Monthly Archives: October 2016

A Small Assortment of Quotes on Being Normal

I spent my writing time today in a class on Mausoleums, because that’s research for the story I’m working on. I’ve done no knitting or crocheting and I feel no shame about it. 

Untrue. I’ve made several swatches which I’ve ripped out because I didn’t like them enough to share them. Swatches are to knitting and crocheting what research  is to writing: necessary, but only worth sharing when you’ve learned something. Well, at least something more than “well, that didn’t work like I thought I did.

I considered writing a post about feeling sad and maybe a little insulted that one of my coworkers though my normal clothing was a costume, but it’s Halloween and I was wearing my spiderweb scarf with a grey dress, so I suppose I could have been going for something other than “I like this outfit and this scarf is my one concession to the holiday,” but I actually thought it was funny.

Instead, I present a small assortment of quotes on being normal (or not, as the case may be.)

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” – Aunt Frances

― Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

“I, myself, am strange and unusual.”

– Lydia Deets, Beetlejuice 

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are some one else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
― Oscar Wilde

What I learned this week: 20161023 – 20161029

  1. Apparently WordPress on my tablet thinks everything’s ready to publish despite the fact that I know I’ve saved things as drafts. Several posts this week have gone out in the draft state. At least one in the “I made a placeholder for a thing I plan to write about state.” I must figure out what I’m doing wrong and prevent that noise from happening again.
  2. I don’t knit or crochet enough. I’ve actually done some knitting this week, but compared to what I should be doing to knit / crochet all the things I want (in some cases actually need) to make I need to devote more time to the actual act of making things with yarn.
  3. Writing this blog takes longer than I think it does. Case in point: I’ve spent more time writing this blog than writing anything else. I wonder if better post planning on my part would help with the time factor so that I can spend more time knitting.
  4. Actually blocking time on the calendar to get things done works at the Day Job. It does not work as well at home due to what I like to think of as the “since you’re not doing anything” factor.
  5. I worry too much about what other people think. Sometimes it stops me fully enjoying things I enjoy, like watching classic horror films or sitting in my underwear and eating ice cream because I’m spending too much time thinking about what people would think of me if they knew that’s how I live my life when I’m not in public. (The reason you need to text or call me before you drop by my house is so I can put on pants. This has been a public service announcement. #themoreyouknowrainbow)
  6. I had something of a crisis about this blog on Tuesday that I didn’t write about because I read (back to back, actually) someone else’s blog post about annoying Facebook posts and another blog post by someone who writes about writing that both basically said “if you’re not writing what I think you should be writing, you suck, are annoying, and should stop” and it fed into my (obviously now not so) secret fear that I actually suck horribly at everything.See also: I worry too much about what other people think.
  7. Beauty is everywhere. The picture with this post is of the ground next to my car at the Day Job. 

In which I judge myself as being judged

So what do you write?

I dread that question. More specifically, I dread answering that question almost as much as I dread the follow-on: Can I read something you’ve written?

I have trouble answering the question “what do you write?” and feeling honest about the answer and free from judgement.

What have I written? I’ve written technical documentation, personal essays, and a ton of fiction, both my own (mostly of the literary sort) and fan fiction. Over the years, a boat load of fan fiction. Of the fan fiction mostly Star Trek, some DC (Bat-fic), some Star Wars, and some Marvel. 

Nothing of that sort in the past two years. It was easy to “waste time” on writing stories to amuse myself and the few friends I shared them with when it was sort of a private world that was whispered about among the fan base.

Judged as not good enough by ‘real writers’ (read: literary fiction and published). Never mind that fan fiction has turned into the place where new writers earn their chops and it went from being fun to being frightening. I can still feel the stigma – feel the eyes of imaginary critics judging me for what I want to do.

What do I attempt to write? My novel. Fantasy and science fiction. Maybe a horror story. Genre fiction. 

Also not good enough in the eyes of ‘real writers” (read: literary fiction writers) and “real readers” (read: people who only read things by real writers.)

