Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

Sitting on the couch watching telly, M turned to and very casually asked, “So, what do you want for your birthday then?”  It was Wednesday of last week, and my birthday — a very Significant Birthday — was only a few days away.  The sound of the telly faded from my consciousness abruptly as I looked at him, dumbfounded.

M has not had a good track record these past few years when it comes to my birthday.  He started out just great a decade ago, when love was fresh and the stakes were high, but these days… Well, I haven’t had a birthday or Christmas present from him for about three years running now, except for one book that he grabbed at the grocery store on Christmas Eve.  And not wanting to continue this trend, I have been reminding him of the Significant Birthday almost every day for the last four months.  So it really did stop me cold when he asked his question.

“Youuuu… ummmm…”  Paused, dumbstruck again, and then found my words, “You haven’t bought me a gift yet?!?”  It was said with calm control, but with a rising irritation he could hear plainly.

He decided to play with fire.  “When have I had time to go shopping for a gift?!?”  It’s true that he works practically every hour God sends, but if he thought that kind of logic was going to help his cause in any way, then he clearly did not understand what he was walking into.

I will spare you the full transcript, but suffice to say I flew almost instantly into a full-blown rage, and proceeded to tear strips off him in a manner that he never saw coming.  Honestly!  When did he have time?!?  He’d had the past four months that I’d been reminding him every other day!  No, he’d had the past YEAR, because — conveniently enough — my birthday rolls round with stunning predictability.  I’d even made a wishlist for him and emailed it to him, as well as my sister and my mother.

He made more feeble attempts, pointing out that he barely knows how to use the computer, let alone how to buy off a wishlist…  and I blasted back that he could have asked my sister, my mother, or even ME to walk him through it.  He made noises about me maybe helping him now…  and I nearly spat that it was too late — most everything on my list was obscure enough to need to be back-ordered, almost nothing could be bought now, with my birthday only a few days away.  He’d blown it!  He’d blown it AGAIN!  And that realisation motivated me to really rip into him in earnest, at full volume and with hands waving wildly, and — I’m quite sure — steam blasting out of my ears.

There was no stopping me and he didn’t fight it.  He sat quietly and let me go on and on and on.  And then, at a moment when I paused to draw breath, he said quietly — so quietly I barely noticed he’d spoken — “Could we…  could we just forget this happened?”

I stopped at that.  This is what psychologists call the “rescue moment” — he was trying to rescue this, to claw it back before it really went too far.  He was presenting me with a fork in the road and I could choose which way to go: to follow his lead and rescue this, or to carry on tearing mercilessly into my husband’s psyche.  I thought about it for a moment, and the sensible part of me decided to stop now, to go with the rescue.

But then, just as I opened my mouth to say something mature and calm, I realised what was about to happen.  I would forgive and forget this ever happened, he would rush out the next day and try to buy something… something…  some little trinket or maybe the easiest thing on the wishlist or, heck, a book from the grocery store again…  And on my birthday I’d stick by the bargain and say, ooooh thank you, thank you, and give him a kiss…  And the whole time — the whole stinking time — I’d know that, actually,  he’d forgotten.  Actually, he’d forgotten my birthday again.  So there was no “forgetting this had happened”. It couldn’t be done — the cat was out of the bag, the truth was told:  he  had  forgotten  my  birthday  again, even though this was an Important Birthday, even though I’d been reminding him, even though I’ve been a GOOD WIFE, DAMMIT!  He hadn’t cared enough about me to make as much paltry effort as was needed to just remember my birthday long enough to order a present off a wishlist.  And now I knew it, and there was no “forgetting” that.

And so when I opened my mouth, instead of going with the rescue moment, I let all of that fury and frustration  fall out instead — very loudly and for a very long time.  And when I was done, I turned back to the telly and just sat staring in its general direction and so angry my stomach ached.

M let out a little groan and I looked at him.  His face was twisted, his jaw clenched at an odd angle, and he was looking at the floor.  Then a glance at me.  And then, “No… wait.”  A pause, a deep slow inhale, and then very quickly, all in one breath: “Look, something’s been done.  It’s… it’s been taken care of.”  And then his eyes back to the floor, and an uncomfortable silence.

