Thursday, June 30, 2022

finding joy in the small things when the world seems to be falling apart

it's been a lot lately. the land of my birth is busily being dismantled by a tyrannical minority, against the will of around 70% of the population. and it feels like there's nothing that can be done about it. apparently we weren't paying proper attention for the past 50 years. or we weren't willing to do something about it because we didn't really believe they would be that backwards or that evil. but they are. and then some. and it's very disheartening. i find it very difficult to listen to it. mostly, i feel shame. being american is embarrassing again. i remember when obama was elected, i rejoiced that i wouldn't have to hide my passport while i was in an airport line anymore, but alas, i need to hide it more than ever. or finally get that other passport. it's definitely time.

i find myself looking for around me at the little things to be able to find some joy, despite how disheartening and humiliating it all is. things like the baby chickens our chickens hatched out and which two hens are very dutifully tending (though only one of the hens is in this photo).

or our very cute, but very fraidy indian running ducks, who stay, as husband puts it, in an organized clump and have the cutest penguin-like walk.

or the four-leaf clover i spotted as i sat in the garden the other day.

or the daily walks i've been taking during most of june to keep a new back problem at bay and to spend some time in my body as well as my head while listening to the cozy daisy dalrymple mysteries. 

or enjoying a really good cup of coffee in my favorite handmade ceramic mug. and the fact that my peonies are blooming.

it helps me feel less helpless. i can have an effect on things. i can pull those weeds in the garden and tend to the plants, i can feed the kitties and spend time with them in a favorite corner of the garden. i can do interesting work with interesting people. i can look forward to my child coming home in a week or so. i can put new sheets on the bed and snuggle into them at night. i can take a long walk. i can have long, deep conversations with husband. i can invite friends over and enjoy spending time with them.  i can sit in the chair i recovered with handwoven fabric and have the privilege of working from home and making a good living. and i can vote. for now, voting matters and is something concrete that i can and will do. it's clearer now than ever that it's important, so let's remember this horrible time and get our asses to the polls come november. our lives and the freedom to live them on equal footing with all those old white men might very well depend on it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

unspoken rules

we've worked at home a lot over the past two and a half years. it's been both good and bad. we're mostly back in the office these days, but i do still work some days at home when i really have to concentrate. or because my back is hurting, which it has been lately. i'm having flashbacks to the back surgery in 2015 and hoping to avoid it happening again. though working at home probably contributes to it, as i tend to sit much more when i'm home - forgetting to take breaks or eat lunch. 

but it can also be weird being back in the office. a whole new set of rules came about while we worked at home. and many are unspoken and just understood. or not understood. and it's weird, since they're unspoken, to feel disappointed or annoyed when the rules are broken, but the fact remains that i find myself feeling disappointed and annoyed of late.

a couple of examples: 

1) calling on teams: when you call someone on teams, you send a message first to ask them if they have time. so it's super annoying and jarring when when someone just calls out of the blue. often when you're in the middle of a meeting, so they don't even pay attention to the little red bubble that shows that you're busy. 

2) meetings in an open office environment: during corona, we all sat at home and could therefore hold meetings out loud and not bother anyone but the cat. back in the office, it's an open environment and there are some phone booths for meetings where you're the only one, or there are plenty of meeting rooms if you're several people meeting with others on teams. however, i've noticed that some of my colleagues continue to hold their teams meetings in the open environment. they put on headphones and don't realize that they're shouting. one colleague actually had a meeting on teams with the person sitting directly across from him. hello? go to a meeting room, or just go around to the other side and talk to one another! by the end of the day, i was utterly exhausted from listening to his shouting during all his meetings and i was too mad to say anything about it. but seriously, has two years of working from home rendered him so unaware of other humans that he doesn't realize he's being utterly rude to his colleagues?

