Monday, October 29, 2007

Just trying to make it

So maybe you, too, succumbed to the lure of The Cute Book, and maybe you, too, have had it on your shelf but haven't quite had time to do anything with it. Well, I'm here to tell you that this little panda (page 12!) came together in no time at all, so you should open the book and try something out. I've made some little countdown treats for Dean's lunch box this week (counting down until Halloween, of course); I loved that last week on the way home from school one day, Dean reminisced about our tradition that we "always" countdown to holidays with lunch box surprises. Kids are like that -- they'll take something you've done that they liked and instantly turn it into tradition. It delights me. And it reminds me how worthwhile it is to pick up some felt and thread and make things. I wish I could show you the hamster I made (complete with a mask and "trick or treat" banner), but that guy is too big to be scanned -- and now Blogger doesn't want to let me post anymore photos so I'll have to try again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

China-free me?

All right. Natalie and Leslie have both reported in that they are back in their homes, and while optimistic are keeping close watch on the fires. We are all still on edge, waiting, but I'm trying to push myself out of can't-think-about-anything-else mode and honoring Natalie's request to just get on with normal stuff. If you hear about relief efforts that need support, I'd love to know about them.

OK -- so the long-simmering-in-my-head post that I meant to write days ago was in response to some wonderful questions Natalie raised about the whole China-free thing, and about where the ability to be environmentally responsible begins and ends. First, she made me laugh out loud with her first thought -- that "china-free" meant, like, paper plates for Christmas dinner! Gotta love a mind like that! And I even wrote her a whole long comment that evaporated in the ether when I hit "post." Anyhoo.

For me, China-free is about sending a message to the big businesses (primarily American? seems so, but surely it's global) whose manufacturing operations are in China, and to those manufacturing operations in China themselves. How dare you sacrifice the health and well-being of your workers, of your customers, and of our planet by using the cheapest and most deadly materials to make your goods? How dare you, Hasbro, increase your profit margins by knowingly (yeah, knowingly) allowing lead levels in toys -- TOYS -- to be what we've now learned they are? From the horror of the pet and human food contaminations to lead in toys designed for infants to suck on them, where does it end? It won't end, I believe -- it will keep getting worse. Once you start doing some research into how polluted China has become (and how quickly), it doesn't take long to calculate how devastating, given its size and population, this will be for all of us on Earth.

So sure, the lure of China for manufacturing is just how CHEAP it is, and as consumers we get sucked right into that because it's easy not to think about getting cancer in X number of years because we loved the color of lipstick we saw on our way to the register and bought it as a little pick-me-up and didn't realize it was full of toxic chemicals. Yup, the quick, easy, affordable choice for a lot of us is to head to Target or WalMart and get what we need. I go to Target and Walmart to be able to pick up what I need (in no way am I presenting myself as the queen-o-environmental-responsibility). No, we all can't afford pristine, artisan, environmentally perfect choices (and the reality is that there are not environmentally perfect choices for humans on this planet -- it's ALL a compromise).

OK. So where does that leave us? I'd written a post a while ago which of course I can't find now, but it was about my belief in the power of incremental change. About how the reason I think we fail is because we tend to have all-or-nothing approaches and so, for example, once we break down and eat the Halloween candy that was meant for next week we figure we'll never make our weight-loss goal so what's the point of even trying anymore? For me, this means that I am trying to be more environmentally responsible, more aware. It means that I will most assuredly still sometimes buy things made in China because (1) I was in a hurry and neglected to read the label, (2) it's the version I can afford, or (3) I honestly cannot find an alternative. But none of that will stop me from trying, and I've already turned down stuff and I'll keep turning down stuff. The China-free Christmas idea also pushed me toward re-examining our own expectations and approaches to the holiday in ways I wouldn't have done before, and I do believe we'll end up lighter AND happier.

One easy and well-intentioned tip: I found a terrific Web site that will help get unwanted catalogs out of your mailbox. I'm hoping by next year I won't have the piles and piles of catalogs going in the recycle bin.

I get wound up -- passionate -- about this stuff, but I hope I don't come across as holier-than-thou or anything. I'm just trying, learning. You may or may not want to keep an eye out for what I've been learning lately about plastics. It's ugly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stay safe

[image from Chile Pepper Passion postcard book by Eduardo Fuss]

I had a whole post in my head that I was planning to write, but my idea included linking to a post on Natalie's site and in going over there I saw that she and her family have been evacuated ahead of the fires in California. So nothing else seems important today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Back around

[A Quilt For The Child I Never Had by Jane Burch Cochran]

I knew I was overdue on posting but didn't realize it had been a whole week -- that makes total sense, though, because it has been quite the week! All good, mind you, but as super-busy as I can possibly manage to be. The personal highlight had to be meeting up with Heidi at the New England Quilt Museum -- my first experience in meeting a fellow blogger firsthand. We took our time touring the museum, then really took our time exploring the gift shop (more of the most perfect quilting books and fabrics gathered in one place than you would imagine). Lunch was apple/butternut squash bisque at a quirky little organic/vegetarian place across the street (the kind of place that you wish were in your very own neighborhood). I'm looking forward to another adventure with Heidi, AND to getting up to the museum again soon.

