Saturday, January 28, 2017

Comforts of Handmade

I'm sick again. Last week, I spent five days with norovirus, had a few days of feeling ok, and then by Wednesday, I felt myself coming down with a cold. Once again, I find myself unable to do much, brain peering through a thick fog, and so sore I can barely sleep. It's awful. I have multiple chronic illnesses, but I'm lucky in that I don't get sick with acute illnesses very often, so this double whammy on top of one of the worst times of the year for my chronic pain (damp winter air ugh) has felled me.

It's frustrating, beyond the physical pain and discomfort, because I have so much that I want to do. I'm gearing up for InCoWriMo, and I've joined the League of Extraordinary Penpals, so I am eager to get myself organized for letter writing, but, alas, I didn't feel well enough to do much.

What I could do, however, was knit. I find knitting so comforting. Lately I've been knitting very easy, super chunky projects that involve nothing more complicated than knitting and purling, and knitting and watching TV was a nice way to spend a sick day.

I watched One Day at A Time on Netflix, a sitcom about a Cuban-American family headed by a single mother who's a nurse and a veteran, raising her two teen kids along with help from her mother and their friendly landlord. It contains a lesbian character, and every issue addressed is handled so damn well. I highly recommend this show.

So I knitted a pussy hat from Loopy Mango, because I was sad that my first effort did not fit. Sadly the LM hat is a little tight and short.

I also finished a basic garter stitch scarf in gorgeous dark teal from Wool and the Gang. tomorrow I'm hoping to finish another scarf, and/or some slippers.

It's been very cold here, and I knitting feels like the best self care on a day when all I can do is watch the news in horror and moan in pain. There is so much comfort in the handmade.

It's nearly two in the morning, and I've been trying to sleep, but lying down makes me cough, and I can't take cold medicine because most of the ingredients interact with another med I'm on daily, so I'm writing this blog post, buying "Refugees Welcome" pins on Etsy, and listening to the Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast.

Most of my students are Muslim immigrants and refugees from countries that are now on the list of banned countries, and I am aghast. I'm making lists of organizations to support, poems to read to my students, and taking comfort in how many people showed up to airports to show support for our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to resist this unacceptable ban.

I don't have anything intelligent to say about anything. The cold is overtaking me, but I am paying attention, and I'm making plans for what actions I can take when I recover, including finding knitting projects I can donate to worthy and needy causes.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sick Days

I've been sick for four days. I was so sick, with a very bad stomach flu, and I'm still recovering. No fun. Talk about kicking my productivity out from under me.

I'm grateful to have passed the worst of it, and glad I have the weekend to recover. I missed a day of making, but the next day managed to start a simple scarf I've knit a few rows on each day. I can't believe how much I missed it, and how comforting I find knitting, but especially my daily making routine already.

My teaching semester just began this week (rotten timing to be ill!), so I'm getting adjusted to a new routine, but I'm also gearing up for International Correspondence Month (aka InCoWriMo). The aim is to write and send a handwritten letter every day of the month of February. I love writing letters, and I savor any chance to put my fountain pens to use, so I'm looking forward to a month dedicated to letter writing. I'm going to put together a little box of stationery supplies I can have always my supplies at the ready. If you'd like a handwritten letter from me, pop your address in my Postable account, which I'm using to collect and organize addresses.

Most of my list of pen pals is made up of folks I know, but I'm always willing to meet new pen pals, especially ones who share my interests!

It's difficult to remain hopeful right now, and I am being careful with how and when I encounter political information. I subscribe to a lot of print and online newspapers and magazines, and listen to the radio regularly (NPR and local radio news), but I've put filters on Facebook (using an extension called FB Purity) to avoid a lot of politics on FB. It's not the place for me to have those debates and get so anxiety-riddled that I can't focus on doing my job, which involves helping local immigrants learn English, and being a positive, supportive, empathetic person for them in this very uncertain political climate. I also can't write good poetry if I'm too depressed, so boundaries and self-care are important. This is also why I didn't attend a Women's March. Marches are not great for disabled folks anyway, but there was a lot of friction between disabled groups and the March organizers, and I'm still so sick, I couldn't have attended anyway. Many of my friends went and promised to carry me with them in spirit, and all the marchers were in my thoughts today, but we all have to focus on what we can do. A friend of mine babysat children so her other friends could attend. The revolution will have childcare or it will be bullshit.

I've been reading a lot.  did finish Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg  a novel I started back in September and then lost (it fell behind my bed). I enjoyed most of it, but the second half was not nearly as strong as the beginning, and I felt very confused and disappointed by the end. Still, it's worth a read. It's told from the POV of a girl who lives in a commune/cult in rural England, complete with its own vocabulary. The establishment of the world of the commune, the only place this girl has ever known, was strong and really drew me into the story, but, as I said, there was a radical shift, and the story lost its power at that point. I felt much the same about the novel Room, which is also a book with a very specific and confined world and vocabulary. Once the characters move to a different location, the book isn't as compelling, not because I only want to hear of misery and torture, but because the story isn't as tightly constructed. Room was a lot more successful than Foxlowe, but there were similarities between the books' structures.

