Thursday, March 14, 2013

Something New

We have moved, geographically and electronically.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Toddlers and the heart of the matter.

This weekend, my mother and father came to visit. It was lovely, as always. My mother has grandmother skills like you don't even know. Alma is constantly in the middle of some imaginary fantasy world full of crocodiles and Thomas trains and treasure boxes and my mother just jumps right in there with Alma searching for treasure or pretending to be a monster using the potty (Alma is ALL about the potty talk right now). Alma also loves when my mother puts her down to sleep and almost always falls asleep better for my mother than she does for me. The whole visit was wonderful and Alma and Adam and I were all a little sad to say goodbye Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night, at bed time, Alma and I were doing our normal bedtime thing (reading and rocking and singing). Lately, the song repertoire has mostly consisted of e-i-e-i-o and b-i-n-g-o because she's pretty sure that reading, and therefore all things adult, is really just about reciting random letters, and she's got that. I try to make e-i-e-i-o bedtime worthy by singing, "on the farm there was a sleepy alma, ... with a huuuuuugh shhhhhhhh here and a huuuuuuuugh shhhhhhhh there". It doesn't really work.

Anyway, we were in the middle of that and Alma says, "Mommy, sing the Jesus".

My blood went cold. My heart stopped for a second. Everything went ------blank----------.

The Jesus.

The Jesus.

My therapist warned me about this. She warned me that my convoluted, caveat laden, swishy swashy ideas about God were fine enough for me but would not fly with a two year running around. At some point soon, she urged me, I was going to need to define what I believed and what I wanted Alma to believe using actual english words, words that meant something.  My therapist warned me that the issue of what I believed would come up even quicker for Alma than for others because Alma was exposed to family and friends, like my mother, who hold beliefs different than my own.

And, so here we are, sitting in the dark with "The Jesus" hanging in the air and I have to make a decision. I, the one who seems to not be able to stop believing in God even though it would make my life A LOT easier and, damn it, I've tried so hard.  But, I just can't muster up the machismo needed to say out loud that God doesn't exist; THE THING I have spent so much time and energy and ferver and sweat and anxiety pursuing for the first 25 years of my life, the very cloth from which I have been cut, doesn't exist and I am alone in the world.  I can't say that. I don't believe that. I don't WANT to believe that.

What do I believe? That is where all the caveats come pouring in. In the end, I know more about what I don't believe than what I do believe. How do you build a faith a child can hang her hat on from a bunch of "not thats?"

Some things I do believe:

- It is a very comforting thought to think that something/someone thinks of me and wants really good things to happen in my life.

- Belief in a religious idea is a very constructive helpful practice for a lot of people. The belief that some larger power is on their side, tides people through the darkest of dark nights and the longest of long days. It is a terribly powerful pattern of thought.

It is hard for me to go beyond that. In short, I do not believe that there is only ONE way to do anything, let alone believe. For me, I see a lot of ways to find "God" and I see many different patterns and traditions of belief as valid and helpful to people. I think that the Christian tradition is full of many stories and parables. Many of them are helpful in figuring out how one wants to live in this world. Some of the stories have become so detached from their historical context and imbued with social and political meanings of different times that it is difficult to see the stories' real meaning anymore.

But, I'm still in Alma's bedroom with "The Jesus" ringing in the air. It feels SO uncomfortable to sing the song I am assuming she wants me to sing. Jesus? I barely have the existence of something even vaguely similar to the Judea-Christian idea of a God down. And, Jesus? In the progression of disillusionment in one's childhood faith, virgin births are the first thing to go.

But, I DO believe that Christianity is a valid belief for a lot of people. For many, it can be a helpful way to organize the world. Isn't the point of motherhood to help your child find a valid and helpful way to organize her world? I suppose it is. Even, if it is not my way.  Even, if I knew what the heck MY way was.

