Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Okay, So It's Been Awhile

I've been busy.

I did host Thanksgiving, and it turned out fine. It wasn't Martha Stewart perfect, but the food was delicious and homemade (including stuffing made from homemade gluten free cornbread, and gravy made from turkey stock, as in I roasted a turkey the Sunday before so I could make stock) and we didn't use any disposable flatware, plates, or cups. I didn't buy bottled water or Coca-Cola. Most of all, we gathered together as family and friends and managed to enjoy ourselves despite my mother's absence.

I completed NaNo. My novel isn't quite finished; my main character has more to do, but I don't know what that is now. I do think, however, that I am more comfortable calling myself a writer. Heck, maybe I'll take the title of novelist (albeit unpublished).

I'm feeling more relaxed, more in rhythm. This week has been good. The boys and I are spending some time each day reading, drawing, and crafting together; it has been beneficial for all of us. December is nearly upon us, and I don't feel rushed or stressed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

People, Problems, Friends, Family

I thought our sermon yesterday was going to be about how we can see people as problems or well, people. It never really got into that, but it was enough to get me thinking. It turns out that a guiding principle of UUism is the idea of the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Not surprisingly, one thing that really drew me to Enki as a holistic model of education was the concept that wisdom, compassion, and vitality are the birthright of all human beings. I think the inspiration is Buddhist, although for me they are both humanist ideas.

(You can have interesting discussions on whether these traits are inherent or not, if they have to be earned or learned, and whether foolishness, impulsiveness, and stupidity are also inherent human traits. Really, they make for fascinating conversation.)

It is really easy to objectify people, especially if they have hurt you. A sibling who has many problems and whose problems have spilled out and affect every family gathering can easily become a problem. It's hard to look at that person as a person, as someone who is going through the human experience just as we are. We love to share joy, love , and happiness; it is harder to be faced with fear and pain. We need to see past it, and remember that over all we share very similar goals as human beings ~ to be alive, to contribute to the next generation (whether biologically or not), to be happy.

It is also easy to objectify people when we allow them to become other, rather than us. People of different skin color or economic background. People of different religions or with different politics. Criminals. Youth. Homeless individuals and families. It is human to seek people who are like us, and for a long time, it was very human to divide ourselves up into us and other, vying for food and land with other tribes and societies.

We still do it, on a large scale, and I suppose, on a small scale. Obviously, we wage war in other countries, still scrambling for a bigger piece of the earth's resources. We say that we do it to provide democracy, ease human suffering, etc., but if that is true, all I can ask is, what about Darfur?

I wanted to touch today on the objectification of people, even people we know and care for deeply. We trivialize our relationships with people. We are slow to offer friendship, preferring to keep people in the categories of acquaintance or casual friend. We label people instead of embracing our closeness. For instance, I have had a tendency to introduce the woman who lives next door to my dad as his neighbor. She is far more than his neighbor, she is his friend, and she was my mother's dear friend for 29 years. As a teenager I spent countless hours at her home, listening to her tell stories of being a young woman in the 20s and 30s. She is an honorary great aunt to my children. She is a respected elder in our family. And yet, I say neighbor. I diminish her importance to our family. I offer a label, instead of a relationship. When you think about, why does anyone need to know where she lives?

I'm not saying that the labels are unimportant, but they provide information that has nothing to do with relationship. I have one friend who has introduced me to many people she knows, and she always describes me as her friend. In fact, she rarely gives the rest of the information (from our homeschooling group, from our AP group, etc.) unless it asked for. Likewise, when she talks about her other friends it is pretty much up to me to know how she is connected to various people, and I suppose that it doesn't really matter if she is talking about a friend from high school or a friend who shares a hobby with her. They are all her friends.

I know the sting of being introduced to someone via label versus relationship. It's like being dismissed, as if you are not all that important to the person introducing you to someone they know, especially if they know that person well. You can be friends with someone for a decade, and suddenly be reduced to the wife of someone who works with someone else's husband.

Why not offer relationship first, and explanation later? Even with new friends, how about saying, "This is my new friend", and offering facts when asked? Children can be amazing with this; they seem to recognize the gift of friendship far more readily than adults.

