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April is National Poetry Month

I love April, even if it’s the “cruelest month” (I mean, it’s true).

I love seeing life spring up again- I love flowers- I love being able to read outside again. (Hate the allergies tho)

April also happens to be National Poetry Month. So I thought, in our state of social isolation, what better time to share with you some of my favorite poems? Poems about nature that inspire you to think about the world.

Poetry that moves me out of my winter stupor.

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Nothing Gold Can Stay- Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Kosmos- Walt Whitman

Who includes diversity and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look’d forth from the windows the eyes for nothing, or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing,
Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most majestic lover,
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the æsthetic or intellectual,
Who having consider’d the body finds all its organs and parts good,
Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States;
Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in other globes with their suns and moons,
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.

South- Natasha Trethewey

Homo sapiens is the only species
to suffer psychological exile.
        —E. O. Wilson
 I returned to a stand of pines,
                            bone-thin phalanx

flanking the roadside, tangle
                            of understory—a dialectic of dark

and light—and magnolias blossoming
                            like afterthought: each flower

a surrender, white flags draped
                            among the branches. I returned

to land’s end, the swath of coast
                            clear cut and buried in sand:

mangrove, live oak, gulfweed
                            razed and replaced by thin palms—

palmettos—symbols of victory
                            or defiance, over and over

marking this vanquished land. I returned
                            to a field of cotton, hallowed ground—

as slave legend goes—each boll
                            holding the ghosts of generations:

those who measured their days
                            by the heft of sacks and lengths

of rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plants
                            still sewn into our clothes.

I returned to a country battlefield
                            where colored troops fought and died—

Port Hudson where their bodies swelled
                            and blackened beneath the sun—unburied

until earth’s green sheet pulled over them,
                            unmarked by any headstones.

Where the roads, buildings, and monuments
                            are named to honor the Confederacy,

where that old flag still hangs, I return
                            to Mississippi, state that made a crime

of me—mulatto, half-breed—native
                            in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.

Featured

Reading as Self-Care

Sometimes getting my family to read feels like making them put their toys away- or making them put on pajamas and brush their teeth. A lot of times, my children love reading- and sometimes they- ugh don’t. I wont tell you about the books collecting dust on my husband’s night stand.

However, I think reading is as important as brushing your teeth, or meditation, or yoga. It’s a foundational self care practice to help us maintain our mental health.

When I was young, the best friends I made were people who I could connect with over books and reading. One of my favorite hangouts was reading quietly in the library with my best friend. While, my sister would hole up in her room to read, I would use reading as a social activity- and I still do. So, I come by this life philosophy honestly. It’s a part of my core identity. I loved reading when life was stressful.

Reading Allows You to Form Your Aesthetic

Clearly, we learn what is important to us through our experiences. The same is true with the types of books we choose and what speaks to our sense of self. I’ve learned that I find comfort in magical realism, but I also love the nostalgic feelings that books like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables bring. For me, I found out who I was through books. I found out my tastes, my morals, the core of my identity, all through reading.

Reading Gives You a Break From Your Reality

This one is pretty important to me. Life can feel tedious if we don’t bring in some new experiences. I have big Gemini energy, so- there are a lot of things I need to do to shake things up in my routine. In my life, reading is either an education or an escape. Sometimes the same book for both.

Reading Gives You a Stronger Vocabulary

It should go without saying- but- as a professional reader, I’ve noticed my writing and speaking vocabulary expand. Who I was before I went to college and who I am after is directly correlated with being a book nerd and having to practice that in writing. It helps our brains stay sharp as we get older (cough,parents,cough), it also helps our brains develop (cough,chidlren,cough). If you want to be a person who is understood, you need to be a reader.

Reading Helps You Be a Better Person

When we escape from our reality, we enter into someone else’s when we decide to open a book. This process helps us expand that capacity into real life when hard times call for compassion and human dignity. By being able to separate from ourselves for a few minutes during the day and see the world from a different perspective, we are growing our empathy muscle. We learn that we’re all in this ish together.