I want Alma to find her own beliefs. I know she is only two and a half but she can't believe or not believe something she has never been exposed to. If I don't expose her to it, there is no choice involved. This does not mean I should let her play in traffic or blindly sit by while she joins an unhealthy cult. It just means that if I am going to say that there are many valid ways for a person to find their way in this world, then I have to expose my daughter to those ways. Even if those paths are littered with the anxiety-ridden, limiting, hurt-filled baggage of my past. I guess the real meat of parenthood is helping your child to be able to identify the good bits and troubling bits in all the millions of available ways to live and help her to find the language to use to really investigate things for herself and make decisions that are going to be right for HER.

Easy game.

And so, I took a really big breathe. With every fiber of my being aching with discomfort, I sang,

"Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so"........

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teepee Tutorial, PART TWO.

All of your pieces are cut, so let's get to it. 

2. Sewing the body of the Teepee together

a. Cut the door

Choose one panel from your outside fabric and one panel from your lining fabric to be the front of your teepee. Measure up the fold line of the panel and place a straight pin at 34 inches up the fold. Cut up from the bottom of your panel to that straight pin for both the outer and lining fabric. This will be the door to the teepee.

b. Sew all four of your teepee outer fabric side panels together 

With right sides together and using a quarter inch seam allowance, sew together two of your outside panels together.

Repeat so that all four of your outer teepee panels are sewn together. Again, always make sure that the right sides of the fabric are facing each other when you are sewing your panels together. When you lay it all out after sewing all the panels together, you should see the seams on the wrong side of your fabric, as seen above.

Referring to the above diagram, sew together panel D and A in the same way, right sides facing, so that all four panels are now sewn together in a cylinder. 

Iron all of the seams open or to one side, whichever you prefer.  

c. Repeat the above steps for your lining fabric. 

d. Sew the lining and outer teepees together at the door

Place the lining teepee inside the outer teepee with right sides together. Line up the doors. I recommend using pins to line up the door as the whole thing is pretty bulky at this point and a little difficult to menuever through the sewing machine. Sew along the door using using a quarter inch seam allowance. Trim the allowance and carefully clip the tip so that when you turn it right side out it doesn't pucker. 

e. Turn the Teepee right side out

Turn the Teepee right side out. Iron the seam around the door flat and pin along the door. Loosely pin around each seam to keep the outer teepee and lining together and lined up. Sew along door with a quarter allowance. Set the Teepee aside.

Alma even loved the teepee at this unfinished point as it hung off the ironing board. 

f. Make the binding and rod pockets

Sew two of your binding pieces together, right sides together, with a diagonal stich (if holding the pieces as pictured above) from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. This will allow you to unfold the fabric into one straight line with the seam on the wrong side of the fabric. Repeat until all of your binding pieces are sewn together into one long snake. Trim off that little triangle that is left behind the seam on the wrong side of the fabric and iron the seams flat.

Repeat the above steps for your rod pocket pieces.

g. Iron the binding and rod pocket to prepare for sewing.

Binding: With the right side of your binding fabric facing down on your ironing board and the wrong side facing up toward you, iron both sides of your binding inward 5/8 of an inch. Basically, you are just bringing the sides of the snake in to touch in the middle. 

Finish the seam of one end of the long snake (as pictured above). With the right side of the fabric down on your ironing board, fold one end of the snake in 1/4 inch and iron it flat.  Fold the edge over onto itself again another 1/4 inch, iron flat, and sew along the inner folded edge. You are only finishing the seam as such on one end of your binding snake at this point.

After you have ironed the sides in and finished the seam on one end, fold the resulting long snake in half along that middle line where your raw edge of your fabric touched (what #3 refers to in the picture above) and iron it flat so the right side of the fabric is on the outside and the seam is sandwiched in the middle.  You should be left with an approximately 5/8 inch wide long piece of fabric. 

