Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dairy and fiber is good for you

Work and weather have been challenging and draining lately. It's February in Vermont after all, so of course this is unavoidable. Flower shows bloom all through New England this time of year, and resorts sell weekend getaways to desperate yankees by using words like "hot tub" and "relax". Anything that seems the antithesis of slush or rock salt or snow shovels becomes what we all crave.

The sky was a gorgeous blue today, and waking up to sunshine was a nice change. Before I got too hopeful, the flaky d.j. on the radio warned me of subzero windchill temps. Instead of throwing an all out "I want spring now" temper tantrum, I sighed and packed my bag for a day without a walk home for lunch.

What does one bring to work with them to create a fake lunchtime getaway (when one is used to a five minute walk and then the peace and quiet of her favorite chair, a book, and good leftovers)? The recent Saveur magazine, chock full of butter, and the mohair shawl I'm working on. I have always been a firm believer in butter from my first plate of starch. I was further convinced of it's charms when I called my mother after a failed pie crust attempt (my first) - she immediately guessed that I'd tried to substitute margarine. "Throw it away" she said "start again, use butter". I did, and I've not batted an eye at not-butter for baking ever since. I'm the daughter of a woman raised on a dairy farm, it can't be helped. The mohair was from my mother too, and it was high time I got it on and off some needles. While I'd be trapped in my office, I did look forward to the good company of creamy reading and floaty fiber in my fingers.

It was a horribly drudgish morning, so I took an early lunch. At the appointed hour, I moved my chair into the sunny patch in my office, put my back to the door and my feet on the desk. I slurped down butternut squash soup while reading about the de-vilification of butter and it's return to the table (hallelujah!), and sat with a pile of whispery and warm mohair in my lap. Something about the soft click of needles blocks out the sounds of jammed copiers and coworkers talking at each other. It was lovely. At home tonight, I remember my lunch hour more than the rest of my blurred day, which is more than I'd hoped for.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sweeping out cobwebs

For some reason, there was a conversation at Steve's office about just how much yarn I had. When details were divulged, his boss said it sounded like it was time for me to knit or get off the pot. After a month of moving all of our furniture around, and doing some I-wish-it-was-spring cleaning, I'd just come to that conclusion myself, albeit not quite so... succinctly.

We've switched workspaces, the artist and I. His drafting table faces the windows in the office now, and I'm curled into the corner by the heating vent. The sewing machine is the short side of the L that is my space, and we can both get to it (he learned to sew last week so he could make puppets). This works out better than we'd anticipated actually, and in a celebration of organization and inspiration, I'm trying to be good to my workspace and not overtax it with a bunch of half-baked projects.

I've assembled what I call the "basket of shame". It sits by my desk, full of things I either have to frog or finish. They stare up at me, little orphaned projects... the guilt alone is some serious incentive.

I'm almost done cutting all of our old denim into quilt blocks, and I've salvaged some of the zippers to sew into felted or fabric bags. Just two pairs of jeans left. The denim will be paired with my favorite bright fat quarters in a simple quilt. My grandmother is a quilter, and while this will not even touch her finished pieces, it should be attractive and will make me proud of my use up/make do abilities.

I have a pile of mending sitting by my machine, so I can do an odd bit or two when I have a free moment. Buttons will once again be reunited with plackets, and Steve may get some of his clothing back once it's patched. Pants will be hemmed, shoulder pads will be torn out. And then I'm going to train myself not to look at something and think "it'll be fine if I just...". And hopefully the mending basket will stay empty... ish.

The stack of magazines I was saving, for who remembers what, is gone. Inspiration clipped out, and the chaff recycled. There's a clipboard on my desk with the tidbits I culled, and I flip through that every once in a while, changing the one on top to fit my mindset (a gorgeous cork tiled floor, a gingham quilt, a color combo of orange and aqua).

