in which we talk about fraud and feelings

hugo, thoughtful

I have zero shame when I tell you that this picture of Hugo thoughtfully gazing off into the distance has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve written about in this post.

There’s a tenderloin going in the slow cooker, I have a marshmallow root salve bubbling on the double boiler, both dogs are gently snoring in various corners of the living room, and there is a good chunk of time between now and my next business call. FINALLY: a little time to myself.

I’d thought this would be a quieter week, and with the snow it’s not as busy as I’d wanted it to be, but I also managed to come up with a maybe- possibly- this- could- be- a- thing- idea for a shawl, too, so I’ve made more work for myself to fill any bonus time that might have been sitting around. AS I TEND TO DO, actually. I’ve hit my lettermo goals so far, though, and that’s a plus, even if I’m only a week in so far. (Email me your address and I will send you a card, a letter, or a tiny painting, who knows? Live in the adventure.)

A bottle of passion fruit seed oil arrived in the post yesterday, along with some black raspberry seed oil (a sample, but really nice stuff). I’ll be adding the passion fruit oil to my face oils tonight to see how I like it; I have a mix of hemp, castor, tea tree, rosemary and a few other things that I’ve been using for the last four months or so that I really love, but I wanted to give it a little more oomph. (I’ve also seen it sold as maracuja oil, mostly when Tarte is trying to get $50 a bottle for the stuff. Don’t pay that price, though. That’s silly- person buying. Pick it up for $13 on GoW like the rest of us hippies.) I’d forgotten how much I enjoy making all the things we use on our bodies. Working mostly at home, it’s dead simple to throw ingredients into a slow cooker, come back, pour things into molds or a mason jar. It’s been good, and it’s been making us smell good, too. Not all of my hobbies have such nice side benefits. (I’m looking at you, silk dyeing.)

Someone recently told me that I know how to make a lot of interesting things. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me— being a person with useful skills, someone who is capable in multiple ways, that has been very important to me for most of my life. I’ve found that having a variety of abilities has served me well; there is so much work that needs to be done, and not everyone is looking in the same places.

I was talking my friend D last week, someone else who does freelance, hustling, grab- it- as- it- comes work. I have an opportunity to sell a couple of the things I make locally— malas, lotion bars, maybe salves, that sort of thing, and I could start teaching meditations any minute too (although I really should start that after I’ve finished with the Craftsy course, I want to take on one Big Thing at a time). I was hanging out at D’s house last week, carefully not watching a marathon of Groundhog Day, when we started talking about Impostor Syndrome, which we’d both been feeling a bit lately.

It’s tricky. Here’s how it works: People want a Thing. They want us to do or make a Thing: even better, they value said Thing so highly that they want to PAY us to make/ do the Thing. We are good at making and/ or doing said Thing, and that’s where stuff actually gets weird; we are so practiced, so trained, or just so at ease with making or doing that Thing that we feel a certain kind of way about taking money for doing or making that Thing. That certain kind of way can be different for everybody, but it isn’t good at all and it seems to revolve around a sense of falseness & fraud: you don’t have the right to be charging money (or as much money) for your Thing, mostly because you either:  A.) Enjoy the work, B.) It comes easily to you, or the usual answer— C.) All of the above.

When a maker starts telling me that they’re feeling this way, I remind them that they’ve worked so hard for this moment: people want their Things! They have so much experience! Their training has monetary value! The money is waiting for them and their work. Do that work and get paid! It’s a fair exchange and people want to engage in it. When I’m sitting in the middle of that moment myself, though, it’s almost impossible to pull my head out. There are days when it feels strange and almost like cheating the system (which system?) to ask for money for something I do out of pleasure, especially when large parts of our society devalue art, particularly anything considered domestic. Artisan work and handcrafts are perpetually undervalued and seen as unskilled, as they are perceived as the work of the lower classes or women; these are my areas of especial interest.

When I first started dyeing, I was nearly giving my yarn away, I underpriced so badly. Part of that was not knowing my market but really, I mostly just felt enormous guilt asking to be compensated for work that I enjoyed. It’s better now— I don’t feel that way all the time now, only in patches. Those patches, though; they’re a bag of bullshit.

Reminder to self (and all of you, too): it’s okay to get paid for stuff that comes easy. Nobody else is doing your Thing precisely how, when or where you are, or people wouldn’t be offering you money for it. If people see value in what you make and do and they want to exchange money for it, don’t fight them over that! IT IS TOTALLY OKAY TO LIKE MONEY, FRIEND. Money buys food, a roof, and more materials to make Things, which is totally how we want to be spending our time. Folks want to give us more money for the Things we make and do, so we can keep doing that if we eat and sleep and continue making and doing Things. Round & round we go.

If you’re interested in making your own salves, bath bombs, DIY house cleaning supplies, etc, I originally got started using the internet, but it all really took off once I got my hands on this awesome, slender little book from Raleigh Briggs titled Make Your Place. That link will take you straight to the publisher, where you can pick the book up at a sliding scale, because small indie presses are punk rock, that’s why. This book has a little bit of everything and is handwritten & drawn so it feels like an old- school zine; it’s made of awesome and worth every penny you’ll put toward it (however many pennies you may choose that to be).

If you are or have dealt with Impostor Syndrome, I’d love to hear about it. Seriously! We all go through this differently, but it’s such a universal experience for those of us who are making things in public. I’d love to hear your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

 

*- If you’re handling the self- esteem and general ego junk that can accompany being an artist, artisan, or maker, and can tag along with Impostor Syndrome (“I have no right to call myself a maker, I like making/ doing these things so I couldn’t possibly charge for them and also everyone is so much better than me, I am THE WORST”) remember: that noise is largely composed of cruddy things people who aren’t interested in your success have said or would say to you. Destructive people tear other folks down, creative people lift others up: the toxic noise some jerk left in your head does not deserve your energy. While not a panacea, this can be helpful to redirect your attention to more worthwhile and purposeful actions.  

on Friendsmas, and a reply

This weekend was Friendsmas, an annual tradition amongst some of my oldest friends; a whole gang of us get together for an orphans’ holiday of food, gifts, the whole nine. Most of us have families of our own- some of them perfectly acceptable families, too- but this act of coming together as just us, it’s been a touchstone throughout the years. Folks move, lives change, but Friendsmas, it happens and you show up for it, damnit. Even if there’s a blizzard warning like this year.

