Bullies, Be Gone

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I like documentaries, usually. I enjoy learning new things. I even watched a heartbreaking documentary that some of you might be familiar with about how elephants are treated in the circus. An elephant named Tyke had escaped and ran through the streets, desperate to get away from abuse before he was shot – I can’t even remember how many times. It profoundly affected me, and still does, so I try to stay away from the really difficult ones.

One day last week, though, I watched what I thought was a documentary about bullying. It actually was a movie. I’m not certain of the name now (don’tcha hate getting older?), but I think it was something like “Just a Girl.” Actually it was about two girls in two different states who had been bullied, both in school with verbal comments, cornering, shoves in the hallway and – something I never had to deal with – cyberbullying.

The first high school girl ended up committing suicide because it was all too much to handle for her. She had gone to a party and had too much to drink. She blacked out, and a male student took advantage of the blackout, posting all over social media that he had had sex with her, how hot she was, and how she “put out.” That morning, the morning after the party, she had frantically texted her friends, telling them she couldn’t remember the previous evening, and needed to know what happened.

This young girl had a wonderful reputation, ruined by one unfortunate evening. Some would say it was her fault because she was drinking. In fact, that opinion goes back years, just like “She was asking for it. Look how she dressed.”

Because of all the attention, the student couldn’t even make herself go  back to school. The last text she left to a friend said, “My reputation is ruined. My life is over.”  Then she killed herself.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in high schools. It happens in grade school, middle school, college, and on into supposedly “fully mature” adults. The thing about bullying that those who have never been bullied don’t know is that it sticks with you for life. Those words, once they’re out there, can never be taken back. Even apologizing, trying to make amends, doesn’t usually work. Sure, bullied people might appear perfectly fine on the outside. Someone who was told she had fat thighs in high school might be a colleague you work with. She doesn’t mention it aloud, but thinks of herself as ugly and alwayso tries to dress so that her thighs are less noticeable.

I’m known in my family for being sensitive, sometimes too much so. In fact, sensitivity involves many factors, and is now viewed to be as personality trait, even socio-biological. It’s evidenced in both animals and humans. For instance, my newest addition to our house, a rescue dog named Pookie, has what many of us have – selective memory. Although I pick him up and hold him for many reasons – to cuddle, to give him kisses, to carry him across to the backyard when the snow is too deep for him to walk in. But I also pick him up when I have to go somewhere, therefore putting him in his crate – for his safety as well as keeping him from destroying the house. Now, why do you think he often backs away from me when I go to pick him up? One would think he’d remember all the good reasons, the cuddling and so forth. But – just like you and me – he remembers going into the crate, which is still a highly stressful situation for him.

We’ve all been bullied at one time or another. Some of us manage to let it go. Others – us “overly” sensitive types – have memories like elephants. I have always suffered from severe anxiety, and developed a nervous habit of licking my lips in high school. One of my friends at the time said, “Why do you lick your lips like that all the time?” Here I was, thinking no one noticed me. I couldn’t say it was because I was anxious, so instead I said nothing, but still remember that comment. Another time, in college, a roommate said to me, “Open your eyes!” which was really innocuous and probably due to drinking too much the night before. But ever since then, when I see my eyes in the mirror, they look too small, the color is indefinable to me, and my lids seem droopy. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I interpreted what was said to me at my sensitivity level.

This is getting long. My apologies. And I’m sorry for any misspelled words or grammar errors; I didn’t take the time to proofread. It’s just that there are so many other ways to bully now, and others join in with “likes” or “comments” on social media, not to mention texting.

Try to remember to think before you speak. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid. There are no do-overs.

Peace,

Chris

Social Media CON-nections

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So okay. First I want to explain my choice of title for this post. Social media connections have many positive effects on people and individuals. What bothers me is it seems a little – like chocolate (for chocolate lovers). So if you love chocolate, you’d at least want to taste it, right? It would be weird not to.

Then suddenly, there is more and more chocolate, as far as the eye can see. And it’s still tasty, sure, but there’s starting to be kind of a chalky after-taste, like the chocolate “mouse” in Rosemary’s Baby. If you ever saw that movie, you’d remember how her actual satanic neighbors drew her in with kindness. But it still seemed strange to Rosemary, who brought it to her husband Guy’s attention. He laughed it off, telling her it was because of her pregnancy, or she was paranoid. When all the while, he had already been accepted into the circle.