Lately, I had time to ponder this idea of relationship versus information. At my mother's funeral I looked around, and found myself connected to so many people because my mother had become friends with them. When it came time to introduce some of these people to Papa, he needed the information, yes, but I wanted him to know the relationship. "This is ____, she was my stepmother for a few years and she was very important to me as I was growing up." "This is ____, she was my mother's cousin and when we came back to California she and her children were the people we had to call family when it felt like ours was falling apart."

I'm thinking about this now because there will be introductions going around on Thanksgiving. I must remember that I can say "This is my good friend ____" when introducing someone. It sure beats "This is ____ from my play group." When introducing a family member it's easier, but I can elaborate on the relationship. I can mention how dear my SIL is to me, and how very much I like my mother-in-law.

Out of time, not out of thoughts . . .

(A few more thoughts. I don't think we consciously label people and describe our relationships with them in terms of facts versus relationship. In that, I don't mean I think we intend to cause hurt by it. I think it is a part of the information society we live in, and our disconnection from people. I do think it takes a conscious effort to change how we think of people and to move into relationship thinking. I also think, when it comes to the labels we use to describe family, that relationship is part of the label, so we don't need to add favorite or dear or beloved to each one.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Finding the Simple in Thanksgiving

I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.

I know. I only started eating meat and poultry again 8 months ago. I'm a novice. I haven't hosted Thanksgiving dinner in more than a decade. That was an amazing vegetarian feast, with appreciative guests. It's easier to please people when they aren't expecting a traditional turkey dinner.

So here I am, making lists, scheduling out my tasks for the next week, and basically trying to avoid a panic attack. I've sent a good friend several email messages already, knowing full well that she won't be reading them tonight or possibly even this weekend. So here I am at the blog, trying to talk myself down, trying to remember what I want as a big picture.

I'm actually not afraid to make the turkey. Well, maybe that's because I am making a practice turkey tomorrow. I remember roasting my first chicken, with an audience, and it was nerve wracking. No, I'm roasting a bird tomorrow. It's my style anyway; I want homemade turkey stock for the gravy. Sometimes I make extra work for myself and it is 100% worth it.

But there are a plethora of side dishes to make, and I have to figure out when each one goes in the oven. I keep trying to simplify it, and other people's expectations jump out at me and require that I squeeze in one more item.

I am going insane over sweet potatoes.

Really. Papa wants praline sweet potato casserole, the one I make. Of course, I always make it and take it with me, snug in a little thermal carrier that keeps it hot so my host doesn't have to use his or her oven to warm it. This casserole is pushing me over the line from can-do to can't-possibly-do. I don't have a double oven, or even a toaster oven. My oven is booked solid all day: pumpkin pie, turkey, dressing, rolls.

(Note to self: Dad needs a toaster oven. Can I buy one to use on Thanksgiving and give it to him afterwards so it doesn't clutter up my house? Does anyone else I know have one I could borrow?)

It's not like my marriage is going to fall apart over sweet potato casserole. But Papa wants it ~ it's the dish that says Thanksgiving to him.

Is this really all about sweet potato casserole anyway? Could it be that I let simple get away from me? Am I being haunted by the ghost of Thanksgiving past? I think I am, and I don't like it. Everyone is bringing their expectation of what Thanksgiving should be, especially when it comes to food. We have ardent roasters in the family, and confirmed BBQ aficionados. There is a contingent that definitely prefers marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. No one in my family has ever made a fresh, not frozen, turkey. Some people definitely prefer their cranberry sauce to be can-shaped.

Then there are ads and magazines and TV shows trying to make me believe that Thanksgiving has one look, and only one look: perfect. Crisp table linens, gleaming china and silver, dining rooms that hold tables that seat 24. Backyards with fountains and gardens and ponds, outfitted with redwood decks and teak furniture, on rolling acres of grass and meadow. There are no smudges on the windows (the kind that appear when little boys press their noses against the glass, willing their visitors to arrive), no finger prints on the door ways, no pencil marks on the walls. The dogs are always purebred.

