Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Holiday

Three stormy days at my parents' house with my nieces produced the following:

Aviator Bunnies, from a pattern by Hillary Lang. I had hoped these would be easy enough for the girls (ages 7 and 9) to hand sew, but alas that was not the case - the pieces are very tiny. Had I access to a photocopier, I would have tried enlarging them just a tad for the girls, but as it was I spent an afternoon sewing these up. The girls did the stuffing, though, and I think they may have overstuffed the heads because the bunnies wouldn't stand up on their own (or maybe they aren't supposed to?) time I may put beans or something in the bottom to weigh them down. But SO cute, and I'm anxious to make more. I think they would be great tied to Christmas packages!

Next up - paper dolls. We used a doll pattern from the current issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors that was intended for sewing with cloth, but we used oak tag paper for the bodies and leftover scrapbook materials for the clothes and accessories. I was surprised at how intently they both worked on this project, and how they both quickly figured out they could use the body pattern to make clothes from it. J. gave hers mismatched socks (which to me looked like an excellent pair of boots), and G. gave hers a mini-dress. (J. very sweetly left hers on my mother's pillow before she left to go back to California!)

Finally, a tie-dye project. A few days before Thanksgiving, my youngest niece announced she wanted a "tie-dyed Thanksgiving" - I think she was just being silly, but I found a kit at the fabric store along with some plain white T's. I thought my mother was going to ban me from the house when I showed up with permanent dye, but we snuck down to the basement after Thanksgiving dinner while the rest of the adults were in food coma mode. The girls' brother declined to participate, but we made him one anyway.

I had a great time with the girls making these projects, but must confess to having been a tad anxious about leaving the cat alone for a few days. Intellectually I knew he'd be just fine, but I was a little worried about him getting lonely...and a little worried about there not being anyone around to stop him from using the wood cabinets as a scratching post. As it turned out, I opened the apartment door and stepped in cat food...I'd forgotten to put away his new bag of cat food, and even though I had left ample food for him, he decided to go the self-service route:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Project Litter Box

One of the challenges of having a cat in a small apartment is the location of the litter box. In my current situation, I really only had one option - the floor underneath some built-in shelves in my bathroom. Mostly it's a fine solution, but I have to confess that while I'm soaking in the bathtub the last thing I want to see is the cat doing his business. And when company comes, especially young children, I wanted to be able to "hide" the box while still allowing Wilbert access to it (for all the obvious reasons).

After living here 5 months, this afternoon I finally got around to making a little curtain. I used a small tension rod and one yard of ridiculously cute bird fabric* - which I had bought just because it was so cute. This literally took half an hour to sew up. All you need to do is cut off the selvedges and square up the fabric, then hem the sides, the top, and then finally the bottom. I sewed another seam in the top hem so there is a sleeve to put the tension rod through, which gives the top a bit of a ruffle. In this case one yard was perfect in both length and width. I wasn't exactly particular about my hemming, either - I used the iron to double-fold the edges and then just sort of eyeballed the seams. I mean really, the cat will be the only thing really looking at it...but if you are a bit more detail-oriented, it would have taken another whole 10 minutes to be really accurate about the hemming. And, voila:

I'll leave it half-open for awhile, 'til the cat gets used to it. Those fake flowers on the right? Those would be what he kept knocking off the back of the toilet seat. (Not to be outdone, I got up yesterday morning and found an entire, brand-new roll of toilet paper in the bowl...clearly, the cat has declared the top of the tank an "item free" zone.)

*Fabric is the "Starling" print by Alexander Henry

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back to Regular Programming

I had a lovely weekend in NYC, where I learned that pretty much anyone who is anyone in the NYC theater world has been on Law and Order and All My Children. I was also reminded of the fact that you have to be careful about what you say around 4-year olds: my friend's husband made a comment about cats being just as clean as humans, and I retorted, "Well, I don't know about you, but I don't lick MY butt". Hysterical laughter erupted from the 4-year old, who then spent the next few minutes improvising with words that rhyme with "butt" and "poop". We'll see if I'm ever invited back.

Once home, it was back to the sewing machine. These blocks will not win any prizes - they were very difficult to square up and hardly any of the points match. At a certain point I just gave up trying - I just wanted to sew, and not be too fussed about the results. I do, however, really like the pattern, especially the pinwheels that form with the background fabric when you piece the blocks together (the white ones here). I think by all rights I should add another row...except I'm out of blue and green Bali strips. Not sure if I'll improvise with some other fabric, or just call it good enough and add some borders:

I'm trying to decide whether to start sewing the second purple quilt next, or actually commit to finishing something, be it sewn or apartment looks like a graveyard for unfinished projects right now. The problem is, every time I go through the fabric or yarn to "de-stash" I discover more material for a new project...right now there is some really cute baby sheep fabric just taunting me from across the room. *sigh*

Thursday, November 5, 2009

May the Road Rise to Meet You

I have one more serious, non-fiber related post for the week, and then I am off to NYC for the weekend to see my dear friend S.'s new musical. Back to sewing and knitting next week, I hope!