So otherwise it has been work and soccer and family activities that have kept me hopping. Tomorrow I get to go on a field trip with Dean's class to hear a "Conversations in Jazz" concert here and he has a friend coming over after school (the game plan is for me to do my grocery shopping after the concert and before the play date -- wish me luck). Then I'll have my regular work week and I think it's back to just the usual level of mayhem.

I had kind of a revelation -- a small one, granted, but still -- when we were all asked for our Christmas wish-lists yesterday. Rather than three lists, I'm going to offer one little list of things that we could be given as a family. Some board games we've been eyeing, a gift certificate to L.L. Bean which is one store where we all shop (and where we get outfitted for our camping adventures), things that we can all share and enjoy. This simplifies things all the way around, and moves us toward an even easier plan for next year (I am delighted to be a part of an extended family that generally has the holidays pretty much in hand by now, so we can't pull off wholesale change this late in the game).

The US, with 5% of the world's population, uses 30% of the earth's resources. How can we all scale back?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pick one

[getting the pumpkins, c. 2001]

I had an image in my mind, as I often do, about what "going to get our pumpkins" was going to look like this year. Oh, we'd drive a little ways (not TOO far), we'd peep at some leaves, we'd inhale the smell of apples, and cider, and maybe there would be a hay ride and then we'd pick out our pumpkins from a massive selection of every shape and size. Instead we did the right thing -- we drove to a tiny little family-run business just over a mile from our house. They are trying to make a go of it as a garden center, and seeing as they are as off the beaten path as you can be, it's hard. So we went there because they are essentially our neighbors. And the three pumpkins we bought were pert-near the only pumpkins they had (not that they'd run out, mind you). And that's where we bought the asters I planted and the allium Dean intends to plant in his garden. It's ok, that it didn't go the way I'd intended. I get a little too crazy sometimes, when Ken and Dean are perfectly content with the simple way.

In addition to all the other projects I talk about starting, never seem to show you, and never mention finishing, I now present: halloween mini-quilts! I'll, ah, keep you posted. But hey, is it just me, or would you have never thought of sewing a zippered pouch this way?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Join me, won't you? Raise a glass, and let's toast: to Al Gore, to the Nobel Peace Prize, and to the Democratic future for the United States (and to the positive difference that will make to the whole, entire world). Hear, hear! (At least, that's the form of "hear" I *think* would come in agreement to a jolly toast -- or would it be "here, here!"?)


Also please join in with the effort launched over at me and my storey -- a China free Christmas! Is that cool, or what?

One of these days I am going to attempt to show you what's inside my purse, but I'm telling you right now -- it is not nearly so stylish nor so organized as this gal's. Just proves how much better your life is if you happen to live in Scandinavia somewhere. [I can't get the link to go to the specific post, so if you wander over there and don't see what I'm talking about, seek out her Oct. 4th post, please.]

I said I'd report back and so now I am -- they honestly DO give you free shipping over at Halloween Costumes 4U if you mention them on your blog. I think this is a stroke of genius type of marketing, and I'd like to see it spread like wildfire.

I saw the headline "Grilled Cheese Renaissance" and I thought -- but in order for there to be a revival, a renaissance, something has to have been gone first, or dead somehow, right? I mean, were grilled cheese sandwiches ever dead to you? I didn't think so.

Can you tell I've been in a weird mood? But I'm coming back around, not to worry -- I won't be going "all random" on you from now on or anything.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Catching up

The ladybugs are back. Some years, in the fall, when it's especially warm, swarms (well, small swarms) of ladybugs move into our house. They stay for the winter, snuggled up in bunches in odd places (like in the corners of ceilings -- isn't it hard to hibernate up there?). We like when they come and live with us and we miss them when they don't. So anyway, they are back again this year and it feels good. Lucky.

I got some gardening done today, which I haven't managed to do in a long time. Planted 3 purple dome asters, pulled weeds, and cut back some of the summer stuff that's long since done. I also started putting the face details on Dean's dog quilt -- I'll show you when I get to the noses.

I had a nice phone conversation with my mom; it is weird to live 3000 miles away from your mom, with neither of you living in the place you'd both call 'home' (Chicago). I haven't lived in the same city as my mom in 22 years. It's not just been me; she moved to Arizona when I was (briefly) back in Chicago after college.

OK. Pretty random. But good. All good.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Just walk away, Renee

[We are NOT talking about baseball. Not. talking.]

Oh, it was a day. Not an all-bad day, certainly. The sun shone, birds sang, I got out for a walk, I ate healthfully for lunch (and breakfast!), good work was accomplished, productive meetings were had, nothing tragic happened within the immediate circle of my family and friends.

