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Signs of Life

Things are starting to bloom here, even if it’s gloomy and grey today.

The caption above pretty much sums up my week. Things are growing, however slowly. Things are starting to bloom, even if against a grey and stormy backdrop. I want sunlight and brilliant blue skies, but I’m going to have to content myself with pops of petals and gradually warming temps.

This is a metaphor. I want resolution and the tidying of myriad loose ends. What I get is incremental progress, and a chance to practice patience. I’m learning, however slowly. I try to remember that the grey skies and storm clouds water my garden, just like the trials and frustrations help me to grow stronger and more capable of weathering my own storms. Everything has a season…

Peeking through to say hello

It helps to see the little bulbs and bits we planted last fall coming through. Every year I’ve lived here, I’ve planted bulbs in the fall. There are some in the backyard from our first fall here. The next, we planted a row along the front sidewalk. Then another, the third year, along the other side. The fourth year, we filled in some of the gaps in the front two rows. And then, last year, the girls and I moved the planters and put a row of bulbs along the front of the yard by where we usually park our car.

I always have a bit of doubt they’ll come up. It gets so cold and the ground is so hard. In the case of the ones in the back, they’re five years old now. Unless I mark them early, they tend to get trampled right as they’re poking through. We rarely water them, or provide them any kind of care. And yet, every year, they faithfully return to brighten our space and remind me that winter ends. Snowdrops and daffodils and crocuses and tulips, even the occasional hyacinth peeks through to announce that things are thawing out and warming up.

My lichen collection is growing! I should probably start that dye…

In the course of looking for color in nature, I’ve found a few more lichens for my collection. Not sure I have the mental energy for that project yet, but I really ought to do something about the stick pile that’s taking over my porch. We’ll see…

More BFL clouds. I’m absolutely enamored with this fleece!

Beyond that, it has been a reasonably quiet week. I washed more of that beautiful BFL I started last week, and my love for it has only grown. I will be sad to finish it next week. It has given me something to look forward to, and I worry that in its absence, I’ll start dreaming of buying new fleeces (I neither need nor have time/space for much more raw wool at this point!). That said, MDSW is fast approaching… The annual trip! I’d better get my butt back to the studio and get through my current projects if I want to responsibly acquire more. I should put the last bits of “hermit season” to good use.

Puffy Fluff

A happy little BFL cloud from a fleece I started processing this week.

I needed softness this week. Not sure if it was the time change, the full moon, the retrograde, or simply the realities of being a single mother going through a contentious divorce from someone who, well, let’s just say the divorce is merited. Times like these push the worst of my perfectionist buttons. Not only am I struggling in general, I’m facing deliberate headgames and nonsense from an ex who knows just where to cut at me, and, what’s worse, I’m beating myself up for not being perfect through all the chaos.

I can’t help the struggles. Struggles come and go, and that’s how I become stronger. As tempting as the idea can seem sometimes, I can’t really imagine a life without challenges. The older I get, the less I shy away from facing things that scare me, stress me, or push me to level up in some way. This is a tall order as a person with anxiety, but it’s usually worth the risk. The headgames, well, we’re getting a divorce. He’ll keep doing his stuff, and I’ll keep using it to validate all the reasons why a divorce is so very necessary, and has been for a very long time, though I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want a divorce, but I’m starting to understand that it’s the best possible option for me and my children. Living in known toxicity was so draining for all of us; we understand this in terms of chemicals and lead in the water, but leaden emotional connections are just as damaging. We’re so much happier already. I will that would continue, and that we’d keep moving away from unnecessary mess and drama toward a fulfilling, meaningful life. Maybe someday he’ll choose to join us there, but that’s none of my business anymore and I’m done giving him eleventy chances to be decent.

The part of this I can control is that internal monologue that adds a bonus “…and it’s because you suck.” to everything. Side effect of several relationships where I allowed others to blameshift sole responsibility for shared suck onto me. I’m not a perfect person, not by a long stretch, but I’m a decent human. I learn, I change, I put in good work, and I’m committed to evolving and improving until I die (and hopefully that’s some time off still). Part of that has got to be growing a stronger sense of self-worth so I don’t join Team KateHate when people around me try to project their mess onto me. This has been a recurring theme for years now, and I’m still working on it. It’s hard to be soft. It’s hard to be gentle with myself when I fuck up, especially when my mistake(s) get twisted into a narrative that says I’m the only cause of a problem (I am responsible only for my piece). I’m fairly good at seeing my own mistakes and taking responsibility for them, and I need to learn how to do that without shaming and guilting myself for being a human and making mistakes.