I also finished reading a friend's novel draft, which was a lot of fun, but nothing I can review here. Not yet, at least.

I spent last Saturday reading The Assistants by Camille Perri. It was a fun, quick read, and it was nice to finish a book in a few hours.

Yesterday I slept most of the day, and then found myself unable to sleep at night. Pretty much all I can do is lie in bed, I still feel so weak from days of puking, so I'm taking advantage of that and reading a lot. I finished reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett, which I liked, but also feel conflicted about. Still, it's a good debut, and I'm excited to see it getting so much positive attention.

Now I've been engrossed in a mystery, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. I realized last year that I really love British mystery thrillers, especially on audiobook. This one is a hardcover I got from Book of the Month, but it fits the bill. It's not a genre I'd ever read before, but I usually have one going for my commute, and they keep me awake during a boring commute. I am liking this one so far, though I do wish I had it on audio. Still, it is diverting, which is exactly what I was looking for.

I've been using a Bullet Journal as my planner this year, after years of using a Filofax and/or an Erin Condren, then this fall, falling deeply in love with the Hobonichi Cousin, the A5 version of their popular techo. I still use the Cousin for teacher planning, and find it works perfectly for that, but the Bullet Journal is just perfect for me. I love that the Leuchtturm1917 paper works for fountain pens, and it's just a good size. Having everything in one place, and being able to control every detail--and change any aspect of my planning--makes this the perfect system for me. I bullet journaled last year, too, but felt guilty abandoning my other planners, so I kept up with them, even after they no longer worked for me.

Thanks to Pens and Tea on Youtube, I've discovered David's Tea. I took advantage of their holiday sale, and have been enjoying their Caradmom French Toast tea, and their Chocolate Covered Almond tea especially.

What are you writing with/reading/planning/drinking?

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Year of Making

In 2017, I'm doing a Year of Making, a thing I'd seen around the interwebs, and read more extensively about from Kim Werker. I've always been a creative person, but four years of adjuncting and living pretty hand to mouth has had me pretty focused on just surviving. Also, the past few years, I've been focused on revision, as I had two books slated for publication, one in 2014, and one in 2016, so I have been in revising not creating mode. Last year I was on tour promoting my second book, and didn't have any time nor energy to write new work. This year, however, I'm looking forward to going absolutely nowhere, and buckling down and getting to work.

A Year of Making entails making something, anything every day, whether it's a few rows of knitting, a sandwich, a list, a drawing. Whatever. As long as it's something creative.

I've gotten away from the playful spirit of creativity, however, so the year of making seemed perfect. In the past year, I've gotten into art journaling, and giving myself permission to play with colors and a messy, colorful sort of memory keeping enriches my creative spirit. Dabbling is also a thing I need help with.

I have a tendency toward professionalization. I blame grad school. Eight years working toward becoming an expert in something gave me the feeling that I need to do that with everything in my life. For example: I became a doula. I opened a tarot shop. I took a Certified Metaphysical Practitioner course. I was allergic to hobbies, and needed always to prove myself in order to like a hobby. Why do something at all unless you can be perfect at it, right? Bullshit. I'm learning just how bullshit and harmful this kind of thinking is, so trying new things through the year of making is just what I need. Embracing the learning process and getting comfortable being bad at something and having to practice it, sharing with the world my bad drawings and messy knitting, is freeing in some way. I'm not perfect. I'll prove it. And that's okay. I hope that, ultimately, this not only helps me take more risks in my writing, but also makes me a happier person.

I'm taking an online drawing class, and have quickly amassed a large quantity of art supplies, plus I'm learning to crochet, and I've gotten back into knitting, a hobby I once loved, and was actually good at, but which got abandoned when I lived in Florida. The other day, I finished my first project in seven years, a Pussy Project Hat, and even though it turned out way too big (despite following the pattern exactly), I really loved the process of getting back into knitting again, and best of all, I had so much fun knitting it.

This fall, I got into cross stitch, after taking a Kinky Cross Stitch workshop at A-Camp. I loved knitting political cross stitch projects, and naught words and such. I never thought I could sew, but then I'd never tried. I'm having so much fun discovering things outside of work and Netflix marathons!

Last semester, I taught four classes at two schools in two different cities, and I was so busy, I was barely keeping my head above water. This spring, I'm only teaching one, plus working in the writing center for ten hours a week, and while that's shitty in terms of income, it means I will have a lot more free time for writing my book, and making things in general. My primary goals for this year are to make something daily, work on writing my third book, and reorganize and decorate my house. I definitely have a bachelor(ette) aesthetic going on here right now, and I still have a closet full of unpacked artwork that needs to be up on the walls.

This blog is sort of part of all this, too. I want More of This: playing, dabbling, being creative, having fun, and less of That: negativity, perfectionism, jealousy, stress. I also wanted someplace less formal and career-connected to write about my hobbies, my craft projects, my fountain pen collection, and my planning obsession. I'll be posting my year of making photos on my crafty/planner Instagram account. , and writing about more significant/larger projects on here.

Here's to a year of chunky yarn, ink-stained hands, piles of filled journals, and cuddling by the fire with my pets!