Saturday, April 21, 2018

Moving from Dream it to Living it

Motivation and children, motivation and employees, motivation and is a topic that takes up a whole lot of mind and soul space for me. I can feel the power of it, and feel the urge to change, to do, and know, at the same time, that when it comes down to the mountains of effort required to move that hill, there are many times when I might choose to do the dishes instead, or read a book, or finish a knitting project. But I never, ever falter in my belief that the impossible-sounding is really doable, really just waiting to be done, and sometimes I DO do it. I never, ever question the enormous potential we all have to completely turn the world upside down.

As to motivating someone else, helping them to see and claim their own potential...this is what I want most. I see the world that we could have, and the joy we could each find in life every day, if we opened our eyes to that gift sitting right in front of us. Ah, but what specifically am I doing to bring this to my children, spouse, siblings, parents, nephews, nieces, friends?

Mostly, bugging the begeezers out of them lecturing, explaining, pushing, encouraging, and, doing my best to model. Today, dear reader, it is your turn. Here are a few of my favorite sources, quotes, etc, just for you:

Thich Nhat Hanh: Start here, with an in-breath: "Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion."

The real Winston Churchill quote; (I have always liked the misquote; "never, never, never give up." but the true one is this:) "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in anything large or small, great or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honor or good sense."

And Rumi: "The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Do not go back to sleep."

A ten-minute talk by a guy named Astro; You won't regret listening to this one, it is so short and so cool. /

Seth Godin: "I think the most productive thing to do during times of change is to be your best self, not the best version of someone else."

Arianna Huffington: "Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."

In case the jury is still out for you, let's end with Abigail Adams, a truly remarkable woman of her time...and all time: "I have always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view that he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Destination: France...and Ireland!

It has been four years since we visited family in France, and it is over-due. This year, we will set out with only three children, how strange that they grew up and into their own lives this quickly, and how good too. Cate will actually meet us there, as she has earned a grant to conduct her own research project in France this summer. It is always good to spend time in France, and always so hard to leave again.  What I am also looking forward to is a little three-day leg of the journey in Ireland...I have always dreamed of seeing this ancestral homeland. Just like a large percentage of the population of the US, my family has a lot of Irish in us. Even my husband has adopted his right to claim Irishness (by marriage and by love of a good brew).

Thierry discovered, in his own travels back and forth, that the easiest way to survive the whole customs and passport process was to travel through Dublin. He has found it so very less tedious, that he insisted we find a flight that took this route to France. The discussion may have taken on a "fine, then YOU book the trip, honey." It was tricky, because it seems there was not a way to book a three-day layover on the way home. If I have to fly through Dublin, I figured we might as well take a look around for five minutes, right? 

In the end, about three months after the beginning of the proceedings, I did my research and became the travel agent of the family again. My homeschooler, Gael and I, had been listening to "Ireland, a History," by Thomas Bartlett. He absolutely wants to visit New Grange, I know we have to see Galway, so flying back out of Shannon made more sense than sticking around Dublin the whole time.
In what had begun as a private session between my computer and myself, but ended up in bad couples therapy, I simply booked from here to Bordeaux, via Dublin, then a return ticket out of Shannon, back home, ignoring, for the moment, that we had no way of getting back to Ireland from France. I had confidence it would all work out just fine.

True, the last time I did that for Paris, we ended up hauling seven suitcases up and down a million metro and train staircases to take train upon subway upon train, to get from one end to the other. Oh, and there was a subway strike that further prolonged the journey. Fortunately, no one bothered to blame me for the plans gone a bit wonky, they were too excited to be in Paris. The time before that, we went through London, the cheapest way, and got stranded because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. One adventure after another. My most-observant husband, breathing down my neck as I was triumphantly hitting "BOOK" on the screen, almost had heart-complications. He gasped, "but wait; you don't have a flight from Bordeaux to Shannon; hey; how are we getting back to Ireland? Wait!" Click, done.

"Honey, I'll figure it out; look; the return flight was only $400, what a deal! We'll drive, take a train, a ferry or a bus or whatever, chill." Half an hour later, during my son's viola lesson, I calmly booked five tickets for Bordeaux-Dublin (there is no flight for Bordeaux-Shannon), and a rental car to get from there to the other side of the island (a whole two hours), and then on to the airport to return home. The small detail that we have never driven a car on the "wrong" side of the road did not elude Thierry. I figured we might have a lesson or two at a British driving school in France while we were there. I guess I should go figure out if such a thing exists, right? Ooo; or maybe an IRISH driving school; beers following the lesson. That should do it.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Gauge, a Knitting Tutorial

I can't fix everything, but I can rip and repeat, something not all knitters love to do. You can consider it an opportunity real life seldom offers; a chance to redo, make it better, prettier, before presenting it to the world/recipient. Each day, we wake up with a chance to make this one a better day. Each knitting project, in theory, can be undone and reknitted. (But I draw the line at ever frogging this one.) Here is a recent project, a three-piece set in an accidental three size differentiation.

