women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Friday, November 30, 2007


**Scroll to the end if you want to skip the unsolicited advice and go directly to the knitting content. **
(No. You do NOT get to collect $200 as you pass GO.)

Yesterday I ate an oatmeal cookie and a banana for breakfast...

at 12:30 p.m.

I had some crostini with Alouette light garlic & herb cheese spread and a half pint of raspberries for lunch...

at 4:45 p.m.

I opened the freezer door at 10:00 and had a frozen malt cup...

Yup, you guessed it...


Clearly structure is not my strong suit. This drives my husband crazy. He eats lunch at 12:00 on the dot, wants dinner on the table at 6:00, and goes to bed every night at 11:00, watching the news and Jay Leno's opening monologue before turning out the light.

Me? I'm just as likely to be found downstairs working my way through a thorny design issue, catching up on my blog buddies, or playing a game on my computer.

Structure is an interesting thing. Too little structure and we become jellyfish; too much and we turn into ramrods.

Backbone is good; stiff, not so much.

Flexibility is desired; spinelessness leaves something to be.

A few years back, I had opportunity to be employed part time as a bank teller. The closer I came to accepting the job, the more anxiety I felt. I finally turned down the position, not sure why I felt driven to withdraw my name from contention.

Looking back, I see clearly: I didn't want to give up the control I had over my own schedule. Over the years of raising children, running the Arts Chorale, and attending seminary, I had gotten used to a fairly large amount of autonomy that I wasn't ready to give up.

Yes, I had class times and homework deadlines, and the kids had nap schedules when they were small, and if a grant was due by 5:00 on June 15th, by God, you'd better not be late.

But I determined the order in which things got done; I juggled the tasks, keeping all the balls in the air (or picking them up if and when they dropped, as they inevitably did); I set the goals and decided the amount of structure necessary to see them through.

And the thought of having someone else dictate that gave me hives.

I am lucky enough to work with the man who freed me from my self-imposed structure (and let me tell you, it was rigid. It had me by the throat and its stranglehold on my life sent me right down into the black hole of depression.) Greg taught me how to "ride" my life instead of driving it. He taught me to live in the moment, to listen to my inner voice, to cultivate presence, to "be still and know that I am God."

There has been a lot of chatter this week about Amy's post on what brings joy. Not pleasure, which, in today's world of instant gratification, is often confused with joy. Nor happiness, which can be easily compromised by unpleasant realities and immutable tragedies.

But joy. True, abundant, transformative, ennobling, transcendent, and abiding joy.

Your answer will be different than mine, but mine depends upon a certain level of openness. The kind of openness that manifests itself in what my husband would surely find an unacceptable lack of structure.

As Greg and I write in Soulful Parent Soulful Teen:

"The essentials of life are not transitory things that bring momentary happiness, but rather the enduring elements of divine existence - peace, unity, faith, compassion, selflessness, harmony, gratitude, and love. Here we find peace that passes all understanding, peace that sustains us - whether we’re happy or not. The quest for happiness loses its urgency as we stop straining toward something to satisfy our desire and find rest and repose in the transcendent tranquility of love."

"Relaxing our iron grip, we no longer claw at the future, but release to God what belongs with God. It isn’t easy to let go. But the difficulty of our attempt leads to a greater understanding of our children’s struggle for independence and individuation. We know the territory and can help them find their way to their own understanding of grace.Once we accept this struggle as normal, we can begin to address the true goals of parenting adolescents, which are: assessing the realities of a situation, offering appropriate support, structure, and guidance, and getting out of the way"

There's that word again: structure. What is "appropriate structure?" That can be a tough question for anyone. And not just parents of teenagers. Anyone.

Structure is a key component to design. Too much and the house looks clunky, the dress stands by itself, the painting looks like a photograph. Too little and the roof falls in, the sweater stretches out and loses its shape, the photograph looks like a painting.

(Impressionism is good in painting. Less so in photography. Were it not so, some of my efforts would be masterpieces!)

Lace is all about structure. Without the proper stitches we have a jumbled mess. But it is also about openness, ergo the bloom of a piece once it has been soaked and blocked.

For example, I have been working on a design for a lace coat. The fiber is Malabr
igo lace, the color is a lovely shade of green, the gauge is very fine. I want the coat to float delicately. That requires single stranding and a fairly open stitch pattern.

t I also want the coat to maintain its lines, not to sag or bag in crucial areas. I want a rolled shawl collar, not too stiff, but not droopy either. That might dictate double stranding and/or a more compacted stitch.

I tried double stranding an Ivy pattern, but it seemed too large and clunky.

I tried the same pattern single stranded (getting closer, but too many open holes. Not durable enough.

An offset leaf pattern was
too dense.

In desperation, I tried an allover pattern. Nice but too tight.

But knit on larger needles t
han the yarn warranted and subsequently blocked out, it positively bloomed into just the right stitch. Just enough structure, but not too much.

Now I needed to give it some bones:

This leafy p
attern for the edges

And this one for inserts to give the piece a stronger vertical line

Both the leaf patterns will be worked double stranded, while the overall pattern will be single stranded.

Delicate, yet disciplined.

Strong, yet ethereal

Structured, yet flexible.

Now that I have assessed the realities, provided appropriate structure, and gotten out of the way, I think I'll see what's in the fridge...

Even if it is only 2:00 in the afternoon.

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