Giving up 2012 / Remembering worth 2013

2012 was the year of giving up…and not in a I-will-no-longer-eat-fast-food sort of way. In a I-can’t-commit-to-anything sort of way. I was restless and unfocused and, overall, uninspired. At some point in the year I started then later gave up on scrapbooking, wearing makeup, photography, writing a memoir, cross stitch, knitting, crochet, blogging, sewing, running, watching the X-Files, embroidery. Only thing I really stuck to was reading (three cheers for the Kindle) and dying my hair (though partly because of the appointments made in advance).

I felt not good enough. My photos weren’t as great as those of others on Flickr or Instagram, especially because I wasn’t willing to dress up in a funny costume and never figured out how to clone myself with software. My current life had no excitement to blog about and my past was too boring to write about even within the confines of the notebooks that no one ever sees. My cross stitch was mundane; my attempts at a TARDIS embroidery untidy. My knitting (except socks, everyone always love their handknit socks) was unwanted. My attempts at cooking, bland. My attempts to mentor the students at FIRST, ineffective. My job search did go well at first because my suit didn’t fit properly (not because a great job was waiting for my within my own company – where I wore jeans to my interview). The only thing I could do correctly was eat, it seemed. Oh, and fall asleep reading. Totally mastered that this year.

So..what will be different in 2013? I’ll learn not to care. Okay, still care about important things like doing my absolute best at work and not dressing like a slob and making sure the bathrooms are clean when guests come over. But, not to care about things which are creative.

My friend Heather once told me that you can’t possibly fail at creativity. And, you know what, she’s right. No one dies if your embroidery is crooked or your photos is a bit blurry (call it “artsy”) or your mac-n-cheese is a bit runny.

Because, for the 100th time, all of my creative (and running, ’cause, you know, there’s that, too) efforts are worth it. Because, greater than that, I’m worth it. My time, my energy, my effort, my stash of craft supplies – all worth it.

What I’ve Been Up To

I’m still here, just busy with work and life. This’ll be a photo-less post, partly because I’m too lazy to dig through Flickr to find relevant photos, partly because I really don’t have that many. Maybe next week I’ll get back into the swing of things with posts with actual photos in them. Who am I kidding, it’ll probably be another month or two before I write another blog post with something that’s not just like “here’s my latest scrapbooking pages.”

So, what have I been doing? Well, working, knitting, scrapping, improving the house, enjoying the weather, planning vacation, and reading. Mostly working and reading (ok, and sleeping and eating but no one wants to hear about that).

Working

Don’t worry, no boring details. Just know that work is busy and while it’s sometimes overwhelming, I’m enjoying my current project.

Knitting

Ok, so I haven’t knit a single stitch in about three weeks but before that, I knit a shawl/scarf and about 2″ on a colorwork hat.

The shawl/scarf was Different Lines using bright blue and bright orange Neighborhood Fibre Co Studio Sock that I originally purchased to make the Steven West mystery shawl. It turned out HUGE and rather scarf-like due to how I blocked it. Of course, I forgot to really take photos of it once I gave it to the recipient (Anne, my Phi Rho big sister).

The colorwork hat actually isn’t one of the patterns I was trying to choose between a few months ago. It’s called Latvian Hat and I’m using Neighborhood Fibre Co in a white colorway that’s named, appropriately, after what Matt tells me is a very, er, racially non-diverse part of Baltimore and Miss Babs in Lilacs. Even though the pattern starts at the crown and gets larger, it’s still very slow to work a single round and the pattern requires rather a lot of conentration. It’s also at an awkward stage where it’s a bit too small to work on two needles comfortable but too large for only one. I put it aside once work got busy enough that I was only making myself more frustrated trying to work on it in the evening hours.

Scrapping

Despite not taking a whole bunch of photos lately, I have been keeping up with making at least one scrapbooking page a week. Some weeks, they’re rather unimpressive but it’s about recording what’s gone on, not always having a gorgeous page. I am going to try and pick up my picture-taking so it’s not quite so sad when I open up the week’s folder of photos and see only two in there. I’ll post pages from weeks 5 to I think we’re on 11 later this week. I also still need to finish the last few pages from our last Europe trip. I think maybe two need words then they’ll be done. Oh, and finally print some of these off, likely starting with Europe pages.