But still, there was that black spot. That ugly hole where the *thing* that happened, the interchange, the personal politics, the drama about a particular issue -- which, in and of itself I may have been able to negotiate painlessly -- that managed to connect itself with heavy, poison tentacles to some of my own darkest baggage. That's the whole thing -- you know? -- the problem. It's that each of us has those hardwired, well-defined connections that make what seems to all the rest of the world like an innocent enough, stupid enough *thing* and make it into the stuff of horribleness. Of anger and frustration and hopelessness (depending on just how low you can go). And the thing about it is that only WE can see those connections in ourselves. Only we know how it went from Point A to Point B wherein Point B has us boiling over and those around us can't understand how that happened. "Why are you so upset? It's no big deal." Well, sure, not for YOU, because you aren't wired the way I am. Your buttons didn't get pushed, but mine did. [No, Ken, this honestly has nothing to do with you -- you were away, remember? Not anything about you!]

I'm the kind of person about whom other people regularly make the mistaken assumption that I "never get angry." I don't wear it on my sleeve, for sure. But when I'm ready to blow I just walk away -- that's the danger signal with me. And because people don't even expect THAT of me, it turns out to be a lot more powerful than, say, the verbal explosion other people may employ. Not saying that's good or bad. Just saying.

So yesterday I had to walk away. And now I'm trying to just keep walking -- to leave my anger behind me and wrap back up that ugly, scary baggage and leave it alone in the dark again. When I worked in Boston (and had an hour's commute each way), after a bad day I would employ the image of a spool of thread. I would imagine that all the stuff at work was thread wrapped around this spool. And I would hold the spool with me, in my mind, and leave the start of the thread tied there in Boston, and let the thread run off the spool as I drove home, so that by the time I got out of the car I had just this lovely, wooden (of course!), empty spool and I'd left all the stuff behind me.

How was your day?

As I took my walk, after walking away, I thought about how to process this thing, this time, and I thought, "can I work this out through my art?" And then I thought, "what art?" And I laughed. Then I thought a little more and I came to the realization that whatever it may be that I may call "my art," and whenever it may be that I have time to do it, I won't be working out my anger that way. I can see working through those feelings of coming OUT of the bad stuff (I have this image, this feeling when you are in deep water -- after having jumped feet-first into the deep end of a pool, say -- and you are reaching up for the top -- up, up, up -- and you know it will be there yet you're a little bit panicked [I do need to BREATHE now!] but finally you break through the surface and that first hungry breath is so reassuring and delicious). THAT I could work with. But for me, I don't want to mix in my worst with the things I enjoy doing the most. Does that make sense?

Hey -- I'm feeling better already!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Love hurts

Woe is me. After having carefully, with just the right amount of dedicated detachment (so as not to jinx anything), watched my beloved hometown Cubs take the NL Central title, I am now subjected to the pain of an unnecessary (unnecessary!) loss in Game 1 of the NLDS. It ain't right. Where's Mr. Cub when you need him?

[image from the amazing]

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

You can go but be back soon

Ken left early this morning on a business trip. Waahhh! I realize that many families deal, weekly, with a traveling parent -- we've known so many people, are even related to people!, who travel regularly for their jobs. Ken and I both have always put right up at the top of our lists for our own career choices no regular travel required. I even passed on a decent job not that long ago that required spending the week before Thanksgiving, every year, in Las Vegas at a trade show because I knew that would just kill me -- every year. So anyway, Ken did need to take a rare trip (although he has to go away next month, too -- waahhh!) and he's only been gone less than 2 hours and I already miss him and the whole routine of our family (he won't be home for dinner! he won't be here for the bedtime story!). And ok, I'll admit it -- even though I wouldn't normally call myself a fearful person, I always worry a bit when one of us is away. I have to really hold the fear down and sit on it so it doesn't get much chance to breathe, I have to focus on that point that will come in a couple of days when Ken walks back into the house with his bag in his hand and tells us how happy he is to be home again. Safe and sound.

The other part of me wonders how Dean and I should live it up, now that we've got the pad to ourselves....

[I've got to get some film developed and get some of my quilts and other projects posted here -- you'd hardly know that this here is a crafter's blog!]

Monday, October 1, 2007

Round & round

Friends like to tell me how incongruent it is with the rest of my personality that I love Walt Disney World the way I do, but I feel this photo I took on our last trip goes a long way in explaining. Carousel horses, beautifully designed and maintained, twirling around a backdrop of castle and village, brilliant fairy-tale color everywhere.... Works for me.

I'm trying to catch up on some scrapbooking and so my trip photos are everywhere at the moment. I find I can do only one kind of craft at a time -- my space is either given over to scrapbooking or sewing or quilting or collage-making or whatever; probably both a mental and physical limitation. But I've got to switch over to more sewing soon, what with October here already and Christmas around the corner!

The month of pumpkins. And leaves and soup (not together!) and sweaters and -- oh, I keep forgetting to check when the time changes this year. November 4th, as it turns out. Weird not to make the change before Halloween, but there you go.