I can't please everyone, period. So here is my Thanksgiving manifesto for 2007:

1) I will make 10 pounds of mashed potatoes for 23 people. I will not make 15 or 20 pounds of potatoes just to be certain that everyone needs to unbutton their pants after dinner and leave with leftover potatoes. 10 is enough.

2) I will make one batch of sweet potato casserole, not two. If we run out, there will be other food.

3) I will make simple green beans or a green salad. I will not make both. I will not let myself believe that greens beans must be roasted or covered in Hollandaise sauce. I will not fool myself into thinking that a green vegetable will somehow undo the indulgence that a Thanksgiving feast is. I will embrace the indulgence.

4) I will buy an oblong tablecloth or a sheet for my oval table, being that I can't find an oval tablecloth at a decent price, and I only need the bigger cloth a few times a year. I will stop trying to make it perfect.

5) I will not fret over the fact that the carpet in the family room really needs to be cleaned. I will remind myself that it would need cleaning again afterwards, anyway. There will be children here.

6) I will not go out and buy new bedding for the master bedroom. I will not. I can't get what I want, and I haven't made it yet, and I have to be okay with that.

7) I will remind myself that I don't need matching, holiday-themed dishes for one meal. I will acknowledge that the only way I could afford to do so would be to buy Chinet, and I don't want to do that.

8) I will not give in and buy Coca-Cola and bottled water. I thought I could, I can't. I feel better already.

9) I will not lose myself this week. I will stay available to my children and I will not let stress overwhelm me. I will attempt not to yell at anyone.

10) I will remember that I love to cook, and I will have fun.

So, to recap: no paper plates, no plastic forks, no bottled water, no made-in-China centerpieces and decorations, no stress. Yes to being who I am, yes to having fun, yes to imperfection, yes to friendship, yes to laughter, yes to love.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Little "Aha"

We took the boys to the UU (Universalist-Unitarian, although most congregations reverse the order) church last Sunday. I had been the week before, and T-Guy was eager to go, to see some new friends he had met last month.

So we went. We promptly signed the boys up for Religious Education, and after about 15 minutes of the main service they were "sung" out of the sanctuary to join in age-appropriate groups for some sort of lesson.

T-Guy announced that it was just like public school. Really funny, because he's never been. Perhaps he recalls my mentioning that public school children must sit in their seats, raise their hands to ask questions, and ask permission to use the restroom. Anyway, they talked about animals.

Yesterday, I sat with a few women whose children attend religious education. We talked about it, but only with the idea that it is absolutely necessary. We discussed the issue of snacks and the needs of food allergic children as well as the desire of mainstream children to have mainstream snacks, and the desire of the toddler parents that their children receive something healthy.

I know I hit a nerve when I mentioned that the snack was little more than a time killer before the parents pick up the children. I was told that the snack is supposed to be a time of fellowship for the children.

I didn't see that. I saw a bunch of kids munching cookies and drinking punch. The fellowship that I saw came later, when the children ran and screamed and played on the church lawn. That is how children connect, through play.

I kept thinking about the entire situation, and finally it occurred to me to ask myself, why do my children need to be sent away from me during the main service?


Will religious education teach my children things that Papa and I can't teach them ourselves? No.

Do we want to give someone else the responsibility for teaching religious education to our boys? No.

Is religious education a separate subject that requires teaching by people following a curriculum? No.

So, why send them? If it is to make the main service more enjoyable for the adults, then I object, strongly. Why are the kids separated out? Is the main service to mature for them, too inaccessible? From what I have heard so far, no. They might not get it all, but they are not harmed by remaining with the community and hearing what the adults are discussing. Are we protecting them from boredom? If we are, then the main service must be boring for us as well.

My role, while these boys are children, is to guide them. To guide them in all things, even those that touch on the moral, the ambiguous, the painful. Especially those things that are moral, ambiguous, and painful.

We are visiting the UU church to determine if it is a good fit for us, if we can participate in a community of like-minded people. I believe the community needs the children present, reminding us of why, as human beings, we go on. Mentoring the children in the lives of adults rather than taking them away and then dividing them into age groups.

T-Guy is right, it's like public school. Sunday school (call it religious education if you want to) is modeled after schooling.

