Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Ritual is Always the Same

Earlier this week I got my PNG bill. The ritual is always the same: 1) I open my e-mail ; 2) I see the notification in my in-box; 3) I wince; 4) I open all and any other e-mail, reading each one thoroughly; 5) I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee; 6) I check Facebook; 7) I play a game or two; 8) I look at the clock and discover that it isn’t yet time to go to work; and 9) I finally take a deep breath and open my bill.

There in bold letters were the words: Credit balance. Do NOT pay. right next to a small – but very negative – balance owing. Cool.

On Friday I went to the post office. The ritual is always the same: 1) I go in to the post office and exchange the out-going library mail for the incoming library mail; 2) I wish the clerk a good day and head back out to the area where the mail boxes are; 3) I park Zippy (my mail cart) and open my mail box; 4) I close my empty mail box and go to the library mail box... Okay, so this time it was different. There was mail in my mail box. I reached in and withdrew the latest Knit Picks catalogue.

With shaky hands I started flipping through it. I’ve been waiting for this issue for several weeks and was very nearly ready to give up hope that it would ever arrive. There on page 10, in the bottom left-hand corner, was a photo of my daughter’s feet! And they were – still are, actually – wearing a pair of my socks! My original design was featured as in Independent Designer Pattern for Palette yarn! Super cool!

Today I woke up and began the ritual that is always the same: 1) I stagger into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee; 2) I stagger back to the bathroom and have a shower; 3) I walk back to my bedroom and get dressed; 4) I walk out to the living room and start up Alistair (the laptop); 5) I pour myself a cup of coffee; 5) I settle in to check my e-mail and Facebook; 6) I review my to-do list; 7) I pour myself another cup of coffee; 8) I pick something on my to-do list to do; 9) I sip my coffee and think about it while I waste time playing time-wasting games.

Eventually, however, I do get up and get things done. Today my thing to do was post some new patterns on Raverly. The ritual is always the same: 1) I log into my account; 2) I open the Help page for posting patterns; 3) I read the Help page for posting patterns; 4) I attempt to follow the directions on the Help page for posting patterns; 5) I get frustrated because the process is about as long and tedious and convoluted as a process can be; 6) I utter a few choice words; 7) I pour myself another cup of coffee; 8) I accidentally click on the right thing and something magical occurs that causes my pattern to be posted; 9) I become overly pleased with myself for having achieved this simple goal; 10) I repeat steps 4 through 9.

By then I’d had too much coffee and a pee break was in definite order. What followed the pee break was more of steps 4 through 9 – a veritable roller coaster ride through valleys of aggravation and peaks of joyous relief. Eventually, though, I got four patterns uploaded and linked to my Ravelry store.

And by then it was time for a real break and I made myself some lunch.

While I was eating lunch and browsing the ‘shelves’ at Netflix for my next viewing choice, the tab in my browser for my e-mail account flashed. I looked up to see that I had mail. I opened the tab and there, in my in-box, was a notification that I had sold one of the patterns that I had just posted. Not even an hour had passed since step 9 and I had a sale. Bloody groovy!

Someone bought this pattern from me today!

So far this year I have sold 72 patterns, bringing my grand total for professional designing income to $146.30. Damn that feels good!

To re-cap: 1) a small, but welcome credit on my gas bill; 2) one of my patterns featured in an international knitting catalogue; 3) near-mastery of Ravelry’s pattern posting process; and 4) another pattern sold!

Maybe the ritual isn’t always the same...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thirteen at the Table

I’m not much for cooking. Never have been. Cooking is a chore that holds little appeal for me. My greatest culinary achievement is that I’ve never given anyone food poisoning. (Except myself a couple of months ago with a hotdog of dubious condition, but that was thankfully minor.)

I do have a few specialties. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I make a decent Rouladin; my lasagne is okay; I make a killer Chicken Florentine; my potato and split-pea soups are awesome; my beef stew is delicious; and I have managed to pull off a few not-so-bad turkey dinners in my time. I also make a pretty good tuna casserole and creamed tuna on toast smothered in cheese is one of my favourites. Baking is another story; I like to bake and have been known to pull some really yummy things out of the oven.

