the sweetest reminder

Friends are coming for the long holiday weekend and so we ran down the mountain to get the necessary supplies. On my list before groceries was a stop for new yarn and needles.

I need to teach these girls to knit, you see.

Not because they asked, exactly. But because, well, I might have–sort of–insisted.

It was my first time in this sweet yarn shop and the selecting of fiber/color/yardage took a bit of time. When I was at last ready to check out the precious owner, who’d shared a bit of the winding road that had led her to this place, offered two sets of free needles. She understood I would be teaching and therefore setting loose into the world two new knitters.

It was a most gracious offer.

Still I refused, suggesting she needed to make a living.

No I don’t, she said. Then she smiled.

I am making a life.




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Friday Love 1.31.14

a little roundup of things that inspired me this week

1. theSkimm, Superbowl edition  I thank my sister-in-law, Colette, for alerting me to this fast, fabulous daily e-news service called theSkimm. Today’s version is a quick download of all the most interesting things about Sunday’s Superbowl. Check it out. Sports fanatic or not, it’s just fun.

2. The Stitch Block Cowl, from purl bee   I covet. Would someone make this for me? Please? (The link includes the pattern.)

photo credit: the purl bee

3.  The Gap from Ira Glass      What is the difference between a hack and an artist? According to Ira Glass, it’s volume. In a talk beautifully animated by photographer and artist Daniel Sax, Glass talks about doing the work to cross the gap between recognizing (“taste”) and creating (“skills”). And that requires some serious volume. A fascinating theory on the creative process that promises there’s hope for any of us willing to put in the time.


3.  Wordless News 1.28.14     I love every illustration the fabulous Maria Fabrizio creates for her astounding project, Wordless News. And this one from January 28th? I love love love. Take a peek and see what happens when an artist (who has clearly crossed The Gap) reports a top news story using exactly NO words. And she does it five days a week. Just wow. (Note: At the bottom of each post, Maria provides links to word-filled news stories if you want more context.)

5. The Dark ‘n Stormy      It’s the national drink of Bermuda, and it’s also the cocktail that got us through Storm Leon. The link here is to the recipe from Goslings. I must confess we added a splash of simple syrup, an option we discovered during a fun dinner with friends at Cafe Caturra last weekend. (Did you know they have feathers hanging in the restaurant?) The Dark ‘n Stormy. Mmmmm.


waiting for leon

We went to bed Monday night with a most assured forecast for significant snow, a rarity here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Needless to say the excitement had been building for days; snow was the primary topic of conversation everywhere. Events were being cancelled right and left—Leon (when did they start naming snow storms?) would arrive around 11 am Tuesday, start as sleet/freezing rain, change to snow, then shower all afternoon, evening, and night, with a good chance for continued flurries until lunchtime on Wednesday.

Oh boy!

I made a list of all the supplies I needed to make it through the winter storm.

  • firewood (plenty on hand)
  • knitting yarn
  • birdseed
  • Gosling’s black rum and ginger beer and lime*

I got up early Tuesday and rushed around town like a woman crazed. By noon I was back home and ready—bird feeders filled, a big fire blazing, and my eyes turned toward the winter sky.

I waited. And watched. And waited. And watched. And as darkness approached, exactly no snow had fallen here on Bickley’s Pond.


I’m not casting stones at the forecasters here, may I be clear about that? I can’t imagine trying to predict the weather, even more so now that the demand is for a detailed hour-by-hour schedule days in advance. My point is merely that I looked out the window a thousand times that day, sure we were mere minutes away from that most profound and beautiful of nature’s weather tricks—snow falling, with all its soul-calming powers.


Storm Leon did eventually arrive, something I am rather sure you already know. It started long after dark, and ended long before sunrise. That means we awoke to the pretty albeit temporary scene of a white blanketed (pardon the cliche) world.

We just never saw a single flake fall.


There is a 32 percent chance of snow each year in Columbia, South Carolina, according to the State Climatology office. That means it’ll be another three years before the odds are in our favor to get more snow, the way I figure it. Therefore I’d like to put out there for anyone who wants to jump on my snow bandwagon:


(Who’s with me?)

Let’s hold out for another snowstorm this year, one that arrives in the daylight so we can actually experience the magic and wonder of the snow as it falls.

Let’s pray for a snow miracle!

*Dark and Stormy fixin’s. Details to come.

nag nag nag nag nag

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Seriously. Have you?

The corner of this bed—more specifically, the slipping of the clearly inadequate mattress pad that was previously on the corner of this bed—has been the bain of my existence for years. I’m not kidding. Years.

Night after night I’ve had merely to slip between the sheets to feel the clearly inadequate mattress pad pull from its tucked corner, causing the bottom sheet to slip, as well. Within 10 minutes the entire bed was nothing more than crumpled, uncomfortable mess.

(Don’t even get me started on the upper body strength required to make the bed the next morning.)

