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Stuff & Things, Things & Stuff

What have I been up too in lieu of blogging, you might ask? Well, a rather varied list, actually:

– Taxes (got ours done)
– Knitting (finished my class block and the prep rows for the next one)
– Crochet (two cowls special-ordered by someone my mom works with…done and delivered)
– Dog food (my control-freak nature took over, I cancelled our deliveries & planned extra weekend time to make it myself from now on)
– Writing (a little here and there, but hey, progress is progress, however slow)
– Working (naturally – pays the bills, keeps the brain hoppin’)
– Way less Pokemon (because…sub-zero temps do not entice me outside, for any reason)
– Animal Crossing (because…so cute I’m in constant fear of sugar-shock)
– Batman: Arkham Asylum (because it’s both fun and frustrating)
– Budgeting (which is not fun, but less frustrating over time)
– Trying to stay warm in frickin’ sub-zero and single digit temps (Second coldest Feb. on record…yay?! I’ll take our normal 30’s and 40’s back, please)

Honestly, I’m kind of stuck again, even with all of that going on. I live in this constant state of wanting to do and be more than I am, but having to choose where my priorities need to be, and not liking my choice because it doesn’t really feel like much of a choice at all. But it is, of course. I could completely upend my life and go with “option B” at any time. I really don’t want to, though.

I suspect it’s going to be this way until I retire from the day job (or decide that my health, pets and family don’t matter anymore – I don’t see that happening anytime soon). I’m guessing that a lot of other people are in the same boat, so I try not to complain too long or loud about it. It’s just…the state of my head, to borrow a phrase from Shinedown. Sometimes that holds me up far more than I should let it.

Some days are worse than others, and being out of my vitamins for a few days this weekend combined with the ongoing stress of crazy cold weather/cabin fever all around doesn’t help. My attitude will get better – it always does. A major perk of being a perpetual optimist.


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Self-Sufficiency in a Loom

Last weekend, I went to a Fiber Festival here in town (the first one I’ve ever heard of). No, it didn’t feature prunes, beans and high-fiber foods…we’re talking textile fibers. Alpaca, yak, sheep and various blends of wool, plus silk, bamboo and other fibers that people who work with yarn like to turn into clothes, blankets, bags and other fun stuff.

In any case, there was an overwhelming amount of beautiful handspun and dyed fiber there (and raw fiber too, for those who spin), and I brought home several skeins of wool and one of cotton, and left a silk and bamboo blend one there that I really wish I’d picked up too. But it was expensive, so probably just as well I didn’t nab it. *sigh*

Anyways, at one of the booths where I bought some wonderfully thick and soft black handspun, the woman had a small “lap” weaving loom for sale. I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and ultimately decided not to buy it. And then I kicked myself for leaving it there the whole rest of the weekend. I even mentioned to my spinning/knitting friend at work that I couldn’t stop thinking about this loom, and how much fun it might be for the thinner lace-weight yarns I have but don’t want to knit or crochet with (I prefer thicker yarns – the small hooks/needles hurt my fingers).

As it turned out, my friend knew the woman selling the loom, and contacted her to see if it was still available. It was, and long story short, I sent a check, and the loom was delivered to my house this past Saturday. An hour, maybe 90 minutes later, I’d learned a whole bunch of terms I didn’t know before, and had woven my first inch or so of fabric from some recycled silk yarn I had in the closet.

My first weaving project - some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

My first weaving project – some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

I was actually kind of surprised, to be honest. The method described in the instructions made the motions far less tedious than I thought they might be, and I found the whole experience very relaxing. I spent another hour weaving another couple of inches yesterday, and again, found it a very calm and restful activity. It does take a lot of time, especially with the thin yarn I’m using, but it’s relatively mindless, and will result in a gorgeous piece of fabric.

While I ran the threads back and forth, I thought about why I was so drawn to get the loom and learn to weave. Or why I’m interested in any of the fiber arts I take part in – crochet and knitting, mainly. I mean, I do them because I enjoy the work, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only do I feel a sense of connection to the past when I do these types of crafts with my hands, but it also gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency.

