Achievement unlocked: NaBloPoMo complete

For the first time ever,  I did it!  I completed NoBloPoMo!

To celebrate, I’m going to do a little surprise giveaway.  Leave a comment on this post, telling me something you accomplished this month (and  if getting dressed every day was all you could manage, I’ll take it!)  I’ll draw a winner next week, and they’ll get a little box of surprise happiness in the mail.  Might be yarn, or  a book,  or chocolate.  Heck, it might be a rattlesnake, but probably not because they’re hard to find this time of year.  And they might not pass the Post Office’s “Anything liquid, fragile or hazardous?” questions.  So it PROBABLY won’t be a rattlesnake.

I was thinking last night how good it was to have a project with a fixed goal or firm deadline attached to it.  Having two in one month might not have been the best plan, but it refreshed anew how much better I do when I have something concrete to work towards, especially when I’ll be letting someone down if I don’t finish on time.  It reminded me of my crazy pre-Squam project from this past Spring, which is best titled “the tale of 10 box bags in 10 days”.

Early in May, I took a sewing class to learn how to make a box bag.  It’s one of those projects that I thought I could reverse engineer on my own, but I love taking classes at Gather Here, so I jumped on the class when I saw the opening.  I loved making the bags!  They were challenging (but not impossible), didn’t take a lot of fabric and created something really useful.  I knew I wanted to make more, but I also knew how likely it would be that they would end up on the mile long list of want-to-dos that litter my crafting landscape like shiny things in a magpie’s nest.  I needed a plan – and so, I decided I would make a bag for each of my Squam cabin mates as a surprise “I’m so glad you’re here!” present.  I posted up on Ravelry asking everyone what their favorite colors were and when I had my list, I hit the fat quarter bins at Gather Here to pick out fabric for everyone.

Then I spent two weeks doing other stuff that I somehow decided was more important.  They might even HAVE been more important, but the next time I came up for air, I realized I was less than two weeks out from Squam departure – oops.  But!  Everyone knew I was planning something and I had bought all this fabric – it was just going to have to be a challenge to get it all done on time.

So, I started sewing and cutting and sewing some more, and I got them all done!  We’ll gloss over the part where there were several nights I was up until two in the morning and the number of ridiculously stupid mistakes I made along the way (truly, how many times did I have to sew the end shut with the zipper head on the wrong side of the seam before I learned that lesson?), and quietly bask in the knowledge that I got it done.

A not-very-good picture of the first seven to get finished.

I brought them up to Squam, and since I was there way before everyone else and heading back out of the cabin for yarnbombing, I left them on a table in the main room with a note, for everyone to find when they got there.  When we came back, everyone had arrived and they were all excited about the bags and I got hugs and thank yous that were almost overwhelming.  As I accepted their thank yous, the thing I kept saying was “It wasn’t THAT much, and besides, I really needed a project.”

I realized afterwards how true that was.  I really needed a project to focus on in May, and it had to have a deadline and it had to be all consuming (or as close to that as a working mom can get, anyway.)  Work and life were feeling completely overwhelming all month, and when that happens, without something that needs doing, I just sink.  I work, I go home, I keep it together until H goes to bed and then, most nights, I go to bed when she does.  I know I should *want* to do stuff, that staying engaged replenishes me instead of depleting me further, but without a focus and a deadline I just drift.  Working on these bags was possibly the first time I realized that if given a project that I had to keep working on, because I had a deadline and a commitment, I could maybe stave that off.

The truth is, work and life (but especially work) is chronically overwhelming these days, and worse, usually overwhelming me with tasks that just never get completed, because it’s not in their nature to ever be finished.  This month, knowing I had to get a blog post up every day and knowing I had to get a knitting project in the mail by a certain date kept me moving.  Having projects with an obvious finish point helped too, because I could enjoy knowing it was done.  I didn’t get enough sleep, work still made me crazy, but I was happier too.

Now, I need to figure out how to create that kind of energy and focus without an external deadline.  I suppose December is covered, what with Christmas knitting, but in the new year, I need to find a way to make goals and use them to help keep my head above water.

Thank you for reading, and helping to keep me going in the right direction!

10 comments to Achievement unlocked: NaBloPoMo complete

  • Hi Jenn,
    Your bags are lovely! The fabric is all so cheerful to see on this slightly gloomy day in my part of the world! :)

    The one big thing I accomplished in November was driving to California to visit some relatives for Thanksgiving. I’d seen one of them in the last few years, but for some it’s been as long as 15 years, so it was worthwhile to leave my current comfort zone for a week, to be in the midst of that loving crowd!

  • P

    Being creative is an essential antidote to work, especially when it threatens to overwhelm. What beautiful box bags – what very lucky Squam cabin-mates to have you sharing with them.

  • We accomplished a HUGE project in November. Our 1791 farmhouse now has insulation!! It wasn’t easy or cheap, a real long term project complete that we will thoroughly appreciate fro years to come! Love your bags!

  • Jenn

    Wow, Susan, that is a spectacular achievement, and a massive undertaking. I bet you will really appreciate it this winter when the wind come howling. Do you have pictures of your farmhouse? I bet it’s really cool.

  • Jenn

    Thank you, Lynn! That sounds like it was a great trip – a good drive from where you are to CA, no? I’m so glad you got that visit in, it is so, so important to spend time with the people you love while you can.

  • Jenn

    Thank you! You are so right, P, the creative is essential to balancing the rest of my life, until I can to the point where is is the focal point instead.

  • Shani

    This week or so, I will have logged a year in my new (not new now) fancy rolling to-do list that I started using at work to keep track of all the crazytown stuff I have to do. Almost abandoned it after Thanksgiving because I was so behind in updating it, but I made a big push on Friday and it’s all ready for December.

    I also accomplished going to Ala for Thanksgiving and not killing anyone or picking a big fight with my immediate family (mostly including husband!). That was a mark of achievement.

    I think the main problem in my little pushes is not making them some kind of priority with a deadline. I can always let myself down, I guess.

    As I recall I have a tree skirt I promised to finish. :/

  • Hi Jenn,

    Congrats on your November daily blogging! It is funny how projects can be both inspiring and overwhelming all at once, and so elusive to find “balance” within it. I think external motivators are just fine. I read “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin, this summer and she touts her simple daily checklist as one of the most important components of actually creating a life where she felt happier, more creative and more alive. I highly recommend her book and am totally in support of projects helping to push us towards growth and inspiration.

    As for me I revived my blog this Novemeber…and have since made 3 posts and I started up the dye pots and have 3 new colorways in progress. Feels good to get back on the horse!

  • Jenn

    Thank you!

    I actually have “The Happiness Project” on my desk at home, and I’ve been feeling remarkable resistance to actually reading it, I’m not quite sure why, but I think I am just going to have to push through it. Another friend read it and go a lot of inspiration out of it, too.

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts, so I am very glad that you have revived it, and I can’t wait to see your new colorways when they are ready to make their debuts!

  • Jenn

    Go you, pushing through the PITA work projects! And going to Alabama and not picking fights is also good. Staying away from the family had to have helped there, eh?

    It is so easy to let yourself down. Because we are all so masterful at rationalizing our decisions where we do that to ourselves. I almost feel like we need a buddy system of accountability. There’s nothing like having to speak our excuses out loud to another person to make it obvious that they are excuses.