And so, this week, I tried to practice softness. To ask for what I needed in a way that respected what I was going through. I had to push back a couple projects, call off a social event, and spend extra time wrangling my tangled brain, and I tried not to give myself guilt and grief for taking the time I needed. I give to EVERYONE, even people who never reciprocate, and it’s time I showed myself the same generosity. I deserve to take gentle, loving care of me, too.

For this week’s wool washing, I picked a “treat fleece” I’d been hoarding. It’s a squishy little BFL, and beautiful, and I’ve been saving it because it’s special. I needed something special just for me, so I decided to open it up and start processing it. It did not disappoint! I have a project in mind for this one, and it’s all for me. Not for work, not for others, not for sale, just for me. I so rarely give that to myself, and I deserve the same care I show others. While I work through this fleece, I’m going to look at all the weird obstacles to self-care that my brain likes to throw in my way, and see what I can do about softening them. There’s a related story about how sobriety has made this so much easier, but I’ll get to that another day. For now, have some fleece progress pics.

Pre-soaking the dirty “fleece noodles”
Scoured and still soggy
Pretty purls to play with

Where Is Spring?

My little lichen pile is growing

Can it be spring now? The last couple of days have been sunny and warm, and I am ready to put the cold and slush and grey behind me! I think we’re due another round of it, unfortunately. March is like that here. But… soon.

Not much to report this week, and I’m grateful for that. I love it when things are steady and quiet. Not “easy”, but reasonably peaceful and that’s always a nice thing. I put a couple of teaching gigs on my calendar; I’m looking forward to doing more of that this year. I’m testing some new project ideas, but they’re not quite ready to share. And then, of course, the usual work of spinning, washing wool, organizing inventory…

Good luck, little dudes!

My seedlings were busting out of their sprouting trays, so I took them outside. I may have sentenced them to a cold end, but I’m hoping they’ll toughen up and survive. We’ll start some direct-seeded neighbors for them this weekend. Maybe something will come of it. In any case, I needed to clear the trays to make room for the tomato and pepper seedlings, which need to be started soon.

I’m not much of a gardener, but I love the idea of it. The girls and I built a pretty good garden for this year. Hopefully the plants will like it as much as we do. If nothing else, we’l learn from what doesn’t work. That seems to be a theme this year…

A Brief Pause

Lovely lichens, moss and mushrooms on a tree near my home

This week, I tried to be kind to myself, practice excellent self-care, and gently expand my world beyond my comfort zone a bit. I applied for a job I probably won’t get, but the practice of applying is good for me, regardless of the outcome. I met a new friend and pushed myself to be social. This isn’t easy for me even during good times, and is particularly challenging when I feel like my life is on fire. But I’m a decent human and a good friend, so I showed up with all my vulnerability on full display. It worked surprisingly well.

Beyond that, I tried to just take it easy. I made getting enough sleep a priority. I took extra walks. I did extra meditations. I simplified the menus this week so that I wouldn’t have to cook and clean as much. I tried to just slow everything down a click. I think it was helpful. I don’t get “breaks” the way that I would if I worked a 9-5, so it’s important to find a sustainable pace and some room to breathe, however that ends up working.

I’ve noticed a lot of lichens lately. I found a particularly lovely one right on the sidewalk a couple weeks back. Ever since, I’ve noticed them on downed branches and the trunks of trees along the trails I walk each day. I took the piece of bark that was on the sidewalk home, but I haven’t taken any more yet. Right now, I’m just noticing them, paying attention to where they like to be, and trying to look them up and figure out which might be suitable for dyework. I don’t exactly need any additional projects right now, but I like the thought of them. If nothing else, they’re beautiful, and they remind me to walk slowly and be fully aware and present so I can find them. Enjoy the calm.

Bit By Bit

And so I begin. Again.

I am late to my Friday post. Apologies. It has been a long week. Dusted off the Aura (literally and otherwise) and decided to begin. Again. I’ve done this before. My hands remember.