A few days ago, I learned that a former coworker of mine committed suicide. This was not someone I was particularly close to, but I always thought well of him. I was on the east coast and he was on the west coast, but we spoke regularly on the phone for a couple of years and saw each other at meetings on either coast from time to time. This was a handsome, driven man, committed to making a difference in the world, full of passion and energy and drive. The thought of him taking his own life is an incomprehensible tragedy to me.

Mostly what I want to say is, I am grateful that his friends and family are being honest about the cause of death, and his long struggle with bipolar disorder (which I never knew about until now). Even in a world where (it seems) every 5 seconds an antidepressant commercial airs on television, there is still much shame surrounding mental health issues. And conversely, I think there can often be a cavalier attitude about mental health as well – “here, take a pill, you’ll feel better”. In serious cases medication can help, but sometimes it stops working and a person has to endure weeks or months of finding another medication – or combination of medications – to regain some sense of normalcy in his life. Sometimes the medication can work too well, in that it can convince someone with chronic mental health issues that they are now cured and no longer need the medication…but a few months later they are back to struggling for their very existence.

I don’t know what the situation was with my coworker. What I do know is that over 200 people joined a Facebook page in his memory, and dozens of people have written about what an impact he had on their lives. I can’t tell you how humbling it is to read about the things he accomplished, and yet he found himself filled with such pain and despair. This makes me wonder if it’s really accurate to refer to suicide as a “choice”…I think that once a person has gone far enough down a darkened path death can seem like a foregone conclusion, rather than an option. But choice or not, I'm sad that despite being surrounded by people who loved him and did everything humanly possible to help, that this was the end result.

Jackopierce was a favorite band of his, and they sing a song based on this old Irish blessing that seems like a completely appropriate send-off...

May the road rise to meet you

May the wind always be at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

May the rains fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

As Maine Goes...We Leave

As a native Mainer, I was vastly disappointed by the referendum vote repealing Maine’s gay marriage law. As a hopelessly straight woman who has had every relationship dissolve into an ugly, slimy pile of goo, I often don’t understand why anyone wants to get married. But, as a former pre-law student who loved constitutional law, I believe that we have constructed marriage in such a way that it confers certain legal rights and privileges, and that it is unconstitutional to deprive a certain class of people of those legal rights and privileges.

But the civil rights argument apparently didn’t work in Maine. The influx of out-of-state money and propaganda aside, what I really think hurt the state on this issue is, frankly, what’s been hurting the state and will continue to hurt the state for years to come: Maine is the “oldest” state in the nation, with fully 15% of its population over the age of 65 (US Census). Simply from a generational context, the older demographic is less likely to embrace major social change, particularly an issue such as gay marriage because they grew up in a time where homosexuality was not at all embraced. They are also statistically the demographic most likely to vote. The problem is, it’s a catch-22: if they keep making decisions like this, Maine will continue to lose younger people who are more likely to choose to live in places that are tolerant and accepting of alternative lifestyles. This has enormous implications for the state’s economy and workforce -- Maine already is at a competitive disadvantage with its aging and under-educated workforce. Giving younger people additional reasons to leave the state, or to not come back, is the last thing the state needs. What the “No on 1” campaign should have done is run ads that said, “Uphold gay marriage so there are people to work at your nursing home in 10 years" -- because our generation has and will continue to vote with our feet.

Sort of ironically, before I left Maine (for the second time, I should mention…) I served on the Realize!Maine steering committee, which is an initiative committed to retaining and attracting people under 40. I felt like a traitor for leaving, especially for NYC and then Boston…and I still have days when I think about moving back. In fact, the proliferation of “I’m glad I don’t live in Maine anymore” proclamations onFacebook and in newspaper comments today makes me wonder if maybe us not living there anymore is actually part of the problem. We weren’t there to vote no. But we also won't be there to support the state's economy, either -- and that's not something the state of Maine can afford to lose.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Like many people, I find Monday’s really hard to slog through. Chances are I’ve spent the weekend doing all of the things I love – sewing, knitting, visiting with friends, reading, writing, playing guitar – and it makes me incredibly grumpy to arbitrarily put the brakes on because it’s Monday morning and I have to go to work. [Unless I don’t – Monday is the day that I am most likely to take off, either scheduled (a holiday or a vacation day), or unscheduled (90% of the time when I get sick, it’s over a weekend and lingers into Monday...which irritates me to no end, because who wants to spend their weekends sick!?).]