Suddenly I understood.  He’d got me a gift.  He’d remembered my birthday — not forgotten me at all.  And he’d just been winding me up and it went too far and he’d not known how to pull it back.  But he hadn’t forgotten me at all.

And it was only then that I felt the full strength of how hurt I’d been by his question.  The feeling took me completely by surprise, and churned violently in my stomach, and mixed with the relief and the regret that were washing over me like waves.  I felt suddenly nauseated.  And all that emotion rose up from my gut so fast that I couldn’t contain it — up through my chest and spilled out across my face, mouth open and pulled tight, eyes closed.  And I managed a soft  “oh no!” before it all escaped from me with a sound a little like belch, and I burst into sobs that racked my whole body and revealed, there for him to see, just how much the being forgotten has hurt these past few years.

“Oh no,” he repeated back, so lost for words that he could only borrow my own, and then sat there, helpless beside his blubbering wife, no idea what to do with her.  This what never what he’d intended — he’d only been taking the mick — and now he wasn’t quite sure how it had gone so far.  He’d never meant to hurt me.  He put his arm around me and pulled me in.  I needed that desperately, but there was no outward sign that it help — I couldn’t stop crying.  He let me go, except for one hand that he held, and stared at the floor.  Eventually, I calmed myself down.  We sat for a while, both a bit shell-shocked, and neither of us knowing what to say.


My birthday was absolutely wonderful.  There were balloons and singing and three cakes and my family all around me.  My children presented me with hand-made gifts.    It was not a big celebration, but it was exactly what I’d hoped for.

Led by M into the next room, I spotted a bouquet of balloons first and then, underneath it, a huge box wrapped in flowered paper.  I knew immediately — there was only one thing that would be in a box so big — and the realisation made my lip quiver.  I tore the wrapping off and spotted that I was right.  “Oh sweetheart, look!” my mother exclaimed to my father, “She’s crying!”,  and her announcement embarrassed me sufficiently to stop the tears before they really started.  But the emotion was the same, and I was overwhelmed.  “Something’s been done,” he’d said and, indeed, something had.  It was the Lendrum spinning wheel I’ve been coveting for a year; the wheel with an 18-month waiting list, and my mother had had to ring a dozen places before she found one in stock; the wheel we couldn’t afford.  I pulled to from the box, put it together there and then, treadled and felt the silky movement of the mechanism, wished for fiber and spun air instead.  Over the moon!  Over the bloody chuffing moon and not knowing how to really tell them all properly and just hoping they could tell by the trance I was in.

Later, after my family had gone back into the kitchen to pick at the leftovers and I was still sat treadling, M came in and knelt next to me.  “Do you like it?”

“Yes!”, with shock and incredulity plain in my voice, feet still treadling, hands spinning air.

“The thing is…  we, um…”  He took my hands.  “I have to pay my portion of it.  Ummm…  I owe your mum.  I don’t really know where that’s going to come from.”  He had to tell me, because I handle the finances and, when money has to be found, I am the one who finds it.

But I didn’t mind, because he hadn’t forgotten me.  He’d got me my heart’s desire, taken that plunge even when he didn’t know how he’d pay for it.  He could have been sensible and bought a book from the list, but he hadn’t.   He’d bought me what he knew I really wanted because he loves me, and love is not sensible.  It was never about the gift — it was about being remembered.

And that was what I’d needed — what I’d been needing for a long time.  And now, to his surprise, I could offer back a little of what he needed.  “I have something we can put toward it, ” I said, as he looked up with surprise.  “About half of it.”  Because I’d gone to my knitting group earlier in the week and cards had suddenly appeared, and some of those cards contained money from new friends who had read my previous post and had taken the opportunity to act like old friends.  “It’s for your Lendrum fund,” one had said, and I nearly cried there too, stunned by their generosity.

There were loud voices from the kitchen and then laughter, and I felt a warmth rush over me.  There is much in our lives that we have to worry about but, at that moment, none of it was touching me.  I had my family gathered around me, a husband who (secretly) loves me, and — after a long time — I have some friends.

