I don’t like doing anything, unless I have the “operating instructions.”  But, many things in life don’t come with them.  Sometimes you have to make them up as you go along, or just learn the basics, and then . . . do it your own way.  Like with knitting.  We’ll get to that.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I ran out and bought “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (probably still the best set of “operating instructions” available for moms-to-be) so I would eat, drink, and just DO everything right. I ended up delivering Sarah at 27 weeks, instead of the more acceptable 40, (but the book is not to blame!!) and had to switch gears very quickly. “What To Expect . . . ” got thrown on the pile of other baby books I had collected (all of which I would pick up again when I was pregnant with my second, a few years later), and I implored my husband to run out to buy all the books on preemie babies he could find, while I lay in my hospital bed recuperating from an emergency C-Section, and the sheer terror of having brought a 2 lb. 2 oz. baby into the world.  There were no operating instructions for this.  None.  How can you possibly get instructed on how to FEEL when you’re not sure your baby is even coming home with you? 

There were days when we weren’t sure she would make it.  But, she did.  We all did.  In a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating her 16th birthday (and there are no operating instructions for being the parents of a 16-year old either!). 

Sarah’s birth impacted me on so many levels. Since then, I’ve been drawn to things that have clear operating instructions — Do this, and you’ll have that.  Very clear. Very simple.  Fool proof.  And makes you feel like you have some control over life.

When I was almost 50, I sat down one day and made my “Things I Really Want to Do” list.

Included were:  learning how to knit; running the NYC Marathon (without having ever run more than half a mile before); becoming conversant in Italian; and figuring out how to use a computer beyond word processing.  (The idea of writing THE BEST OF EVERYTHING AFTER 50, which some have generously referred to as “Operating Instructions For Women over 50″ didn’t hit me until I was 51.).

Reviewing my list, something struck me: the vast majority of things listed needed “operating instructions.”  I didn’t know how to knit!  Someone had to teach me (or I had to teach myself).   Italian? Needed instructions.  Even running the marathon I instinctively knew was going to be a bit more complex than just throwing on sneakers and putting one foot in front of the other. 

What doe this say about me? 

One might say that I love to learn new things, and like to know how to do them right. Studies have shown that learning something new, especially after 50, helps keep the brain cells percolating.  All good.

Others might say that I’m clueless, which is why I need so many sets of “operating instructions” to help me in life, and maybe they’re right.

But, there are so many things that can pop up during the course of a lifetime where you WISH you had instructions but don’t . . . like having a preemie  . . . or a teenager . . . or turning 50 . . . that when there are other things in life that DO have operating instructions . . . like knitting, or learning Italian . . . you grab hold of them as fast as you can. 

So, right about the time when I was turning 50, I decided that I wanted to learn how to knit. Lucky for me, there’s a lovely little neighborhood knitting store 1/2 block away from my apartment . . . and I would go there day after day struggling with the knits, the purls, how to know which was which by just looking, figuring out how to fix mistakes, and on and on.  I had to go there countless times, usually right before closing time (much to the chagrin of the women who work there), to get help.  I’ve learned how to make hats with and without pom-poms on top, scarves, ponchos, blankets, socks.  My family finally told me — very nicely — that they had enough of those accessories to keep them warm for the rest of their lives. 

I had to take my new knowledge in a different direction.  I had gotten the “operating instructions” and learned the mechanics of knitting, but then I wanted to see what else I could do with the yarn.  How could I knit it into shapes that were of my own making?  

I experimented.

On my bed is a blanket inspired by a Mondrian painting . . .

On one wall is a loosely knitted white piece on which I placed a round, red Metropolitan Museum of Art button . . .

One wall has an orange piece that’s hanging on two antique knitting needles (given to me as a 50th birthday gift by a fellow knitter!) . . .

 . . . and others scattered throughout my home.

They give me such joy. . . to make, and to see.  My family hasn’t started complaining about them yet . . . so when everyone’s asleep — usually very early in the morning — I knit . . . experimenting, trying new things.  All good

Being a mother, learning Italian, running a Marathon, knitting, life after 50 . . . so many of these skills need operating instructions.

Some, I have.  Some . . . I’m figuring out as I go along.

Best of Everything,