Improving the House

Nothing involving power tools or anything but quite an impressive list of small projects:

  • Hanging photos everywhere (my friend Lead provided opinions on good locales)
  • Installing a door sweep and fixing the screen on the porch door (Matt did most of this)
  • Picking out and trying a paint color for our bedroom (liked the color, will paint the whole thing starting this week)
  • Buying a new hanging birdfeeder – the old one had old feed permanantly stuck in it
  • Cleaning up the leaves / sticks / acorns / randomly strewn bricks in the backyard (Matt did most of the work here but I helped with some pickup and  moving of stuff to be picked up to the curb)

Enjoying the weather

Despite being mid-March, it’s been in the high 70s almost every day the last week or so, with mostly clear skies on top of it. We’ve already grilled out twice (burgers then chicken) and enjoyed several evenings of reading on the porch after work. I keep waiting for the weather report to talk about a return to colder temperatures but it’s supposed to remain warm at least for a few more days. Anyone know if this may mean I can get my hands on some good and not very expensive steamed crabs earlier this year than normal? The wait until Memorial Day may be the end of me. Ok, not really. I’m just impatient.

Planning vacation

Matt and I started a few weeks ago thinking about taking a summer vacation and where we wanted to go and all that. After lots of thinking and looking around, we decided we’re going to head to Ireland for 10 days in May.

Reading

Ever since Matt got me a Kindle about a month ago, I have been reading like a crazy person. I think the first book I read on it was an Agatha Christie book, quickly followed by memoirs, dystopian novellas, more Agatha Christie, two books about WWII with a time travel theme, and, most recently, a thriller. I won’t go into all of the details but you can check out what I’ve read on Good Reads.

So…what’s up with you all?

Year in Review (2011 Edition)

I was going to make this a post about how I did or didn’t meet my goals for last year then realized I never made any. Sure, I wanted to graduate but, really, was that ever in doubt? (Oh, I hope not.) So, again this year, a year in review.

January: Attempted, yet again, to blog daily which became weekly which became only when I felt guilty that I hadn’t blogged in awhile. Visited the National Building Museum. Started working with the TJ FIRST team. Mostly focused on coding my senior design project. Started a new job.

February: FIRST season concluded and senior design continued. Tried skiing for the first time.

March: Attended the St. Patrick’s parade in Old Town. DC FIRST regional held. Midterms and a big senior design deadline consumed my life. Spring break was spent working and doing school work. Attended Steph’s baby shower.

April: Life consumed by school projects, tests. etc. Traveled to West Point to attend a design competition (and really wished they didn’t have a rule about no AC before 1 may).

May: Wrapped up my last undergraduate semester. Graduated Suma Cum Laude. Celebrated Matt’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. Went to a color theory workshop with Ms Babs.

June: Started first full-time job (and it’s not so fun commute). Started looking at houses. Got back into sewing by making a few handbags (and failed at making myself a skirt).

July: Brutally hot month. Went to more open houses and house tours. Attended the first annual Bontrager cousins reunion in DE. Started digital scrapbooking five years of marriage.

August: Put a bid on a house, counterbid accepted, home inspection, mortgage application, and everything else invovled with buying a house. Felt not nearly as poor as expected at the end of the process. Really started my new job (assignment received). Started a quilt for the first time in four years.

September: Moved into the new house. Held a housewarming party with friends, family, and neighbhors.

October: Spent two and a half week exploring Spain, France, and Italy. Spent the rest of the month starting a new project at work and recovering from being away for so long.

November: Had Thanksgiving at our place, this time with Matt’s parents, Jesse’s family, Alison, and Lucy. Attended the DE reception for Caleb and Karen. Finished making a sweater for myself that actually fit.

December: Enjoyed a realitively warm December. Parents and brother visit for Christmas. Had first year of decorating our own house for Christmas (but settled for just a tree and some lights on a front window).

Micro Journaling

Last week, I came across a post on a scrapbooking blog about micro journaling. It’s the concept of taking a little time each day to write down (you know, on actual paper) what happened that day. The idea is that you capture just a little part of each day, even if you only have those words recorded. I was thinking about trying a project like the Week in the Life or December Daily projects that are popular right now but wasn’t sure if I could make that sort of committment to actually, you know, fully scrapbook each day. But, micro journaling is easy. Pay attention to things during the day, write little notes, and – if you’re really into it – take some photos or collect some momentos of the day to go along with the words.

While I’m doing my micro-journaling in my Moleskine notebook that goes with me everywhere and don’t plan to bore you all with my daily lists, I do plan to share the photos I’m going to be taking that go along with that journaling. More photos of everyday things than my usual photos of in-process craft projects, special events, and famous buildings. It’s that normal stuff that I rarely capture that I regret not having. That’s where my real life is, not in the “special” times.

