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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Bunch of Recent Projects & One I'm Avoiding

This morning I finally finished my first major satin stitch project, so I've got that to show (because I'm pretty pleased with it and with my ability to let go of Having to Have It Perfect) and then some other things I've been working on. First, a couple things that I went back and worked on some more.

There was this, one of the Tina Givens linen dusters:

The front was always too boxy for me, so I wore it only once. I like it, though, and decided to just get in there and do something—anything!—so I'd wear it. So I fixed it:

For whatever reason, blogger says these two photos have to go Right Here. Or else. 

Then there was this jacket thing, which I cannot for the life of me find as a Before picture. Anyway, I had it and added a little to it and wore it because it's comfortable and really warm, and then I thought I'd do more to it, even though I won't wear it again until probably December. Still, it was fun, although by the end of it I was sick unto death of working on it. Lots of hours on this one (I had already lined it with an old t-shirt; that was the first step when I got it, I think). 

 The felt is from felt I bought and then fulled in the wash and also from wool stuff from Goodwill from back when I used to buy stuff there, before it started creeping me out.

 I made this duster from some lovely lightweight linen given to me as a gift. Dyed and made from my own pattern. I wore it last night and love it. I'm thinking about putting a tiny snap on that part that overlaps. For most of them, I used a hook and eye, but now I'm going to try something different to see how it goes: I want something that will hold it closed if I'm walking in it and it's blowing around but that will be virtually invisible the rest of the time, when it just hangs open like this.
 The edges are bound with bias tape I made from the scraps.

 Then I dyed up more lightweight linen from Dharma Trading and made a bunch more aprons in the newer, shorter, slightly smaller incarnation of my pattern. This one, below, is in medium weight, or regular, and it's my first project focusing on satin stitch. The challenge was to do it without thinking every. single. stitch. had to be Absolutely Perfect. It was tough, but I learned along the way and am really pleased with how it turned out.

In the process of working on this, I became just the tiniest bit (ahem) obsessed with cotton perle: 

It's lovely to work with, and now, of course, I want to dye a bunch of my own variegated colors. Yikes. Like I need another thing to do.

Then there's this, which I've shown before. It was a dress or something, and I cut it down and did the binding with t-shirt fabric and then embroidered it all over with stuff that makes me laugh. 
When I took down all the bulletin boards out here, I was left with a little pile of stuff, quotes and cards and stuff, that I like but didn't want to save, as in "save in a scrapbook or something." No saving of stuff! I realized the perfect way for me to save stuff is to stitch it onto clothes. So I had this card, the funniest birthday card I've ever seen (I bought it for myself for my birthday a couple years ago).
 The inside:
So I did this:

which makes me very happy. I may mail the card to myself  this year and then throw it into recycling.

So that's what I've been doing in addition to trying to get into the right frame of mind to paint the front porch. I don't want to do it: I know it's going to be a total PITA. But it has to be done. The EGE is ready to help me. But. But. But. . . .I'm not sure what I was thinking when I had them paint it like this:
O.M.G. Help me.

No, seriously: anybody wanna come paint? I'll sit and entertain you and try to convince the mosquitos not to carry you off to Peru.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Simple Pleasures

I've written kind of a lot about what I've given up, quit doing, don't do, avoid. I thought it might be useful to write, instead, about what I've found: things to try, things to make time for, things in which to luxuriate. I hope maybe to make it a series of posts, as I explore further. To start, here are some from now~~

Ha! No, I am not confessing to yet another Issue. I mean, literally, drinking. Taking in fluid. Whether it's learned or genetic, it's tough for me to get enough liquid. I could no more drink a glass of water from the tap than I could eat a gopher. My mother was the same: water made her nauseated. She drank 1) coffee (black, caffeinated) and cokes (generic, Southern cokes (i.e., any soda) but also Real Cokes. None of that New Coke crap for her). She drank these all day long, and in the last couple decades of her life, she suffered a series of bladder infections that, gradually, became chronic and made her miserable. I can go all day without drinking anything, and when we travel, I do that just so I can avoid, as much as possible, The Horror Of Public Restrooms. I don't realize I'm thirsty until my mouth is dry and my lips are cracking. As I've gotten older, I can tell because I'll just generally feel weird.

