Month: April 2011

Convention and staying home

Howard is away at a convention this weekend. He is visiting with familiar friends and meeting new people. He will have fun conversations and eat out at restaurants. I am here at home with the kids. This arrangement is normal for us. It is a division of labor. One of us to go be public, the other to provide stability for the kids. Sometimes I feel sad about being the one to stay home. I often have conflicted feelings about being unseen, and I wish I could be present for the fun events and conversations. Today I am so very glad not to be going anywhere.

Public events are filled with excitement, interest, and fun. I love being at conventions and presenting at them. However they are also inherently stressful. Just now I’m glad to skip the emotional roller coaster of guilt over leaving the kids, anticipation, nervousness, and fatigue. Instead I’ve had a lovely quiet afternoon, where I made a meal more elaborate than strictly necessary and watched a movie. Tomorrow we’ll finally have Patch’s long-overdue birthday party and then I plan to sit down with my kids and watch West Side Story. None of them have seen it. I’ll clean up the house and make plans for our family vacation next week. All of it will be done at a sane pace instead of in a frenzy. Then when Howard comes home, exhausted, all here will be calm and orderly.

It is very old fashioned of us I guess, husband ventures in the wide world while wife stays home to tend house. It works though. Our lives are more balanced and happy when someone is tending to home. Some time in the future it may be me heading out while Howard stays home. For this weekend, I’m glad of the current arrangement.

Pondering Dinner

It is 4:30 pm and I am once again faced with the challenge of figuring out what to feed the kids for dinner. I don’t like this challenge. I particularly don’t like that it arrives multiple times per day. It is not that making food is difficult. Deciding what to make uses creative sectors of my brain that I don’t want to spend on food. Also I must always balance food choices against the likelihood that the kids will argue about eating the food. Do I fix that thing child #1 loves, but that will require a 20 minute argument with child #4? There are some foods that everyone eats without complaining, but odds are I fixed them yesterday and the day before.

I know I should meal plan in advance. Our diets are better when I do. Not to mention I can skip the step of standing in the kitchen for 30 minutes staring at the stuff in my cupboard and weighing complaint/healthiness ratios. I really should meal plan. It would be nice if I’d done it three days or a week ago. I didn’t. And now it is 4:40 pm. Time to begin the daily staring into the cupboard and pondering. Perhaps later tonight I will give a gift to my tomorrow self and actually plan in advance.

Folk art

I took a class on Folklore at college. We focused primarily on modern or recent history folklore, so classes were filled with discussion about choking dobermans, spider-filled hairdos, and hook handed men menacing teenagers in cars. We examined where these stories originated and what purposes the retelling of them served. I was particularly fascinated by what folklore said about the society that created it. This was pre-internet, so our researches involved archives and librarians. The key element of folklore is that it is passed from person to person rather than through official informational paths. That batman song to the tune of Jingle Bells is classic folklore. Each generation of kids teaches it to the ones just younger, much to the chagrin of parents everywhere.

The class barely touched upon folk art. I suspect this is because the words “Folk Art” are generally used to describe the creations of pre-industrial people. My professor implied that folk art was dead and not worth studying. I knew he was wrong. I know people who make chain mail, leather work, baskets, and paper. Their methods are a mix of ancient and modern. They do this work, not because it is required, but because it brings them joy and decorates their lives. Then I thought further about people who make crafts which are less historical. These too are folk art. They are things created because the making of them adds joy to the life of the creator. Then sometimes to the lives of others as well.

This is a card that was given to me by a good friend. It is hand made using several pieces of paper, silk flowers, a stamp, faux jewels, and glitter. My friend could have just bought a card at the store, that’s what I do for notes. Instead she took the idea of an ordinary note card and spent an extraordinary amount of time making it beautiful.

Here is another one:

That flower is hand folded origami. This was given to me for my birthday last year. I’ve kept it primarily for the words written inside, but the outside is also a gift.

