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A confession: When I begin writing one of these self-care pieces for you, I often think first of something I hope will offer you comfort, joy or strength. Something “good and sturdy,” as the artist Shari Elf says. And next, almost immediately, I begin thinking of its justification.

But do comfort, joy and strength, and the sharing of them—or at least ideas for them—really need a raison d’être? I hope not. I’m 60 years old this year and I’m still trying to shed the idea that any attention to the self at all is selfish and must be justified with a greater good. I try to think of this attitude as an error. One that I can take action to undermine.

In that vein, my idea for self-care this month involves Doing New Things, for fun. No other reason. I’m thinking of it as “Rumspringa for a Day.”

You may know Rumspringa as a sort of coming-of-age gap year for young people in some Amish and Mennonite communities. I’m not an authority on Rumspringa, or Amish culture in general, but casual reading suggests that there is no single common practice. The popular idea of an extended spring break—all bets off and no library fines will accrue!—is by no means universal.

One resonant fact I read is that Rumspringa comes from the German “to jump about.” (Not, as reality TV might make us think, “our year of living dangerously and utterly without boundaries.”) Jumping about carries the meaning of trying things without expectation of committing to a linear path. A trial period.

Rumspringa can also simply mean “adolescence.” And as far as I can tell, among those communities with a coming-of-age practice, no adolescent has to earn their Rumspringa. It’s for everyone. These meanings start getting at what I’d like to make more room for.

So I’m planning to deliberately set aside time to jump about and explore. I want to make room for dead ends and blind alleys—destinations that lead nowhere and activities that don’t have to justify themselves by repaying my investment. This is unlike a sabbatical, which as a young person I was shocked—shocked—to find out was not a year off that one was freely given, but in fact it had to be retroactively earned by spending most of it working on something publishable. (Thus ended my youthful dream of an academic career.)

I’m also not thinking of anything like a Beach Day, which is all about passivity. Beach Day needs no actual beach (especially if quarantined); it just requires being warm, supine and mainlining a stack of books that take me nowhere very elevated. (My most recent beach reads were Steph Cha’s noir-esque Juniper Song series. Recommend!) (Also, we should definitely talk about Beach Days soon.)

Anyway, the crucial thing for—let’s call it a “Minispringa,” provisionally—is exploration. But importantly I’m conceiving it as a chance to actively explore, not merely study.

So here are some of my ideas for my Minispringa this month:

  • Teach myself something more about block printing. Supplies are easily found online! Block Shop also has a kit that hopefully will come back in stock.
  • Have a zero-presh sewing day when my Hilary Top pattern gets here. Play is very important for me with machine sewing; I have a terrible and mysterious anxiety about it. Obviously, pressure kills exploration!
  • Get some sticky rice flour, clear the counters, and make Mandy Lee’s Flakey Pastry Stuffed with Mochi and Chocolate (and bring it around to various neighbors when done)
  • Stage a home yoga retreat, quarantine style. I have not one but two video series waiting for me from Jessamyn Stanley of Underbelly Yoga and Madeleine Lohman of Madyoga. FYI: these are very affordable, compared to many such offerings.
  • Also—second confession here—I’ve always kinda wanted to go to Klingon immersion camp. Surely there is some safe-at-home alternative?

Klingon actually might be the ideal Minispringa project, because learning Klingon can never repay my investment in the form of an Etsy shop or the like. Nor will it clean sinks, tubs and tiles. And speaking Klingon—poorly—won’t make me a virtuous or admirable person; it would more make me a punchline. In other words, the Klingon idea is a total cul-de-sac. A cabinet of curiosities. And another way to not always be working.

If you already make a practice of this kind of active-yet-idle exploration, I would love to hear about your experiments. Or if there are things you’ve always wanted to try, even if they lead nowhere, tell us below in the comments. And have fun!


Underbelly Yoga taught by Jessamyn Stanley

Calm Anxiety yoga series taught by Madeleine Lohman

Block Shop Textiles block printing kit (currently not in stock but good for supply ideas)

Mandy Lee’s Flakey Pastry Stuffed with Mochi and Chocolate

Image: Musei Wormiani Historia, frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities. Wellcome Collection gallery

MDK makes a commission on books sold through the Amazon link in this post.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew.

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  • What a lovely idea!! I know I’m kind of driven by that need to Be Productive, and also that weird problem that seems to affect many crafters I know, to monetize my hobbies.

    I have very purposefully kept knitting as something I do only for my own pleasure. Though I make things for other people, I usually choose the pattern and then find a person who likes it. Sometimes I let them choose the color

    In spite of not-infrequent requests from others to sell my knitting, I don’t, and I also give myself permission to just pull something out and scrap it if it turns out not to be fun. But I love the idea of the dead end exploration (Klingon is such a fantastic example!!). Thank you!