Went to court this week to file a response to a proceeding that should never have been filed in the first place. The “don’t wannas” are strong, but I am stronger. I remember this. Grateful for a past life as a paralegal and the functional knowledge of legalese still stored in a dusty corner of my brain. Guess I’d better dust that off, too.

Got up too early this morning to go to the vet with my pup, and then home for a half-day with the kids, and then back to get puppers (she’s fine, but my wallet might die). Alternated between feeling frantic and frazzled, and feeling a sense of calm and gratitude. These are hard things that seem simple; nothing is easy when you’re doing major life-shifting work. I am doing all of these things.

I am tired.

As always, I return to the wheel and the wool. Bit by bit, it all comes together. Bit by bit, the next steps are revealed. Bit by bit, it starts to make sense as a whole.

Untangling The Skein

Pulled this little lovely out of its storage bag. Now I need to reclaim it.

It’s a lovely wheel. It really is. I remember when I bought it. At the urging of my incredibly-talented late friend, Maiysha, I acquired a second wheel. My first was the CS2 I sold last week. It was a good wheel, and perfect for the art-yarn styles of spinning I was interested in, but I wanted something I could do more with, and the CS2 isn’t a good wheel for thin spinning. So… this creature. It’s a Majacraft Aura. It’s lovely, truly. It’s just… Well, it has baggage.

The wheel was kinda sort of a gift from my almost-ex. I say “almost” because we’re not technically divorced yet. It’s complicated, just like my relationship to this wheel. It wasn’t really a gift. Not in the traditional sense. It was timed to arrive around our “wool anniversary”. I told a pretty story about how he’d gotten it for me, and how darling that was. But that’s what it was: a story. The reality was that the wheel was acquired, like so many things, in an attempt to soothe a hurt, and patch a wound, and fill a hole that was only getting deeper by the year. By year seven, our marriage was basically dead in the water. But I continued to prop it, and him, up, and puppet the dead stories around as if there were life in them still. And to prop myself up, to fortify myself against the crushing weight of the sadness and loneliness and deadness in my own being, I bought things. Like the things could make me happy somehow…

Now he’s gone (again). And so are a lot of the things, habits, people and patches for old holes I now have to actually mend. I want to be able to just freely enjoy the dang thing, but I never have. It’s why I fought with the CS2 to spin thinner than it was designed for. The CS2 was something I bought for myself without pretense or a story or a need to convince myself I had an actual happy life and decent partner… a role he possibly never wanted to play anyway. The CS2 didn’t have feelings. This thing definitely does, if not in and of itself, then certainly by virtue of all I’ve projected onto it. And so, like so much of the unraveling and reclaiming I’ve had to do since my husband abandoned the children and I again, I have to confront the reality of this object, as it actually is, and decide what I’m going to do about it.

When my not-yet-ex abandoned us the first time, I found ChumpLady and her brilliant post Untangling the Skein of Fuckedupedness, and I felt seen. I have spent well over a decade of my life trying to decode and unravel and understand the manipulative, abusive, neglectful, hurtful, damaging behaviors that existed in my marriage. I wanted to solve the problem. I think that’s fair, and my intentions were good. I wanted to create the life I wanted for myself and my children and my “happy family”. I wanted it so badly I was willing to lie to myself about what it actually was, and go to great lengths to spin fantastic tales about how things could appear to be, but actually weren’t. The end result, of course, was that I was chronically exhausted in ways I didn’t even realize until he left again and I finally decided to STOP.

So, what to do with that now? Where does the story go from here, and how will it end? And that’s where this tired Yarnie finds herself today: what new yarn to spin from this mess? The only thing I know is that I’ve finally given up hope of untangling that messy skein. It’s not my work to do, and I’d never succeed, no matter how much effort I sank into that work. The owner of that skein of fuckedupedness may like it just the way it is. It’s not for me, and so I move forward, ready to spin my own yarn. Hopefully in a healthier, less codependent way this time.

In less metaphorical news, here’s some actual yarn.

Little Fluffy Clouds

This week’s washed wool: A lamb Cotswold

I sold a wheel this week. Life circumstances are such that I needed the funds more than I needed the wheel. It was an Ashford Country Spinner 2, the first wheel I’d purchased for myself after learning to spin. I learned on a Louet S10, graciously loaned to me by a kind neighbor who taught me how to use it. The CS2 was easier for the art-type yarns I’d fallen in love with making, but has the same tension system as the S10. It was a good wheel, and I enjoyed using it right up to the day I sold it. Its new owner seems to have already fallen in love with it, and named it after me, which was really sweet.

