I haven’t been reading much lately. To be honest, I’ve been a bit out of sorts. Since Easter, the television came back on, junk food showed up in the pantry and a battle with anxiety began. I’ve started running again, knowing the exercise pumps endorphins and helps clear my head. I’ve been watching ridiculous comedies with my roommate until I can fall asleep on the couch and crawl off to bed leaving the nagging worry of insomnia in the living room. But the oddest thing that’s happened in the last month is I am not hungry. I’ve been cooking beautiful meals with herbs and tomatoes from the garden only to sit down in front of a plate and not want a bite. It part, it’s the heat.
It’s funny that the more determined I am to have something, the less likely it seems to happen. When I’m exceptionally focused at working out and eating right, I rarely notice a change. The frustration fuels me to continue, convinced the next workout will get me back in those jeans in the back of the closet. Then, for whatever reason, I just stopped. I started eating cheese and real ice cream and having a glass of wine with dinner without worrying about running another mile the next day to right the balance. Of course, once I walked away from the pressure of eating a perfect 1500 calories and getting an hour of cardio, my body responded gratefully to the end of torment. My clothes fit better. I’m not perpetually sore. I’m not ravenously hungry and eating like a maniac between grueling workouts.
The same thing has happened, oddly enough, with this novel of mine. Once I stepped back, looked at things a bit differently and decided to stop beating myself up with the stack of rejection letters from publishers, I found a way. I asked a friend to take some back-cover portraits and look over the manuscript for grammar errors. I called a colleague who successfully self published and asked for advice. I emailed a book publisher at a self-publishing house and asked if he’d take me as a client. If he didn’t, it really didn’t matter. I wrote my novel as a gift for my father several years ago. He’s read it and understands how much he means to me. Mission accomplished. Of course, the publisher was excited to take me on as a client. The portraits are way better than I could have hoped for. The editing is complete and she liked the story! We’re moving forward. With this pattern, my vision of having a signing in October will come to pass too.
I’m finding the less I stress over money, the easier it is to take my lunch to work and save. The less I push to be “a good Christian,” the more I find myself naturally reaching out to help others. The less I force myself into the lives of others, the more time they want with me. The less I burden myself with being crisply ironed and always cheery, the more I am sincerely happy.
I suppose I should have listened to those years ago who told me to stop taking everything so seriously.
- Posted in
- Journal, Media
Admiring the perfection of nature last night while cooking…
I was in a meeting this morning discussing the AmeriCorps Vista program — which puts incredibly community-minded folks in volunteer opportunities with nonprofits and other groups nationally — listening and pondering the goals of the organization. In contrast to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is in part geared toward ending poverty in America.
The speaker elaborated on Vista volunteers receiving a small stipend monthly that barely covers their cost of living. They are to live poor to be more motivated to work for the poor, in theory. In the Peace Corps, I was paid $56 a month and you wouldn’t believe how high that placed me on the social ladder. I had my own home, never went hungry and had plenty of pocket change for bus trips back and forth to the major cities. (The buses rarely ran and were a complete pain in the ass — think 20 people, animals and babies in an 8 passenger Toyota van — but cost wasn’t one of the challenges.) In all fairness, I probably lived a more secure financial existence on that $56 dollars a month in Cameroon (as short as this adventure lasted) than I did on the $124 of financial aid per month I made work for three years of college. I did go hungry. Scraping together enough money for Taco Bell learning to rely on friends was humbling, at best. Regardless, neither situation made me feel sincerely poor or without hope. I always knew I had an education, good health and a strong family on which to rely.
Fundamentally, that’s the difference between true poverty and temporary class experiments. While Vista volunteers may have to creatively stretch every penny they earn to get by, chances are they’ve seen a dentist, are up to date with their immunizations, have never gone days with hunger, and have an address book full of friends and family who would take them in and help immediately if given the chance. I always had the ability to pull the ultimate “uncle!!” card in the Peace Corps, which I did after just five months. I returned to the capital and demanded my return ticket to the US.
The poor are without financial legacy. Most children born into poverty in the United States are born to children. The cycle of poor education and health is yet again planted in the worst neighborhoods, only to produce seedlings who will one day bare the same fruit. We all know of the bootstrap stories of those who’ve pulled themselves out of this routine. President Obama, potential Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and President Bill Clinton are in the minority. They had that je ne se quois to break through their environment for greater possibilities.
I’m not sure what we do to change these systemic flaws in American culture that keep certain sectors of society always planted in the same garden of despair. I admire the Vista volunteers working knee deep in the quagmire. Reminding those of the American dream — that you can be anything you want to be — must be far more complicated when dreaming itself is a luxury.