I don't know what the answer is going to be. I'd like to ask my boys to stay with us during the service; I believe that they belong by our sides. It may be boring until they learn to listen. It may be hard to sit still for an hour ~ it is for me.

This may make or break us attending this church. I absolutely don't want to send my boys away from me. I don't like that the community is divided this way. I don't like the idea that children need to learn religion/kindness/ethics/etc. from people other than their parents and the larger community around them. I don't believe it needs lesson plans. If you want to transmit values to children, you live them. If you believe that children are valuable, you keep them with the community.

Most everyone will disagree with me; they usually do. But when it comes to religious education, I have a feeling that we are not Sunday schoolers, we are life long learners. It doesn't get separated out on a single day of the week. It doesn't require a planned curriculum.

It's been an interesting idea to explore. I definitely chose a crazy month to revisit my feelings about church and to attempt to find the larger community we are seeking. But I never said I wasn't crazy . . .

Monday, November 12, 2007

They Are Children, Not Labels

It has been a hard day. A hard week, a hard month, a hard season, a hard year. Hard isn't even a good word for it. Trying, tough, painful, emotional, frustrating, sad, frightening, anxious . . . those are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Yesterday I was helping my 7YO practice his reading. When asked what he wanted to learn most of all, he expressed a longing to read chapter books. So we're practicing, just he and I.

We practiced. He wiggled, he bounced, he swayed. He moved the entire time.

It wasn't hard to look at him and think, ADHD. After all, he's also in attentive, easily distracted, forgetful, fidgety. He seems to not listen, not to even hear at times.

For a moment, I let myself feel the fear. Then I reminded myself: he's 7.

It is really hard to try to live a life without labels. My oldest son has special needs as well. We could probably get a label if we went looking for one. At least one. When he was little he could have received early intervention. In a school setting he would qualify for an IEP.

Sometimes I think that we're making a mistake rejecting the labels. Maybe they are there to help us. Maybe they make the path smoother. Maybe you can name your enemy and you can battle and win. I know people who are winning. People who face the labels and use them as tools, and never lose sight of their children as people.

But I also know people for whom the label becomes means of disconnection. Children are medicated, separated, trained. They are medicalized, and someone else ~ a doctor, a therapist, a pharmaceutical company ~ someone else is supposed to fix the problem.

Once upon a time, someone told me that Naomi Aldort thought that maybe some of these disorders, so newly common, are simply new ways of being, an infinitesimal step in human evolution. I still think about that sometimes. Some of them, I think, are disorders of society, not the brain. The answer for my youngest is not sitting still at a desk, it is running, playing, jumping . . . moving!

As for my oldest, he is my boy. He is not a label, he is not a disease, he is not a syndrome or a disorder. He is a child. I have not yet given up on the idea that time and love will be the deciding factors in his life. I will love him, and I will give him time, and I will life my life in tandem with his, not separated, so that we can live and learn together. I will turn back the decades and I will give both boys freedom, real work, time to think.

I will not fear his ability to connect; I will see his desire to, as well as his deep bond not only with his father and I, but with his brother, his grandfather, and until very recently, his grandmother. I will not let people tell me that he should have a best friend by now, and that he should be separating from me. He does have a best friend, his brother, and that relationship is complex and ever changing and growing. As for separation, he's 8. I want him to be attached to me. I want him to see me as a source of love, compassion, and wisdom.

I'll admit it, I get scared sometimes. I worry about the future. I think about the labels and I tremble in fear. I read statistics and I want to crawl into bed and hide. I cry. It is hard, tough, frightening, difficult . . . sometimes there aren't enough words to describe the fear.

But there is joy, and love, and connection. There is laughter in this house, and jokes, and silly pranks. There are two children, their hearts open to life and love. They are not jaded, not grown up before they're 10, not afraid of love and affection. They are children. They are not the labels that could be given to them. They are human beings, unique, wonderful, amazing human beings.

And they are mine. Let me remember that.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Be the Thing You Seek

Okay, this has many variations. Be the peace you wish to find it the world. Just do it. Be all that you can be. Dream it and you can do it. If you build it they will come . . .