The problem is that right now, my novel is a lot of staring at the blank page and making notes. It’s not really writing yet. It’s currently a great deal of back to the drawing board sorts of plotting and world building after I failed last year’s NaNoWriMo because I hadn’t done enough plotting and world building to sustain the actual story I thought I had to write.

But it’s what I want to do, what I feel like I was made to do. Even though I’ve failed at NaNoWriMo.

In part, it’s because I find those kinds of stories and worlds entertaining. Mostly, it’s because I want to be able to give other people the same kind of enjoyment and escape I used to find reading those same kinds of books when I was younger.

It’s probably obvious that I spent a great deal of time reading as a child. My home life was often rocky because there wasn’t a lot of money. They say that love covers times without money better than money covers times without love.

There didn’t seem to be enough love to cover the times with no money. There didn’t ever seem to be enough love even if there had been enough money. It was what it was and looking back, I think my parents were doing the best with what they had for emotional resources. I just don’t think they had very much in the way of emotional resources to draw upon.

I read to escape. I read to get some relief from the constant pressure to perform. Get good grades. You have to get into college or you’ll just end up in a dead end job like your parents and you’ll never be able to support a family. No one will love you if you don’t get into college and get scholarships to pay for it because we’re too poor to pay for it.

Clean the house perfect or your father drag you out of bed at Midnight (school nigh or no) to re-wash all the dishes in the house because he threw them out of the cupboards because one dish in the drainer wasn’t spotless, or put the books back on the bookshelf because he knocked them off the shelves because he found dust. 

Don’t let Mom see that your jeans have a hole in the knee because you fell. They’re the only jeans you have and she’ll throw a fit. You broke the spine on your paperback and she’ll be furious because you’re not taking care of it and you know she didn’t eat lunches so she could buy you that book.

The message was clear: You suck at everything you do and if what you do isn’t going to be perfect, it’s not worth doing at all.

What do I write? These days, mostly small things at The Day Job that are related to my work at The Day Job and this blog, which is to say, not much. You might even go so far as to say nothing, especially if you add in the fact that I’m not actually putting chapters into my book right now, so much as trying to build the framework for the book to be written around.
It’s embarrassing when I think about that, and downright humiliating when you add in the I don’t write anything ‘good’ in the first place. I judge myself as being judged and I don’t want to talk about it any more. Thank you.

There’s just so much pressure in the question “What do you write?” that I’d rather not be asked it, and yet when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. I’m dedicating blocks of time to actually writing. I’m putting things out here in the world again. 

So why am I doing it?

With this blog I hope that people read it and maybe laugh a little. I hope that people have moments where they can say “Hey, there’s some on else like me. I’m not alone.” I hope that in some small way it does some good in the world.

I have stories to tell that might give someone else the ability to walk into another world for a little while and get some time away from the pressures of their problems. Someone else wrote and gave that to me. I owe it to them to pay it forward, or at least try to.

So, I refuse to let the novel die. I’ve let so many things go over the years. Music. Acting (No, really I’m terrible. I really do suck at acting.) Art.

I can’t let this die, too. 

Even if I suck. And that’s the big fear: What if I just suck at this? What if everything I do just sucks?

Knitting (and crocheting) for me, have been about learning to accept imperfection. They’ve been about learning to love the act of creating itsef, even if it’s not perfect. No one ever says “That scarf you made is okay, but you missed two rows of decreases near the beginning, so it actually sucks. I hate it.” (or if they do, the concensus in the crafting community is that they’re rude and you’re allowed to stab them with your pointiest knitting needles.)

That I what I’m trying to bring to my writing: Perfection doesn’t matter. Expression matters. Step out and just do it. Learn from your mistakes. Embrace your foibles.

It’s hard but, I have to try. After all, I owe a karmic debt to the writers before me who wrote the stories I loved. 

Just don’t ask me what I write.

