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Saturday, January 14, 2023

Relaxing like Grandma by Cathy Shouse

      I need to relax more, apparently. My kids, now in their twenties, will say this if they don't like my thoughts on a subject: relax. That might be code for “mind your own business.” But it isn’t bad advice. They aren't the only ones, either. It seems the message to relax is everywhere.


     Honestly, I do tend to worry about things. Slowing down and breathing could be good. Sometimes I feel my to-do list is endless, and that will get me feeling pressured. So then I might write in “relax” at the end of my tasks, and never reach it. I’m also not sure what qualifies as relaxing.


      I must not be alone. It seems like everyone is selling something to help. Given human nature, it only makes sense there is a price tag for relaxation techniques. You can get an app for it, a software program to run on your phone. One app is actually named “Calm.” 


     A few years ago, I sampled a free meditation program that came emailed to me every morning. I enjoyed it some mornings and other days, it went onto my list and got skipped. When they wanted to start charging, I stopped. 


     Recently, I’ve realized my grandma had the right idea for relaxing. Doing nothing really isn’t the answer, not for me anyway. Spending more time on my phone on an app won’t do it either. It’s doing some type of hand work that I find satisfying. 


     When I was a little girl, Grandma taught me to crochet. I enjoyed the feel of yarn between my fingers and looping it around the hook. To start with, I made the world’s longest chain. It went on and on. I could have jumped rope with it. 


     Then I advanced to more stitches. I especially remember her telling me to hold the yarn loosely, just enough to control it and make it go where I wanted it to go. When I held on too tightly, I couldn’t carry the stitches through. Or if the stitches did get completed, I had trouble placing the needle back into the finished loop to do the next round. The tension had to be just right, and handled with a light touch. But if I let the yarn become too slack, that didn’t work either. 


     As I think about it, crocheting could be a metaphor for life. It’s symbolic for having a well-planned day and enough to do.  But packing too much in, not leaving wiggle room for something spontaneous, or maybe a sick “child” to tend or a friend needing an errand run, that makes for a tense time. A day or two might be okay to feel overwhelmed, maybe a month. But it’s no way to live long-term, even though many of us are doing just that. 


     Grandma and I spent many hours on various types of hand work, more than crochet, in which I moved on to granny squares. She would do her house work or maybe cook, or do canning. I can see her clothesline full of drying laundry out her window, in my mind’s eye. Yet she always came back around to see how I was doing. Those were good times, and just thinking of them is a wonderful mini escape. 


     Next I crocheted delicate Christmas stars and snowflakes that looked almost like lace, starched them, and hung them on the tree. Eventually, I discovered patterns for stuffed animals and tackled those. 


     Grandma and Mom helped me with supplies and instruction to do cross stitch embroidery on enough stamped quilt squares to make three baby quilts. They worked to piece them together and Grandma hand quilted them into finished blankets. I learned to do crewel embroidery and made a quote that was framed.


     Fast forward to today and In my quest to relax, I reverted to my childhood. Lately, I picked up a ball of yarn, given to me by my aunt, who is my grandma’s daughter and didn’t fall too far from the pin cushion (the women in the family sew, too, but that skill skipped my generation). I didn’t go out and buy yarn or some fancy pattern, as I might have done in the past, and possibly not finished. (Here’s looking at you, the fancy baby hat that looked like a puppy.) I want to be careful that I don’t get overly ambitious and defeat my purpose. I’m starting with a dishcloth and haven’t gotten too far. But it’s been satisfying. 


     I’m enjoying the familiar texture of the yarn, and following the basic pattern as it starts to take shape. The stitches are a bit rusty in my mind so I’m getting a refresher by looking at beginner instructions online. This process has me more relaxed than I have been in a while. That’s what matters. I believe that’s something my grandma would approve of, too. 


     Oh, and this form of relaxing appears in my upcoming book in my series, Her Billionaire Cowboy’s Triplets: Christmas in Fair Creek. My character, Kristin, has some struggles in her life and she's working with a special crochet project, and will meet one of the handsome Galloway sons, Leo. 



     Cathy Shouse writes inspirational cowboy romances. Her Fair Creek series, set in Indiana, features the Galloway brothers of Galloway Sons Farm. Much like the characters in her stories, Cathy once lived on a farm in “small town” Indiana, where she first fell in love with cowboys while visiting the rodeo every summer. To sign up for her newsletter in return for a free copy of her novella, Her Billionaire Cowboy’s Twin Heirs: Christmas in Fair Creek visit


  1. I can so relate! My husband often tells me to "relax." Although I love him dearly, it never fails to annoy me when he says that. From him, it feels dismissive!
    I want to vent, and tell the full story and backstory involved in every conversation. Sometimes he wants the Reader's Digest version.
    I love that you enjoy crocheting! I learned to crochet as a young girl from a school secretary who took it on herself to create an arts-and-crafts room off the study hall in junior high. We could choose to use it and she would teach us skills--such as crochet. My first project was a crocheted purse with fringe on the bottom.
    I think that hand work such as crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, cross-stitch, card-making--whatever your fancy, is a wonderful way to relax.
    In the last few years I wrote a newspaper article about a young woman in the community where I worked who started a knitting group. They met regularly in a local wine-drinking spot.
    It's wonderful when young people are involved in traditional arts and crafts and doing them their way, a new twist. Much like the old-time quilting bee, the principles are the same: doing something interesting and useful with their hands, being part of a community, sharing, learning, visiting. Universal skills, all. Oh yes, and relaxing!
    I'm intrigued by your book heroine being a crocheter. It enriches her character and those many of us who enjoy working with our hands in similar acts of creativity and relaxation.
    Bravo to you. And if finding time for crochet is sometimes only aspirational on a busy to-do list, that's just fine too. It will always wait for you. From Donna Cronk, Pendleton, IN

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Donna, and I much prefer the long version, always. :) I agree that when someone says to "relax" it feels like they're saying you're overreacting. But, everyone sees things differently, so I take it with "a grain of salt." Ha.

  2. I made one of those crocheted chains, too. I love crewel embroidery, but you soon run out of places to put it and people to gift it to. My eldest daughter does the best I've ever seen. The back of her designs are almost as pretty as the front. I've wanted to learn to knit, but don't imagine I'll get around to it. Reading beckons to me. Reading relaxes me.

    1. Thanks for stopping in and commenting! You're right that we can make more items than we have space for. I'm seeing people selling crocheted items on Etsy but I don't make that many, to start a shop. :)

  3. I loved reading about you and your grandma. I sew to relax, and you've reminded me of how much I enjoy it. Thanks, Cathy!

    1. I'm glad this resonated with you, Liz! Since I've been away from crocheting for a while, picking it up again has reminded me how relaxing it is.

  4. Your embroidery on the quilt blocks is well done. I know you were very young, as I’m reading in Mother’s diary of her quilting it.

    1. Hi Aunt L., Thanks for sharing your yarn with me. :) I believe I started the cross stitch first about the time Grandma taught me to play the piano. The crochet lessons seemed like they started a little bit later. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I used to enjoy crochet immensely, but it does not provide me with the near instant gratification that I get from my embroidery machines- I reference sewing a lot in my stories because I come from a long line of seamstresses.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love your remark, "I come from a long line of seamstresses." An embroidery machine sounds neat. A family friend just started designing sweatshirts with hers.


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