The pressure to focus.

The pressure is on, and I don’t’ know if it’s in a good way or a bad way. I am writing this month, and writing a lot. My goal is to write 50,000 words of something before December 1 rolls around. And I find myself now, more than ever, pulled toward other pursuits. Wouldn’t this be a great time to cut out some fabric for that sewing project I have been meaning to do? Or maybe I should clean my studio, alphabetize my patterns, re-start my crochet hobby, maybe try knitting too, then learn how to make some fingerless gloves because every time I sit down to write my hands are icy cold. Let’s not forget about my guitar that is languishing downstairs behind the couch, the deep spring cleaning that never happened, the website redesign, the two other web domains I bought and have left to languish.

These thoughts have been racing through my mind for the past few days, and every time, like playing whack-a-mole, I beat them down. No. No. No. You are WRITING this month. Nothing else, or you will never, ever make it to 50, 000 words.

Today I read something on Facebook about a friend who could teach me to stencil on some off-white carpet remnant and my heart skipped several beats. “Just what I have always wanted!” I thought.

But no, that’s not what I have always wanted. I have always wanted time and energy to be crafty and express my creativity in a physical way (not just with words).

Crochet is not a great way for me to do that, because I have exactly enough patience to make one scarf, and if I get interrupted? Forget it. I forget how to read patterns, and then I forget what kind of yarn I was using, I can’t find that hook I need, which is exactly why I own about 17 G hooks.

Knitting is a terrible way for me to express myself creatively. First of all, I have tried to learn how to knit approximately 7 times in the past 5 years. It usually involves tears, swearing, watching and re-watching the same “how-to” video until I have everything memorized, even when the narrator takes a breath.

Random other crafts such as carpet-stenciling, wreath-making, upcyclng peanut butter jars into lanterns (I just made that one up but I bet you 7 million dollars that it is on the internet somewhere), or basically anything that involves a hot glue gun are fun, yes. But they are not what I need right now.

Right now I need two things: Writing and sewing.

Both of them require almost all of my attention when I am working on something.

Although I would never call myself an expert at writing, I can do a great volume in a fairly short time and feel pretty good about it. I can whip off blog posts without too much thought about the technical aspects of formulating my thoughts. As long as I can keep my thoughts moving slowly enough I just have to telegraph them from my brain to my fingers and the rest takes care of itself.

I am far from an expert at sewing – more of an extreme beginner – but I love it. I love the precision required, I love the occasional troubleshooting, I love knowing where every single one of my mistakes are even when an average non-sewer can stare at it, seam by seam, and never know it’s not right. I love putting colors and patterns together, I love standing with bolts of fabric, stacking and re-stacking them until I figure out just the mix I want. I love daydreaming about someday having mastery, about someday making a skirt that I would wear in public. I love my sewing machine, the fluid way that it churns my fabric under the foot and then out the back. I love that if I demand something looks perfect, I can usually get it there.

I have an entire room in my house that is dedicated to writing and sewing (OK, and it is also my closet and my exercise room, but that doesn’t matter when I am sitting in front of the computer or the sewing machine). I have a special space set aside for these endeavors. I have a clean desk with a computer on it, I have an owl painting hanging on the wall and a collage on the door that says “Hope blooms here.” I have a sewing table, and a cabinet filled with notions and supplies, and a toolbox for the things I use most, and a basket for my rulers and patterns and funny bits of materials that I don’t want to lose. I have hoops on the walls with some of my favorite fabrics stretched tight over them, above my sewing machine.

Just writing this has made me so much calmer. I was absolutely frenzied when I came up to sit and write this morning. I knew that I had too many other things to think about, a job that is ending in just 11 days, a Sudoku game that is unresolved, a pile of dirty laundry downstairs, a workout to do, mail to be sorted, and if I’m completely honest, about half of my house could probably stand to be hit with a magic eraser today. But believe it or not, those things will work themselves out.

My priorities right now are writing and sewing. Even though I am not sewing, I plan on it. I haven’t sewn since June, but I miss it.  I am trying to make writing part of my regular scheduled programming, even if right now I seem to only sit down and puke something out when I am too stressed to do anything else.

I’m getting what I have always wanted.

So. Why am I so nervous?

I have been working at the same company doing the same job since August, 2008. The job seemed, at the time, like a good way to get a foot in the door of a decent company. The problem is that after all this time, my foot is just about to fall off. I have been stuck.

I really don’t want to get into specifics, even a few. Let’s just say that the things I hoped would happen never came to pass. And some other stuff started getting weird, and the environment changed for the worse. Add a one-hour drive at each end of my day, and I was completely fried.

I wanted out.