Not wanting to be like my mother, of course, I've set out to figure out a way to make sure I drink more. Coffee in the morning is easy (more on that pleasure below), and wine in the evening doesn't really count. I gave up sodas years ago. I don't like fruit juice or energy drinks or sports drinks. I don't consume artificial sweeteners of any kind. But! Years ago I discovered fizzy water. Carbonated water, but Fizzy Water sounds so much better (just a cheap grocery store brand, not anything fancy). And then last year in Benecia, Sharon Payne Bolton introduced me to OMIGOD! La Croix Coconut Fizzy Water, and let me tell you, I ADORE this stuff. Coconut is like heaven to me, and the idea of no sweeteners, no artificial anything, no calories, no nothing except COCONUT—well. There's nothing in it but carbonated water and "essence of coconut," which we think means they put some oil in there or maybe cut open a coconut and waved it over the vat or something, just so you can smell coconut and think you're tasting it. Hold your nose and it's just fizzy water. Then I found out I also like the lemon flavor and the berry flavor, and so I make kind of a big deal out of drinking a can of each of those three throughout the day. I keep a funky (kind of lumpy and handmade looking, although it's just a glass) glass in the freezer, so it's nice and frosty, and I pour the water in there and go and sit somewhere, taking a break from whatever I was doing and making it into a treat. It started out as something I had to do: drink. more. water. but it's become something I really look forward to, stopping and walking out to the storage building to get a can out of the refrigerator out there and getting the frosty glass and then sitting down somewhere, reading a book, maybe, or taking it outside to sit with Duchess in the backyard. In the winter I try to drink herbal tea, even though they mostly taste like lawn clippings to me. I make a ritual of it, as well, and work on pretending it's something I actually like. A good book helps.

Ahhh, coffee. I love coffee. I love everything about it: the way it smells and the heat and the flavor and the companionship of sitting with someone over coffee. Never mind that the odor often reminds me of cigarettes and cat pee. Never mind that! And never mind that bad coffee is worse than the juice of boiled sweat socks. No, don't think about that! I grew up on a Party Crew, a group of families of exploration geophysicists who traveled from town to town. There were morning coffees and bridge parties and whatever else adults have where they all get together and someone puts on one of those gigantinormous urns of coffee: there was always someone who had one of those that could make enough coffee for an army. My parents drank copious amounts of coffee, brewing it as soon as they got out of bed (to go with that first cigarette), and those were the first odors I smelled every morning. The thing about coffee was that it was an odor that meant everything was all right: your parents were up and about, or all their friends were in the living room, or there were bridge games under way, whatever. Even when something bad happened, the first thing was someone putting on the coffee: it meant that no matter what was going on, everything would be OK because there would be Coffee. So coffee it is, even when it smells and tastes less than lovely. I have a Keurig coffee brewer because you can't drink Midland water unless you want your liver to fall out (fracking, although that's not what they tell us; they tell us only that they've detected high levels of trihalomethanes ("Bromides are a naturally occurring substance unearthed by fracking. Bromides can combine with organic matter to create brominated trihalomethanes -- carcinogens linked to both bladder and colon cancer. Brominated trihalomethanes can form when fracking wastewater is run through publicly owned or industrial treatment plants, enters rivers and streams, and is subsequently chlorinated for drinking water downstream.", which really can screw up your liver. Read more here, if you're interested.)