Things here have been tricky lately. There’s a lot going on in my personal life that I don’t blog about, and it tends to muck with my plans in many unfortunate ways. I try to remain hopeful that this, too, shall pass, and that there will be a better normal at some point in the not-to-distant future. For my part, I’m grateful that I’ve established routines and habits that nurture and support me and my family. As a single mom, it’s always a challenge to meet everyone’s needs. For so many years, my needs got pushed aside, or put on “as resources are available” status. No more. Prioritizing my health, in all facets, is critical to the health and well-being of my entire family.

Still haven’t quite figured out how The Yarnicorn is going to fit into that picture. I love what I do, but I worry it may not be enough. For now, I wash the wool, I spin the yarn, I keep up with the industry news… With so much in flux, I really do have to just wait and see. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m excited to see what it may become.

Fluff and stuff

Stripped batts, ready to spin

This has been a demanding week, and I’m glad it’s Friday. There’s a lot of turmoil in my life right now, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of what feels like an endless slog through a dark tunnel that *might* be full of spiders. One of the things that helps to keep me grounded is a daily commitment to spin yarn for 15 minutes. Sometimes, I spin for a lot longer, but on rough days, I set a timer for 15 minutes and then I’m out. The process of spinning yarn is grounding to me, and the softness of good wool is soothing. Playing with bright colors can brighten my mood, and mixing them up shows me of how beauty can be created by contrast.

There’s also a reminder in this practice: little things add up. Keeping each of my “spinning appointments” means I’ll eventually see finished yarn. 15 minutes isn’t much, but over time, it makes many skeins. That’s an important reminder for my brain, which likes to have everything figured out in advance and gets super frustrated when that’s simply not possible. All I have to do is keep showing up and putting in good work, and there will most often be something neat to show for it at the end.

Tension

New singles yarn on the niddy-noddy always looks so perfect! Everything is in order, in straight rows under even tension, and it all looks organized.
But as soon as I let go of that tension knob on the niddy noddy, all of the stored energy in the yarn wakes up and coils and it gets all kinds of chaotic. This is usually when I start to panic that I’ve overspun my yarn and everything is ruined.
Instead of freaking out, I put the new yarn into a warm bath. I have learned that this approach is useful for both yarn freakouts, and human freakouts, too.
And nearly every time, unless something has truly gone wonky, a bath and a bit of adjusting will render even the silliest of singles into a more organized skein. There’s a bit of twist to it still; it’s got no ply to move against, so that twist energy will always give it a bit of direction. But it’s a perfectly serviceable singles skein.
This is one of the things I like best about making yarn. The process is soothing, and a call to be patient, and a lesson in how things are created over time. But there are all these little hidden secrets in it, too. I started for the yarn, but have stayed for the deeper meaning.
Every skein tells a story.

Going Slow

One, leetle BFL/Wens lock at a time…

I wash my fleeces in small batches. My methods are similar to those documented in detail by Deb Robson on her blog. Maybe someday I’ll make my own post, but she’s so thorough in her description that I don’t feel a need to. I use sifting trays, and Unicorn Power Scour (which I sell, because I love it that much). I wash about 12 ounces at a time, because I like to watch how things are going, and I only wash about two trays a day, because my back will complain if I try to carry more. This makes it a fairly slow process.

I am not naturally a fan of slow, which makes a lot of fiber processing an excellent opportunity to practice patience. Rushing a fleece can leave it unclean, if you’re lucky, or felted, if you’re not. It’s the starting point of what will be a time-consuming labor of love. Every time I start a new batch of wool, I have to remind myself to give it the time it needs, from start to finish, so I don’t make waste of it.

I am not from a culture that values slowness. I am American, and our worth is too often measured by our productivity. It’s an ugly trait I’m working hard to unlearn, and I’m grateful that so much of my work naturally lends itself to that unlearning. One of the things I love most about fiber arts is that invitation to move slowly, be fully present, and enjoy each step of the creative process. While I’m still not a patient person, I feel richly rewarded for my practice toward that goal.