Friday, October 21, 2016

Audible is My Gym Membership

My daughter turned me on to Audible a few weeks ago. I trust my kids to steer me to the best technology of the moment. They're always right about this stuff, and they can always help me figure out how to use it if I get stuck. (Like when I finally traded in my 6 year old flip phone on an iPhone and couldn't figure out what to do with it. Lauren simply said to me, "Mom - it's all about the home button." Such wisdom. So helpful.)

Audible is an Amazon service that provides streaming audio books. And it's easy. I haven't actually needed help with it. Lauren got me started by sending me You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. I wasn't sure this was my kind of book, but I downloaded it, popped in my single earbud (I like to hear the world around me) and headed out the door for a walk. I walked through seven chapters. I didn't want to go home. I just wanted to keep reading an walking - at the same time.

I finished the book in three days, which absolutely never happens. I find time to "read with my eyes" at bedtime, which means I'm already tired and about to fall asleep. I read maybe two pages, the second of which I can't remember anything about the following night and have to read all over again. Reading and sleeping go hand in hand in my world. Words on paper at night are like a sleeping pill.

But reading with my ears is a whole other deal. I can read while I walk to the grocery store, and even while I'm shopping. I do pause to interact with other humans when necessary, but for the most part, I can just do my thing and ignore the bad supermarket music.

I use Audible a lot at home too. I work here, and I never turn on the TV during the day unless it's to balance the dreariness of relentlessly gray skies with the crackle of a cozy virtual fireplace.

When I write, I listen to music, usually classical, and rarely anything with words. The words on my page need to be my own, after all. But if it's a day for knitting, or cooking, or cleaning the floors, I get a lot of reading done at the same time I do all those things, thanks to a bluetooth speaker that eliminates the need for headphones. Oh, beautiful technology, and sound waves flinging themselves through the air!

I lean towards the you-can-do-it, self-helpy, inspirational genres these days, so I tend to listen to most of my books more than once. Matter of fact, I listened to You Are a Badass twice, then bought the paperback, and am giving it a third go-around, highlighting my favorite bits as I go. I've also gotten a lot out of Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, and How to Be an Imperfectionist, by Stephen Guise.

I bought Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic in hardback the moment it came out, and found it somehow comforting and encouraging during the time I spent with my dad in his last few months. I was more than a little bit lost then, faced with knowing I would soon be losing my beloved hero of a father, and completely unable to focus on myself and what I was doing, or wanted to be doing. Months later, this same book, now on Audible, nudges me forward, back into my own life.

What can I say? It's been a rough year. I need a little cheerleading, and I've found a way to get a whole lot of it. To say that I'm grateful is so insufficient.

Maybe, at $15 a month, there are cheaper ways of listening to audio books, but when I think of it as a gym membership rolled in with continuing education and personal development, it's a damn good deal.

Don't get me wrong. I love holding a real live book in my hands, and turning pages and reading the words for myself, but I'm also enjoying a big new world of knowledge and information, thanks to my darling daughter, who once again has sent me to just the right place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Project Hopping

Most of the time, I have one project going, and I stick with it until I'm finished. Not always though, as I proved to myself over the past week. Today I photographed and listed for sale this lovely dove gray Portlandia Shawl. I really wanted to keep it, but I know I can make another one, and I probably will. If you want this one for your very own, check my Handmade page to see if it's still available. If not, there will be something else in its place before long.

While I was working on this, I got a yarn delivery that totally distracted me. Instead of doing the fringe on the Portlandia, I spent a couple of days starting a new shawl in this amazing cotton/viscose blend. The yarn is like like a tiny knit tube rather than being twisted, and it's so soft and fun to work with, and it has shiny bits! Maybe this one will be mine...

And then, just as I was ready to go back and do the fringe on the other one, a light bulb went out in our apartment.

No big deal, right? A stupid light bulb? I called the office and our nice maintenance guy came right up with a new one. He even managed to change it without having to stand on my bed, which made me very happy. I asked if it was the same kind of bulb as the one that had been there for the last two years, and was assured that it was. But later that night, when we turned it on...

OH YUCK!!! Instead of the nice, warm, ignorable glow the original light had, our bedroom was now bathed in a ghastly "prison cell" sort of light that made everything, including our skin, look gray. This was not going to do.

I knew the apartment management couldn't help me, so I did what any creative girl would do. I got out a crochet hook.

Only a few late night stitching sessions later, we now have this elegant boho-chic chandelier. The light is much better, and it just looks so darn beautiful. I need to get more crystals for it, but otherwise, this is a total winner. And when we move, it can fold up as flat as a shawl and come with us. I like it so much, I might even want to look for a place with an ugly ceiling light so we can use it again.