This one uses lots of embellishments:

I’m told that there is a group of women in my neighborhood who gather for card making nights. They buy supplies and instructions from a company, but the work is all done by their hands. While they create small beautiful things, they talk. I see no difference between this and the quilting bees of long ago. People have just streamlined the methods for teaching each other.

Look closely at this one:

The flower was stamped, then cut out. It was glued to another piece of paper with leaves stamped on it. That was in turn glued to a piece of paper and another. In all, this card has five layers of paper. The maker of this card would assure me that it was easy, no trouble at all. The difficulty is not the point, there is something wonderful about the way that people make things needlessly beautiful.

Some kind of a press was used to make the raised patterns on this card. The little circle dangles freely from the ribbon:

This card expresses the whole point:

These creations may not qualify as art by most definitions, but they each succeeded wonderfully at bringing joy to me and to the women who made them before they came into my hands. Adding beauty to the world is a good use of hands and time. I see these cards everywhere, being given woman to woman. They connect the ladies of my neighborhood and my town. I love it.

A Brief Thought on Managing Systems

I have run out of brain today due to extreme effectiveness in tackling my To Do list. So I offer a thought I crafted last month when I was helping Kiki wrestle with her school’s registration system to set up classes for next year:

Among the things my kids are learning by participating in public school: Bureaucratic systems are often stupid, but if you are clever, the system can be made to dance.

The system danced and Kiki now has a solid plan for classes through the end of high school. As a side note, I once read an article talking about the economic differences between people who believe that systems must be endured and the people who believe that systems are to be managed. People in the second category tended to be more financially prosperous. I wish I could remember where I read about it, but that goes with the lack of remaining brain I guess.

The Semi Annual Festival of Yarn

Every six months our church broadcasts a General Conference. Over a weekend there are 10 hours of prepared talks on various doctrinal subjects. The leaders of the church prepare these talks on a variety of subjects some encouraging, some admonishing. The membership of the church are invited to listen either in person, on TV, on Radio, or over the internet. For the Saturday sessions Howard and I listen on the Radio. On Sunday we hook a computer up to our big TV and gather the family for Conference. This is when the Festival of Yarn begins.

The kids rejoiced when I plunked the tub full of yarn, scissors, and crochet hooks down on the floor. “You got new yarn!” someone cried. Yes I got new yarn. I remember last Conference when we had to argue about yarn colors. The kids each grabbed a skein and as the choir began the opening hymn, we began our crafts.

Sitting still for two hours at a stretch is a challenge for young children, even in their own home. I always tried to plan activities for them to do while they were listening. We bounced from one choice to another until I dusted off my old crochet hooks and yarn. I made all sorts of creations using crochet when I was young. None of them were particularly useful, but I liked making them. My rhythmic motions and the growing granny square drew the attention of my kids. Soon they wanted to make things with yarn too. I handed out what yarn I had and the creativity began.

This year both Link and Patch tried their hands at crochet, but defaulted to making long finger knitted ropes. Gleek made several small crocheted pieces, none of any particular shape. She also made yarn flowers, yarn dolls, and a finger knitted rope. Kiki worked a little on the knitting project which she’s had since she was 11. After awhile she switched to a school painting project. Patch took a break from finger knitting to make yarn constructions using knots. I made granny squares. Howard worked on assembling miniatures at the table behind us. Our hands were busy and our ears were open.

“I like Conference.” Patch said.
“Me too.” Said Gleek.

I looked around the room. I knew what Patch and Gleek were not able to articulate. The atmosphere in the room was calm and cozy. We were all together in a way that seldom happens in our crazy scattered lives. For two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon we were together listening to words which helped us think about how to be better people. It was lovely.

I made five granny squares in those four hours. We already have a dozen from conferences past. They’re made of random colors, because I use which ever colors the kids don’t want at the moment. Some day I will have enough squares to crochet together into a blanket. It will be a crazy patchwork of mismatching sizes and colors. It will be perfect, a representation of all those conferences together, when we stitched together things far more important than yarn. At the end of the final conference session, everyone tossed their yarn projects– finished or not–into the tub. I’ll put it away downstairs until next Conference when we will have another festival of yarn.

