Jun 12, 2008

Knit Wit

I am finally learning how to knit - sort of.
Actually, the knitting lesson was a Christmas present from my fiance. A gift can tell a lot about the giver and the receiver. My fiance gave me the knitting lessons thinking it would help me to slow down and relax. My gift to him? Rock climbing lessons! I thought it would be cool for us to climb the side of mountains together via lessons at our local rock climbing wall downtown. However, rock climbing is on hold until I am out of pain.

If you have been reading my blog for a bit, you will remember that I was in a serious car accident in December, on my birthday no less. I was hit by a drunk driver and flipped my car. If you missed that post
click here to read it, if you wish. I haven't been able to blog as often as I would like to (and I miss it). The past several months have been challenging in many ways and stresses. Chronic pain is one of them. The accident forced me to slow down, whether I liked it or not and whether I learned how to knit or not. So, I decided to learn how to knit.

As I struggle to properly hold the knitting needles, keep the yarn around my fingers, and try not to let my little loops fall off my needles, it occurs to me that knitting is very much like my life lately. There are two general schools of knitting: either English style, known as "throwing" the yarn which is held in the right hand or Continental style, known as "picking" the yarn which is held in the left hand. It doesn't surprise me that I fell into the "picking" style since it requires me to maneuver my yarn in my left hand, even though I am mostly right-handed. Sort of like learning how to knit backwards. And there has been quite of few times that I conducted my life backwards as well.

For example, I married before I went to college. I became a supervisor before I was really ever an employee. I became a stage actress way before I ever took a single acting lesson. I owned my owned boutique having never before worked in a store. And I bought my first home without using a realtor or lawyer. I remember I bought my first plane ticket for Europe before I ever applied for my passport and I moved to Germany before I learned to speak German. I was insistent on learning how to make crepes when I didn't even own a crepe pan. And I made my first (and only) quilt having never picked up a sewing needle. I even once agreed to have "my" apartment photographed for a magazine before I even had the keys in my possession, nor any furniture for it in the first place! Oh what a tangle web we weave. But what a fun web it was!

Well, some would call my life experiences as "leaping before looking." Or maybe just plain nuts. Then there is my favorite, "What is wrong with you???" I think, truth be told, it is a recipe made of excitement mixed with a dash of impatience stirred with adventure. But it can be a recipe for disaster at times as well as a recipe for a very rich life. Looking at my life so far, I would say I have very rich taste - and I ain't on no diet!

But on the other hand, life has a way throwing its own ingredients into the mix and that is when things can get messy - sort of like my ball of yarn right now.

When I find myself holding onto life "to keep it all together", that usually results in my feeling frazzled. And while knitting, I tend to hold and manipulate the yarn too tightly, which causes the yarn to fray and become fuzzy.

I like how this stray "hair" in my knitting demonstrates how deceptive life can become. The loops look fairly neat, orderly, and all in a row...but if you look closely, you see how frazzled the yarn became in my effort to keep all the loops just right.

These loops, which appear lined up in a perfect row, took much, much effort to get that way. The fuzzy yarn shows how much handling, holding, coaxing it took to get them lined up as they should (or at least how I think they should). While the end result is passable, the process was painful. At times, it required me to unravel the entire row and begin again. And at other times, my yarn was in such a mess, I couldn't even unravel it myself. I had to go to my teacher and have her undo my mess while I stood there and watched carefully how she slowly (once again) showed me the method, the technique, and the proper way to hold my needles so that I may accomplish my goal.

The best lesson she gave me though was a reminder: She reminded me that I was a beginner.

Like any good teacher, she encourages and she corrects. She expects mistakes but she also expects me to keep trying. She never chastises nor makes me feel guilty for having my yarn frazzled or knotted up. She is gentle with my yarn, as she patiently untangles my mess, knot by knot, and carefully rolls it all up into one neat ball of yarn again. Then she hands it back to me with a smile and simply says: "Now, try again."

I know of another teacher that is just as loving and patient with me. If only He could teach me to be as gentle with myself as my knitting teacher is with me. Currently, my life is not going as smoothly as I would wish it. But, no matter how knotted up it may get, it is nice to know that I can always try again. And again.

So, at this time in my life, I am trusting my life teacher to help show me my way. I will try again. And I am going to take the time I need to gently and patiently roll my life up again neatly. Not perfectly. Not quickly. But you can bet it will be very rich.

May the knots in your life untangle easily and know that you can always try again.

And again.

From my house to your house,



Myrna said...

