Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Funny


Life doesn't always turn out the way we want,  we know that.   But the funny thing is, sometimes that's because the things we really want aren't the things we think we want, or don't come the way we expect.   

I always wanted to live in a certain kind of place, a more country place, a prettier landscape.   In fact, living in a pretty place where I could do the homey country-things I like to do was on my bucket list.   I have spent time in Massachusetts and Sanibel Island and the west coast and Italy, and in a variety of cities in Michigan, and I guess I could have lived in any of those places.    Instead I live in Saginaw, Michigan, probably not on too many top ten Pretty Lists.   And yet, for the first time in my life, I am doing more things that fit my fantasy of where I wanted to live than I ever did when I was spending lots of time in the picture postcard places I thought I wanted.    I've lived in far prettier places, but here I am doing the outdoor things that I thought I needed a pretty place to get to.    Funny.

I always wanted to have work where I felt Uselful.   And now I have a job where some days I feel completely useless but on others I am almost overwhelmed with the needs that people place on me.    Being useful in spurts has taught me that my life lacks balance and I struggle with ways to smooth it out.    There's a lot of pressure in usefulness.  Three years in, I often feel like I need to shift back to work that has less value just to escape the roller coaster of emotion.   Funny.

I always wanted to be in a Relationship, something that has eluded me.   And eludes me still.    And yet, for the first year in my life, this year I had a friend who made the time fly by, who I trust and respect, and who trusts and respects me, who makes me laugh and can make me smile simply by crossing my mind.   Because we are going Nowhere, because we are Just Friends and not A Couple, my sister and other friends think I deserve more.   Frankly, I don't disagree.   But I spent years in a relationship that they  encouraged, and I was miserable.    I've had far more traditional relationships with people who pledged that they wanted to spend their lives with me, but here I am enjoying the occasional day with someone in a way that I never have before.   Other men have claimed to love me more than life itself but this friend, who claims no such thing, encourages me, challenges me, makes me happy and lets me be more fully myself.   And yet I often find myself brooding and discontent, wanting more.    Funny.

Maybe that's why I no longer make resolutions for improvement, maybe I am finally learning that my life doesn't lend itself to planning-promises and that the things I Improve end up being disappointments.    I want to be open to the unexpected gifts along the way, the things I might have turned my nose up at in the past.     Because, I am finding, that is where the sweetness lies.    But I am a list maker, no escaping it, so I am constantly thinking of things I could do, things I am afraid I will forget if I don't write them down.   And New Year's cries out to me for a List.
So of course I do have "resolutions" for 2014, but they will be the same as they were in 2013 -- I'm going to do my best to make 2014 the Best Year Ever and have ridiculous amounts of Ridiculous Fun.   It worked well for me in 2013 and I expect it to work well again.  Maybe I didn't have any  more fun than usual, but I stayed more open to new things and I paid more attention to my choices.   In 2013 I earned all three amateur radio licenses, leaned Morse Code, and climbed a rock wall.   A year ago, none of those things were on my radar.    I also went fly fishing and target shooting, tried and tasted lots of new things, made new friends, joined and trained with a Search and Rescue group, acted like a lawyer again, and let my heart soar, just a little.  I learned so many things, from so many people.   I stayed aware all year that my choices and attitude were what would make the year good, and it was, truly, the best year I can remember, if only because I paid enough attention to the good things that, even when they were over, I actually DID remember.

And so, with that in mind, in 2014 I am hoping to pack in even more fun stuff, and I'm thinking that will be more likely if I start planning now.   I'm not putting any pressure on myself, these are not things I 'have' to do, but they are ideas of things I think will be fun or useful to me, even if I have to push myself (hard) to get up the nerve to actually do some of them.

1.  Despite my claim that there are no have-tos, I AM going to go zip lining in 2014.   I am.   I already bought the ticket, and as soon as the park reopens, I'm planning to go.    Yes, Kim, I promise.   Meanwhile, I'm trying not to think about it.   And trying not to think about how afraid I am of heights.   I'm not sure why, or what (if anything) it will lead to; it doesn't matter.  As I tell my grief support groups every month, when you are stuck, you need to do something.    It doesn't matter what, because every action leads us.     It will either go well, or badly, and either result provides data.   So that is my bottom line.    I'm doing it, and that's that.  