Some days are grouchy without good reasons

For a day which had higher than usual levels of grouchiness in it. I think it ended pretty well. The broken lawnmower was hauled away by a guy who thinks he can fix it in less than a week. The girls were hopefully chastened and made to think a little bit about their repeated conflicts over treatment of the cat. We watched The Great Race. That movie makes me laugh even though I can recite the lines before the actors speak them. (I watched it a lot as a kid.) Then I wrapped up the day with writing project progress. None of the grouchy stuff should have been such a big deal. Hopefully I can be less grouchy tomorrow.

Examining My Emotions about Writing as Related to My Book Project

I am part of a group of writers who meet every couple of weeks. Rather than spending our time together critiquing, we socialize. Writing gets discussed often, because it is in our minds, but we spend most of our time talking whatever is going on in our lives. This is particularly nice since we all share a social context and have similar viewpoints about the world. We write different things, and have different backgrounds, so the comparisons are endlessly interesting. Tonight we spent half our time together talking about houses. Later the conversation drifted to a place where I started talking about my feelings about my work in progress as well as feelings about writing in general. I’ve been vaguely aware for weeks that my writing time had some suppressed emotion attached, but honestly I was too busy to pay much attention. I did notice that at times I was avoiding writing. What I was really avoiding was the suppressed emotions attached to writing. This evening’s conversation helped me pull the cover off of my pit of emotions and for the first time I can see what is really in there. At the end of the evening, when the location we meet at closed, one friend said “Are you okay? I feel like we’re leaving you in a sad and scared place.” She’s right. Usually we’re able to find some resolution to emotional topics before the end of the evening. I assured her I was fine, but it wasn’t until I got in my car to drive home that I realized why. I needed to leave that pit of emotions open, I needed to spend some time down in the middle of it. I have to be in the middle of it if I want to clean it out.

Next I am going to list what I found in my emotional pit. Please note that at the moment I’m feeling quite analytical and not at all upset. It is very fascinating to me that all these contradictory emotions can dwell simultaneously inside my head.
The List:

I know that my book is important. I don’t know why or to whom.

I know that there are things for me to accomplish which require me to finish my book first.

These two bits of knowledge are daunting.

I am afraid that my slowness in getting the project done will cause the project to miss some opportunity, that the importance of the project has an expiration date. Which I will miss. Because I put other things in my life before writing.

I worry about how long it is taking me to revise the project and how emotionally draining the revision is. I know I am far from done with revising. If the book does get published, that means even more work, not less. It is hard to want more work.

The subject matter of my book has very personal elements. I worry about having it publicly criticized and rejected. I fear I will not be able to maintain objectivity about those rejections and criticisms.

I’m afraid that the book will be too successful. I know best selling authors and their lives are crazy. Being paid well would be nice, but the level of stress which comes with that money is hard to want.

I’m afraid that the book will bomb. That it will never earn money nor fulfill its purpose.

I am sad that I don’t have more spaces in my life to devote to writing. At the same time I know that the lack of those spaces is primarily my fault. I choose how to spend my time. If I choose other things, then writing does not happen.

I am afraid to really throw myself into writing. Often time is not lacking, nor is energy, but I save the energy for other things instead of giving it to writing.

I feel like the project is good, but that I am failing in my responsibility to get it done.

I feel like the project is stupid and I am wasting the time that I spend on it.

I know that I will have the inspirations I need for this book when they are needed. This gives me strength and calmness to keep writing when the words feel stupid.

I wonder why this project matters beyond my personal desire to complete what I started. I sometimes wish I didn’t have the feeling it was important so that I could set it aside without guilt.

I want to be done with this stage of the project so I can start learning what comes next. I want to be to the point where I can be submitting.

There are probably more things. As I think of them, I’ll add them to the list. For right now, I’m going to bed.