Essential

As long as I can remember, I have been enchanted by the idea of a Renaissance man – a person who has the time, the money, the fortitude to become an expert in science and art and literature.  That is my compulsion.  Here is what I want to accomplish in the next year…

  • speak a foreign language fluently
  • read the best 100 english-language novels
  • finish reading all of P.G. Wodehouse
  • master 20+ recipes that are heartbreakingly delicious
  • be crazy strong, a competent beginning ballerina, and make it to advanced yoga
  • make a ton of quilts, finish a lot of embroidery and cross-stitch, make a handmade gift for every gift-giving occasion
  • relearn organic chemistry
  • regularly meditate so that I think more clearly and am more resilient
  • be crazy knowledgeable in the best of americana indie music
  • join an amateur improv troupe
  • become a deep expert in modern art
  • volunteer 100+ hours
  • make eating healthier a sustained practice
  • have beautiful skin
  • create a beautiful flower garden and bountiful, eco-friendly vegetable garden
  • learn to speak credibly about wine
  • find my voice and post regularly on this blog and have hundreds of people follow and like

and the list could go on, and on, and on.

Several problems here – several reasons why completing this list in the next  year is not possible – let’s start with the obvious ones…

  • I like to nap.  I love that feeling of falling asleep and surrendering for an hour or two.
  • I have a job (a job I love, but still a job)
  • I love some people and it is important for me to spend time with them
  • There are typically only 24 hours in a day – and that is inclusive of nap time
  • My adorable kitten cat misses me when I am away.

Now, for some of the less obvious reasons…

  • I like to be at home.  There, I said it.  I have fought against this my whole life – but single or married, I have always loved to be at home.  I love the comfort.  I love the low stress.  I don’t curl into a ball and start rocking myself, but I don’t like crowds, I am so over partying, and I don’t like to wear a bra or shoes any longer than is absolutely required by decency.
  • I love people, but I reach my breaking point of social interaction through work.  I have always been a person who likes to do everything to make other people feel comfortable.  Nod when I disagree with them, laugh at unfunny jokes, smile when they say something rude to me.  I am working hard to break the habits that are not helpful for my career success.  And I am pretty sure my immediate family would laugh their butts off at me claiming to be over-agreeable.  It is that strange spot with people who I am not extremely connected to, but friends with, where my crimes against being “real” are most egregious.  I am not going to tell you how it is.  I am not going to call you on your shit.  I am not the one to ask if your sweater makes you look fat.  I don’t like this about myself… but then again, I know never to ask anybody (other than my mom or my trainer) for honest feedback about my personal life or clothing choices.  (Again, different at work – I loves me some honest feedback about my work performance – that is helpful and doesn’t feel personal.)  Anyway… diatribe ending in 10… 9… 8…  I feel exhausted and lonely and whipped after most personal outings. And I am pretty sure my husband could live a happy life without ever again having to listen to me dissect what I really wanted to say after spending time with some people.  “Can you BELIEVE she said that to her kids???”  “Who says that my barrette is out of style??  Who DOES that???”
  • There are some things that I think I should be good at, but I don’t like to do.  (Insert old trope about women thinking they need to be all things to all people and have a Martha Stewart house.)  I don’t like to cook.  I don’t like to garden.   I want to speak a foreign language, but I am not willing to put the work into it that is needed.

It feels good to write those things – to be honest with myself about who I am and what I really want.  (If I have hurt your feelings with any of the above, please text me immediately and allow me to disavow all of it so that you feel better.  I was just kidding.  LOL)

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Recently I was introduced to the ideas of Greg McKeown.  The quote that got me…

“Instead of making just a millimeter of progress in a million directions he began to generate tremendous momentum towards accomplishing the things that were truly vital.”

OMG.  Duh.  By trying to fit everything in, I haven’t been accomplishing anything.  Greg’s work is focused on career success.  And I am making some changes in how I approach my work to fit in these ideas – while being so grateful for having that sort of agency in my work life.

But where I really needed this advice was in my personal growth focus.  I can’t be a Renaissance woman.  Let it go.  Move on to a new dream.  And decide what is essential.  And then make real progress in those areas.  I can learn German and grow sweet peas in my next life.

Sunday Seven

Oh, hello, blog.  It is hard for me to know where to get started, so jumping in with seven things I have been doing or thinking about…

My perfect cat!  Toby is tiny and interesting, and at times a real shit.  But I am his favorite person.  Every morning he snuggles next to me on my pillow.  Such a small thing, but makes such a big difference in my happiness level.  Here are some pictures of Mr. Perfect.

Seasonal quilts!  The feeling of time is accelerating.  Weeks, months, seasons whip by.  I an attempt to try and mark the passing of time, I am planning to switch the quilt hanging in my dining room.  So far there has been Valentine’s Day and Spring.  Not sure what I am going to do yet for Summer.