- Posted in
- Community, Journal, Politico, Public Health
Have you ever read the book, or seen the movie, “Como Agua Para Chocolate?” It’s one of those stories that stays with you for ages. Specifically, I love the thought of emotion being transferred into creative works — in this case, food. The main character cries as she cooks, invoking an unexpected tirade of tears later at the dinner table as the guests eat her sorrow. I’d guess most women have found themselves crying into a sink full of dishes or over a stove at some point, thankful their emotion wasn’t later detected with such Hollywood flare.
When designing a project for a loved one, I enjoy thinking of how it will be used — ultimately what I want the end result to say. I’m learning to create less, but do so with more intention. The fabric, thread, yarn, ingredients are all being selected with a bit more care, often hidden meanings and emotion tucked away never to be revealed to those unwrapping the bow or picking up a knife and fork. It’s enough that I know. My instinct to over think such things makes most uncomfortable. Social grace is something I’m still learning.
I’ve made countless wedding and baby shower gifts wrapped in happiness, joy and optimism in a new start, a fresh future. I love making aprons thinking of the bounty of satisfying meals to be created with it wrapped, hugging the recipient. Bright birthday handbags being toted around the mall, making their own content, confident statements in a sea of Coach and Dooney repetition. Or the adrenaline filled rush fueling runs down snowy mountains with ski caps and scarves I’ve knit.
This project isn’t quite finished; if I could wrap it my feelings they’d be unconditional love, caring, kindness, joy, relief, optimism and the luxurious pleasure of opening the front door after a long trip away, take your first deep breath and swimming in the comfort of home.
From my weekly wordy email list: Suppose you’d called your theme ‘textile words’? Now there’s a reminder of how words and metaphors relating to textiles pervade our language. Textile is derived from Latin texere, to weave, also the origin of text — words woven into a fabric. Then think how we lose the thread of an argument; spin a yarn; give credence (or not) to a tissue of lies; spout homespun philosophy; and travel from one airport terminal to another on a shuttle bus. Nor must we forget the Greek and Roman Fates, spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of each of our lives.
- crafting, musing, quilting
- Posted in
- Domestic Art, handmade, Journal
I have a fundraiser I’m coordinating this weekend. It is magical to watch pieces of a destined puzzle come together: the musicians, dance troupe, food, wine and location were all donated. We have more than 80 people attending and I have a fabulous new cocktail dress I’ve been waiting to put out of the closet. Abracadabra! With any luck, we’re about to pull an organization-saving event out of our hat.
It’s like the community garden similarly coming together in a series of incredible events, with experts, tools, land, farmers and lots of energies joining with a synergistic effect. When something is meant to be — there is no stopping it. Like Finny reminds me in my frequent moments of impatience — the spring will come and the grass will grow. Regardless of what you to do force or prevent something from happening, what will be, will be.
I once watched a Bravo interview with a movie star who described how his rather difficult childhood prepared him for his current fame. Each step of the way, he was pushed to learn something that made him incredibly uncomfortable. Raised by his grandmother, he was forced to learn the piano, play on the football team, be a member of speech and debate. Later, he recognized each of these skills were instrumental in his rise to success through film that specifically required his talents. Without his grandmother’s insistence, these golden opportunities would have passed him by.
I am so thankful for the opportunities for uncomfortable growth that have put me right here, right now. Synergy, divine power, destiny, fate — call it what you will — it is a grace-filled moment to look back at life and see how the dominoes managed to knock each other forward to push you into the beauty of today.
- Posted in
- Faith, Journal
I recently found this poem by Marge Piercy:
“To Be of Use”
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
We all have those in our lives who are hard workers, dedicated to a cause, goal or even a paycheck and way of life. Work ethic is such an odd characteristic; one child may receive twice as much as the next from the same nature and nurture. It’s hard to come by if it isn’t instinct, and yet it is equally hard to lose for those who are constantly on the go and need to relax. To be the pitcher, crying for water to carry — I like to think the joy I find in working is also spent in fulfilling a greater purpose.
One of the characteristics I admire most about my father is his unwavering work ethic. He has worked hard, long hours his entire life and done so with a smile, knowing his family would benefit from his toil. He’s the type to trim the lawn and wash the cars before the rest of us were out of bed on Saturday morning. Then again, teaching his children that no job was too small was essential. I remember him making me write a thank you letter to my first employer when I had to leave to move away for college and insisting that if they asked me to clean the bathrooms, to do so with a smile. It was important we have the attitude and ability to take out the trash or to greet the most valued customer.
