this time as adults in mid-life.  It really was a wonderful afternoon - and how crazy is it that - once again - we live two houses away from each other.   :-)

In other news of the weekend, I managed to finish my kilt hose (which is important because I'm going to have to wear them next month  :-) ), so finally a finished object to share!

The pattern is Shrimpie's Kilthose.  The yarn is Neighborhood Fiber Co's Studio Worsted (which is awesome yarn).  I probably could have gone one more 8-row pattern repeat on each leg, but they are OK  :-)

The laundry is done and it's time to hit the hay - here's a memory from Gypsy  :-)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Must have a Screw Loose . . .

As the piping competition season draws ever closer, I have begun to wonder if I have lost what little mind I have left.  A crisis of conscious, as it were.  I mean, really - I'm starting to question what made me think I could memorize these three pipe tunes.  For a woman who used to memorize pages and pages of script, and countless musical numbers, the fact that I am struggling mightily to memorize these tunes is disturbing.  At least one of them I have been working on since last May . . .

I have spent an obscene amount of money on the highland attire I have to wear to compete, and some of it has to be custom made.  That I put on about 15 pounds over the brutal winter is NOT a good thing and must be remedied as quickly as possible.  I'm on that, though, so I'm not worried there.

And on top of everything else, my pipes are not really cooperating right now, which makes everything pretty tough.

I have a phenomenal teacher.  He pushes me to accomplish stuff I think sometimes that I cannot do.  And right now, I'm not sure I can memorize these tunes . . . this from the woman who has always believed she could do anything if she tried hard enough.  Well, in my heart of hearts I do still believe that, but man - at this juncture, with seven weeks to go until the first competition, I am a little panicked.  I really have my work cut out for me. . .

If anyone would care to help me set this intention and affirm my success, I would be grateful:  I memorize pipe tunes easily, quickly and accurately.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This . . . and That . . .

Not quite sure how it's more than a month since I've written a blog post . . .

It's been an interesting month - the long and short of it, though, is that it's finally not sustainable for me any longer to be strictly an ovo-pescetarian.  I had my annual physical, and although my cholesterol was up just a little from July, my triglycerides continued on the downward trend, and my HDL (the good stuff) continued on the upward trend.  Yay Me!

I'm up about 15 pounds from the end of last year.  This is not a great thing - but as I look at the whole picture, it makes perfect sense to me, and - once again - I am learning more and more about myself, even in middle age.  Yay Me again!  So - what does that actually mean?

Well, as you probably know - and really, who doesn't know this unless they have been living under a rock for the past three months - we had the worst winter in Chicagoland since 1978-79.  I got this shirt . . . and I edited it.

Here's a look in early February:

Here's how I had to go to work most days - and really, I have no idea why I look all happy here, because I was as miserable as sin:

HolyMotherofGod - I'm still not sure it's over.  I mean, there has been no spring here and there is still snow in my backyard.  It was so cold and there was so much snow that it became difficult to be out in it every single day.  I mean, really - I had to walk in it daily and I did my share of comfort eating.  That, coupled with not walking for exercise (my normal routine went to hell) even though I have an awesome new treadmill . . . well, I have no one to blame - wait a minute - this isn't about blame, it's about learning.

Alrighty then - I learned that, much like I seek sweets and carbs when I'm in physical pain, I need to pay attention when my environment is crappy.  In the grand scheme of things, you'd think that this would be a no-brainer.  It wasn't.


Yay Me!!!  I continue to learn.

Even so, I have done some fun stuff in the past few months - Here's the short story  :-)

Missouri Fiber Retreat!!!!

Some fiber, my projects, some books, and yeah, some yarn.  I've done pretty well so far on my Year with My Yarn.  I did buy two skeins in January of a sock yarn that I have been looking for for awhile.  One skein for socks for me, and another for a dear friend.  I felt this was a worthy purchase.  Then, I WON the two charcoal grey skeins you see in the center of the photo - so they don't count - but I did buy the three HPKY skeins to make presents for me and two of my cousins - again seemed like a worthy choice  :-)

The St. Patrick's Day Parade!

