Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn Crawl is on through Sunday, September 25.

This Is About Knitting (Really)

Dear Ann,
Hope you and Hubbo disco’d your little hearts out last night. (And by “disco”, I mean “disco”.) I didn’t know you then, but I did know the bride when she used to rock and roll, because you still rock and roll. Carefully. How old was Jack White in 1990, by the way?
For Mother’s Day weekend, Hubby gave me the gift of sitting in my chair, knitting and typing about knitting, with the occasional break to block some knitting, for two solid days. In utter solitude until this evening, when I do hope to be feted in brief but festive style. Wandering into the kitchen for some chair-sitting juice (coffee) this afternoon, I saw this mug.
This is the Mug of Despair. It has survived several Great Mug Purges, in which all of the novelty and advertising ugly kitsch mugs were sent packing because they were Bringing Down the General Tone. (Hubby’s place of employment being an egregious offender. A very mug-happy firm.) This mug, which was as ugly as the rest of them (don’t be fooled by the picture–pictures make things cuter than they actually are), escaped. For one thing, we have a babysitter who adopted this mug as her favorite, as one does, for irrational reasons having nothing to do with aesthetic mug merit. But really I think I’ve kept this mug because it has a story. (Brace for story. You’ve heard this one, but not from the mug’s perspective.)
On Mother’s Day 2002, I was at the beginning of the worst (and weirdly, best) two weeks of my life so far. The night before, Carrie, then 5, had been laid low with an infection that had started as pneumonia, and she was in intensive care. I was glassy-eyed with worry, confusion, and trying to be an effective advocate without appearing desperate (the concern about appearing desperate evaporating almost as quickly as grooming). At some point a kind person pushed me down the hall into the pediatric play room. Because it was Mother’s Day, and they were trying to celebrate it, and they had food there. So I went in, and ate something, and felt worse seeing all the braver mothers and the mothers with kids less sick than mine, and we were all given these mugs, nicely wrapped, as Mother’s Day presents. I pretty much hated this mug at first sight. It could have been Sevres porcelaine and I would have hated it. What a stupid idea, to think they could make us feel better with a stupid mug at such a time.
But you see, I have kept the dang mug. My kid got better. And now it is the Mug of Renewal of Hope and the Mug of Learning Things You Are Glad To Know Although You Wish You Hadn’t Had To Learn.
How this is about knitting, is that sometimes when somebody (like you and I, for example) starts a drive to knit blankets for people in an overwhelming situation, my first reaction is “what a stupid idea to think they could make them feel better with a stupid blanket.” (My inner voice does sound a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. Gosh! Idiots!) But the Mug of Human Gestures of Kindness begs to differ. It somehow does make a difference. And a knitted blanket is a whole lot better than a mug, I gotta say. (No offense to mug-givers out there. I really appreciate the mug. I am not letting go of this mug.) Whatever it is, it’s somebody putting something in your hand and saying, here, this is all I could think of and I hope it helps you.
The Mug of Wisdom would like to remind everyone that the deadline for Afghans for Afghans’ campaign for baby blankets for new mothers is May 25, and the address and all the details can be found here.
Happy Mother’s Day!



  1. We have lots of similar mugs that I try to chuck out periodically. None have quite such a story. You are a star, you know, well, you and Ann both. x x x

  2. It’s never merely “typing,” Kay. Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. Well, I’ll be. The Mug of Renewal of Hope is a picture of my back yard – egret, dragonfly, lillies and all. Only, we don’t celebrate the sky turning that yellow color – that means take cover! VBG!
    Thanks for the meaningful mother’s day post, friend.

  4. a mug full of active love, what could be better?

  5. Before I read the whole post, I thought, “It’s the handle!” My favorite is another Bringer Down of the General Tone, with similar handle, it says, “William and Mary Dad” (You will find, all too soon, that colleges and universities will rival your husband’s place of business for mugness.) But then of course, your mug has far more special meaning than my mug, although the 4 years we went there to watch her play lacrosse, are some of my favorites memories. Don’t tell the other 3 kids please.

  6. I have shoes that are older than Jack White. Not happy about that.
    But I AM happy about that mug. Napoleon Dynamite would be happy about that mug too. In his way.

  7. That is one beautiful ugly mug and finding its picture and story on my computer screen at the end of the day made my Mothers’ day completely perfect.

  8. Thank you for the reminder, oh Mug of Wisdom. (Socks and hats are preparing to fly.) We can only do what we can do, but it all helps.
    Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who is a mother or has had one. . . .

  9. I too have a Mug of Despair that brought me through some tough times. It brings me great joy to know that my belief in the healing power of Important Mugs is shared. Seems like when you are grasping for something solid to hold onto, to bring wisdom and hope and peace when life is unbearably hard, a mug can be the answer.

  10. I am very thankful that your daughter recovered, and that you grew stronger through that awful experience. How scary! But how amazing that you pulled through, summoned your resources and kept the Mug.
    On this Mother’s Day, I am grateful beyond belief for my four children, and also a bit heartbroken over the stepdaughter I lost in September 2005 (my fifth child). A1C Elizabeth Jacobson, USAF was killed by an IED while serving proudly in Iraq. I loved her dearly, and was in awe of her bravery and spirit.
    Mother’s Day, for some of us, is a mixed blessing of gratitude and heartache. But overall, I am blessed because of the beautiful children who have graced my life.
    Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.

