Saturday, January 30, 2021

For Hens' Teeth

After cross-stitching the floral wreath, I have been aching to get another hand-sewing project going. I am waiting on an order of fabric; something called lugana. Have you heard of it? It's supposed to be nice for cross-stitch. I am also waiting on my brain to make up itself on whether or not to get cross-stitch software. I found one that seems well-received and with it I could scan my own art and make patterns, including the DMC color chart to match. It sounds so cool! I am hesistant, because I am debating whether I need software, something that seems appropriate for a business, or someone with a longer attention span than I have. I am a Hobby Fairy, flitting from project to project. In the meantime, went rummaging through my stash, and came up with floss, wool felt, buttons, and bells, and no plan.
I did think it would nice to make a felt brooch, with stitches and charms, something to pin to a coat. The first piece I cut out felt thin, so I decided to layer pieces, and then I started stitching the first part. I shouldn't have kept with the cross-stitch needle, which is dull tipped, and not suitable for wool felt. More scrambling around yielded a sewing needle, but I should be tracking down an actual embroidery needle. I talk myself through all the things I ought to do, as I merrily, heedlessly stitch away! I should have started with a plan, with a sharp needle. I should have done some warm up stitches, considered the spacing, the design, settled on a color scheme. It's no use. I am better than I used to be, but the impulse to jump in and flail about is too strong. Every bit, every choice was met on the road, like when I considered that the two pieces I cut could become a small pouch, and not a brooch, or perhaps a brooch-pouch? A pouch-necklace? If it was to be a small bag, I wanted the embroidered piece to have a backing... scrounge around!
How to keep the little purse shut was a puzzle. I didn't leave room for a snap. I wanted a button and loop, like I used on my wallet, and Maria's. (I can't believe I made these 11 years ago, and it proves how much I flit from one thing to another. I still use this wallet, though the poor little owl has long faded away. I loved making it, and gee, it's only taken me 11 years to re-visit sewing with wool.) Wait. Where was I? Button and loop fastener, yes. Well, I'd already stitch a name right where the button would go, so I had to think of something else. I found a small wooden button and twisted twine, something like a rustic baker's twine. Oh! And the bells! The bells started on holiday garland, that I raided for herb wreaths, and now they are employed in new position... tinkling merrily on a tiny purse!
Just the thing for bus fare, or a sea-shell, to press a poem to your heart, or to collect hens' teeth. I already started another. I don't have a plan, but I've stitched a small Mars, Moon, and stars.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Just Thinking

Neo Cairo Nepenthes. He's terribly handsome. Terribly, because it seems to help him escape the consequences of his less endearing qualities, like bullying the other cats, and rat dancing on our shins at 4 am. Oh, yes, he is terribly handsome.
Does anyone recall that Geoff loves lights? I have mentioned it a few times, that he loves loves loves getting the latest flashlight, or bulb. He really went all out over the holidays, and now that our driveway has been repaired, he is enjoying his ultimate(?) lighting scheme! From atop the street deck, facing our driveway, Geoff is installing programmable lighting, including blacklights, and this all serves another of his dream-schemes which playing pickle ball, day or night! The results are, I admit, fabulous... like disco lights at the skating rink epic, like drive-way dance party fabulous! Soon, friends. Soon.
I remember imagining what it was going to be like to lie down on the new wall, and look up into the trees, to watch clouds, and stargaze. Now, I can. I can sit on the wall, now, and imagine what it will be like to have a garden full of friends, and we will be cooking and laughing together, sharing our ideas, making cool things, and dancing, under clouds, under stars, full of joy.
Blacklights make things glow! Geoff makes my life glow!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Never Boring... mostly

