Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I love to laugh. I don't mean that polite kind of "tee-hee" laughing because I'm not good at that. I mean the kind of laughing that makes you drool down your chin and kind of flop over out of your chair like a drunk person, only you're not. It's the kind of laughing you can't help, and at first you're laughing at something, and then you start laughing at yourself laughing, and then—omigod—you accidentally snort, and then it's just all over. Someone who snorts when they're laughing hard just makes me crazy in a really good way: even if what they were laughing at wasn't funny to me, if they snort, suddenly it's hilariously funny.

When something sets me off and I can't stop laughing, it actually becomes painful. I can't catch my breath, and my ribs start to ache. I can remember some of the times this happened—one of the few kinds of things of which I have really clear memories. Once was when we watched Bruce Almighty.  The gangster said, "When monkeys fly out my butt," and then they did. Remember that? We were sitting in front of the tv at the folding table where we ate dinner. I started laughing, and it just got funnier and funnier. I fell out of the chair (no, I had not been drinking; this kind of laughter has nothing to do with anything like that) and then had to lie on the floor so I could breathe. Tears (and, sorry, snot, and probably drool) were rolling back into my hair. My ribs ached. I kept banging my foot on the floor (something about hard laughter makes me stomp my feet; I have no idea why). I laughed until I seriously thought it might kill me. I wonder if anyone has ever died from laughing? Not laughing as some kind of malfunction, but actual laughing at something they found funny. It would be almost as great an exit as dying right after sex, wouldn't it? Way, way better than dying on the toilet. Poor Elvis: the butt (snort) of death jokes for all eternity.


The EGE doesn't do this. I used to think everybody laughed like this—except my mother, who once told me she envied me and that I reminded her of her sister, who laughed (it's not hysteria because it's just pure amusement, not tinged with anything else) uncontrollably over stuff. But not everyone. The EGE does contribute, though. Another time we were coming home from Lubbock, where we'd visited my mother. For some unknown reason, I had rolled my hair. You remember those big rubber-coated wire curler things, like giant rubber pipe cleaners? In bright colors? And you'd wind your hair around and around them and then twist the ends? Well, I'd used those. (Why, I don't know: I could leave my hair on them overnight and then take it down, and in 30 minutes it would be just as straight as it always was). So I was riding in the passenger seat, fiddling with these rollers, and I stuck the ends of a couple in each nostril and, with a completely straight face, turned to look at my husband, who was driving. He laughed, of course, but *I* completely lost it. The more I laughed, the funnier it was. When I'd almost recover, I'd put the roller back in my nose and start all over again. And then, when that wasn't so funny any more (many miles later), and I was catching my breath, my husband turned to me and, very, very quietly, snorted.

It's a wonder I survived this. It may be the hardest and longest any human being has ever laughed at anything ever in the history of humans laughing.

Well. All that as introduction to this, titled Snort, that I just finished:
 There are some of the things that have made me laugh really hard.
 Some are lines from movies or tv series
 Some are from books, like "It's my actual hair!" from A Girl Named Zippy, which is the funniest book I've ever read.

 This is from One Big Happy, a comic strip:
Around the hem is Mateo, the little kid in the video trying to convince his mom, Linda, he needs cupcakes. "Listen to me! Listen to me! Linda, lookit!"

I've already thought of more things I want to add to it, and that's really cool: I'm envisioning a wardrobe where that happens all the time, where I "finish" something and wear it and then think of something else I want to add and so do that, and then wear it and add to it and mend it until it's as heavy and layered and textured as life its own self. I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Morning Routine

Roz Stendahl is not only talented and smart and funny, she's also wise. She has long had a routine for New Year's Day that's about doing a little bit of everything she loves, kind of setting an intention for the coming year to include all of those things. So she'll sketch and paint, work in her journal, maybe bind a book and do some beading, maybe make a basket and bake a loaf of bread (I'm not exactly sure what all is included, and I think it changes some from year to year. Roz, if you're reading and would like to tell what you did this past NYD, that would be wonderful!)

[And here's her blog, too.]

I've been doing my own version of this for the past several years, and while I don't get in everything I love, I try to include as many things as possible. It's also made me think about something smaller but no less important than how we start a new year: how we start a new day.

What do you do first thing in the morning when you wake up? Yeah, after you pee and let your puppy out and get that first cup of coffee—then what? For almost all my life, right up until a year and a half ago when I started taking the SSRI, I did pretty much the same thing every morning: I'd wake up and lie there and listen to my brain list all the things I needed (yes, *needed*) to worry about: the funny noise the car had been making, the next deadline, that scaly spot on the back of the cat's neck, whether or not the black widows had moved back under the siding on the front porch, money, dental procedures (when you have wonky teeth, there's always something, from crowns to bridges)- to old fillings), blah, blah, blah.