So there we are. All in a week's work. I think project hopping is not just an okay thing, it's a good thing. Sure, there might be a delayed finish time, but that's not the point. Creative stuff is supposed to be fun while it's happening. By moving between a few different things, the work and the exploration stay fresh, and the finished result is joyful rather than forced and tedious.

And by the way, in case you like to peek into other people's windows to see how they live (I do), this is our apartment. Our entire apartment, except for the bathroom, which was directly behind me as I stood on the far side of the bed to take this picture. We love our 571 square foot home, but it's beginning to feel like it's time to look for a little bit more space.

I need more room for yarn...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Knit in Public

After writing the Knitting Meditation post, I wondered if I might grow tired of knitting and let it drift away, as sometimes happens with things that seems like the thing when they first appear. The opposite has happened, actually, and this surprises me.

I missed World Wide Knit in Public Day this year. I was in San Jose and didn't find (or have time for) a knit-in anywhere in the area. When I got back home to Portland, I visited one of my favorite yarn shops, Knit Purl, where I picked up some gorgeous organic cotton yarn (which became the scarf below, that I finished and wore on my daughter's wedding weekend).

I chatted with the woman helping me about how bummed I was to miss knitting in the park with them. As I was leaving, she handed me one of their little I Knit In Public buttons, and in that simple gesture, something in me shifted.

I stuck the button onto the handle of the big polkadot tote I use for a knitting bag (literally stuck it, eventually, with super glue, because I kept knocking it off), and started carrying the bag, and the knitting, almost everywhere I went. I'm still carrying it. Somehow, that button gave me permission to go forth and be a knitter, any time, and anywhere I want to.

I'm on a knitting rampage. I knit in restaurants and bars. I knit at the movies, while I wait for the lights to go down. I knit while I'm waiting for coffee, and given Portland's near-legendary "slow hipster service," that can be a considerable amount of time. I also knit when hanging out with friends, a glass of wine alongside for the social time. They ask me what I'm making and keep tabs on my progress. They're interested. And to my surprise, I don't feel like a weird old lady, but more like a somewhat fascinating, creatively driven person who's fortunate enough to be able to make stuff everywhere she goes.

What started out as a few minutes in the morning, when I ease into the day with some knitting meditation and tea, has settled in and become a big part of my days. Some "sit", I knit. In a lot of ways, it's the same thing.

As a result of all this knitting, I'm accumulating more knitted objects than I really need - or have room for. The result of that is I've started selling a few things. I really don't have room for a new scarf every week or two, so selling them supports my very tasteful yarn habit, and also makes some of my non-knitter friends happy.

There's a lot of stuff in this world. Stores full of things, mostly made by machines. But there's something so increasingly rare and soulful and alive about handmade objects of any kind. With knits, and other things we wear on our bodies, handmade will always feel friendlier than machine made. Every stitch carries with it something of the maker, whether it's her (or his - men knit too) general personality or mood, or actual intentions worked energetically into the fabric. I do that sometimes, and I think putting Love, Gratitude, Balance, Joy, and Compassion into the stitches, one at a time, is something that can be felt by the wearer. Crazy maybe? I'm okay with that.

I think I want to keep sort of a knitting journal here on the blog. So from the beginning, the first scarf I sold was this one, made of baby-soft organic cotton.

When I finished the pink one, made of a cotton-hemp-tencel blend, I wrapped it around my neck and said, Mine.

It's big and drapey and soft, and somehow seems to go with everything. I'm not a pink person, but this  shawl/scarf just speaks to me. It was really fun to make too, so I made another one, this time blue, and a fantastic blend of cotton and bamboo. I offered it in my little shop (I say little because so far, there's only one item in it at a time), and it was sold almost instantly.

I had a hunch the handmadeness of these things I'm making would resonate with certain people. I'm happy that it does. It makes my reach in the world broader, and lets me share some of what brings me so much comfort and joy.

I've named this the Portlandia Shawl, because I imagine draping a gigantic one around the lovely and powerful Portlandia statue that's perched on the Portland Building downtown, reaching her hand down to those who pass below. (I know, you though it was just a TV show...) I walk by her often in my rounds, and I always stop and say hello.

Next on the sticks is another Portlandia Shawl, the one shown above, next to my tea cup. It's the same cotton-bamboo yarn as the blue one, but this time a dreamy, soft dove gray. I hope I have enough yarn to make two of these, because I really want one for myself... and I really want to share one too.

