I’ve been singing “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” over the last day, to myself. The Dusty Springfield version, of course; there is no other version. While I’m sewing or working her voice pierces my heart. I can sing as dramatically as I like, in front of my children. In front of no one else, in fact. Maybe I’ll grow a little less shy, or perhaps my children are just the most special people in my heart, and who can know the unvarnished Me.
a how-to book that reads like a thriller
Our dryer broke today but only after I had about eight loads of wet laundry waiting. I search online and find a heating element but in the meantime, we need towels and clean sheets. So at 10 PM I’m sitting on my mother’s couch waiting for a single load to finish; the rest of our wet clothing and linens are bundled into large black garbage bags and rest on her tidy laundry room floor. We always talk about world events and cultural phenomena when I visit with my mother. Tonight I mention the disturbing, disgusting tax breaks our country’s mega-rich receive and my mom interrupts me to angrily hold aloft her popsicle, “Like these! These are half as big as they used to be, and they cost twice as much! It makes me so angry!” I look down at my popsicle – lime flavor, duh! – and I realize, Sonofabitch, this damn thing is smaller. Life’s a bitch.
as a means of self-escape
Two years ago today I had my ureter stent removed, after nine days of the worst kidney ordeal I’d yet faced. The device was placed on the twelfth after a brutal procedure, and that evening we had to make a call to paramedics; a couple days later I was in the ER. The entire experience was a nightmare. Removing the stent was scary and hardly pain-free; I remember simply letting my husband be with me for the ordeal because I didn’t have the ability to say yes or no, and because I knew he wanted to be there.
Today I felt an odd bit of kidney pain, only a little, a ghostly reminder. I have mastered the ability not to worry much, to predict it will get worse. Several years of pain, taught me some discipline. But the truth is I’ve had no major events since moving to a vegan diet; an entirely surprising yet welcome side effect. Every day, week, and month that passes without medical intervention and minor surgical procedures, I am grateful. We are still paying off the procedures from years ago.
So this time of year, yes I am grateful, grateful for my health.
I have planned an August sabbatical from client work; I have also cut down on social media significantly. Over the last few months I kept having friends ask me how I’m doing, and – since I am honest when people ask me this question – I had to confess I was a bit overscheduled. And confess it again, and again. Having disclosed this repeatedly, I realized I was responsible to do something about it.
Overscheduling is the kind of problem that creeps up, and it isn’t always a quick job to extricate oneself from these circumstances. So – carefully, with as much sensitivity for others as possible – I’ve been restructuring my life to a more sustainable pace. And this week, I’m starting to feel better, and more mindful; my yoga sessions are more refreshing and focused. My performances as mother and partner, are improving. Time is slowing – if only a little.
Tomorrow is my volunteer day; the day I devote the most time to others in my community. I am consistent with my volunteer work but I am also thinking about cutting back, or at least re-organizing. Today I know I don’t have to make any rash decisions on that count. I can wait, and meditate, and consult friends.
And live to fight another day!
that little gas powered fireplace insert, oddly comforting
Two days ago my left hip felt a bit stiff; yesterday it woke me in absolute shattering pain. Alarming, really – I’d never had hip trouble before and certainly no trouble with a weight-bearing joint. It was bad enough Ralph and Beeps took me to Urgent Care for an evaluation, and was sent home with crutches and instructions to take an Alleve every eight hours, stay off the offending leg, and ice like a sonofabitch.
The treatment seems to have helped as today I felt about five hundred percent better. I am a bit irritated, however: clearly I retained a sports injury from my daily yoga, and it came (seemingly) out of nowhere and after what I thought was exceedingly mindful practice. The whole episode has left me a little shifted off center. I don’t get too upset about an injury or a setback; I do, however, feel peevish at the thought of re-injuring myself, and not knowing how to avoid it.
I am trying to move through my studio work: a wedding dress (finishing tomorrow!), two tunics and trousers (also finishing tomorrow), alterations for a client, three sweaters, and a bomber jacket. These are the items I have to finish before I can move on to something fun – or a birthday gift for my son, who turns fourteen in four days. And in between this entry and the last, I built a whole fricken’ website for a client! I am a busy little beaver.
Our kitty Pip curls up at my left elbow; he’s waiting for Ralph to climb into bed, so he can cram his little face in my husband’s armpit. Our evenings are familiar and cozy. I am increasingly in less agonies that my children no longer sleep with me – one of the biggest adjustments I’ve made in years. Time races through my hands and I can’t grasp it but in moments I can slow it down just a little.
Tomorrow: a tulle skirt in satin, and Chinese takeout with a girlfriend while we watch a horrible slasher.
under bridges of what’s to come
My kids’ shoes end up: in my bedroom, on the bathroom floor. As relatively tidy and supremely well-behaved as my children are, they are nevertheless creatures of comfort: discarding clothes before taking a luxurious hot shower, or slipping off shoes before crawling in bed next to me to cuddle. They leave off on their errands to game – I hear shouts! of laughter from downstairs – and leave their clothes here and there. If they were adults I was forced to room with, I would find it all very irritating. As it is, these mundane remembrances are a comfort to me. I know when they leave my home I will miss them so.