2.  And I AM going to do Morse Code on the air in 2014.   Not once, not twice, but enough times to feel that I've either conquered my fear or given it a sincere effort.    Words cannot express how afraid I am of this silly goal, but it simply doesn't matter.   For exactly that reason, I am not telling this goal to my Morse Code Elmer.    No sense in asking for more pressure than I'm already putting on myself. 
And if he gives up on me, I'll find someone else with a rig that I can use.    But I'm doing it, whether I want to or not, and that's that.

3.  I hope I am going to take scuba lessons and get my open water certification in 2014.    Yup, this scares me, too.   Um, breathing under water, too far under for me to get to the surface if I need to take a breath  - need I say more?   And it's not cheap, so I will need to do some budgeting, and then I will need to pass the classes, but it's on my goal list.   Ironically, I used to go to Florida every year, sometimes several times a year, spending as much as a month at a time, but I never took advantage of the fly fishing and diving adventures that entice me now.   So I will most likely be diving in cold Michigan water if I get to dive at all, but I still want to do it.   It isn't going to get any easier or more likely if I put it off, so now is the time.   I stopped into a local scuba shop and talked to them, and talked to my doctor, too.    Despite every excuse I could come up with, all systems are go.   I've started taking the classroom portion on line, so I'm on my way.

4.  I am going to try really hard not to get my heart broken in 2014.   The trick to that will be to stay in the moment, and to accept that what is, is.      No one wants to hurt me, I just need to be careful not to hurt my own silly self by creating a fantasy that exists in only my mind.  But the flip side is that I will also try really hard to keep my heart open, even though it means being open to hurt.

5.  I know that it's a lot easier to have fun and enjoy the best if I am feeling good, so I am going to try really hard to eat well and exercise more in 2014, hopefully getting back into the regular walking schedule that worked so well last year.   I might look into counseling with a dietician if I can find one I trust.    I need to feel fit to take part in the search and rescue activities that I love, and will need that, too, to enjoy zip lining and scuba.    In the 'circle of best,' taking care of myself is always going to be important.

6.   I am going to continue to try to find a fuller purpose in my life.    As a person who believed since childhood that my purpose would be in helping and being with others in the context of a marriage, it is perhaps time to accept that this life is not going to lead to the life partner I always expected to appear.     Although I never wanted to live alone, I have lived alone for a very long time.    I have a family that I cherish and I have always been, and continue to be, involved in community service,  but there has always been a void in my life, waiting.      I thought I knew what was missing, but it's out of my control and, after a very long wait, it's time to move beyond that personal fantasy.   I have relationships I value and I don't want to taint them with the brush of what they are not.   So it will be a goal in 2014 to try to figure out what else to put in that empty place.  

7.  Most of all, I hope that, as often as I can, I am going to try new things in 2014 that I haven't thought of, maybe haven't even heard of, maybe simply haven't dared to do.   I will again try to listen for ideas that come from outside my circle of comfort, and learn whatever I can, wherever I can, whether it involves craft or food or physical activity or people.   I hope I will dare to do things I don't expect to like but haven't actually tried.   I hope I will conquer, or at least confront, some fears.    I hope by the end of 2014 to be able to say that I discovered and experienced things I didn't even knew existed today.   It's going to be the Best Year Ever.  :)

Happy New Year!    I hope 2014 will be the Best Ever for you, too.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thinking Ahead

I was so disappointed in how little I accomplished with making gifts for Christmas in 2013 that I decided to get a  head start on 2014.    I started with fleece tubes, sometimes called Cowls or Buffs.   I wear these when I go out treking, or in search and rescue, and they can be pulled up like a hat or used like a scarf to keep the neck warm.   I bought the ones I use now and paid over $20 each.   I love them -- they are warm, the stop the wind, they wash easily and dry quickly.    When I was (supposed to be) cleaning my craft room the day before Christmas, I was gathering up fleece remnants when it hit me -- there is no earthly reason why I can't make them instead, for pocket change instead of dollars.   Using the scraps I had on hand, I made the first couple that same day, instead of cleaning the room.    I will do almost anything to avoid actually working.     The first one I made took me about 15 minutes, and that included changing the thread in the sewing machine.
I'm pretty excited and only wish I'd thought of this sooner (which might have happened if I had considered cleaning the craft room sooner!)    I think this will be a good gift next Christmas, assuming I can hang onto them that long, because there is still a lot of cold weather ahead!   I will be raiding the remnant bins at JoAnn's this week, while they are still filled with the scraps from all the fleece blankets that the more ambitious people around me made as gifts.     The concept still needs a little tweaking -- They don't fit quite as perfectly yet as the $20 variety, but I have a whole year to get it right!  :)
I also decided to get to work on pot holders.   I said LAST year that I was going to make pot holders as gifts, and I did make a few, but only a few, and there weren't any left to use as Christmas gifts.   So this year I am getting started with some Christmas-y ones, making it more likely that I will wait until later in the season to give them away.  Clever, right?    I have three of them cut and sandwiched, ready to stitch, and it's only the day after Christmas.   I am already way ahead of last year!

[Edit:  These are things I started and finished in December, as are the few projects I blogged about as December Craft Finishes, so I am linking them all to Cat Patches and her December NewFO and Linky Party!  :)  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December Craft Finishes

After a long, much too lazy 2013, at least I finished a few things before Christmas.    I am pretty happy with my first rag quilt -- it isn't perfect, and I'm not sure I will use it as a gift, but I love it anyway.   I love the colors, and it is soft and warm and cozy.   If no one else wants it, I'll keep it for myself.  And I definitely plan to make more.

I also finished at least a few of the zipper bags on my list, one for my daughter (I've made several with these orange and brown fabrics because I just like them.    I filled the one for my daughter full of trial-sized make-up), one for my brother's former girlfriend (a combination of blue fabrics that I sent empty and I forgot to take a photo), and one for my chicken-loving friend who brings me eggs when 'the girls' are productive.   The chicken panel didn't work out quite as I'd hoped, but she liked it and the next one will be better, maybe.

I also made my chicken-raising friend a pot holder from the same fabrics.   She loved that, too!
And my granddaughter put in a special request for me to make Santa hats for a couple of her little stuffed dogs.     I was happy with them and so was she.
Some of the things I planned to do didn't get done, but we expected that, right?    The quilt top I had hoped to finish is not even sandwiched (but I bought material for my next quilt project, of course).    I'm okay with that because I'm not sure where the unfinished quilt will go yet, so there is still plenty of time to finish it.   And although I bought the fabric, I didn't make the sleeping bags for stuffed animals.  That decision was a choice, not a failure.   I decided that the kids are outgrowing that idea and that my time this month was better spent on other things -- like picking up the thousand or so straight pins I accidentally dumped on my sewing room floor.   Oh baby, that room is a hot mess.

The scarf I intended to finish is still on the needles -- about a trillion more rows to go.    
Another thing I did NOT make is a Noodlehead basket, although it was on my Meant-To list for 2013.  
Lucky for me, I WON one from SarahQuilts, and it is really beautiful, she is a much better sewer than I am.    I got the basket in the mail today, on Christmas Eve morning, so it was just a lovely gift and an inspiration to me to work a lot harder next year.   I would love to be able to make something so pretty as gifts . . . . next year.  :)    And Sarah even filled the basket with a beautiful assortment of scraps and remnants to get me started.    What a sweet way to encourage me to work on some projects of my own.  So the good news is that I have things to do even after the holidays and plenty of beautiful new fabric to do it with!    