Apparently, social media isn’t satanic (unless I’ve missed something in my research). But do you actually realize how many there are out there, and how many individuals join on a daily basis? Here is a graph of just the top fifteen social media websites of 2017:

Top social media sites in 2017

Taken from The 15 most popular social networking tabs in 2017

This is absolutely incredible to me. Most of these social networking sites I have never even heard of. And, contrary to popular opinion, I was not born under a rock. Let me just go on record as saying there are several good reasons for a person to spend hours on these sites. One, the person may be homebound in some way, or agoraphobic. Some people, struggle as they might to overcome that particularly difficult form of anxiety, cannot make it happen. For that person, social media is truly needed, plus it’s “open all night,” so there’s usually a friendly person to text with. I’m purposely using the term text because as much as we might try to convince ourselves, we aren’t speaking with anyone in particular.

When you see someone’s picture of FaceBook or any of these other sites, how much do you trust that photo? It could be a man or woman posing as the opposite sex, or even a teenager trying to sound more grown up.

For Pete’s sake, if I met someone in an online dating service, thought he was gorgeous and said all the right things, I would still ask to meet him in a very public place. If he or she is not who they say they are, they either won’t show up or fend me off with some lame excuse.

When did we become a country where social media websites have become like food to order on a menu. If I lived completely alone on an island, but was miraculously wealthy and could afford electricity, I would limit my time on social networks to one or two hours a day.

There are just so many other things to do in the world. It’s only my opinion, but I feel I can speak about it with some expertise because I’ve been there. Feel free to disagree.

Buyer beware. There are “con” (short for confidence) people everywhere.

Peace,

Chris

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A New And Exciting Adventure

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challenge-accepted-meme-dumpaday-17I am one of, as of right this moment (but that can change quickly), 1166 people signed up for the http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/.

Some people have what’s known as “themes,” where all their blog posts are tied together by a specific thread or idea. Others simply go by the seat of their pants and write about whatever moves them that day. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, especially at A-Z blogging time!

I’m a theme person, and I’ll be blogging about mental health as it relates to social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you think of anything else you might want to know about and I don’t know anything about it, ask anyway. I’ll try to find out everything I can to help you.

I’m excited about this challenge. I think I’ll be learning as much as you, and I’m hoping it will be both interesting and fun. Onward!! I can hardly wait until April 1st! 😀

The Reality About Anxiety

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fine

Take a long look at this sort of Justine Bateman Look-alike (or maybe it really is her). Do you think she has sand in her eye, or do think maybe she’s crying? Yet the message she’s sending out “to the world” is “I’m fine.” Have you ever been there, done that? I know I have, in the middle of tears, great big sobbing-blubbering-get-that-girl-a-hanky tears . . . I’m like “It’s o-o-okay. I’m fine.”

Then we have this fellow, some sort of coach, but I don’t follow sports all that chewing lipmuch, so… But unless you’re also someone who gets anxious, you might not notice this when you look at him. He chews the inside of his mouth. It’s something I do when I get stressed, too, because it’s the least obvious of picking on my fingernails or pacing. He really looks worried, though. I say, if it helps him in this moment (until he can find something that doesn’t hurt the inside of his cheek), there are worse things he could be doing.

mailboxShe’s being funny, of course, and referring to getting enough exercise walking back and forth to pick up the mail. But I’ve mentioned how difficult it is for me to pick up the mail, right? Sometimes my mom and I have to wait a few days for me to get up the courage, like I’ll pick up three days worth of mail at the same time. Ugh. Such an idiot, not being able to do such a supposedly simple thing. Well, agoraphobia can be like that.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about pretty much everything. So the cartoon dreadof the hammer about to come down on the nail actually did make me chuckle a little because it’s how I so often feel and I was like, “Yes! That’s it!” Especially the fact he’s so self-absorbed he doesn’t think enough to look down and see what happened to the other nail. That happens, we get so caught up in our own anxiety it can affect our relationships.deep breathingI hope this ecard doesn’t offend anyone. The fact is, anxiety–all forms of it–is a serious matter that deserves care and needs to be understood. In fact, during April’s Blogging from A-Z I plan to do a whole series on anxiety, which I hope will be both educational and fun(funny?). If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, and thank you for not smoking.

Smile and Hello Practice

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someonenewA smile is a curve that sets everything straight. ~Phyllis Diller

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. ~Dr. Seuss

They might not need me; but they might. I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity. ~Emily Dickinson

There are a ton of exercises and techniques I have yet to try in David Burns’s When Panic Attacks. I practically carry it with me wherever I go, and I definitely pull it out to work on cognitive distortions (This is All My Fault, I’m going To Do It All Wrong, I Can’t Get Anything Right, I’m so fat).

