Finished Purple Vita de Vie (and less pleasant things, too)

I finished my purple Vita de Vie this weekend, and was able to take some photos today because I gave my students the day off for Election Day. (I’ve done this since 2017, partly because of what a disaster 2016 was, though what I actually needed that year was the day AFTER Election Day off.) I’ve still got loads of work to be doing, and a few (Zoom-based) meetings with students today, so it’s not really a “day off” (there’s just no such thing, when you’re a professor with classes every single day of the week and no afterschool childcare), but it does mean that I can work from home and sneak out to snap a few pictures.

Pattern: Vita de Vie, from Pom Pom Magazine Issue 24
Yarn: Beaverslide Dry Goods 2-ply Sport/Sock in “Hollyhock”; just over 2 skeins
Needles: Size 4 (for ribbing/i-cord) and size 6 (for everything else)
Time to knit: A little over 2 months; it sat almost finished for several weeks at the end.

Vita de Vie, lace detail.
(I love the way the lace at the shoulders lets the color of whatever I’m wearing underneath peek through.)

The knitting went fairly smoothly; knitting it for the second time meant that I was familiar with the unusual construction (it’s knit from the sleeves to the center and then grafted together) and knew where things were headed. It also meant that I knew that the sweater would look great with a Cleo skirt; the whole reason I knit this sweater was because I loved how my green Vita de Vie looked with my green plaid Cleo, and wanted one to wear with my pink plaid Cleo.

Vita de Vie (and our new IKEA Rönninge table/chairs).

And it certainly does look nice! And in the time since I purchased the yarn, I made a second Cleo skirt that will almost certainly look great with this sweater: my purple striped one. (You can also see in the above photo that we have a new dinner table and chairs set: it’s the Rönninge extendable table from IKEA, and it means that we can now have more than 1 visitor at a time to our house without banishing anyone to eat off of lap-desks in the living room.)

As soon as I finished Vita de Vie, I cast on for a third Farmhouse Cardigan, this time in light grey Eco Wool. I needed something familiar and simple, and I know I will get a lot of wear out of a light grey Farmhouse Cardigan. It’s amazing how quickly aran-weight yarn on size 8 needles knits up compared to sport-weight yarn on size 6!

Beginnings of Farmhouse Cardigan the Third.

I’ve also been gradually adding more and more to my Musselburgh Hat in Gauge Dyeworks “White Light (Shawl)” colorway. The only time I knit on this is when my students are doing in-class writing activities or when I’m in a Zoom meeting if I’m not presenting or if I have the students in breakout rooms, but because I’m teaching SO much this semester, that’s actually gotten me nearly to the point where I’m ready to start decreasing:

Gauge Dyeworks "White Light (Shawl)" Musselburgh in progress

Since I’m home today, I should actually measure – I know I prefer to knit my Musselburghs a little bit longer than the pattern calls for, because I like a substantial brim to fold up.

Gauge Dyeworks "White Light (Shawl)" Musselburgh in progress.

So anyway, there’s a knitting update. As for everything else: I’m not in a great place. This semester is the hardest semester I’ve ever taught, for a whole host of reasons: I’m teaching an extra class relative to last fall, which means that I have to do more work in less time. It’s a second section of a class I was already teaching as part of my normal load, so basically it’s twice as much work for that class, every time there’s an assignment to give feedback on (and as a writing professor, that’s…quite often; so much of our work is done outside of the classroom), with 3 hours less time (because of the extra time I’m in the classroom each week) to do it. And those two sections are back-to-back over the lunch hour, which means that I’m masking up around 10:15am and then teaching straight through, without any food or water, until 1:15pm; by the time I’m done, I’m often so wiped out that it’s hard to focus on paper feedback while I eat my belated lunch. And that’s not all the time I’ve lost: we also no longer have afterschool childcare for our daughter, because of the way things closed down during COVID. Which means that I’m rushing home to meet her school bus in the afternoons that my spouse doesn’t work from home (which are the days that I do that back-to-back thing), because she’s not yet ready to be a latchkey kid. All told, I’ve lost something like 10 hours per week compared to the amount of time I used to have outside of my classes. And it’s just breaking me. I’m having to fight back tears every time I meet with a student who tells me that they’re struggling because they feel overwhelmed with all of their classes, because I’m in the exact same place, utterly drowning, but that’s not their problem to solve or load to carry.

Add to this the fact that our kid is really struggling; there have been so many emails from the teacher, phone calls with the school psychologist, and nightly meltdowns because the classroom and homework expectations for a 4th grader are just SUCH a big step up, especially for a neurodivergent kid who hasn’t had a normal school year since 1st grade because of the pandemic. She also had an IEP that granted her access to support services back then, but has since been declared too gifted to qualify for those supports, so now we’re on a 504 plan, and so far, it’s been…really bumpy. And just like there’s no childcare, there are also no therapists taking new patients, so trying to get my kid connected with the support she needs outside of school has been a crushing, demoralizing dead end.