Anyway, anyway: you use bottled or RO water for everything you're going to eat or drink and just keep your fingers crossed. Or move. So: Keurig allows me to use safe water for one cup at a time and not waste any, and I've got one of those converters so I can use regular coffee in it instead of those pods. 
Duchess, the old neighborhood cat who now lives in our backyard, has gotten progressively more tame and affectionate, so on the days she's loose in the yard (every other day), I go out and have coffee with her. I sit in a lawn chair, and she comes and, sometimes, jumps in the chair with me. Other times she sits underneath and waits for me to dangle a hand or foot within attacking distance. There are birds, an amazing variety for the desert. Mockingbirds, doves, grackles, sparrows, hummers. They're very vocal, and you can shut your eyes and imagine you're in the woods somewhere, surrounded by, as Monk would say, A Lot of Nature.
In short, I make little Drinking Rituals throughout the day, shared, almost always, by at least one cat: in the morning I get up, make a cup of coffee, collect whatever stitching project I'm working on, and call Lennie Lulu. We walk down the hall to the door to The Voodoo Lounge, and she chirps and I tell her to open the door, and she reaches up (horrendously cutely, of course) and taps the door knob, and I open the door where (almost always) the sun is streaming in the windows. She chirps again and crams herself up against the window, and the other cats join us. If The EGE is home, he might come in, too, and we all sit in the sun. There's a bird feeder right outside the windows, and he'll fill that, and doves and sparrows go nuts. An hour, two hours—I stay until there's something else that calls me.
In the afternoon when The EGE is home, we usually stop and have a drink: one of those bottled frappuccinos, usually, but sometimes, in the summer, a glass of white wine or, in the winter, hot cocoa. Or he'll go get iced lattes. And then we'll find a place inside or outside, depending on the weather, and just hang out. 
~~Reading. At some point I decided reading during the day was decadent and lazy. Now I know that "decadent" and "lazy" are just concepts that I can buy into or not, and I'm making time to read during the day. It's tough for me: I feel "lazy," and then I get irritated at myself for feeling that way, and then I just go do something else. But I'm working on it. I hope to be able to sit down for at least an hour with a book and feel completely good about it. 
~~Walking. I love to walk, and I try to get in two miles every day. Unfortunately, there is no beach here, no woods or lakes or streams. The leafiest, greenest place is our funky old neighborhood, and this year it's been rainy enough so that things are actually green again. You just have to pretend, mostly, that you're somewhere beautiful. I stick to a one-mile loop in the immediate neighborhood, walking along the greenest streets and avoiding the uglier ones. It's boring, sure, walking the exact same route twice every day for 25 years, so I'm working on being Zen about it, about being mindful (trees! birds! fox poop!) and actively appreciating things like leaves and blue skies and my ability to get out and walk.
~~Yoga. Not any formal kind, but stretching, paying a lot of attention to my neck and back, doing some poses that seem to work to keep me mobile. I'd like to have a yoga class to go to, but I haven't had much luck. Some are competitive, which I avoid. Some instructors were insistent drill sergeants, and there are things I'm just not going to do. My favorite class was, sadly, filled with seriously conservative wives, the wives of oil guys and lawyers and stuff, and their comments about, well, you can imagine, so we won't go there. It harshed my yoga squee. Lennie is thrilled I stay at home; she adores the yoga mat and thinks my getting down on the floor is just for her. When I roll out the mat, she runs on and immediately down down dog and up dog, and what could be cuter than that? Gah.
~~Meditation. I'm easing my way back in and really want to do a lot more. I was doing well and loving it a lot until my mother's final illness and death, and after that I just couldn't do it; my brain would fill with horrid images and tell me horrid stories, and it's so easy to get out of the habit of something that requires work. For a while I went to a couple different meditation groups. I love sitting with other people in silence; there's just something wonderful about it, as if you're collectively filling the world with peace and good vibes. But other people like things I don't, like chanting and incense and walking meditation and talking, talking, talking. I tried, I really did. Nonjudgement and all that. But it just didn't work for me. Perhaps someday there'll be a group that just sits companionably, but for now, I'm working at getting back in the habit on my own. It's slow; when I sit on the floor, I'm obviously down there to keep the cats company. If I go in a room and shut the door, they cry pitifully and stick their paws under as if they're trapped and only I can save them from immediate and horribly painful death by wolves.  Plus I'm working on being mindful, so sitting and being mindful of the cats' presence is a good thing. Right? Well, I'm working on it.
I'm also finding actual joy in doing stuff like vacuuming and washing dishes. No, I haven't gone all Stepford Wife. The EGE has always done most of this stuff, but since I'm slowing down and working less, I'm trying to do more. And since I've cleared out stuff, it's easier. That's the plan: to figure out how to keep things clean and clutter-free even as it eventually gets more difficult to do stuff. Bending over and lifting stuff is hard on the neck, so I'm figuring out ways around that. I got a couple electric brooms and leave them plugged in and tucked in corners, and I can turn them on (one in the living room that will reach all the way into The Voodoo Lounge and one for the dining room/kitchen) and I can just turn it on and clean the floors. Washing dishes is usually kind of painful, but I figure the hot water is a good thing, so I try to do it mindfully. I like having fewer dishes: I love using a spoon, washing it off, drying it and putting it back with the two other spoons where it belongs. I love that dishes aren't stacked in the cabinet and that each one has a specific place to go where it's not touching anything else, so you can reach up and get it and put it back easily, with nothing falling over or having to be moved. It's a tiny thing, but it seems so peaceful, you know? I have found a new (probably pathetic) joy in using stuff and putting it exactly back in the place I've made for it: the iron goes on the end of the new shelf, the ironing board goes by the refrigerator, the electric broom goes in that corner right there. I don't have to hunt for things, move things to put other things away, climb up to reach things. Very best of all, I don't have to spend forever going through the house, digging through stuff (drawers, piles of projects, stacks of books) looking for something I've misplaced. It was always something small enough to get lost—a specific pair of tiny scissors, a letter opener, whatever—and there were just so many places it could be. Now there are many fewer things, and they all have a specific place to stay and, even if they're not in that place, there aren't a lot of other places they could be. It's marvelous, it really is.
And then of course there is the stitching, a constant joy. I'll write more about it later. For now, it's time to go take that walk before it gets hot. Thanks for coming by. If there's something you'd like to hear more about, just ask.  XO

