Friday, November 14, 2014

You can do it!!

I wrote the following months ago. Recently stumbled upon it in my drafts folder. Just a little encouragement for the students in our world and for those eeking it out in the professional world. Chin up, my sweets!

This post might seem like it's coming out of left field, and probably a lot of what I write and/or talk about falls in that category.

It also might stem from the fact that I just edited a paper for a friend of mine who is currently getting her college on, in other words who is currently in college.

This got me thinking about school, and how I've been in school, you've been in school, some of us go to school longer than others, some of us hate it more than others, some of us would like to kiss school on the cheeks and thus seek after Ph.D.'s and such.

And I got the urge to be encouraging to the whole lot of us, in our schooling adventures and our other life endeavors.

I guess there are some main things I want to say, and they apply to school and whatever else you're working on right now that occasionally - or always - makes you feel like a cranky camper who wants to turn on bad television and call your friends to whine and cry more often than it makes you feel like, "Yes! I am accomplishing something! The fruits of my labor are clearly presented before me and I must eat bon-bons to celebrate! Also, today is a good day to buy a Lamborghini, I think."

Tip/Thought #1:

Don't buy a Lamborghini. Unless you can afford one and you really, really want one.

Tip/Thought #2: 

In that same vein, do reward yourself. Sometimes you will feel insanely pathetic with how much you have to carrot yourself along to do the tiniest, babiest of steps in your school/career/etc. journey, but by all means do it. Dangle the most ridiculous carrot in front of you, 100 times a day (I'm not entirely exaggerating here, regarding some days of this life) if you have to, if it helps you to get something done. Example: "If I read to the bottom of this page in this text book, I can watch one video on Ellen's YouTube page."

More pathetic example: "I can clip my fingernails once I write this paragraph." (Personally I get very distracted by my nails while doing anything that takes effort, so this one applies to me quite a bit. Also I like to keep my nails super short, so when I see any white at the tips my brain goes into "Clip clip clip those nails" mode and doesn't quickly exit this mode.)

Tip/Thought #3:

It really is

One
foot
in
front
of
the
other

One
day
at
a
time

Period
.

Really. I started telling myself this at least as early as my freshman year of college, and I still have to tell myself this. I don't always listen, but I still repeat it to myself. No doubt I will be doing this for the rest of my life. And that's OK. It's OK to repeat the same things to yourself (if they are helpful and true and build you up). It's not a sign of failure if you have to tell yourself yet again to take things one step at a time. It doesn't mean, since you told yourself the same thing in 1993, that because you are telling yourself that same thing again in 2014 that you are somehow dense, or an idiot who can't learn things. No. Let 1993 mind its own 1993 business. This is 2014. February 9th in 2014 and we are dealing with 4:37 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2014 right now, thank you very much. Feb. 10th? We will see you tomorrow. Until then, please leave us alone.

The reason I have to continue to tell myself that I need to take things one step at a time is because, while I know the whole one-step practice to be effective and realistic, my brain will almost always jump to let's-think-about-everything-all-at-once-far-far-into-the-future-all-encompassing mode no matter what the circumstances. Wisdom gained is no matter when it comes to (some of) our brain's hard wiring.

I could wake up every day and think, "Hmm, I bet I'd look interesting as a brunette," but I'm still blonde. I can dye my hair brown.

It will grow back blonde.

I can think, "Wow, I wish I was more mellow, and didn't think of everything all at once" (and one of my BIGGEST jealousies is of people who are neither crazy happy nor depressed, but just mild mannered, calm and content, moving at a steady, productive, peaceful pace). I can think this every day.

My mind still races.

This sucks. Some days I deal with this better than others. But it's my hard wiring; I can't mechanically change it.*

*Note since writing the above months ago: a particular new medication helps with this a lot.

In the example of school, Friends, how many moments have I had where I thought, "This is too much, I am so tired, the rest of these people are smarter and more energetic than me [etc.]"?

Here's the thing: there's a reason a college degree is set up to be completed in four years, a graduate degree in two. A Ph.D. program? Indefinite. Well, sort of. They give you a lot of time to finish those suckers, because they take a lot of work.

All of it takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, which is why it's spread out.

There was one day in graduate school where I left class and went to Target to buy Spaghettios and cried and called my friend, feeling defeated and having received advice that I thought was obvious and made me feel misunderstood.

