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Posts Tagged ‘love’

One of my favorite things about living with my partner is listening to him sing in the shower. Oh, the perks of an opera singer boyfriend.

I’m enjoying the stage my friends and I are in right now, as many of us are living with partners/significant others for the first time. There’s something very sweet about how our conversations meander to the silly/charming things our partner does that only we get to see. Granted, some things are more personal and that privacy should be honored; however, I find it so endearing to see a friend look lovingly at his partner and describe that he thinks it’s adorable that she likes weighing all the ingredients when she’s cooking.

I’m learning that it’s so intimate to share a physical space with another human being. It can make for frustration and bewilderment — why the hell do you find it necessary to not put dirty dishes in the sink? — but when I’m willing to check my ego at the door and ask, honestly, why my partner acts the way he acts, there’s usually a good and fascinating reason. In the meantime, I’m choosing to regularly notice when I’m charmed by the closeness of a shared space, and the privilege to see the small, very personal, details of the life of one whom I love very much.

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Over the holidays, the unthinkable happened. My mom gave me her boxes of embroidery floss.

embroidery-floss-colors

These boxes are full of at least 100 colors of embroidery floss, each wound on a card with that color’s number written on it in my mother’s beautiful, perfect handwriting. I honestly couldn’t believe it when she gave them to me. These boxes were the possession of my mother’s I most coveted growing up. I know for some it’s a piece of heirloom jewelry or furniture. Nope. I constantly climbed in her closet to grab these boxes and sort through the colors.

Usually I needed them to make friendship bracelets, which my mom wasn’t crazy about. Yards of embroidery floss haphazardly tossed about in a braid that was quickly abandoned. More than a few times she asked me not to use her embroidery floss. I don’t think I listened. How could I resist all the colors, all in one place? Maybe those moments are responsible for my total love of color to this day.

Around age eight, my mom’s mom taught me to cross-stitch. That was also frequently responsible for my raids of my mom’s embroidery floss collection — including for a secret project when I stitched my mom a pansy, her favorite flower, for Mother’s Day. I did the work all in the safety of my grandmother’s motorhome that parked in our garage for months during the winter when they visited. I guess you could say embroidery floss tied the women in my mom’s side of the family together.

So, these boxes and I have a bit of a history. I’d say it’s one-sided — me coveting and using the floss at my own discretion — but I’m tempted to think the colors benefitted from my use as well. Who else appreciates five vibrant shades of red more than an eight-year-old, needing to make the perfect friendship bracelet?

I guess the answer’s me, over a decade later, reinvigorating my love for embroidery floss, and my mom, who has always shared her colors with me. I hope she knows how much these boxes mean to me.

colors-embroidery-floss

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I just finished reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is. I like it. I like the way it’s making me think.

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What It Is is part mediation, part story, part art book, part instruction manual. Using verbal narrative, illustration, and collage, it moves through the author’s journey as a creative person. She meanders through the meaning of things — image, creating, writing, expression — and how her relationship with creativity has transpired.

What really got to me was the book’s focus on being a creative person creating for someone else, caught in questions of “Is it good? Do I suck?” I found these questions all too relatable, remembering those moments when I stopped singing out loud, stopped drawing because I wasn’t one of the best artists in the class, or, conversely, kept playing music because I was “good enough.” Creating for me — and I think for most people — is rarely a self-focused activity; rather, it ends up being about feedback, approval, and status.

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Barry moves, at the end of What It Is, to a kind of guidebook geared towards getting the reader to write and create. The focus is not on an end point, but rather on writing as a way of relating experiences and images. I especially like her recommendation to just keep writing without judgment, and keep the pen moving, even if that means just writing the alphabet. The emphasis on here is on writing as a creative act, rather than a thinking act.

That got me thinking about my own relationship with creativity. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of embroidery — something about fabric and thread appeals to me as a medium for altering my physical environment. Everything I embroider, though, is someone else’s pattern (although I really love them). There’s wiggle room in figuring out colors and stitches, but even them I’m always looking elsewhere, researching “how to use embroidery stitches.”

jenny-hart-love-birds

Somewhere between second grade and now, my creative process stopped being about having fun, and became about what others would think. It stopped being a personal creative exercise and became recognition-based. It shows up in little ways, like only singing really loud when I’m alone (definitely not in front of my opera singer boyfriend), or feeling like I need a recipe to cook, or a pattern so that I can knit or embroider.

