Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old hands and new tricks

Sometimes it's easy to recognize where my ideas come from. I'm working on a project right now that's all about trying things I haven't done before; the pendant owes everything to Jamie Cloud Eakin, and the rope it will hang from has echoes of Marcia DeCoster and Rachel Nelson-Smith.

It also represents my own journey in every bead and in every stitch. My love - and knowledge - of lacemaking, architecture, and engineering are mixed together in this piece. It has vintage beads that my grandmother saved for probably 50 years, and new beads that are much more regular in size. It has a new cab, featuring a vintage photo; it is a combination of old and new in every part.

As am I.

I've been thinking about creativity lately. I've been through a dry spell, and I'm just now confident that I'm coming out of it. I was pushing too hard for too long, trying to be something I'm not; and, in doing that, I lost the gist of what I am for awhile. But I've found it again. I'm an amalgamation of everything I see and do; a casserole of everything I've ever seen and everything I've ever done. I distill my experiences and bring out something new with my hands, one stitch at a time.

I've also discovered that I need balance in my life in order to create; I don't do well when I try to focus on my craft and make it happen as a business venture. The more I thought about business, the more I lost my creative spark. And without that, I had no business on which to focus.

So, I've decided to put the business part of it on the back burner and get back to living a creative life. I've learned that I need music, and art, and friends, and laughter in order to be a creative person. I need to keep joy as one of the primary ingredients in my creative stew; without it, everything falls more than a bit flat.

I learned that this year. Seems I'm always learning something. My hands have been beading for nearly 50 years; I hope they have many more years of beading in them.

I guess I'm getting to be an old hand at this. How odd.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ten months in

It's been ten months since I started my experiment in healthy living, and I am happy to report that I can now look at a photograph of myself without cringing. When I saw the photos from last year's family reunion, I cried. I hated the way I looked; and I hated the way I felt. I was unhealthy, uncomfortable, and scared. I knew I was in bad shape, but I didn't think there was anything I could do to change it. I was almost afraid to try; I'd heard so many people tell me that after 50 the body goes downhill and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

So, back in late January of this year, I decided that even if losing weight was not possible, I could eat a healthy diet for four months and see if it made me feel better. Yes, I secretly - okay, not so secretly - hoped the weight would come off, and I would look better, but I wasn't counting on it. I decided to cut out refined sugars and processed foods, eat mostly fresh vegetables and fruit, and slowly decreased my portion sizes. I made sure that I ate a good breakfast first thing every morning - usually plain yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts - and, if I want to snack, I have a few nuts or some unsweetened dried fruit (check those labels!). I promised myself that I would stick to it for four months because my birthday was four months away, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I told myself that if I had lost enough weight to go down a size, then I would ask my husband to take me clothes shopping for my birthday. If I hadn't lost any weight, then I'd ask him to buy a dozen doughnuts for my birthday breakfast, and I'd do a face plant that evening in my own birthday cake. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. I can do anything for four months; I figured that was enough time to see results, if it was going to work; if it wasn't, then I could rest assured that I'd given it a good try, and I could go back to eating all the things I loved. In excess, of course.

I can admit something now that I couldn't say back in January, 2011 - although I could squeeze myself into a pair of size 8, spandex enhanced, lowrider jeans, it wasn't a pretty sight. My "real size" was more like a 16, but I was clinging to the myth that I was a size 8. How bad could I be if I was a size 8? Well, I wasn't a size 8 then, but I was after four months of healthy eating. No more squeezing. The spandex didn't have to expand, and my cell phone fit into my pocket without bulging. In the fitting room, I managed to squeeze myself into a pair of size four, spandex enhanced lowrider jeans, but I didn't buy them. I liked the way I looked in the size 8 pants. I liked the way I felt in the size 8 pants. I bought some new tops, and a pair of loose-fitting, size 8 cargo pants, and decided to go for another four months of healthy eating.

I'm now halfway through my third set of four months, and I'm wearing size 6 jeans. Comfortably. Loosely, even. And I don't even know what size I could "squeeze myself into" because I haven't tried squeezing for 6 months. Although I still have horrible cravings for sweets, they don't taste the way I remember - when I do give in and take a bite of something sweet, I don't really enjoy it like I think I will. Truth be told, I miss dessert; I loved sweets, and it makes me sad that I've lost that enjoyment. On the other hand, though, fruit tastes really, really good to me now - so sweet! - and I get to eat it every day. Guilt-free. For breakfast, even.

The holidays are upon us. Will I be able to handle it? I will eat some pumpkin pie, but not the baklava. I think fudge is behind me; it doesn't even really sound good. But I might make some really, really dark chocolate truffles rolled in unsweetened cocoa. Eggnog? no, I don't think so. Half a cup of eggnog in my coffee was my favorite treat from Thanksgiving until the last carton was gone at the supermarket, but I think I'll give it a miss this year. I am thinking of treating myself to spoonful of a homemade alternative: heavy cream, vanilla and nutmeg. Just a spoonful, though. I've actually gotten rather used to taking my coffee black.