I begged Mr. Thor to let me take a massive pay cut and work closer to home. He ran the numbers and we realized that we could live on his income. We didn’t need mine at all. He said, “Why don’t you just work this summer, and then quit in the fall, before it snows? We can figure something out.”

I loved this idea, but then I felt guilty. I decided that I would tough it out as long as I could stand it. Since we didn’t need my income, I proposed that we start sending my paychecks to pay down student loans. That’s exactly what we did, and Mr. Thor’s loans should be paid off this year.

Then, at the end of August, I received the news that my plant was being closed down. I felt bad as I looked around at my coworkers and realized that so many of them were completely blindsided by this news, and were very upset. I had seen the writing on the wall and knew we couldn’t avoid closure forever.

My reaction was largely relief. I was relieved that I didn’t have to take some weird job in a mailroom just to get out of my current job. I was relieved that I didn’t have to keep waiting for the other shoe to drop every single time we had a company meeting. I was relieved that my misery now had an end date: November 21, 2012.

I have pretty much just kept my head down since the end of August. I have listened to coworkers lament and then rebound and then get other jobs. I have looked a little bit, but I just see the same thing that I have been seeing in the job market for the past few years: my job isn’t out there right now.

Mr. Thor has encouraged me to really look for the right job, and not just take the first thing that comes along.  But he has also encouraged me to take some time to work on my writing, and my sewing, and everything else that I never have the time, energy, or drive left for after being out of the house for 11 hours a day.

It sounds like a dream come true to me. I will have the time to do what I always put off because I am too tired or sad to do it.

November 21 is really coming up fast, you know? And after that day, it will be Thanksgiving, and then we are taking a weekend trip. And then, the following Monday, my new job starts. My new job of job-seeker, writer, & sewer.

And I am more nervous than I was on the day I first got the news about the plant closing, when as soon as I saw the bigwig put on his reading glasses and look at the pad in front of him and say the words, “I am here today…” my brain just closed my ears and I didn’t hear another word. I knew what it was. I knew what he was saying, I could see him looking sad and sorry, and I noticed the silence around me, the sound of 90 people holding their collective breath. But I didn’t hear the words. Well, that day is back, it’s here now. It’s inside of me. The unknown is real, it’s black and looming.

And I’m very, very nervous.

Time to get busy.

I haven’t really been too sure what I wanted to say next here, so I haven’t said anything at all. There is so much that I could write about, and when I try to wade through the stuff that might be too personal, either for me or for someone else, well – I get a bit stuck.

But something happened over the last 2 nights that made me realize that it’s time to unstick myself.

Two women took the time to tell me what they thought about me and my talents and abilities. Unsolicited, and not using any timid language. They took the time to say that I had something to offer, that I was amazing, that I am a good writer. That I have a good eye for photography. That I am good at whatever I do.

So here I am. Once again dusting things off and starting over. I”m going to try to live up to the hype.

Just Like the Old Days.

Today, I had a really bad, terrible, razor-bladey and boiling blood rage kind of day. Not even a little bit good. Well, OK, there was a little bit. But mostly, the day just left me feeling alone, a bit incompetent, and almost like a loser at life. Gross feelings.

On top of all of the gross feelings, I got a little bit mad at my husband tonight, too. While we were on the phone, he said, “I still love you” and that made me mad, because “still” means “even though you can be a real shit sometimes.” And I can. And I was.

But tonight, he kept me on the phone until I was giggling instead of crying. He made me go outside and he steered me around the sky, naming stars and planets as I turned and bent my head back.

When we first started dating, it was February. He used to take me to his favorite star-gazing spot on a hill near a waterfall in the city. It was freezing and I had this giant, crazy, fake-fur lined camel colored coat. He would stand behind me and put his hands on the sleeves of my coat, rotating and baby-stepping around with me until he had me right where he could point up at a star and name it. He would put his head almost on my shoulder and look up with me. He pointed me toward planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies. There was a total lunar eclipse just a few weeks after we started dating, and we watched it at the same time, each of us holding a phone to our ear in our own houses, saying “wow” what felt like every couple of breaths.

Tonight, while we were on the phone, he navigated me toward what looked like a perfect equilateral triangle low in the western sky. He guessed, correctly, that two of the points were planets. Without my husband’s influence, I might have seen that triangle and said, “cool, those stars make a triangle.” Not, “wow…Saturn and Mars!”

And that’s what I owe my husband. He has enriched my life in many ways. He has opened up new horizons, new adventures, new possibilities. If I had not met this man, I might never have known I was looking at planets instead of stars.

Can’t go back now

It’s funny how this song keeps coming back around. It came on when I was in the car on Monday night, and the tears started rolling. I have more to say about it, but right now doesn’t seem like the right time.

 

Dear Cancer, You Suck.