This was Friendsmas: the Fire & Ice edition, in which our 2- 4 inch storm warning turned into 6- 10 inches in a matter of 45 minutes, in which Derek ran a shuttle service (complete with interior Christmas lights) to and from dedicated parking because there wasn’t enough at the house, in which there were at least three oven fires that I was aware of, and in which Bruce told a gnome story that actually made Teresa laugh. There was the biggest turducken ever, and six (SIX!) piecakens, which- if you haven’t had a piecaken yet, fix that now, please. Sam and I helped out with food the night before, and now that I know how to make piecaken, I can’t go back to just plain pie ever again.

piecaken.jpg

This is a devils’- food + pumpkin pie piecaken. It is exactly as good as you suspect it might be. It is, actually, even better. I’m not even going to get into the blue velvet + lemon curd.

One of the long- standing traditions of Friendsmas is handmade gifts; if you’ve got the time/ funds (because nobody should ever feel stressed out by a holiday, it’s a rule, Friendsmas is meant to be better than and a relief from the standard holidays), folks are encouraged to make things to bring as gifts for everyone. I’ve made a couple different things before- last year, I made hand- knotted malas, but I was really short on time with the move, so I wasn’t sure what I’d do this time around. I had considered soap, but didn’t have time for anything to cure; I finally settled on lotion bars, which only need to set overnight and are easy to make allergen- free and organic. Hooray!

I posted a picture of the little bars cooling in the fridge and someone asked me for my recipe. I promised to post that once Friendsmas was over— it’s really more notes than a recipe, but here goes! Easiest thing in the world.

bars cooling

The tray is a silicone mini- brownie tray from Michael’s; anything similar would do, but I really recommend silicone if you’re using a smaller form; it makes it easier to pop your bars out once they’ve cooled. You can also pour these into a larger loaf tray and cut them into size once cooled, too!

I got turned on to these through Lush- when we moved back to the States from the UK, it took a few years for Lush to hit the US, so I needed to learn to make bath bombs, melts, lotion bars, etc, at home in order to get my fix for a bit; I could get it shipped, but that exchange rate + the shipping was painful on my paltry E-5 salary at the time. I AM SO GLAD THEY CAME ACROSS THE POND, but now that I don’t pass one on my way to… well, everything, really, anymore, I’m reverting to my old DIY ways.

IMG_4745

Aaaauuuugh, the light in our new place is just too good

To get started, you’ll need the following:

  • Coconut oil
  • Shea butter
  • Vitamin E oil (capsules can work fine here!)
  • Beeswax (I prefer pastilles/ pellets but block is good)
  • Essential oil for fragrance (check for skin- safety; lavender, rosemary, rose, sandalwood, jasmine, sweet orange, lime, tea tree, cedarwood, etc are all great options)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Slow cooker* or double boiler
  • soap mold, cupcake tins, brownie tray, whatever you’d like to use to hold your lotion bars as they cool!
  • cooking spoons, ladle

 

(*If using a slow cooker, you’ll really want to consider using a liner for easier cleanup with this project. Congealed shea butter is no fun to wash out of anything, ever, but you definitely don’t want to try and wash this out when it’s hot.)

Before turning on the heat source, combine equal parts coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax in slow cooker or double boiler. I went with 8.25 oz all around, which yielded approximately 64 smaller lotion bars. Add one teaspoon vitamin E oil; this acts as a mild preservative. If you’re using vitamin E capsules, you’ll need to cut them open and squeeze out the oil into your measuring spoon. (Your bars should last, kept out of heat & direct sunlight, for a year to eighteen months.) Turn heat source on low, check periodically; some ingredients will melt more quickly. Stir occasionally, as things melt.

Once your ingredients have melted, make certain they are well blended in the pot, then add any essential oils you may want for fragrance. I added one teaspoon of lavender essential oil and a half- teaspoon of rosemary (that’s some powerful stuff) essential oil to make some scented bars, but that might have been overkill. Shea butter can have a smell to it, depending on whether you buy refined or unrefined, and some folks love it, some folks hate it. I’m into it and I like to work with it; you might want to cover it up!

Stir your oils into the mixture, then turn your heat off. I used a ladle and a small funnel to get my liquid into my mold, but whatever works for you; this is the part where you’re pouring your liquid lotion from your slow cooker or double boiler into your forms/ mold. You could also try moving it to a measuring cup with a pour spout, but whatever you do move quickly, because this will try to firm up as soon as it begins to cool.

lotion bars.jpg

I let these sit overnight in the refrigerator, possibly out of a surfeit of caution, who knows? They don’t un-set on me, though, so it seems to be working out, and they pop right out of my silicone molds the next day, too; I don’t think it’s bad for them to sit that long. I’m playing around with scent combinations, and I’ve ordered some new butters to play with, for this as well as some salves & soaps I want to put together. I’ve got some marshmallow root going now for a salve that I’m really excited about- it’s been so cold this month, we’re both getting chapped hands.

I had some extras, obviously (because WHO needs 64 lotions bars? NOBODY, that’s exactly who) so if you ordered anything from the shop this month, you got presents! I still have a few kicking around the house, and I’m slipping them into every knitting bag I have. They’re super useful to have in a pinch and I don’t worry about them coming open in transit and spilling all over everything. I’m looking forward to making some with cocoa butter and possibly some coffee essential oil (a real thing that really smells amazing) once I’ve burned through a little of this stash.