I’ve always been a very independent person (too independent, says my mom), and I’ve also always been interested in homesteader-type activities. Crochet was one of the first hobbies I learned as a child, and it feels good to know that I can make both warm and useful things with just some yarn (or whatever) and a hook. I started knitting just because I think knit stitches are better for clothing (tighter), and weaving will broaden what I can make even more, in terms of household items and possibly even blankets and scarves.

Making things with my hands using simple tools gives me a sense of connection to the past that very few other things do. These crafts have been passed down for generations on to the next, and there’s just something that feels very important about keeping the hand-made version of them going as people cycle in and out of life. Not just because there’s value in knowing how to take care of ourselves without the technology of mass-production, but also because of that feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing how to take raw materials and turn it into something useful and practical (as well as beautiful, in many cases). The more self-sufficient I feel, the more confidence I have, and that applies to all areas of my life, not just my homesteader-style hobbies.

Which is justification enough to learn how to spin my own yarn one of these days too, right? Although we may need a bigger house…

But I draw the line at raising sheep outside an actual apocalyptic-type situation. I helped a friend with 4-H sheep in high school. They’re cute, but stupid. I’m not a fan.

Alpacas have personality, though…

Vacation Report

This whole “not planning” thing is crazy hard for me. Even now, I have my planner beside me on the arm of my couch like a security blanket, just in case I decide I can’t stand it anymore and must make priorities, a list and a schedule for the day before I can possibly go on. I have to wonder if I’m doing myself any favors by fighting it so hard, or if it might be better to just give in and schedule my afternoon so I can stop worrying about *not* having a schedule/getting things done…

It may happen yet. I’m not really relaxing if I’m stressed over trying not to be stressed. How ironic is *that*, anyways?

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job of taking it easy though. I visited with the guy who does my tattoos on Friday, and set up an appointment for Aug. 6th to get another couple of pieces done on my left forearm. The first forearm tattoo was a pretty big step – kind of a commitment to having visible tattoos – to being a “tattooed person”, rather than a person who has a few small tattoos in easily hidable places. I mean, I can still keep my arm covered, of course, but I tend to push sleeves up constantly – I’m not fond of fabric pulling around my wrists for any length of time – so the forearm tattoo was a pretty big step for me. I love it, and every time I look at it, I feel like it’s *supposed* to be there. Like that’s who I really am, and what I want my skin to look like.

The rattlesnake on my forearm.

        The rattlesnake on my forearm.

I realize that sounds crazy to a non-tattooed person, but that’s okay. I would never, ever try to convince anyone to get a tattoo…and no tattooed person I know would ever do that either. It’s very much a “make a wise decision for yourself” sort of community, because it is a permanent body modification, and no one should do that unless they’re absolutely certain it’s what they want. For me, tattoos are definitely part of who I am, and there are many more in my future.

I also finished a knitting project yesterday – a pair of fingerless gloves I’ve been working on for several weeks. I’ve been struggling with thumb gussets because though I’m right-handed, I knit left-handed (it just was more comfortable for me to learn that way – flexibility is a good thing), so I had problems translating that part of the pattern from right to left-handed techniques. And I can’t even tell you how proud of myself I am for having figured that out on the second glove. The gusset looks and fits much better, and it seriously took me a lot of youtube video help and reworking make 1 stitches to finally get it right. The harder something is to master, the more pleasure we get when we manage, right? It’s certainly true in this case, and while it was incredibly frustrating, I’m glad I stuck with it.

Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

                                  Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

I also started reading a new light mystery series this weekend themed around a tattoo shop. Tattoos on the brain, I tell ya. They’re quite addictive, and when you’re ready for that next “hit”, they’re on the mind a lot. I’m not sure whether I’ll finish this series or not (it’s four books), because it’s written in first-person, and I typically have trouble getting into stories from that perspective. But I’m working on writing a short story that’s first-person at the moment too, so who knows? Maybe that particular preference is changing for me. It would certainly expand both my reading and writing potential if it did…

The short story I’m working on is for a celebration of Frankenstein’s 200th birthday – a bicentennial “dare”. Kind of a fun little project that I need to finish by the end of the week, if I want to enter the contest. It’ll be under my alter-ego Alex’s name – this sort of thing is right up her alley.

I also registered a new domain name this weekend – spent an absurd amount of money for it, but it will be the home of my dog’s new blog & site, once I get it built. That’s on my mental list of things to do before Friday, and a fun project, methinks. More on that at the end of the week…

Now, I really need to get off my butt for awhile – I’ve been sitting too long already today. I need a yoga session, and then some housecleaning, methinks, before I sit down at the computer again.

Maybe I’ll just make a quick little list of priorities for the afternoon first…

Of Grapevines, Sheets & Colored Pencils…

Two things tripped me up quite literally this past weekend – grapevines and sheets. I ended up on my butt both times, and I have scrapes, bruises and sore spots all over my poor, abused body. This is a side-effect of something called “ambition” mixed with “distraction”. And it’s funny how every time it happens, I’m reminded of  one of my art teachers in college, who used to insist that we practice “mindfulness” whenever we were creating art.

As mindful as I can be when I want to (I have great ability to focus), he never saw anything at all remarkable about any of the artwork I did in his class, and I was always so very confused as to what it was, exactly, that I didn’t have. I still am, for that matter. I have many talents, but creating art from pencils, pens or paint is apparently somewhat beyond me. It’s probably the same indescribable “thing” I keep looking for in my writing. As I’m far more motivated to keep writing than to explore most other forms of artwork, perhaps someday I’ll find it on a digital page somewhere…

It’s so easy to judge a piece of art, whether painted or drawn or written or constructed, and say whether you like it or not. Whether it speaks to you or not. Whether it has that subliminal quality that takes it from paint or ink or lead or yarn or marble or words to something on a slightly different level.

But it’s nearly impossible to actually describe what that “something” you’re looking for is, and because of that, it’s also impossible to know whether you’ve put it into your own work or not. To add more complexity, other people may or may not see something you cannot see for yourself, in work that you’ve created.

“Art” is a very odd & subjective thing. Mindfulness, not so much.

Enter the colored pencils.

I scoffed when I saw that the trendy new “thing” for adults is coloring. Crayons, pencils, markers, and adult-oriented (no, not *that* adult, though I think you can get those too) coloring books filled with intricate designs and patterns to be filled in however we see fit.

I scoffed, because I am not five, but my fingers and the less-logical part of my brain seemed to think it looked like a very relaxing activity to both focus on and be distracted by at the same time. Like solving a jigsaw puzzle, with less brain-work. The only decisions to make would be what color to use next, and where to put said color. That’s it. No following a complex written pattern, no active reasoning or logic needed, just a very simple task of applying color to already drawn shapes.

So I overrode the logical, adult part of my brain and ordered a couple of coloring books for my husband and I to share, along with a couple sets of colored pencils (in case we both wanted to use them at the same time). And last week, hubby and I started coloring (again).

I’m still not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. It’s a fun, almost hypnotic craft project that does allow the mind to sort of just wander along as the pencils scratch over the paper. I like seeing the black and white patterns start to pop as the colors are laid down. There isn’t any right or wrong, and it’s a pleasant way to sort of just “reset” and relax for a bit. I like the smell of the pencils.

Still, I’m not sure whether it will be a long-term thing, or just a short-term trendy diversion. There are plenty of other relaxing things I want to do and get back to, now that day-to-day life is sort of stabilizing again. That is one thing about coloring though…the materials needed are very few, and the time commitment need only be whatever time you have. I can’t say that about most of my other hobbies.

I also can’t color while watching TV (not and actually get any coloring done). I can, however, knit and crochet, which I plan to get back to this week. Finally.


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