Invisibility: The Internet's Greatest Gift?

Here's a question for you:

Why does anyone blog?

Put more specifically, why does a person with no celebrity status ever think that people (aside from their parents and closest friends) will want to stop by the little corner of the internet they've set up to share photos of their living room or their garden or their summer vacation, to explain their thoughts on common core or marathon techniques or the minimum wage or homeschooling or the particular merits of a neutral color scheme in the living room (spoiler alert: it lets you change your look seasonally at low cost with accessories in "pops of color!")?

It sounds ridiculous.

And yet perhaps one of the most fascinating phenomena of this particular moment in time is that, apparently, the person who believes that people care enough to follow their little story is not crazy. Folks will follow. Some point to the social media frenzy as a narcissistic tragedy of modern culture. Perhaps there are elements of truth there. But it's not the whole story.

What seems both more apparent and less traumatic is the complete fascination that we have with each others lives. If internet behavior is to be believed at all, people do want to know what you did over the weekend. They'd like to see pictures and read about your mishap with the dishwasher. They want to sign on to Facebook and hear about how potty training your toddler is going. They want to know who you're planning to vote for in the upcoming election, what type of shampoo you just switched to, what articles you're reading, why you've decided to stop eating gluten, and how you made that quilted table runner.

Not everyone, of course. Some will scroll through or will jump off a page after a quick scan of the photos, but a shockingly large number of people - more than most folks could rally on a street corner with a flyer that promised "Come see photos of this stranger's holiday decorations!" - are showing up to read the stories, from the short twitter versions to the multi-scroll blog post versions, of people they don't even know.

* * *

In an episode of This American Life, John Hodgman asks people whether they'd rather have the ability to fly or the ability to make themselves invisible. Through the responses, a picture emerges of the people who choose to fly as bold and guileless and the people who choose to be invisible as ashamed perverts (who want to watch other people have sex) or thieves (who want to steal clothes or sneak into movie theaters without getting caught). As someone who instantly chose the invisibility cloak, I questioned this outcome.

There is no doubt why I want to be invisible - to spy on other people's lives. In fact, for weeks after hearing the episode, I caught myself in moments of fantasy where I had the power to stand hidden in someone else's living room and watch them have dinner with their spouse.

I'm not denying the sneakiness factor, but spying is such a sinister word - what I'm really talking about is an intense curiosity about other people. How do they behave when they're alone washing the dishes? What do they talk about with their spouse at night after the kids are in bed? What makes them cry or dance around the kitchen? And perhaps, yes, what is it like when they have sex?

Of course, there's no doubt some self-comparison in it: Does she eat spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar after a bad day too? Does that couple also fight about drawers left open in the kitchen? Does he talk to himself in the mirror? Are they like me? Am I normal? How much the same are we? How much different?

* * *

The internet - for better or for worse - is a giant invisibility cloak. Slip it on and cruise around other people's lives unannounced. See what they had for dinner last night, what made them cry, what they're fighting about, and even what turns them on if you want. They've put it out there for all to see, but chances are, they're not thinking about you showing up. They don't even know who you are.

Much has been written about how the anonymity of the internet turns people into the worst versions of themselves, and there are truly deplorable instances out there. But the vast majority of internet perusal appears to be of the invisible sort. We "like" a birth announcement, retweet a funny joke about our favorite tv show, comment on our best friend's blog. But for the most part, we scroll through unannounced. We lurk. We stand silently in someone else's living room and satisfy our curiosity.

And maybe that's not a bad thing.

In all the fear of anonymity and the "selfie culture" and the concern about a tragedy of narcissism, the incredible gift of invisibility gets forgotten. Perhaps curiosity killed the cat, but it's also responsible for the majority of human progress. It is by being curious that we learn. And here, on the internet, we can satisfy that curiosity without being perverts or thieves. We don't have to sneak into someone's house under cover of dark to find out if they're pacing back and forth, paralyzed with fear about the zombie apocalypse.

Nope. They have kindly invited us in by sharing their entire zombie apocalypse strategy (minus the exact location of their safe house, of course). People share their stories of depression, and we find comfort in the knowledge that someone else's brain works like ours or we realize that the way we've been telling our friend that it'll all get better hasn't been helping, or we file it away in the back of our mind and remember it one day when our ten year old says he wants to die. A woman posts on Facebook about her kid's struggle at school, and we give our coworker a break the next morning when she's cranky because we remember that she had to get two children into their clothes with lunches packed and onto a school bus before we were out of our pajamas.

Someone posts about their mother's death and we include them in our prayers that night (after we call our moms). We read tweets from gay people if we're straight, black people if we're white, disabled people if we're able bodied, people who have mental illness, people who have kids when we don't, and we get a glimpse. We get perspective. We get knowledge. If we're having a good day, hopefully we say a quiet thank you to them for sharing their lives so we can learn from them.

Our curiosity is our connector. It's what gives us the desire to learn. And social media is curiosity's workhorse.

Through Twitter, I travel to Iraq, the Gaza Strip, a gluten-free kitchen, the bed of a depressed author, the streets of Ferguson, the writers room of my favorite tv show, the hallway of a high school, the desk of a jewelry maker. And I go many of those places with not just a media-approved story. I go there with a regular person whispering 140 characters into my ear about their opinion or their experience, what they think is funny or sad or poignant or unacceptable. And every one broadens my understanding of the human experience - even the ones that make my jaw clench.