Friday, June 12, 2015

Living A Simpler Life

I was going to title this "Living The Simple Life," but I'm not there yet. Almost, but there's still more to explore, and that's a good thing: I'm having a lot of fun at this. And it's not a destination; it's the journey, of course.

The other night someone asked me in that sincere, interested-in-more-than-a-"Just fine"-answer, how I was doing. And as I answered, thoughtfully, I realized something: I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I do exactly what I want to do all day every day, and it's quite wonderful. I feel less stress and worry than I did in the past, and I enjoy things that I used to ignore.

So I thought I'd write some about that in case my experience might be useful to someone else. It's been a long process, years and years. I'm not so introspective that I know everything that's gone into it, but I know some of the stuff that felt Big, the stuff that made me sit up and pay more attention.

~~I sat by my mother and held her hand as she died, just the two of us in the room. Two weeks later I turned 50, a milestone I'd been looking forward to but that felt much different, of course, than I had expected.

~~2 years later, I stood by my father and held his hand as he died, and a month after that, on my birthday, I was diagnosed with very, very early stage melanoma (which is fine now).

~~we settled my mother's affairs, a huge, sad wrangling of a lifetime's accumulation.

~~in my 40s, I found out that what was wrong with my fingers was arthritis and that, because it started when I was young and because my father had it so severely, it will probably get very ugly (if I live long enough), mainly because it's in my neck and icky things can happen.

~~the last book I did was an eye-opener. It was a huge undertaking involving months of travel and all my savings, it generated no royalties, and it was remaindered quickly. There were some ugly incidents with people that left me both surprised and disappointed and very disillusioned.

~~our car was burgled, something that's never happened to either of us, and a lot of things I thought were indispensable were taken and never recovered. Plus there was someone else's blood inside our car, and years later we still find tiny pieces of glass from the broken window. This is not a huge deal in the larger scheme of things—people have much worse experiences every day—but it was another part of the path.

~~getting older and having no biological family members, no children, no one who wants the stuff I've accumulated over almost 60 years.

So all of this stuff, none of it particularly unusual (I am not claiming any huge drama here), added up to make me really take a look at how I want the rest of my life to go. I can't control it, and I know that, but I can make it easier for the good parts to show up and the bad parts to seem smaller.