I feel embarrassed and apologetic about yesterday's post, because it was boring. I don't think it represented boring things, but I admit I wasn't feeling open, expressive. It's funny how much transparency and candor it takes to create compelling posts, yet while reaching for that level of directness, I am also trying to retain privacy, not be too revealing reptitive, exacting. My children are of an age when their lives and stories are more their own than ever, so I want to avoid speaking for them. I am painfully aware that I have probably mentioned the collision five or more times too many, and that's a difficulty, because I have also been remarkably restrained, relative to the events and transactions still current and consuming. We don't go any where. We don't entertain, travel, or even dress up, much. If I want to be frank about any subject it should be that it's probably dull as toast around here, and I likely shouldn't be blogging so often, if at all. I thought of all of this, and more, which led to other considerations, like why blog, why publish, how or why has this become a compelling habit? Old, oft posed questions, which invariably draw me to other, oft posed conclusions... I should retire from blogging, blogging has not been particularly successful, blogging is a raw and intimate exercise that leaves me exposed, vulnerable, and in serious doubt of myself, blogging is embarrassing.
Maria's first assignment for Creative Writing was an essay on why she chose to take Creative Writing, and we talked about that. The first and obvious answer has to do with the teacher that taught the class, the one Max liked so well. He's not teaching the class this time. Maria talked about writing, about how it makes her feel, and how she hopes to improve her skills. We talked about art, and how both art and writing can be consuming, and can also come to an immediate halt sometimes, or sometimes, like with my last post, not be compelling or very interesting, turn out to be lacking. She agreed that she can become blocked with writing, or art, but that it's rare with art. With art, she explained, she feels a continuity a more fluid ease about practicing, with engaging. From here, we launched into talking about future studies, colleges, plans, hopes, careers. She found an online career counseling test, and we both took it. I still remember taking one of these, on paper, in high school, and it came back suggesting I try hospital administration, and that still amuses me. Her top results included choreographer, interpreter and different fields in art direction and animation. Another online test gave her a preview of its conclusions, including a very promising description of her qualities that will lead her to lucrative career options, then they asked for money to reveal the rest of the results, and we laughed about that one. Maria shared that she understands my impulse to stop blogging, then asked, "Do you want to stop writing, though?" I can't stop writing, I replied, confirming what she already suspected.
"Write for yourself, then. And I know I used to ask you to keep it public, but that's not necessary. Keep writing, and maybe don't publish. But I hope you'll still share it with me." Suddenly, I am the one getting the career counseling. I have strong ideas about where I see her strengths and skills, but I will keep those to myself... I don't like to put my foot in it, to influence with too much bias. I am sure, without wanting to, I have already shown plenty of hints, inferences, and partiality. I rather like, for her, this time for her to feel like anything is possible, to imagine and discover, project, and reject, many options, and flavors. And! And maybe the one thing I will remind her is that in a good life, anything will always be possible, that no career or path is fixed forever, and learning is a lifetime gift. But, I am pretty sure she knows that, already.
It's not really dull as toast here. I mean, it's not wildly adventurous, and there are people and things we miss, but I like toast. I like long talks, and online quizzes, I like cats, the smell of cut limes, starting new hobbies, going back to old hobbies, and I like writing. I love taking pictures, imagining adventures, recalling travels, events. I am thinking of buying software that will turn my pictures, or drawings, any image, into a cross-stitch diagram, complete with DMC floss color suggestions! I could cross-stitch my very own ratty-rats, or some of my little galleries of animal families. Geoff, watching me cross-stitch, pondered this... "I think I could program Frankenrouter to do that." Geoff is never bored, ever.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

New Semester

The first half of Maria's junior year is complete. She finished four courses, including the very last of her Japanese classes. With AP Studio Art, AP English, and Culinary Arts behind her, she has Creative Writing, Culinary Arts II (international dishes), AP US History, and Math Honors III to complete in the next half of the school year. It's all still happening online, from home, at least for now. Neither she, nor I, can believe that she's done with Japanese, at least for high school, and it's probably the most emotional change from Fall semester to Spring semester. The challenging part of this will be still studying Japanese, because the Advance Placement tests will be in May, and that will be for Japanese, English, History, and Art. These students have so much on their plates! And looking ahead, a bit further, we need to start figuring out which schools she wants to apply to in the Fall. Normally we would have taken a trip or two by now, visiting campuses, familiarizing ourselves with cities, towns, options. COVID has shut that down, for now. After going through this process with her brothers, I know that we are not getting ahead of ourselves. By October, every conversation, option, choice, experience, hope, concern, and desire will factor into the decisions about where to apply, and it helps a great deal to have lots of information and personal interactions with and about the choices. But, yeah... emotionally, it feels like it's too soon!

