Yeah, about those napkins…


they didn’t get finished. But it’s OK.

Despite starting in early November, which I thought would give me plenty of time, I ran out of it. No–that’s not quite right. I chose to use my time differently.

I might have finished the napkins, if…

  • I’d chosen a simpler design for them.
  • I’d done pretty much nothing but embroider during every free minute from Thanksgiving to Christmas.


When I found myself feeling anxious and resentful about the project, I knew it was time to let go of it as a Christmas present. To hang onto my original goal, I’d have had to give up other things:

The quality of the finished product. I might have followed the advice some readers gave to embroider only one flower per napkin, but I really didn’t want to. I like them as they are coming to be, and I didn’t want to compromise that.

Time with my family. Although I can sometimes work on the project while in the same room with my family, I’m not giving them the same kind of attention when I do that. I chose to be more fully present than I would otherwise have been, which was something we all needed.

Other gifts that were also meaningful. I didn’t finish the napkins, but I did make these journals for a friend/colleague and her daughters. They were quick and easy and quite satisfying (and I’ll put up a quick post about them in a few days).


I really did want to finish the project and give it to my mom for Christmas, but the relief I felt when I gave myself permission to let go of it (for now) told me that letting go was the right choice. The work already done is not wasted; they will be just as appreciated for Mother’s Day or for her birthday in September. In the end, I got my mom a pair of pretty pajamas, which she loved, and I gave myself the gift of a little gentleness, which I sorely needed to get through the holidays in what has been (and continues to be) a difficult season of my life.


It was good to get a reminder that we always have the power to make choices and the ability to change our minds.  And, that what we originally hope for might not be the only good outcome.

I hope you’ve all had wonderful holidays. Looking forward to connecting with you more often in this space now that things will settle down a bit. (I hope! Don’t want to jinx things!)

23 thoughts on “Yeah, about those napkins…

  1. Marian says:

    This is such a lovely post, Rita, and I’m so with you on all of it. I don’t think we can EVER go wrong when we choose to prioritize people over things! I did much the same this Christmas: my daughter got only one sock in her stocking because I couldn’t/wouldn’t find/make the time to get the second one finished. And that too, was perfectly OK.

    (All that being said, I do love seeing your progress on the napkins — they’re turning out beautifully!)
    Marian recently posted…Knitting Over-analyzedMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, Merry Christmas to you, too! (It’s not New Year’s yet, so we’re both on time! According to the Calendar of Rita anyway. Just last night Cane and I went downtown for our annual have-a-fancy-drink-and-look-at-the-lights-before-Christmas night out.) And you are brimming with all kinds of talent.

  2. Kate says:

    Oh, I was so happy to type your address in this morning and see a new post popped up! And your napkins are beautiful.

    I only had two officially “made” gifts this year at Christmas time (though a sweater and a hat got finished and gifted early because holding onto a handmade gift for someone just seems silly when they live in your house and know it’s for them and finished) and this has been a MUCH easier Christmas season for me. (Holy run on sentence, Batman) I’m not sure if it’s because we decided to forgo the in-laws annual trip to somewhere warm (they left Christmas Day this year) or the “I’m not making something for everyone this year” but it was just QUIETER. And I feel like with all the MORE this time of year brings, it’s nice when we can do LESS.

    I’m glad you made the choice to change the deadline and focus on what was important to you and it’s a good reminder for me heading into the New Year with lists and charts and action plans, that sometimes all it really takes is a gentle refocused priority.
    Kate recently posted…I keep meaning to writeMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Hi Kate,
      I was happy to see your name in my inbox this morning! I’ve missed “talking” with everyone over the past few weeks. Your words are a good reminder that less often is truly more. I think that’s especially true this time of year. I keep trying to figure out how to make December a truly calm and bright month. Not quite where I want to be yet, but this past one was the best I’ve had in years. I actually enjoyed shopping for presents much more than I have in the last several–and it was so nice to enjoy that again. And I’m with you on giving gifts early. I bought new earbuds for my daughter, which I wrapped and put under the tree for Christmas morning. On the 20th, as we were about to embark on a 5-ish hour trip to the grandparents’, it occurred to me how silly it would be to give them to her after we returned home. But now you have me going on another post I’d love to write (but probably won’t because: Time) about how arbitrary it is to give gifts on a particular day… Hope you had a wonderful holiday. I so miss having young children this time of year!

  3. Jen says:

    I had intended to crochet washcloths and make either a salt or sugar scrub to go along with them for gifts for family and friends. Despite laying out a schedule that I thought was workable, I got maybe a quarter of them done. My husband was grousing about it the other day and I just smiled and told him that I had a good start on next year. Eventually I will get there, but there were more important things. Like him and our relationship. Or rest.

    It’s all OK.

    I hope that your holidays have been restful and merry and that your new year is shaping up to be wonderful.