    • I too get requests to knit for others. I always tell them if I charged them my consulting rate (which I do have), their project will cost about $40K. That usually stops their requests 😉

      • I once had a co-worker who was quite large and when she “just loved” the sweater I was wearing and asked if I would one for her, the price of the yarn alone, it put the issue to rest.

      • Yep, that’s my method of avoiding unwanted requests to knit for other people too lol.

    • Exactly! I’m told all the time I should sell what I knit/crochet. But then it would be a job, not a relaxation, to me.
      I made that mistake years ago when I did cross stitch, and it took all the joy out of it for me.

      • absolutely. I also did some knitting for $$ a few years ago and found myself just dreading getting it done. Never again.

  • I’ve been sewing since I was young – perhaps saying I know how to sew is a better description – since I haven’t done any in years. The reason – everything always had to be perfect. And I swore (loudly) that I’d never quilt. But I saw some non-traditional work from Denyse Schmidt which led me to the quilters of Gee’s Bend and others and I thought “I could do this kind of quilting.” So I’ve been playing and having a blast! So I’ve added sewing again to my list of knitting and other crafts. And I’m really wanting to block print, also. Bravo on your encouragement to play!

  • This is fantastic! Thank you for the inspiration to try things I’ve always wanted to explore, but felt there was never enough time!

  • I’ve been wading slowly through Melanie Falick’s “Making a Life”, nibbling at chapters like a nervous mouse (I don’t have time for non-work reading! Someone might see me doing something that isn’t all about making dinner.). And I’m falling back in love with handcrafting arts that I learned as a child, like sewing, Lino printing, maybe pottery…and retirement time is coming. Maybe I could take up glasswork again? The Rumpspringa possibilities are endless, and I am savoring the options!

    • I, too, am slowly making my way through that book. Not because it’s hard to read, but because I don’t want to reach the end. It lovely and inspiring. I just purchased The Geometry of Hand Sewing by Natalie Chanin. It has stitch practice cards in the back of the book to help one learn the stitches. I can’t wait to use them.

    • Isn’t that book inspiring!? Each maker is a revelation.

      • It’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever owned

  • Klingon! How fun! Learning a language with no practical use. I love it!

  • Love this! I still struggle with doing things just because. Time for a list of things to try and maybe even fail spectacularly at.

  • I took years of piano lessons as a child. As an adult, I really enjoy playing for me. Easy measure? I play it fast. Difficult measure? I play it slow. Part of the song I don’t like? Skip it! I play scales and warm up exercises because I like them, but I don’t practice any piece. I just sight read and play whatever I feel like on that day. Sometimes I get a few bars in and decide I’m not in the mood for that piece and just stop. I am toying with the idea of spending time really learning a piece, but we’ll see!
    I’ve also started playing ukulele. It’s easy and fun. I’ve been doing some online lessons at The instructor will say “Are you smiling?” It’s very laid back and fun.

    • I play the violin and keyboard like. For fun!!!!

    • Sounds like we are soul sisters. At least in the music department. Check out for a zillion songs to play around with. PS…he really is a ukulele playing doctor. (Retired now)

  • Klingon? Not my cup of tea. Minion could be fun. What I’d really like is to know what my dogs are saying when they’re at the window barking, and I can’t see anything there. Or when the oldest is in the yard barking into the air, and then stands there looking like he’s waiting for a response from someone?

    • My two (very large & very fuzzy) standard poodles do this. Every dog I’ve ever lived with does it. Dogs who “window bark” or raise their noses into the air and bark are trading news with their neighbor dogs. “101 Dalmatians” features it; it’s called “the barking.” I just wish I could understand it!

  • I love the idea of doing things that have no productivity involved – my lifelong passion of reading any book I feel like (often because I like the cover) fits this for me. Recently, our family got a new kitten. I have found that I can play with her for hours when I get the chance. My days off from work have been nonstop laughing and snuggling with her, and it has been wonderful to be silly and nonproductive all weekend.

  • You can learn Klingon on duolingo–for free!
    Our 10-year-old granddaughter decided to learn Korean on duolingo, and even I was remembering the symbols of the alphabet (which is how the Korean lessons start). It’s geared towards kids, so very user-friendly.
    I decided to try learning Spanish, and I have zero aptitude for languages, but it’s working for me!

  • Max, you are making me think seriously about learning Klingon. I am already fluent in several languages (honestly, this is nbd if you grew up in India) and even learned Sanskrit for four years in school. How hard can Klingon be?

    I could have so much fun with the guttural sounds. Always love your columns, thank you.

    • This made me smile because I had a friend whose parents were Indian when I was at university and she said her mum knew about half a dozen more languages than her dad, so when she was angry with him she would cuss him out in one of the ones he didn’t know lol.