Between last
semester and next semester there is a long weekend... thank goodness. Guess what? Yeah, we spent our time at home, still respecting the lockdown, still waiting for our immunizations. Alex and Bambi continue cooking and baking out of Heroes' Feast, the Dungeons and Dragons cookbook. Above, you see the chocolate pudding Bambi made. I was fully prepared and willing to devour the entire serving, until she mentioned how much espresso went into it, plus the brandy! It was delicious, very lush, complex, but I stopped about 20% in, because I don't handle caffeine very well. Later, William baked snickerdoodles and those were part of the celebration of Geoff's birthday. Alex and Max started Geoff's day with cooking a family breakfast, and after work it was Geoff's choice for a movie night, so they finished watching His Dark Materials.
I'll tell you what felt like our main employment... not getting literally blown away by the weekend's storms! We had to tie a lot of things down, and I even brought our dear old Liberty in to sleep on the porch. She can't roost any more, I couldn't stand to think of her all night up to her knees in mud and rain. The winds were howling, whistling through the house, and making things bang and shudder. On one bike ride we turned back after four miles, because of the rain, and another ride lasted barely a mile, because the wind felt like a mean ogre shoving on my bicycle. Max did manage a very long and cozy nap when I invited him to rest on the balcony in my studio nest. At the time, there was only gentle rain, and he made himself very comfortable under quilts and afghans. And as I mentioned before, I used my storm time to work on the cross-stitch kit, usually with cats for warmth and company.
What else... ? We finished season 6 of Schitt's Creek, and I stand by my conviction that Patrick and David are one of the dearest romantic couples of television/movies. Oh, dear... now I feel like I am stretching, trying to think of any riveting detail about our long weekend. How about beans? I made those really yummy Cranberry Beans, again, and rice, and we made burritos. Maria spent happy hours making art on her iPad. Alex and Bambi, too, were making art. Max gets online to game with Lucas. Max really misses his long walks and running around, but his ankle isn't ready for that, yet. Geoff is working, and when he's not at the office, he is riding bikes or playing pickleball with me, or he's making something. William was waiting on some parts, hardware for his bedroom, and they've finally arrived, so I think he will get back to the big remodel/painting job he started in his bedroom.
Today is the first day of the new semester, and I can't wait to hear all about her new classes, the teachers, the assignments coming up. She's done in about an hour.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

And it went like this...

Truly, I can't believe it's done! To begin with, when I saw how much floss was in the kit, when I studied the pattern... I thought this would be something to last the year, something I would have to nudge myself toward finishing. After the first, then tenth tangle, and umpteenth error with counting stitches, it seemed like it would, realistically, take at least a few months to complete. To my surprise there is way more floss than is required to complete the pattern, and it took me a long while to realize that I didn't have to be so super precious about conserving every inch of it. And once I accepted that following the pattern exactly was simply not in my wheelhouse, two things happened... I began to happily imagine designing my own pattern, and I didn't recriminate myself as much about the many many mistakes I was making.
I am not sure whether I will add the phrase "Room With a View." I have been thinking of other words or motifs I might include. For now, I will leave it blank. I love words! But I am aware that too many expressions and messages displayed around the house begins to make me feel like I am being constantly chatted at... does that make sense? Although, of expressions that are dear, Room With a View is a favorite. Okay, I am settled on not deciding, yet.
It was finished in only a few days, but in many hours. The time I chose to launch this project was better than I imagined, and here are some things that helped...
1. I stopped playing puzzle games on the computer. (Speaking of things that went on for only a few days, but many hours!)

2. The weather has been cold, cold and stormy, windy, windy and rainy, or cold, windy, rainy and stormy. A perfect storm for staying in, and cozy.

3. I am like a deer in the headlights... still waiting for the case to wrap up, still answering emails, and waiting, still coping with the dread that my insurance will not do right by me. Anyway, it really helps to get completely absorbed in something that persuades calm and focus.

4. The Lord of The Rings audio book! Besides cats for companions, I have been with Frodo and Sam, in the woods, and over hill and dale, avoiding dark riders on horses, anticipating lunch, resisting the pull of the ring.