I have a request in my queue to talk a little about how we managed to pare down; I’ll be getting to that later this week, but for now, I have dogs to walk, knitting to get on, and a 16″x 20″ canvas to pack up for shipping. How does one do that exactly, anyway? I’m pretty sure there’s a Right Way To Do That Thing. Google and me are going to make some decaf, settle in for a bit, and get our learning going, figure that out. Wish us luck.

 

 

 

on tardiness and better subjects

Everything is going to work out in the end. I keep telling myself that, because it is in the nature of things to be transient—as we are, ourselves, all transient. Everything changes, so when things are feeling crap I remind myself that hey, it can only be this way for so long, that the pendulum will swing the other way soon. One of the very best things about being older is the realization that nothing lasts forever, especially feelings— agh, that’s something to add to the every expanding list of Things I Need To Make More Serious And Longer Posts About, but that it isn’t for today. Today I want to tell you about my friends.

First up are Higgins & Maeve; really good people who are just not having a banner year, culminating in Higgins being jumped last week by a group of people while walking home. They didn’t take anything, just knocked him down,  kicked him in the face, smashed his glasses, and stomped on his chest until they broke his collarbone. A passerby walking his dog helped out, thank glob, but Higgins’ primary profession involves holding up really large cameras with one arm, so the whole “looking for work” thing is on hold for the moment. He’s been working on his bachelors while doing occasional National Guard weekends and taking on side jobs, but with a completely broken collarbone he’s been worried about making rent, paying his medical bills, replacing those glasses, etc. Higgins is looking for work he can do with a jacked up wing, but with more time left on his degree it’s slim pickings; his fiancee, Maeve, is already working her lovely tail off.  Friends have set up a GoFundMe to help them get by for the moment, and if you’ve got a couple of bucks to spare, hey, I would personally appreciate that. (Anything that comes in and isn’t used to help the two of them make ends meet while Higgins is on the mend heads out a Baltimore youth charity, but I kind of don’t see much surplus coming along, you know?)

Yeah, it’s an awful thing to have happen, I know. People can be shitty. Then again, people also sent food and support and love to both of them immediately afterward, so, while I’m at it: people can be pretty great.  I keep thinking that Higgins & Maeve are really nice, sweet, good people- folks who care about other people, who care about the city and the politics of the city and their friends and art and you know, just care. Caring, btw— that’s a skill, and it gets overlooked; it can be easy to stop caring, especially in a city. You get busy, you get overwhelmed, you get overbooked, you get blunted. Caring matters, folks. Giving a damn about where you live and what you do is always cool. That stands out.

This shouldn’t have happened to them but in reality, it shouldn’t have happened to anyone, because violence is bullshit: I wouldn’t want this to have happened to a jerk, either. Not even the jerkiest of jerks from my way- back past: I’m not into violence. Higgins’ curse upon his attackers- that they be caught and be forced into a future working as osteopaths- that’s so more my style.

 

photo-small

 

Here’s something happier that’s happening: the brilliant Acacia Sears put up her Yes Means Yes Kickstarter this month, supporting her album of progressive feminist children’s music and it is going really, really well. (Some of you might have met Cacie at a show or in the studio. ) She’s getting a serious amount of buzz and we are all watching this, crossing our fingers and— I don’t know how to explain it. It’s amazing, witnessing someone you care about reach out and snatch up their dream: she’s so good at what she does, she has a clear vision, she’s very focused, incredibly driven and then… cover it all in whimsy and top it with a flower crown. It’s perfection, and it’s a privilege to see this take off.

There have been trolls, because it’s the Internet. Also, hey, let’s be real: ” fun, progressive music for children: songs about consent, ableism, anxiety, non-binary gender, dinosaurs, robots, and more!”… What isn’t there to troll over in that, right? Of course, right. Agh. You can’t begin to talk about feminism, racism, or equality in any form online without being targeted. She’s taking it well, but it’s scary stuff. I’m glad she has songs about dealing with anxiety, because some of those comments were just walking proof that her work is necessary.

One of the lighter examples.

One of the lighter examples. People can be gross. (Also, please don’t make your kids hug people, folks.)

We skipped most children’s music when Kiddo was little; so much of it contains gender stereotypes, weird religious overtones, violence, etc. She grew up dancing to The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, Tupac, Eve, Dropkick Murphys, Billy Bragg. I would have loved a resource like this when she was little, and I’m so glad it exists for my new baby niece, Alyssa. I’d love to see this as widely available as possible.

So: yeah, I know. I just asked you to support my boy Higgins a second ago. It’s cool. Nobody is made of money, but if you can? It’s one hell of a project, seriously, and her rewards are great- a $10 donation gets you the album, she has some amazing ideas for stretch goals, and just a couple of bucks is a huge help to artists trying to get a project started.

————————–

 

See what I mean? Higgins got jumped (so not okay) but friends came together to help him & Maeve (so very good). Cacie’s Kickstarter is beginning to get some really awesome positive attention (Dan Savage promoted it! Amy Poehler favorited it on Twitter! Kickstarter made it their Staff Pick!) but also TROLLS, and (that can get weird and scary and always gross). It’s like that here lately. Very eeeeuuurrgh where’s my blanket fort/ oh wait, maybe it IS a finger painting and playground day after all. I’m guessing it’s going to shake out on the finger painting and playground side of things. OPTIMISM, it’s my thing.

So I have that Gregor Samsa packed and in my car, ready to go except for a shipping label. I’m not putting up a new giveaway until I reload the Etsy shop; I need to take a moment and take stock, see what I’m putting up, etc, but I’ll do that soon, too. In the meantime, if anyone wants to leave their favorite comfort behaviors below? I offer my gratitude in advance. Here’s hoping your July is much more playground than blanket fort.

 

about that giveaway, though…

Shoshana, you recommended Ardent, by Janina Kallio— and you were also selected by the Random Number Generator! Would you send me your address, please, as well as a good paypal email address so I can hit you up for shipping?

Sorry it took me an extra day to make the announcement!