Every one helps me better understand what it means to be a person muddling through this confusing landscape.

On my best days, they allow me to see the world through someone else's perspective. On my worst days, they confirm that there are others out their grappling with similar demons.

I started here with the aim of sharing why I stopped blogging a year ago and why I'm thinking about blogging again. But I couldn't get that question out of my mind - why do we share at all? This is my answer.

This is me, taking off my invisibility cloak, walking into your living room and giving you a big juicy kiss on the cheek.

Thank you for the photos of your child in their Halloween costume, for all the Facebook posts about how much you hate your job (though I hope you aren't friends with your boss or coworkers on there), for the tweets about your morning coffee habit, for the blogs about your home renovation, for the posts calling for prayers and assistance, for the times you told us what you had for dinner, who you voted for, how you fell in love, how you fell out of love, why you started meditating, how to build a compost bin, what you believe (or don't) about God, why you homeschool, how to make your grandmother's cornbread, and on and on and on.

Thank you for letting us in.
Thank you for your stories.

I have some I'd like to share too.

A Crocheted Blanket for Hamlin Fistula

A couple of years ago, I started crocheting this blanket after reading Half the Sky and then learning about an organization in Ethiopia - the Hamlin Fistula - that treats women who are suffering from obstetric fistulas, a medical condition that occurs almost exclusively in developing countries as a result of poor access to health care.   In Half the Sky, the stories of women with obstetric fistulas, most often caused by prolonged labor without medical intervention but sometimes also caused by rape or sexual abuse, touched me deeply.  I found myself thinking about them all the time, and when I talked to my sister about it, she pointed me toward Hamlin Fistula

When women arrive at the hospital, often after a long journey, they are given a hospital gown and a hand-knitted or crocheted blanket.  They use the blankets on their beds but also wear them as shawls, and the blankets are theirs to keep forever.  Crocheting a blanket feels like such a small thing for such a big problem.  And yet, perhaps the best we can all do is start where we are - find a way to share our individual gifts with people who can benefit from them.  I hope that the woman who receives my blanket finds warmth in it.  And I hope that one day I will be in a position to do more for her and for all of these women.

After I finished, I discovered that they are only able to accept blankets in January and June because of storage issues where they receive mail. Since I missed the January shipment date, I'll be mailing this in June. I thought I'd pass along the information on making a blanket in case there are any other knitters or crocheters out there who would be interested in doing so before June (obviously, much faster than me). Please let me know if you do.  If you're not a knitter or crocheter but would like to donate to Hamlin Fistula, you can do so here.  And even if you're not in a position to make anything or donate, I encourage you to read about Hamlin Fistula - it is an inspiring organization. 


Burlap Inspiration

Last night I was up to my elbows in burlap, our apartment filled with the earthy smell.  And my fingers cramping from cutting.

I hope to share a tutorial for my simple fabric runners when I'm back from the wedding and honeymoon (the runners are for the reception).  But for the moment, here are some burlap inspiration photos for those of you who are planning a wedding or for those of you who, like me, just can't get enough of that scratchy weave.

Image credits: 1/2/3/4/5


Friday Inspiration for Your Weekend

It's been a few weeks since I shared some of the things that are inspiring me these days. 

So much of my inspiration comes from the world around me - the way my adorable dog jumps on the bed with complete glee in the morning, the dedication of my fiancee to her job, and this week, the sounds of the outdoors - specifically gentle breezes and chickens and not cars - as we housesit.  

But a lot of it comes from out and about on the web, and those are a bit easier for me to share with you.

This interview with Cheryl Strayed (aka Dear Sugar) is as fabulous as you would expect it to be.  In it Strayed says, "writing forces you to locate your clarity," and I just loved that.  I loved that she used the word locate instead of find.  Find suggests that it's out there floating around somewhere.  Locate suggests that you had it yesterday - you just set it down in a different place.  And it's true, I think. 

This sketch video by Alisa Burke.  I adore her, and I love when she puts these little videos together to show her process of watercolor painting.  They're so delightful.  Tip:  watch it with sound if you can!

I'm constantly inspired in the kitchen by Angela Gliddon of Oh She Glows and how much work and sheer talent goes into creating all of her recipes.  This simple recipe for chocolate chai iced tea has me seeking out some new tea bags because I am exCITed to make that stuff. 

This blog post about 10 books she reads over and over from the lovely Sarah Bessey.  I'm rediscovering my love of reading after several years where it just felt like there wasn't time.  I've always had a book or two going, but now I'm feeling a deeper hunger to dig in with a book (or 10) and not come up for air.  I've stopped re-reading books because of feeling that there's not enough time to read an old book when there are so many new ones out there.  But I loved the idea of re-reading an old book being like hanging out with an old friend.  I'm re-reading Christy right now, and it's been so long that I can't remember anything about the plot, but I am reconnecting with the feeling I had when I was reading it the first time. 

This photo collection of the view looking down (or out) as this traveling couple (and later their daughter) jaunted around the world.  It's so filled with whimsy that I just can't stop smiling at it.

And finally, this letter from your (my) calling.  I'm kind of frustrated that it inspires me, but then I guess that's the point.

I hope you all are having an inspired week and enjoy an inspired weekend. 

I'll see you back here on Monday!

Thanks for visiting.


Inspiration: Mix and Match Chairs

I won't be able to start conditioning and staining my table until Friday, and the waiting is killing me. I'm so excited to see how it turns out.