Dear Elizabeth,
I 'happened' upon your blog months ago and was hooked. I love how you share your life so eloquently, as well as your talents and knowledge of design and business. And when you'd inform of the trials of your life, I would pray for you. And I imagine many, many others are praying for you.
I am intimately aquainted with chronic pain--have had it for years. Your fiance is a loving, wise and thoughtful man--knitting! What a great idea! But I also know the frustration that comes from wanting to do things that used to come so easily and now you're painfully reminded of limitations you didn't have before. I guess all this to say is I understand a little bit of what you're going thru. And sometimes, just knowing someone understands the frustrations and dissappointments of life helps lift the burden a little bit. That's all I hope I can do for you.
I just felt compelled to write you and let you know I'm out here and I'm praying for you. A verse that comes to mind when thinking of you is in Psalms..."Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer." Hope that helps...
I started a blog about a month ago..come by and visit sometime!!
From my heart to yours,

cathypentonatelier said...

hello my friend, lovely to hear about your journey as always...Your writing is amazing... Take care Cathy

secretleaves said...

What a lovely and thoughtful post, Elizabeth. I'm sorry you are struggling right now. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know. Love you.


Unknown said...

Wow! What a wonderful way to look at the art of knitting. I hope that it is something that you really enjoy! Dena

Heavenly Chic Interiors said...

Your post are always worth the wait :) May whatever trouble that is going on in your life be over soon.

Wishing you well, T

Anonymous said...

It's good to hear from you again. I am sorry to hear of your difficulty, and pray there will be relief soon.
Elizabeth, I have read your blog for a while, and have really admired how adventurous you are. It's just who you are. I am a bit that way as well, with a little more reserve after a few knocks. I believe God gives us a mate who can balance us. At least it has worked that way for me. Anyway, just keep being yourself. You are great!
Debbie from homewithhospitality@yahoo.com

Kasey said...

I just came across your blog, and it's just lovely!!!
Wonderful pics.
I'll keep visiting.

*The Beautiful Life* said...

Oh Elizabeth. What a post. And I thought I was the only one who "sees" more in situation than just that which is on the surface. I cannot tell you how wise and moving this post is. You transition beautifully from telling about the awkwardness of weilding the knitting needles is (resulting in a few tangles/missteps) to then relating back to how we all have our "knots" and "tangles" in life. The best part, though, is when you relate your knitting teacher to the ultimate Teacher; the One who for most of us is always allowing us to climb up into His lap and ask for His help in unraveling the mess-of-the-moment. Can't you just hear Him saying, as He gives us a loving squeeze in his arms, "Aw...don't worry, hon - let's see about getting this mess figured out, huh? We'll get this thing turned around. Just next time, come to Me first and ask Me what plans I have for you - things will run a bit more smoothly for you that way. And about those plans I have, I promise, they're pretty awesome ones..."
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your candor, your "realness" and your willingness to "be available" to ladies everywhere. I'll bet this post is going to make quite a few of us ready to look around, dust ourselves off, and go forward again. Thanks friend.

debi lynn mattingly said...

Hey my darlin' yaya, a beautiful post! I knew you said you were going to try this and as always I "love" the colors you are working with....very much "You". As you know...our prayers are always with you and Randy. (Your "ducky" was here the other day! :)...I will talk to you soon! Love ya...deb

amber said...

Hi how are you? This is Amber and I left a comment awhile ago on your personal blog. I need your help and advice. Since opening my boutique I have had an online shop owner call me and ask for a list of my vendors (which I did not give). I later learned that she came in and asked my employees where I got everything-then she changed the look of her online store to my same color scheme and has since started carrying most of my lines. I think it's great that she runs a boutique, I am also somewhat okay that she has taken some of my vendor lines, what bothers me is that she has tried to copy the look and feel of my boutique. Any advice? I don't mind the competition at all I just want her to be original and do her own look and feel. Have you ever had a problem with this and how did you solve it? hope to hear from you soon! amber

Elizabeth Maxson said...

I want to thank you all for the lovely comments. I appreciate them very much!

And I appreciate how you all took time out of your busy lives to express concern. That really warms my heart!

Myrna - thank you for sharing - it does help to know that someone else has "been there done that." You are sweet to offer your story!


Thank you for writing me with your concern. Yes, I know how you feel. First, you are much kinder than I am, because I would definitely mind if someone came into my store and asked my employees for my vendor list! I would also be not so happy about someone calling me asking for my vendor list over the phone either. In the retail world, that is just a no-no. In my opinion, it is rude, lazy, and cheap. There are exceptions of course. And I have shared a vendor or two under circumstances because I do want to help someone out, or maybe I am no longer carrying that vendor, but think it would work for another store, yes, I will share it. But those that I share vendor or two with are either a friend, a fellow retailer that I know and respect, or someone that took the time to establish a relationship with me and we began a new friendship. I am all about helping others and wanting them to succeed, as I write about that alot in my blog. Having said that, I also do not allow (or try to) others to take unfair advantage of my hard (and expensive) work and time.