    • Rita says:

      I remember you writing about the washcloths and scrubs. I’m sorry you couldn’t finish them, but glad for you that you were able to choose more important things. Relationships and rest should always come first, I think. I hope you’ve had restful holidays, too. I know how much everyone who works in schools uses this time to recharge and come back refreshed. And how hard those few weeks before the winter break can be because it’s such a tough time for so many kids. Wishing you all the best–

  4. Deborah says:

    Hi Rita, what a wise post and sound decisions. Sometimes finding the courage to just stop is harder than ploughing on. The napkins will be lovely when you eventually get the, done, as I’m sure you will when the time is right. For you. Until then, I hope you can enjoy the time spent doing them.
    All the best for 2016, and thanks for your posts, which I always enjoy reading.

    • Rita says:

      I’m so glad you left a comment, so I could find your blog! Wanting to enjoy the time I spent making them is the main reason I stopped. It’s a fun project, and I wanted it to stay fun. And what’s the point of giving a gift that’s been a burden? That’s just all kinds of backwards, isn’t it? Wishing you the best in the coming year, and looking forward to seeing what it brings you.

  5. Shannon says:

    I’m so proud of you for making the right choice for yourself and your napkins, Rita! I started a jigsaw puzzle over Thanksgiving and finally packed it away in the box, half finished, on Christmas Eve. I had completed the fun part of the village in the middle, and the pile of difficult, boring sky and snow and tree pieces that should have made up the edges were just taunting me every day as I walked past. I finally said, out loud, “This is dumb!” Nobody cares if I complete this puzzle, it’s not fun anymore, and I need my table back. Ha! I knew when to say, “when” with that project…and then a couple days later I bought a new puzzle of classic Nancy Drew book covers. 🙂 That should be a lot more fun to put together next time I’m in a puzzle mood!
    Shannon recently posted…Christmas Decorating: Dream vs RealityMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Your comments always ALWAYS make me smile! Thank you. Yes, it is so true that a puzzle can taunt. Glad you showed yours who is boss. Don’t give in to bullies! 😉 But about the Nancy Drew puzzles–where did you get them? It is officially puzzle season now that the tree is gone, and I need a good one. Nancy sounds like just the ticket.

        • Rita says:

          Thank you! That one is awesome. Looked for it on Amazon, but it didn’t qualify for Prime shipping. I did find one with covers of classic children’s books, and it does have free shipping. Haven’t decided for sure yet, so in my cart they both sit. That Nancy Drew one has a lot of the word “secret” in the same white letters. Could be aggravating… Though not as aggravating as this:

          That one’s NOT in my cart!

          • Shannon says:

            Re: The Pencils. Um. No. :l haha! Re: Nancy Drew. I went ahead and opened the box. I think the size of the pieces in relation to the book covers shouldn’t make the similar titles too much of an issue…there appears to be enough surrounding book image on each piece to make that easier. HOWEVER, you should be aware these appear to be not the standard horizontal/vertical shapes (I just found one that looks like Italy). I assume this makes things a tad more difficult…but still I don’t think it should be TOO difficult. I like my jigsaw puzzles like my crossword puzzles…challenging but easy enough to be fun. These are supposed to be enjoyable, time-passing games that allow for some sense of accomplishment, you shouldn’t want to put your thumbs through your eyes 15 minutes in. 🙂 If this Nancy Drew goes well, I may need to frame it…it’s good quality/detail printing on the pieces. 🙂
            Shannon recently posted…Christmas Decorating: Dream vs RealityMy Profile

          • Rita says:

            Oh, me too. Although I’ve worked my way up to more challenging ones in the past few years. I’m definitely a 1000-piece puzzle person now. But ones that are billed as “hardest puzzle ever”? No, thank you!

  6. HeatherL says:

    Those are beautiful & I’m sure your mom will love them whenever they are finished. I am sure she would also love that you cut yourself a break about not finishing them.

  7. Lisa says:

    I think they are looking lovely. If you do one a month, you’d have a nice present done for next Christmas. (Although that seems like a significant time investment for a year. I would probably forget about them and then think “ack!” on Thanksgiving.)
    Lisa recently posted…Sufficient unto the dayMy Profile

  8. Sarah says:

    The napkins are looking lovely, Rita! Smart choice to shift gears. Your mom will appreciate them whenever they arrive, I am sure. Isn’t it nice when in making a gift for someone else we also end up giving an unexpected gift to ourselves? And (maybe I am reading too much into your post but..) it sounds like your mom is truly the type to understand why you decided to take your time with these — so it’s also like getting a gift from one’s giftee!
    Sarah recently posted…My home this season: December 2015My Profile

    • Rita says:

      My mom is absolutely the type to understand this. One of the best gifts I’ve gotten in this life is my mother. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

  9. May says:

    So glad you chose to give yourself permission to extend the time on this project. You are right. She won’t love them any less in any other month. They are looking great.
    I am sorry it continues to be that difficult season. Wishing you strength and peace.
    May recently posted…TToT: Garden GateMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I wish I could say I’ve been making steady progress, but I haven’t touched them since I wrote this post! Actually, I did spend time this weekend finding and organizing my embroidery floss. Hoping to get back to the project this week.

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