It's a lesson that comes to all of us, throughout our lives. A lot of times the phrases come at us as a way to prod us to action or get us to buy stuff. Today I am thinking of it in a far more personal way.

Three years ago I was pretty miserable. I had ended a long term friendship, badly. I hadn't been brave, or honest . . . I was a coward. Rather than confront the issues we faced head on, I ran away. I'll never know if we could have worked it out. Given the fundamental differences, I don't think so, and I don't harbor regret that I ended the friendship. I do at times wish I had at least told my friend straight out what the problem was.

Right after that, I wanted a new friend. Maybe it stems from my childhood; every time a pet died we rushed out to the shelter to bring home a new one. My mom's philosophy was that having a new dog or cat to cuddle would take away the pain of losing the other, and it seemed to work pretty well when the loss was an animal and the person a child.

I put out a call to many of the groups I am part of: I want a friend! I listed all of the faults of my previous friend, because certainly I didn't want to make the same mistake twice. I went on some best friend "dates" checking compatibility of values and children. A few people on the fringes took the time to tell me that I was really too busy to make connections with people, that I was putting up too many barriers. Leave it to suffice that I met some nice women, women who over time became casual friends. But I never found the one.

Eventually I would come to realize that I didn't need to shop around for best friends. I wrote about that here.

This post isn't about that. This post is about becoming what we need, and about proudly proclaiming who we are.

A year after I had broken up with my friend, I took over a local homeschooling support group. I had been a regular attendee of the group, and when the leader moved away no one else was willing to take the reins. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to lose our support group, so I reluctantly agreed.

For almost two years I acted as the public face of that group. I answered emails. I made sure I was present when new families planned to attend, and I spent time talking to them. I learned how to be a friend; to offer support and advice, to listen well, to make time for people, to share who I was. Slowly, one by one, friends came into my life. By putting myself out there, by offering friendship, it came to me.

I am finding that when it comes to our creative pursuits, we are waiting for someone to give us what we want. It doesn't just apply to writing; I know musicians, poets, singers, painters, etc. who don't take what is rightly theirs.

Let me illustrate. Papa is a really smart man. He is a bit mystified by NaNo and my pursuit of writing. Not that he doesn't support what I am doing, because he is all for people stretching themselves by trying new things. But he isn't sure that the act of writing makes me a writer. I questioned him, "What makes me a writer?" He didn't really know. I asked if it was publication. He stepped back a minute, and said that the goal of writing is effectively communicating with someone, and in that we all write, so some other definition needs to exist to claim the label writer.

I disagree, and I told him so. I pointed out that he plays guitar and ukulele, he sings, and he plays piano. He is a musician. He didn't think so. So I asked, "What makes a musician? Do you have to play a concert arena, symphony hall, or at least a coffee house? Are you not a musician until some one pays you for what you do?"

I won't make this pretty and say that he had an "aha" moment and that of course we are all the artists that we wish to be. He is still thinking about it. He doesn't feel comfortable crossing the line from "someone who makes music" to "musician."

It makes me sad. Sad that so many of us lose what was so proudly ours when we were children. Children are naturally artists, and no one expects them to meet the cultural definition of success; that is, to make money doing what they do. Children are free to paint pictures, sing silly songs, write poems and stories, sculpt, bang drums, and so much more. When they are children the adults around them recognize this as a beautiful thing. Beautiful that is, unless they aren't succeeding in subjects such as math and reading. Beautiful until a sixteen year old announces that she wants to be a rock star, or an eighteen year old says he has applied to art school. Beautiful until the adults in their lives start judging what the children do in terms of dollars and cents.

I am sad when a poet says, "No, I'm not really a poet. I'm a bank manager and a mom." Or when a person says, "No, I'm not a musician, I am a computer programmer." Even stay at home parents label themselves according to work or non-work status.

Can we open it up a little? How about saying, "I am a mom who chooses to stay out of the paid work force and I'm a writer and I'm an environmentalist and I'm a lover and I'm a knitting geek and...."