One of the first things I did was to start taking drugs. I've written about this before, but I think if you're going to talk about life changes with the hope you'll inspire someone, you can't be honest if you know that a big part of it is taking mind-altering pharmaceuticals. I take an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor), something I first discussed with my dr. back in my 20s. My mother was suicidally depressed through a chunk of my adolescence, and being aware of the genetic tendency to depression (for her and her parents) and anxiety/worry (both of us) was important. I'd put it off thinking I'd learn not to worry as I got older and wise (not "wiser"), which turned out to be a crock. When my racing heartbeat started keeping my awake for hours, in addition to—when I did go to sleep—waking me up every 30 minutes, I also began taking beta blockers. I'm telling this in the interest of full disclosure so it doesn't sound like I did all this life-altering happy stuff all on my own with just will-power, a screw driver, and some twine. Oh, yeah: and Bond-o and duct tape.

I've written (probably ad nauseum) about giving stuff away, and that has been a huge, HUGE part of this process. I've gotten rid of tons of stuff from art supplies to clothes to shoes to jewelry to my mother's furniture and car to over half my library. It's taken a long, long time, but I'm almost there (there's very little left that I don't love and use/wear all the time, thanks to some very good friends who have helped out by giving new homes to stuff I couldn't donate or sell). I should say here that while my husband has been supportive of my de-owning stuff, he's not on this particular journey with me. I leave his stuff and his man-cave/study alone.

Getting rid of things on its own, though, wouldn't be enough. Just as I don't believe that taking drugs is, on its own, the answer. It's easy to make big, sweeping changes like drugs or de-cluttering, but I don't believe that's a solution. When I began the prescriptions, I made a commitment to myself that I would learn how to work with the lowest level possible to make the chemicals effective. It's easier not to worry with brain-altering chemicals, but I could easily continue my bad habits of thinking about everything that could go wrong (termites! tornadoes! tooth decay! financial ruin!) and the things I needed to do (find more work! make more money! be more sociable! join a club or something!). It's easy to take drugs and then lean back and expect them to do all the work. Non, I thought. Well, OK, that's a lie: I don't think in French. I don't even know French. Maybe non means something else entirely, like "clown" or "dog's butt" or "stupid American tourist person."

I also realized, with the end of my job with my book publishers, that there will come a point in time where I an totally unemployed. I don't know when. I love my job with Stampington and hope to keep writing about creative people the rest of my life, but I realized that I don't really want to do anything else. I don't want to teach. I don't want to sub. I've done those things for years and am done. Mostly, I don't want to hustle trying to get people to hire me to do things I don't really want to do anyway. When my friend Wendy told me, about cutting back, "I don't want to work that hard any more," I was at first shocked. I grew up with parents who believed that work was all and that you did as much as you could until you couldn't do any more (after their divorce, my mother worked two jobs until she was in her 60s and then kept on with one of them until she was in her mid-70s; my father took early retirement at 55 and then went to work full-time for another company). Learning that there's another way to live that doesn't involve working as hard as you can is the hardest part for me.

Here are some of the things I've been doing.

~~sleeping. I sleep more than I've ever slept in my life. My mother said I was never a sleeper, even as a baby. Since I can remember (in high school), I've awakened, heart pounding, every 45-90 minutes. I assumed it was because I'd had a nightmare I couldn't remember. Now I suspect that it was my heart speeding up, for whatever reason. Now I enjoy sleeping. It feels delicious, like other people have talked about naps. I'd always thought, "Oh, please, people. Sleep is a pain in the butt. I'll sleep when I'm dead." But now I see what they mean: it's fun. I go to sleep more easily and wake up instantly, already happy (in the past, I was like my mother: don't talk to me, don't touch me, don't DARE ask me a question or sit near me for at least an hour because I woke up Hating the World. And, of course, already thinking about tornadoes and tooth decay and termites. Not any more. I quit setting the alarm early and started getting up whenever I wake up. I lie down every afternoon, late, with a heating pad on my neck, and I often doze off. It's quite wonderful because when I do, I often have a cat lying on each hand, a complicated ritual to which Lennie and Clarice have introduced me. I think it involves their making sure I'll stay there until they're finished napping, but whatever: it's very companionable, and I don't fight the relaxation, as I once would have. This feels very, very decadent, pretty much like lying on the couch all afternoon watching bad tv, but I feel really good. My neck is better than it has been in years.