  11. I may be misrepresenting history here, Kay, but did you and Ann “meet” at this same scary time? Seem to remember a child being very, very sick when you and Ann met. Just checking.
    Love the mug. I secretly think ours have conjugal visits in the cabinets or reproduce assexually. Seriously. There are Always More.
    I am mostly astounded when people BUY the purged ones at our yard sales.
    Happy Mothers’ (worried about the proper apostrophe placement–) Day.

  12. I’m now knitting a blanket (the Baby Moderne) for our little nephew who is suffering from cancer. I’ve been hesitating to give it to my sil as it really won’t help the situation and the gesture looks really ‘stupid’ to me but I think now I shall finish it up and give it to her.

  13. Dear Kay,
    As someone who just started a blanket knitting project (Rebuilding Greensburg – Block by Block) I have to say thank you for those words. And for putting it into words that make sense to people who don’t knit. I will be using those words – well… more likely a variation of those words – but you know what I mean. I will now be able to explain in muggle-speak that it’s a tangible expression of our caring when there is little else we know to do.

  14. Happy Mother’s Day my friend!

  15. So Kay and Ann are also celebrating an anniversary.

  16. Hey, ML! You’re right! I just checked in the Vault of Old and Moldy Emails, and my first email to Kay was May 24, 2002. FIVE YEARS OF EMAILS! HOLY CARPAL TUNNEL, BATMAN!
    Happy blabiversary, Kay! Keep ’em coming!

  17. You know, I agreed to this whole nutty blanket challenge and crazy put-together schedule before reading this. I’m really glad to have the fortification. Always good to have a reminder that people and their weird gestures really do make a difference.

  18. It wouldn’t be knitting for me without the knits that come from my heart to theirs. Happy Mother’s Day!

  19. That may be the most beautiful mug I have ever seen.
    There is a quote from Edward W. Howe that I love and try to remind myself of when I feel the need to do something, even knowing nothing can “fix” the situation at hand.
    “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.”

  20. Thanks for the little push. I’ve been plodding along with the “Afghan of Despair.” All that hot pink wool single crochet with the deadline looming was starting to get to me. I’ll pick it up again toda with a little more purpose and enthusiasm.

  21. KAY!! you are making me seriously reconsider my strict “Not a Square to Spare” policy. damn you!

  22. Ah, it is like I always say when I hand a new mother a knitted item for the babe, “It isn’t about the sweater that they will outgrow next week, it is the good mojo and love I created by making something for the baby.”
    I firmly believe you cast a protective spell or something.

  23. Kay – this is my first comment on your blog (I’m kinda new to this bloggy stuff) but your story hit a chord. I recently heard of a family friend who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cnacer, and has 2 kids under the age of 3. No one knew what to do or say to her, but finally some folks thought of doing something for her kids, like start a trust fund for them. So I volunteered to knit some stuff, wondering all the while how I can possibly help anyone by knitting baby clothes, but I found out they are having a raffle for kids clothes and would love handknit sweaters, toys, etc. So I guess the moral is you’re right; the darned knitting doesn’t make anyone better by itself but it does contribute to a community effort, a good feeling, and maybe, a little comfort to this poor woman and her kids. I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well but my guess is that you know what I mean no matter how badly I say it. Thanks.

  24. Are you trying to make us cry?
    -Because it is working.
    What a lovely, well written story.
    I’m over 1/2 way finished with my afghan, hopefully I can crank out the rest soon.

  25. Oh my goodness. I came looking for some desperately needed laughs, and you made me cry. Got some perspective, too. Thank you for that.
    I love everyone here! Sob.

  26. Oh mug. I accept your wisdom and hope not to learn the lesson in person, the hard way. Thank you.

  27. Beautiful story! Especially about the power of community and the capacity for hope in dark times.
    Speaking of community, my knitting group just finished our own baby blanket for the Afghans for Afghans blanket drive. Pix on my blog…it felt like a special project because there were more than half a dozen of us contributing (which is probably why it got done on time, come to think of it.)

  28. Wow. A mug with a story like that–it would definitely be a keeper in my book no matter what it looked like.
    It has a Great Blue Heron. It grabbed me the moment the picture opened up: several years ago, I was at the C&O Canal, near the neighborhood where I grew up, visiting an old buddy who was dealing with his having been given a lifethreatening diagnosis (me, I was long since used to having lupus and Crohn’s). Just after we got out of the car, we turned to see a Great Blue Heron gracefully take off into the air, right in front of us, so close it felt like we could reach for its feet and be lifted lightly right up into the sky with it. It was such an intense, incredible moment of the beauty of life, of treasuring every moment.
    I have loved herons ever since.

  29. I am taking that stack of mitered squares you inspired me to start a couple of years ago, and I will knit one more and then put them together to create a Blanket of Hope From Despair for an Afghan baby.
    Beautiful idea.

  30. Dear Kay, I live in a little town on the prairie of South central South Dakota. I put together a program to make shawls or lap robes for people in hospice and chemo. I knew they were much appreciated even though we usually don’t know who they go to as we leave them in hospital and they are distributed as needed. Well, my elderly mother has been very ill and in the hospital in Rapid City SD. While I sat with her there for a few days I was knitting a shawl and she told me how beautiful it was…soft rose colored yarn…right at that moment I knew who I was kniting it for. When it was finished I placed it in her hands and she cried. She is in a nursing home now and it is with her always…..she said she cuddles with it at night. So, yes, a blanket or shawl can comfort someone and help them thru hard times. And, as you know, so can a mug………..keep knitting…..I enjoy your blog and love the MD book……….God Bless………Sandy


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