The Summer of Crochet

by RS on June 17, 2014

Creativity is intelligence having fun ~ Albert Einstein

As much as I love creating my worlds of fiction there a moments that it isn’t much fun. I spend a lot of time working out the logic of the characters motives and actions, and it can be a draining endeavor.

In the past when I needed a break, but one that was creative, I went for a hike with the camera in hand and took photographs of various landscapes, buildings, and objects. But in this recent creative break I’ve turned my attention to crocheting. Until a couple of months ago, I never picked up a crochet hook, but after writing and editing some stories about fiber artists who crochet, and viewing the work of a friend who posts on Facebook, I was inspired to learn.

I started last fall and it was a disaster. My hands refused to cooperate. I wasn’t able to hold the hook or the yarn properly. And when I finally learned how to hold the crochet hook, I had trouble manipulating the yarn. Fast forward to the winter. I was determined that I would at least learn how to crochet a simple chain so I tried again. This time it was better, but the tension of the chain was too tight or too loose, leaving me frustrated. Once again, I put aside the hook and yarn and focused on the move up to the woods.

During our first week here at the mountain top home, I went to the library and saw in the new non-fiction section three books on crocheting. Was this a sign from the Near Great White Way gods telling me to try again? I checked the books out and loved what I saw. So I dug out my crochet hook and yarn from one of the boxes and tried again. Lo and behold, I could crochet a simple chain. This time my method to achieve the right tension was much improved. So now I started following the books’ instructions to make a slip stitch. Once I mastered that, I began to get ambitious. I wanted to learn how to single crochet. For some reason that took me a while to learn and it wasn’t until I did something by mistake that I realized I wasn’t doing it right. It turned out the mistake was the correct way.

Two days ago I decided that it was time to learn how to double crochet. After following one book’s instructions (which by the way, it is terribly overdue) I went to YouTube and found the most fabulous video tutorial created by New Stitch A Day. Now I can crochet a double stitch.

Suffice it to say, I am so hooked on crocheting that I went ahead and ordered yarn in various colors to make a simple sack bag.

Is crocheting fun? Yes, and relaxing, and addictive. But there’s something deeper about crocheting. It allows me to clear my mind, but also to think, and I believe helps me concentrate, becoming more focused and less absent-minded.

Now that I have a deeper appreciation of the craft, I say this to all women who have children: teach them to crochet. Pull them away from the video games, the texting on their phones, and give them a crochet hook and some yarn. If they can’t crochet in silence put on music, or plug them into an audio book. It’s amazing how this simple action of creating knots can help you be more attentive. I finished an entire audio book while I was learning to single crochet and not once did my attention wane from hook or book.

For me this as The Summer of Crochet, make it yours as well. You won’t regret it.

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Tomorrow is Another Day

by RS on June 15, 2014

Tomorrow is another day. ~ Scarlett, O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

Is it really? Do you have another day to put off what you should have done today?

This morning whenI checked my emails, I saw a note that was forwarded from the Facebook group I moderate. One of our members, Lisa Threadgill, passed away unexpectedly.

Lisa had a condition that was monitored by doctors. We all, and I’m assuming she is as well, thought she was fine. Apparently not. She was taken to the hospital unconscious, put on life support and when all the tests showed she had no brain activity her family made the tough decision to take her off life support.

My deepest sympathies go to her loved ones. I know the decision is a terrible one to make, but to watch a person, who was full of life, waste away in a vegetative state is torture.

I am saddened by Lisa’s passing, but also feel terribly guilty. Why? Because I was one of her beta readers. She emailed me her 800 page book in December with the expectation to get my feedback in April, but between moving, working, the Ol’ Man’s health issues, I kept putting off to read her story.

When you beta read, it’s not a quick read. You’re looking for inconsistencies in the timeline, character development, plot holes, grammar, what can be edited, added, and so on. I used to be able to plough through 800 pages in about two weeks time, but that was when I was reading for entertainment. So now that I finally had time, I was about to sit with Lisa’s book, and read where I had left off and take notes. But I’m too late. I missed the opportunity to discuss her story with her, to meet her in November, and talk books, movies, life in Cali, and everything in between.

Life gets in the way and there are times when you’re tired or preoccupied to write, read, exercise or whatever project you want to start, but procrastinating makes things worse and it can make you feel like crap. And that’s how I feel. I let Lisa down by procrastinating, and ultimately I let myself down.

So here’s the lesson: in spite of Scarlett’s endless optimism that tomorrow is another day, sometimes tomorrow won’t arrive. So whatever it is that you need to do, don’t put it off and just get it done. Today. Now.

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Burning Books

by RS on June 9, 2014

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ~ Ray Bradbury

One image that made a strong impression when I was a girl is the above photograph of students and Brown Shirts burning books at a university in Berlin in 1933. This was a campaign conducted by the German Student Union to  burn books in Nazi Germany and Austria by classical liberal, anarchist, socialist, pacifist, communist, Jewish, and other authors whose writings were viewed as subversive or whose ideologies undermined the Nazis.

I was raised to treat books with respect. A book was revered, almost worshipped in my parents’ house. At one point, we had over three thousand books on a number of subjects. If I had a question, my father would pull a book from the shelf and simply say, “Read this.”

So it’s no surprise I have many books. Maybe the subject matter is focused on a handful of topics that interest me, but nonetheless, whenever I have a question, I turn to the books on the shelf or I browse through Amazon to see if I can find another one to add to my collection.

I always thought books made the best gifts, but was amazed to see that not many of my friends appreciated receiving one. One good friend admitted he didn’t like read, and it surprised me that he would be so open about it. Over the years, I’ve met more people with the admission of  “I’m not a big reader,” or “I haven’t opened a book since grad school,” or “Who has time to read?”

When you meet more and more folks  like that you begin to think who needs to burn books when there’s simply no interest in reading at all. Out of curiosity I checked some statistics and this is what I found: According to a Pew Research Center report that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year (that includes ebook or listened to an audio book) The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

And that made me wonder about literacy in the U.S. In an October 2013 OECD survey that measured literacy, math and computer skills of about 5,000 U.S. adults between ages 16 and 65, and compared them with similar samples of adults from 21 countries, these were the results (from the Washington Post):

Americans are “decidedly weaker in numeracy and problem-solving skills than in literacy, and average U.S. scores for all three are below the international average and far behind the scores of top performers like Japan or Finland,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the data collection arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

When it comes to literacy, adults in the U.S. trailed those in 12 countries and only outperformed adults in five others. The top five countries in literacy were Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Sweden.

Who do we blame? Parents who don’t have time to read to their kids, but also don’t show any interest in reading at all? Schools that are underfunded, over-crowded, and have inadequate teachers, Socio-economic inequality, or simply too much TV, Internet, and too many electronic gadgets to play with? Or is it a combination of all the above?

Yet when I was told that on the last day of BEA the Javits center was packed with tweens and teens, I was impressed that kids would want to spend a gorgeous day inside a convention center for the sole purpose of getting books to read. So there’s some hope−at least that’s what I’d like to believe.

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