In the meantime, I've been steadying myself with some inspiration images of lovely tables with mismatched chairs. I'm a huge fan of this look - so cozy and liveable, and I suspect that as soon as the table is complete, I'm going to be hopping around to some of our local used furniture joints to see if I can pick up a chair here and there. Of course, I will NOT be completely refinishing any chairs. If they need some loving care, I'm hoping it's just a quick spray paint job.

Do any of you out there have mismatched chairs? Was it just a happenstance thing or did you plan it that way? Are they all the same color but different styles? Different colors AND styles? Same style but different colors?



Inspiration for Your Weekend

With my days busy sitting at a desk, I've begun storing up inspiration for the weekends. I email myself blog posts and recipes and images with notes in the subject lines - "awesome recipe for this weekend!" "read this!" "mood lifter!"

So I thought I would share with you some of the things that are inspiring me, and perhaps this weekend, they can inspire you too.
  • An incredibly wise 21-year old girl whose words have become a sensation after her death. But they were timeless the moment she wrote them down.

  • Andrea Scher's simple message about when it's time to step into your dreams.

  • This photo from soulemama. I'm ready to hang some laundry outside.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend. What's inspiring you? Share your links in the comments!


Instagramming the Queen City Craft Bazaar

Bingo bound paper books from May Day Studio

This weekend I got to do one of my favorite things in any town - attend a craft show. The Queen City Craft Bazaar was Saturday on the waterfront in Burlington. It wasn't quite as big as I would have liked (though absolutely the perfect size for Navah!), but there were some great vendors there, and we didn't leave without getting a least a little something that we liked. 

I didn't have my camera with me, so I instagrammed a bit on my way around.

This is the one piece we did buy - a letterpress card from May Day Studio

I've told Navah in the past that one of the things I love about craft shows, especially indie craft shows, is how dream-affirming there are. Whatever it is that inspires you, that makes you want to create, you can make it and find someone who thinks it's lovely. 

Dinosaur planter from Found Beauty Studio (Navah and I both adored these)

If it's making fun creatures from circuit boards. 

Circuit board creatures (with ruler legs and cork feet!)
If it's creating jewelry from old skateboards. 

Or earrings out of feathers from the chickens on your farm. 

I came awfully close to buying one of these little collage pendants but ultimately decided against it since I've been a little spend-y lately.

Collage pendants from Sweet Avenue
I hope the show grows, and I can't wait to go again next year (hopefully with some more cash in my pocket!).


A Gift

For all you creatives out there, I have a gift today. 

Though you're going to want to thank me profusely, I'm only going to accept the slightest of thanks. All I'm really doing is making you aware of something fabulous in case you missed it. 

The gift itself is actually coming from Alisa Burke, who has been one of my favorite bloggers since before I even had a creative blog of my own, whenI was just writing anonymously about law school. Alisa Burke's blog was my first real on-line creative outlet. I love her free-form style, her adventurousness with color and medium, and I love how honest she has been with her readers about what it took for her to become a full-time, self-employed artist. Go ahead, comb the archives. There's lots in there.

I've been dying to take one of her on-line classes for ages but just haven't had the time. It's on my serious to-do list (the fun kind, not the do-the-laundry kind). I recommend that you take one, if only so that I can live vicariously through you. But - here's the gift part - Alisa has created a free mini-course for her readers (and now that means YOU because I know you just hopped on over there). It's called Finding Your Muse, and as the name suggests, it's all about getting in touch with your inner creative champion.

If you're still reading this, what's wrong with you?! Head on over there and get your muse on!

You're welcome.


25 Can't-Miss Crochet Tutorials

Lucy Bag-1
I'm nothing if not a peruser of crafty blogs, and while I am the slowest crocheter in the history of the world (meaning that you rarely see finished crochet projects from me), I adore looking at other people's crochet projects.  They inspire me to sit down with a crochet hook and some soft yarn so that I can make something beautiful.

So before this cold weather is all gone, I sat down and pulled together some of my favorite crochet tutorials on the web - the ones that I pine over, the ones that get me to sit down with my hook in the hopes of one day finishing the project I'm working on so that I can move on to something else!  

Here is a collection of 25 crochet tutorials that inspire me and keep me adding to my yarn stash.

For Beginners


If you've never picked up a crochet hook, don't despair.  I taught myself to crochet using a book called Learn to Crochet in Just One Day.  I sat down on a Saturday and worked my way through.  I did end up as the slowest crocheter in the world, but hey, speed is overrated.  Nowadays, there are so many fabulous tutorials on the web that you don't even need a book.  Here are five web tutorials (or tutorial series) that will teach you all the basics and get you comfortable enough to move on to some lovely projects.

Crochet School from Craftyminx
The Humble Granny Square from Renate Kirkpatrick
The Meaning of Pattern Symbols from Le Monde de Sucrette

For Baby

Bitter Sweet

If you're anything like me, everyone you know is pregnant.  And by "know," I mean everyone whose status updates pop up on your facebook page.  That means it's time to start whipping out those baby blankets and softies for baby showers and welcome-to-the-world gifts.  You won't go wrong with these adorable tutorials.

Amigurumi bird from Bitter Sweet
Penguin bowling pins from Bitter Sweet
Everyday is a New Sweater Day sweater from Yarny Days 
Little Christmas socks from Le Monde de Sucrette

For Home

Crochet with Raymond

More than knitting, crocheting is known for the things you can make to spruce up your living space.  You might cringe at the thought of crocheted accessories if all you remember is the scratchy mustard, brown, and army green blankets your grandmother made.  But the modern world of crochet is filled with bright colors and interesting designs that can fit into any design scheme.  Try out one of these to add a little homemade charm to your living room.

