Tag Archives: Risher

LSS: Zen and the Art of Knitting

I have an edge.
And, I’m not talking about a competitive advantage edge.
Instead, it’s one of those not-so-pleasant edges — certainly not strength of character. All in all, that little line of vice and has gotten me into untold trouble through the years.
Finally, at age 46, I have found the cure for the less charitable side of my nature.
I’m not saying that I’ve discovered a remedy for all that ails me, but I will say that knitting takes the edge off. All that extra energy usually bumbling around my head? The general culprit of that has stirred up trouble in my world for years? With knitting, it dissipates. It’s been the genesis of the strife in my life for years. Now, I have a place for it.
I don’t mind long meetings anymore. I simply view them as a chance to do more rows. My husband prefers driving when we go on long trips? It’s no problem now. Telephone calls that take me away from what the task at hand? Not a difficulty these days.
How much edge I need to take off depends on whom you ask. My youngest daughter probably believes it’s a potholder’s worth, but there are days when I’m certain my husband thinks it’s a good idea if I get cranking on a cover for his old pick-up truck.
To be clear, I am not an expert knitter. Basically, I’m a newbie. I learned long, long ago and haven’t done it in nearly 15 years. Maybe I wasn’t ready or didn’t need the relief knitting now provides me back then. I haven’t been back at it for long, but what it’s done for my head (and subsequently for my heart) has made me a believer. It’s been a boon to my spirits — and likely to those around me too.
Knitting makes me a better and more focused listener. After all, in reality, knitting is just tying one simple knot after another. Its simplicity is its brilliance. For me, the repetitive motion is conducive to thinking and stirs the creativity in my bones.
To take its zen-ness a step further (and this may seem strange in concept), but there’s something about knitting that reminds me of yoga. It’s very focusing, but allows just enough room for the mind to wander and promotes good conversation with those around you.
One of the people who re-taught me how to knit explained to me that the Red Cross taught her to knit when she was in high school during World War II. She said students would get out of class to learn knitting and have time in school to knit create helmet liners and fingerless gloves for soldiers serving in the European and Pacific campaigns. Her story made me wonder why our country abandoned habits like that. What a good means of reminding the rest of us of the service of so many. What a good way for high school students to spend time. What a gift for students in that moment and in their futures — on so many levels.
For example, knitting has helped me to recognize and consider some patterns in my life. I get in over my head because I don’t do sitting around well. Having a fun, productive outlet to use up that excess energy cures that sitting around feeling that leads to over-committing. As much as I’d like to plant my feet firmly in the opposite camp, perhaps the Puritan work ethic has influenced me than I sometimes admit.
All in all, I find it good for the soul. Plus, there’s some magic in turning a piece of string into something wearable, warm and wonderful.

LSS: Military asking a lot from one family

Kevin and Gina Connell have five children. Three of them are serving in the military.
Sgt. Kyle Connell, 23, is currently serving in Afghanistan.
Lance-Corporal Nolan Connell, 21, is stationed in North Carolina. Last week, he received orders for deployment come January 2012.
And, Corp. Sean P. Connell, 25, is stationed in Hawaii. Since he joined the Army in 2005, he’s already completed two tours of duty in Iraq. He’s scheduled to deploy for Afghanistan in March.
Except he doesn’t want to go.
His family doesn’t want him to go either.
Their reasons have little to do with the hardships of the front lines.
Their reasons have more to do with the hardships of the home front.
In September 2010, Kevin, 50, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. According to the ALS Association, the disease affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and causes patients to progressively lose voluntary muscle action. In the later stages of the disease, patients may become totally paralyzed and not be able to swallow or breath because of lost muscle function. ALS patients generally have a life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis.
To put it in perspective, Gina told me, “A year ago before Christmas, Kevin was in the mall chasing me around trying to buy presents for everybody. This year he was there with me in a wheelchair.”
So, Sean and his parents and the rest of their family explain that they have begged and pleaded asking everyone they can think to ask in the military and in Washington to see if there’s any way that Sean could be sent to Fort Polk instead of Afghanistan. To this point, the answer has been, “No.”
That’s when they approached me to tell their story.
“I’m begging for my son to be transferred. It’s not too much to ask considering I’ve given three of my children to the military,” said Gina. “I’m not asking for him to get out. I just need him closer right now.”
They’ve decided they have to do what they can do.
“If we’re going to honestly look in the mirror and say we’ve done everything we could do, now’s the time to talk to the media,” Kevin said. “Sean is not trying to escape the military, he’s just trying to do a different job for a little while because of the circumstances.”
Clearly, no one can question this family’s allegiance to the country or their willingness to serve in and support in military. It’s just that this time — especially with the signs of PTSD Gina and Kevin say they have see in their son — they want him to be close enough that he can help in the process of taking care of his dying father.
“Am I going to lose my husband within the year? It’s very possible,” Gina said. “When Sean first went to Iraq, the Army said to us, ‘Be sure to send him focused. Let him know you’ll be OK. Send him there focused and ready to do his job.’ I can’t do that this time. I wouldn’t want him in my unit defending me – knowing he can’t be focused. No way.”
For Christmas, all of the Connell children were home except for Kyle, who was serving in Afghanistan. On Christmas Eve, the whole family sat around and discussed the very un-festive aspects of life with ALS. Both Kevin and Gina wanted their children to take part in Kevin’s care and decisions.
“We wanted them to be a part of it. When will I accept a feeding tube? I’ll get breathing help with a bi-pap machine, but at this point, I will not go the tracheotomy and ventilator route,” Kevin said.
Gina is doing all she can do to help take care of Kevin, but she’s also trying to help her son get the help he needs to be able to support his dad.
By all accounts, the Connell family has done a lot for the United States military and wants to continue serving.
“Sean tells me, the Army’s motto is God, family, country,” said Kevin. “But this time it seems like country is taking the top spot.”