Focus

When I put the place holder for this post in my blog, I thought I was going to talk about how wonderful Loreena McKennett was in concert (she was) and how much I love her music (I do) and that she played my favorite song (she didn’t, but she played lots of other great music, so I don’t feel like I missed anything).

Paramount, empty stage prior to Loreena McKennett concert.

The Paramount is my favorite venue because it’s such an intimate setting. Even the “true fan section” (read: cheap seats) isn’t too far from the stage to see the artists. 

There are no jumbotrons. There is no need. You can see clearly from all but about two seats in the house near the wings. I’ve heard people sing here without microphones because the acoustics are that good. This house was made for opera and has been restored to the grand dame she was intended to be from the start.

I was the most excited I’ve been for a concert in a very long time. I snapped my traditional (well, traditional since I got a phone with a camera in it) pre-concert photo, set my phone to airplane mode, and dropped it into my purse. I came to focus on the concert. I came to BE at the concert and see it with my own eyes, not through the lense of my phone’s camera. I wanted to be an active presence in the concert and to do that, I edited out my distractions.

If you can say a concert had a theme, that was the theme of the concert: Focus.

From the people filming in the audience and the intrusive (but necessary) reminders that filming is prohibited, to Loreena’s own comments on the increasing lack of focus in society due to the proliferation of electronic devices in our lives and how that is affecting children, to her comments on her own creative process, focus came up again and again.

There’s some research that suggests that technology has already made memory into emphemera. At the very least, it’s changed the way we remember. In that light, that there’s a lingering interest in oral tradition and long memory in the age of Googling for answers is almost a curiosity from a prior age that some might suggest has outlived its usefulness. Why remember? Isn’t that what Google is for? 

Some people think that statement is proof that technology is ruining people’s ability to focus. I’m not sure that’s true, though.

The number of times I’ve said “I don’t know the answer, but I know where to find it,” is kind of astounding when I think about it, but I said it before I ever knew what the Internet was. Back then (you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I was talking about books in the public library, or sometimes people I knew who were more interested in a particular topic than I was. I focused on what I found interesting and remembered either where I read something or who was interested in a particular thing, rather than the thing itself.

In Loreena’s case, she’s chosen to focus her art and her studies on the Celtics peoples of the world. It’s shaped her music, her musings and her poetry, and I would even go so far as to suggest that her active connection to the ancient Celtic world shapes her perceptions of technology and her relationship with it. The Celts have a deep oral tradition, a tradition of long memory.

She took the time in her concert not just to talk about where particular songs came from and her experiences traveling to study the Celts, but about how she sees technology changing the world and why she chooses to focus her art on preserving and adding to the oral traditions of the Celts. It seems an important sort of work. The stories we tell and how we tell them that makes sense out of the world. 

The details we find important enough to put in and the things we leave out either because we don’t recognize the significance, or choose to consciously edit our narrative, or simply have forgotten, are the beams we use to frame the story we’re trying to tell, whether that story with words or with other art forms. 

What do we let in? What do we choose to leave out? How do we focus? How does that affect our relationship with the world, our friends and loved ones, and our art?
I’m still struggling with those questions.

A Tribute to Vincent Price

Normally the Collins Road 5 Theater shows recently recleased movies in second run, marketing themselves as the most affordable theater in town with the best concession prices and REAL buttered popcorn. In itself, that’s a pretty big selling point in my book. I’m mostly past the need to see new releases opening weekend and for the few films that I really think need to be seen on the big screen, having an inexpensive ticket and tasty popcorn with REAL butter improves the experience greatly.

Sometimes, thoug, they do something truly special. Hosting a tribute to Vincent Price with his daughter,Victoria, as a special guest speaker was one of those things.

Vincent Price was one of the icons of my childhood. Seeing his name in the opening credits of a film meant it was going to be especially good. I remember rooting for his characters (good or villainous) on the small screen curled up on the couch with my mother under a colorful afghan she crocheted, eating toast with cinnamon and sugar, and drinking Cambrick tea. 

When the little film festival popped up in my Facebook feed, there was no doubt I was going to go see it. I didn’t remember having seen Laura before (though once it started, it came flooding back), but The Fly? 