Rod pocket: With the right side of your fabric facing down, fold each edge inward 1/4 inch and iron down (as seen above). Your edges will NOT touch in the middle as they did for the binding. After you have ironed your edges in, measure every 50 inches and along the snake and cut. You should be left with four 50 inch long pieces of fabric. These are your rod pockets. On each rod pocket, finish one end in the same way as described above for the binding (fold under a quarter inch, iron flat, fold under another quarter inch, iron, sew along fold).  You are only finishing the seam on ONE end of each rod pocket.  We will finish the other end after we have made sure it fits the teepee correctly. 

h. sew on your binding

Pin along the bottom edge of your teepee and along each panel seam line to keep the inner and outer fabrics of your teepee together and lined up. Lining up your finished end of the binding with one door, sandwich the bottom unfinished seam of your teepee in the binding as shown above and sew along the top edge of the binding, stopping a few inches before you finish and reach the other door. Line up the binding with bottom edge and cut it about a half to one inch past the door. You could iron and sew the end to finish the seam as you did before, but I just double fold the seam under, flatten it with my finger nail and finish sewing the binding the rest of the way around the teepee. Complete the binding by sewing the binding shut on either side of the door.

Finish one end of the remaining binding as you did previously. Starting with your finished end, sew the binding onto the raw edges around the top of the teepee in the same manner as you did for the bottom, again stoping a few inches before you finish. Line up the binding and cut about two inches beyond your start point. Fold under your end seam so that you have room to overlap and cover your beginning piece and finish your seam. You can finish the seam before sewing on the binding or double fold up your end, finish sewing up the binding and then sew up the folded end to finish.

i. sew on your rod pocket

Line up the finished end of one rod pocket with the bottom edge of the teepee along one of the panel seam lines. Roughly pin it into place so that you can eyeball where the rod pocket with meet the end of the teepee at the top. Mark that spot with a straight pin. Unpin the rod pocket from the teepee and cut the rod pocket one inch above your straight pin mark and finish that end (folding under 1/2 inch and then another 1/2 inch and sewing the fold close). Repin the rod pocket to the teepee lining up the bottom and top of the rod pocket with the bottom and top of the teepee along the panel seam line. Be careful to pin through both layers of the teepee and the rod pocket to avoid shifting of fabric during sewing. I also recommend placing several pins in the general area around where the pocket will be going to keep the layers of the teepee together and to avoid accidentally catching a layer in your seam when you don't want to. Sew along both sides of the rod pocket as close to the fold as you can securely get. Sew along the bottom rod pocket at the base of the teepee to close the pocket. DO NOT sew closed the end of the rod pocket at the top of the teepee or your teepee will fall over because the rods will have no where to go.

Repeat for the other three rod pockets.

j. Assemble!!!!!
Drill a hole 6 inches down from the top of each rod. Slide the rods into each pocket and set up the teepee. Use kitchen twine to tie the rods together by threading the twine through the hole and wrapping it around.


Friday, January 13, 2012

A teepee for Alma:PART ONE (and my first attempt at a tutorial)

Like most children and domestic cats, Alma really likes to hide under things. I saw an adorable teepee in a fancy children's store in Brooklyn a year ago and knew Alma would love it. But, due to these reasons, we can't really roll with a fancy children's store teepee right now, so we made our own.

Now, I must add, making your own of something does not always make it cheaper. Last year, we made Alma this play kitchen:

I love the kitchen for sentimental as well as ascetic purposes. It is pretty enough to be in our living room year round, Alma plays with it on a daily basis, and a lot of love and attention to detail was put into the thing from both Adam and myself. However, we did not really save money on making our own. I forget the exact figures, but I know we spent more than the cost of this Ikea kitchen (although, of course, I like ours better).

But, this year I really needed to keep it cheap. I did so by using old fabric I had (an old set of sheets), dye, and gold fabric paint. The whole project cost me approximately $40. Let me explain the basics of this little teepee as it really isn't that hard and so far it has been a big hit with my little small space obsessed child.

2 Ten foot long 4 inch round dowel rods cut in half (so you end up with four poles each 5 ft long)
Fabric for outside of tent (I used one flat queen sheet)
Fabric for inside of tent (I used one fitted queen sheets with the elastic removed)
Fabric for binding and pockets for poles- 1 yd

If you want to buy fabric for the teepee instead of using a sheet (or drop cloth? or old curtains?), I estimate that you will need 3 yards of fabric for the outside of the teepee if you are willing to piece together two of the four sides or 6 yards if you are not willing to do so. You will need the same yardage for the lining as you have for the outside of the tent.