  • I’ve been working so hard the last few years trying to get rid of the idea that everything I do has to be useful in some way, or that I have to do it “right.” I’m finally feeling comfortable with the idea that if it gives me joy, that’s all the usefulness necessary. In fact, what could be better? The act of creating things also fills a particular need for exercising my brain—I love figuring out how things work and get great satisfaction from completing something, since there are so many other things in life that we don’t control and are never really finished. Doing things just because you want to (love the idea of learning Klingon!) is reason enough!

    Now I just need to work on eradicating the guilt that sometimes creeps in from having “too many” hobbies! *wink*

    • Love your comments. Makes me feel less guilty when I knit or hand quilt or read

  • So the idea of a mini Rumspringa reminds me of a tradition from my undergraduate alma mater, Kalamazoo College. Every Spring, there is a day off. The exact date is supposed to be secret, but when the profs start saying, “And in case we have no class on Thursday…” it is kind of a giveaway. The idea comes from a motto carved on one of the dorms, “The end of learning is gracious living,” and it’s called the “Day of Gracious Living.” I suspect the original idea was to engage in some community service, and some do, but many of us also engaged in self-care by sleeping in or heading to the Lake Michigan shore, a scant hour away. (My roommate and I got SO sunburned our Freshman year!) Live graciously!

    • Kalamazoo! I was BORN in Kalamazoo! 😀

      • Another knitting K-College alumna here – I have such fond memories of “Day of Gracious Living.” Maybe I should try to incorporate the concept into my working life…

  • After seeing me admire some watercolor paintings (from a tutorial) that my niece was doing, my son and his girl sent me a short subscription of watercolor kits for Mother’s Day. It’s not so Rumspringa any more, since I do it every few weeks now. I just follow the instructions, and I have to try real hard, so I get totally away from myself and my life for an hour or so. I won’t say I’m not good at it (though that’s possibly true) because I’m mostly happy with what I’ve made. But it is fun. And unproductive 😉

  • Chinese knot tying! I pulled out a book I have on the topic last weekend to make an adjustable mask. It was so fun to add a bit of elegance with a pretty knotted cord rather than utilitarian elastic.

  • So where’s the link to Klingon camp? They must have a Corona-proof class or two….

  • Max, at our pizza place we used to do craft night, and it was extra fun the nights we tried new crafts. Also, I’m watching a Klingon-centric episode of Star Trek TNG as I knit right now.
    Big hug, enjoy your minispringa!

  • Love your post!! Yesterday I started watching Deep space 9. Next is Voyager and then Enterprise on my Kindle. My husband watches them over and over again. Can’t wait till I get to Klingons. And I knit and hand quilt at
    the same time.

  • I spent one Christmas break learning nalbinding from a book. I played with it for a bit, but went back to knitting because knitting is rather more interesting with lace, cables, intarsia and all. Now I want to get more into tablet weaving, I don’t know why. I’ve also got mom’s starter bobbin lace pillow, but it’s at my office and I’m not these days. Maybe someday!

    Learning Klingon? Good luck!

    • There are online lace lessons available when you are able to retrieve that pillow, and groups that may be able to link you with local/regional lacemakers:;; I used the first few months of lockdown to finish an already-vintage piece of lace and am now back to working on a knitting UFO –nice to be able to work with one strand or 100 as the mood (and UFO pile) dictates.

    • There are online lace lessons available when you are able to retrieve that pillow, and groups that may be able to link you with local/regional lacemakers:;; I used the first few months of lockdown to finish an already-vintage piece of lace and am now back to working on a knitting UFO. Then I have other lace pieces to finish—nice to be able to work with one strand or 100 as the mood (and UFO pile) dictates.

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      There are online bobbin lace lessons available whenever you are able to retrieve that pillow. See, or contact International Organization for Lace at If you are looking for local contacts, they may be able to help you. Another good resource group: I did finish an already-vintage bobbin lace project since the spring, and am back to working on a knitting UFO, then have another lace UFO to attend to, then more knitting I want to do. Nice to work with one strand or 100 as the mood dictates.
  • Happy to report that public libraries across the country are starting to go fine-free!

  • This is a great idea. I don’t currently feel as if I have enough time to do the crafts I’m already into though, so I’ll have to get my head around the idea of finding space to try something else sometimes. Thanks for such a fun post 🙂

  • This is an awesome idea! I’ll give myself an occasional saturday afternoon to explore things I’m curious about.

  • I turned 60 last year and started playing banjo. I’m not great, but better than a year ago. I just love it! Next up—yoga. I’ll check out your recommendations since so many studios have closed around me.