Here’s my question: When did I stop trusting myself? When did creating stop being about me — that feeling of doing something awesome in the moment — and become about feedback and doing things “right”? I’m tempted to ask what it would mean to trust myself again, but I’m going to go even further: What would it feel like to trust my creative impulses? To just sit down with a tea towel and embroider all purple circles if I felt like it, or pick up my flute and just make some sounds, or trust my writing enough to actually do it and send it to people I love?

embroidery-heart-towel

I’ve come to the conclusion that my relationship with creativity isn’t going to go anywhere until I start trusting myself again, and insisting that I deserve to take joy in my creative process and that that pleasure is its purpose. I think that’s going to mean loving myself enough to give myself permission to not judge what I’m doing, and give myself the gift of letting go of that internalized critical voice. And I’m not talking love as in self-esteem “Yay, you’re great.” I’m talking about, hey, it would feel really good to take a half hour to just drink a cup of tea, write and doodle, so ok, ready set go.

So, thanks Lynda Barry! I’m looking forward to the journey I’m embarking on with myself.

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knitting-for-good

I’ve spent the past few days working through my copy of Knitting for Good, by Betsy Greer of Craftivism. (This is one of the benefits of working in a bookstore!) I’d like to fill you all in on what a great book this is, and some of the reasons why I think it’s a really important contribution to the growing canon of knitting writing.

Greer’s book focuses on the importance and significance of knitting. While I may be preaching to the choir on this one, I think that an emphasis on knitting as a productive practice is necessary, when many people see knitting as a non-essential hobby. Knitting for Good knocks down this assumption immediately, using its relationship to feminism — much to my delight — to illustrate the good that can come from picking up the needles. The common misconception is that knitting is an idle act, “women’s work” meant to pass time; Betsy Greer asserts that just the act of knitting itself is an act of healing, of meditation, and of self-love. I’m sure all of us who knit (or do any kind of craft) understand this: to sit down and make something is to assert my ability to shape my world, to create something as I want it, and to be present in what I’m doing.

I love that Knitting for Good links feminism and domestic arts like crafting. I know I went through my feminist crisis when I got super into things like nesting; Betsy Greer will have us understand that knitting or cooking or quilting is not an act of disobeying feminism, but rather celebrating its tenets:

This domestic reclamation can be celebrated with pride and heads held high… As a direct result of years of hard-working women who proved themselves just as capable as men of earning wages, we now have the freedom to make money for ourselves and then knit a sweater out of expensive cashmere bought with our own paycheck… When we don an apron and start to cook or take measurements for a garment, we can be empowered by the notion that we are self-sufficient and choosing this path instead of following society’s expectations… Feminism has given us the strength to explore our otions instead of being concerned about regressing or kowtowing to cultural standards.

Right on! That’s what I loved about this book — its continual insistence on the fact that the act of creation is important and productive and deserving of respect.

Knitting for Good is constructed to reflect an expanding of personal borders that happens with knitting. First, the emphasis on knitting as a healing act for the individual; from there, the empowered individual has new means with which to interact with family and community. I myself have benefited from this aspect of craft and knitting: the ability to connect with my grandmother and aunt through crochet and cross-stitch and quilts and how we make things for our living environment. It truly is a unique and special connection, and Knitting for Good will have us remember that.

Knitting and craft can be used, once connected with a community, to benefit that community — I especially like Betsy’s focus on the more forgotten members of society, like the homeless, elderly, and abandoned animals. Knitting for these people gets to be a way to connect with them and recognize their humanity, becoming a political act of insisting on the importance of each member of a community. I also appreciated that Knitting for Good includes why focusing on buying homemade is important — in a time of large chains, supporting your local independent store and artisan is an intensely political act that will ultimately benefit the community. Buying local, Greer points out, supports those local crafters who are enriching the community with their art.

In short (ok, not so short), this is a lovely book with many sturdy take-home messages, as well as personal reflections and patterns that will inspire you to pick up your needles for a good cause. I highly recommend it as a personal read — it will make you feel fantastic about your choice to be a crafter — and I really recommend it as a gift for that crafty person in your life*. This book is an act of love, for crafting and for the world at large.

*Hey, while you’re at it, keep with the message of Knitting for Good and make this an act of love and politics by getting your copy at your local independent bookstore instead of Amazon or Borders!

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Dear Dad,

I am astounded. Our country just elected Barack Obama!! This is the first election in which I’ve been able to vote where I can say, “Yes. That is my president.” I called swing state volunteers. I brought up the tough issues with Mom. I gave my sister that extra nudge to register to vote. I feel like this was very much my election.

But I sit here thinking how much this is even more so your election. You grew up in Chicago, amid racial tension I can only imagine — the grandson of an Irish immigrant family made you the member of a population pitted against the adjacent local black population, due to both of your being situated in low-income families with minimal access. It took me a long time to understand your discomfort with racial issues, especially since you gave me the benefit of living in an area where everyone was going okay.

I remember, at the beginning of my college career, interviewing you about growing up. You told me how much you wanted to get out of Chicago, because everyone was so angry, and your only experience of whites and blacks relating was of it as violent and impossible. I was impressed, though, at how you narrated to me that as you grew older you came to understand that this tension was a product of poverty and class, of the recent immigrant population with which you identified being pitted against a similarly disenfranchised population. I realized what a difficult understanding this must have been for you to come to; beyond that, I was filled with a new understanding of what it meant that you did not pass the racial tension you experienced on to your daughters.