Pillowcase Crochet Border from You Go Girl 
Blanket stitch tutorial from You Go Girl (base of the pillowcase crochet border)
-    Cup Cozies from All About Ami
Grandma All Round Granny Square from the Royal Sisters  
Flower coasters from Versus Mag 
Hexagon How-to from Attic 24
Lotus Mandala Prayer Flag Bunting from Crochet with Raymond 
Crocheted rope basket from Making Chicken Salad- 
Granny stripe blanket from Attic 24 
Rag Rug from Sugar Bee Crafts

For You

People Webs

And what's the point of all this crocheting if you can't make a little something nice for yourself?  These projects will keep you toasty warm this winter (especially if your winter's going to last into April like mine probably will!)  If spring is fast-approaching for you, then you'll have plenty of time to work on these for that first nippy night next fall.

The Lucy Bag from Attic 24 
Granny Square Cowl from Crochet with Raymond
Crochet boot cuffs from Compulsive Craftiness 
Shell cowl from Persia Lou 
Chunky circle scarf from People Webs

If those tutorials don't have you running for your crochet hook, then I'll have to assume crochet just isn't your thing.  For those who are bookmarking and pinning these projects with a wild look in your eyes, I'd love to hear about (or see pictures!) of what you're making.


A Practical Wedding

If you chat with me in real life, you know I'm mildly moderately seriously obsessed with the blog A Practical Wedding and also with the amazing Meg Keene, the woman behind the blog (which is much more than a blog now).  She has created a rich community of brides, brides-to-be, wives - women (and maybe some men?) talking about relationships and what it means to be in them, honor them, and celebrate them in every different way imaginable. 

She also wrote a delightful book of the same name about wedding planning that fills what was an inexplicable hole in the wedding book world - a common sense book that doesn't make you feel like everything you're doing is (1) wrong, (2) too expensive, (3) not expensive enough, or (4) likely to make your family run out crying.  Reading her book has been like a breath of fresh air.  When she talked about how absolutely normal it is for couples to fight more than ever during the engagement period and how important those fights are as the couple wades into new territory and tests the boundaries of their blossoming "baby family," I wanted to fly to California and hug her. 

Today Meg starts her book tour, and I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that I won't get to attend any of her talks.  I'll say this much - it's a lot of disappointment.  Imagine slumped shoulders, frantically scrolling through the dates and locations over and over again hoping that a new one will pop up, deeper slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, harumphing.  You get the picture.

The closest I can get is to keep reading about the tour on A Practical Wedding and to share one of their fabulous ad buttons here.  I'll also be running it in my sidebar.  If you can make it to one of the talks, tell me about it.  Send me pictures.  Call me and hold the phone up while Meg talks.

And good heavens, buy the book.


The Case for Pinterest

Slate recently ran an article about Pinterest by Farhad Manjoo that, although not entirely negative, wasn't exactly complimentary either.  In fact, it got my hackles up.  Manjoo was right on target with some observations, like how difficult Pinterest is to explain to someone who's never heard of it and what an earnest little corner of the interwebs it is.  But as a pretty regular Pinterest user (read: very close to having to start my own 12-step program, Pinners Anonymous), I resented his condescending tone.  And like any good addict, I'm compelled to defend my drug. 

Manjoo describes Pinterest as a "graphical social bookmarking site, a way to show off cool images you find online" and "a virtual pinboard of really pretty pictures."  "If you're into pictures," he says, "you should stop reading and sign up right now."  Of course, he notes that you should really only do so if you like pictures of cupcakes or home decor or Jake Gyllenhaal (shirtless).*

He admits that, theoretically, he should like Pinterest, in part because he likes "womanly interests" and "stereotypically feminine pursuits" like making yogurt and cooking.  But he says that when he tried to use the site to look for recipes, it came up short:

"The main problem was that they were all over the place; unlike my favorite food blogs, Pinterest’s food collection felt cluttered and chaotic, a mishmash that wasn’t personalized to my own tastes. Many people will thrive on this diversity, but I found it numbing."

Either Manjoo is determined not to like the site, or he's missed the point.  For starters, he failed to mention (and perhaps understand?) the primary use of the site - as a virtual bulletin board.  Manjoo focused solely on its social networking capacity, but the value for many users is as an online receptacle for images, recipes, and ideas that they want to save in a logical, organized way.  Though I do enjoy scrolling through the Pinterest pages, the majority of the images that I pin come not from Pinterest but from other internet sites. I pin them to a particular board so that I'll have them all in the same place and can easily reference them later.  I can even write comments on them, so that when I'm looking for something to make for my vegan dogwalker, I can go to my "yumsters" board and quickly find a recipe that I've identified as vegan-friendly.

Manjoo, on the other hand, is completely focused on the pictures and the social networking aspects of Pinterest.  While the site is filled with pictures, those pictures act mostly as a gateway to content.  When I pin an image, I am most often interested in the link that's associated with it.  The link brings me to a craft tutorial, a recipe, a home design idea, a new book that I want to read, a potential gift, etc.  And Pinterest users pin all sorts of things.  I recently began following another user who pins what she thinks is the best writing on the web.  The image she pins is whatever image was included in the article.  You'll notice that you're rarely on a webpage that doesn't have some image.

