Family ties (and gags?)

I have the great good fortune to come from a family who was always involved on a personal level with helping people. My Dad entered the Army with a 6th grade education as an enlisted man, and managed to retire as an officer. For the rest of his life, he would be a blue collar worker in various fields. He made a decent living. We girls had everything we needed, and some stuff we didn’t, though we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted. We were also fortunate in the fact that our Mom did not have to work outside the home, so was always present for us all. She truly was the glue that held us together.

In spite of how hard my Dad worked to provide for his family, he was always quick to give of his time, sweat, and if need be, his home and his money, to help someone. Sometimes the people he helped were family; sometimes they were not. But if he and Mom saw someone in need and they had the resources to help, they would.

I guess growing up, I never really considered whether my folks were liberal or conservative; Republican or Democrat. I was a kid, so such things never crossed my mind.

We had the good fortune to be close to one of my Mom’s brothers and his family. They spent quite a bit of time on our family farm. The three youngest boys all lived with us for periods of time shortly after becoming adults. My Dad would often take them under his wing and help them find work while they lived with us. Most of the guys were like brothers to us, but there was one who was often mean with his comments to us girls. We pretty much just took it. For awhile.

This cousin lived with us for awhile after a very serious car accident. We waited on him hand and foot, as he was pretty busted up. I remember painting a Razorback on one of his casts and Rolling Stones lips on another, as he was a fan of both. In spite of his verbal abuse, I really wanted him to like me, and to be nice to me. I mean, I thought I was doing everything I could to make that happen. So one day, when my Aunt and Uncle came up to visit, they brought one of my cousin’s friends with them; a young woman. Sometime later, my cousin gave me a baggie of pot that he asked me to hide for him. It seems his friend had brought it for him, but he didn’t want to have it within his things, lest it be discovered. In my 16 year old people-pleasing frame of mind, I took it and hid it inside of a stuffed animal. It wasn’t until a day or two later that the gravity of what he had asked me to do was weighing heavily on my mind. My sisters and I didn’t do drugs or smoke pot. My conscience couldn’t take it anymore, so I told my younger sister what he had asked me to do. She encouraged me to tell Mom, so I did. Besides, my hiding his stash hadn’t made him any nicer to me. He was every bit as mean and nasty as he ever was.

My aunt and uncle were still visiting, as I recall, or maybe my uncle made a special trip back up to take care of business; I don’t remember. By that time, my cousin was up and walking pretty well and doing more for himself. I do remember my uncle taking his son for a walk. I don’t know what was said, but my cousin packed his stuff up and left with my uncle.

Over the next few years, my parents would help this same cousin again. They tried to create work for him with a small sawmill. My Dad decided to buy the land next door, and said cousin wanted to “buy in”, though in the end, he contributed very little. In spite of this fact, Mom and Dad carved out a couple of acres for him and his family, which by then consisted of his wife and two kids, and just let them have it. In the time that they lived there, our family helped them with numerous things.

So, in 2017, I find myself to have gotten over my drive to be a people pleaser. It has taken a long time to reach the conclusion that trying to please people has never gotten me anywhere. What has gotten me to where I am today; a post-graduate, first generation, college educated woman who makes a substantial income in a very rewarding field? Hard work, the ability to think for myself, the ability to use critical thought to try and enrich the world around me in order to do my best to try to leave it a little better than I found it. These are all skills that have been hard fought for and hard won.

So in a post-factual, Donald Trump America, apparently my opinion has no value any longer. At least according to my cousin. He has taken to spewing uninvited and unsolicited hate and vitriol on not only on both of my sisters’ social media, not only on mine, but on my Mom’s as well; the very person who allowed him into her home. The very same aunt who cooked for him, gave him clean sheets to sleep on at night and welcomed him as one of her own. The same liberal aunt who   did her very best to make him a part of our immediate family.

Now, allow me to digress for just a moment. Let me clarify that I am not talking about someone who approaches the issues with the attitude of engaging in an intelligent debate, respectfully listening, and being listened to. I am not talking about a person who can separate his feelings from the spirit of a debate, and give critically thought out, evidenced based support of his stance on the issues. Nope.

I am talking about a person who, instead, resorts to name calling, profanity, and when backed into a corner to substantiate his claims either says things like, “Delete me I don’t give a shit” or just goes missing all together.