Whelp, no more. After reading The Happiness Project last January, it only took 13 months for me to enact one of Gretchen Rubin’s January resolutions: Tackle a nagging task.

Unfinished tasks were draining my energy and making me feel guilty.

Gretchen sat down and made a five page list of all those annoyances she just couldn’t seem to deal with, realizing their unfinished state exhausted her. Then she set about tackling the list.

Buy that wedding present. Mail that package. Fix the hall light.


It took 10 minutes and $35 (yes, I splurged and went base model+ at Target), and for the past three nights, Tim and I have had the most peaceful nights’ sleep in a long time.

Partly due to the bedding, of course. But also due to the fact that I no longer fall asleep thinking:

One of these days, I’m going to need to do something about this #@%! mattress pad.

I’m so inspired I’m now going to work on the next item on the Nag Nag Nag List:


Oh, January. I do love you.

Personal commandment #1: Be me.

Do you believe, as I do, that a wonderful gift of age is the ability to embrace—and celebrate—the things that make us different? It’s something that’s on my mind as I watch my own daughter, now 19, move beyond that overwhelming teenage need to blend and belong. She is a little more Eliza each time she comes home from college.

I think back to a gathering of my lifelong friends, the Wise Women, when we met last Spring at Primland. There was a moment late Saturday night when I looked around the room and into those familiar faces and I thought: How I love these women. How I admire them. How surprised I am we are here, all these years later, such an eclectic group.

Amy, Julie, Lisa, Suzann, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon

You see, we seven have been friends for 50 years. We share a unique history, growing up together in the 60s and 70s in the rugged mountains of Southwest Virginia, remote, isolated even. It was quite a time.

We were quite a group.

You might expect that we Wise Women would, today, have a great deal in common. And we do. Time together reconnects those links and offers a powerful, centering force. But we have also grown into ourselves, each of us, and have become a rather diverse collection. These annual gatherings are a celebration of those differences; they are the moments in which I feel the most transparent, loved not in spite of but because of the ways I have Become Cathy in my South Carolina life.


Be Gretchen is the first commandment author Gretchen Rubin wrote for herself in her year-long quest for greater happiness. I found it to be such a profound concept I, too, put it at the top of my list. In doing so, I vowed to let go of some long-held (and constantly nagging) intentions in exchange for an honoring of those abilities and interests that come to me more naturally.

What a wildly liberating thought. How wonderful to release the burden of eternal expectation and to instead, simply acknowledge what is.

I will get organized; clean off my desk. I will launch a thousand good ideas into the world.

I will learn to love to run, dammit! I will stretch and strengthen with Pilates.

I will start less and finish more. I will have a little bit of everything, thank you.

When it comes to our Wise Women weekends—making reservations, planning meals, coordinating travel—I am not the friend tasked with “details,” you can be sure. But there’s no doubt I will drive up in a car loaded down with bag after bag of unsanctioned snacks, several knitting projects, a sketchbook or two, a stack of magazines, the last 10 books I’ve loved, a ridiculous assortment of outfits. And shoes. Always way too many shoes.

After all. How can a girl possibly know on Thursday what she is going to feel like wearing on Sunday?

Actually, we all take too many shoes. (We counted.)


In January


I’ve long held that January is the only civilized month. With its winter arms and 5 o’clock cloak, January offers an extraordinary opportunity to slow down, curl up, hide away. In fact, I love January because it is the one month in which it is deemed perfectly respectable to do so.

In January, I read. And by that I mean I fall slowly and deeply into wonderful, winding novels that take entire afternoons that stretch into evenings that go right on with me to my cozy you-can-never-have-too-much-down bed. I skate through centuries and across continents and just for a while, take leave of the incessant demands that are my life.

In January, I sit. Our living room is built around a real wood-burning fireplace, and our neighbors know if there is smoke coming from the chimney, Cathy is In Residence.  There is just something about that fireplace, and me. I would rather sit and stare at its flames than watch TV or sit on a beach or play on my iBook. The woodsy smell, the pops and cracks, the constant tending, the red hot embers—I stare like a young lover, mesmerized.

In January, I knit. I know. So 70s. But I love the feel of yarn and the rhythm of the pattern and clickclickclick of the needles. I find deep satisfaction in making something useful. And I rejoice in the creation of something so beautiful, just Right There.

In January, I promise. I tell myself it’s within my power to make time to do these things any time of the year; that there’s no reason I can’t take an entire afternoon IN AUGUST to sit quietly, or read, or create.

And I believe. Until inevitably, February comes, and the pause button releases.

Until then . . .

Day 17: Shall We Knit?

I am a knitter.