I spent a bit of this afternoon visiting Kate & Nancye at Dragonfly Fibers— they were having an Open House, so I took advantage of an opportunity to see their studio when the air conditioning would be on and actually making a difference. I’m completely unashamed to say I fell down and picked up a few skeins; it’s mostly work, a reknit of Theodosia and a colorwork cowl idea I’ve been kicking around.

At the Dragonfly Fibers studio open house this afternoon.

At the Dragonfly Fibers studio open house this afternoon.

Of course, it isn’t like I didn’t pick out colors I love, and I’ll be keeping my samples, so yeah, it’s a kind of cheating, but it’s the sort of cheating I can write off at the end of the year.

A new giveaway, before I leave you: I have a slightly light (3.8 oz), caked skein of Oleander Nymph in Skinny Bugga waiting for the person who helps us find our next dinner in the comments. We aren’t picky eaters, but there are a few things that make it a little tricky: Sam can’t eat corn in any form, Kiddo is a vegetarian, and we’re trying to keep dinners as quick/ simple as possible in the evenings, because Baltimore is swiftly turning into a humid sweaty summer mess. Random Number Generator will make the final decision; leave a comment with a link or a recipe below to enter and I’ll run the RNG this coming Tuesday! Oh, and there’s more stuff in the shop, but I’ve been updating steadily as the week has been moving along.

Look, it's so lonely. Don't you want to bring this skein home with you?

Look, it’s so lonely. Don’t you want to bring it home with you?

on MDS&W 2015 and friends who do good things

Yet another Cotswold who is NOT HAVING IT.

Yet another Cotswold who is NOT HAVING IT.

Maryland Sheep & Wool was a joy this year, and not just because I got time in with Shannon, Andi and Anna- although hey, also THAT, you know? Maryland turned it out in a serious way, though— anywhere from 75- 85 degrees and sunshine all weekend. I spent it in the CP booth, hoping for a rerun of the runaway sheep from last year (no luck, but most of the fun is in the wishing and waiting anyway). Sam, Beck & Zeke joined us on Sunday and we spent a good amount of time just looking at animals and stuffing our faces.

I mean, I really felt like I might have been intruding on a moment, or something.

I mean, I really felt like I might have been intruding on a moment, or something.

Nothing much to report on the buying front; I don’t need any more yarn or fiber (I’m actually looking at a very large de-stash in the near future, more on that in a later post), so all that came home with us was some honey and a little embroidery cloth. We went out to Ethiopian in the District with Shannon, Andi & Anna on Saturday. I visited all of my people, ate artichokes and pit lamb, drank fresh lemonade, and hugged more folks than my MS doctors would approve of EVER. It was MDS&W weekend- what can I say? It was glorious

Let’s see- what else is going on? Oh- VERY important stuff, and not because you have all of one hot second to get on this- Neighborhood Fiber Company is doing something very good and wonderful and I want people to know about it. I hope that folks understand that the majority of the demonstrations that happened here in Baltimore were peaceful, but everybody knows that there was property damage, too. Karida has created a gorgeous, limited edition Sandtown-Windchester colorway to help raise money for the rebuilding of affected areas of the city.

It's even PURPLE.

It’s even PURPLE.

Named for the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested, all proceeds will be donated to the Baltimore Community Foundation’s Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore. It’s only available until this weekend, and then, any leftover skeins will be sold in their shop— but somehow, I don’t think there’s going to be much left. This colorway is available in any of their bases, so if you want to make something, it can be made in this color. Get on it, folks.

That’s all the news I have for today— later on I have a completely off- yarn- topic product review, and more news about that destash, but I think I’ve taken up enough space already, and I need to go do some day- job like stuff. Be good, have fun, do stuff.

on my city and this horrible week, already

Oh, Baltimore.

There aren’t words for what has happened here over the last week, most especially in the last 24 hours. I’m not really going to try, at least not right now. To everyone who has checked in with us, thank you so much. That was really sweet and we feel very loved for it. We’re safe; things are quiet where we are so far. It isn’t great down by where I work, but it isn’t awful, either: the news is only showing the worst of it, but the entire city isn’t a smoking rubble, I promise.

I am heartbroken and scared to pieces for my friends. That’s all, really. Very angry, too, but working on that, because there are many more productive things to be/ do. And speaking of productive, if you’re in the area and you’re Feeling All Of The Feelings like I am and want to do something with all of that excess energy, here are a few things you can do. There are some clean- up efforts going on in the city today, all over: no matter which neighborhood you’re in, you can help.

Clean Up Baltimore!

Baltimore Clean- Up Effort

Reddit Updates on Baltimore 

To anyone who might be sharing this particular space of dirt with me right now, I’m thinking of you right now. Stay safe.

in which we catch up: Homespun, head scans, and secrets revealed

If there’s anything nicer than a Maryland spring, I’m having a hard time thinking of it right now. Of course, I’m awfully distracted by Maryland & spring at the moment, so.

It’s been a good few weeks. I’ve been getting the garden ready, planting seedlings, opening windows, spring cleaning. There’s an overall feeling of goodness and forward momentum, and I’m already dreaming about eating what I’m planting.

March was busy, busy, busy. My secret is out: now that it’s been announced, I can talk about it here, too, finally. The whole Editor- In- Chief thing is pretty big and intimidating, but most of all it’s just exciting. Of course, as soon as we made the announcement two people went on leave and another two quit at my day job, so I pulled a full- time week at my part- time the moment we told everyone. AGH. Maybe I didn’t need that moment of reverse- serendipity, but otherwise? Thrilled, you guys. If you sent me a note or left a message on my FB and I didn’t get a chance to thank you in person, I’m so sorry- it’s been really frantic, but thank you, thank you, thank you. The reception and enthusiasm has been really awesome, and I’m super- stoked to get to work.