Hell, yes! Gimme more of that.

His daughter speaking about her father? That I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured at worst, she’d be dull and I’d still get to see two great films for the low price of $15 and worth every penny at that.

Victoria turned out to be the best part of the evening, worth the price of admission and more by herself.

Don’t misunderstood me. Laura was beautiful and Vincent’s role in the film was stunning. I’d forgotten what a beautiful man he was when he wasn’t trying to look like a villain. He towered about his costars even as he slouched and cowered his way around the sets, the broke milksop Southern dandy turned gigolo, fawning over ladies with money to get them to pay his way in the world.

And The Fly? 

What can be said about The Fly that hasn’t been said? He’s the bright spot in the film as the elder brother trying to find the truth about his younger brother’s apparent murder by his doting mouse of a wife (whom Prices character is secretly in love with), and to my way of thinking, horribly underutilized in the role. The detective dismisses the idea that Price’s character could have committed the murder before he’s even really investigated the possibility. Drawing that possibility out could have made a much more suspenseful film, especially before the wife tells her apparently crazy version of events.

Victoria turned out to be gracious and utterly charming, inviting those of us there to see the film (and it was a good sized crowd with very few empty seets) to join her in celebrating her father’s life, not just his film career, but the attitude he approached life with and the way he lived.

He said “yes” to everything.

Yes, I’ll take that role that I might not really be interested in. I’ll try that new restaurant. Yes, I’ll explore the town I’m in for a speaking engagement. He said yes and then he did it joyfully. So joyfully, in fact, that Victoria’s own joy and enthusiasm were infectious. I don’t think anyone could help but smile as she shared stories that underlined that point.

She said that “yes” was the key to both joy and to creativity. Yes with caveats didn’t count, either. That was just a type of no, ‘no’ didn’t lead to a life. It lead to existence alone and that it robbed a person of the potential for joy because it robbed them of opportunities. 

Her closing remarks centered around the idea that sometime before Halloween, if people wanted to really honor her father’s life and work, that they should say ‘yes’ to something new or yes to something they might be tempted to say no to and go with it enthusiastically to see where it might lead.

It’s kind of a scary prospect. Yes opens the door to uncertainty. No is a safe path. Nothing happens with no. Nothing. Scary films are a breeze. Uncertainty is where the real terror is found.

It may not seem like a big thing, I jumped in on the idea of ‘saying yes’ by saying yes to new food at a new restaurant. Trying the Pig and Porter down in NewBo wasn’t the tough part. I like new restaurants, though I do usually look for something safe and familiar on the menu for my first go of things. 

The tough part was an egg sunny side on top of a savory pork belly pancake with wiggling bonito flakes on top of it.

Wiggling. Bonito flakes. The very umame, acquired taste ingredient that’s something of a staple in Japanese and very much outside the comfort zone of many an American palate. 

Did I mention the wiggling? The menu should really have a warning: Do not be alarmed. This food is supposed to wiggle. Also, it has a sunny side up egg on it. Do not be alarmed by this, either.

The bonito flakes are shaved so thin that the hot steam rising from the pancake makes them writhe and wriggle like they’re still alive. Between that and the egg staring at me like Mike Wazowski’seyeball, I found it actively disconerting.

I immediately regretted not ordering the vegetarian looking pumpkin dish when I saw my dinner looking like it was trying to escape my plate.

It absolutely wasn’t what I would have picked for myself. The Roommate wanted to try both the Pork Belly Pancake and the Cuban Sausage with Mustard Spaetzel, so I said yes to the pork belly pancake. Why not, I thought? Wasn’t the point of going to new places to try new things. 

We each took some of the other’s meal, and then I tried my pancake bravely. (Well, mostly bravely. The Roommate took one for the team by taking half the pancake and the half of the egg with the soft yolk.) 
The pork belly pancake was surprisingly tasty. The Roommate’s Cuban Sausage with Mustard Spaetzel was tastier. I’d eat either again, though knowing what I know now, I’d ask for them to cook the egg hard because I know I don’t care for eggs done with soft yolks.