I remember vividly - even which cafeteria table I was sitting at - getting nervous about a presentation I would have to give on Native Americans. I was in 7th grade. I think it was the first day of school, and the presentation had only just been mentioned. It's not like it was due the next day, yet it was getting in the way of my lunchtime enjoyment, and no one's lunchtime enjoyment should be interrupted at the tender age of 12.

I remember thinking at that middle school lunch table: "Think about what you did in 6th grade. You did presentations then. You can do this, too."

OK I'm rambling.

I meant to give you advice on taking things one step at a time.

So you have that moment where you're in the Target parking lot, crying with your Spaghettios. You with me? If you're not exactly there, put yourself in a similar moment in your mind - perhaps with Twizzlers on your back porch. You're somewhere and you're freaked out about moving forward and ever finishing this damn degree.

Here's what you're gonna do: You're gonna eat the Twizzlers, the Spaghettios, what have you, you're gonna cry, you're gonna call that friend.

Then you're going to either:

a) nap, or go to sleep for the evening, or
b) sit down and start that next assignment. The very next thing, what is most pressing. Can't figure out what's most pressing? Start with one of the most pressing things.

You have sociology class in the morning? You're going to get out your sociology syllabus. It might make you feel actually depressed just looking at it. Keep moving. Turn the pages, find the correct date. It looks here our reading assignment is Chapter 2.

Get out your book. Read Chapter 2.

You might actually cry while reading, because you're not done feeling defeated and sorry for yourself and terrified at the thought that is very real to you in that moment: the thought that you may not finish your degree.

If you take it one step at a time, you probably will finish your degree.

Finish reading Chapter 2, finish anything else that needs to be done by 8 a.m. the next day, and then go to bed. Binge on YouTube videos for an hour first if you need to wind down, then go to bed.

Don't forget to set your alarm clock.

Next day? I've got news for you, you might be a little cranky. Here's what you're going to do:

Get coffee, get some mini-donuts (these were my personal favorite during Research Methods class circa 2011).

Now get to class.

Sit down, wait about 5 seconds. Someone near you will either roll their eyes to express their non-excitement at being in class. Or, even better, someone will crack a joke. You and others around you will laugh. Your professor will come in, you will take notes, and before you know it you will be outside on the quad, talking about something easy with a friend and not feeling that horrible about life and school.

And guess what?

You've moved one step forward. You did the assignment. You went to class. That's more like two steps, actually. Or ten, if we're counting in taking a shower, getting coffee, eating mini donuts, etc.

I'm taking three years to get my point across here, but I can hardly express to you how serious I am when I tell you that sometimes all that is required to get you to move forward in a moment are those mini-donuts and the tiny little smile or joke from your pal sitting next to you in class.

This world is big, and our goals are big, and our thoughts put huge pressure on ourselves, but it is small steps and small moments and small laughs that keep us sane amidst the big thoughts and the big goals in the big world.

Tip/Thought #4:

Americans are workaholics, and in my opinion that is not all that great. In fact, it's pretty terrible.

I could really get into this, but I won't right now. But I will say that the standards our society sets for us, and the pressure we put on ourselves, are unnatural, exhausting, and detrimental - by and large.

Keep that in mind as you do your work/school work/dream-chasing.

Yes, hard work is necessary, and worth it, but not worth the cost of losing a realistic understanding of your self worth, your value, and your limitations.

Regarding the limitations: it's OK to have them. I am convinced there are people in this world who can get a ton done during one lifetime because of talent, smarts, sometimes money, and also this: they don't need that much sleep.

I need sleep. I prefer not to think of this as a limitation but rather as a built-in human setting. But in terms of me being President of the US of A? Then yes, my need for average amounts of sleep is going to act as a limitation for me becoming the President. I would quit far too early in the journey toward the White House because there are not enough Starbucks stores in the world. For some, maybe there are enough Starbucks. Let them be President. You be whoever you are. Some days this is going to be the hardest thing you have to swallow. Other days you will swim along in happiness, feeling you are on the right track, getting compliments from your peers.

Other days you will be clinging to mini-donuts and your amusing, sarcastic peer like they're all you have.

It's OK.

Because we are taking one day at a time.

Tip/Thought #5:

School will end. You will accomplish. You will be able to do things that you don't think you can do.

Whether school is the route for you, or working your arse off in a field that doesn't require a college degree is the route for you, you will move forward if you keep taking baby steps.