But most of the time, Monday is a work day that dumps me out of my imagination and into reality. It’s a difficult transition, and I often feel like my brain spends most of Monday rearranging itself for the work ahead, going from a right-brained artistic focus to a left-brained language and linear thinking focus. And it’s REALLY bad on those weekends where I hole up by myself to sew and don’t see or talk to people (ie, really shut my left brain off); I’ll get into work and be barely able to speak a whole sentence.

The one thing that I look forward to at the end of my Monday workday is stopping by the news stand at South Station to buy the new edition of The New Yorker. This is my “I made it through Monday” treat, and I read it on the train ride home. Sometimes I finish the entire thing, other times there are a few pieces left that I save for the Tuesday morning train into work. Like any periodical, I find some issues better than others – for me, a David Sedaris essay trumps a long article about the economy any day. Still, no matter what, it sucks me in almost completely, so much so that I have to be careful that I don’ t miss my train stop. The New Yorker seems to have the right balance of intellectual reporting and slap-dash humor; you’ll find hysterically funny stories (or cartoons) right next to superbly researched and written stories about really serious topics. I also like the reviews of art, theater, movies & books – even when I have no interest in the subject matter, the writing always makes it worth reading.

It occurs to me from time to time that it would be infinitely cheaper for me to subscribe to the magazine, rather than paying the newsstand price (or for that matter, read it online) but then I’d have to find something else to get through Monday. Happiness is not always practical.

As it happens, happiness is also not always on schedule. Tonight, wouldn't you know, the news stand didn't have the new copy yet! And today was a particularly bad Monday, too. So I, um....well, I had Little Lad's popcorn for dinner again. Yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Weekend Things

I land here empty-handed in the sewing and knitting departments. My dad was here this weekend, and brought me an almost-as-old-as-I-am John Denver guitar songbook. I think I bought this book for him for Christmas when I was about ten, and grew up listening to him play the songs. John was a staple in our old stereo, and I used to sing the songs on long car rides - "Rhymes and Reasons" was always a favorite of mine (they played this song a lot after 9-11 - ""though the city starts to crumble and the towers fall around us"). Even now when I struggle with insomnia, I still often find myself lying in bed singing these songs to myself (reason #14 I am 38 and still single...).

I was overjoyed that it is an "easy" edition of his songs, meaning that I actually know most of the chords used. I mean -- seriously giddy. I think my dad thought I might have gone 'round the bend a bit, as I plucked out "Take Me Home, Country Roads". Tonight I've been trying to play "Follow Me", and it's making me ridiculously happy. And there's the sweet spot I've been missing these past 4 months -- I really have no interest in being a great guitar player; if I can just play a few John Denver songs I will be ecstatic. Anything else is gravy. (Although, I am also eyeing a couple of Patty Griffin songs...).

Another happy thing: The Swell Season's new album "Strict Joy". The Swell Season is the couple (or, former couple) from the movie "Once", plus what appears to be most of Glen Hansard's old band The Frames. These songs are so beautiful and haunting and fabulous and I can't stop listening to them (except, of course, to play John Denver). Late this afternoon I had to run some errands, and driving home there was a fabulous moonrise, with these pink clouds that tinted the leaves on the trees a kind of sepia-tone. As it accompanied the Swell Season songs, it was strangely, eerily beautiful.

One more happy thing: Little Lad's herbal popcorn was at Whole Foods!!! This stuff is so freaking good, I personally don't care WHAT is in it. I used to get it at this tiny little health food store in Augusta (Maine) when I lived there a few years ago, and up until today had never been able to find it anywhere else. I confess that it was dinner tonight :-)

Finally, we fixed the toilet seat that, I am fairly certain, the cat managed to break. A few nights ago I heard a crash in the bathroom and the cat came flying out of there. He had knocked a decorative ceramic vase off the back of the toilet, which I'm guessing must have bounced and hit one of the plastic screw-thingies (technical term!) that keeps the toilet seat anchored. All I really know is that shortly after the crash I discovered a strange piece of plastic on the floor and the seat was suddenly wobbly...I can't help but think all events are related to the cat's speedy exit.

UPCOMING: I have a goal this week to post at least one happy thing each day here, as I endeavor to resuscitate my "Happiness Project". Stay tuned!