My gorgeous city - last night (click to biggify, baby!):

And this morning - bleary-eyed, in the rain:

I'll see about being a better correspondent . . .  :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Here We Go . . .

I just registered with the Midwest Pipe Band Association so I can compete this summer.  Grade 4 for both light music and Piobeareachd.  My kilt fabric is with the kilt maker.  I need to get shoes, a vest, a hat and a shirt and I think a tie, and a sporran.

Part of me feels like I have a screw loose . . .

First games are in Springfield, in May.

Cross your fingers


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Forever Young . . .

I heard this yesterday morning on my way home from the club.  It's been a long time since I've sat in the car and waited for a song to finish - particularly when it's 7 degrees below zero.  But I did.  I listened to the entire song, and it snapped me right back to another time and place . . .

I think of my friend, Franklin, whenever I hear it.  He is the reason that I actually DO all the things I have always wanted to do.  He was my best friend.  It was a different time and a different place - different country. We met each other overseas, and were pretty much inseparable, and when we came back from Germany, he went to New York and then D.C., and I went to Colorado.

I found a loft in lower downtown that I wanted to get and have him come and live with me there.  Neither of us had much money, so I suppose it was little more than a pipe dream, but I often thought that if he had done that, that he might still be here . . .

Oh, we were babies . . .

I was A and he was B (short for Franklin Bear). 20-somethings with our entire lives ahead of us.  We adored each other and we had SO much fun together.  That's a photo of a photo, so it's not a great capture, but it's my favorite shot of us, and I keep it on the wall in my office.  He was directing me in a show (I think he was - but actually I just went and looked this up and he was the production photographer, as he often was).

Me in Denver, and he on the Eastern Seaboard - we used to watch videos on VH1 together on the phone  :-D  It was the early 80's . . . music videos were still young and still pretty wonderful, and we'd get on the phone and watch together and catch up.  Plenty of conversations started with me saying, "B, I met the cutest boy!" and he would say, "Me, too!"

I got married - B came to the wedding.  My then-husband was extremely jealous of him and the time we spent together - which admittedly wasn't much since we lived so far away, but we made the most of the telephone.  And we lived our lives.  I'd go to D.C., usually in March, to visit and play. We lived our lives until one of us didn't any more.

And then it was the 90's . . . and we were 30-somethings, and B was sick.  HIV then was not like it is now - the drug cocktails now do amazing things, and people live with HIV and AIDS.  Back then, they mostly died . . . and that's what B did.  He died.

My heart shattered into a million jagged pieces.

It was the first time I had lost a friend who was my peer.  All the things we both wanted to do - now B would never do them.  He's why I have a list of "Things I Have Always Wanted to Do."  I never call it a bucket list - that's offensive somehow - like you're waiting to die.  It's all about living for me.  I've done a lot of things from my list - learned to play the bagpipes, got a tattoo, bought a Gucci scarf, and drove all of Old Route 66, to name a few.

I made a quilt square for Franklin and went to D.C. for a memorial service.  His partner asked me to speak at the service, but he asked me on the spot and I was completely useless and wasn't able to say anything meaningful.  I've always felt bad about that.  All of his friends there signed the square and then his partner and another long-time friend and I took it to the Mall in D.C., and pinned it into the Names Project Foundation Quilt.  It's in block 07210.

I know it's a little hard to see:
Remember, my sentimental friend
A heart is not judged by how much you love
But by how much you are loved by others.    -  Oz, the Great and Powerful

We Loved You So

I think of Franklin (I can't ever remember calling him Ron :-D) a lot still. To paraphrase a line from Steel Magnolias, he will always be young, he will always be beautiful.  He's never that far away somehow, and he might as well have been in the car with me yesterday . . .