But, of course, none of my photos of normal life really turned out from yesterday because my phone was having issues taking a photo of anything located indoors. Instead, I bring you photos of the pumpkins Matt and I carved Monday night . We don’t own any of the pumpkin-carving special tools, just use good, sharp kitchen knives and Matt used his hands to remove the guts. Then again, a serated knife problem would’ve been a better choice than the 10″ slicing knife I chose to work with!

I went with a similar theme to last year’s “hello” pumpkin that didn’t turn out well.

Matt kept with a standard jack-o-lantern shape.

 

In non-pumpkin, non-scrapbooking news – I’m happy to report that my ankle is pretty much healed from the sprain I got falling down the basement stairs Monday morning. All it took to heal was was not wearing heels, some Advil, and time to. This is my third time falling down stairs – you’d think I would know better by now. The first time was the day we went to check out the townhouse in Alexandria. The second time was at the townhouse when I was so worried about dropping my brand new camera down the stairs that, instead, I fell – saved the camera, wacked my back good and hard. But, hey, I never pretending not to be clumsy!

Not this again

This is a photo of my progress on my green quilt that I started in early August, taken with my iPhone late at night. But it has nothing to do with the rest of this post. Just pretend you didn’t see it.

Pile of Progress

Yes, it’s November and, again, I’m planning to (attempt to) blog every day this month as part of NaBloPoMo. It started in 2006, back when I was still using Vox as my blogging platform. I tried again in 2007 when I only managed to write about half the time. I had an excuse for a lack of blogging in 2008 between our move to Virginia and attending a conference, oh, the weekend before we moved. I tried in 2009 and had some success early in the month because Matt was away on business but, once he was back, the project was dead. I didn’t even blog once last year.

And, yet, I find myself with this big, lofty goal of blogging daily, even if it’s just a photo with a caption.  So, you all are stuck with my attempts to keep up a habit again this year. It’ll be some knitting content, some scrapbooking content, some “here’s what’s going on in my life” content and lots of “I have no clue what to write about so here’s a photo of a cat” content. But, hopefully, we’ll all get something out of it. I’ll feel better taking the time to write and capture what’s going on in my life, you’ll have another reason to laugh at me. See – we’re all winners.

Art of Storytelling

I admire storytellers. Something about the ability to take even the most mundane series of events and turn it into a story which pulls you in, makes you want to know what’s coming next, makes you want to learn more about what they’re talking about, makes you lean forward in your chair so you don’t miss a word.

I’m not talking about novelists. Novelists have the luxury of having pages in which to set up the actions, the characters, the plot, the suspense. They don’t have to rush through things in quite the same way as the storytellers I’m talking about.

Storytellers like Brenda from Cast On, John Updike in his short stories (like A&P), and so many people on NPR. Though they have very little time to get their point across, they do, somehow.

See, when I tell stories, I ramble like a crazy person. There’s no organization other than a loose sense of timeline. I say “like” a lot. I say “a lot” a lot. When I tell a story, especially out loud or here (which may as well be me talking out loud), I forget every vocabulary lesson I’ve had and, often, any sense of grammatical correctness. I just ramble on, hoping others can see the pathways in my head.

But, the thing is, I really want to be a storyteller.

I’m not looking to write a book like Sarah, use my words to effect positive change in the way we do busienss like Jocelyn, or anything even close to that grand.

I just want to tell stories like those I admire so much. And because, well, I think I have some stories that are worth telling. Sure, it’s self-centered to think my stories are so amazing everyone will want to hear them but you have to be at least a little self-centered if you ever share your creative work with others.

Which is why it is so very perfect that I came across this post this morning. Four short videos by Ira Glass on the art of storytelling, from Current TV (though the link takes you to MentalFloss who has cross-posted the videos).

His best advice is as follows though, really, just go watch the videos.