A side note: In poking around for information on the statue, I discovered that her likeness is strictly copyrighted by the artist, which explains why she's not gone the way of other public art, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, turning up on everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets. Portlandia is public art, paid for by public funds, but she is not allowed to become a public icon. Interesting. And I suppose I might have to change the name of the shawl design...

Anyway, if you're interested in having one of these (or maybe something else I'll be adding to the shop soon) for yourself, or to give as a gift, you might want to put your name on my mailing list, so you'll know when something new comes up. Really though, if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, that's always where I share things first.

Gotta go now. I need to knit. Preferably in public.

Monday, October 3, 2016

One Blog Is Enough

Heads-up lovely readers! I've decided to invite my own self over from my other blog as sort of a guest blogger. I've come to a point in all this blogging where I want to pull all my fragmented parts back together in one place. It just doesn't make sense to me anymore to part myself out and act as though I have separate lives going on. One blog is enough. And I choose this one.

Positively Vegan has been an ongoing project for me for five years. It's been great, and I'm truly grateful for the experience. It also feels like a completed project. There's no reason to do the food thing over there, and the everything-else over here. I'm vegan all the time. It's a part of me, not apart from me, if that makes any sense.

It's not all-consuming either. So I don't want you to worry that I'll be spewing vegan propaganda all over you. That would be dumb. And no fun. Instead, mixed in with posts on all my other interests, projects, and adventures, there will also be recipes and restaurants and cool people and events. Not in that preachy way that I know sends people running, but in a way that more authentically represents my life and who I am in this world.

So don't hit the panic button and unsubscribe, okay? I think I know you guys well enough to know that you're open-minded, big-hearted, absolutely interesting and wonderful people. Hang around and get to know me a little better. I'm all rounded up in one place now, and I look forward to spending more time with you.

I'm glad you're here!
I'm glad I'm here too.
xoxo Kim

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Pirate

We live in downtown Portland, Oregon. It's wonderful to be able to step outside our door and walk to almost anything we need or want, to be right in it, to feel like part of the city. It's fun and frustrating, exciting and exhausting. City streets can make a person feel invisible, and yet, they're also like a big meandering stage, studded with spotlights aimed on a surprisingly constant cast of characters.

A lot of people live on the streets here, in varying degrees. We see a lot of young ones drift in and out, with dogs and guitars and sometimes weary looking girlfriends. Did they think it was worse at home with their families than it would be on the cold concrete, eating out of garbage cans? Older ones, almost always men, follow regular routines and daily circuits from bench to doorway to park to street corner. And mentally ill men and women are a regular part of our daily adventures in beautiful downtown Portland.

We know nothing about these people, any of them, but we allow ourselves to pretend that we do. We give them names, we make up stories, we wonder about them when they disappear. I imagine them to feel invisible, anonymous, but it isn't that easy. Not for them, and not for us.

There are some we only see or hear in passing. That young guy who shuffles as slowly as a 90 year old, head down, quiet, and looking to be in great pain. There's the fuck, Fuck, FUCK guy who makes his way up the street late at night, bellowing in a voice that scares me so much I don't even want to look out the window to see what he looks like. And there's the infrequent visitor to Archangel Michael's church, across the street, who stands at the bolted doors wearing a giant crucifix, shaking his head in disbelief at his denied entry, and crying, I love you Michael! Their stories? Lost? Crazy? Dangerous? Or merely... annoying?

Some we come a little bit closer to, like Blanket Man, who is often in Pettygrove Park, behind our building. He sits on a bench with a blanket over his head. He is completely still and quiet. He appears to pay no attention to the dogs, humans, bikes, skateboards, and Segway tours that whiz past him. My story on him is that the blanket is his room, his house, his place to be alone and separate from the street. I would never disturb him, but I have occasionally left food near him, so he can find it when he comes out.

An Asian woman wanders through Director Park every day at lunch time, at least in good weather, when hundreds of people come from nearby offices to enjoy their lunches and some sunshine by the fountain. She hovers at an uncomfortable closeness to people and their food. She stares at their plastic-boxed lunches until they start to squirm and look up. Then she says something. I never hear it clearly, but I assume she's asking for something to eat. They always shake their heads, she always walks away, makes the rounds, ends up at a trash can, digging for scraps and cold coffee in paper cups. I have no story for her yet. I can't make her being there make any sense to me.

There's a nice tree lined route to Riverplace that's off the main streets. We walk that way often, on our way down to sit by the water, look at boats, and have a beer or a coffee. There's are benches under the trees, and the one nearest a heating exhaust vent from the building next to it is occupied by a man we've been seeing there for over two years.