I’m almost a month behind on telling you all about Homespun Yarn Party, that’s how busy the end of March became. HYP is my favorite smaller show; it’s just right, situated in this old textile mill in Savage, Maryland. Can we take a quick break to talk about how much fun it is to say “Savage, Maryland”, too? It gives me images of just tearing the place to pieces, folks just foaming at the mouth and getting all rabid over yarn (or antiques and french pastries, which is mostly what is sold in the place when it isn’t full of yarn people). I’m into it. I know it is just some dead guy’s last name or something equally boring, but it gives me a smile.

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers were there, but almost never both in the same place at the same time, which seems to be true almost 65% of the time.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Christiane from Three Ravens was there, with her giant needles, of course— yeah, I have a picture, that’s a must- take.

threeravens

I also met Scott Manko and Amy Ross Manko of Ross Farm Fibers, a rare & heritage breed farm/ yarn & fiber supplier in Pennsylvania. I’d heard about them before, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet them (or see their stuff) in real life until last month. You guys.  Anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me in the last two years knows my feelings on heritage breeds, right? Yeah. My favorite place of the entire show, no offense intended to anyone else most especially my friends: I’m just a sucker for sheep, I guess.

rossfarm

Simple, pure, sheepy goodness.

Karida of Neighborhood Fibers is the devil and convinced me that I want to knit a sweater right before the weather turned warm, so we aren’t speaking right now, although she doesn’t know that and wasn’t even really trying so it’s really not her fault and I’ll probably be over it in a minute anyway. It’s a really good sweater, though, and I take for- goddamned- ever to finish anything, so it isn’t a thing. It’ll be cold outside again by the time I have the thing blocked.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont's Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I'd do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I'm into it.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont’s Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I’d do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I’m into it.

I didn’t pick up much- I don’t need much, so most of what I do buy is either work research, used for gifts, or purchased under oh god, I think I must own this lest I die levels of desire. Here’s what came home with me.

Duck Duck Wool's Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yrds) in Night Bokeh.

Duck Duck Wool’s Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yds) in Night Bokeh.

This is gorgeous, right? Really, really amazing stuff. I’m not certain what it’s going to be yet- there was only the one skein, so I’ll have to be creative, but I’m looking forward to it.

Neighborhood Fibers' Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

Neighborhood Fibers’ Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

This is one of my favorite colors- and my dad’s, too, actually. It’s hard to find a good, gorgeous mossy green, so this came with me, too.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These handspun necklaces from a little teapot designs are adorable and a great idea. I haven’t decided if these are just for review or if they’re also a gift or what yet- they’re kind of mesmerizing and I’m wobbling. There’s three of them in this pack and I’m still on the fence.

They're just so stinking cute is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

They’re so stinking cute, is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

This skein of Fiber Rescue Falkland didn’t even make it out of HYP intact— I started turning it into a ball at one of the tables and cast on for a simple shawl that evening.

Fiber Rescue's Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Fiber Rescue’s Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Oh, but my real darlings:

Ross Farms' Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep's individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

Ross Farms’ Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep’s individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

These definitely fall into that latter category, the “oh god, I think I must own this lest I die” list. Everything I picked up is wonderful, but Leicester Longwool is just so hard to find, and this is just brilliant: beautifully prepared, simply put up, perfectly spun and left to speak for itself. YUP. I’ll be making a classic piece of lace out of this, with the dark grey as my background and the light grey as edging. I’ve been pulling out charts for the last few weeks trying to find things that I like enough.

More happened in March than just Homespun Yarn Party, obviously. I decided to quit one of my day jobs- the easiest one, unfortunately, but it was also the one that was the least reliable, so there’s also that. There’s something very scary about dropping a “real- world” gig so soon to head back into the creative world, but I don’t really fit in the cubicle world any more (I never really did), and it’s a terrible fit with appointments, tests, etc. I needed to make more room for the CP job— doing four different things is fine, but five at the same time is too much to juggle, and Sam is working these wicked 12- hour shifts lately, so I’m not asking him to pick up much of the slack.

It was MRI month, too, which is always weird. How are you supposed to feel about an MRI, exactly? While sometimes they’ll show something that’s actively happening, whatever we see in one, it’s a done deal. It’s useful, but only to a degree for me. There’s always the worry in the back of my mind that we’ll unearth a T1 black hole or six, but I’m pretty certain we’d see that coming, and I’m yet to see one of those. I went in on a Saturday last month, and felt pretty good about it overall; we did a brain & cervical spine with & without contrast, my first time doing cervical spine, and I was really excited to see the cervical spine images. Yoga teacher training left me with a real love for anatomy, and I was looking forward to having my own set of vertebra images to study. (They’re incredible.)

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

My radiology department has a Pandora subscription and they let you choose the station you’ll listen to during your scans; I asked for the Delta Blues station, and as they rolled me into the giant white tube, I Got A Woman came on over the headphones and I just had a good feeling about things.

Superstitious, sure, but we’re all apes and it’s hard- wired into us. I did my best not to tap my fingers and toes through the test and in the end, my hunch didn’t let me down: diffuse small lesions in the brain, nothing to worry about, a few noticeable older lesions exactly where we expected to find them on the cervical spine, C5 & C6.

Maybe this is where the MRI is helpful after all, although not in any clinical way; it is comforting to have this very technical, Medical Thing confirm what I’ve known for years about my disease & body. My disease is presenting primarily in my spine (I have mixed feelings about this, but that is a different subject for a different post). I’ve known that for a long time, but I’ve never had proof in any firm, science-y sort of way, just “well, this symptom + this symptom along this timeline seem indicative of a primarily spinal course of attack, at least in this moment.” Not that there’s anything to be done about that, or with it; it just helps me address and manage, that’s all. Having this MRI, this affirmation, is solidly nice: hey, I have a pretty solid handle on what’s happening in there. Cool. That makes me feel safe, and while it’s utterly out of my control, at least I am in touch with my body again. There was a time when we weren’t really speaking; that was rough.