Part One: Cut 

1. Cut out the sides for your teepee

a. Make your pattern:

Tape some big craft paper together in a rectangle at least 50 inches by 21 inches. Measure 50 inches up one side to make the height of your triangle and 21 inches to form the base of your triangle. Draw the hypotenuse of your triangle (the side that isn't the base or the height) by using either a big ruler or folding the paper to make a straight fold from point to point. Measure 49 inches up the hypotenuse of the triangle from the base and make a mark. Draw a straight line across the tip of the triangle from that mark to the height arm of the triangle and cut off the tip of your triangle.

b. Cut out your fabric:

By lining up the height side of your pattern, which is marked fold in the picture above, with the fold of your fabric, cut out the four sides of your teepee from your fabric.

c. Repeat these steps with your lining fabric.

d. If you are using new fabric and want to cut in conservatively, here is a guide as how to cut it:

e. Cut out binding and rod pockets:

This is what you want to end up with: a long strip of fabric that 140 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and four strips that are 50 inches long and 3.5 inches wide. In order to get that, we will have to cut out multiple strips of fabric and piece them together. Start with a rectangle of fabric that is 43 inches long by 27.5 inches wide. Here is how you cut it:

You will end up with 4 strips of fabric that are 43 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and 5 strips of fabric that are 43 inches long and 3.5 inches wide. I'll show you how to piece them together in a minute.

Okay, so now all your pieces are cut out for your teepee. Since this tutorial is getting pretty long and picture heavy, I am going to split it up into parts. Part 2 will show you how to sew all the pieces together.

A little additional note: If you are using old repurposed fabric, there are some easy ways to dye fabric and add details. Jacquard iDye is so simple and leaves really good results. I find freezer paper stenciling to be one of the most satisfying crafting processes that I know. I recommend doing an dyeing of fabric before you cut out our pieces and doing any stenciling after you cut out your pieces but before you do any sewing. 

Here is my fabric in the stenciling process:

I'll be back soon with part 2.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joy, Enjoy!

Joy, Enjoy!

Adam started saying the above as a sarcastic statement. Such as, "Joy, Enjoy" (cleaning out the pot that I engraved my burnt chili into). Once, Alma heard him say it several times/Adam purposefully taught her the phrase and Alma walked around for a week saying "Joy, Enjoy!" whenever she saw me. Which, was all the time.

But, now it's resolution time. I'm a New Year's kind of girl. I love a new beginning. Every year, I make mental notes. They are not always fleshed out resolutions, but I always have a sense of some new step or direction or backtrack that I want to take for the new year, some way that I want this new chunk of time to go differently than the last chunk of time. 

We could really use things to go differently for the upcoming chunk of time. 2011 kind of stunk. Adam lost his income in April and we have been going through the incredibly evil soul crushing life stopping process of job hunting for the last 8 months. It is awful. At one point, Adam was strung along for nearly two months by a job in Chicago. One day it would seem absolutely certain that we would be moving to the windy city immediately and then doubt and then hope and then doubt, hope, doubt, hope, crushing rejection. For the last couple of months, we haven't even had one solid lead.  I worry about Adam becoming depressed. I worry about the future being so undefined that I can't even picture where we will be and what life will look like 5 months ahead. I worry, because that is one thing I am really good at. 

I have been working three days a week as a therapist at a mental health clinic for children exposed to trauma for the last year and a half.  Prior to that, I had been working full time at a similar clinic. When Adam lost his income, I didn't immediately up my days or look for different work because I thought the whole thing would work itself out quickly. Then there was the Chicago debacle that I was waiting out, plus a couple of other leads. Finally, in November, I realized that it was going to take longer for Adam to find a job than I thought, and I found a full time job. I had my last day at my old job in mid-December and I start the new job on Monday.