Last night I spent some time with an old friend. I haven’t spent any real one-on-one time with him in nearly 10 years. When I moved back to the area five years ago, I saw him in passing a couple of times. When I moved to his city two years ago, I put off calling him. I was busy. I had settling in to do, a long commute, and a long list of chores. I was newly married and wanted to focus on becoming the best Mrs. I could be.

Finally, last October, I got around to sending him a little note. I miss you, let’s get together, sorry that it took me so long to get in touch. His reply came back, and it stunned me: I am fighting cancer. I should have been dead months ago. Do me a favor: Enjoy every day.

I sent back a heartfelt message and I couldn’t get a good read on where he was emotionally. Did he want to spend time with me? I wondered if it was worth it to him to reconnect if he was, as he put it, “done working.” I really wanted to connect, but I left it at a few messages and we never made plans.

I saw him on the street last month, and he seemed very happy to see me. We had a quick chat and continued on our separate ways. After that, it dawned on me that I missed talking to him more than I had realized – missed his smile and his laugh, his sweet spirit,  and his sense of humor. Missed how easy it was to talk to him, about everything. This was a friend who, years ago,  had let me hang out with him for what seemed like no good reason, who took walks and drives with me, cooked me dinner and just was there when I didn’t really have many real friends. This was a friend who had long instant message chats with me when I went away to school. The friend who invited me to his wedding and practically commanded me not to bring a gift – just the fact that I was driving 32 hours in one weekend to be there meant a lot to him.

Still, I put off getting in touch with him. Weeks passed. And then, I got the news that my friend’s brother died from gastric cancer. June 18 and 19, I went to Bob Dedrick’s calling hours and memorial service. And hearing about Bob’s life from his friends and colleagues put everything in perspective – what it means to be a friend, what it means to live life and make the most of what you have.

June 20, I texted my old friend. Last night, June 26, we took a walk. We brought each other up to speed on what was new and a little bit of what was not so new. He told me his cancer story. How awful his pain was, how sick the treatments made him, how difficult the physical therapy was. I felt guilty for not connecting with him sooner – I could have been there for him when he was going through his treatment, I could have done more. But those kinds of thoughts aren’t productive.

The past is the past for a reason. What matters is that we are connected again, now. What matters is that I still have some time with my sweet friend, and that we can take walks and talk about life the way we did all those years ago. The past is past, and the future is still waiting to be made. Life goes on, we are both living today, and my hope is that I can enjoy each walk we get to take, knowing that it’s a blessing to have my friend walking next to me.

Good Deeds – The Luckiest

I just got out of one of the only memorial services that I can truly say this about:  I hope I remember it for a lifetime.

Friends, neighbors, colleagues, former students, family members, friends who have known him for so long that they now qualify as family members, even his family physician. They came up to speak to the beyond-packed sanctuary and share their remembrances of Bob, and the service lasted for two hours solid.

I heard about a man who gave whatever he had on hand to give…to everyone. His family, his friends, his community… basically, he lived a life that so few of us have the courage to live.

Toward the end of the service, Bob’s old friend Mike got up to sing “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. That song is powerful enough without the context. Mike had previously broken down while trying to speak and was unable to finish. When he stood up to sing, I thought, “Wow. You can do this, Mike.” Shortly after the first chorus he had trouble continuing, and that’s when it happened. First, I heard one lone woman’s voice. Then, like we were all singing a hymn, everyone started singing with Mike. Not all of us knew the words or the tune, but we didn’t leave him all alone up there. He kept singing, all the way to the end of the song, even when it had seemed like he wouldn’t make it through the second verse.

I think that’s the takeaway, from a man who wasn’t even there – but was unmistakably represented in that action:

Keep going, as long as you can. And then start again. Give what you can, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Give what you can, only if it seems like your soft humming will barely make a difference.

 

 

Good Deeds

I am wearing a green bracelet right now, one of those rubber ones that they make in every color for every cause. The one I am wearing says “GOOD “DEEDS”” on it. I got it today, at a place I wish I didn’t have to go…the calling hours for Bob Dedrick, the brother of an old and very dear friend of mine.

GOOD "DEEDS"

Bob died June 13 after battling with stomach cancer since last fall. I hate to even type the word cancer. I have known so many people with cancer, seen so many people who should still be here taken away by cancer, and even some who have “beat” cancer but are still keeping a wary eye out for its return.

I hate cancer. I hate cancer so much that if it were a person, I think I could kill it with my bare hands. I am furious that there is no cure. I have read heart-wrenching stories on the internet, and now I know a real life one.  Bob has a wife. He has two tiny kids who will probably not really remember much of what he was like with them.