~~because I work less and am not trying to pretend to be busy, I don't spend time making work for myself: hunting for things that might turn into work, looking for people to interview, blah, blah, blah.

Here I should stop and talk about money: I've never made much money. I never cared that much about it. My parents had enough money, but they'd grown up during the Depression and were very frugal, and my mother counted every penny. Until they got divorced when I was in college, I'd always though we were poor, and that was OK. I got everything I wanted, but I didn't want a lot. When I married The EGE, he was a first-year teacher, and I didn't have a job; I dropped out of college. We didn't have a television or a telephone and had only one used car. I hardly noticed; crazy love will do that to you. I have a tiny monthly amount from my mother, very tiny but enough to pay for the bare essentials of the things I personally pay for—internet, iPhones, books. Theoretically, I could get by on that, but of course, again, non: there are vet bills, dr. bills, car woes, the aging washer and dryer. Money things to worry about, even though The EGE takes care of the household stuff and insurance that thoroughly protects everything but the cats. And car burglaries.

But if I'm going not to worry, learning not to worry about money was right up there at the top of the list. With the last additional job I had, with the book publishers, I saved $10,000 for each of the two full years, putting $20,000 in an account so that if the washer and dryer and stove and refrigerator and iMac all fell apart at the same time, well: I'd be prepared. I knew the job wouldn't last forever and that having a personal safety net was going to make this whole Learning-Not-To-Worry Thang much, much easier.

Then, since I'd decided I didn't want to look for another additional job, I started thinking about where I could cut expenses. I quit shopping, although I had been drifting away from that for years. I got rid of my website, around $100 a year, and my podcast host, about the same. I quit subscribing to anything. I quit joining stuff. We joined the Jazz Society here one year and then promptly missed over half the concerts because we were traveling. I tell people I don't join things; if they pressure, I just don't go at all. The jazz people are perfectly fine with us paying when we come. I was paying about $50 a month for Netflix DVDs, 6 at a time. When I paid attention, I realized we were sending a lot of them back without watching them because we'd start streaming some detective series onto Roku. So I cut out the DVD part and now pay what? $8? $9? a month for streaming. We have enough in line to keep us entertained for at least the next 5 years.

I did this gradually, as it felt right. We're both still working, so we don't have to do it now; but I wanted to make my own adjustments now, while it's a choice, rather than to wait until a time when it feels like a sacrifice. Learning to live more simply now is just one more way to keep from turning into that bitter old person who hates the world because it's so tough being old.

Going along this path is about how I think, too. Meditation, mindfulness, noticing old habits. Because the book contracts required that I participate in social media, I got more and more involved in blogging and Facebook and Twitter. I had multiple blogs and a FB page and was Tweeting dozens of times a day, and at the end, I hated it and felt like I was starting to believe that I Was Somebody, somebody Important, somebody who Had Something to Say. I googled myself. I was in danger of becoming that diva who tweets what she's having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then tweets goodnight, just as if millions of fans are waiting to know she's safely tucked in.  So I began working on that, too. I cut out Twitter entirely, got rid of the FB page and the second blog. I spend as little time on FB as possible except to post things I think might inspire someone else or make them laugh. I blocked a lot of people whose drama just worried me, mostly relatives who, for whatever reasons of their own, are constantly mired in drama of all kinds. Some people thrive on excitement and intrigue and gossip and just plain drama; I want to avoid it everywhere. When I'd read dramatic posts from someone we know, I'd worry about them, even when I suspected it was just that: drama.

I threw away my business cards. I am learning to thinking of myself, my self, in a more organic way, not as any of the things I would once have said in introducing myself to someone else. I threw away other stuff—postcards, posters for book signings, all the little ego pumps.

