On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Made a Mess? Frog it!

I've recently been working on a knitting project which promises to anticipate my time in purgatory. I have, so far, ripped back the body of the sweater three times. The first time it represented 8 inches of knitting (on roughly 240 stitches), the second time 20 inches of knitting, and the last time (so far) about 15 inches of knitting. I have also ripped out one attempt at a sleeve (although I have both sleeves knit at this point). In short, I've already done more than one sweater's worth of knitting, yet the sweater is nowhere near completion. I had hoped to finish it by Thanksgiving, but that's looking more and more doubtful.

Now part of the ripping back is due to a certain type of perfectionism not seen in most of my life (the second time), but the first and third ripping backs were due to some actual mistakes that would have altered the shape of things (a twisted first row does not produce a wearable sweater, although I suppose I could be going for a new fashion statement and a right seam that is a half an inch away from where it should actually be would definitely alter the drape of the sweater). My husband, watching me start again after the second frogging said he didn't think he'd have the patience to do it. I didn't even admit to him or my son that I'd had to rip out that attempt as well.

Sometimes life feels a bit like this sweater. You work as hard as you can, do the very best you think you can do, and things still don't turn out the way you anticipate. So you have two choices, you can give up, move on , don't try harder, or you can heave an enormous sigh and start over again. The starting over again is a bit easier with knitting, although I'm not sure my yarn is going to look the same without washing if I had to do it a fourth time, but even in the rest of our lives it is possible. There's a reason why marriage vows include the words for better or worse. We don't have the option of opting out when our spouse does something we find unacceptable. We don't have the option of opting out when they no longer look like they did at the altar. That's why parents are supposed to love unconditionally. We don't get to throw away the kid that didn't turn out according to our expectations. We only get to love them more and try to see in them the unique person that God created.

Re-knitting is not without pain. In order to get this project done anywhere close to my original deadline I'm spending some of my knitting time with sore joints. It's stopped being a stress reliever and become the source of a bit of stress. Yet in the end I'm going to have a sweater with a better design than I would have had at the beginning. I've discovered a better way to make the sweater drape properly, I've figured out better placement of the seams, the whole process is making me a better knitter (although spending two hours obsessively counting stitches to get the stitch count between seams right probably only made me learn buckets of patience) and teaching me some lessons about careful beginnings.

I wouldn't have been this obsessive if the sweater were for me. I've fudged lots of things on my sweaters and lived with them. This sweater is for someone else, someone I love, someone who deserves my best., not a "good enough." Our lives are like that too. We are not our own, we are bought with a price and as servants of our Lord we need to be willing to start over as many times as needed. In the end, this sweater won't be an example of a perfect sweater. There will be lots of knitters who could do it better. It will only be the best sweater I could make with the design and the materials I had. In the end, I won't be a perfect person. I won't ever be the Blessed Mother or Saint Therese. The question is will I be the best person I could be given my make-up and my history. The jury's still out on that one. I try to remind myself of Father Harl0w's admonition that we should all be striving to be saints. So far following that admonition has required lots and lots of frogging.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Knitting Fever

That's what anyone would think I had to have seen me lately. I've surrounded myself, since right before the election, with knitting books, knitting needles, yarn and a huge knitting project. I've tried to avoid political blogs and have mostly gone to knitting blogs (although I've had to escape from some of them because they suddenly went political on me). The end result is a 3/4 finished project and a sore right wrist. Consequently,. today I am avoiding knitting (at least the actual doing of it) while the wrist recuperates. Apparently, knitting for 8 hours a day for three days (at least) in a row isn't good for arthritic joints. However, since I'm now at the big decision point in the project (having nearly run out of matching yarn, what will I do with the yoke of this sweater?) it is a good place to take a break. Now if I can just find some more books about knitting to read while I'm on hiatus from actual knitting.

I apparently am a woman of few addictions: reading, chocolate, knitting and tea, not necessarily in that order. It's too bad I'm not quite as addicted to putting away the clean laundry...