Maybe it's the full moon, maybe it's the new space for my brain and eyes and hands to play in... but my sleep the last few days has been full of colors and images and project ideas. It is rare that I remember that kind of thing when I wake up, I'm usually more focused on the people and emotions in my dreams. These pictures lasted well beyond that first waking moment, and so I sat with a glass of wine at my desk last night to sketch them out with coloured pencils. I poked through my stacks of fabric, yarn, and ribbon and found matches, and then bundled up my sketch with the appropriate bits and put them in plastic bags. I now have a small pile of projects, stored so I can see their colors, and can pick one up when I feel like working on something. My notes and all the little bits of detritus I think would help are in there. It's a bit scary actually. Like I have some kind of momentum... that I should respect... and do something with.

Unwilling to fully engage in an analysis of my own behavior (I'm never productive AND organized unless I'm baking), I picked up the mohair wrap from the shame basket (if your mother buys you local handspun mohair, you darn well better do something with it), and started to work on it. The voice in the back of my mind was very quiet, and only said it once, but it was clear as a bell... "knit or get off the pot"!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Frankenchick pics

I promised pictures of the gift I knit and felted (and cut and sewed and cussed at) for Christmas. Not only did I complete the project without taking any photos, but I packed her up, whisked her across international borders, and left her in London without proof of ever having worked on her at all (if you don't count the felted scraps under my desk). The recipient was kind enough to send pictures.

I decided that my chicken loving friend in London needed an obsession appropriate tea cozy. I knit a miniature version. I even knit a swatch for this one... but it didn't do me any good. I cast waaay too many stitches onto round needles, and it wasn't until halfway through cast off that that became painfully clear. Sometimes it seems that cussing actually fuels my creativity, and this seemed to be the case. I figured out a work-around involving scissors, my sewing machine, a dose of my better half's perspective, and went to work.

And truly, she is a frankenchicken. Knit and felted, cut into pieces, and sewn back together again. The handle protrudes from under her tail feathers, and her comb hides the steam spout. Her bottom is ribbed so that it curls round the base of the pot a bit.

I'm happy to say she was a hit, and our friends even tromped her through London for a day. If you want to see the London sights with a felted chicken, you can check it out on YouTube.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Jumping Off the Cliff

I did something yesterday that I have spent a long time thinking about. I think anyone who knows me and anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows how much my job has been troubling me. I'm not going to go over the gory details again, since there are a good many things that I can't talk about publicly. Being in banking brings with it many policies and regulations, including very strict ones about confidentiality.
The expectations of this job have been extremely hard for me to fulfill. Organizing this particular staff has been like trying to wrangle cats, or discipline teenagers. I haven't been enjoying that. The multiple meetings and business calls and business functions are wearing me out. I'm not particularly extroverted. I am very talkative and open with my friends and family, but that's completely different. The audits and warnings and probations have been terrifying and exhausting. I haven't been sleeping. I haven't been keeping in touch with friends and family who deserve far better than that (hi, guys, sorry 'bout that). I can't have a day off without anxiety and a sense of foreboding and horror about having to go back.

I finally decided that being unemployed was a better alternative to destroying myself for a job I obviously didn't like. I'm not a quitter and I hate to lose, but I've given this position a chance for four months. I couldn't do it any longer.

Yesterday afternoon I called and asked if I could meet with my boss and her boss. The three of us sat down, and discussed it. I told them I didn't think I was the person for the job. I told them I wasn't going to change who I was to fit the ideal of what they wanted. I told them that I appreciated the chance they gave me to try, but that I had made a mistake. I told them that I had been with the bank for over three years and I didn't want to leave, but I saw no point in continuing down this path. I reminded them of all that I have to offer and how well I had done everything asked of me and more during those previous three years. I was surprisingly calm and I think I made all my points effectively. While I was telling them all of this, a sense of calm came over me that I have not felt in quite a long time. They asked me a lot of questions, which I expected. It went far better than I had imagined.

I'm not sure exactly when during the conference I realized it, but this did not end up the way I thought it would. I figured out that not only were they being quite understanding, but they had apparently been expecting me to say this to them eventually and had already thought about it. What they had been thinking about was not how soon they could get rid of me, but where else they could put me. They want me to stay. They don't want me in a position that I'm this unhappy with. I'm stunned. And pleased. And very, very relieved. I think I might actually be able to relax this weekend.