1. Share anecdotes as a seires of actions, one after the other.
2. Tell stories in a way that questions are constantly being asked then answered. The questions build suspense, even if you’re story is about incredibly boring events.
3. Every now and then, have a moment of reflection. Comment about what’s going on, about the significance of the story.
4. Finding a story to tell can take far longer than telling it, especially if you’re telling it video audio and/or video.
5. Some ideas won’t work. You’ll get nearly to the point of being done and realize they’re crap. Throw out the crap.
6. Your good taste (that thing which got you into creative life in the first place) will tell you that your early work is crap. Everyone’s early work is crap. Push past that phase.
7. Do a huge volume of work. More chancees to find something good plus helps you get past the crap-filled early stage more quickly.
8. Make deadlines, whether they’re real or given by a friend or just imposed by you. It’ll keep you from quitting because you’ll know someone is expecting something, even if that someone is just a blank piece of paper in front of you.
9. Don’t try to sound like everyone else. There’s already a John Updike out there, the world doesn’t need another one. (His example is Ted Koppel for TV news folks.) Everything will seem more genuine if you sound like a normal human being.
10. Show that you’re intrested in other human beings by describing the interactions between them, even in a first-person story. You’re not that interesting and will seem like a jerk if you forget other people do things and have emotions.

As soon as I finished listening to his videos, I immediately started jotting down ideas like a crazy person. Stories I want to tell. Stories I’ve been told and want to re-tell in my own voice. Places to go to get ideas about stories. And I’m pretty sure Ira would agree that’s a great place to start. I just need someone to give me a deadline for my first story.

List 1: A few things about yourself [30 Days of Lists]

(Yes, this is being posted just after my hey-I’m-doing-this-new-project post but I wanted to keep it separate. Sorry if it seems like I’m spaming you all. Not my intention.)

 In ninth grade, I had an English teacher who had obviously read every single book, recommendation, and guide to teaching high school English. I say this because all her lessons, yeah, I’d had to do them before. Make a collage about yourself at the start of the semester. Write a poem in iambic pentameter about something you know well (during our Shakespeare unit). And then, my favorite, which was a total rip-off of an assignment I’d done in, no kidding, fourth grade: write an “I am” poem following very strict guidelines, repeated below.

I am (two special characteristics)
I wonder (something you are actually curious about)
I hear (an imaginary sound)
I see (an imaginary sight)
I want (an actual desire)
I am (the first line of the poem restated)

I pretend (something you pretend to do)
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary)
I touch (an imaginary touch)
I worry (something that really bothers you)
I cry (something that makes you very sad)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I understand (something you know is true)
I say (something you believe in)
I dream (something you actually dream about)
I try (something you make an effort to do)
I hope (something you actually hope for)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

And, because I love to and am excellent at following rules, here’s my “I am” poem which, I am sure, is vasty different than the one I wrote for her class. It probably started with “I am a dork and lonely.”

I am blue-eyed and easily confused
I wonder how you become a judge at the Olympics
I hear my old piano teacher, correcting my posture
I see the roses in my grandfather’s garden
I want a slice of pizza the size of my head
I am blue-eyes and easily confused

I pretend that I dance like a prima dona ballerina
I feel like carrots are in pain when you peel them
I touch an overly fluffy blanket
I worry that no one takes me seriously
I cry anytime I drive by a car accident
I am blue-eyed and easily confused

I understand children are almost always loud and sticky
I say a smile can make any situation better
I dream about a clean house filled with fresh flowers
I try to take bubble baths anytime I’m upset
I hope I will be content more often that not
I am blue-eyed and easily confused

30 Days of..

June seems to be a big month for list-based projects. There’s June is for Jumping, the 30 Day Photo Challenge, and dozens more. Maybe we’re all just excited that it’s finally warm enough to crawl out of our holes, into the world.

But, here’s the thing. We all know I stink at comitting to anything that has to be done daily. The longest I ever lasted on a take-a-photo-a-day challenge? 78 days (though I’m already up to day 63 on 365 days of self portraits)

My brain just isn’t wired for that sort of thing. Some days, I swear I’d forget to change out of my pajamas if there wasn’t such societal pressure to wear real clothing outside the home.

And, yet, I find myslf wanting to attempt one of these challenges, specifically the 30 Days of Lists. We’ll ignore the following: 1) the project originally occured in March, 2) if I were supposed to start on the 1st of the month, I’m already a day behind and 3) I’ll reiterate, I stink at sticking to anything for 30 days.

What was I thinking? Yeah, I have no idea. Either way, I’ll talk about it (and because it’s a writing thing, post my actual progress) here.

And, as is typical, I leave you with a non-related photo of my new, slightly shorter hair. I blame the 98 degree day yesterday – and a stylist who pushed me to do it, having known I’ve wanted short hair for two years now.

1 June / Day 62: Haircut
Anyone else out there stink at doing anything for a whole month or is it just me?

Now what?