Quitting my clinical social worker job has been a bit of a blow to my ego and psyche. I was a little worn by my trauma therapist jobs and in need of a break. However, there was a lot I loved about trauma therapy. Chiefly, that 50 minutes that I got to be in this amazing utterly unique healing space with a kid. You just can not find that level of closeness and impact with a kid in any other occupation. And, I'm good at it (I'm not trying to brag, I've just worked really hard at building skills and knowledge in this field and I have been pretty successful at doing so). I have built a good bit of my identity on the kind of job I do and doing it well. It has always been important to me that my occupation be something I love, something that is not just a job but a passion or a calling (to use a loaded word from my past that would require a Love In the Time of Cholera sized novel to unpack the baggage). In contrast, my new job is just a job. It is an administrative oversight job where I won't have any contact with clients. Taking the new job was a necessity for my family. Turns out, a part-time social work job can not support a family of three. Additionally, my whole sense of the future of my career has been put on hold during Adam's job hunt.  I am pretty marketable in any location where people experience trauma (everywhere!). Not being location bound means that I am at the whim of Adam's job market. So, I'm feeling like a banged up kite stuck in a tree waiting for a burst of wind to save me from a non-tenable situation with no way of knowing when that will happen or where the wind will lead. And since I have built so much of my identity on what I do for an occupation, I am not even sure what kind of kite I am. 

On top of all that really big overwhelming work/where-I-will-live/how-I-will-pay-my-bills/who-I-am-as-a-human-being related stuff, 2011 has been unkind in other ways. I had some weird health issues (sarcoidosis, I hate your freaking guts). A lot of my friends went through extremely heart breaking circumstances this year. I mention the friends not to win vicarious sympathy points but just to say that I am very close to my friends and when they feel sad and beaten down, I feel sad and beaten down. This has been a sad year. And, I have an amazing two year old. However, even though she is epically beautiful and creative and full of curiosity and wonder and humor, she still has to go through the developmentally appropriate horror that is being two, which is exhausting, to say the least. 

All that to say, I'm really happy to move on. 

Here is the resolution part. Since there is no part of my life that is concrete enough to hang activity centered resolutions on (join a gym!, eat more organic kale!, buy limited edition books by obscure authors before they go out of print!), I have turned inward this year to my brain. I am going to make the very simple straight forward resolution to think differently.                           (Yes, i know).

But, I really do want to think differently. Here is where my title and the antidote at the beginning of this mess come in. I want to ENJOY my life. It is a bit of a disaster right now (see above), but that doesn't mean there isn't beautifully sweet things in all that dung. I am married to a really GOOD man. I have a daughter whose imagination and kindness leaves me speechless. I have an amazing circle of friends and family who are endlessly loyal and supportive.  I am not a boring person. I like lots of things (sweating my ass off in yoga, drinking wine while baking bread, the bits of thread that cover the floor when I am in the middle of a sewing coma). I am a person prone to worry and anxiety and it is easy for me to lose the beauty in the midst of all the unanswered questions in my life at this moment. I don't want to do that.

How do I enjoy my life more? I am not exactly sure. But, I know it has to do with my brain. I am a firm believer in Cognitive Therapy's understanding of the human existence. What you think effects how you feel and what you do. However, I do not think that CT does a great job of understanding how complicated things get up in there. But, caveats being what they are, you got to start somewhere and I can't afford psychoanalysis. 

This is a lot of words to say that, this year, I am going to try to make space in my head and, subsequently in my feelings and actions, to enjoy my life. I want to be present with Alma when she commands me to sit on shoe box in the middle of the living room floor and use my "waves" (somehow, paddles have become waves in her brain) because the crocodiles are chasing us. And really, you need to hear this girl say "crocodile," it's amazing. Almost as amazing as when she says, "chimpanzee." I want to read books, because I like books. I want to have conversations with my husband and not just move rotely through the evening routine and then watch 3 episodes of Sons of Anarchy and crash into bed in an ugly people riding motorcycles hangover.