Deadlifts!  I love them – and have a goal of doing them every day for the next seven days, and eventually being able to deadlift 120 lbs.  I couldn’t sleep last night and was at the gym by 5 AM cranking Beyonce and deadlifting.  I can’t imagine better music to deadlift to.   I have not picture of me deadlifting; however, this is an image of the type of contraption I use for deadlifting.   A hexagon-like thing.

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Baby Quilts!  First, I know TWO people who are having girls.  The string of baby boy quilts is broken.  I love baby boys, but am anxious to make some baby girl quilts.  I have gotten really, really bad about remembering to take and post finished pictures of baby quilts.  I know of at least two that have been completely undocumented and one that has been unreported.  That lunacy stops down.  I mean if I haven’t posted a picture of a completed quilt, did it even really get made.  Below is a WIP baby quilt, with a grumpy cat posing by it.

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And this is a quilt that I finished last year and didn’t report on.  I don’t have a picture of the completed quilt, just the quilt top.

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Cable.  I was hip.  I had severed the ties to the man, specifically the man in the form of cable.  I had Netflix, Amazon, Sling, HBO Now, Hulu.  But we spent so much time trying to find where who had what to watch that I was going a little crazy.  And I couldn’t just watch an episode of Ellen Degeneres or The Rachel Maddow show without commercials or when I wanted to.  Which I could when I had cable.  I still HATE cable, but I do love to go to one place that has 90% of the things I want to watch and I can fast forward through commercials.  I am not hip.

Drawing.  I am letting myself develop this skill slowly.  Like a kid would, I am tracing and copying to learn to draw.  And I am not beating myself up about it.  I don’t need to draw to feed my family or get a hostage released.  So I can be slow and bad about it.  I have drawn a few flowers recently and LOVE water color pencils and this book.

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Here is one of my forays:

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Being sparkly!  So many boring cliches to pack into a few sentences.  I love Big Little Lies.  I hate how I now look my age.  I have always been a fairly low-fuss girl.  I have never been recognized for my beauty or style, so I didn’t work too hard at it.   And my mother has always had flawless skin, so I wasn’t worried.  Ends up I don’t have my mom’s skin.  Ends up I have to do all of those boring beauty regimen things to not have my skin look like my actual age.  I hate that.  And I hate that I care enough to hate that.

In Big Little Lies (book at TV show) Madeline is recognized for being a sparkly girl.  I am doing my best.  Getting my nails done, moisturizing CONSTANTLY, accessorizing and putting on makeup.  I can’t decide if it is worth it.  I have decided I wished I didn’t care.  But it seems I do.

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Hello there!

I do not have a coherent post today.  I am often writing blog posts in my head – coherent, theme-based, elucidating posts.  And then I find time to write and cannot find the good stuff.  Today reflects the chaos of my mind right now – some miscellaneous thoughts…
Happy 2017!  As documented sporadically on this blog, 2016 was a challenging year for me.  The losses were (are) big. But there were some pretty big gains also – a new perfectly devilish kittencat, becoming a museum guide at the Nelson-Atkins, new friends, liking my job, learning new artsy skills.
Today I met with my trainer and pal Mandy and she said that the goal for me this year would be to become a lot stronger.  This makes me unreasonably happy.  Every month working with her I have been able to do more.  And the idea of crushing it is really motivating.  Really motivating.
I am fighting the urge to create 2017 resolutions.  I am fighting the urge to break down my life into a series of goals, create mini-steps to get each of those goals.  Entirely unachievable mini-steps, that is.  And I am fighting the urge to put all of these mini-steps in a spreadsheet and put little Xs next to each achievement.  Because it doesn’t work.
But I am trying to incorporate more of the things that make me feel happy into my every day.  I have started a Bullet Journal – and am avoiding Google Docs and Excel.
Every day I am going to work on getting stronger, meditate, blog, read for a little bit, create something, organize something, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  I won’t do all of these every day, but if I do most of them most of the days, I will be building a foundation for a happier life.
I have done a fair amount of sewing over the last month.  I made a purse, a tote, several  pouches, almost finished an advent calendar and started a baby quilt.  I didn’t get pictures of all of them, but here is what I did capture:

One night…

I went the whole night without television.  What an inane statement, but still I am proud.  DH and I luxuriated in the quiet evening.  He is dozing on the couch after a few hours of reading.  And I have done a lot of things that I plan to do of an evening (before I end up numb and sprawled on the couch).  My smugness is punchable.  It gets worse.  I have pictures of what I did instead of watching TV.

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Ate sushi at our dining room table!  It has been awhile since our dining room table has been used for anything other than storage or a place to lay out quilt designs.