“Are you okay?” my son says, at dinner. We are the only two left at the table and he is helping himself to a third serving of pasta. I tell him Yes, I am just tired and he says, “Put your hand here,” indicating the table between us. His long hand rests on mine – preternaturally beautiful fingers, and long nails. Then, shortly: “I need this to eat,” he smiles, removing his hand and crossing his right over so he can still comfort me.
I am okay, sure – but I am mentally very tired. I am meeting once a week with a small business consultant. I am in couples counseling every two weeks; I take one of my children to therapy every other week from that. It isn’t as if I’m particularly worried in all these concerns, but they very much require a special focus on my part. I am still reeling from the kids’ transition into their teenage years – which is absolutely nothing like the dour, cynical predictions would have had me believe, but is nevertheless a sea change – and I am experiencing the sadness of finally, finally no longer having a family bed. My husband’s car is once again tits-up – and mine is on the last legs for its brakes. My mother is selling her home, after five generations of lives passing through the old Victorian. A family friend dies young and this brings up, for me, horrible memories.
There are many glimmers of goodness in this time. My older child is happier, a brief calm sea. They hold and hug and kiss me several times a day. The younger is a bit more volatile – a surprise, given his sweet nature – but I am gentle with him and he is good at coming to his sense and apologizing. And so, for that matter, am I. I put no small amount of concentration onto helping their father connect with them. He is gone for hours each day, after all, and misses the many opportunities I have.
On the turn of the dime it is absolutely fall, no longer summer. Even the warm days have a dampness and chill in the air. It’s incredible to me, as it was so very hot just before the break. Ralph finished painting the house during our driest spell. In a week or so I’ll pull all the summer clothes for storage and bring out my winter coats in preparing for the long, dark winter to come. As it will, whether we are ready or no.
a strong & then a stronger rope / the greenest saddest strongest kind of hope
I am rather exhausted of late, trying to work and do my volunteer thing and keep a household going and drag my teens away from their respective gaming centers and make time for a neglected husband. All of these things have given me due course of difficultly over the past two months. I gave notice at my web design freelance work and that eased things off just a bit.
I’m planning out the next five years of my business which is a gratifying experience as not only is it helpful to commit to concrete plans; it is oddly calming to know that time passes, it will pass regardless, so do not be in a hurry to get anywhere. Even so, in learning how to build a business it is like a rat’s nest – tearing apart one corner I find another mess, another bit to untangle and contend with. I find myself exhausted although, I am grateful to say, not falling ill as someone underslept and occasionally worried indeed, might easily find herself.
The children have been getting along better as of late. Having two teens in the house is the sweetest, most intense experience. After sixteen years off and on cosleeping (mostly on) Ralph and I finally have a bed to ourselves. I smile at my friends who post online with their new babies, trying to nap- and crib-train. I remember those days and remember how much easier it was when I stopped trying to get my kids to grow up faster for – God knows what reason anyway.
The summer was screaming hot for several weeks and just these last few days fall broke upon us. We need the rain; far less so in the hurricane-swept areas of Texas and Florida under threat. For now I can settle into the most beautiful time of the year here – the dry earth responsive and my strawberries filling in a bit more; the scent of loam and the mushrooms hiding along the trail. Time for hot cocoa instead of Italian ices; time to fold up summer shirts and sundresses and bring out flannels and sweaters.
Time for another season together; a very special kind of Eden which slips through my hands so swiftly no matter how I try to slow it down.
more / in focus
With a child prone to depression, a good day is such a good day. Everything seems brighter, when your kid is doing well. If we get a couple good days in a row I start to relax enough to remember how different life once was. It reminds me there were many years where every day, both my kids were in this space.
It’s tempting to let the moods of my kids, or the mood of my husband, reframe my day. It’s difficult to just have my day.
My son sleeps until the mid-afternoon; if I have a client over to try on a garment, I’ve got to rustle him out of the downstairs bedroom first into his own room. Most of my clients are women with their guard down and don’t mind disrobing and don’t mind who else is in my home, by way of children, when they do it. The other day while helping a woman with a dress she kept hauling it up to look back and forth, exposing her plain cotton panties unselfconsciously; I guess we’re kind of friends now.
But back to my kids. In the afternoon Nels’ hair in a tangle on the pillow, like the Leonard Cohen song. My son is tall, only a couple inches shorter than I. His long, beautiful brown foot out from under the comforter. Later: “I am just so hungry!” he tells me cheerily, as he brings forth an elaborate plate of food to the coffee table. His life consists of sleeping, doing a bit of housework (happily!), playing outside and ringleading, and then gaming – making videos and uploading them. About now, around midnight, I start trying to wrangle him to shower and then sleep or at least towards it. Phee is usually upstairs on a Discord server with friends; they watch movies at night while Phee draws.