Smile and Hello Practice is one of the Interpersonal Techniques to counterbalance Shyness and Loneliness. You might not know this, or you may already know this about me, but I’m very shy. In order to make this a more palatable self-assignment, I thought I would do it at one of the funnest places I know, the Novi Public Librarysmile

The instructions go like this: “If you are shy, you can smile and say hello to 10 strangers per day. Use a 3×5 card to record how many people respond positively, neutrally, or negatively. You’ll often discover that people are much friendlier than you expected—unless you happen to live in Manhattan. I’ve tried this in Manhattan and everyone ignored me! Of course, even that can be helpful, because you quickly get over your fears of rejection.” (David Burns, When Panic Attacks )

This was pretty tough. When I was forced to keep my head up, say hello, and smile, it made me think of how much I look away and avoid human contact.  So, I only managed eight people. Every person except one smiled and said hello back. Plus–I didn’t count them among the eight–when I was at the self-checkout area with my books, there were two little boys with their Mommy. One turned right around and said to me “Hi!” Well, with that cheery face, what could I do except say hi back, and then his compadre said hi as well. So, if you count the two little guys there were ten.

What a feeling! We need connection and contact in this world and I connected in a little teensy way with 10 people.It’s pretty heady. Ever try it yourself? sayhello

The Fine Art of Letting Go

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holding_on_and_letting_go_by_klcarr-d4mh2l9 In my last post I said I was going to write about the worry over my mom and my sister. I also said I was going to write it the next day. Now you know not to trust anything I say. 😉

But seriously, I went to an amazing meeting this morning. And it wasn’t just because it was called the Sunday morning Amazing Grace Al-Anon meeting, either. We read from today’s reading in Hope for Today, and what I heard most of all was about letting go.

Boy, do I need to let go. I’ve been ashamed to talk about this here, but since I talked with my sponsor and with my friend Sherrie, who guest posted here and writes here, at Sherrie Theriault’s Blog, I feel better. My uber sponsor bolstered my spirits by speaking of a few small resentments she had rattling around in her head.

But what was most important was what Sherrie did. First, she made me laugh. Laughter is very important for the soul. 2. She let me know that I have a double standard, one for myself and one for everybody else, and I’m much harder an myself. 3. That resentments sometimes have layers, and if my sister just stopped drinking seven months ago, it’s not surprising I still have resentment left; and 4. That it’s okay, even good to let readers know other seasons of your soul. You need to know that there was a whole season I did not go to meetings. More importantly, you needed to hear from me during that time, that I was still here, what I was doing, how I was doing, so that you too could read and perhaps say, “Oh yes, that’s me.” or “Gosh, I don’t ever want to go there.”

It was great to see my sponsor. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, what with one thing and another, and we just held each other for the longest time. “Look at you!” she said. “Look at you!” said I. We made a time to get together on Wednesday.

Peace out.

Guest Post! Sherrie Theriault Shares With Us

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Hello all. We are in for a wonderful experience today. You get to hear someone other than me!! Just kidding.

Sherrie is someone I met through FaceBook. She had written a book called My Sponsor Said.  I bought it, really, for my sister. But I couldn’t resist reading it myself first. It was wise, poignant, lyrical. Last Friday I bought Sober On The Way To Sane, which is near the very top of my TBR list. Sherrie has written 33 books, 31 of which are available on Amazon.com. She writes for the recovering community, also writes villain-free fiction for kids, regular fiction for adults, poetry, and she designs coloring books for all ages.

Now, here’s Sherrie, in her own words:

My name is Sherrie and I am a member of both fellowships.
Thank you, Chris, for inviting me to be your guest here on Recovery Along Route 66; I am grateful to be here. I thought I would share with you a few pieces of prose I’ve written; each addresses a sticking point in my struggle to have strong boundaries or healthy relationships. I have an odd sense of humor and I hope you will bear with me; I mean well.