how is company culture formed? who decides the etiquette? and how does everyone agree on it without talking about it out loud? and when someone utterly violates it, how do you talk to that person about it nicely? i know for sure that you don't let yourself steam about it all day and get so angry that you know you won't be able to be nice about it. but then the moment passes and maybe now his way of just holding meetings with headphones and shouting has moved everyone towards establishing a different company culture than the one you thought was there. and it's all unspoken. and it makes being back in the office less fun than it should be, because it truly is nice to be around your colleagues again.

but i still think a combination will be best. i need a couple of days of being able to concentrate at home and a few days of being with my colleagues in the office. they're two completely different ways of working. and i like the variety, but i do just wish we all agreed on the culture.

Monday, June 06, 2022

corners of the garden

spent a blissful amount of time right here this weekend. weeding, watering, grilling, lounging, laughing, relaxing and even working. it was the last of the long spring weekends, but i am rested and ready to jump headlong into the week. 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

stitching together a lovely, messy, chaotic life

nearly a month after my disappointment at not getting hold of a kit that would enable me to participate in the dataspejlet community art project at trapholt museum, i was at a friend's house for a board meeting. i saw that she had a kit and i told her how sad i was that i missed out on getting one. i snapped a picture of it there on her side table, but that sense of sadness and being on the outside of something i wanted to be part of welled up in me again and i found it almost too painful to look at. i even thought the colors she had gotten were great and would have been so much fun to work with. she told me that her neighbor also had one and she would ask her if she was going to use it. i went away a little bit hopeful, but still mostly resigned to not getting one.

then, a week or so later, my friend sent me a message, telling me she'd left me something up in our creative group's workshop at the library. i crossed my fingers that i knew what it was and i was delighted to find that she gave me her own kit. i breathed a sign of relief. 

oddly, i didn't start stitching on it right away. i got out my data files and chose the words i wanted to work with and i drew a sketch on some graph paper that husband had lying around on his desk. and then, i went around pondering it in the back of my head for a couple of weeks. i'm one who always works best close to a looming deadline. and i wasn't doing nothing - i was pinning stitch inspiration on pinterest and thinking about how i wanted to express the words i'd chosen. i was also keeping an eye on the #dataspejlet hashtag on instagram, but not a lot of posts were being shared and i didn't want to have to open the dreaded facebook to go see what people were posting in the group. plus, i figured it was best to do it my way anyway, without too much inspiration/influence from others.

but during our long weekend, i finally got stitching. it was beautiful out in the garden, on the pillow-covered bench between the greenhouses. i started with the circle representing husband. it has a circle within it that represents sabin. 

i chose the golden mustard color for husband and pink for sabin - my colors were those, plus purple. i probably would have chosen other colors if i were choosing myself, but these were what i had to work with and i do like them. i decided to  completely fill those two circles with stitches, because they represent the two people who complete me. 

the next circles that i worked on were the overlapping ones representing time/reality and cats - funny that those overlapped, but i think the time/reality comes from posts i did about reading murakami and of course, cats figure heavily on my facebook page. i chose to leave more "air" in those circles, not filling them out completely with stitches and there, where they overlapped, i used both colors, plus i added the third color, to show that the interesting part is where my preoccupations overlap. 

and then i turned to the similarly overlapping circles representing ships and LEGO. i filled those out with little + signs (i should note that we were only allowed to use stitches that go horizonal or vertical, no side-ways or curves or french knots or fancy stuff). and i stitched three hearts in the space where they overlapped, to signify how much i do love both. they are both from my work life, but both have become something of who i am.

i really enjoyed sitting in the sunshine, stitching. when i needed a break, i'd get up and pull a few weeds or water the plants or plant a few seeds. and i picked myself a small bouquet of fragrant lilacs, my favorite flower, to have at hand while i stitched. i sat in the sun with my big sun hat on and enjoyed the meditative stitching, seeing where it would take me and what thoughts it would provoke.