Say yes. Follow through enthusiastically and with joy.
It’s still very experimental to me, but I’ve got the ticket stub sitting on my desk at the day job, a reminder that the next opportunity for ‘yes’ is right around the corner, waiting for me to try it out.

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

Well, that went off the rails faster than I thought it would.

Wednesday of last week I had the Vincent Price Tribute.

Thursday of last week I went to Loreena McKennett in concert at the Paramount Theatre.

I was too busy to reflect on the week and learn something from on it on Saturday. The whole weekend was kind of a blur, actually. Friday through Sunday, I just tried to catch up all the things that slipped through the cracks Wednesday and Thursday. The spiral was familiar, like that after flushing the toilet. The entire weekend went down the hole without any real writing to show for it.

Other things happened. Good things. Adulting in general, like planning meals for the week, grocery shopping, and cooking meals. I did laundry. I helped with the household chores. I color corrected my hair again (because, no really, it’s super brassy and color correcting is now a twice monthly thing until I recolor in December.)

I read two issues of Better Homes and Gardens and the latest issue of Crochet Magazine. I paid bills. I tried to find an actual jacket for my work wardrobe and determined it was futile. I got the physical pattern for the jacket for my Craftsy Jacket making class. I ordered buttons for the Owl cardigan (Owligan) that I’m planning to make.

Heck, I was even moral support for the roommate when the shower in the master bathroom started leaking on Sunday, though when we discovered the tub in the main bathroom is leaking from the drain, too, I might have considered a less reasonable approach to fixing the problem than “Have the plumber take care of that, too, when he comes back tomorrow.”

By Sunday afternoon, I was cramping and nauseated  (thank you IUD that’s supposed to make my fibroids shrink and stop the insane amount of bleeding I’ve been having since last November), and exhausted. I napped instead of writing or crafting.

I regret nothing. It was glorious.

Which brings us to today – writing today’s blog while eating my lunch and figuring out the plan for the rest of the week while I write. It’s not where I wanted to be. 

It’s okay to be where I’m at. At least I know where I’m going in the next week.

Tonight I’ll work a little on my Baroque Violet Hanten. I might be able to finish that so I can wear it to Vogue Knitting Live Minneapolis next week. People do crazier things before Rhinebeck, after all. 

I’ll write about the Vincent Price Film festival and about the Loreena McKennett concert, both of which were interestingly inspirational, though in very different ways. I’ve got a couple of other things I’m mulling about, too – enough to get me through the week for blog updates, at least, and then it will be the weekend again. 

Maybe this weekend I’ll do a little better about getting ahead of the curve. The problem with trying to get ahead of the curve is that I can’t actually wait until the weekend: I need to start working ahead now.

In which I have back to back events and neglect my blog for a day

Really, that’s it. Last night I went to A Tribute to Vincent Price at a local theater that specializes in second run movies and REAL buttered popcorn. I was up until midnight and forgot to throw my tablet into my work bag to try to blog about it over lunch.

Tonight I’m going to see Loreena McKennett in concert. I’m dashing off these few lines while the roommate is taking someone for a test ride on my fat tire bike (which I think I’m selling so I can buy snowshoes instead.)

I have thoughts about all three of these things, but I am sure I won’t get to write about them until tomorrow. 

Good Mail Day: Mason Dixon Field Guide #1 – Stripes

Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 1 Stripes on my stripey blue afghan

This little beauty showed up in my mail on Monday and I just had a chance to sit down with it and read it. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I bought it. I love stripes (or at least I have a semi-obsession with knitting and crocheting stripes). I like reading Mason Dixon Knitting

I figured I couldn’t really go wrong.

What I got was three patterns, a recipe for a stripey cake that isn’t a cake, and about a half dozen charming little thoughts about stripes and the patterns in the book.