My family, as far back as I can remember, has ALWAYS engaged in reasonable debate. My Mom and Dad, who had very few true fights, frequently had very lively debates between each other, often one of them playing devil’s advocate. In the end, they would usually end up laughing and they still kissed each other good night before bed.

Debate used to be something we Americans were good at. We might not always agree, but we could all agree to respect one another. We could agree to disagree. We could agree to keep things fair; to not call each other names or to direct profanity at one another. We could agree not to let outside forces affect our responses to each other. Because, in the end, that is really all we have control over. We can’t have much control over the state of our country, except through the exercise of our Constitutional rights. If others denigrate you for the exercise of those rights, ignore the abusive treatment. They also have the same rights. But what you do have control over is how you respond.

I choose to not be hateful. I choose to exercise my Constitutional rights, while being mindful that my rights do not infringe upon the rights of others. I choose to search for the truth, to look at the evidence with objective eyes and figure out for myself what is going on. I choose, above all, to be kind to others, even if my opinion is different from theirs.

To paraphrase my younger sister, the attitude that “you have to put up with bad treatment just because we’re family” is hogwash. You don’t have to put up with bad treatment; ESPECIALLY, not from family.

If my cousin were to show up at my door today, I would fix him a meal, put him up for the night and treat him with every kindness I would give to anyone, in the spirit of my Mom and Dad. Not to be a people pleaser, but because he is family, and it is the right thing to do.



Hello…is it me you’re looking for?

This morning, I heard the sound of a siren echoing through the woods. Most of you may be thinking, “So what? I hear sirens all the time.” That may be true, but here amongst the hills and hollows of these Ozark mountains, it is not a sound I hear frequently.

I have lived in the city before. I once lived for three years in El Cajon, California, in an apartment a mere two blocks from the police and ambulance station. When you hear them all of the time, you learn to tune them out. But here in my little house, on the edge of Rodgers Ridge, the loudest sounds I typically hear are the hoot owl who occasionally lights outside my window, or the bullfrogs in the pond in my front yard. Here, when I hear a siren, it gets my attention. Here, when I hear a siren, it means one of my neighbors is in trouble.

I stepped onto the back porch to determine which direction it was coming from; North, headed South. In my mind I started listing all of the folks I know who live down that way. We are not extremely good friends, but with many of the folks on the other end of the road, I have a friendly acquaintance with them; if we see each other in town, we stop and chat for a bit. There are also people on the other end of the road that I don’t know. Does that lessen my concern for the unfortunate unknown soul on that ambulance? No it does not.

As the sound of the siren faded away, all that was left was the sound of the crows cawing up in the field and the January breeze rustling the the dead leaves on the ground and the late hangers in the trees. I came back in the house and made a cup of coffee and began to ponder a bit.

What if we were all concerned for our neighbors? What does it mean to be a neighbor? Well, I did a little bit of traveling this past summer. During my travels, I met a lot of people from all over the world. Here’s my conclusion: we are ALL neighbors. We should all be concerned about each other. Guess what the immigrant from Korea wants? He wants to live in a free country, to be safe and to be allowed to work hard at a business of his own choosing. Guess why the young woman from Vietnam, who made fast friends with me, was in the US? To get a quality education in New Orleans, and to see the wilds of Alaska for the summer. Guess what the native Alaskan man I met in Fairbanks wanted? For his people to be recognized as the only true Americans, having been the original inhabitants of the area, long before we immigrants came.

Right about now, you are probably thinking, “Wait…what? I am not an immigrant! I was born in the United States of America!” You would be right, on one hand. You are an American. But if you are like me, my roots were planted in the soils of other countries. England, Ireland, France, just to name some of the ones I know about. Most of my American roots were planted in the 1700’s. I even have a few revolutionary soldiers in my heritage. Does that make me any more American than anyone else? 

No; it does not. 

But before I get off course, talking about immigration, (we’ll save that discussion for another time), let me get back to my main point. We are all neighbors. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, who you love, what your religious or political beliefs are, where you come from or whether you are a man, woman, boy or girl. We are ALL neighbors.

I emerged from the presidential election feeling a little battered and bruised. I felt that way largely because of the way we neighbors were treating each other. There has been a lot of ugliness. I withdrew from social media for a few weeks, hoping it would calm down and people would return to being decent to each other. But when I returned, I only saw that it has not gotten better. It has possibly even escalated. 