i didn't get it all finished on the weekend, so monday after work, i started my second to last circle. this is the one where i chose a group of words from the data, as they all seemed related and harmonious together. they were: story, fabulous, beautiful, sunshine, awesome. and reality was in that circle as well. i think it's my favorite circle - the three colors complementing one another best. it was also one i stitched most intuitively, letting the colors tell me where they wanted to be and how many stitches and the length. it simply felt freer than the others, which felt careful and deliberate. i liked this one best.

it was getting a bit dark by the time i finished, but i took a picture anyway. i'm pleased with the result. and then on tuesday, i had only one circle left to do. the bad one. 

we were given white thread to use for stitching those bits that we wished weren't there or which we didn't want anyone to see. for me, that circle came down in the left lower quadrant, far from the other circles, which was good, as i hate to have this word touching any of the positive words. and the word for that circle was trump. i used couching, i think wanting to keep that embarrassing evil clown under control, limiting him and tying him down. that stitch came to me naturally and intuitively as well. funny how those last two circles were the most intuitive, like i had to have warmed up to the stitching before i could let myself go.

and i thought a lot about stitching outside the circles and i can see now that others have done so - stitching connections between them and such. and i thought i wanted to do that as well. but as i began - trying to make a joyful spray of stitches surround my favorite circle at the top - they came out awkward and not at all how i envisioned them, so i picked them up. i think it would have worked if i could have used french knots, but alas, they weren't allowed. so, i decided i was content to only show what the data showed and keep the rest of my lovely, chaotic, messy, awesome life for myself.

i'm so happy i got to participate after all and i'm very grateful to my friend for giving me her kit. it meant a lot and the meditative stitching time was just what i needed during a very busy time at work. i can't wait to see how my work will fit into the larger work that astrid skibsted puts together at trapholt this autumn.  it will inevitably be a dialogue with the many other embroiderers and the whole will be so much greater than the individual parts and yet they will be beautiful and unique on their own. and i'll bet it will be harmonious and lovely, messy and chaotic, just like all the lives that went into the data that went into all those stitches. and we will all belong exactly where we are in the work. 

this awesome, beautiful, fabulous life

i submitted my dataspejlet work to trapholt electronically today, so now, i only have to drop it off. i still need to write a post about how i got my hands on a kit, but i'll do that next. 

they have a form to fill out where you can write a 1000 character description of your work. that's a crazy small amount for all the thought and hours that went into it. here's what mine said:

i loathe facebook, but have been there for many years, so it made sense to use it for my dataspejl. interestingly, the data did rather accurately reveal what's important to me - husband (yes, i call him that, like it's his name) and daughter, their circles overlapping, very fittingly. the next circles, all very close in size represent other things i love - like cats and ships and LEGO. my #2 circle featured words like "time" and "reality," which surely come from reading and posting about Murakami books. i chose to do one circle in white, as the frequent word there is one i'd like to forget - trump. it's also an outlier on my grid - away from the others, which seems right. but to end on a happy note, the circle where i used all three colors in a crazy quilt sort of pattern was full of words like "story," "fabulous," "beautiful," "sunshine," "awesome" and again, "reality," - leading me to my title and to the realization that yes, my colorful, loud, messy life is rather fabulous.

submitted this process photo - as i thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the sunshine in the garden, stitching away last weekend.

* * *

you also had to fill out which words you chose to work with and mine were:

husband, sabin (which i submitted as daughter, for the sake of anonymity), cats, ships, LEGO, time, reality, story, fabulous, beautiful, sunshine, awesome and yes, trump. 

so weird to boil my life down to 8 circles and a dozen or so words. it seems so paltry and yet still, it did capture something. i tried stitching outside the circles a bit, to indicate that my life is much more than just those 8 confined and sometimes overlapping circles, but took it away again, because it felt like it didn't capture it. instead, i chose to go with the snapshot those 8 circles offer and keep for myself the messy chaos of the rest of this awesome, beautiful, fabulous life.