And those things alone were gift enough.  But then, there was also the brand new Lendrum, whirring away softly at my feet.

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I have a little announcement to make…  No wait!  Close your mouth — I’m not pregnant.  In fact, I could make this announcement even more shocking than that if I followed the lead of a friend of mine who made my announcement in an email to her friends with the opening words, “Strawberry is dying!”

I’m not.  She’d misspelled it.

The thing is, you all know that ever since I left my job to become a stay-at-home mum, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do when I eventually go back to work.  Knowing I didn’t want to go back to what I did previously, I’ve spent several years casting about for what might be the right career to go into.   Well, this is not it, but it is an itty-bitty baby step toward doing something I love.  A tiny step, and a huge step all at the same time.  And I am immensely excited about it.

I have been dyeing lately, quite a lot — that’s dyeing with an ‘e’  — and at some friends’ very enthusiastic encouragement, I have opened a shop on Etsy, called SpaceCadet Creations, where I sell my hand-dyed yarns and fiber.  Take a look:

I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited in a long time.  Mixing the colours myself (from the three primaries and black), seeing the results come out of the dyepot, putting the yarns and fiber up on Etsy, getting the email to say that someone has bought my stuff…  It feels fantastic.  When I grow up, I want to do a job that I love doing, and this — opening this shop, taking one bold baby-step towards that goal — has made me feel that that might actually be possible, for the first time in a long time.

Come, have a look at my shop and dance a little excited-dance with me!  And if you know anyone — anyone at all — who knits, spins, felts, or crochets, please, please send them my way.

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It started with a knitting group on Friday night — a chance to get away for a couple of hours, to sit amongst adults, with busy hands and lively chatter, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I came home fresh and energised.

And though I would be up later that night three times with one child and twice with the other, it mattered not one jot to me.  Because later that next day, I headed off across the city, with my wheel in the boot and the wind at my back, to sit in the company of other spinners — accomplished, inspiring fibre artists — and spin until I had…  well, not my fill — I could have spun all night — but as long as I dared stay away from the chaos that I was sure was in full swing at home.  But though I wrenched myself away early, I walked back to the car newly calm and feeling so empowered that I was almost high.  And when I got home, I found — to my utter shock — a happy husband playing happy children, who never got their nap because, as it turned out, he was enjoying being with them.  I glanced out the window to check that the Earth was still spinning on its axis.

And then he surprised me again: my mother would be arriving in an couple of hours and we — he and me — were going out to the pub, where we drank and chatted and laughed as if…  as if we remembered who we were again.  And I remembered that I really do enjoy his company — and realised how much I’d forgotten that.  And I remembered that we are each other’s best friend.

For the first time in months, I felt like myself again.  I felt like I knew who I was again.  And just like that, I have hope and enthusiasm and energy — even through the kids playing up, even when I sat down to balance the bills against the bank account…  Just like that, I feel like I can take on the world.

So if that is being myself again, then who have I been this past year?  Who has M been?  I don’t know, but I know I’d be glad to see the back of both of them.  Because being in my own skin again this weekend just felt so good.

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I had a little reminder this weekend of who I am — who I really am, grown-up me, when I’m not ever-fraught mummy, best-supporting spouse, finance-and-household officer, lost-and-confused nomad. When I am just me, the way I was —oh! — so many years ago. This weekend, we took my sister’s car back to her and combined it with a side-trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

That I spent more money than I had budgeted for, or even that I had to spend, was no matter. That my mother and sister and dear children were bored, hot, and exhausted made no difference to me at all. That there was next to nothing that I could eat and so I went all day so little food that it would have normally had me shaking with hunger was no problem. I was in my element, I was beside myself with excitement, I felt like myself again — it was marvelous! My sister looked at my face at one point and laughed out loud. “You look crazed!” she said. “You’re so excited. You’re like a kid!”