What I hear coming down the road is a siren so loud, we cannot ignore it. When we wonder who is on the ambulance, we should be concerned. Because, folks, WE are on that ambulance. If we don’t stop hating each other and start working together, things are not going to get better; they will only get worse. We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by anyone in power; we need to think for ourselves, pull ourselves up by our boot straps, roll up our sleeves, get shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors, and get to work. 

Hate cannot win.

New adventures and book giveaways!!!

So it has been a bit crazy here lately. I have three new crochet books to tell you about today, and I have been making plans of late to embark on a new adventure. The kind folks at F&W have agreed to provide a winning copy of each title (giveaway limited to U.S. And Canadian participants only). So…what would you like to hear about first? My upcoming adventure, or the swag? 

Photos copyright F&W, 2016

Okay, I don’t blame you. We’ll talk about the swag first! 

Up first we have Classic Crochet Blankets. This book features 18 lovely projects in DK, sportweight and worsted weight yarns, all designed by various crochet rock stars. We are talking Kristin Omdahl (I have long been a fan girl of her work!), Ellen Gormley, Doris Chan…and the list goes on! There are designs ranging from the classic back-of-the-couch granny afghan in modern fresh colors to several join-as you-go options for those who hate weaving in hundreds of ends. Yes, please! If blankets are your thing, this is the book for you. If you can’t wait to win a copy, you can click here to buy a copy!

Up next, Kristin Ohdahl’s Continuous Crochet. I want to make. All. The. Things. In. This. Book! (Did I mention I am a fan? I already loved her work years ago, and then I met her, and I have to tell you, she is such a sweetheart and a fellow geek, that meeting her just made me love her work even more! But enough about me…ahem!) As I paged through the projects, with each one I found myself muttering, “Oooooh….I want to make that….and that! Ooooh….look at THAT!” I have been guilty in the past of purchasing crochet books for 2 or 3 patterns, but I love ALL of these patterns! A self-professed hater of weaving in ends, Omdahl explores how to manipulate the yarn in what she calls a “journey of ways to move, meander, join & feature beautiful yarns.” 

Omdahl is well known for designing in finer weight yarns, and that is certainly evident in this title, but there are several projects in sportweight and worsted weight featured here. In total, there are 21 hook-worthy projects here for the discriminating crocheter. Want to buy it now? Click here!

Finally, we have Vintage Modern Crochet, by Robyn Chachula. At first glance, I thought all of the designs were by Robyn, but she has invited several of her stitchy pals to the party! (Even Kristin Omdahl. Did you know I am a fan? 😍)

The designers explore the vintage techniques of pineapple lace, Bruges lace, filet crochet, Irish lace and Tunisian crochet by breathing new life into these techniques. With the use of updated yarns, fibers, colors and playing with different weights, Vintage Modern Crochet lives up to its title. The application of the techniques is true to their history, but applied beautifully and stylishly to the 21st century. If you love vintage (and come on, who doesn’t?) click here to get your copy.

Now, in order to enter for the giveaways to win one of these titles, I am getting creative. In the past, I would only have the entry be official if you leave a comment here on the blog. That still works. But you can enter also by commenting and/or liking the post on my Atelier Renee’ Facebook page, sharing the post on Facebook, or tweeting/retweeting the blog post link on Twitter! Come on folks! This is my biggest giveaway yet! Help me spread the word!

Now, as for me, by this time next week I will be in Juneau, Alaska. I am going to give travel therapy a try. Would I like to get paid to travel? Yes, please! I will be working at the Ethel Lund Medical Center, helping to provide care for the Alaskan Natives. Right now, the plan is that I will be there for 8 weeks. I already have several adventures planned for while I am up there. Stay tuned here for pictures and stories of my adventures and see how I go about making life DIY!

Bon voyage and a gift for you!

UPDATE: we have a winner! Congratulations, Heidi! You are the winner! Everyone keep following the blog. There are even more book giveaways coming up!

I have been crrrrrrrazy busy lately! Work has been picking up, I am staying busy with my creative work, and in two days time, I will be saying Bon Voyage so that me and the posse can experience a new adventure. We will be setting sail on the Norwegian Dawn for a Caribbean cruise!

You know who else has been busy? My good friend, Brenda Bourg! She is a crochet and knit designer, as well as one of the most encouraging and positive people I know. What has she been busy with? You ask.