OK, let me wrap this up. It feels as if I've been sitting here for hours, numbing my butt. I'll just note some of the benefits, the ones besides sleeping more and learning how to relax.

~~I love walking through the more-spacious rooms in the house and feeling the peace that comes from not having so much stuff, even when it used to be nicely sorted and organized. It was still there, lurking (albeit lurking very neatly).

~~I seriously love not having to look for things that I can't find. I know pretty much where everything is because there's a lot less of it, but—BONUS!— because I have a horrid memory, if I do think of something and don't know where it is, I just assumed I've given it away and don't even think about it. This is marvelous; I wonder how many hours in my life I've spent looking for shit, for clothes that were in a bag somewhere or a book that got stuck under a pile of fabric or a pair of scissors that were in another purse. It just doesn't happen any more, and that's wonderful.

~~I can open the closets and see everything I own (clothes and shoes), all right there, all in plain sight. No more stuff crammed onto the racks or piled on shelves or stored out in the storage building. No more guilt about expensive stuff that's not getting worn.

OK. That's it, I'm beginning to fidget, something I don't often do. Got to get up and do something else, but hey: thank you so much for reading this far! If this sounds intriguing to you, I heartily encourage you to find your own simple path. It's a marvelous adventure~~


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Studio/Office/Laundry Room

If I'm being all fancy, it's the studio. If I'm serious, it's the office, because it's where I work and where The EGE has his laptop. If I'm just regular, it's the laundry room because that's what it was designed to be, I think, in its original life. Whatever: I think it's finished, as least for now, and I've taken photos this morning. What's cool to me is that 1) the walls and ceiling are all the exact same color and 2) these photos were taken one after another in the span of what? a minute? two minutes? Yet it looks like there are at least three different colors of paint in here.
Starting at the door to the rest of the house (this room is the newest, added in, we think, 1987, and it's on the north end).
 Turning clockwise, this is The EGE's part of the room, above, with his laptop and iPad and chargers and stuff. He has a man cave of his own, but this is a much more relaxing place to be.
 The west-facing window, with his part on the left and mine on the right.
 My stuff, above.
 Behind my iMac, where the bulletin board used to be. I thought it would always be there, but what I discovered is that most of the stuff on it wasn't necessary, and I didn't love it. There was some of what I think of as "ego stuff," things that people had said or printed or whatever, and that had to go. There were bits and pieces of all kinds of stuff, and this is what's left of that:
I'm still figuring out where to put this stuff. That blue thing on the left is kind of depressing but not so much as it was when I ordered it: it's a key holder to make it easier to lock and unlock the front door, which is getting to be really painful. It's arthritis approved or something, and theoretically it was perfect. In real life, though, it sucked: the rod that holds the keys is too big to fit actual keys, so I'm going to have to go have new keys made that will fit this contraption. Plus it holds only two keys. I thought it would hold 3.

Then there are some bits of inspirational stuff, sketches and a print-out of my favorite Alabama Chanin creation, that fabulous blue jacket. My woven cuffs, some printed-out fonts (for use in printing text on fabric to embroider: I find it easier to print letters I'm copying than to write; something about slowing down and loosening the grip on the pen, I think). In the upper right corner of that photo is a stack of projects: shorts to be mended, overalls to be made into a jumper. I'm really proud of myself for weeding out and focusing so there're not huge piles of possible projects everywhere but, instead, just a few specific ones that really interest me.

I thought I had a ton of information on that bulletin board, things like a shortcuts for ¨ and ˆ and stuff, time zones (necessary for scheduling interviews, since Mountain Time and where the line is between Eastern and Central are always confusing to me), stuff like that. Turns out all of that stuff easily fit into a folder, which I very helpfully labelled:
because, you know, adding "and shit" to anything makes it Sound All Gangster, which of course is ever so much better than having a folder labelled "Necessary Information," right?

I planned to hang a big mirror on this newly-emptied wall, and I went out and bought one that's just the right size. But then I realized that I really love having this big expanse of pure color behind my screen and didn't want to cover it up. The mirror works great in the bedroom, which is very dark, so for now I'm leaving this wall blank (gulp. Now *that's* something I never thought I'd have: a blank wall. Whoa.)