4. Finally, I very intentionally included movement with my cross-stitching agenda, so it's BounceBhangra with Diana, cycling with Geoff, and pickelball with William and Geoff, plus laundry, chickens and goats, and tending to Max with his healing ankle. I make a point of not staying in place for too long without mixing in some other activity, and even though it's hard to put down the stitching, leave the comfort of my nest... I admit the time away actually seems to help the progress, and my energy.
I love the times when something new in life begins to appear or influence other parts of my life... like when the view from the balcony looks just like a cross-stitch pattern! I am eager to play with all of this some more. Thank you for bringing this back into my life, Ruth.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Possibly the Worst

When it comes to coping with stress, with facing seemingly insurmountable tasks, or simply managing the day to day alloted to my life, I have possibly the worst instincts, impulses, and obsessions. At the moment only two obsessions are occupying my brain, but it's not just that I think about them... it's the research, the longing, the imagining, planning, and small panics when I dive deeper and imagine it's time to act! What could these be, these preoccupations, you may be wondering. When the house is well lived in (busy-cluttered-in disarry), we need to launch and finish several home improvement projects, I have been mentally and physically fixed in place waiting for the case to close, we have been keeping our home on lockdown since last March, and all I can think about is getting a dog, and moving to Corvalis, Madison, or Hamakua (at least I am narrowing it down!) There are four puppies at the shelter now. There is a Vilas house in Madison, now. Would any therapist, or wise counselor, care to (gently) explain why or how I can imagine, be consumed by, actually, adding another pet, another mouth to feed and personality to address? How in the world can I imagine that cleaning, staging, selling, packing and moving from this house to any other house will make life better, or easier, or make me better, easier? How? Please, don't ask me to be reasonable, and there's no need to point out obvious obstacles, because I have thought of them, too. I have thought of the challenges, the cons, the losses, the strains, and for a moment, it resets my train of thought, and I shake my head at how wrong I am, at my worst impulses. But not for long. There's a place in Corvalis with a vineyard, shops, a barn, a house and room for more... I can see all of us there, with room for friends, and space to grow. My dog would love it. I named her Eureka. All I have to do is fill out the application.
This cross-stitch kit is a gift from Ruth. She did that magical thing where she knows me, knows me so well she found the gift I would like, would delight in, but not get for myself. Well, after ridding my computer of the digital puzzles and games, I thought I would treat myself to a healthier hobby, and so I have launched into reaquainting myself with counted cross-stitch. And I began with a very purposeful, mindful approach. First of all, I decided not to use one needle and be always changing thread colors. I ordered needles, and have a needle threaded for each color in the project. Secondly, I knew it would help to watch a couple of YouTube videos to refresh my memory on all of this... I think I was in my twenties the last time I dabbled in this craft. Watching the videos was helpful. The best thing I learned was a new way of threading the needle, explained by Phil. Go to about 4 minutes in, if you'd like to see.
So, yay, me, is what I was feeling, when I had my head full of knowledge, and my kit all set up, orderly and cute. Yay, me I chimed merrily, as I pulled up the first threaded needle, and in a span of time so infintesimally small, without so much as whisper to interfere... this happened:
Order and grace, to chaos and disaster in no time at all. I have a knack. It took you more time to scroll from one picture to the next than it took the six threads and needles to become one. It is inexplicable.
Do you know I have the patience and comfort with mindless tasks to untangle things? I've become proficient. It took forever, and let's not ponder the cost benefit analysis of spending an hour unraveling 5 cents worth of thread. It had to be done, on principle. Sadly, there are not nearly enough other onerous, more necessary, jobs I feel compelled to do on principle. If you need paper work done, or mail sorted, if it's about reading the directions for installing electronics or software, do not count on me. If your hair is snarled, or you have rope in knots, string in a tangle, or threads crossed, I will not fail you!
So. Apparently, the first tangle would not be the last, and that's no surprise to me, but what has been humbling is how badly I follow directions, and I cannot figure out why, because I have been doubly-doubly intent on following directions. I read, and re-read. I count, and re-count. I check, and re-check. I think you understand. It has not helped, all of my yay, me, preparedness. Either I cannot see well, or I cannot count well, or it's both. Then, I remembered that everyone warned me, "In your 40s you'll need reading glasses," and ages ago I bought a pair, in case. They have been stashed away for 14 years, and miraculously, somehow, I knew where to find them. They help... I can see where to poke the needle, but with the glasses on I see a distinct hole, rather than just a spot. That's helpful, a bit. But. Honestly, please never look at my cross-stitch next to the pattern, and ask, "What happened here?" I will never be able to explain why I have not been able to follow the directions.
There's a log cabin for sale, just off the Mamalahoa Highway, with lots of bedrooms, a workshop, and at a cool elevation... Oh! Oh no. It sold. And my dog would have loved it there, the goats, too.

I'm going back upstairs to cross-stitch.

You guys! The Madison house is walking distance to Vilas Zoo and Trader Joes! Five bedrooms and a massive attic, with a four car garage.

Make it stop.