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Read about floral painting in 18th century France.  And I learned the meaning of two new words – haptic and florilegium.  I have shopped at a store called Florilegium for many years – so when I exclaimed to DH “Florilegium is a real word!”, it was nice that he kept a straight face.

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I worked on the never-ending embroidery project.  I am still on N.  Still.

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It was a good day.  I am going to go meditate and then punch myself.  Good night!

Finding Quiet

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The longer you work, I think the more possibilities you have of creating something.  At least in my case, it doesn’t come through divine touch, it just comes through just work.

– Arturo Herrera

For a lot of my life, work was home base.  Homework and then working for a living.  And then there was the work of making.  I have always felt most myself and safest when I retreat to work.

But I have lost some of that.  I work enough – and people are always telling me how surprised they are how much quilting I get done.  And I am busy at work.

Work is not home base anymore though.  I feel my brain is distracted.  It is hard for me to accomplish.  Part of that is the unavoidable complexity of life.  But part of that is the noise I create with dumb TV and dumb smartphone.

My husband has the beautiful little reading nook upstairs.  It is quiet.  It is peaceful.  It reminds me of my great grandmother’s apartment.  Bright, quiet, and invitation to play or think or read.  I want to create that same space for quiet in my brain and in my home.

I seem to need to recommit to this daily.  It no longer comes naturally or easily.  It may be too late for me to rewire.  All I can do is try.  I know, dear reader, you can’t stomach me committing one more time to work and focus.  Yet, it helps me.  It really does.

This evening I stated to my family that I was never going to play a video game or watch a dumb television show again.  The kids witnessed this and looked back down at their phones.  The role modeling can’t start soon enough.

Cal Newport has a lot of excellent things to say about focus – and how it can lead to achievement:  http://calnewport.com/blog/

 

 

 

ISO: 29-year friendship

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Last Saturday, a friend of mine passed away.  She was 42.  We became friends when we were 13.  I still haven’t been able to fully comprehend.

We double-dated to Homecoming, Courtwarming, Prom.  I went to Worlds of Fun her inaugural weekend of being a dancing panda.  We rode together in her red escort.  Windows down, music up.  She helped me pull off all four of my 30th birthday parties.  I hosted the shower for her first baby.  We took a long trip to San Diego and LA together when we were 29.  Windows down, music up.  We attended each others’ weddings.  We knitted together and scrapbooked together.  We laughed so much.  Our lives intertwined together.

Because of my introversion and generally unrelenting awkwardness, I don’t have a lot of connection to my past.  I don’t have friends from college, I had maintained just one friendship from high school.  She was this beautiful thread through my life, tethering me to a place and a time as we both created families and worked.

And now she is dead.  We had been out of touch the last few years, but not out of each others’ hearts.  We e-mailed every couple of months, just to remind each other that although we weren’t in touch, we still thought of each other.  A few months ago, the company she worked for folded, so she was looking for a new job.  We were strategizing to bring her to the company where I work.  The possibility of that always made me smile.  Now it makes me so sad.

I really, really don’t want her to be dead.  I feel lost.  She was one of the best people I have ever known.

When things like this happen, I guess it is natural to reevaluate.  I have to strengthen existing friendships or make a new one.  Because there is this giant, painful hole.  Both mental and palpable.  I am not sure where to start – how to move past this constant desire to not have her be dead.  I have rejoined facebook.  It drives me crazy because I hate conflict and that tenuous line between bragging and sharing, but if I had been on facebook, Laurie and I would have been more connected.  I don’t know if that is the right place to start.  But I am lost.  I am in search of something I will never find.

 

On Taking Time…

My work schedule, my life schedule has been wonky now and again for a few weeks.  I have been taking a lot of naps and going to bed early and having a strong desire to sleep in.  I choose stupid TV and stupid video games over sewing, walking, reading.  Yes, totally ringing clanging alarm bells.  I know the path out of the hole – exercise, eating right, doing what I love even when I don’t feel like doing it, uninstalling games on my phone, turning off the TV.  Just some days are harder than others.

Today was a good day.  I got a lot done at work, I am not beating myself up for not being, not doing more.  My preference would be to crawl into a time wormhole and have a few hours of uninterrupted sewing, but short of that, my life is getting back to pretty good.

I have been picking back up my epic embroidery project.  I started it in April and worked on it for a while, but then stopped.  It is an old-fashioned project.  Crafts once were being labor-intensive works of dedication.  But with the shifts in the focus of our lives, instant craftication (see what I did there?) seems to be everywhere…

I am not casting aspersions.  I totally get it.  I have the weekends to sew – I want projects that show progress.  I want photos for instagram and I want to do lots and lots and lots of projects.

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And so it is good for me to do some slow embroidery.  Hundreds of french knots in ten different shades of green.  Focus, deliberate, plodding.  Yes to that.  At least some of the time.