I wouldn't be so bothered by Manjoo's emphasis on the pictures if he hadn't used that as a way to subtly demean those people who favor the site by comparing pictures (which he's not interested in) to content (which he is interested in).

"But what bothers me most about Pinterest is its earnestness.  Unlike Tumblr, where people often post stuff just to make fun of it, Pinterest feels like the least cynical place on the web...and...the site first caught on among women in the Midwest.  Perhaps that explains why people don't Pin stuff ironically, or to convey any other emotion aside from full-throated, earnest appreciation.  This is not a site that will make you laugh.  Ever." 

What a brilliant display of full-throated, earnest coastal elitism. 

Manjoo magnanimously admits later in the article, "You could argue that the stuff I don't like about Pinterest isn't really a problem with the site, just with the kind of content it's attracted so far."  I would argue that there's absolutely nothing wrong with the content that Pinterest has attracted thus far, but it seems that Manjoo cannot admit that it's not for him without simultaneously belittling those who use it.  In truth, it seems that Manjoo doesn't actually have a problem with Pinterest, conceding that it will have its followers (and by all the current activity, it seems it will have many), but his earlier condescension leaves the impression that if you're one of those followers, you might be wise to feel at least a wee bit of shame for being so damned earnest. 

Mostly I feel sad for Manjoo that he's missing out on the opportunity to pin some awesome recipes and yogurt-making tutorials.  Or pictures of funny cats (which he states in the comments to his article do not amuse him).  Or a link to the most ironic photos of 2011, with the ability to capture the image of the funniest one.  He's written it off for now, but I suspect that Manjoo will be back around.  And I'll be glad to give him a little tutorial on how to use a bulletin board.

You can find me here on Pinterest!


*I'm not sure I've ever seen a shirtless picture of Jake Gyllenhaal on there, but the Ryan Gosling meme has me peeing in my pants.

2011, I bid you adieu

Jammer 2012
Jammer contemplating the new year with the help of my crochet project

It's been a long time since I made a New Year resolution.  I've mostly just allowed the years to slip by.  But this year, I felt more reflective, perhaps because beginning to write 2012 on all my documents coincides with leaving my job and moving to a different state, reuniting with Navah and figuring out what comes next for me.  With all the upheaval, I was drawn to a worksheet by Andrea Scher of Mondo Beyondo fame

I sat down with a cup of tea this weekend and wrote out some of my thoughts about the year.  It was a challenging one for me.  I was often overcome, simultaneously, by anger, guilt, disappointment, shame - mostly with myself.  I felt bereft of gratitude, which is perhaps the saddest state of all, and the one that left me feeling most ashamed.  I was stuck for much of the year - in my own muckiness, wearing the evil twin sister of rose-colored glasses. 

On the Mondo Beyondo worksheet, I had a difficult time answering the questions about courage and strength, about bravery, about the things I was proud of.  I read a lot these days about having compassion - for ourselves, for others.  Practicing that compassion meant that I searched hard for those places where I could be proud, where I could see strength. 

But it also meant that I looked in the eye as best I could those places where I am disappointed, where I have let myself down.  After all, if I can't admit my own failings this year, how will I find the courage to forgive myself for them? 

In the process I determined that, more than anything else, 2011 was a year of learning.  I learned a great deal about the person that I am and about the person that I'm not.  I discovered some things about myself that have been difficult to accept, and some things that I can't quite accept yet.  I'd like to believe that these experiences of coming face to face with our own limits, our own flaws and human-ness, are also the experiences that keep us moving towards more deeply inhabiting our most authentic selves. 

There was an image that used to plague me when I was in treatment for my eating disorder.  I remember telling my therapist that if I were a drawing, my whole life I would've been a tidy pen-and-ink portrait with crisp lines.  But once I developed my eating disorder - and really once I entered treatment and started diving in to figure out what was wrong in there, I felt like someone was dripping water on the drawing and the lines were blurring, and I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be anymore.  It was terrifying. 

But the blurring was also what made it possible for me to begin drawing my own lines, and eventually to trust that I could sometimes exist in a space with no lines at all. 

This weekend I pulled out a manifestation board that I created last year around this time, right before I started my job, the one that I'm leaving now.  I had sensed the need to speak out to the universe my heart's desires.

Manifestation Board

So often this year, I felt that same old fear from twelve years ago that my lines were blurring, that I wasn't sure what my picture looked like, and that I needed to know.  Inside I flailed about for some grounding, for some affirmation that I was on the right path.  Looking at that board again this weekend, I thought about how difficult it can be to trust in our own process, to make peace with the blurriness, to believe that the place we are is the place we're supposed to be. 

2011 was moving me step by tiny step toward my manifestations.

The end of the Mondo Beyondo worksheet challenged me to set an intention for the new year, to name it.  For me, 2012 will be the Year of Trust.  Trust in the universe, in the people around me, in the messiness of life, and in myself. 

As challenging as 2011 was, I enter 2012 magnificently blessed.  I'm engaged to the woman I love, moving to a place that warms my heart (even if it freezes my toes!), with a dog that I adore. I'm significantly less in debt than when I started the year, and I've had the truly remarkable support of wonderful family and friends through all my whining.  I've taken a writing class, continued blogging, discovered a love of photography, made new friends, and watched my sister thrive in Rwanda. 