I also got a name for what happens when you’ve been working on a blanket you’re enjoying too much: Blanket Sickness. Or maybe that’s the wine they’re (allegedly) drinking talking. There’s a sidebar on the symptoms of Blanket Sickness in the pattern for the Station Wagon Blanket.

I get something else when I’m working on blankets: Blanket Poisoning. It’s the urge to do anything else, rather than work on your blanket project. Or projects, in my case. I have three blankets going. All three are different striped things. Two are crocheted and one is knit. 

Blanket Poisoning makes you want to cast on anything else rather than work on the blanket you’re supposed to be finishing. Cast on socks? Yes. Work a few rows on the sweater that doesn’t end. Why not? Knock out a quick cowl with prize yarn? Absolutely.

Work on the blanket? I’ll pass. Thanks. It’s over 60 degrees today and having a blanket in my lap sounds kind of retched, actually.

The fingerless mitts pattern, Squad Mitts strike me as more color blocked than striped. They’re very wearable and seem like a good way to use up leftovers, though. I’m happy to entertain the thought that they could a kind of striped.

I will probably make the Breton Cowl in the MDK Field Guide 1. I’m sure I’ve got yarn for it and that I’ll get plenty of use out of something like that over the course of an Iowa winter. I might make the mitts. They look like good gift fodder.  

I will not make the blanket. It’s cute enough and not my style.

Besides,  I’m done with blankets just as soon as I get the three I have going off the hooks and needles unless I go completely insane. If I go completely insane? Well, then I’ll probably make the hexagon motif blanket I keep eyeing. I mean, it’s not like I have the yarn for it already, or anything.

Oh, who am I kidding? I totally have the yarn for it. I’m just not starting until I get at least two of the blankets I’m working on finished.

So like never at this rate.

Green gone gold

The empty lot along my favorite after work walk is golden with prairie grass gone to seed.


from Instagram: http://ift.tt/2djfezT

I have restarted my habit of going for a walk somewhere around my neighborhood after work. It was such a beautiful afternoon, 83 degrees and sunny by the official reconing (though Accuweather’s account says we tied the record high of 86 degrees set in 1950.)

It was just too beautiful to stay inside and I’ve missed the solitude of the walk. It gives me time to process the events of the day and clear my head before sitting down to whatever creative process I’ve planned for the evening. 

The fact that it’s good for me and gets me my 12000 steps (or more) is beside the point. Or a bonus. However you want to see it.

I pass this spot often on my walks. It’s on one of my favorite routes, the route I call the ‘easy route’ because I can walk it from my door and don’t need to drive anywhere for a trail. It’s far enough away from the traffic to be relatively quiet but close enough to civilization to be traveled by others. There’s this empty lot and a drainage pond next to it where I regularly see urban deer and geese and ducks. 

Once I saw a coyote, but I haven’t seen it recently.

When it looks like this with the grass green gone gold and swaying in the breeze, I can imagine what it what it might have been like before people made their way here. I can stand under the trees that line the lazy road that winds along the way and get enough of a taste of nature to make me feel grounded again.

I like big cities. Chicago. St. Louis. Kansas City. Minneapolis. The museums. The arts. The abundant variety in those places. It’s exciting and fresh and stimulating. They’re fun to visit.

I couldn’t live there. I come away with new inspirations, but mentally drained. There are too many people and not enough green places for me to find my center.

I need places like this. I need open spaces. I like my little city, large enough to have museums and art, but small enough that I can find places like this. Where other people understand the need for these things and support the trails and green spaces.

I need time with nothing on my mind more than my feet moving and my eyes on the world around me. I need places rural and bordering on wild. I need quiet places where you can see a hawk circling over a field, or a deer lying fallow in the underbrush.

I need to see the seasons pass. I need to pause under a tree and watch the ducks swim or the deer graze. I need time and space where I can just breathe and be.

By the end of the week the weather will be back down to normal temperatures – 60s for daytime highs and my walks will be crisp and cool. It may well be the last summer-like day of the year.

I’m glad I didn’t miss it.