Lie
Yes, a lie is just a lie, but the truth also has problems. I relay the facts and the words take on a life of their own, leave out the backdoor and walk on down the road. They move to another town and never find time to come back for a visit even though, I am their mother. And woe to the woman who grows attached to credit or recognition for her ideas. These kidnapped prodigies are never ransomed but sold outright and their DNA not questioned or tested.
So, my advice is to love your words in secret and raise your notions behind high walls. If you are ever called upon to share your wisdom, lie. For even if you’re caught the risk is tolerable. Exposure is awkward but then again no one is looking, so, what is there to lose. A lie is just a lie but it stays home with you at night.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GOOD AS GOLD
Just because I’m as good as gold doesn’t mean that I win the prize. Doesn’t mean I get my way. Doesn’t mean I gain your heart. Being ‘extra special sweetness and light girl’ doesn’t secure my future.
It does prevent me from living my life as someone I don’t like. It contents me to keep my own company. It is a huge improvement over living as the raging fury I once was. Any destination I desire is more readily assessable from this amiable posture; in spite of inexpert yearning.
I can breathe past you if must be, walk down the road holding my own hand instead of holding a lung full of air. But I am the treasure. You must earn me never capture me. Appreciate me not devalue me. I’m good as gold. And please know that I am the prize. 


Isolation
I isolate from you, I isolate from others, I isolate from friends, isolate from G-d, I practice connecting by connecting with my sponsor, practice connecting with my friends, practice connecting with G-d, finally I am able to connect with you, the first thing I do is isolate us from them, my sponsor, my friends, my G-d, they are all now on the outside of the bubble of us and I must start again, only now I must try to maintain the you and me connection while at the same time connect with the rest.
Are we still us if I am connected with them? Are we still us if we are in the midst of the crowd I think of, the crowd I call, them? Just because they see us as us, refer to us as us, are we still us if we don’t feel like us to me?
If I don’t know us in the landscape of hordes are we still we? Isolation is an attempt at preservation, how can we best be preserved without being pressed in a book or jarred or jammed? You say let us be, and I say that’s how I got us; are you sure that’s how I keep us? And you hug me tight.


Thank you for sharing this journey of recovery with me. I would love to hear your thoughts about this post, it’s my first time being a guest blogger.

Thank you so much, Sherrie, for sharing your writing with us. I know I could relate on several levels. “Holding my own hand…” The isolation piece was a kicker for me… 

Please do share your thoughts! Sherrie loves comments, right Sherrie? 😉

Peace out.

Thanksgiving Day Redux

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A couple months ago I wrote a post about gratitude, and today seemed a fitting day to revisit the subject. So here we are.

At the meeting this morning we chose three readings, and they all seemed related to changing our attitudes, whether it had to do with a state of needless worry, or communication with the alcoholic in our lives, or whatever.

It made me realize how much there is in my life – right now, this minute – to be grateful for. My mother will by 85 years old this year and is in very good health, still quite active and social (often more than me!).

I still keep the gratitude book my sponsor asked me to keep, and it is not hard to think of five things every day to be thankful for. Sometimes they are small, simple things . . . and other times they feel like huge, miraculous achievements.

My sister is safe in her own home right now. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and that’s just fine, because we don’t live in tomorrow. We live one day at a time, right? We live in the moment. God’s taking care of her, and she couldn’t be in better hands than that as far as I’m concerned.

My mind is not as clear as it once was, because of the CFS, but I have a wise, compassionate doctor.

More and more friends every day, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7)

For those things and so much more, I am forever indebted. What are you thankful for today? 🙂

Peace out.

Second Chances

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The world is an amazing place, I’m convinced of this more and more each day. Not only in the nature of its glory around me, but in the people I come in contact with every moment.

Yesterday morning, I went to my (previously) usual Blueprint For Progress 4th Step meeting, which started out much larger than it now consists of, which is myself and three other women. I brought the key to the church building I’d been given in case the group leader couldn’t be there, and nothing else.

My intention was to explain to them why I had missed four weeks in a row – because of the severe depression I initially went through, and then an inability to catch up. Our group started on January 2nd of this year and has continued every Monday morning at 8:30 EST, just before the usual Al-Anon meeting at said church.

Anyway, I intended to quit the 4th step group that morning.

Instead of accepting my intention, they told me how glad they were I was feeling better, and told me I was not very far behind. Apparently, they got distracted during the “Commitment” section, and spent three weeks on it instead of the customary one week. How wonderful for me! They so WANT me back! Weird, huh? I mean, for me. To be wanted like that.

Also, I lost my job at the library, and was granted a second chance, when I got honest about the depression and how severe it was. I had not shown up three times, and as there is no phone at the Book Nook desk, there is no one for me to call to say I won’t be there. As chance would have it, the coordinator of the Book Nook needed to speak with me the third time I no-showed, and e-mailed me to say they wouldn’t be needing me anymore.

Hence, my reply back, pleading my case, and her gracious and compassionate reply.