So today, I can’t help but think of you as I watch tens of thousands of people gather in Chicago, where you grew up, to cheer in our first black president. You told me yourself that you never would have believed the possibility of this moment when you were my age — a multiplicity of races gathered in a public space to celebrate a black president, in the very city where you witnessed first-hand so much conflict. How things have changed.

I am so glad I got to share this night with you. To call you, excitedly, because the person we wanted had been elected. And, for the first time in history, he is not white. I’m excited because it’s Barack, I’m excited because of the symbolism of this moment. Maybe more than that, I’m excited because this is a sign of what can happen when people try. Desegregation happened in your generation because young people who believed in basic rights — people like me — refused to allow discrimination and hatred continue. Look where that got us. I have to say, I believe more than ever: Yes We Can.

There is so much more work to be done, and although this is one significant step, there are so many forms of inequality — racial and otherwise — that we must continue to work against. Thank you though, Dad, for raising me with not just the belief but the knowledge that inequality is unforgivable, and that I can be a part in moving towards a more equal and just society. I really believe today — for the first time in quite a while — that America can be a place in which I can once again put my faith, and that a better tomorrow is truly within my grasp, one day and one step at a time. It certainly appears that it was for you.

I love you.

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Proposition 8

I’m going to take a stand here, and set aside pretty pictures for a second in favor of something heavier and more serious.

I want to encourage all of you, everyone who reads this, to get educated about Proposition 8 if you live in California. If you know someone who lives in California, talk to them about it.

The fact of the matter is that Proposition 8 is crafted specifically to bar non-heteronormative couples from entering into a marriage. The entire text reads:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”

I find this idea atrocious. While I understand that marriage is a complicated issue that involves the State, religion, and family structures, I think it is unbelievable that our state could potentially limit a person’s access to a legitimate social contract because of their sexual orientation. The Proposition is downright unconstitutional and discriminatory. We live in a time where most people would balk at this kind of legislature on the grounds of gender, race, or socio-economic class; why then is it acceptable when it comes to sexual orientation?

Any governing body should not be discriminatory against a class of people. Plain and simple. And I’ll argue from an emotional point, too: this Proposition would deny one of my best friends, as well as a close family member, the option to marry the person they love and are committed to. The inability to decide to enter into a marriage brings with it a loss of legal rights and legitimacy. I can’t believe we live in a time where this is acceptable.

Google’s providing a little light for me right now, in taking a stand against this Proposition.

Please. Please. If you live in California (or another state where a similar Prop is on the ballot), make sure you can vote and vote against discrimination. Talk to family and friends about resisting those who function out of fear and hatred. Vote for love — love for everyone.

ETA: Looks like Levi’s and PG&E are also getting in on the act! I’m so glad to see major companies taking a stand out of the understanding that this is an equality, not a morality, issue.

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I finished another tea towel yesterday, and I’m really, really excited about it:

I’ve been wanting to put this idea into stitches ever since I bought Sublime Stitching’s Forest Friends pattern. Two hedgehogs. In love. A reference to me and my boy: I love purple and he loves blue (and was once Sonic for Halloween). I’m not sure it gets cuter or mushier than that.

Taking the time to make this has also been an act of home-making, in the most complete sense of the word, for me: settling down and deciding I live here, making a new space my own.

Speaking of making things for the home, some pictures of my Log Cabin blanket (a Mason Dixon must-knit).

This blanket began very much as a comfort item for me. I was living in an unfamiliar place, with few friends and a lot of time to feel lonely. I started knitting a log cabin blanket on a whim, out of all the cool- and neutral-colored Cascade 220 I could muster. It’s become a long-term project that I’ve carried with me through all my moves.

The blanket’s a good lap size right now, and I’d like to make it big enough for two people to snuggle under. The rows keep getting longer and longer… and yet I still enjoy knitting it.

That’s the funny thing about knitting. What can seem really tedious when you’re looking forward to part of a garment will seem soothing in another piece. For instance: right now I’m working on a February Lady Sweater, and I’m so happy to have moved past the garter yoke. Yet every time I pick up my log cabin blanket to knit, I’m ready for nothing but garter stitch.

I think the explanation lies in the comfort of coming back to something familiar, letting a piece of knitting provide a sense of home for me when I’m not quite sure where I’m going next (and have had at least five spaces I called home over the past year). It’s this feeling of “I’m here and I’m going to make something pretty happen” as I knit knit knit away. The repetitive motion of just knitting, stitch after stitch, allows me to breathe and relax, reminding me that I really can take things only one step at a time… whether or not I know what my next step will be.

I guess it’s all about creating a home wherever you land: making your mark with something handmade, curling up with someone you love, coming back to what’s familiar, noticing the beauty of simple details.

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