Welcome to my last happiness project post, at least for this year. I know it is a bit late to post it in the middle of the year, but you will understand why it’s taken me so long to write it in a few minutes. In some ways, this part of the list was the most fun for me to come up with because it includes goals and activities from so many different areas. Even reading through them again now, as I am adding details to my headlines, makes me feel incredibly excited. Let’s go!Continue Reading…
As I child, all I wanted for christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions was a new sweater knit by my grandmother Stephanie. I had one favorite, very colorful striped sweater that I refused to stop wearing, so each time it had gotten too small, she had to add another color block to the body and sleeves. It never occurred to me to start knitting myself though because life back then was all about fast fashion and nobody saw the need to knit since it was easier and cheaper to just buy from a store. Almost 20 years later, I got into knitting and have never felt more connected to my ancestors, especially my grandmother, who grew up producing garments and other knitted items from sheep to finished object on their small family farm in lower Austria.Continue Reading…
I have always loved Christmas. As a child, it was the most magical time of the year for me, perhaps because I believed in the Christkind (christ child), our version of Santa Claus, until I was 10 years old. Even though my classmates in primary school regularly told me that it didn’t actually exist, I didn’t want to hear any of it. Instead, I enjoyed exchanging letters with the Christkindhelfer (christ child’s helper), who I imagined living in our attic, and always found little goodies in my advent calendar every morning before I had to go to school. Every 23rd of December, my parents spent the whole night decorating the christmas tree without me knowing it, covered the window of the living room door with wrapping paper and locked the room. In the morning, I would get up and try to peek through the keyhole and, sometimes, could even see some of the presents and a few tree branches. On Christmas Eve, I was later told, one of my parents always left church a bit earlier than the rest of our family to prepare the living room to look like the christ child had just left. Once I entered the house, of course full of anticipation of which presents had been left underneath the tree for me, I heard a bell ringing upstairs, as well as lovely Christmas music playing in our living room. Often without taking my shoes off, I would sprint upstairs in order to catch the christ child “in the act.” Unfortunately, every year, I was only able to see its wings disappearing into the darkness outside. Since I was so convinced that the christ child was real, my parents decided to tell me the truth before I started high school so my classmates wouldn’t make fun of me. Even though I was upset for a while, I still love Christmas, and am so grateful that my parents went to great lengths to make sure I had the most magical holidays as a child.
A few weeks ago, while my mother was on vacation, I visited my grandmother to check up on her. We went for a walk in the garden in order for her to get some exercise, and I couldn’t help notice how beautiful nature was in the fall. The leaves were in the process of changing color and a few flowers were still blooming. Even though the sun was shining, the air was fresh and clean. It had rained all morning, so the grass was still a bit wet and the tiniest bit of mist was lingering in the woods surrounding the village my grandmother lives in. After our walk, while my grandmother was already enjoying the strudel I had baked for her, I went back into the garden to take a few photographs. Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone 8 with me, but I think it takes decent pictures. In evening, however, I already found myself browsing the internet for possible macro lenses for our Canon 7D. I have always enjoyed taking close-up photos, and even though we had a few lenses already, none of them allowed getting extremely close to the object. Last weekend, I was able to take my new lens, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM, for a spin.
There’s always sunshine above the clouds, but occasionally I get stuck flying through them. Today is one of those days. Even though I have been able to deal with my feelings fairly well for the past two years, ever since I started working in Austria full time, I am still occasionally haunted by ghosts from the past. Sometimes, it only takes a small trigger for negative feelings to overcome me. My stomach tightens up, I have a lump in my throat and I feel extremely hopeless. Most often, those feelings are connected to my past in academia or my professional future. Although I have a great job and am privileged having studied all over the world, I didn’t imagine my life turning out this way when I started university. I had bigger dreams and goals that I couldn’t live up to. For instance, I still haven’t forgiven myself for dropping out of my PhD program and not having the strength to persevere. When I have a good day, I know it was all meant to be because, otherwise, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today. When I have a bad day, however, feelings of just not being good enough surface.