My work schedule has been intense; I’m also trying to get my tailoring business all above board and tidied up with itself. Learning about scheduling software, invoicing, filing. I had plans for a few projects this year but time, and the mundane business of earning money, is slipping quickly by.
No matter what though I I do my thing, my volunteer avocation: hanging out with other addicts. Trying to help. Tonight I dropped a c-bomb in a meeting and thought, Whoops. Too harsh. At least for some people. I’m thinking though that I need to carve out a tiny bit more space, have a place I can be a little more open, a little more abrasive.
Tonight Phee is in bed early; good. They’ll get a lot more sleep before school tomorrow.
Tonight I am really glad to be alive because not everyone gets this opportunity, and certainly none of us do for very long.
super-friendly rainbow puffer vest
For the winter!
This project was a teensy bit challenging – but when has that stopped me? My friend wanted a princess-seamed vest in outerwear fabrics – not too shiny, with rainbow motifs and a vintage feel. For the shell I chose a water-resistant nylon packcloth from the lovely RockyWoods, and underlined with two layers – a polyfleece, and a high-loft winter underlining medium.
The collar has only a one underlining fabric in fleece, to keep bulk down. Facings around hem, neckline, and front placket.
Snaps! Size 24, metal. And you get a tiny peek at the very cool corduroy-style Malden Mills fleece lining. I chose it for the “vintage” effect of a wale fabric.
The rainbow section of the vest was first carefully pressed (pressing a nylon fabric isn’t super fun), then crackstitched to a muslin underlay, before applying to the rest of the garment. If I hadn’t put this underlay in, you’d be able to see some of the seam allowances too starkly.
I’m a big fan of an underlap. You can make it from something cute if you like – a contrast fabric or even a pieced rainbow placket. Whatever you like. Here, I chose the burgundy for underlap, inner collar, hem facings, and placket facings.
a place where my heart feels the safest
Halloween sewing is over, and it’s time to make a bunch of wonderful things for little people!
Shown here: “Vesper”, a four-piece ensemble I was inspired to make based on the baby-blue eyes of this lovely little girl I know. I wanted something in winter colors – here, bluebird, deep cherry, periwinkle, and ivory.
Some sewing-pr0n pix:
I made little “fins” out of the interfaced jacket wool, just because. The shell of the hat is a novelty Halloween knit in olive, burnt sienna, bluebird, black, and fuschia. The hat’s cuff is in a jersey knit matching the sweater dress, and the hat is lined in the same periwinkle bamboo the leggings are made of.
The sweater dress was actually the inspiration piece for the whole outfit! Now, there is a time for using a serger, but… to be honest… I rarely use mine. I love the hand-finished look of (in this case) traditional zig-zag. The nubbly sweater knit is very light and semi-sheer. You definitely want a onesie under this gear!
The coat… a Christmas coat in a deep cherry 100% wool, flecked with ivory. Bright red snaps that match the rayon/linen pocket lining and the slipper satin jacket lining. Have I mentioned how much I love slipper satin? It is one of my favorite linings to work with – and it feels wonderful!
How tiny can I make double-welt pockets? PRETTY DERN TINY! Do babies use pockets? THAT IS NONE OF YOUR CONCERN! I am always improving my welt pocket prowess. These were made using grosgrain ribbon which allows for a very firm welt.
OOPS I lined the coat with faux fur! A minkee (I think) to be exact. I’m not sure where or when I got this fur – it was in the last year – but it is so very soft. It’s also very rugged as babies – let us be fair – are pretty messy!
A very tiny bit of high-end sweater knit – I had hardly any left after making Phee a sweater last May – finishes the cuffs of these entirely-reversible bamboo leggings. No seams whatsoever to irritate baby’s skin. Finished at the waist with a three-step zig-zag:
So… I was just wondering, was that baby cute? Maybe take another picture to see:
This ensemble is on Etsy, where a steady trickle of sales has helped us keep food in the fridge. And today I’m finishing my next baby ensemble, for a little boy. Stay tuned!
clones (We’re all)
Bespoke tailoring: yes! I found this one pair of pants – they’re Canali – and brought them into a tailor and said, ‘Clone these, dammit.’ They just do all the right things. I’ve got eight pairs in different colors and I never have to think about pants again. – Douglas Coupland
Speaking of clones, I recently re-watched sci-fi drama Moon from 2009. It did not disappoint!
Marginally less exciting, this cloned pair of shorts from a client turned out a success, too. Unlike last year’s basketweave coat clone, this was a straight-shot: no resizing necessary. I also upped the construction methods quite a bit from the original, mass-produced pair, and sent the client the new shorts as well as a pattern so she could have another pair made any time:
A button closure: perfect buttonholes made on my grandmother’s 1950 Singer!