Oh, and finally: I am an aunt again! My step- sister Bianca gave birth last month: welcome to the world, baby Alyssa! No photos as they aren’t mine to put out into the world, but suffice to say she is absolute perfection and I’m not just saying that because babies are delicious, she actually is a really pretty baby. Time to commence with ridiculous amounts of tiny, tiny knitting! Recommendations for your favorite quick baby patterns very, very welcome. What’s your go- to baby knit?

on anger, compassion, and self- care (for A.H., with thanks)

A friend wrote me a few days ago, asking about anger. It’s funny— I’d never imagined that I’d be someone that might give out advice on that subject, but she’d asked in a very serious way, so I gave it some thought, and in giving it even a little time I realized that no, hey, I really did have a lot to say. I’ve spent a lot of time working with my anger- my rage, really- and while it’s paid off, it’s been a process, too.

Everybody’s got something to be angry about at some point in their life. I’m not talking about traffic or parking tickets or noisy neighbors or lousy internet service; I’m talking about real rage, the sort of thing that can eat you up inside. It’s poison, that stuff— no good for the bearer, and no good for recipients, either. It’s a flag, too; a warning sign that something is off- kilter and needs your attention, now now now now now, damnit. I think that far too often we either cram it into some dark corner of ourselves (which means it then spills out in inappropriate ways later on), or try to “vent” it (which frequently just perpetuates the rage cycle: anger feeds on itself). It’s a trap, and it sucks.

I spent years being just plain pissed off half of my day, carrying this low- level, simmering level of ire under my daily face. You wouldn’t see it, most days, but it was there, waiting for something, anything to go wrong, so that it could manifest. I’ve never made any bones about coming from a messed- up family, and as I grew older I began to really understand exactly how messed- up it really was, and as that understanding grew, so did my anger about it. I got out of my family, got out into the world and made friends with good people, amazing beautiful people with amazing beautiful families. That was a really good thing for me— I needed to know that was a real thing that really happened in the real world, not just in books and on sitcoms. It was also a really painful, rage- inducing thing, because it showed me everything I had not only missed, but would never have. (Those families, of course, aren’t perfect— because no family is ever perfect— but they came really close, and I’ve used them as models to build and run my own family today. I’m deeply grateful to them for the examples they set.)

Dealing with all of that was tough. I tried sweating it out at the gym, drinking it away at the bar, crafting it away with ALL off the hobbies, working it off at multiple jobs, forgetting it altogether with about a thousand moves. Nothing really changed, though. I mean, I got to be a somewhat decent runner for a little bit there, learned that I loved whiskey and couldn’t stand tequila, I’ll be useful as hell if civilization comes to a screeching halt, and wow, I’ve got one hell of a diverse resume, but other than that? Still pissed.

I met a lot of other irate people along the way, though. That helped. The service is full of people who are looking to get as far away from the folks who did them wrong as possible, and eventually a good amount of us share our stories, in part or in full. I did a lot of listening. Like, a lot of listening. People tell me their stories, I don’t know what that’s about, I have one of those faces, but it’s an honor to listen. The details are always different and we all take it in different ways, but it’s all the same, too: we came from places with holes in them, places that have something missing, whether it was compassion or money or people or affection or sanity or safety or yeah, all of the above.

I’d been meditating for years and years when I started putting that together— that all of our hurts are both somewhat individual and also not all that unique, which I found oddly comforting. (When “my family sucks” is a secret, these sorts of things can seem like a revelation.) I’d had a counselor in middle school who taught me very basic mindfulness meditation techniques, breath awareness, that sort of thing, and while I’d been expanding on that I hadn’t strayed too far. It wasn’t until I started doing metta work that I started making any progress on my problems with anger, though. Metta helped a lot, because it walks around a version of forgiveness that I find acceptable, and it exercises compassion, which, when you’re that angry, you really need. In metta, you start off meditating on the idea of sending compassion to yourself: “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be well,” then work through someone you love, then someone you don’t really know… and then someone who challenges you. You finish by taking it out to the world at large.

Ahhh, but that “someone who challenges you” part. That’s the athletic bit.

Look, for beginners I sometimes skip that piece, because most students aren’t ready for it yet. I’ve had students burst into tears doing this practice in full; when I first started teaching, I didn’t know any better and would do it all and would have at least one student weeping, nearly every class, no exaggeration. It’s just too much to sit with for some folks, and having done it on the regular for years now, I get that so hard. Sitting brings up some serious stuff, stuff you have to deal with both while you’re sitting and afterward. That stuff can be revelatory, game- changing. That doesn’t mean it’s always fun.

You get good at compassion, though, and you get good at letting go. You get good at wishing people well and letting them loose in the world again, and that’s important, because a big part of rage is holding on. And you get good at extending kindness to yourself, too, and given how brutal anger is— how it can tear at a body— trust me, you need that.

It hasn’t just been metta that’s helped. That’d be too easy, right? It’s amazing stuff, and it’s one- half of the equation for me, but that didn’t do it alone. It’s also been about surrender.

It seems obvious, but most of us miss this in the rush of emotion: people are going to be themselves, and that really is their prerogative. (Who else immediately began to hear Bobby Brown?) I needed to surrender to the idea that people are going to do what they are going to do, that they are going to hurt me, anger me, that they have hurt me, that those injuries cannot be fixed, and that in the end, nothing can be done for or with it. Surrender is both a liberating and horrifying concept: we people hate the idea of not being able to control everything, but giving up the idea of trying to run the show is a damned good thing.

I am 100% responsible for my own words and actions and so is everyone around me. I can’t–– and shouldn’t try to— control the people around me, even when they are behaving poorly, hurting me, or working against their best interests, and part of that fight is frequently about control. See my side. Fix this. Make it right. Apologize. Stop being an ass. I can advise, I can disengage, I can call bullshit when I see it, but other than that, I find it’s best to regard other people almost the same way as I see forces of nature. I’m not responsible for them or their behavior. Other people will do whatever they’re going to do; they will follow their core natures (just as I will follow mine) and if that’s not working out for you, for whatever reason, it’s important to see that, acknowledge it, and make a plan. This isn’t a judgment on you or them: it’s merely seeing the world as it actually is rather than the way you wished it would be.