It is socktober and temperatures are certainly dropping in my little corner of the world. During the day, I dream of snuggling up in front of the TV, drinking a warm beverage, and cuddling with my furry babies. When I come home from work and take off my fancy office shoes, I tend to reach for cozy handknit socks to keep my feet warm for the rest of the day. I have a sizeable collection, but haven’t woven in the ends on most of them because until this year, I hadn’t really worn any of my handknit socks. Shock! Horror! Why would I knit socks and almost never wear them? Well, I really enjoy knitting them because they’re very portable and the perfect project to work on when you don’t want to think about a pattern or just want to knit a few rows on the tram to the office.
I am what Alain Botton, the author of A Week at the Airport, would call a nomadic spirit, who cannot commit to any one country, who shies from tradition and is suspicious of settled community, and who is, therefore, nowhere more comfortable than in the intermediate zones of the world, landscapes gashed by kerosene storage tanks, business parks and airport hotels. In short, the airports of the world and the cabins of Boeings, Airbusses, Embraers, Canadair Regional Jets and Bombardier Dashs are my second home.
After several cold, dark and dreary days, the sun has finally made an appearance. Whenever the sun is shining, I feel extremely hopeful. I feel inspired and have the impression that anything is possible. It is a very distinct feeling that I nevertheless have a hard time describing. It is a very abstract answer to deep longings I have, a cozy warm feeling deep inside me that makes me see the world in a different light.
Even though temperatures are still sometimes slightly below freezing at night, I am currently happiest when I imagine sitting on our tiny balcony with my husband, enjoying warm summer evenings while sipping a glass of rum or a cocktail. As a person who does not feel comfortable in darkness, my favorite seasons are definitely spring and summer. Only since becoming a knitter have I started tolerating the colder and darker months of the year because lower temperatures certainly act as a catalyst for my knitting output. This year, fueled by my interest in designing, I have actually stated considering more consciously which projects are seasonally appropriate to knit, as well as wear. Perhaps it is merely an excuse for not picking up some languishing works in progress now that I would deem more appropriate for “summer knitting,” but I feel a lot more in charge of my creative process, as well as my making in general now.
At my work, days are either fairly relaxed or extremely stressful, certainly mostly the latter. There are very few moderately stressful days, which is quite interesting and cannot easily be explained. As I would describe myself as an introvert, although I am certainly among the more outgoing ones in this category, I get easily exhausted when dealing with crowds and have been prone to getting migraines regularly for the past five to ten years. I am fairly familiar with the warning signs and have developed strategies for preventing the migraine from causing me to collapse completely.
I recently found a single gray sock that my grandmother must have knit several years or even decades ago in my apartment. I inspected it very thoroughly, trying to figure out which techniques she had used. The sock was knit with thicker yarn (I would guess sport weight) and at a looser gauge than I usually do. I also didn’t recognize the type of heel flap and gusset construction. When I started knitting socks, my grandmother told me the story that when she was young, she was the family member responsible for knitting all socks. She would not only knit the socks, but also process, spin and dye the wool. As a child growing up on a farm in the Austrian countryside in the inter-war period and during World War II, she didn’t have many clothes and the ones she had were hand-made by one of her family members. I was very impressed by her story, especially that she was in charge of the whole process from sheep to finished sock, and asked her if she could write down her sock recipe for me. I asked her a few times and she always said she would do it as soon as she got a chance. However, I never actually got anything from her and thought it was probably because she couldn’t remember how she’d knit her socks. After all, she is turning 92 this year and had to stop knitting several years ago due to pain in her fingers.
Once I mentioned to my mother that I thought it was very unfortunate that my grandmother didn’t remember her sock recipe. My mother laughed and told me that my grandmother probably didn’t know how to write down instructions because back then, they simply knit socks without a “recipe.” Of course I knew that there weren’t any knitting patterns as we know them today when my grandmother was growing up, but I didn’t consider the possibility that knitting techniques and instructions were only passed down orally and items were “just knit”. Being someone who would be lost without patterns (especially when making garments), I am deeply impressed by people who just know how to knit specific items or modify them. But I guess it was normal back then. It is not like they had any other options.