He might be in his fifties, but it's hard to tell. He's shaggy and skinny. He's kind of twitchy. He sometimes talks to someone we can't see. He sometimes looks up when we pass by and gives a nod of recognition. Sometimes he raises a hand in a subtle but friendly wave. Sometimes he ignores us completely, and we in turn, respect the fact that we're walking through his living room.

He always has food, so we stopped bringing him what he doesn't seem to need. But what does he need? I have no idea. My guess, my story, is he might be schizophrenic, and he's somehow tapped into the social services system, enough to have food, but not enough to live indoors. Of course I'm making that up. And while we've tried to name this man - something dignified like Robert or James or Howard - we can't agree on who he is. Maybe he doesn't know either.

Carl is different. I know his story. He used to spend every day on a bench in the park where I walk Heidi. Being a social girl, Heidi would tug her way over to say hello to him, and eventually Carl and I started having friendly conversations. I gave him a thermos to keep his coffee hot. He told me his name. I told him mine. I learned about his childhood in Montana, his years setting up and running carnival rides, and his unfaithful wife. He needed a tent, so I put the word out, and an online friend sent me the money to buy him one. He set it up under a freeway overpass for protection. He kept his site clean. He gave me a Bible.

Carl was gone all summer. He had told me that he likes to go to Montana in the summer months. Home, whatever that means by now. Family? He never mentioned any. I knew he was up for a subsidized apartment in the city, so I figured maybe he had moved on. The tent had gotten him through last winter, until he burned a big hole in it, trying to melt a loose thread with a match.

I saw him not long ago, sitting on his usual bench in the park. I walked right up and said hello. He was polite but guarded, and seemed not to recognize me. He's not around every day anymore, like he used to be, so I still assume that he has a place to stay now. But I really have no idea, and now I feel awkward approaching him. If I see him again, will I say hello, or will I avoid him? Maybe I've done all I can. Maybe he'd rather not get any closer. Maybe he's not as mentally stable as I thought he was. And of course, again, even though I sort of know Carl, I'm making up a story about him.

And then there's The Pirate. He's been in the neighborhood as long as we have, over two years, and I suppose probably much longer than that. When we first saw him, he was sort of terrifying to look at. He was a stocky man, maybe in his 60s, all dressed in dirty black, trench coat, boots, long dark hair and beard. His glasses had one dark lens and one open one - no glass at all. He stood hunched over an enormous mountain of stuff - things he'd found or traded maybe - all piled onto what looked like a Costco cart, buried deep below the treasures. We dubbed him The Pirate, because of his eye-patch glasses, and because of the "ship" he pushed around town, usually under cover of darkness. We never went near him. He looked too scary.

The Pirate disappeared for a long time. We didn't really think of him, but once or twice over the months we'd note that we hadn't seen him in a while. And then he came back. At first we weren't sure it was the same guy. He seemed smaller. And his ship was gone. In its place was a walker, aluminum and sturdy, just like the one my dad had, with a tray for carrying things. He had very few things now.

He had the same eye-patch glasses, and the same shaggy hair and beard, but his clothes were maybe a little bit newer and cleaner, and his ship had been downsized to a life raft. In place of his boots were sneakers, and sprouting out of the tops of his shoes were two shiny new prosthetic legs.

I see The Pirate every so often, always from a distance. He seems to keep himself at a distance from other people, and the name, The Pirate, still seems to suit him. He still looks intimidating.

This morning I took Heidi for her usual walk. None of the regular cast of characters were out there though. The weather is changing, and I guess maybe some of them move on in winter. But how? And to where? We rounded the corner going back home, and as I neared the door to the little convenience store in our building, out came The Pirate. There was no avoiding each other. We were both right there on the same sidewalk, heading straight for each other, he with his walker, and me with my little dog.

I'm not sure why, but I took a chance and looked him in the face. I even smiled. What was I thinking? Who smiles at a scary pirate? Well I do, apparently. And then... The Pirate said, Hi. In the split second I had left before I passed him, I smiled a little more for real and said good morning to him. His response was a cheerful, Good morning!, in a voice more fatherly than pirate-like, as if we had greeted each other this way every day for years.

The Pirate... who is this man? What is his story? Of course he has one. We all do, eye-patch or not, roof or not, legs or not... I might never know his story, or most of the others out there, but I did learn one big thing today.

We may not know a thing about these people who cross our paths every day, but they're still very much like those of us who pass them by without so much as a glance. We have no idea who they are, or how they came to be where they are now. And even when there's nothing obvious we can do to assist, the very least we can offer is some sign of recognition.

Hello. Good morning. A smile.
It's not that hard, and it probably pays off in bigger ways than we can ever imagine.
But that's another story...