So, although I'm won't pretend that I'm sad to be saying goodbye to 2011, I'm not slamming the door on it. I'm thankful for the gifts and lessons of the year, and I'm practicing forgiveness for the rough parts.

I don't know what 2012 will bring, but I'm trying to lean into that not-knowing-ness.  I suspect I'll find that trusting a bit more will also open me up to being a bit more grateful, a bit more compassionate, a bit more giving, a bit more present.

In the midst of writing this post a few days ago, I told Navah that I was having a really hard time figuring out how to end it (hmmm....kind of like ending 2011?). She hadn't read it but knew the topic.  She suggested "Goooooooo 2012!!!!"

I poo-pooed the idea. "The post is more serious than that," I told her.  But as I come to the end here, I think she might have been right on the money.

Gooooooooo 2012!!!


Sewing In a Straight Line

Don't you just love getting exciting things in the mail?  Even if you sent them to yourself?

An email that I send myself will usually contain a reminder to do something mildly unpleasant, like pay my Verizon bill.  But snail mail that I send myself - that's usually something to get really pumped up about, like this new book from Brett Bara, Sewing in a Straight Line.  I ordered it last week and waited anxiously for my copy to arrive, and hurray for a package at my door over the weekend!

The blog world had been all a-twitter over it, and I was so excited to rip that cardboard open and peruse my little mail gift.  Boy, was I pleased.

Book cover
You know how sometimes you pick up a sewing or other crafty book at the bookstore, and the cover is gorgeous and you start calculating how you're going to afford it and whether you need to put some other book back?  And then you start flipping through it and...meh...only three or four of the projects look any good.  And the instructions seem confusing.  And it's just not worth $30.

Well, people, get to the bookstore.  Because that is not at ALL what's happening here.  At less than $20 a pop, this book is filled with fabulous project after fabulous project.  Brett's instructions are clear, with lots of pictures and diagrams.  And she made all these things in her Manhattan apartment sans craft room!  So no matter how much space you have, you can whip up these awesome projects.  I know one blogger who just got a new sewing machine, and she should be running to the bookstore right now!

Just look at all the fabulousness.

One-hour skirt 15-min sham Jewelry Keeper Baby Quilt Ottoman cover

I'm thinking about hosting a sew-a-long for one (or more) of the projects from the book when I get back from vacation (yippee!), so I'd love to hear if you'd be interested in something like that.

And no, Brett Bara did not pay me to say any of the nice things I said about this book.  Are you kidding?  She has no idea who I am!


A Craft Studio of One's Own: Dreaming

These days, I do a lot of my crafting in front of the television.  I know - for shame!  And if it's not there, then I'm propped in the "dining room," i.e. the table up against the wall in the living room, or at my sewing machine, which is also in the living room. As much as I love this apartment, there's no space devoted to creating.  It's something that I'll continue to dream of until I have a special craft studio of my own.  In the meantime, here are some inspiring images to keep me (and perhaps you?) going.

My creative space Sewing Room New craft studio - WIP art studio

What are you pining for??


All images via flickr.

Jam on the Hill

Several months ago, I discovered Yellow Brick Home, the gorgeous Chicago blog of husband and wife team Kim and Scott.  Their blog has become a regular read for me - I love Kim's friendly and approachable writing style and her gorgeous photos.  I like to think that we'd be friends if I lived in the Windy City.  Their blog posts range from awesome room redesigns to adorable photos of their pets.   And they have a shop where Kim creates tiny custom portraits of four-legged family members.  Which brings me to the purpose of this post, which is to share with you (a) some adorable photos of our dog and (b) the fabulously perfect portrait that Kim made of our little man, the Jams himself.

Navah made fun of me for wanting a portrait of the little man - I think she was invisioning a giant watercolor of Jammer romping through a field of daisies or posing in a little doggie tie.  Even after I showed her the website, she wasn't convinced.  But once the little portrait arrived and I set it up on the mantle, she was sold.  I mean, who wouldn't be?

Jammer on mantel
It kills me.  Just the cutest thing ever, and Kim captured his personality so perfectly!  I sent her several pictures and told her that I really wanted her to work from this one:

Jammer Hike
It's from a hiking trip in Maryland, but that particular over the shoulder look is one that we see all the time from Jammer.  He likes to run ahead to check things out, but then he'll stop and turn back to make sure we're with him.  Adorable.

Kim loved the over-the-shoulder shot, but in her infinite wisdom, she asked if she might use one of the smiley photos to paint his face.  I looked back at the pictures and agreed that it was an excellent idea.  I congratulate myself for knowing a good thought when I see it! Pat on the back for me.

Jammer portrait
She captures both his playfulness and his coyness with this picture.  The result could not be better. 

Unless of course, you're talking about the real thing:

Jammer 3 Jammer and Computer Jammer 2 Jammer napping
And just in case you're wondering, we don't normally dress Jammer - except in the winter when the wind is blistery, and then he has an adorable pea coat.  Or when it's raining, and then he has a very useful yellow rain slicker.  We have shag carpet, folks - keeping him dry is not optional.  I, much to my dismay, have a deep desire to clothe him every day in little doggie shirts with collars and sweaters with dinosaurs on them, but Navah keeps it all at bay.  Right now, he's having some allergy issues, and we put him in some of my smaller t-shirts to keep him from scratching and biting at the itchy spots.  Poor guy.  On the upside, he's channeling his inner 80's teenager. 
Jammer shirt knot
A final thanks to Kim for the awesome portrait.  It looks splendid on our frame wall!
Jammer on wall


Weekend Crafting Projects and Giveaway Winner

On the East Coast, we're gearing up for Hurricane Irene to round out Natural Disaster Week.  Which reminds me, I wanted to apologize for that.  Apparently it was the gays.  Woops!