Brenda has designed a GORGEOUS collection of Fair Isle Tunisian crochet projects. The total count is 16 projects. The instructions are presented in both written and color charted form. There is an excellent reference on technique in the front of the book on all of,the necessary stitches. There are cowls, mitts, boot toppers, sweaters and afghans. Her color choices and motifs are beautiful. This book is a true labor of love, as Brenda wrote it, her sons did the photography and her beautiful daughter-in-law modeled all of the designs.

So here is my (really, our) gift yo you, faithful readers: while I am floating around the Caribbean, you good folks leave your comments here, and when I get back home on March 7th, I will randomly select a winner to receive a FREE COPY! If you don’t want to wait, click here to order a copy right now! Make something beautiful and make life DIY!

Book Giveaway! 

Update: We have a winner! Michele Lator Murray is the winner of the copy of Crafter’s Market 2016! Stay tuned…I have more book giveaways coming!

Howdy folks! I hope winter hasn’t gotten you too down in the dumps. Over here, I have been making up a storm! I opened a booth recently in a local artisan’s marketplace. On the weekends, my house looks like a yarn and fiber bomb has gone off! Along with that new venture, I also have lucked into an opportunity to review some craft books for the fine folks over at F+W. If you are a fiber artist, like myself, you may be familiar with some of their magazine lines, including Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, Spin Off and Handwoven.

Their book publishing division offers multiple craft related titles of all kinds; quilting, knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving…you get the picture…if it can be made, F+W probably has a book on how to do it.

But once you have made something, what then? If you are anything like me, you make for yourself, you make for gifts, but sometimes you just make, because, well, we just like making stuff. But once you begin making stuff that you have no home for, perhaps you have considered selling your work. What’s that, you say? You have no idea where to begin? Then you need a copy of Crafter’s Market 2016!


Filled with excellent tips from pros in the know, Crafter’s Market 2016, covers topics such as how to set up your business, how to promote your work using social media, how to exhibit at shows and festivals, and much, much more. There is even advice on bookkeeping for tax purposes as well as information pertaining to copyright issues. As someone who recently set up a local booth in an artist’s marketplace as well as reviving my online shop, I found a treasure trove of hints, tips and advice on how to market my work to get the most bang for my buck. Now as if all that wasn’t enough, you also get a free subscription to Artistsmarket Online so you can stay up to date.

F+W has generously agreed to provide a giveaway copy of Crafter’s Market 2016 to one of my lucky readers! All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog. On Sunday 2/21/16 at 10:00 p.m. CST, I will select one lucky winner to receive their very own copy! If you can’t wait, however, until Sunday to find out if you have won, you can always go here to buy a copy! Good luck, and Make Life DIY!

Ice, snow, cold outside. Warm and happy inside!

So, haven’t chatted here in awhile. I went to bed with the sound of sleet and freezing rain beating a steady rhythm on my tin roof. I woke up to this today.

I know you folks up North are probably laughing right about now, but down South, we pretty much shut things down at the mere mention of ice or snow, but especially ice. After checking with my clients, none of them wanted to make the trek in to town to see me, so I have been keeping myself occupied.

I love this pattern! It is so satisfying to watch it develop. I am pretty sure I will keep this piece, rather than putting it up for sale in my new “shoppe”, Atelier Renee’. What’s that, you say? You didn’t know about my shoppe? Here’s a sneak peek.

I am branching out from Crochet Renee’ to Atelier Renee’ in order to embrace ALL the nifty things I make! I have been casting about for some time for a good name. I like Atelier, as it is French for “workshop”. Also, it still rhymes with Renee’! Winning! If you are local and want to go check it out, you can find me smack dab in the center of the Artisans Market at Interiors Marketplace in Mt. Home, Arkansas. Stay tuned, though, as I will be giving my Etsy site a facelift in the very near future! Exciting stuff going on around here. Also, I am making a pot of chicken chili.

 Recipe can be found here. Don’t know how it is going to taste yet, but it smells divine! Stay warm, ya’ll, and make life diy!

Making ready

With the forecast of 20 degrees Fahrenheit last night, I went into a flurry of activity yesterday. Lawnmower winterized? Check. Root crops pulled from the garden? Check. Cut some parsley and cutting celery for the freezer? Check.

The root crops included turnips, carrots and beets. There was one…interesting carrot…

I love all veggies, (except maybe Lima beans) but of all the root crops, I have a special fondness for beets. Especially pickled beets. My Mom couldn’t make enough pickled beets when I was a kid. Now that I am grown, I make my own.