I went to the calling hours thinking that I could just breeze through and give some hugs to my friend and her family. I didn’t know Bob very well. I probably haven’t spoken to him since the early 2000s. I remember him as annoyed, mostly. When I would go over to his house to hang out with his sister in high school, we got loud. Loud and loud, and then a little louder. And we laughed… a LOT. And I kind of remember Bob as rolling his eyes at me, mostly. Thinking I was kind of a dork. In my head, he has always been “Bobby Deed.” I don’t know if I ever had the guts to call him that to his face.

But there is one memory that I have of Bob that has stayed sharp in my memory…for what I think is 17 years. It is of him, at the front of the old Methodist church that we all attended, trying to give a speech at his own mother’s funeral after her own battle with cancer. The words came out, sort of. They were mostly just strangled off noises and gulps and sobs. And I remember thinking, my gosh, poor Bob, why is he up there?

At the calling hours today, there was a wait to get inside. Not a short wait, either. I think I stood in line for 45 minutes to give a handful of hugs.  I stayed for a few hours, occasionally seeing old friends from high school or parents of old friends from high school. And that line never abated. It was still there when I left, half an hour before calling hours were supposed to end.

“Deeds” was a force in his city and he was admired in his community. Yes, he was a husband, brother, son… but he was also a teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. The few hours I spent in Canandaigua today were enough to shake me awake, to question my career, my ambitions, the kind of friend I am, the kind of citizen I am, the kind of wife I am, basically everything that I have been doing for the past several years.

It’s hard to imagine my own death, my own calling hours, my own remembrances. I am sure there would be some good ones. But I want a line out to the street. I want to live my life like that. I want to give like that.

Good “Deeds” indeed.

One of my favorite parts of being married.

I got up just after 8 am this morning to get started on my chores for today. I have lots of things on my to-do list and I just woke up naturally at that time, so I went with it.

I worked for a few minutes in my office, and then went back to the bedroom just to give the still-sleeping Mr. Thor a quick hug before I left the second floor.

I crawled into bed, gave him a hug, he said something sweet like, “you’re the best.” Then he pointed his pointer finger out into the air and said, “JAMMIES.”

me: jammies?

him, now poking my arm: “jammies, jammies, jammies, like jay leno. they like to jam. he likes to play the bass.”

me: “the real jay leno? how do you know that?”

him: “bum-bum-bum-ba-bum-bum-ba-bum-ba-ba-bum!”

me: …

him: “it’s just like rallyists. bum-bum-bum-ba-bum-bum-ba-bum-ba-ba-bum!”

me: “rallius?”

him: “RALLYISTS. People who start rallies. bum-ba-buh-bum-ba-buh-BUM-BUM!”

me: “why?”

him: “it’s like, even if I told you you wouldn’t know how to start a fire. it would still be a secret to you. like bum-ba-buh-bum-bah-buh-bum. bum-ba-buh-bum-bah-buh-BUM.”

me: …

him: “i got cold. i didn’t have enough… room to work with. don’t get too bored here, OK?”

me: “why would I be bored?”

him: “asphalt.”

me: “what’s so boring about asphalt?!”

him: “it’s all gone.”

me: “so we are at the end of the road?”

him: “yep. dead end. (holds up his fingers about 2 inches apart) I only have THIS much left. (moves his two held-up fingers over to my face and jams them into the side of my face) annnnd now it’s on your face.”

at this point I decided to stop engaging Mr. Thor, because, clearly, we were at the end of the road.

Speaking of focus…

So, I may have mentioned that my theme for this year is FOCUS. It’s in my makeup that I can’t think of the word FOCUS without thinking of the movie Mallrats. But that’s my problem, not yours.

Are you starting to see that I have a focus problem? I do. I always have.

However. Thanks to help and support from the wonderful Mr. Thor, I am on the road to recovery. Let’s not tell him that I have started working on two other websites when I am not even updating this one on a regular basis.

I do have a point. My point is that I have been attending Weight Watchers meetings since October 20th. I was following the plan online, but I was not having much luck with the whole “sticking to program” aspect of things. I figured that some external accountability could revitalize my weight-loss journey, and I was right. I love meetings. I like the social interaction during the meeting, I like the celebrations at 5-lb loss intervals, I like the Bravos for behavioral change… it just works for me right now. I have only missed one meeting since I started, and that’s because I was Very Sick. But I still went to weigh in!

I have also been focusing on my office. Craft room. Studio. Whatever I decide to call it. Things have been sorted and tossed. My sewing table is in action, and I have taken a sewing class (and I’m signed up for three more!). I’m sitting in the office portion of the aforementioned room RIGHT NOW, as a matter of fact, hammering away on my new computer.

Now, for the third and final focus: writing. Blogging, too. It’s got a few things that go with it, like photography, maybe a little web design…who knows what else.

Basically, I just want to do what I want to do. That shouldn’t be too hard to focus on, right?