Sunday, July 30, 2006

neither fast nor easy

In my blogging absence I've had a wonderful 40th birthday party, gotten myself a full-time teaching job, decided that one of these old days I'm going to move to Austin, and had a noticeable downturn in finished knitting projects (and a serious upturn in new projects cast-on but not finished).

Lots of highs, some managable lows, and the job is the biggest thing. It's hard to craft when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. I shouldn't say that (of all the things I've missed in my life, a meal is not among them), but it sounds sufficiently dramatic. I've come to know that the bigger issue is that, in not having a job, I felt purposeless and idle, even more so than I felt broke.

I've long fancied myself a free-ballin' artiste and, as such, pooh-poohed any sign of structure. Funny how turning 40 is like a kind of flashlight, illuminating the dark and muddy places in your thinking and allowing you to see what's been hiding in those corners all along. The truth of the matter -- and I'm working to accept it -- is that I need structure, and I need to feel useful. This need for structure has duked it out with my need to just, as the rappers say, flow. The grace of clarity that 40 has brought has shown me that it's fine for me to claim my place as a writer and to keep seeking opportunities to live in that place, and that this does not have to be in conflict with working for The Man. That's the part I had trouble with. Jobs have always given me the sense that somebody was trying to yoke me. I've worked a zillion jobs, like anybody else, but only now am I coming to understand that the key is to accept my employment choices, and everything that's come with them, as my own. I will cut myself enough slack to admit I've had some sucky jobs. Most of the time I've worked as some kind of admin assistant, which happens to be the kind of work I admire other people for being able to do but absolutely hate to do myself. Some twisted part of me (stemming from my damaged childhood, no doubt) preferred the kind of job where I could hide, and doing admin work, temporary at that, kept me anonymous, like a migrant tomato picker. All the while something inside me cried out with the need to do work that made me feel connected.

Finding my current job was tricky as all hell and it took a long time, but when it came, it came without a hitch. Two interviews, a couple of weeks, and bam, I'm an English instructor. Full-time with benefits. Oh, and a gang of students I can't hide from in the least. I started this month and so far, so good. I'm sure I'll be posting about my many triumphs and tribulations here, alongside the things I make while living through them. What I can say now is that this is the first time I've had a job and felt self-directed at the same time. (Possibly I felt this way during my Pizza Hut years, since I was working to support a kid and get through college. I thought of going back to the Hut a few times, but I think they still wear polyester and sun-visors.) It's too early to say if it'll come, but the ultimate gift from me and God would be for me to have the balance to hold this job while doing serious writing of my own. If I can get both plates in the air, I'll feel like a real true grown-up.

Now let me ask, What's work without a little play?

One of the best birthday gifts ever is the sewing machine I got from my lovely friend V. My birthday was in May and, with the new job, I didn't think I'd get a chance to use it for a few more months. But last weekend, on the shopping outing that yielded the Yarn Ball that Ate New Jersey, Natalie and I stopped in F&S Fabrics on Pico Blvd to check out the stock and inquire about sewing classes. We'd gone to Sewing Arts Center in Santa Monica (which is how we wound up at Stitches from the Heart, right next door) but decided against having to take a fixed number of classes, on week nights, where we'd have to use the shop's machines and end up saddled with "lounge pants" (think pajamas) as our finished projects. UGH. F&S provided the solution, with its 2-hour class sessions with ample time slots on weekends. Each class is $35 and you can take as few or as many as you'd like. I think $35 is a good deal, especially now that I've been to my first class (yesterday). Years ago I looked into classes in Manhattan. At the time, they ran about $70 for the same amount of instruction I'm getting at F&S for half that. Plus, the staff at F&S is a real trip, from a diva who has apparently fallen on hard times but still can't be bothered to wait on you, to a brother who looks like he ambled in off skid row and never left (you'll possibly want to look down your nose at him, but you'll find its too late, he's already busy snubbing you), to Shirley, who appears to be the manager but maybe isn't but is absolutely sweet and sassy. Then there's Christina, the Goddess of Sewing Instruction (I don't think it's any wonder that "Christ" is in her name):

Brilliant, patient, kind and funny. She really knows what she's talking about and, equally important, how to get it across to people who have no clue about sewing, fabric, machines or anything but want to make cute skirts.

Here's a little essay to illustrate the day:

How was I supposed to know a pattern is no place to jot my sonnets?

At least I'm planning to use fabric to make my skirt, unlike some people:

A few more (see the rest on my Flickr site):

Moment I'm most proud of:

And a surprise visit from a season 1 "Project Runway" star. (There's gossip behind this photo, but I'll save it for another day):

Saturday, July 29, 2006

excuse me while I kiss the ball

Here I am giving love to my new boyfriend, the yarn ball that ate New Jersey. Natalie and I went out last weekend and, naturally, found ourselves in a yarn store. Nat's declared No Yarn Summer, but at Stitches From the Heart in Santa Monica, we lucked upon this Interlacements El Paso yarn that came in a 1058 yard, 16 oz skein. It's made of rayon, cotton, silk, and linen and would make all kinds of crazy Lady Eleanor shawl goodness. There were two skeins, priced at $24 each. There was no way either of us could resist, but during the 2 hours it took me to wind it by hand, I kinda wished I had. Still, a ball of yarn big enough to take a girl out to dinner can't be all bad.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

happy birthday, ellen bloom

Here's to you, Miss Ellen. Your devotion to art is an inspiration, your joie de vivre, infectious. You are generous of spirit, fabulous of taste, and a downright hoot to craft with. Sure, Mr. Larry comes to the party every now and then. And yes, he knows how to spark things up (see Maserati Ken, below), but it's you who packs the house week after week, keeping a couch potato like me coming to see what you've made, hear what you'll say, and bask in your presence. Tell Mr. Larry I say he's lucky indeed, because, Ellen, you're simply the best.

and she shares, too