While, taking a nap is highly recommended during this time of pandemics and quarantine- if you have the time and space for one, reading is a close second. Right now when we need to feel close, but we’re far apart to keep us and others healthy, books can be that window into the world we cant go out in right now.

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Peace in the Pandemic

Since our lives are all on hold for a minute and everything is increasingly stressful, I’d thought that I would write about how to find peace in all of this nonsense. Ugh, I know. Here’s the thing though, extra stress is going to damage your immune system, and you need to be healthy enough to last through this. It’s even extra hard for people who are now laid off, not knowing when they’ll get back to work or how they’ll pay rent.

I’ll make this about knitting, since this is my knitting blog, but you can take all of these practices with you- as you go about your quarantine and beyond.

Breathe

Take a few deep breaths as you’re working on your project. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold it for 3, breathe out for 8, hold for 3, and repeat. Breathe through your nose, as this will help you get more oxygen into your lungs. It’s been researched that slowing down your breathing can help your brain release the relaxing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine which helps lessen the feeling of anxiety. Breathing like this has definitely helped me with my depression and anxiety and has, slowly, helped me become a more productive and affectionate mother/partner.

Pray

Or, in my case, meditate. If prayer works for you, please do it. I don’t pray to anyone anymore, but I love meditation. The act of sitting down and trying to just exist. Meditation and knitting often go hand in hand (heh heh). When you sit down with your project, think about the person that you’re making it for, and think of all the good things that you wish for that person- think about how much you love and admire that person. Then, as your muscle memory has established the pattern in your hands, let your mind go blank. One thing I like to do is to deconstruct what I am working on as I am constructing it: Looking at my half finished thing, looking at the color, thinking about the person who made the color, thinking about the person who spun the fiber, thinking about the sheep that donated the wool, thinking about the lamb that was the sheep, thinking about it being two single cell bodies living in two completely different universes- and when I get there, I let my mind go blank- letting myself just exist.

Yes, it’s strange, and it’s okay. I like strange.

Connect

This is the perfect time to host your stitch and bitch on Zoom of Facebook Chat. No one is working (unless you are and for that all the rest of us thank you and where do we buy you a drink?). With most of us home, it’s really not hard to find a time to call people we like and love and continue to connect with them. This is what I love about connection, you don’t have to be in the same room or timezone to be a friend. Everything is hard right now, we need our friends and family more than ever. Call your mom. You know you need to.

Someday we will be allowed to go to the mall again, someday we will be able to share hugs and lively conversations among friends. Right now, it’s our job to stay home and try to stay sane. It’s hard, especially if you have kids, and/or you’re an essential worker, and/or recently laid off. This can’t go on forever, though. You will make it through this. Take this time to rest and rejuvenate as best as you can.

Be kind to yourself.

Notice how none of this was about finishing anything or being “productive”. I think sometimes we need to learn what it means to be people without this need for productivity.

You are worth it no matter what.

And if you do need to talk to a counselor, many practitioners are doing teletherapy. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist- and it’s almost as easy as calling a family member.

Love you friends. Stay okay.

Featured

Showing Up for Yourself

I don’t know why this feels like an unnecessarily hard thing to do. But every time I try, I feel like I break out in sadness.

I am not a stranger to, nor am I afraid of, hard feelings. They teach me something new every time I experience them. So why then does this makes me depressed? Why is it so hard to just show up for myself?

I’ve been thinking about it, and this post is a working thesis on why it seems impossible for me.

Its hard to show up when I feel like I’m Not Worth It

I mean, that’s probably the crux of the problem right there. I’ve lived my entire life telling myself that I’m not worth anything. I’ve internalized every punishment, every criticism and magnified them.

Worthlessness one of those goddam core beliefs that seems to want to weasel its way back into me every time I get better.

I’ve been having nightmares of high school recently- I think a part of the problem is I see my high school self from the outside now. On the outside she looked way more together than she felt. In fact, she was probably a pillar of strength for a lot of people- but at the same time she didn’t have anyone to lean on in return. Only a lot of dashed hopes and teenage angst.

She was told she was worthless without a job. She wasn’t allowed to have negative emotions about her life, because that would be selfish, and yet, she had to absorb everyone else’s bad feelings and give some kind of balm to the problem within her family. So the spiral of shame and codependency started. When someone wouldn’t love her she turned that on herself and doubled it, saying “yes I know Im the worst, please agree with me”.

When I think of her I feel deep love- unfiltered love. God, I wish I could tell my past self that she is worth everything. That she wasn’t as awkward and strange as she thought she was and that some people were just assholes who needed someone to make fun of; that she didn’t have to internalize their torture. (And to get over that guy already, he wasn’t interested and you really don’t need him– you were way out of his league anyway)

When you show up, you have to force yourself to see that you’re actually worth the hard things in life that you work for every day. That you’re worth beauty. That your dreams matter. That you have talent. That you deserve good things.

When you see the kid version of you from the outside and you would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS think the things you thought about anyone else! Not even your biggest bullies and abusers, why would you think that of you? Why on earth would you give your bullies and abusers more ammo against you?

A part of the reason that showing up for yourself is hard is that we have to realize all the ways that we’ve been toxic and abusive to ourselves. How allowing this negative self thinking has led you to the really frustrating work you have to go through now in order to fucking move on.

How are you neglecting yourself because you don’t feel like you’re worthy of good things?

Here’s a hard truth:

You deserve a good life. You deserve to show up for yourself. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and stable. YOU DESERVE TO TRY YOUR DREAMS. It’s so hard, but guess what, you’re worth it.

Making Space

Hey friends.

I know that this post comes way too late for the discussion, it’s even years later than the discussion of anti racism in the knitting space. However, these things need to be said. Not just on this knitting space, but also in our homes; with our friends and family.

Black Lives Matter

This is a factual and unequivocal truth, that Black and minority people in this country have been targeted unfairly for over 400 years. Recent events have given us a glimpse of that unfair treatment. The absolutely horrible and unnecessary deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Amhaud Arbery are just a snapshot of what happens every day in our country to keep Black communities down.

The system isn’t broken. It’s working like it was designed to. To protect property over people. Things are more important than the value of human life.

I’ve struggled with my own value for my entire life. I grew up knowing that I was worth the dollar amount that I brought to the household. Now imagine having to live where everything is blocked for you. Certain neighborhoods are off limits thanks to red lining, getting paid less for the same job because of the color of your skin, having to work multiple minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet, having to deal with racist co-workers who will never value your humanity.

Imagine living in a world where people see you as a threat to their property instead of an actual human being.

This is why Black Lives Matter is so important. How many more mothers need to mourn the premature deaths of their children? How many kids deserve to die because they were playing with a toy gun in a park? Since when did petty theft deserve capital punishment without question or due process? Black people shouldn’t have to be perfect in order to deserve to live.

It’s time for us to wake up to see and value the humanity in Black people.

If you’re white, reading this, you’ve been blessed to live in a system that doesn’t see your race as a threat. You’ve been conditioned to believe that you’re better than “they” are. You look down your nose on black people, no matter how poor you were growing up. It’s ingrained in us. You might not even notice that you’re doing it- because we learn from our parents, who learn from their parents, who learned from their parents- it’s so ingrained that it became a part of our DNA.

What We Can Do

First we need to turn inward. Be quiet and listen to Black experiences. Trust them. Instead of speaking out or saying “I wish they would be nice about it,” examine where you are having a hard time listening- what makes you feel this way? Why do you feel like you need to police their tone? Why do you say that you don’t see color? We need to come to terms with our own inner evil. It’s there. No one is immune to it.

Second we need to learn. From now on I’ll be recommending books that talk about antiracism. We need to relearn American history if we’re going to dismantle our own internal biases. We have to take the blinders off now and be willing to change.

Third we need to amplify. We need to support Black voices without the need to interject. Believe them. We need to support Black businesses. Black artists. VOTE for people who would remove the institutional barriers that block Black families from growth.

We are in a rare place in history where we have the time and space to work out our issues. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to feel uncomfortable, and that’s okay. We need to be a little uncomfortable right now.

Use the pandemic to give you the space to grow and learn. It’s time to stop putting your head in the sand about racism in america. We can’t be free until everyone is free.