I think sometimes the fear stems from how others in society judge us. It's possible that the first response to "I'm a writer!" is, "What have you had published?" Couldn't all of us who haven't been published cheerfully say "Nothing yet, but I'm still writing." Couldn't we be proud of our blogs? Couldn't we gently point out the flaw in their logic by answering that there is no requirement to share our art; it exists whether we show it to the world or not.

Be a writer. Be a musician, a poet, a dancer, an actor, a painter, a sculptor, a mixed media artist. Be what you are, and claim it proudly, and stop the cycle of teaching children that their art has to hide when they become adults. Teach them that it is better to pursue your dreams and be broke than to work a soul-sucking job that you hate just because it brings in the big bucks. Tell them that there are ways to have what you want. Tell them that the mommies and daddies who stay home with them have dreams and desires and need time to pursue them. Tell them that the mommies and daddies who work outside of the home are more than their job titles.

Be the thing you seek, and seek to help your children be who they are.

Me? I'm a writer, a blogger, a mom, a friend, a lover, a poet, a radical, an environmentalist, a cook, a planner, a dreamer, and yes, even a former bank manager. I am an artist. I am all of these things and much, much more.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I have always been all over the place with my creative interests. Over the years I have taken up cross-stitch, embroidery, beginning sewing, rubber stamping, scrapbooking, flute, ukulele, card crafting, crochet, loom knitting, knitting with needles, herbal crafting, candle making, cake decorating, felt crafts, dance, watercolor, pastels . . . I am sure the I could list at least twenty more things if I thought long and hard about it.

Some of these interests have waxed and waned, and I have easily let them go. Some of them are seasonal and don't engage me more than a few weeks each year. Some I barely dabble in. Some I haven't let go of because I have expensive supplies and a sense of guilt when I consider getting rid of things. Some I actively want to pursue.

Some things will always be with me. I like to sing. I'm not a particularly talented singer, but I am enthusiastic, and my family seems to enjoy it. My dad sang silly, made up songs to me, and I do the same to my boys. Sometimes the boys and I sing together purposefully, without accompaniment, and sometimes we all sing as a family, with Papa playing guitar or ukulele, or every now and then, piano.

I know that I'm not serious about singing, so I don't devote a lot of time to it. The good thing about singing is that you usually have your voice with you, and you can sing and do other things at the same time, like drive. In fact, when I was younger I often composed little songs while I commuted to and from work. I've forgotten most of them now, but I did come up with a lullaby that I would sing to my own baby ten years later.

It isn't always so easy with the other creative pursuits. I can honestly say that I have too much to choose from, and it creates a mental clutter that makes it hard for me to focus. Knit or crochet, and if knit, then which of the four projects I have going right now? Watercolor a card, or rubber stamp it? Crochet a baby blanket, or sew one from flannel, or attempt a baby quilt? Maybe I should knit the baby a hat instead?

The other day though, it occurred to me to ask myself, which of these things could I let go of? At first, my thought was none of them, and I started listing everything I enjoy about each specific activity (well not cake decorating . . . that's one I let go of). But it was easy to let each creative activity clamor for equal time. Knitting is great; I recently learned how, and I can make things for other people. Crochet connects me to my grandmother. Scrapbooking feels like something I should do. I've recently become interested in embroidery again. I saw some felt animals that I'd love to make. Nothing wanted to go.

So I rephrased the question, and actually created an exercise to help me weed through my many options. It goes like this:

If I never (did a certain activity), I would (fill in description or alternative).

If I never knit again, I would still find what I need.

If I never scrapbooked again, I could forgive myself for not meeting society's expectation for white, middle class moms, and I could tell my children every day that I love them by the life we live together.

If I never play the flute again, I can still sing.

If I never really learn to play ukulele, I can give mine to J-Baby and he can learn on a nice instrument.

If I never roll another candle, I will still have light.

If I never make another salve, I can find someone who does.

If I never rubber stamp again, I can write and draw with my hands.

If I never learn to quilt, it won't be the end of the world.

If I never take up embroidery again, I might be sad.

If I never crochet again, my hands might feel empty and cold.

If I never write again, I will be lost.

Do you see how easy it is? Right now I obviously want to spend my time writing, crocheting, and eventually, doing embroidery. It doesn't mean that I have to get rid of everything else, but I can tell you that I feel a renewed sense of vigor when I think of decluttering my craft supplies.