It wasn't as if I did this on purpose. I didn't keep a list by the side of the bed: Things to Worry About (because if I had, I wouldn't have ended with a preposition; of course not). It's just how my brain functioned, believing it was doing me a service by reminding me of the stuff that needed my attention (or trying to kill me, but I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt here).

After the publication of the last book, I fulfilled my agreement to promote it via Facebook and Twitter by sitting in bed with my first cup of coffee and scheduling tweets (via Birdhouse, a tweet-scheduling app) and status updates and blog posts. Essentially starting my day by marketing like a crazy person (because, like a crazy person, I had no idea what I was doing: I am the opposite of a marketer, i.e., I totally sucked at it).

Now, though, things are different. Now that I'm working to change my life—to slow down, to clear out, to think about what I want—I have established a First Thing in the Morning Routine that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Right now it's summer, and The EGE isn't subbing, and so we changed the alarms from 7 am to 8 am. It feels decadent to me, but it also feels quite lovely. My new calmer self loves sleeping even more than my old, tense self hated it. I go to sleep about 1 am, and I wake up at 8, roughly. Sometimes when I wake up Clarice is sleeping on top of me, and then I pet her and mess with her incredibly long fur (you can twist it and kind of make little hairdos if she isn't paying attention). If she's somewhere else, I get up, make a cup of coffee, eat my allotment of two cookies (trying to give up both sugar and wheat, of course), and then get my stitching and go into The Voodoo Lounge, open the curtains and the windows and let the sun stream in, and stitch.

It's not just that this is a good way to wake up (I stitch on something I've already started; I don't even THINK about trying to start something new when I first wake up), but it's a wonderful way to claim my life, to say: this is what is important. Yeah, OK: to set an intention for the day. I don't really like that term, but I suppose it's apt, and I do believe that whatever I do first thing in the morning will influence the rest of the day.

I've had a lot of morning routines over the years, and if I still had to leave the house to go to a day job, I'd find a way to incorporate what I love into that first hour. When I used to sub, I got up at 5:30 every morning. I'd make coffee and sit in front of the tv and make fun of The Reverend Robert Tilton ("ICKYBASANDABASOTO!"—this was Rev. Bob speaking in tongues, and it made me so happy I had a rubber stamp made so I could stamp it on everything). Perhaps if I'd spent that hour stitching, instead, I'd be rich and famous now, you think?

I don't sit and stitch all day. I do stuff. Projects, interviews, writing. But underlying everything else I do is the quiet sense that I Stitch, that this is what I do and that this is what's important. I may not get back to that stitching project until after dinner (or I may get to work on it throughout the day), but it doesn't matter: I've given it its place in the day, and it grounds everything else.

What else? I don't use Twitter any more, and I don't check Facebook until I'm ready to start working. I make an effort to avoid the computer until after I start the second cup of coffee brewing. I check email to see if there's anything I need to do for someone, work-wise, but I don't surf or read FB posts until after I sit down to work.  It says my life isn't about social media or drama or second-hand excitement; it's about making and writing. Everything else will fit in where it's needed. Or not.

I should add this is just about what I *do*—it's not saying that my husband and the cats are not central to my life: when I'm sitting in the sun stitching, it's often more about taking two stitches and stopping to make room in my lap for Moe, taking two more stitches and petting Lennie or scooting over for Clarice. The EGE is often at the other end of the daybed, drinking his own coffee concoction, helping with the whole I-have-only-two-hands-and-there-are-three-of-them-yikes-I'm-outnumbered math problem: between the two of us, we can make sure everyone gets attention.

[Which, you know, is ridiculous: they sleep with us for at least part of the night. It's not like they haven't gotten petted and scratched and brushed in days. But, oh! They can guilt you out quicker than any creature on the planet, sneezing and falling over and whinging as if they haven't been groomed or admired by a human being since Jesus left Chicago. It's pathetic, really, but there you go. This is how they've taken control of our lives. It's a plot.]

What about you? How do you start your day? How does that feel, and how does that energy carry over into the rest of your day? If it's not working well for you, maybe you want to think of how you could make it work better for you and the life you want to create.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This Is My Life

I said I'd come back and show y'all the rib-knit tank top reverse appliqué Alabama Chanin-inspired thing, remember? And so I wore it and washed it, and whoa: it held up OK. In fact, it looks a little better now than it did then. Before:

 After laundering:

 And I just tossed it in, no special treatment or anything.
 I have to admit that I was surprised there was no more fraying.
 So I'm trying to get some photos to show. I pick off the bits of lint and fur and lay it out all nice and flat in the light from the window, and Lennie sees The Camera. In this house, with The EGE and his multiple cameras, a human with a camera usually means Attention for The Cats. You know, coaxing them into posing, telling them how gorgeous they are (that's my job, as The EGE isn't so great at sucking up). Not that they don't get a ton of attention every single day anyway, but. You know. So she sees the camera and goes, "Whoa. You don't have a cat. Let me help." And she comes over and sniffs and settles down right in the middle of it:
 She wasn't too thrilled, though, when she realized the color didn't do a thing for her eyes (she looks her most fabulous on orange or green or purple). This is her Less Than Impressed look:
 Plus I wasn't saying the right kinds of things to her. OK: the truth. I was laughing at her, as you can tell by the expression on her face here. The Queen Was Not Amused:
So, yeah, Lennie Lulu is spoiled rotten, but here's why I can't resist her. This is from a nap this weekend. This is a dog toy I got at PetSmart because *I* thought it was cool (it's a little hen house with a fox you can take out, and it rustles and also squeaks. I mean, really: what more could you want in a toy?) and because it makes the potato-chip-bag-rustle-y sound they like. I didn't really think they'd like it, but they adore it—it has some odor that makes them go crazy and drool like miniature St. Bernards. Catnip on a dog toy? Nah. Must be something else, probably something else I don't want to know about. Anyway, here she is from this weekend:
And here she went, "Oh. Are you taking pictures of moi?"
 and then reaches up to tap the camera:
 and then rolls over and does cute things with her paws:
So that's why I don't have more/better photos of the tank top. But you get the idea, right? The answer to our question ("What will happen when you wash it?") seems to be 1) it won't fall apart and 2) it actually looks pretty good.

I don't think I'll do more of these, however, because stitching on the rib knit just wasn't satisfying for me. I prefer stitching on linen, and cotton is next. Cotton knit is after that, and then denim (which I love if it's soft and not too thick—for hand stitching). Rib knit would be down there at the end of that list but above, oh, you know: p-o-l-y-e-s-t-e-r. Not that I actually know that, seeing as how I've never, ever hand stitched on it. Maybe I haven't even sewn on it with a machine; I try to keep it out of the house entirely.

I worked this morning on an article, and now I'm going to try to finish up the binding on a jumper I cut down into an apron-ish thing.  I have something else that's almost ready to show you but is bound up in a big wooden embroidery hoop right now and so is all wrinkly and stuff. Soon, I hope.

In the meantime, you might be interested in the series I'm starting over in my blog posts at Art is You, about simplicity and minimizing. Fun stuff, at least for me. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Thanks for coming by! XO

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's Going On

Now you'll hear Marvin Gaye all day, and you will thank me because he's fabulous. I tried to embed the music video here, but it's restricted. Bleah.

Anyway! I've been working on a bunch of stuff, some of which I realized, mid-way, just isn't going to work for me. So it's in a pile with other stuff that will, eventually, go to a new home. But here's something that DID work for me.

I showed you this when I started on it:
I cut off the sleeves and was going to leave raw edges:
 but I couldn't stand those and stitched them with floss I'd over-dyed:
 Then I couched some dyed 50+-year-old string; I've never really done much couching and figured I should practice so I can use some of the floss and stuff that doesn't really lend itself to actually going through fabric. I was pleased with the result:
 I really liked just kind of randomly Going with It on this. I didn't plan, I used floss I'd already dyed, I just carried the project with me and stitched and stitched. You know: still trying to get looser, less anal, less Always with A Plan and stuff.

 Added two pockets, one on the top layer, one on the under layer:

 These were made from the sleeves of the dress.
 some stitching on the back:
 I traced a cross shape and then hooped the dress and just started stitching.
 over-dyed variegated floss with knots on the outside:

 Couched some silk cord I bought at Bead&Button in Minneapolis the year we were there; this is around the seam of the pocket:

Don't worry: the porch hasn't turned into The Porch of the Joads. That's my former sewing table and a bag of other stuff, all of which went to Goodwill in the living room re-do, so it's no longer out there.

I'll come back soon and show you what I'm working on now, which is reallyreallyreally exciting to me.

Thanks for coming by! XO

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Any Paper Junkies Out There?

I have a box:
I have put into it most of what little paper-related stuff I have left. You can see, at the top, some book-binding thread and a like-new Japanese screw punch in its little plastic pouch. In my hand is a sheaf of vintage Conoco Oil Company letterhead, some of it on paper and some on onion-skin-like tracing paper-ish stuff. The large zipper bag you see has glassine envelopes in just about every size you can imagine, from regular-mailing-a-letter size down to teeny-tiny-very-cute size.

There are cards with envelopes. There are cool kraft button-and-string envelopes I made myself. There is cloud paper (blue with white clouds, not printed, but cool, very realistic). There are old photos I was going to use to make captioned photo cards.

In short, there's a bunch of paper crap. Oh! And tiny handmade envelopes and page corner markers, made out of scraps of fabulous paper.