Crafting during an earthquake is probably rather difficult, but crafting during a hurricane is totally doable so long as (1) you're not yet in duck-and-cover mode and (2) you have some candles. Since we're readying for the possible power-less weekend, I thought I'd round up some weekend projects you could do by candlelight.  No power necessary! And if your weekend will be hurricane-free, then light some candles just for fun.

Make a quick Friday afternoon jaunt to the craft store for supplies, and you could be making:

This sparkly tote bag from Alisa Burke, made from glitter shimmer transfer sheets -  no sewing required!

Quick and instant art from your back yard (you'll probably have your pick of twigs after all that wind blows them off the trees) and an old dictionary page.  This bird silhouette by Vintage After Thoughts is so clever, and you could use the idea for other images - maybe frogs are your thing, or stars, or...really anything else.  The dictionary is a big book.

A doily, some fabric paint, and a craft letter are all you'll need to make this adorable market tote from Just Sew Sassy!

If you're hoping that the lack of power will help you channel your inner pioneer girl, then perhaps you'll want to whip up this rag rug using the tutorial over at Moda Bake Shop.

If you're a mom type and your kids are going a bit stir crazy, you can enlist their help making these hemp string pendant lamps from Crafty Nest.  They'll love getting their hands dirty, and you'll love the instant home decor!

Or if you're a yarn-lover, you can join me in some crocheting as I work to finish my giant granny square blanket.  I even joined the crochet-along at Le monde de sucrette to try put some fire under my butt. 

Giant Granny Square Blanket

Whatever craft you're working on, I hope you have fun doing it - and watch out for drippy wax!

And, no I didn't forget, the winner of the lovely map heart art giveaway is.....drum roll please...

Map Hearts

Novice Wife of the delightful blog Accidentally Yours!  NW,  I'll be emailing you shortly with details!  Thank you so much to everyone who entered and shared their birthday stories!


Muzungu With a Smile

My sister is in Rwanda this year.  Being amazing.  Working in a hospital in a rural province.  She's been there for less than a month, though it already feels like longer.  She's living another life there, one that she shares with us through emails and skype chats, but one that we can't truly understand.  She takes bucket showers and uses a flash light to find her way to dinner. She contends with enormous furry bugs and the constant grit of dirt in her food.  She's also living her dream.

She tells us things like this:

Today, I took my first fall. It's been a long time coming. The dirt and gravel roads are slippery and despite my good rubber shoes, I slip. It rained last night, which sounded beautiful on our tin roof. It made the rocks slippery though and on my way to breakfast, I took a fall. I scraped up my right shin and have a huge raspberry colored scrape on my knee. Then today, since it was my first day home and not working in a while, I decided to walk down to the village. Every time someone saw my knee, they pointed and laughed and said, muzungu (white person). Only muzungus fall on the rocks, you see. By the time I hit the residential part I had a train of about 10-15 children following me. They would run up to me and stare at me. I normally don't do to well in the village with people staring at me, which they do a lot. I always say muraho and sometimes they smile and wave, but often they just look at me very bizarrely, as if they cannot figure me out. It makes me feel self conscious even if I know it really often is out of sheer curiosity and nothing more. (I've asked many of my Rwandan friends what it is about, do they have any issue with me being there or how I look? and they say there are some tensions here and there, but for most of them, I just look like a ghost walking around in funny clothes, and if you saw a funny clothed ghost, wouldn't you stare?)

So, I stuck my hands out to the children and bent down to their heights to tickle their bellies and ask their names. They smiled at me and touched my hands to see if I was real.  They were playing with the insides of bike tires rolling them with sticks. I asked if I could try, knowing full well I would never be able to keep the thing rolling, and they doubled over in laughter at the silly muzungu. Then one of the girls did a cartwheel and I pretended as if I couldn't do one. Then all the little girls started doing their cartwheels and I clapped and gave them high fives. We walked farther and one of the girls who was about 7-8 and one of the boys who was about 10 and knew a little english started speaking to me in english. They asked my name and told me good morning. Then we started naming things. I would point to an animal and ask what it was. They would say, goat, then I would ask in Kinyarwanda, and they would say ihene and I would say muraho ihene (hello goat). Then they would die in laughter that I would say hello to a goat. They started pointing to body parts and asking what they were. We learned ears and nose and arms.

Then they pointed to my hair. To them it must seem like I am a yak. Most Rwandans, men and women, unless they are very wealthy, just have shaved heads with very little hair. I had my hair down, so I pulled it in front of my face and put my sun glasses over my hair like Cousin It. They couldn't stop laughing and asking me to do it again about a million times. As I was walking back with my chain of children, I stopped to say hello to a few little girls who were about 4-5. I said witwa nde (what is your name?) and they didn't answer, they just stared at me. So I said, nitwa Hannah (My name is Hannah). One girl looked at me very perplexed and said oya witwa muzungu (no, your name is muzungu - or white person). I just smiled. For now, at least I am muzungu with a smile.