In this resolution, there are activities that look like normal action-driven resolutions (read more, do more yoga) but it all really comes down to how I think about my life. If I think that my life is really insane and stressful and awful right now and I don't have time/don't deserve to do frivolous things like read books and do yoga, then, resolutions smezolutions, I'm not going to do those things. I need to learn how to think about how doing the things I love and the things that help me feel more like me actually builds me up and makes me stronger and more able to manage uncertainty. It all sounds corny written out, but I think it makes sense to me.

Thats my resolution. 2011, put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Attempting to not sound like a broken record.

Adam pointed out that my last post sounded exactly like the post directly before it, which was written nearly a year earlier. I'm a hamster, apparently.

Therefore, I am making a temporary declaration of no more navel gazing, at least until I actually have something to say. Instead, PICTURES! My craftiness has become a bit of a denial crutch lately, but I am okay with that. It is much nicer to focus on pretty fabrics and chevron stripes than my temporarily endless little wheel of a life.

October is full of my friends' birthdays and therefore, one of my favorite months. I made a few scarves to celebrate. I used this tutorial as a loose guide and I am still very much tweaking the results. Here are some shots of two early products.

I need to work on draping the skinny one a little better or not making it as skinny. Any way, this could become obsession.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The one in which I am a little stuck

I am stuck. This is my thirtieth year of life. It is all propaganda and hype to think you should have things figured out by the time you are thirty and yet EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HUMANS THINKS THIS. I want to feel... like I imagined grown ups to feel when I was an awkward depressed teenager who felt so lost in her own skin that she wore pajamas to school. I want to feel THERE. I want to feel like I always knew what I wanted out of life and then I went out and found it and it was thrilling and challenging and dynamic and wonderful.

Those things are all really true. I have a really really great little girl. She makes me work for every minute not filled with screaming but she is WONDERFUL. The way the word was really meant to be used. And I am married to man who is good. Really really good. A man who never stops growing and learning and making me laugh hysterically over very very stupid things.

And yet, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I have a masters degree. I have an advanced license. I am good at my job. I really am... most days. Growing up in a fundamental charismatic church as a teenager, it was drilled in my head that I was created for something great. I believed that a supreme being thought of me, every cell of me, and made me in just the exact way to meet some cosmic need. It was a little grandiose, but I was a teenager. It is the nature of our not completely formed brains to be so.

Although a lot of sleepless nights and endless theoretical arguments have passed since those grandiose days and I am in a very different place in terms of my cosmic beliefs, the thought of being specifically created to do a specific kind of good is a thought I can not completely shake loose. I want to do SOMETHING, something great. Right now, I have a job that is good at shocking people and making them pity me. And it is great. I am able to do some real good. But, it also makes me cry most Tuesdays at 9am. And Thursdays. And Fridays. It is a job where I know I am on the side of good and yet I have no freakin clue what good is up to these days and no idea how to figure out in which direction she is headed. I am a clinical social worker. It is a beautiful, fun, soul destroying, life sucking job.

I have come to a place where I am pretty sure I need a break from this work or I will lose something. I am not sure what that something is but I am positive that I don't want to lose it. I am positive that the something is a something I want to keep forever. I feel terrible about this knowledge. I feel terrible about the knowledge that I need to take a break. It feels like the kind of failure they write tragedies about (they being Shakespeare). I am not the kind of girl that can quit her job and raise beautiful children and write a blog about Jesus, sprinkles, rick rack, and Steve Jobs (although all those things have importance). That sentence is condescending. I know it. But under all that snarky barky is longing, is jealousy, plain and simple. I want to feel like I know the direction in which I am headed.  I want to feel self assured. I want to spend a lot of time and money redecorating my living room and getting paid for it.

I have a lot of ideas. I am not sure I have the balls for them. Sorry, for the crassness. It is that kind of night. The idea of the night is to create a party planning store. Think Jordan Ferney meets Spool, not Party City.  But, I probably won't do it. For a million reasons, all sort of good and sort of not good.

So, this post is optimistic, right? Yeah, I'm getting there.

Here are a couple of pictures from Alma's second birthday party just to help me build some self esteem and make this most worth reading: