Tuesday, October 21, 2014

X's on canvas

I am not the only one who makes fun of my cross stitch habit.

People at work do it all the time. I often prompt it, but they readily join in for a turn to rib Grams and the reason she's pushing 30 with no bling on her finger.

A coworker who I love to pieces recently asked me if I have a sewing machine, and not expecting me to actually say yes, got very excited/concerned when I did say yes and told me I was really Sally Homemaker.

Anyone who knew me from the years 1997 through, oh, last year, are likely reading this with a degree of skepticism, since during that time period I wore sweatpants and belched and flexed my muscles whenever given the opportunity.

I still do the final thing on that list, and to all you reading with skepticism, I think that's fine. In fact I'd be worried if you weren't.

So yes. I'm becoming (another friend recently said, "Becoming?") a very domestic lady in recent times. It's a little weird, a little alarming, a little head scratching, and a little great.

While still a slob, a beer drinker, an obnoxious fan at football games -- don't worry, not everything has changed -- I find myself sprinkling baking soda on the carpet, baking muffins, offering bandages to men with cuts on their fingers.

And cross stitching.

I'm not sure why the sudden rush of domesticity in my life (I have theories, but I will keep them to myself for the moment), but I am sure of the why behind the cross stitch obsession:

Because I love it.

My grandma works on a lot of jigsaw puzzles. So do I, and at least one of my brothers does, so this works out nicely when we pay her a visit. We all refill cups of Folgers, melt Hersheys bars in our mouths, and work on a puzzle before us.

Grandma (who loves puzzles) will generally say, at least once per puzzle-assembly session, "This is silly. It's like making a quilt. You cut something into pieces and then put it back together."

She pauses as she says this, but does not take her eyes off the puzzle nor set the puzzle piece in her hand down.

It has occurred to me that cross stitching is one of the slowest ways to put color on canvas.

I don't know how much you know about the craft, but it requires (usually) a specific fabric called Aida fabric, which has strings of thread pulled very tightly in order to create a sort of grid. It's like fabric graph paper, and each corner of a square is a hole, a hole in which a needle can fit through.

[Blah blah blah more details] about how the craft is done, but essentially you cover each teeny weeny square with a diagonal stitch across two corners with some thread, and then add another diagonal stitch across the other corners in order to create an "X," or a cross.

Hence the name cross stitch.

I'm not kidding when I say these squares are teeny weeny. I'm amazed I am yet to get a corrective lens prescription, and I am already pricing out eye exams at Costco, because my brow is rather furrowed these days.

So, because the squares are teeny weeny, and because one makes several teeny weeny stitches over and over and over, when you step back a ways from the canvas, eventually you start to see a picture. Each white square is almost completely covered by colorful thread, and like a series of dots of ink or muddled Van Gogh brush strokes, it -- slowly, slowly -- forms a picture.

Honestly this activity is probably something the pilgrims did to pass the winter evenings. But some of us freaks find this thrilling in 2014.

The same friend who smirked when I tried to pretend I am only becoming domestic has admired my patience and talent for this craft. I told him I'm not sure it's a talent, as it's more of a craft than an art (and I use patterns, so for me the creativity really isn't in it).

And he's not the first to mention the patience. But to me it doesn't take patience. It really is a labor of love. Which is why I've stitched so many bibs for babes. Babes who may not even wear my gifts, if their mothers are afraid to dirty my work, or frankly maybe just don't care to use the bib. But I make them anyway.

The quick reasons why I like love stitching so much are:

1) I can't explain why
2) I love color
3) I love math

I -- and I mean this -- love looking at the busy color-coded graphs that come with each project and translating each square on the graph to each square on the cloth, figuring out exactly where each "X" is to land, in order to uphold the integrity of the whole, final image.

It takes me hours (days, weeks, for some, total) to finish each project. But I only look to the clock in a reluctant manner, when I decide I need to quit for the evening to rest up for the evening. And then I literally sit at my desk the next day and think about stitching.

Stitching stitching stitching.

As a person with (maybe undiagnosed) ADD, anxiety, restlessness, and a well-documented history of tomboyism, it surprises even me why this absorbs me so.

I am luckily on some psychotropic meds right now that have me feeling less anxious and less depressed and the most regulated I have felt in years, praise God above, but before I was on such a successful cocktail, I found that one of the only things that distracted me almost fully during a bout of anxious fear or sadness was this stitching.

Stitching stitching stitching.

(And for those of you worried that a drug may take away your edge or your artistic bent, well let me just say my obsession for stitching has not wavered).

I recall one time, on the phone with Dad in tears, he asked me what I was going to do after I got off the phone. Sniffling, I said I was going to stitch. I could hear his smile through the phone as he replied, "Mm hmm." He knew the power of the stitch.

I was Skyping recently with my brother Patrick and his family and, being silly, I grabbed my nearby embroidery hoop and placed it in front of my face, as a frame around it.

I quickly laid it down, out of sight, but my niece, being an unflappably curious 4-year-old, asked, "What was that, Auntie Bailey?"

I then conducted a mini-education session with my family about how the hoop pulls an otherwise-floppy, oversized piece of fabric tight, making it easier to hold and to stitch upon.

The lesson may have been lost on my niece, but one thing I have learned from stitching is that tension holds a purpose.

I hate tension, I'll be honest. (In my life; it's all right in cross stitch). It hurts, it makes me cry, it helps me realize again the coward in me who can't confront anyone, even when I am in the right and in addition have every right to address this person who is clearly wrong, or who has hurt me, or is hurting me.

Or to just tell a boy that I like -- or don't like -- him. Still haven't figured that one out yet. But I promise to ruminate on it while I stitch.

I have had too much tension in my life. We all have.

But in stitching, at least, it helps. It keeps my hand from getting cramped, which allows me to stitch longer. It makes the picture clearer, not wrinkled or crumpled.

And it focuses in on a piece of a larger picture. Right now my hoop is fastened around Minnie Mouse's face. She has no eyes or mouth yet (because I noticed she looked like a zombie without them and thus kept them that way in order to take a picture and post to social media), but she will.

Next to Minnie's face is the very, very beginning of Daisy Duck's sleeve. (Stitched in DMC floss thread color No. 210, lavender). You wouldn't know it's her sleeve, unless I told you or you looked at the graph or the picture of the finished product that came with the project kit.

But it will be her sleeve.

How do you finish a jigsaw puzzle? You look at the box cover, with the final picture on it.

Sometimes you don't need the box. Sometimes you get into a groove and you know right where you're going, piecing together that section of yellow, or blue, or lavender.

My grandmother (who was too nervous to watch her beloved Royals in the World Series tonight, as they were losing) says that jigsaw puzzles are silly.

She says this every time she works on one.

But she never wavers in her commitment to the puzzle. Because she knows that moments later, the edges of that piece in her hand will rub against the cardboard corners of another, and she will be spurred on to seek another piece and find it a home on the table.

Anxious or no, scared or no, baby-will-actually-wear-the-bib-I-am-stitching-for-it or no, I imagine this habit of mine is not soon to die. Because I love that groove. That stitching of black thread to make the ear of a mouse, a mouse who first animated screens years ago, and still turns heads at Disneyland, tourists running to get a picture with the famous Minnie.

Thanks to this gift of a hobby, I have been privileged to stitch eyes on a zebra, snow upon a bicycle seat, the name of my nephew.

I love it. And I'm grateful for it.

With the future unflappably curious 4-year-old (circa less than one year old), modeling her bib

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blog now, blog a week ago

Well a week ago I was blogging from a Chicago kitchen, eating turkey sausage, not doing work.

Now I'm on a futon mattress in California, and I just polished off a yogurt with mini M&Ms stirred in.

I'm always befuddled at how many mini M&Ms make their way into each bite. It always seems to me there is a limited amount of mini M&Ms apportioned in the lid-holder section, but I often have more than one mini M&M in each bite of the yogurt.

This truly fascinates me.

I guess now I'm not doing work, but I've spent a portion of my weekend doing a freelance assignment, and I have a pretty good draft going now so I'm taking a break before bedtime.

Bedtime will probably translate to underlying worry-amidst-confidence about the current draft, thus causing me to quit trying to sleep and:

a) worry
b) watch "Felicity"
c) read
d) work on draft

The cat has diarrhea. I prefer to think he's having sympathy stress. That's easier than thinking how sad I am for him, and that I am stressed I have to miss work in the morning and take him to the doc.

And easier than worrying about his health (we were at the doc for a tapeworm -- HIS, not mine) two weeks ago; I don't like that we're going back so soon. I mentioned death of the cat today, and my friend mentioned that was perhaps a little dramatic.

I am planning to vigorously remove things from my calendar for the next few months. Also to be my own personal planner bouncer in keeping things from making their way onto the calendar.

I'm just thinking about the stress I felt today and the stress I felt in November last year and I just don't want to revisit that! It's time I learn my lesson and actually act upon it.

Also, did you know it's $52 to see Tegan and Sara in LA on November 18?

True story.

Considering it. I know, that's another thing on the calendar -- Planner Bouncer! You're needed! -- but. But. It's funnnn.

OK time to stress/try to sleep/remember why I'm glad college is over for me.

Xo

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life after vacation

Life after vacation...

Well. It's kind of brutal.

In theory I think I'm OK with going to the office.

But.

Tired.

Then I go home and

after smooching all over the cat

I sit.

This is almost like a poem.

If I weren't so tired I might consider actually writing this post as a poem.

But.

Tired.

Diet Coke and coffee and tea are more flavors for the tongue rather than actual keep-Bailey-alert tools right now.

Because.

Tired.

I've been reading on my lunch break -- which I used to do all the time but for several years now have reserved reading for bedtime -- which is nice, but then -- because I'm used to all the bedtime reading -- I realize I'm sleepy. (Pavlovian).

And then (because I read in my car) I put my seat back and close the eyes for a bit.

And then I go back in to the office in search of Diet Coke.

In other news I drank regular Coke for years and years and years and now I drink Diet. Or Cozo (my nickname for Coke Zero).

Weird.

But.

Reality.

I'm glad it won't snow here anytime soon.

I'm glad I can walk laps around my office because there's so much sun and warmth here.

And the walking makes me feel awake and alert until I come back inside.

Because.

Old.

And tired.

I need to start exercising, and start eating food with vitamins.

Seriously is all this journal dumping masquerading as blog posts bothering any of you?

I will start exercising and eating broccoli and being vigilant about not adding things to my calendar, and hopefully the prose will improve here,

however

you must understand that we have entered October/November/December in which Bailey always finds herself overbooked and overwhelmed and cranky and tired.

And sometimes almost in tears at the prospect of being at work with friendly coworkers on a Friday.

I mean, Friday. Friendly coworkers. Friday.

No tears should need to happen.

And they haven't, yet.

The other most recent time I (almost) cried was when I was telling my sister-in-law at brunch last weekend about that part in the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street when Santa sings 'Jingle Bells' in sign language with a girl who is deaf.

Because.

Santa.

Sign language.

SO SWEET.

Tears = allowed and totally appropriate.

OK time to stop boring you and go in search of D. Coke or coffee. It's that time.

Because.

Well, you know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's been real, C-Town

It's time to quit while I'm ahead.

Vacation has been great. A little annoying that there was some work to be done while here, but even those little snippets of freelance were liberating and energizing in their own way.

But I've gotta go. Flight leaves around 6.

I've squeezed in a concert, several dates with some besties, a surprise of three family members, lots of sandwiches, some reading, some blogging, some snuggling, some catching up on love lives, a pedicure, some beer, some (cough) whiskey, some showers, some alone time, music, donuts, hugs, getting soaked through with rain and then changing clothes in a Union Station bathroom.

I've done a lot.

Moments ago I had to get up from this keyboard and dry my hair, put on socks and a fleece jacket. Because I was chilly.

I have to say I could live without that. I like to blog uninterrupted by temperature issues that need adjustments.

I have so appreciated the rain, though.

And I don't hate Chicago anymore. I didn't always hate Chicago, but then I did, and when I visited last year I warmed to it (in LARGE part because it literally warmed itself to me, being August instead of January while I was in town), and now I think I officially don't hate it anymore.

But grey skies still make me depressed, in an instant, hit-the-gut way that I can't explain or escape from. So for now it is back to sunny skies for me.

Back to Max Attack the cat. Back to my cross stitching evenings, my sandwiches made in the office break room for lunch, my California family-friends.

I told Nick today that I'm legitimately looking forward to greeting at church this weekend, to see the team who I volunteer with, wearing our stylish blue "Welcome" shirts.

But I am sad to leave behind my pals here, and I could easily spend another day or three here. But best to quit before I get cranky. Get back to work and make a few more bucks so I can come home at Christmas.

For now I must bid you adieu and shove some more things in my suitcase. Maybe sneak in a little at-home manicure before my ride arrives at 2.

Much love, to my peeps in the Midwest and the West. And to you, wherever you are.   -- Bails

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A little journal dump apres le dejeuner avec mon pere et ma mere

My lunch dates are late.

We will respect their anonymity and call them by the code names of "Mom" and "Dad."

It's fine. I found myself a perch. Starbucks. Inside Macy's.

And I just came up with a great term, which I used as a hashtag, and you can use it but y'all better give credit!

Ready?

Caffeinational pull.

Get it? Like gravitational pull, except caffeinational because I'm so drawn to Starbucks, where the caffeine is?

However I'm drinking decaf.

However there is some caffeine in this, probably, because decaf is not always exactly what it advertises itself to be.

However, however.

Maybe it should be caffeitational instead of -national. Yep. Changing it! Actually I don't know. #waffling

I have also spent some of my time here at Starbucks emailing a grad school friend to see if she could sneak away from her office that is somewhere right here in the neighborhood of downtown Chicago to get some coffee with me later. Alas she cannot, but I told her that if we can't manage to get together this trip then we can Skype when I'm back home and we can pretend we're both in the same room in Chicago together.

What else can I tell you?

Last night I had a sleepover with my friend Michelle, and we shared her twin bed as our sleeping quarters. That was snug. We found that a foot-to-head lying position was the better way to ensure not falling off of the bed.

After we agreed to have our feet near each others' heads and that we were OK with this.

I couldn't sleep right away, so I took my blanket and my teen novel into the bathroom to read for a bit.

The book is about the weather freaking out all over the planet, and it was raining outside (yay!) in real life while I was reading, which was making the book more realistic.

I read a lot of children's books and occasional young adult ones, but I never really thought I'd be reading a teen novel about the moon getting hit by an asteroid and crazy weather patterns following, and me enjoying this and actually feeling frightened by it. And having to remind myself that the rain outside is not in fact the result of an asteroid.

Guys, I feel like this writing that I'm doing right here is lazy. My apologies.

I know, I know, I shouldn't discredit my work, but I feel like I am just kind of journaling right now, sooo I wouldn't edit my journal, necessarily, so yeah. Anyway.

I hope everyone's enjoying reading this.

I spritzed on a sample of "Happy in Bloom" at the Clinique counter and mmmmm. Might have to buy some of this.

I thought about buying socks because my socks and shoes are currently damp-thus-chilly, but I've changed my mind on that for the moment.

I could keep journal dumping, but I'm not sure you will appreciate it much longer (if I'm wrong, speak up -- let the readers speak! Because I can do this more often in this forum if you'd like), so I'ma head and maybe read about crazy weather as a result of an asteroid hitting the moon in a book but luckily not in real life.

A bientot, mes amis!