I'll make up a pan of shortbread, because I adore Christmas cookies, and I don't want to give them up. I know that the super-sweet ones most likely will not taste good to me anymore; but I still want to have something to nibble on in front of the fire after the tree has been trimmed.

I'll let you know next month how it goes; it will be nearly Christmas by then.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Social Networking

I have depended upon social networking for my daily "people fix" for upwards of twenty years now. As a writer, I've often worked from home, and, beginning with CompuServe Forums so many years ago, I've really come to enjoy - and depend on - my little trips to the virtual water cooler for gossip, information, and contact with living, breathing, albeit asynchronous, human beings.

At its best, it's a giant network of pen pals from all over the world. I can drop in whenever I like and see updates from people whom I've gotten to know through photographs and the written word; someone is always doing something interesting.

I work in short bursts; I get antsy if I focus on one thing for too long. I need short breaks to function at my best, so social networking is ideal for me. I'm in and out in a few minutes, feeling refreshed and human again; that little bit of contact with the world allows me to dip back into my work with renewed vigor and get the job done. There are no interruptions when I'm working, and I'm not interrupting anyone else's work when I need my people fix. That's the beauty of asynchronous communication.

Unfortunately, Facebook has a chat function. Since I usually keep a Facebook window open and handy for my quick little breaks, chat means that anyone can open a window to me anytime they like. I was raised to be polite; it's hard for me to ignore someone who is asking to speak to me. Unfortunately, those little windows usually open at a time when I'm busily writing, which created a dilemma for me: politeness or work? Whichever I choose, I'm going to have regrets. So, for a long time, I'd managed to keep the chat function disabled. I think that option must have run out; suddenly that darn chat window has started popping up again.

This morning, it popped up while I was taking a physical break from the computer; when I came back, I saw the little chat window on my screen with two lines of text in it. The first line said, "Hello," and the second said, "Why did you accept my friendship if you're not going to talk to me?"

Oddly enough, this plaintive cry was from someone who didn't appear to be human. The entity who was upset when I didn't instantly respond was a bead store. Now, I like bead stores as much as any beader, but I like to visit them when I want to buy beads. As much as I like them, I'm not in the habit of inviting them into my home. I began to think about the bead store's message, and then, I began to wonder why I had accepted the friend request. I unfriended it. If a bead store believes that I should be at its beck and call after accepting its friendship, then I don't want the friendship.

I realized that I needed to deal with the chat window. Now.

I went into the settings, and "disable chat" was no longer an option. "Available to chat" was checked off; I clicked on it again, hoping to see the check mark disappear. No such luck. That stumped me for a few minutes; the only other option was "Limit availability." I clicked that, but found only a list of my lists; it seems that Facebook does not want to let me choose to chat with no one anymore.

I fooled 'em.

Or at least, I hope I did; I made up a new list called "Chat," and selected it as the only group to whom I am available for chat. The "chat" list is empty.

I've got my fingers crossed that it works.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time and understanding

Yesterday, we went to a family reunion and birthday party for Gramma; she will be 105 in about a week. She is doing amazingly well; she has some trouble hearing, which she finds frustrating, but her mind is as sharp as ever.

Still - at 105 - she knows that her time is running out; she's surprised that she's lasted this long. She doesn't necessarily expect to wake up when she goes to sleep each night, and one of these days, she won't. She's very matter-of-fact about that. She has come to terms with the eventuality of death; she has an understanding of it that I am not able to accept.

I've mentioned before that the concept of mortality has begun to slap me around a bit; yet, when I look at Gramma, I'm faced with the fact that I'm only a little bit more than half-way to her age. There's no guarantee I've got her life expectancy, of course; but neither can I focus on the possibility of dying for the next 52 (or more!) years. It's still time for me to work on being alive.

I may grow hard of hearing; I may not be able to do the things I can do today at some time in the future, but I can do them now.

105 years and counting.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Opening and closing

This year has been a year of change for me; physical changes to be sure; but emotional and life changes, too. I've been trying things that I've always wanted to do, but didn't have the nerve to do, and I have been working on getting healthy and strong.

As the year winds down, I'm really feeling the changes; I've let go of some things, and opened up room for others, yet unknown. Letting go can be very painful; not just for the one who lets go, but for others, who don't want to let go. That's the hardest part of letting go; sometimes other people feel hurt.

I wish I could please everyone all the time, but I can't. I've spent about 50 years trying, and have recently come to the reluctant conclusion that I must let go of that need in me to please others; I must, finally, be true to myself. And so, I've opened another door, cleared out some more space in my life, made some more room for something that will be a better fit for me.

When I did that, a door closed behind me.

It happens sometimes. It's sad; but it also makes me very grateful for the times when the door wasn't closed behind me; grateful for the friends who understand that sometimes we need to walk in different directions in order to meet up again and share our stories. Those people are rare and precious jewels; I treasure them, and love knowing that we will always be close in our hearts, even if life has taken us in very different directions.

You know who you are. I love you always.