So: a bunch of cool paper stuff and some really fabulous paper stuff, and it's going to leave this house today. I want it to go to someone who Still Does Paper and Letters. The cards need to have hand-written messages penned on them and then be sent out to someone's actual, physical, on-the-street mailbox. This stuff needs to be USED. By someone. Is that someone you? If so, let me know, and I'll send it to you (in the US only, sorry, because it's going to cost enough anyway because it's, um, just a little hefty).


Monday, July 07, 2014

Who Knew From Rib Knit?

I didn't. I had no clue about "rib knit." I mean, sure, I knew rib-knit tank tops had, like, you know: little ribs in the fabric. But so what, right? It was just some kind of surface design element or something. For, you know, texture. Because rib knit isn't something you'd ever really think about until you get in there on a macro level and see that it really is different from regular cotton knit jersey stuff.  I've got a ton of tank tops, all rib knit, but now I'm not so sure about them. They seem suspect to me, as if the ribs are some sort of sneaky subversion. Now that I've sewn, by hand, on rib knit, I don't know that I trust it any more. Here's my story.

A couple weeks ago I went through all my tank tops again. I have a ton of these, bought on sale and then over-dyed. Some were just bought on sale and left alone, and I weeded out the colors I just never wear. Like these blue ones, which I'm pretty sure have never been worn in the years I've had them:
 I realized I could layer them and try some Alabama Chanin-style reverse appliqué. That would be fun, right? And I could show the results and maybe inspire someone who had some tank tops with holes or whatever. Great idea! Go, me.

 I had three sets of these. This blue one, a purple pair, and one that's green and purple—my favorite, of course. I started with the blue, since it's my least favorite. If you don't know what you're doing, don't start with your favorite stuff. Trust me on this. Sigh.

I got out my bolt of Heat 'n' Bond Lite, without which I couldn't do half of what I do. Alabama Chanin Style does most assuredly NOT use fusible webbing, but perhaps they're not quite so—ahem—anal as some of the rest of us. While I hate plastic and hate the feel of this stuff, I love how it holds stuff together. And when you're through stitching everything in place, you can heat the fire out of it with the iron to get the plastic-y stuff to melt into the fabric. Or just wait and let it wear out over time. Or just try to ignore knowing you've got a thin little layer of godforsaken plastic inside your clothes.
 I laid the top t-shirt on the webbing and traced roughly around it.
 Cut it out:
 Used a star stencil in various sizes:

 Then I laid the paper-backed webbing on the shirt and remembered I traced "roughly," so the size was way off.
 I didn't allow for the lower neckline in the front. Duh. I make myself so tired, but it beats having to do icky stuff like (shudder) m-e-a-s-u-r-i-n-g.
 So I kind of hacked away at it. Perhaps you can sense my growing frustration here:
I ironed it in place on the wrong side of the top t-shirt, and then I cut out all the stars, but not exactly on the lines: I wanted them rougher, not precise. I cut through the paper and the ironed-on fabric and got this:
 Then I put the tanks back together and ironed the top one to stick them together. Again: roughly. (Sorry the colors above and below aren't the same, but I swear it's the same tank top.)

 I took the stars I cut out and put them back where I'd removed them, to check:
 Then I trimmed them down to make them fit like this and ironed them in place:

 Then I dicked around forEVER trying to figure out what color floss I wanted to use. I finally settled on a pale blue, but in the process I realized that these t-shirts were really, really odd colors.

Then, being careful not to stretch the fabric, I began stitching. And I rapidly realized the sneakiness of rib knit, esp. rib knit with fusible webbing on the the back. Bleah. I did not enjoy the stitching, which is usually my most favorite part.
I'm going to have to launder it before I know how I feel. I like the roughness of it—trying to thwart my anal-retentiveness still—but it has issues, and I don't know if I want to do the other two sets of tanks or not. The rib knit runs, and it frays WAY more than regular cotton jersey, and I realize that when I ironed the fusible web to it, it stuck only on the non-ribby part and not in the ribs. You know? On the valleys but not the hills. I didn't even think of this, of course. I don't think we're going to be best friends from this point forward. I think I was happier living in ignorance, imagining it was just ribby t-shirt fabric and not something with a life and an agenda all its own.
 I'm going to have to wear it and see how it acts, see if it keeps running, see if the stitching even holds. At this point I have no clue. I wouldn't trust it with my dryer lint at this point.
 I was going to do stuff around the neck and add some beads and stuff, but no way. Not until I get to know it better. Or not. Maybe I don't want to: I'm now imagining that I'll launder it the first time and it will unravel completely, leaving nothing but a wad of thread and floss in the washing machine. It could happen.

I'll come back later and show photos of the dress I started on before this—it's finished, too. Or, rather, it's finished for now, although I'm guessing I might do more to it later on just because I like it a lot.

Thanks for stopping by—XO