So, while I can find my way around the kitchen, I tend to require a detailed map when a meal is the destination. Even then, I tend to meander down improvised routes, taking detours around ingredients my unadventurous palate prefers to avoid – like most cooked veggies. Ugh. My cooking motto is: Cheese fixes almost everything.

Every now and then, I decide to have a dinner. Thanksgiving is often the time when I am drawn into the kitchen with the intention of cooking a meal for a number of invitees. I think I like this holiday because there are no religious connotations attached to it. It’s a nice, friendly, neutral occasion worthy of good food, good wine and good company. This being my first Thanksgiving at Alegria, I decided to take on the task of serving dinner and started tossing out invitations to some of the near and dear with and for whom I wanted to share my table – 12 in all.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that if everyone showed up there would be thirteen at the table. While I’m typically superstitious, thirteen is not a number to which I attach bad luck or ill tidings to. In fact, as numbers go, 13 is a numerologically auspicious number. Like all number energies, it does have its dark side, but so does everything. To be on the safe side, I imbibed my meal with as much five energy as possible. And it paid off with much laughter and jollity. Everyone seemed to have had a good time.

The dinner consisted of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, carrots and buns with pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. A traditional Thanksgiving meal! Except for the part where I tried a few new recipes...

For instance, I brined the turkey. For 24 hours before it went into the oven, the turkey was immersed in a concoction of apple cider, chicken broth, onions and spices. The stuffing, rather than coming safely from a box, bravely combined bread crumbs, chorizo, dried apricots, walnuts, onions, celery, chicken broth and spices. The cranberry sauce was home made with maple syrup, cinnamon and cloves. The gravy incorporated some of the marinade, making for an interesting and unconventional sauce that was just a touch sweet and delightfully different.

All was well until I started to realize that I had no idea how any of this stuff was going to taste. A little ball of panic started to swell in the pit of my stomach. What if it all tasted like crap? What was I thinking, making food that I’ve never tried and had no idea what to expect? The little ball of panic spread and grew. I considered faking the flu and calling the whole thing off at the last minute. But then the first guests arrived and if I hadn’t been committed earlier, I certainly was then! People were gathering in my home, expecting to be fed. And there was no back-up plan if the food turned out bad.

Wine! A glass of Gewurstraminer might help calm the old nerves, all of which were rapidly reaching the snapping point.

More guests arrived. Armed with a chilled glass of wine, I put on a brave face and welcomed them into my home. I began setting them up with wine of their own, or, in the case of some, beer, coolers or coffee. I was relieved to hear things like, “It’s smells delicious!” as coats were hung up and small clusters of people gathered to engage in small talk.

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the moment of truth all too quickly arrived. “Come and get it,” I called past the lump in my throat.

My guests lined up to fill their plates from the buffet-style arrangement. (We didn’t actually sit at a table since that was impossible to do.) They found places to sit and started digging in. I tucked in as well...

It was far from being gastronomically spectacular. But it wasn’t bad. As I looked around, no one was gagging and as plates were cleaned off of food, several people went back for seconds – always a good sign! Conversation was light and much laughter filled the air. Food – and relief – forced the anxiety to abandon its hold on my abdomen. I started to revel in the great company I was surrounded by. If ever I had something to be thankful for, it was this wonderful group of people who dared to share this holiday repast with me.

As for thirteen at the “table,” two guests were unable to make it. So eleven it was. In numerology, 11 is one of the three master numbers (the other two being 22 & 33). It represents a strong foundation on which to build. A higher vibration of the number 2 (1 + 1 = 2), 11 brings harmony to the table – so to speak – with intuitive humanitarianism and sensitive charisma. All-in-all, a good number for a dinner party.

And now I’m looking forward to left-over turkey sandwiches and home-made turkey noodle soup. But first a slice of apple pie for breakfast...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Who am I and What Did I Do With the Old Me?

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Busy, busy, busy… that’s my life at the moment.

I finally got the labyrinth all filled in. Whew! What a job that was, but, oh, so satisfying. I try to walk it every day, even in the rain. And there’s been plenty of that this year.