Easier said than done, I know. I’m not doing to lie or sugarcoat it: this process is difficult and it hurts. It’s also worth it. Look, I’m talking about a 20- year process on my end, although really, most of this work has been in the last 10, and the biggest push has been in the last 6. I know some of what I’m writing about here sounds like woo- woo mumbo- jumbo to some folks, but it does work, and while a great deal of it is based in traditional Buddhism, when I ran the bulk of this post by Sam, he cheerily summed it up by telling me that Taylor Swift said all of my surrender paragraph much more snappily in Shake It Off. I could have shaken him at the time, but I’m working on that, don’tcha know.

Okay— there it is, my wordglut on anger. Have your own advice? I’m sure my friend would love to hear it— leave something in the comments! I’m off to work on patterns and think about something other than being angry for a while.

on getting back into it, Imposter Days, strangers and the simply strange

I miss writing here. I keep meaning to- I write such long entries in my head, on scraps of paper, in my notebooks, but they never seem to make it over here lately. There are a few Reasons lately; I’ve been hibernating, mostly, fomenting, in retreat.

After Rhinebeck I began to expand; things started making a lot more sense, coming together. That was good, but I still haven’t had much I wanted to share. And I still have some weirdness about certain folks who are following this blog, which- well, that’s the nature of the beast, of course: it’s all out for public consumption and I’ve been a public person for some years now, but it’s more really about the nature in which they follow, which can only be classified as strange and a little obsessive. Writing about it won’t exactly help, but seeing as some of these people haven’t been in touch with me for decades, others a least a year or so, I’m not sure how it can harm, either. I have an estranged relative who is hitting this site about daily, sometimes multiple times a day— regardless of a dearth of updates. That’s actually the eeriest part: the unflagging persistence despite my lack of posts. On some level I’d been holding out, hoping they’d give up and let it go, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.

I’m tempted to squirrel my life away out of pique, out of anger: this is mine, this is ours, you have no right to it, you kicked us out, so keep out, fuck off, go away. You never wanted me, or us, in the first place; why are we so fascinating now, when we’ve stopped knocking on your doors?  I was tempted to pull stakes and start somewhere new, just let this site archive, or even drop writing online altogether.

Here’s the rub, though: I believe in communication. I believe in the power and importance of the shared experience. I remember how many lines of communication opened up when I shared my time in Afghanistan, and damn, talking about MS, pain and chronic illness has been strange at times but there is a clear need for that kind of writing; I’ve met so many disability advocates, talked to newly diagnosed patients, and been given the opportunity to share information and experiences with other folks living similar lives, and their caretakers. Writing about MMJ has helped raise awareness; sharing my love of textile arts helped grow my community there. It seems small- and it is- but it still matters.

This has been my spot online for a long time, and I miss being here. I’m not sure I really care whether or not more strangers know the things I’m thinking or knitting or spinning or photographing or yelling about in the streets, really. It was bothering me for a minute until I realized no, wait: These people don’t know me any better than any other reader who happens across me on the internet- they’ve just met me face- to- face, and not for years in some cases. What’s the difference between them and some rando in Abu Dhabi landing on my page? Hell, compared to a lot of the folks who read/ comment, they’re behind the curve. Forget it: let’s just let it ride.

I can’t promise that I’ll be here a ton more. I want to make that commitment- I want to make high- minded plans that involve scheduled posts, lists, photos, all of that, but the truth is that I am busy beyond all belief these days, reshaping my life. I have intentions, though, and they are earnest and good, and they include a desire to be here more. I don’t know how much that counts for, but I’m trying to keep it straightforward & true.

I’m teaching again and I’ll be posting some about that in the near future (see? An almost guaranteed post!), I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the act of teaching itself, regardless of the material. I mean: I knew I enjoyed teaching, but I forgot the depth of pleasure it gives. I’ve also begun recording some guided meditations- metta, yoga nidra, general relaxation exercises- and that’s a bit surreal, too. Recording & editing audiobooks was one thing; sure, okay, that’s my voice, I’m over it. Hearing myself as a meditation teacher, though, I don’t know. I’d been doing that for years but never had the chance to hear how I sounded, and now I’m terribly self- conscious, which I need to get over right away. (Or I need to stop doing my own editing. This is probably a wiser option, but I’d then need to work up the nerve to hand over my un- edited audio to someone else and HAHAHAHAHAHA, like that’s ever going to happen, so I’m just going to learn to get over myself instead.)

It’s good for me, actually- feeling that awkward, editing my own work in that way. I’m so used to editing my own writing painlessly, going over paragraphs and tossing out clunky sentences, even entire pages that I hate and barely wincing. Oooof, that is terrible, I can think, and it hardly stings. I can do that again. It’s not the end of the world. There are so many words! Sort of like this entry— not one of my best, it’s rambly and long and all over the place, just a catch- everybody- up kind of thing, I’m not at all worried about it. I can write so many things, everything I write doesn’t have to be The Most Amazing Thing Ever Set To Paper. When it’s my voice, though- audio work? If it isn’t perfection JUST. LET. ME. DIE. I want the floor to open up and swallow me whole.

I don’t get it. Hey, I’m doing something sort of- kind of new, so hey, if I’m not 100% awesome at it, I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK I SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS WHY AM I DOING THIS. Do we ever stop being in high school? Amanda Palmer knows what I’m talking about. (Hat tip: so does Cacie. I’ve been having some serious Imposter Days, but I’m working it out.) It’s good to be this uncomfortable, though. Sam makes fun of me because I enjoy feeling uncomfortable every so often; it keeps me flexible and on my toes. There’s something to be said for feeling really out of place and uncertain— it makes me look for new solutions, better ideas, different approaches. I make other things on those days, or I push myself to power through the work, or both.