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

End of Year Plans for the Next Beginning

Working in Hospice, I too often equate "end of year" with "end of life," and that makes me a little sad.    The road ahead looks way too short.  As my mother used to say, too soon old and too late smart, and I am feeling that lately, big time.    My brain, my courage, my emotions are just finally starting to get to where I am comfortable with them, while my body is galloping into decrepitude.     It is annoying, at the very least.    So instead of wondering what I want to do in the next year, I wonder a little bit what I still can do.    I hope I won't let those fears stop me, because it is my plan to push on, to have more Ridiculous Fun, and to have another Best Year Ever in 2014.    This year has been pretty darn good, and the biggest reason for that, I am convinced, is that I insisted on seeing the good in it.
So.   This coming year I plan to go zip lining.    I plan to target-shoot as much as I can, as often as I can find ammunition, whether or not my shooting buddies will go along.    I plan to see more movies and eat more vegetables.    I plan to spend more time being grateful for what I have than anxious about what I lack.
I plan to stop abusing my body with sugar and junk.     In 2013 I got healthier and more fit, and in 2014 I want to get healthier still.    I plan to take a chance or two in relationships, maybe.  Maybe give up a useless fantasy or two while I'm at it.   I plan to try not to send myself so many ugly hate messages, so much nasty self-talk.   It would be nice if I could be as nice to myself as I try to be to others.   
I plan to really truly seriously regularly practice my Morse Code so that I can regain and improve my skills.    I plan to go on the air weekly, starting no later than February, no matter how terrified I am of doing it.    I have a good friend who promises to stay with me like a big brother teaching a little kid to ride a two-wheeler, making sure I don't fall, so I have no excuses not to push through my fear.
I plan to try new things, eat new foods, meet new people, and experiment with new hobbies as often as the opportunity arises.   I plan to catch a fish -- surely I can finally catch a fish.
I plan to keep a promise to a friend that I will try to keep my conversation and thoughts a little less broody.   Just because I work around a lot of death doesn't mean that I need to bring my work home to my friends.    I will try to journal a little more and perhaps share a little less.
I plan to get more pedicures.

And last but not least, I plan to get some crafting and sewing mojo on.   Barbara at Cat Patches has set up a challenge to encourage us to plan for next year's NewFOs, projects to start and hopefully finish (or at least agonize over) in 2014.    She is even offering prizes!   Most of the people who are linking up are serious sewers and quilters, and I have no plans to be anything but a slacker.   But since I am in a planning mood, I plan to quilt the zig zag quilt-top I pieced in 2013.   I plan to make a crib-sized rag quilt in case my friend's child gets pregnant, as we all hope.   I plan to make rag quilts for my grands, too, because they are so cozy that I just love them and so easy that there's no reason not to.    I plan to finish the scarf I started this month, maybe by next Christmas.    I love my little zipper bags and I plan to try a bigger bag or two. 

This has been a very good year.    And next year is going to be just as good.    It's again going to be the Best Year Ever.    And maybe,  just maybe, I will follow through on a few of my plans.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finished and Unfinished

I dreaded my birthday, but it ended up being just fine, as always.    First of all, I found 700 rounds of ammunition after months of not finding any at all -- this was a wonderful birthday gift, and will make it possible for me to target shoot a couple of times this month!    And then my kids took me out to dinner!    They gave me the cutest ever birthday gifts --  a stuffed wolf who eats the grandma (who can then be rescued by 'cutting' open the wolf's belly.   Since my blog is called Shedding the Wolf, and since I am a Grandma, it was the perfect present.  :)    [You can read about the idea behind my blog's name here.]  

They also gave me some beautiful paintings by a couple of up and coming local artists who I have admired for some time -- in other words, my grandchildren.   I love them!
My birthday has always been the symbolic beginning of the Christmas season for me, and most years I have had most of my gifts well in hand by now.   Not this year.   Maybe I've been too busy having fun!   I had planned all year to sew a bunch of stuff for Christmas but I only started last week.  Where has the time gone?!   I don't even have all the materials on hand yet, so I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope that my original plans will come to fruition.     So my list of UFOs I intend to finish this month is a little limited by lack of time and poor planning.     I definitely want to finish my rag quilt, whether it turns out well enough to be a gift or not.   I am using Boundary Waters flannel by Moda, which I absolutely love.    I arranged the squares and sewed the strips together but ran out of thread, so I need to get shopping before I can go any further.    I have another quilt top I had also hoped to finish, but there's no way I can get it done be Christmas because I have to work and will be out of town for a week, too.

I also need to finish a few zipper pouches for my daughters and a friend.   Like these, but with fabrics chosen for them, fabrics I haven't purchased yet.    I need to get to JoAnn's soon!     
Finally, I am hoping to make a couple of sleeping bags for the Grands' stuffed animals.    I think they would make a fun addition to sleepovers!  Well that settles it -- no more time to blog.   I need to get to work!