The apple tree, which I’ve named Hesperia, after one of the three Hesperides that symbolized all the gifts of the apple, produced a ton of fruit. It breaks my heart to have to throw so much of it away. Next year I am going to build a fruit net to catch the apples before they hit the ground. Picking will be much easier and they won’t be gashed on the rocks below the tree. What I can’t use, I’ll donate to the food bank or the community garden. Hopefully, there will be less wasted and more of the great goodness these delicious little orbs contain will be appreciated.

I’ve had so little time to knit. I really miss designing and creating. At the same time, I’ve really enjoyed working on the yard and making the labyrinth. There’s so much to do and so many things that I want to create. Sometimes I still feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, but little, by little things are coming together. I think the yard was given to me to teach me patience! (So many things in my life were and I still haven’t learned!) I still fantasize about having a magic wand that I could wave so that it would all be done instantly. But where’s the satisfaction in that, right? I know that when I do get to it and it is done, I’m going to feel so good about it.

I had to make a couple of executive decisions recently in regard to the yard’s project list. First was to decline an offer to build the fence. It was a tough decision. On one hand, letting someone else do it for me would get it done faster and save me money. On the other hand, I want to do it myself. I want to figure it out and make it myself. I know I can do it. I know it’s going to be hard work and it probably won’t be as pretty as it would if an experience fence-builder did it, but that’s not the point. The point is that I need to do it for myself.

The second decision was to not feel guilty about declining the offer to build the fence. The idea of doing it myself is strangely exciting. I’m going to have to master my fear of skill saws, for one thing. I’m going to have to plan, design, and implement the construction of a major project. I can do this. This should – and does – make me feel good. I’m happy for me. I’m not going to feel bad about feeling good.

As winter looms – we’ve already had snow! – the idea of hunkering down with some yarn and needles is appealing. I’m also starting to make sand candles again and while I wait for the wax to arrive, I’m having fun setting up a little studio in the basement. Between the knitting and the candle-making, I hope to get the wall paper stripped off the wall in the spare bedroom so I can repaint. My handy-dandy steamer thingie should make short work of a dreadful job of painted-over wall paper. (Who does that?!) Post-Yule, I’m planning on laying new flooring down in there as well. I’m going with vinyl flooring in a dark oak colour. And again, I intend to do it myself! (Note to self: add mitre box and saw horses to Yule wish list!)

Speaking of wish lists… mine consists almost entirely of practical, useful things like tools. I’ve already got a cordless drill, a hammer, a tape measure and a level. A skill saw, pliers, mitre box, saw horses are among the growing list of stuff I need/want, as is a set of rims for my summer tires. It’s bizarre! Who am I and what have I done with the old Toni?

Notice that I said ‘old’ and not ‘real.’ Honestly, I feel more real and authentic now than I think I ever have in my whole life. Pending skill saw-mastery aside, life is not as scary as I had convinced myself that it was. It’s exciting, exhilarating, joyously uplifting. Each new challenge makes me feel younger and more alive. Sure there are problems. Certainly there are moments when I want to throw in the towel and go back to my old life. Thankfully, they pass relatively quickly.

The other night while I was meditating, I started to imagine living with someone again. Cooking meals, making lunches, doing laundry, working around someone else’s schedule, sharing space, sharing the remote… ugh! Knowing that when I go home tonight, I can have waffles for supper if I so desire holds enormous appeal. There are no steaks or roasts in my freezer. The potato peeler comes out when I feel like making potato soup. I can have soup for supper! I can wash clothes whenever I want. I can vacuum whenever I want. I watch what I want, when I want. Everything has a place and – here’s the cool part – everything is in the place it has! I love that I know where stuff is. I love it that there are no tools or unfixed bits of unfixed – and often unidentified– things lying around. It’s always good to walk into a neat, tidy, clean house arranged the way I want it.

I play music I like. I burn incense without having to listen to anyone complain. I roll out my Yoga matt or park my butt on my zafu when and where I want without bothering anyone or – again, here’s the cool part – being disturbed.

I’m never bored. Or lonely. Alegria is my sangha!