And, looking back, it taught me a few things as well. I realised just how much I need to make a bit of time each day to do something for me, something that makes me feel productive, creative, and which I love (…besides raising my daughters — which I do love with all my soul, but you know what I mean). I don’t get that time these days — hardly ever — and I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I was immersed in so many things I’d love to spend that time doing, if only I had it again.

I realised I am in serious need of some local fibre-friends who really get what this means to me. And, so I don’t have to subject my poor family to any more long, hot, dirty days at the county fairgrounds, surrounded by bleating sheep and a frenzied me. They were patient, but we were on two different planets.

And… I realised that when it’s time to go back to work (which M increasingly is hinting is now), I need to do everything I can to find a job that really fulfills me. I want to work in a field that leaves me feeling as alive inside as I felt this weekend, something that permeates my dreams the way it did, something that inspires me so much that I would forgo precious sleep and get up 3 hours early just in order to go back on my own for more. I dread the thought of going back to work because I dreaded the work I used to do. I want to love my work. I want to be productive and creative and passionate about my work. I want that heart-pounding, mouth-salivating excitement that I felt this weekend.

I have no idea how I’ll pull that off. But I am old enough now, and experienced enough, to know that I don’t want to settle for anything less.

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Yesterday had the potential to be a bad, bad day — we let two planes take off with empty seats which could have taken us home, while we stayed here on the ground — but it turned out, on balance, to be a pretty good day. And here’s why…

I spoke to someone other than my mother, my husband, and/or my daughters for the first time in nearly six weeks, and it felt fantastic. I had been told there was a knitting group that met in the church at the end of the road and I was waffling about whether I wanted to go. I mean, I knew I wanted to go — I’m a knitter, so a knitting group is just my cup of tea — but it can be a wee bit difficult to walk into a group of strangers on your own, and the unsettling combination of unfamiliarity and insularity which has characterised the whole last month just made it seem all the more daunting. It would be easy to tell myself that the girls need me tonight, or it’s too cold, or too snowy, or I’m too tired… But I didn’t. Before I had even had time to argue with myself, I threw on my coat and boots and stepped out the door.

The air was so cold that I could feel it enter my lungs. The snow crunched underfoot, and everything looked purpleish in the moonlight. It felt good to be out — I suddenly realised how much I’ve missed walking — and it felt good to be out on my own. When I got to the church, I found the group with ease and they were instantly welcoming — introducing themselves, giving me a chair, and then asking me a million and one get-to-know-you questions. The room was incredibly comfortable and knittery — so well-appointed that it could easily have been in a turn-of-the-century National Trust property: big fireplace, high-backed chairs, leaded windows. The lady next to me mentioned her food allergies and the conversation turned to organic foods, CSAs, the evils of high-fructose corn-syrup, and the joys of Greek yoghurt. I was in my element. I had a wonderful time.

The other great joy was that E2 gave her first kiss yesterday. If you have never experienced it, I don’t think I can adequately describe the joy that you feel when your child gives you that first, tiny, spontaneous reflection of the love you have been pouring out to her — hour by hour, day into night — since the moment she was born. When that kiss comes, and you comprehend — with shock — what it was, you suddenly realise how lopsided that first year of motherhood is, how much you give love without any sign of it returned, and just how much you’ve wanted that kiss, without ever having been aware of it. For me, with both my daughters, that first kiss was the very best moment.

Granted, it wasn’t much of kiss. Babies don’t have very good depth perception when it comes to kisses, it seems. And E2 is certainly confused as to the required lip configuration for the exercise. So, rather than the loving, gentle kiss between child and mother which you have probably conjured up in your mind, it was more of a badly-aimed, open-mouthed lunge in the general direction of Mummy’s lips — or maybe nose — that resulted in something rather more like a slurp than a pucker, and left teethmarks to boot.

Never mind — we parents aren’t fussy. We requested kiss after kiss after kiss, and she obliged, overjoyed to have found something that so delighted the two most important people in her life, and giggling with abandon between each wild lunge. It was a giddy five minutes that we repeated at every opportunity for the rest of the day.

And it changed what could have been a day that we look back on with regret into one that we will forever remember with silly grins on our faces.

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