Having done this same exercise with other activities, I can see that my high priority list includes spending time with my family, getting out in nature, and reading.

Some things burn brightly in us, but we don't focus on them because we have candles glowing everywhere we look. We get distracted by the money we've spent, by other people's expectations, by goals we've set for ourselves without thinking about whether the express who we really are.

In some cases, the things we do are an expression of ourselves, but they are poorly received and perhaps poorly formed. For instance, many years I have worked hard to create a handmade holiday. I want everyone to have a gift made with my own hands and heart. It is also helpful that I can create nice gifts for far less than I could purchase them. I trade my time for the wow factor (which has increased over the years, as hand crafts have increased in popularity once more). But when I am completely honest about it, I don't always gets that "Wow". I probably don't get it half of the time. I don't get it from children other than my own. I don't get it from my side of the family. Most everyone who receives a homemade gift from me would be perfectly satisfied with a purchased gift.

So given my new, tightly focused set of priorities, where will I spend my time this year? I have a feeling I won't be knitting hats for my nephews, or making an ABC scrapbook for my niece. I'll probably finish what I've started, in the spare time that is truly spare.

Why did I learn to knit? Well, at first it was because I was supposed to, so I could teach my very Waldorf children how to knit in grade 1. We never got to it in grade 1, because I hadn't learned yet. By the end of grade 2 I got determined, and inspired (by a novel) and figured it out one night. So we made knitting needles, and bought fairly traded wool yarn, and gave it a go, but it turns out that someone had forgotten to program the desire to knit into my children. Oh, they liked the story I read to them, and the cute verse we learned, but when it came down to actually trying they gave it 5 minutes and proceeded to go outside and play.

I stuck with it, and made couple of scarves. Secretly I preferred crochet, but crochet isn't hip and a shiny aluminum hook doesn't have the cachet of two hardwood needles sticking out of your bag. Knitters are admired; crocheters are just old, even if the Stitch 'N Bitch author did try to make it hip by writing a book entitled The Happy Hooker. I've been to yarn shops and knitting circles; crochet is something that knitters have to learn just enough of to finish their garments.

What I am saying is that I didn't fall in love with knitting. I liked it for all of the wrong reasons: it was Waldorf, it was hip, it was supposed to integrate the left and right sides of my brain. I could make warm, practical, funky knit gifts for people who didn't want them, out of yarns that I loved but they would have to hand wash. I could hang out with friends who knit, which was cool.

I have a feeling that I am not done with knitting, but I know now that it isn't on my high priority list for now.

I still love the small, seasonal projects. It's nice to make a beautifully soft hat for a newborn, to roll candles for the holiday mantle, and to spend an afternoon mixing oils and herbs making hand salves for the year. Put in their proper place they don't take away from my focus.

Why was writing my top creative choice? Writing for me is like breathing. Everyone wants to communicate, and long ago the written word chose me, to both read and to write. I don't have to write published articles, award-winning poetry, or the next great American novel. I do need to find a way to let the ideas and words out of my brain. I have to get them out, and as I do, as the words move from my brain, through my fingers and onto the screen or paper, my thoughts are refined. The burn into my being as parts of who I am.

Really, that is what art is all about . . . expressing our humanity. At one time in my life I did that with my body, dancing and moving. Later, I painted. Always I am trying to communicate who I am by what I create, and always, words have been my preferred medium. Some of the other things are way stations, stepping stones, things that help me figure out who I am, but that in the end are not who I am. I know it's true, because always I must write about them.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I May Be Out Before I'm Really In

It occurred to me last night that NaNo can't be my main priority project right now. As much as I would love to have a month to really focus on myself and my creativity, I have to address some issues that I have been putting off for far too long.

That said, I wrote 1768 words this morning. I'm not giving up; I just can't obsess. I'll have to treat writing like a job, and allot certain time to it and let it go at that. Since I was after discipline, it may work out fine.

I have main characters. Wow. They named themselves and everything. I seem to be working on introductory back story and character development, rather than plot. Having never done this before, I accept that as perfectly fine.