Pretty, huh? And that quilt in the background? It was made for baby Charles, by a dear friend I knew through a parenting group, a family treasure. Sadly, the layette set I so happily knitted with gauzy dreams of a future baby in mind, is made up of at least three different sizes. There is no baby that is going to be wearing all three pieces at the same time...a question of gauge gone wrong.

What can I say? I found the yarn in a cute shop in Estes Park, just before heading home with five kids in the car. I quickly downloaded a cardigan pattern before I lost all possibility of doing so, and got to knitting. 

Of course, I knit a swatch and checked my gauge before beginning. No I did not. It was for a baby, any baby, how much could gauge matter? It would fit at some age, very briefly, then be passed on to another baby who would be at the right size for about 2 and a half minutes as well. News for me; this sweater would fit a small premie, maybe, or a large doll. Dang. Let's fix this.
First problem; the bottom ribbing is clearly sloppy and loosy-goosy. Need: smaller needles. Always use 1-2 sizes smaller needles for a project's ribbing.

First; before unknitting, use what you've got. Take a ruler and measure the gauge you had with this needle and this yarn. Take a look at your knitting; how did this gauge work out for how you want the piece to look? Measure the dimensions of the piece you achieved with these needles this time through. Compare it with the size of the object you desire, if you want it to fit anyone. Take notes.

To measure gauge: use a sample, ideally, of at least 4" by 4", or 10cm by 10cm. Flatten out the swatch, no stretching, pulling or pushing, and, using a ruler (tape measures can stretch and move, I like rulers better), measure how many stitches you can count in the middle of your swatch in a 1" section. To be more precise, measure across several inches and divide it by that number. DO include half and partial stitches in your overall count. This is your gauge. 

Make a decision, take a deep breath, then frog the whole thing. Eat a large piece of chocolate. It will help, it really will.

Then choose a different needle, and/or change the pattern dimensions; a size up, if you like the look of the gauge you achieved. Maybe I had a limited selection of needles in the car, perhaps I cast on at the neck and that ribbing looked OK, so I did not question it once I arrived at the bottom. Maybe I used different needles for the bottom any case, I will switch to size 1's for the ribbing this time around, as the sweater and hat were knit with size 3's, and clearly, the ribbing should not be. And, for sure, the pattern instructions for this yarn and these needles and my tension, did not produce the right size. 

Once you have measured and compared and NOTED, you have a choice. You may proceed using your pattern, simply going up a size, or you may use your own judgment and measuring skills to decide how many stitches you need to cast on in order to achieve the size you require. For best results, measure the person in question and multiply your gauge by their size, plus an inch for give, if the object in question is a sweater.

Let us say, for instance, that the circumference of the small person's chest is 20" around. Your swatch says you have knit, with this yarn and these needles, a gauge of 6 stitches per inch. To obtain the correct size, you add in an inch for give, then multiply 21X6, for a total number of stitches to cast on of 126.

You do, however, need to knit your swatch in the same way you mean to knit the garment; if you will knit it in the round, knit the swatch in the round. If this seems like a lot of work, just think that a swatch knit in the round, as Elizabeth Zimmerman liked to point out, can be made into a hat; you get two for the price of one. If it will include cables, you had better include cables in the swatch, they take up room and can shrink a knitted piece by quite a bit. A flat, cabled swatch makes a pretty wash cloth. Accuracy comes from paying attention.

If it is for a baby not yet born or it is a surprise or you are knitting for someone who lives far away, here is my best hint ever: go to Ravelry. Read the reviews you can find on the pattern you have chosen. Ravelry is the best thing that has happened to the world of knitting and crocheting since Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker. If you are not familiar with it, check it out and sign up for a free account.

On Ravelry, you can search and find a list (with photos) of any project you might ever have dreamed of crafting. You can click on the photo and find out what yarn, pattern and needles were used, what the knitter thought of the pattern, and, if you wish, a short bio of the person who did the handwork. You can send messages and store your projects (finished and future) in your own little box. You can even find a skein of yarn for that awful moment when you realize the yarn you begun a project with three years ago is no longer available, and that you will not have enough to finish it, and some kind soul is willing to ship it to you, for free, from Germany...true story. 

Look me up if you stop by; on Ravelry, I am deartricot. You can post your own name in comments too.

Happy knitting!