OK, moving around the room, facing north, still the same color and same time, believe it or not (this is why I love this paint color: it changes all day long). The rugs and towels and pillows along the arms and back of the overstuffed chair in front of the window are, of course, the cats' stuff. Of course.
 There's one remaining pile of white stuff on the end of the day bed, below: I forgot to order hot pink dye and so haven't dyed this stuff yet; it includes a bunch of underwear and socks for The EGE.

 The alcove for the washer and dryer. I've shown this part recently.
  So, once again, this room as it was, long ago:

same view as it was recently:

and now:

I think I'm done with this part, at least for a while. I love it, we're happy here, it gets used by all of us all day long. If I had a ton of money and a contractor, I'd love to have floor-to-ceiling windows on all three exterior walls, but that's not happening, so this is the next best thing.

Again: if I can go from this:
to this:
imagine what you can do! XO

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Really Big Difference, Indeed

It's taken a long, long time. Since 2011, actually. Here's what the sewing room, which was once a dining room and is now a room where we can dance, or I can sit and stitch, or I can set up the ironing board for projects (not for ironing actual clothes, of course) used to look like. If you want to be totally truthful: it's the room where the cats bask in the afternoon and evening. It looked like this:
 I know it looks all hoarder-ish and stuff, but it's not: I used that stuff. I worked on those projects, and all those drawers were holding stuff I used. Or thought I would use. Or planned to use. You know how that goes.

Most recently, it looked like this, after I started taking down the shelves. They were those temporary, unstable things on brackets, and while I really needed them at the time, as I've pared down and simplified, I've made it possible to get rid of them. Most of them held the folded thrifted t-shirts, all laundered and deconstructed and stacked by color. But I realized this past week that I used those only once or twice a year; I have drawers of smaller pieces (the sleeves) I use more often, and they're at the end of the day bed down there. The larger stacks easily fit on three bins, which I labelled by color and put in the—duh—storage building. Like it's a long journey to go get them, right? All of about 20 yards.

Ready to paint. I used the same color, Valspar's Sunset Glow, and just refreshed these two walls and covered up the places there I had to patch screw holes and those strips where the shelf bracket holder things peeled off the paint, perhaps (ahem) because someone was too impatient to let the paint cure before putting up those shelves in the first place.
 And here it is today. You're looking into that same corner. The paint's the same color, but it's a different time of day, and the paint changes as the sun moves though.

 This stuff on the bed, below, will go on the permanent shelf up there above the chair once the paint is completely dry. There's a tray with current projects, all neatly bagged up (these are long-term on-going projects I can grab and take on the road or out for wine, so they aren't really exciting ones that I work on regularly). The black clamp-on lamp will go on the shelf to use when I sit in that chair and stitch while The EGE prepares dinner. I'll also have it to use when I set up the ironing board for tedious stuff, like making bias tape or stuff where I need bright light. The iron will go on that shelf, too, as will my dragon spray mister, which you can also see on the bed. I could have waited to take these photos after it was all finished, but, no: I actually couldn't. I'm pretty jazzed about this room now.
 Then there's this totally cool thing: a big, wood-framed mirror. More than I like to spend, but I got a slight discount because it has a chip/crack in the frame. No problem, as I think eventually I may tape it off and spray paint the frame bright metallic gold. For now, it's OK being (gack!) white because the windows are trimmed in white and the shelf hardware is white and the hooks are white. So: eh. I can live with it for a little while, at least.
 It's directly across from the triple windows, so it will help bounce light around.

So that's what I've done this week. I also made a handful of aprons out of lightweight linen, but they're not stitched, so I'll show those later. Now I'm thinking about removing the huge bulletin board on the wall behind the iMac and replacing it with yet another mirror.

The extra space and light are fabulous. I have come to crave the lack of clutter and things demanding my attention. Once they're not there, nagging me, there's more room for new ideas, and that's always a good thing.

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend, and hope you're inspired. If I can go from this:
 to this:
imagine what *you* can do!