Her messages to us make me ache, not from sadness, but from the task of holding in my heart what is both so big and so small, sad and happy, extaordinary and run-of-the-mill, different and exactly the same.  Like I am listening to a song whose dischordant harmonies bring me swiftly and inexplicably to tears.  Because my twenty-five year old sister is seven thousand miles away falling in the rain and organizing pharmaceuticals for at-risk populations and is, it turns out, a very funny ghost who makes pleasantries with goats. 

And the children can't stop laughing and asking her to do it again and again and again.   

I ache because I know her, the deep real parts that a sister knows.  I read her messages like I am watching someone who has longed to paint finally create a masterpiece.  Because the painting was inside. 

All she needed was a brush.

Over the next few weeks, aside from our emails and weekly skype chats, I will be connecting with her in one of the ways that I know best - creating little lovelies to decorate her home away from home.  My heart glittered when she special-requested that I send her something crafty.  Say no more. 


A Little Hooky Inspiration

I've been working on a blanket to send to the Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund forever.  Seriously, I just can't seem to finish this one.  There are so many projects on my plate right now that every one of them is getting short shrift.

Just to give you a little size perspective - it's not that big.

But Alice over at Crochet with Raymond has inspired me with the completion of her jaw-dropping Gypsy Caravan Blanket.  The colors are so cheerful, and she always manages to make crochet look like the most modern of art forms - like the way she uses the gray borders around each square here.  So far removed from the dated green, brown, and burnt orange afghan of my childhood. I can't imagine anyone not immediately stashing these images in their own crochet inspiration file. 

Hopefully those pictures will give me the swift kick in the rump that I need, and I'll be getting hooky with it (yes, I did) in no time at all.

For those who don't crochet, I've got an exciting post coming up in the next few weeks that will get you started!  So tune back in!


Go ahead, paint your floor. Do it for me.

I am a huge fan of Alisa Burke, an inspiring mixed-media artist and blogger.  I never miss a post, and there's never one that I don't enjoy.  But this week, she bowled me over with her painted floor.

She had painted the runner-style "rug" over a year ago, but it needed a little updating and some more details.  The effect is perfect - springy and flowery, but not flouncy or too prissy.

I have always wanted to paint the floor - or rather, I've always wanted a floor to paint.  As of yet, I've never owned my own floor.  And pretty as it is, I have a sneaking suspicious that most landlords wouldn't take too kindly to it.  No, I have dreamed of a floor all my own - usually it's my future screened porch or sunroom - with a gorgeous modern flowery design.  But now I'm wondering if I wasn't too hasty relegating my future painted floor to my future porch. One right outside my bedroom like this would make me smile every morning!

You can be sure this one will be filed away for future inspiration!

And speaking of, here are a few others to inspire you if flowers aren't your thing:

Paisley Wallpaper

Sunny Goode

This Old House

Anyone else ever dreamed of painting the floor?  Oooh, have you already?!


Our Small Space Adventure: The Teaser

We're officially packing.  In less than a month, Navah and I will move into our new apartment in another lovely D.C. neighborhood - Eastern Market.  Living here in the Logan Circle area has, in many ways, been wonderful.  We've been blocks away from many of our friends, and being able to walk to campus while we were in law school was invaluable.

But there are some things we haven't liked.  First and foremost - the price.  The new apartment is significantly less expensive, which will allow Navah and me to allocate more money toward paying off student debt (mine) and saving for a down payment on a home.

Second - the concrete-ness.  DC is actually a fairly green city.  I always see trees on my way to work, and there are several little grassy traffic circles where I can head for a walk with Jammer.  But the fact that I just wrote that sentence is a sign of the struggle here.  Grassy traffic circles?  That's the green space I'm getting excited about?  No, we needed something more.  The new place has...drum roll please...a backyard!  Seriously.  A backyard.  Like a hey-I-just-let-the-dog-out-the-back-door-to-pee, we're-having-a-garden-party, ooh-aren't-these-hot-off-the-grill-steaks-delicious backyard.  If you've never lived in DC, you probably don't realize what a big deal that is.  But I'll tell you - it's a big deal.  Backyards are not easy to come by.

Third - the lack of a fireplace.  To me, any place that doesn't have a fireplace can't really be considered a home.  Perhaps it's an emotional weakness on my part, but I just have a thing for fireplaces.  And the new apartment does not disappoint.

But - there's always a but - the space is much smaller than where we live now.  Navah's very concerned that we'll feel cramped and on top of each other.  Though I fully acknowledge the validity of those fears, I can't help but focus on how adorable and cozy the new place is (did I mention the fireplace?) and how good it's going to feel to get rid of So Much Stuff.  Navah grins at me with a raised eyebrow every time I bring that up.  Yes, I'm a bit of a packrat collector.  I have numerous plastic bins filled with fabric yarn, paints, colored papers, markers, and old odds and ends that I Just Know will be the key ingredients for an awesome craft project down the road.  And I haven't even mentioned shoes or t-shirts or books.  I recognize that this might make someone doubt by ability to actually get rid of things.

Hear this: I'm absolutely committed to turning over a new leaf. (It doesn't hurt that we'll be able to store some of our stuff at Navah's parents' until we end up in a more permanent, larger space.)

Apartment Therapy must have intuited our position - this week they ran a series on the best small spaces.  I was definitely inspired by the conscious and beautiful use of space.  I can only hope to make such well thought-out choices.

This apartment is only 397 sq feet!

For now, I continue to gleefully make lists of all the furniture that we'll sell on Craigslist and throw clothes into boxes for Goodwill.

Here's to feeling A LOT lighter.