To answer your question directly - what should you do? Well, your situation is exactly why I haven't posted my Internet store at this time. Yes, I do plan on having a store online, but it is getting harder and harder "to be different." One thing I have been doing - which may or may not be a smart thing to do - I purposely do not look, shop, or peruse any online store that I think may even come close to what I want to sell myself. Why? Because once I design it and put it up, should it happen to resemble another online store (and there is a good chance it may), I can in good conscience know that I created it from my own noggin - which also proves that there are really no "new" ideas out there. However, I do look at web sites that are not of my style to get a feel for navigation tools, what works, what doesn't. Why a site may be easy to follow or too difficult. I may study the shopping cart tool to help me decide which route I want to take and I will also study menu breakdowns - do they make sense and can I find a product quickly. I think that is just common sense. research when setting out to design a project. But as far as style, that will be all my own doing and if my style resembles another's, I can't help that.

Now having said that, I realized I never really answered your question. In my limited experience with this subject, I would say there isn't that much you can do to get her to change or stop selling the same items. Selling similar or like products will be the case with most web sites, so I wouldn't worry too much about that...just go find some very unique and wonderful artist to carry in your line of products. That is what I did with my store. As soon as someone started to sell exactly what I had (if they were within a certain amount of miles from my store), I immediately dropped it and found something even better to offer. It is bound to happen. But in your case, if her online store is really, really styled a lot like yours, then you may consider redesigning it ONLY if you are fairly new, don't have a huge following yet, and you can afford it. I am talking only about redesigning your online store, NOT your logo, your known colors, or name! You have equity built into these items. Just use your existing logo, name and colors in your online store in a different way.

But remember, redesigning your online store is a big IF: IF the other online store is very, very similar. IF you are fairly new online. IF you don't have a huge following yet. IF you can afford to do it. Otherwise, keep your online store as is, protect future new vendors, and keep marketing your site and build a bigger following. You existing customers trust you and like your site, they are usually very loyal.

The other web site that took your vendors, are selling the exact same products as yours and designed her site to look like yours is lacking what it takes to stay in the game of retail. Laziness, lack of creativity, and lack of personal, unique style never last long in our arena - even with a big bank account to support the business. Why? Because they lack passion for what they do. Real artists always, always want to be different. Why in the world would anyone want to exactly copy another is beyond me. Those people lack a passion for what they do. Your concerns are valid, but YOUR style is yours. No one can ever take that from you. Just know that there are far more wonderfully, talented women who run unique online stores who would never do what you are experiencing and they understand your concerns as well. Let's keep helping each other and supporting each other. One bad apple rots away anyway - it doesn't spoil the rest of us!

Happy retailing - and I do mean Happy - we need to enjoy what we do, don't we? :-)

From my house to your house,

amber said...

Thank you so much for responding to my comment. It means so much to me that you took the time to do so. I look up to you so much and I really value your thoughts and opinions. What you said did help immensely. It's nice to know that someone else has experienced the same things that I am. I too hope that your health improves. You are such an amazing person and have inspired so many others. I wish that I was close by and could help you, the way you have helped me. Thank you again for your advice. I really needed to hear it.
with love,

Little Cottage said...

You are SO sweet!
I have you on my favorite blogs & the way you word yourself is amazing;- from one heart to another!
As a 100% Norwegian (living for 10 yrs in the States), knitting was part of "growing up". My Grandma thought me, at age 6, the intricate world of knitting;- with 2 needles, round & also 5). Believe me, to hold the yarn over your left index finger, makes your work more even & also less hard on your arms.
I have done everything from baby socks to mens sweaters - Like bicycling: Once you know how, you just do....
Thanks for sharing your thoughts & life experiences - You are brave!

Anonymous said...

Ooooh Elizabeth. You have such a beautiful gift. Your eloquence is surely a God given talent meant to be heard. You are and continue to be an inspiration. O.K. I can keep going here but I think you know deep down that you are a special person and I love that I found someone who can articulate so profoundly the ironies of life. I will continue to make time to check on you. Please know that no matter what life throws your way there are a lot of people who care.


Lana Manis said...

Elizabeth ~ you make everything interesting with the stories you weave, or should I say knit!
I'm so sorry to hear that you're still having problems after that horrible accident. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Thank you Lana, yes, recovery is taking much longer than I expected. I appreciate the well wishes.

My best to you,

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