People truly blow my mind. They astound me in their capacity to love.

Have you been given a second chance, or have you given someone else a second chance? Please share (people love love stories).

Peace out.

A Whole Lot of Love

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Love

At Saturday’s meeting there was another double winner, like me, a friend of mine (at least, she signed my sheet, so I count her among  my friends now 😉 ) who is in both AA and Al-Anon. She mentioned when it was her time to share that she was celebrating that very day 27 YEARS of sobriety. Whoo hoo!!!

All meetings have a different sort of “flavor,” and this meeting is much looser, and allows crosstalk. We allow questions and direct statements back and forth to each other because we are a very small and close-knit group. It’s just how we are. Most groups don’t allow that, because it tends to put people off and they then don’t feel very willing to share their story.

Anyway, what I did was, I asked her “How’d you do it?”, which is a question oft-asked of people who get a token for achievements such as this. People want to know how one made it through even a month of such an achievement, let alone 27 years.

Well, “J”, my dear friend, simply said, “It was love. A whole lot of love.” And then she couldn’t talk anymore about it because she got pretty choked up.

Love pretty nearly does make the world go ’round. God’s love, through Him, and through His people.

Peace out.

P.S. Got three more phone numbers of potential friends Monday morning. Yay me!! 🙂

Asking For Help With H.A.L.T.

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I'm Mrs. Lonely

After being in Al-Anon a while,  I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.

And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alonewhich is different by far than being lonely.

The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.

So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.

I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol

I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.

I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too. 🙂

Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?

K is for Kindred Spirits

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Kindred is both a noun and an adjective. As a noun it means “a group of persons related to another; a family.” As an adjective . . . well, let me tell you what it means to me, in terms of some very specific relationships.

I don’t talk to a lot of people. What I mean is, I don’t have a lot of online messenger friends. There is one person I chat with on an almost daily basis, and feel my life would be missing a little beat if I didn’t. She seems to get me, and I hope I give enough back that she understands how much it means.

She’s kindred to me. She’s a writer, I pretend to be one. 😉 She loves to read, so do I. We both own dogs with human names. We have VERY similar tastes in things funny or ironic.  We’re also very caring people by nature, and it shows in the things we do in our own separate lives. YES, I realize I called myself caring, and if you know me at all you know I’m not being arrogant, that it was probably a Freudian slip or something I’ll take back again in about five minutes. 😛

Another kindred spirit in my life is, of course, my sponsor. When we met yesterday for our weekly Panera chat we both confessed that each of us knows more about the other than our own sisters!  We also have dogs, oddly enough, hers is named for a human as well. What’s up with that, anyway? Do we all secretly wish our animals could talk? I know I do. 😀 Anyway, there are too many things to say about my sponsor here, and I talk enough about her. You all must be bored to tears already.

Do you have a kindred spirit? How did you meet? What’s the best thing you have in common?

Getting Down To The Knitty Gritty

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I want to introduce you to a few friends of mine from my knitting group. Our group is very large, and many of them were shy, and some claimed they were not quite photogenic (which I so beg to differ). 😉 They are each lovely in their own special ways. Below each picture here I have explained who the person is and a little about them. 

ImageImage

This is the incredibly talented Bev, who works a lot with complicated lace patterns, and this day she was wearing a cute and fun sweater hat. The “arms” can be worn down, as shown here, or tied together on top of the head. Bev is a wonderful, generous person who always has time to help others of us in the group who are not quite as far along as she is with our talents. For some reason I couldn’t get these two pictures to separate, so the top one is Bev holding the hat that Linda, another group member, made for me.

ImageTImage

In the top of these two photos is Brenda caught in profile. Brenda is very kind and compassionate, and she sat next to me the day I decided to try and stay the whole two hours. There she is working on another cowl for her Dad, who has Alzheimer’s. He likes the cowls, she says, because “they feel like hugs.”

Helene is our eldest and funnest member of the group. When I asked if I could take her picture, she said, “Well, sure, all right, but it might break your camera!” Boy, did we get on her for that remark. Helene Is a continental knitter, which seems very fast to me, and I would love to learn that method. I’m a plodder. 😛

So there you have it. There are many others, too many to mention. There are very few rules to knitting but there are some that ought to be mentioned. 1. Never take yourself too seriously. 2. Always have more than one knitting project going so that you don’t get bored. 3. Have a complicated and an easy project going at the same time to give yourself a break when you need to. 4. You can never have too big a stash. 😉 5. Mistakes can always be fixed. 

Peace out.