I’m still not fond of the cleaning, but I appreciate what he’s taught me more today than ever before. Being able to bounce between caring for an office, “lunching” with donors, schmoozing at fundraisers and running after the postman with the mail wouldn’t be possible if my dad hadn’t pushed us to work a bit harder. I am truly blessed to have such a great example. (Two, really. My mom was the original domestic engineer.)
I’ve recently been gifted two particularly useful objects. A pincushion ring from glorious Julia, created by Susannah Rodgers.
Nothing like a little useful bling while you sew!
And Amy Butler’s peeps sent over her new software with two dozen new patterns. Oh my goodness, what summer fun this will be. Friends, expect many a crooked seamed purse and pillow. They may not be perfect, but they will be useful.
- musing, poetry
- Posted in
- Domestic Art, Journal
Far from perfect, but the journey was educational. This pattern kicked my ass.
What a wonderful weekend this has been; another gorgeous baby born to a Ya Ya — Emerson Louise, 8 pounds, 21 inches! Rebecca is the gladiator of labor and her husband couldn’t be more perfect for her. They were at the brink of hysterical exhaustion yesterday before the birth and yet Matt was her rock. Along with her family, she was surrounded by love when the new sweet (and loud) baby arrived. Emme is just perfect.
In between hospital runs and kitchen adventures, I’m tying up loose ends this weekend. A sewing project here that needs one final step, a garden that needed weeding and new coffee grounds, a home that needed cleaning and stacks of ironing now completed. I think the gift of time is the most precious. Time to do whatever you want, however you want — does life get better?
I’m back to running with several Fall races in mind. I find that my day is much more structured when I get up to run first thing. I can plan and meditate on how the day will unfold. I am more disciplined in my thoughts and what I eat — both key to my overall mood and happiness. Running any sort of distance is a spiritual practice; I have to turn off the music and tune into my breath, reconnecting. There needs to be a word for the rush of emotion at the end of a great run — when you take a huge gulp of intensely satisfying water, feeling the rivulets of sweat falling from your limbs and brow and your heart beginning to calm. Everything is tingling in exhaustion and relief.
I feel invincible in this moment.
Now, to carry forward that strength and resolve into the day,
- musing, running, sewing
- Posted in
- Domestic Art, Good to Great, Journal
I am feeling a bit redundant around here lately; gardening! sewing! cooking! happiness! — plus the occasional buffalo.
It dawned on me yesterday how foreign I’m feeling in this culture; also, this is why the craft/travel/cooking/faith blog community makes me feel so reassured. When watching the occasional television show, or browsing magazines at the airport, I notice how wildly different my values are. I am not sure who Heidi and Spencer are, or why they seem to be in every “women’s interest” magazine. I’ve learned they are the products of brief fame via reality TV. At least with sports figures, we can justify our adoration by their talents. What exactly do these two give to American culture, other than heaps of ridiculous photos?
I had a fairly lengthy conversation with Jessica and Shelley about my irrational dislike for socialites. Ultimately, I don’t understand why anyone would want to accept the life handed to them without trying to make it their own. If I were an heiress, you’d better believe I’d have studied at an Ivy league and be doing something worthwhile. The last thing I’d want to do is wander southern California with a Starbucks cup in one hand and no ambition in the other — like the swarms of other trust fund, glassy-eyed, underfed girls my age. Not to mention if I had that kind of fashion budget, I’d never be caught in dirty sweats, barefoot at the coffee shop. (An entirely different post.) My God, what I’d do with that fashion budget…
And so, from this browsing, I bought a copy of The Atlantic, read a fascinating article about a happiness study conducted at Harvard and was amazed how 5,000 words and no papparazzi photos later, I felt like I’d actually gotten my $6 bucks worth. I’m not turning my nose up at gossip magazines, reality television or living a fast food lifestyle. To each is own. It’s just not mine. The older I get, the more I find my joy in living a simple life, the harder it is becoming to relate. Imagine if we had the papparazi following Mugabe and Castro and the future of their countries interested us in the same way? If you could drive through a fast food restaurant and get a great, organic salad for $5. If we celebrated teachers and education the way we do starlets and fame.
Have you ever felt this way?
Thankfully, I’ve got similarly minded friends and a faith that reminds me regularly of the virtues of frugality, simplicity and finding joy in experiences not things. If the Internets is good for anything, it is bringing together people who share similar values and interests — whether they are baking your own bread and moving to a commune or cackling at the fashion faux pas of the rich and famous.
If you wouldn’t mind — I’d appreciate hearing your opinion on American culture. Where do you find yourself recoiling? Where do you find yourself jumping in with both feet?
- Posted in
- Happy Hippie, Journal