  • I love this idea of exploring for the fun of it.
    Over the summer I had a few weeks off at home with the kids. I declared every day that there would be an HOUR OF CRAFT, during which time I was not available for interruptions although they were welcome to bring their own craft projects and sit with me. I would sit and try out something new – I worked through some crochet mosaic tutorials and picked up cross stitch for the first time in 20 years. It was lovely – no pressure to finish something or make anything useful (although the Barbie house has some fancy mosaic rugs now). I have this week off now and will be doing the same. The key for me was that the activity for one day doesn’t need to be related to the previous days. It’s just whatever craft I fancied.
    My final secret was that, if no-one noticed the time, an hour could actually be three or four hours.

  • There was a couple they talked about at Blizzcon one year. They had met at an earlier Blizzcon; he was from the US, and she was from Germany. Klingon was the only language they had in common. They’re married now. 🙂

    • That is just beautiful. Qa’plagh! Or however it’s spelt 😉

  • I’d like to offer another yoga practitioner with hundreds of free videos for every body and every mood: Yoga With Adriene on YouTube. I’ve been watching and practicing with her since she was a 20-something woman and she’s now in her 30’s and simply delightful. All about letting expectations go and ‘finding what feels good”.

    I’m getting ready to retire in a few years and have a lot of things lined up (sewing, journaling, more knitting, more hiking, getting a dog!!!), so I’m looking forward to a few minispringas of my own.

  • One more comment, Kate. I look forward to reading your columns at MDK. I’m an enthusiastic baker & clicked over to the Flaky Pastry recipe, because my block has had a neighborhood cheer-up food & wine trading circle going since The Virus hit.

    The recipe looks workable, but it perpetuates a food myth that heat “eliminates” or “destroys” gluten. Gluten is a protein molecule & cannot be destroyed at temperatures under 260 C (500 F). Certain components of this complex molecule lose some functionality when exposed to heat, but they are not destroyed or eliminated. Kneading helps develop gluten which gives bread it’s “chew.” (If you would like to get nerdy with me, see: “The effect of heat on wheat gluten . . .” Journal of Cereal Science.) A person coping with celiac disease could be harmed if they accepted this statement. (I’m a food chemist by academic training & profession.)

    Looking forward to a rainy afternoon during quarantine to bake some of this. Good baking and knitting and eating to all!

    • Thank you! I never want my gluten destroyed 😉

  • At the age of 67, I’m enrolled in school and loving it. My previous career and sole source of income came to a shocking end with the diagnosis of a cervical spinal stenosis. After surgeries I was forced to accept disability. That is motivation to seek vocational rehab and recreate yourself. I’m so grateful that I had my BSN to which I may add a degree in Health Information Technology. My life is school and a knitting break and I am so grateful for the life that I have been given.

  • I object to the invocation of Rumspringa as an act of liberation or freedom. The Amish and Mennonites are high demand religious groups that require an extreme level of commitment from their children–children who do not choose this lifestyle for themselves. The Rumspringa is a foil that allows them to have a false believe that they are entitled to some autonomy, however, the pressure in these groups is so impactful that oftentimes the youth come back to the community, kinda in shambles. See, when they go out they have no support and no sense of what is normal or abnormal. But give a 18 year old free rein to party, and offer no guidance or support, other than a sense of looming moral panic, and they will take it, and they will party hard. This hard partying can lead to devastating consequences. The hangover, and the moral panic comes like a wave for these youth, and they come to a place of self-flaggellation. There’s no security out there in the big, bad world at all. There’s no way to gauge ‘friend’ or ‘foe’, it’s all extreme all the time. There’s no emphasis on moderation, self regulation or what bodily autonomy really true means. They come crawling home in pieces, shredded by an unsupported, rural life of hard partying in which their basic human needs are not ever met. What Rumspringa represents is a Bounded Choice (see author janja lalich) and it’s not in the best interest of the young adult, it’s in the best interest of the group, and in maintaining a system of control in which no force is used, just coerciveness into a state of dependence for life.

    I was born and raised in a cult and getting out was REALLY tough, and I will be working on the CPTSD for probably my whole life. Even though I relish my freedom, I recall so many times I felt if I slipped into a state of extreme vulnerability, I’d go crawling back. I thank my lucky stars every day that I never did that.

    • Thank you for that. I am looking for that Lalich book since seeing The Vow; it’s hard to find!

  • Love this! Now I want to look for an online Klingon language camp 🙂

  • I think I’m doing it now with knitting. I try something and if it doesn’t work out, I rip it out and try again or go on to something else.

  • So many Klingonophiles here—I suggest we all meet 2100 on the holodeck!

  • Hobby electronics!

    Hear me out.

    Programming is just knitting patterns for computers. Seriously, mysterious symbols that describe all the steps to get to the finished product at the beginning.

    And the manual dexterity that comes with knitting translates really well to breadboarding (community speak for prototyping) and, when you are ready for production, soldering.

    If you want to jump in, I strongly recommend adafruit (you can get all the supplies cheaper elsewhere for sure, but they supply a wealth of learning tools that are definitely worth supporting).

    Good luck!

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