I’m now a college graduate. I knew I’d say that someday but it’s so strange to finally do so.

Hat

I spent eight years studying, working on projects, taking exams, and attending classes (and worrying about all of this in my downtime).

But now? Now I have loads of free time. And, of course, my mind is full of ideas of things I want to do more of, do again, or start doing.

  • Knitting: Obviously, I already do a lot of this. But I have big, specific goals for what I want to do. I want to knit colorwork mittens for everyone I know. I want to knit lace shawls for anyone who wants one. I want to make things for the children of friends, family, and coworkers. I want to maybe, someday, knit myself a sweater that fits and makes me feel great about my body (but doesn’t make it sweat like a pig every single time I wear it).
  • Sewing: I have a machine. I know basic construction. My husband’s boss got me a gift certificate to an excellent sewing shop for graduation. Heck, I even have a few friends who, I am sure, would be happy to share their fabric stash with me. And, well, I miss sewing, I really do. Even if my machine can’t be fixed (the tension cannot be adjusted correctly, no matter what I or my mother-in-law have done), I can still sew again. May even get back into quilting. Or just stick with making little bags and fun skirts and..
  • Running: I miss it. Even the agony of having to tell myself “just two more miles” and the possibility of having to do physical therapy. I don’t think I’ll ever run a half marathon or even train for one but this area is full of fun 5k, 10k and 10 mile races. I wasn’t built to be a runner but I really do enjoy it. And can you imagine the fun of going running when I’m in Europe in the fall? Talk about a great way to see a city!
  • Writing: Journaling, specifically. Actually writing down my thoughts on paper. I miss it even more than I miss sewing and running. I’ve been journaling since fourth grade, why did I stop?
  • Reading: I admitted to Jocelyn the other day that I haven’t really read anything in a long time. Sure, I read dozens of blogs and news websites and food magazines, but when was the last time I actually read a real, live book? We even have the Kindle. And the public libraries near here are great. And I’m pretty sure the DC public library will give cards to non-residents, as will Fairfax County.
  • Photography: Matt got me an amazing lens (which I must blog about later) for graduation. It’s an amazing macro lens, great for both super close up shots and the intimate portraits I love to take. And, well, it’s summer in the DC area. Perfect time and place for photography.
  • Cooking: I want to get more into cooking, not to the level that Matt is, but at least to the point where I can make us dinner once a week without freaking out halfway through. I know, generally, what I’m doing, just have to develop an intuition for it like Matt has.
  • Blogging: Both here and on Two Yolks, the food blog I made Matt start but that he hasn’t written in for almost a year. I have the great camera, he’s still cooking awesome (and pretty!) food. No excuses. There will be more food blogging (and more blogging here, like I said in a recent post). Hopefully blog both places once a week, even if it’s just a few photos with short descriptions. (Like the post I’ve already got in draft form on Two Yolks, just need to polish it a bit and press Publish.)

So, now what?

The rest of my life can start.

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!

(The title makes sense if you picture a small child, jumping up and down, totally excited. Like “Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. I want that!”)

I keep finding myself with ideas for blog topics or a general need to blog. Not a “I should blog so my mom knows I’m still alive” or “I just knit something cool that I want to show off” or “I’m bored, blogging will entertain me.” Much more of a “If I don’t blog right this very minute my head will expload.”

Thankfully, my head is still intact.

When I ignore this feeling, I feel guilty at first but, eventually, the moment passes and I go about the rest of my day.

But, every day for the last week, I’ve had that feeling. In a normal month, I may have a need to blog, oh, once, and a desire to consider blogging two or three times. The “need to blog” times get ignored, the consider blogging thoughts are, strangely, more likely to result in actual blogging.

So, why do you care?

I think I may be back to blogging daily again, at least for a little while.

It’s a time of transition for me, a time when things aren’t quite settled the way I like them. And, instead of going nuts on the inside, I want to blog about it. Well, maybe not about how I’m not settled but about other things that my mind focuses on to stop focusing on the unsettling bits.

You know what I mean. Words, they get in the way sometimes.

Starting tomorrow, real topics, though some I must admit I’m going to go off and start writing now. And there will be photos, not just of knits but also my house and my neighborhood and my family and friends and probably an obligatory shot of me in my graduation gown late next week.

I leave you with my momentary triumph: first self-portrait using manual focus that actually turned out well. We’ll all pretend, together, that it wasn’t a fluke but due to my ever-developing photographic skill.

9 May / Day 39 : Happiness