The lovely ruby red color, the zesty spices, the overall yumminess of cracking open a jar of summer in the dead of winter. How could you not love pickled beets? I am staying cozied down by the wood fire while my jars process. There will probably be knitting going on, too.

 I love this country life! Stay warm, ya’ll, and make life diy!

Making a cozy nest

I have put off cleaning the wood stove of detritus, until this morning. I have nowhere I have to be right now. That is a luxury I have too little of. I finished another hat for my best friend last night. I mean to knit another one. But I have had this yarn in my stash for quite some time. I have looked on Ravelry several times for inspiration. This morning I found just what I was looking for. I found this:—josephine-shawl

It uses a self striping yarn. It is all in garter stitch. It begins with knitting at one of the pointy ends and grows outward, so you can use nearly every inch of beautiful yarn. It is a no-brainer kind of knit. Perfect. I usually have several levels of knitting and crocheting projects lurking about, from the sweet and simple, (like this project) to the kind of projects you don’t take out in public, because if you did, you would become hopelessly lost for all of the increases/decreases/acrobatic stitching that has to occur to get to the finished item. Or others around you would become certain you had Tourette’s or were losing your mind completely while mumbling to your hands. So for today, here by my cozy fire, I am going with simple. What are you all doing today? 

Stay warm, and make life diy!

Making friends, making amends, and unexpected random acts of kindness

So I know I haven’t blogged in awhile. Between starting a new job, trying to write a new pattern collection and just generally trying to find a new groove, blogging has been the least of my worries.

It has been nearly a month since my best friend found out she has breast cancer. We have all been trying to rally around her, doing what we can. While we can hold her hand on this journey, she is the one who has to walk it. I have known this woman for well over 30 years, yet we are true friends now; in school we were friendly, but not really friends. The same is true of the other two ladies that we hike with. Together, we form a posse, as we like to call ourselves. In the historical sense of a posse, we fight for truth, justice and to defend each other against the evil in this world.

This past week, I was also told by a friend of over 13 years, a friend that I thought would be in my life forever, that I was not holding up my end of the friendship. She was tired of all the one-sided friendships she had and didn’t need any more. This was after me sending her two emails inviting her to lunch. I had found out from a mutual acquaintance that she had been very ill, and so when I didn’t get a response to the first email, I sent her another, explaining that I had heard she had not been well and offered to help in some way. I suggested that I could bring her some meals. The response I got back set me back on my heels. There were lots of times I offered to help her around her house, with yard work, etc. Fiercely independent, she always turned me down. There were many handmade gifts given to her for birthdays and Christmases, which she reciprocated. I also knew I could give her nice things I had made because I knew she would value and care for them. Gifting something I have spent a lot of time on is one of my ways of showing people I care about how much I care. It is less about the thing than it is to say, “I cared enough to take the time to create something special for you.” It is just how my little maker’s heart and head are wired. After considering what my friend had to say, I realized that there may have been things I could have done better. But to end the friendship? I am still reeling some, but all I could do was wish her well and a return to health.

So, then on Friday, I came home after a long, tough work week to find a box in my mailbox. I hadn’t ordered anything that I could recall. Upon opening the package, I found this:

It was from Lee Smith, the winner of Mary Jane Hall’s book, Colorful Crochet Lace that I gave away here on the blog. Lee crocheted the lavender-filled heart. Her note was like a balm to my bruised ego and soul. Thank you, Lee, for the unexpected kindness. You have no idea how nice it was to receive your gift.

I hope you are all well. Love your friends, make amends where you can and if you can find some time, make the world a little better place by doing something nice for someone, and make life diy.

What’s up?

So, I know I have been neglectful to my readers of late. I started a new job in August and have been juggling a new schedule. On the DIY side of things, I have been spinning a lot, largely thanks to having joined a fairly new group on Facebook called A Spinner’s Study. Started by fiberista, Bren Boone, it is a lovely community of yarn spinners who have been very supportive of each other in their fibery explorations. So far I have participated in breed studies for Jacob and Shetland wool…

 I have also experimented with creating a singles yarn and a woolen yarn…

   In addition, I have added another post-apocolyptic life skill to my repertoire, which is band/tablet/card weaving. This is my first project, still on the loom. I have finished this and moved on to a second band, but don’t have any photos of that yet.
  That pretty much sums up what I have been up to lately. How about you? What have ya’ll been up to? Hope you are making life diy!