Except, truth be told, I really don’t knit that much. Instead, I click around on Ravelry, spend an inordinate amount of time ooohing and aahhhing over beautiful (and expensive) yarn I’m never going to buy, and I read lots of knitting blogs.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot, writes one of my favorites. She’s a knitting rock star, a published author, and a delightful blogger. I promise you’ll love her posts even if you don’t care a thing about knitting. Here’s what appeared on Yarn Harlot today:

I’m finding it super tricky to blog about my knitting right now, since most of it is super-sneaky stealth knitting for people who peruse the blog. I’ve asked some of the recipients not to look, and they said they wouldn’t, but they’re lying, so pardon me while we go a little light on the pictures for a bit.  I missed blogging yesterday because I forgot who I was for a minute, and went to the mall thinking that I could wrap up the rest of the Christmas shopping.  I was there for two hours and bought only seven pairs of underpants and a bar of soap, and would have left sooner except that I couldn’t find the door that I came in so I could go back out.  The mall always does it to me.  There’s so much choice that after 15 minutes of exposure I can’t think of anything I want, suffer some sort of breakdown, enter a vague fugue state where I can’t think of anything in the world I need, eat something strange and leave.   It was catastrophic, and just left me sitting in the parking lot when it was all over clutching the bag of panties and wanting those hours of my life back.  I’m recovering today.  The only saving grace is that Joe has the fortitude for mall shopping, but not panty buying – so at least I nailed that part of our daughters stockings, and can turn the rest over to someone with the strength for it.  I have no idea how people stand it. I’m going back to the things I can manage today.


All this reading and writing about knitting is moving me closer to actually picking up the needles for an intense winter project. I’m thinking, also, that it would be MUCH MORE FUN if several of us knitted together. (My friend Allison suggested it be a Knitting Book Club, in that we could knit AND talk about the book we are reading. Isn’t that just doubly fun?)

lusciousness with which i do plan to knit

So I say: Let’s do it. Let’s start a Group Knit in January, on Mondays after work, since Mondays are not really good for anything else. If you’re in the greater Midlands area, do join us! If not, why not find a group in your city? Knitting shops like Yarn Paradise in Asheville almost always host a weekly Sit and Knit, and you can find knitting circles in your area on Ravelry. (Let me also offer a shout-out to The Needler in Lexington. Susie and her group can solve any problem you have—knitting or what to fix for dinner—and I have walked in there with many.) Something else I love about the knitting community? It loves nothing better than helping bring a beginner into the fold.


So pull out that project you started in the 70s (hey–it’s back in style now) or if you’ve never knitted, come on along and we’ll get you going with a really pretty but very simple-to-make scarf. (Just let me know so we can get you the yarn and needles you need before we commence.)

Yay knitting! Yay January!

30 Days of Joy

Finally, the Agnes Clutch

The other day my friend Pam came to the office and spotted my finished Agnes Clutch on the big kitchen/conference table.  “Are you actually using your new clutch? Or are you just carrying it around with you so everyone will see it?” she asked.


So here it is, in all its glory.

Finished, at last. Cathy’s Agnes Clutch

Knitting, Stretching, and The Agnes Clutch

So. I have too many hobbies. Seriously. Painting, reading, tennis, writing, music, choir, knitting, photography, journaling, gardening, cooking. It’s exhausting, and mostly because there is a truth I realize: If I narrowed my focus, I might actually become good at one of them.

Instead, it’s music on Sunday (learning the oboe again), painting on Monday (oils), book club on Tuesday (Madame Bovary this month), choir on Wednesday, you get the picture. And let me say. I also have a full time job AND a family.

The Inspiring Agnes Clutch

Anyway, last weekend, I started a new knitting project. I had just spent two years knitting one scarf (okay, there were a few other projects sprinkled in as I knitted on and on and on, on the Suzann Scarf), so I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be next. After much research, I settled on Mel Clark’s Agnes Clutch. I headed to my local knitting store for yarn. I went with the specific intention of buying luxurious yarn—two years on one project makes you think about how nice it is to hold something that feels good in your hands.

Rowan Colourscape goodness

Following much debate with a very patient sales person, I walked out with two skeins of gorgeous 100% lambswool yarn. And new needles, in which I invested an additional 20 bucks although I was pretty sure I had the same size needles at home. But I wasn’t positive.

The owner of the shop, a very helpful and experienced knitter, looked over the pattern with me. “Have you done the provisional cast-on?” she asked. “Uh, no,” I thought. As she demonstrated—using two needles AND a crochet hook, I also thought, “I’m way over my head here.”

And still I carried on.

Here’s where I am today.

The beginnings of the Agnes Clutch.
Looks simple.  (It’s just the angle of the photo!)

And here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s good to push your boundaries, even if you sometimes feel frustrated.
2. It’s not good to knit in the sort-of dark.
3. Really expensive yarn DOES make for a much better knitting experience.

I think my Agnes Clutch will be as pretty as I dreamed when I forked over the fortune for the yarn. And if I’m going to knit it and rip it out over and over, which is just how it seems right now, it might as well be a pleasant experience as I knit.