It’s just really hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. When does any of this get easier? There’s a tiny bit of hope in that my schedule next semester is less intense: I’ll actually have a couple days a week where, most weeks, I won’t be teaching any classes, and I’m pretty sure that uninterrupted work time is going to make a world of difference. (Much like my own kid, I struggle with transitions and kind of rely on hyperfocus to get through my work, and my current schedule basically maximizes transitions and minimizes the periods of uninterrupted work, making it impossible for me to ever get into a groove; I’m basically unsettled ALL of the time.) But if getting through paper feedback feels as much like a painful slog as it does to my burnt-out brain, and giving feedback on papers is basically what my job is…will that ever feel good again? Maybe it will, if the other parts of my life are less all-consuming. I don’t know. I do know that taking an hour to get through commenting on a single paper because your brain just Will Not Focus is not sustainable when you have as many papers to give feedback on as I always will. I used to be much faster, more able to focus; maybe I will get that back eventually.

But I also wonder whether parenting my kid will ever get easier. It sure doesn’t seem to be. Right now feels like we’re back in the awfulness of the Year of Getting Kicked Out of Everything (aka 2017), except I guess at least this time she’s in a public school and they *can’t* kick her out. Still, it’s exhausting and kind of embarrassing to spend 90% of every conversation with your kid’s teachers talking about your kid’s behavioral issues and being asked about how YOU deal with them and not having good answers, because life at home is also full of meltdowns, and just feeling desperate for help that is no longer available or accessible. And the larger picture, with billionaires building metaverses and democracy crumbling and Joe Manchin blocking meaningful climate change intervention, is also feeling grim: how am I supposed to want to keep pushing forward when the future seems like it’s going to be a digitally-mediated hellscape that is also literally on fire? There’s just very little that feels good right now. Music does, and I’m beyond grateful to be able to play in person (with masks) with my chamber orchestra friends once a week again. Knitting kind of does, though it’s more that it gives my hands something to do other than pick at my skin or shred my nails. But the rest? I miss feeling joy. I miss having fun. And just I don’t know how any teacher or healthcare worker comes out the other side (is there an “other side”?) of this pandemic without being broken by the experience. When do we get to rest and recover? I just…want something to look forward to, and it’s hard to find anything.

6 thoughts on “Finished Purple Vita de Vie (and less pleasant things, too)”

  1. I wish I could hug you. But since that’s obviously not an option, just know that, for whatever it’s worth, this internet stranger sees you (in a way that’s vastly less creepy than I just realized that sounds!). I wish you fortitude.

  2. You and your daughter are my people. I feel everything you wrote, so much – only I am significantly under-employed (and wonder how the hell I ever worked more than I do now as a parent …). It gets better and easier with help – maybe my son’s therapist could help?

      1. Naturally my brain was all, you are like me! you are friends with my friends on instagram! you must live in the Seattle area! (um yeah) Our therapist is online in two places – this is the best one at the moment: https://www.guidanceteam.net/ – we work with Shealeen Kennedy. I’ve known her since the early 2000s, when I was looking at changing to a teaching career and volunteered in her sped classroom for spectrum kiddos. (At the time, I knew it as an ADHD classroom and was interested because my younger brother was diagnosed in the early 1990s.)

        I thought of you when listening to an older interview with Devon MacEachron (https://drdevon.com/) on the Tilt Parenting podcast (https://tiltparenting.com/2017/05/02/supporting-2e-learners/). At the time of recording, she was very interested in talking to any parent struggling in this situation. It didn’t *sound* like there was any pressure to work with her team after but it is an old episode and I can be naive/gullible at times.

        Lately I’m understanding how much of this is based in anxiety – which leads to more anxiety. Maybe this is an issue with your family too? Until last year, when I talked with a friend about how her son’s anxiety showed up pre-SSRI, I didn’t connect my son’s short fuse, angry outbursts and physical acting out to anxiety. Turns out “fight or flight” is real (he does both, whereas I will almost always choose flight). We’re now at an alternative school which … I love them, it’s the only public school option for us right now, we’ll be fine and yet: we only have a few hours of school per week. I suppose I could move him back to full-time public school and teach him to suppress everything … not sure it’d work though. :(

  3. I could have written a similar post when my older daughter was in year 4 (without a pandemic). She is much better now at 18, and not being at school. It is so hard, school is often not a great environment for neuro-divergent kids, but home schooling was not an option for us. I am sure that you know that all behaviour is communication. Can her teachers be persuaded to make school easier for her? If she is not so exhausted by it, then she may have more reserves when she gets home.

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