So right now, I guess I'd better confine myself to tea and reading. If I throw in much chocolate I'm going to put on unwanted pounds and if I try to knit I'm simply going to make the wrist hurt more which doesn't exactly have the stress relieving effect for which I was aiming.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They REALLY were wise

I just watched at short video at:www.glumbert.com/media/dangerchild that discussed dangerous things you should let your children do. My in-laws let their kids (especially my husband and his brother) do all of them (except the one with the computer stuff because computers weren't available yet). We let our kids do most of them as well as a few things that weren't mentioned (like sticking their hands inside of sheep or leading full grown rams). I'm sure my kids were allowed to do some of those things mainly because my in-laws allowed it. In this particular case I think it may have been more my father-in-law's wisdom since my mother-in-law was a more timid sort. Anyway you might find the video fun and it might inspire you to let your kids have a fire or a pocket knife.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sort of a Newsbreak

For most of my family this is old news. For some of my internet friends, this is old news. Just in case it's not old news to you... We're expecting a grandbaby come sometime in May. We're excited to say the least. It's incredibly cool to now be related not just by marriage but by blood as well to our terrific son-in-law. Please pray for mother and baby and for the father as well.

When Does Wisdom Come?

When I got married my new mother-in-law was about the age I am now. I didn't realize initially how wise she was, or how much I was learning from her. It took a number of years for me to figure out that this woman who saw things very differently from me on a lot of issues had an enormous wealth of wisdom to share. If she were here today and still able to argue and discuss, we still wouldn't see eye to eye on everything. There would be areas where I'd changed her mind, areas where she'd changed mind and areas where we agreed to disagree. Sometimes I think that I learned so much from her, from my own mom, from Aunt Drucilla, from my Uncle Stanley, from some of my favorite writers that I must be a little bit wise now. On other days and there've been a lot of them lately, I simply don't feel very wise at all.

My mother-in-law learned a lot of lessons in endurance while she was hospitalized for TB. I learned a lot of lessons in endurance when I was hospitalized before the birth of my daughter. I thought I'd learned all the lessons in patience etc. then. But I hadn't. As it turned out she hadn't either. She had long lessons in endurance to learn when my father-in-law was diagnosed with lupus, when she herself was diagnosed with cancer, when my brother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes. I suspect that there were lots of days when she was tempted to bug out. But she didn't. I doubt that she knew she was being trained in wisdom through all those years. I doubt that she ever knew how much her lessons of wisdom meant to me. I doubt that anyone knows how much I miss her now and wish that I could talk with her again.

Perhaps it's the month of November when we think about departed souls. Perhaps it's having been to the cemetery this week. Perhaps it's feeling this overwhelming sense that I honestly don't have the wisdom to deal with some of what life has thrown at me that makes me miss my mother-in-law, my mother, my sister. Right now being the oldest person in the family is not a particularly happy thing to be. I don't feel wise, I don't feel competent, I feel like I need those older women in my life who are no longer here. As I said in a post back in January, I don't feel so smart anymore.

So why was Ma so smart at an age where I'm not. Did she know she was wise? What made her wise? From whence does wisdom come anyway?

Sometimes it would be easier to be 25 again and sure I knew all the answers. I try to remind myself that thinking you know the answers when you really don't is no substitute for true wisdom, but it certainly does give one a sense of assurance and competence that I honestly no longer feel.

It's been a rough week, even my knitting has not gone well. I just had to frog nearly 8 inches of my newest project (all the way back to the beginning) because my gauge was seriously off and the resulting project was going to be far smaller than I intended. So assurance and competence just doesn't seem to be on the schedule this week. But, I fully intend to pick up the needles and yarn and begin again. The frogging gives me a chance to rethink the whole project a bit. I'm going to begin it differently because I didn't really like the beginning rows anyway. Perhaps there's wisdom in not giving up on a project when you hit snags, even if you do have to do a lot of frogging and re-knitting. I'm going back to reading the Yarn Harlot again because it seems to me that she understands both knitting and philosophy, even if I don't necessarily agree with her politics.

Hopefully the next time I write I'll at least be making progress with the knitting even if wisdom is still an illusive dream.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Calling All Saints

This is a day to call upon all the saints to pray for our country. In particular I should ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, Saint Therese, Saint Catherine of Sienna, St. Margaret Clitheroe, Saint Thomas More, and St. Jude.