So— I hope to write here more. And I hope to be a bit more present online in general, when I’m not working a part- time job, freelancing (there’s the photo gig, the audiobooks, the meditation recordings, the meditation teaching, pretty soon yoga teaching, occasional knitting/ spinning/ dyeing teaching, designing knitwear, and some odd making- of- things, too), and generally trying to have a life, as well. It’s hectic, but not as bad as it looks when it’s written out— strangely, it’s still more restful than my life was 8 months ago, and that’s really saying something. It’s interesting to be on the hustle again- I’d forgotten this feeling. It’s good, you know? Really, solidly good. I know it’s transitional- I’m working toward some pretty solid goals, there’s a well defined 18- month- plan here— but ooof, I’d missed the rush of this kind of living. Maybe I’ll be back in a few days to talk a little about that.

Be well, all. I’ve missed you. Let’s talk soon.

 

 

in which Rhinebeck is magic, but we already knew that

Rhinebeck was the weekend before last, and it was glorious, folks.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

Sam and I went as civilians this year, our first time ever; we’d only gone as vendors before, which means we’d never really properly seen the show. We rented a house with our friends at Cooperative Press (with bonus Stefanie!) again- sort of a Rhinebeck tradition at this point, and a big part of the joy of the trip, too. There’s something that’s just deep- down fun about an annual, get- away, grown- up sleep- over party, and that’s what this feels like, each year.

This photo is missing Shannon, because she's the one who took it, but it's of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

This photo is missing Shannon, because she’s the one who took it, but it’s of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

I’d headed out to New York with some hesitation this time around: I was worried it might be painful. I dawdled getting packed, which (understandably) annoyed Sam, and it set a tone to the beginning of the trip that was less than pleasant, but by the time we were halfway there, I’d begun to release a lot of my anxiety. If it hurts, that’s okay, I thought. I can be with that. It’s part of this process.

It was good, though. Solidly, heartily good. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was bittersweet; I did miss the excitement of being a vendor, absolutely. But we helped CP set up and tear down, which made things feel better, somehow, and seeing our very good friends Dragonfly Fibers in our old spot made me feel so happy. Watching Kate and Nancye gain that dazed but joyful Rhinebeck- vendor glow as the weekend progressed was both terrific and a little frightening; I remember that feeling. It was so exciting and so draining, all at once.

Which brings me to the most important part of the whole weekend: realizing, on a real gut level, that I had made the right choice this summer.

I knew, cognitively, that I was doing the right thing in retiring from dyeing. You know how that works, though, right? How a body can know a thing is true, but not really feel it to be true, deep down in their gut, where it really matters? Once it was all done, I’d keep wondering: what if I had just tried LDN, or what if I’d just tried to stick it out through August (it was a very mild summer for Baltimore, after all), or what if I’d tried switching to the other oral medication, or what if… It’s the “what- if”s that will kill you, I swear. They’re brutal. They come for you in the middle of the night, and they just won’t leave you alone.

Saturday, I left the show an hour early; I was completely exhausted from being there. It was shocking, really; I hadn’t done anything but catch up with friends, eat French artichokes, pet some sheep, browse the barns, the normal things, but I was worn down in that painful, exhausted- down- to- your- bones way that I associate with- well, chronic illness or being the parent of a very small child. I hated heading back to the house early, but it was also a strange relief: now I knew. It sucked, and made me sad, but also: it was an established fact. If I couldn’t manage this, just the act of just wandering the fairgrounds as a civvie, then no— working the festival as a vendor would have been completely out of my reach. Hell, I’ve actually been resting for the last six weeks (I really did listen to my doctor, which is remarkable), so making it up to this point might not have even happened, if we’re looking at this with a truly critical eye. It was a confirmation, and one I really needed: I feel better than I did this summer, and I still couldn’t have done this thing, and that’s okay.

I’ve been in this holding pattern, waiting for my strength to come back, for these muscles to stop the whatever it is that they’re doing and be something approaching average again for far too long. That might happen, but my body has felt this way for about a year now, longer than I’ve had most of my other symptoms, which come and go; it also might not. This could be my new normal. MS is funny like that. Not funny: ha- ha; more like funny: I keyed your car and pissed in the gas tank, but you get the idea. Being at Rhinebeck this year, in an entirely new context, that was important, and I’m happy we didn’t skip going. I’m extra glad it happened as soon after the closure of the studio as it did.

It was different, being there as a designer and editor. Really, really different. I got to see things, for one. Assess trends, shop a little, eat, all of that. And actually spend time with people, which was good. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to- I missed out on a few important folks, actually (Lisa R, Penny S-G, how did we miss each other!? My stupid phone died on Sunday, to my absolute heartbreak) but I did get to talk with lot of the people I wanted to see, and that was wonderful— and not the quickie conversations that I would have needed to have in the booth, either. I met with many of the yarnies I wanted to see, started plotting for the next year (I have Ideas, obviously), started making my list of colors and bases for upcoming designs, and overall realized that while not at all like my life as a dyer, this was all right. No, better than all right: this was solidly, happily good.

That’s what I’ve needed, as I’ve been grieving over these last couple of months. Closure, sure, which Rhinebeck provided in a neat and tidy way, but also the real and solid feeling that I had made the correct decision, difficult as it was, and some sense of what things would be like, moving forward. The reassurance that I would be happy, in this new existence: I needed that, in a serious way. I’m still not in love with all of this, but that’s all right- I don’t have to be. That would be a lot to expect at this point, honestly. Being in a place of acceptance and surrender is so much better than where I was before; it positions me to create a new way of living that I can fall in love with, instead of just mourning a life I can’t have any more.

So, Rhinebeck: always surprising, always magic. I should have known that would be what brought me back to myself. It’s a bit like waking up, like surfacing after a dive. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent- not just from the blog, but from just about everything lately. To say that I’ve been “in retreat” would be putting it mildly, but I think I’m coming to the end of that now, and that’s a goodness.

The annual sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

The annual Rhinebeck sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

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