I'm telling you this as much as I'm telling myself. Almost weekly at work I have to tell myself to stop thinking about the project that starts in three months and take care of the meeting that is the next morning. This is a constant battle, but you need to keep in mind that certain battles will end, and when you look back on them,

1) They won't look as hard as they were before you started them.
2) They will teach you that you can fight another, different battle.

And as you look forward you must remind yourself:

I will fight the next battle one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hermit/Cranky/Tired

If anyone is wondering why I cling to my hermit hobbies, consider this:

We have entered the season called October-November-December, which includes lots of holidays and lots of office parties and friend parties and family get togethers. Also work does not stop during this time.

It is me against my inbox, my voicemail, and coworker walk-ins with requests for favors and such at the office right now.

I am fighting fang and claw to find a cat sitter for my sweet Max so that I can go home for Christmas. This is proving to be a difficult task and a, well, task all its own.
 
Every morning I want to stay in bed, because enough sleep is not exactly a reality right now. Meanwhile I'm having anxiety-ridden dreams that are waking me up and are not helping my general mood, or sleep cycle. Arguments? Cancer? Yes, these and other uplifting items are the content of my dreams these nights.

Scheduling things like massages and exercising and the cooking of vegetables -- all of which could reduce stress and fatigue -- is stressful in itself, during this busy season.

Anyway, whine.

Last year I was in a similar boat, but was also training for a race, attending football "watch" parties with my graduate school alumni, and going to other social activities.

So this year, I learned my lesson and am not training for a race, have not been to a single watch party. But even while putting my foot down and not agreeing to extra activities, I am still exhausted and grumpy.

So if you're wondering why I stay home to cross stitch and pet the cat and read and go to bed at 9, that's why. Hermit hobbies aren't all bad, friends. Unless they're getting you depressed, which they are trying to do to me. Which is why occasionally I get off my arse to go hang out in the work out room and watch the Disney Channel. Oh yeah, and work out. Which is what I managed to do last night. Got in an elliptical session while watching a Tinker Bell movie. Which was actually quite entertaining.

And Tinker Bell's hair!! Those bangs! That topknot! Get it, girl!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sex. Or lack thereof.

Welcome back! Today at the Daily Bailey, we're going to talk about one of everyone's favorite topics:

Sex.

Namely, the not having it.

Oh wait, people don't love talking about that. Because they like to have sex, am I right?!

Well, we're gonna talk about it! Or, I'm gonna.

This is something I've wanted to write about for a long time, and I even drafted almost 3,000 words on the topic at one point, but I'm just going to start fresh, because if I've learned anything as a writer, it's that it's OK to write several long-winded things that may never see the light of day, because it's practice, and it gets your thoughts hashed out, helps you realize stuff, etc. And then it's OK to just start fresh on the draft that finally sees the light of day, or the eyes of you right here, right now, reading this.

So let's do this. I have way too much coffee and only two cookies inside my belly and it's after noon on Saturday, and that sounds like a great condition to be in to write about virginity, yes?

OK so part of the reason I haven't published something on this topic yet is because I have a lot to talk about (it's really topics, as sex opens up a kaleidoscope of conversations) and it's hard to break it down, so I'm going to do my best to just get the discussion started. And to myself now I say no more stalling (this is like when I dance around in my living space and eat things and take another pee before a run; I love to run, but I consider the stalling portion to be a part of the workout process itself). GO:

Why I'm not having sex, AKA the Big Question here:

The answer to this question is several-fold, but I will tell you what is perhaps the main reason why I have held onto my V card up to my 29-going-on-30 year of life: because I haven't been in love.

It just seems really, really strange to me to have sex with someone who I'm not in love with. I am such a relational person, such a sensitive person, that I cannot imagine being naked, with synced breathing, etc., in one of the most vulnerable states possible, with someone who I don't feel like I can be completely 100 percent vulnerable with.

Sure, that's something (the 100 percent vulnerable part) I probably won't learn to do until I have sex, but I am capable of deciding whether I am in love or not, and so from there I can make the call on whether or not to drop trou with someone.

It's weird to me that sex can be casual:

As you continue reading this post, please realize I am speaking for me, the only person I can speak for. I'm not the Voice of Virginity here. For me to explain why I don't understand how sex can be casual is not to say that I say sex can't be casual for others. It is just me saying for me, about me, that I have a hard time imagining casual sex in my own life.

Let's start here: one thing that is very weird to me, that I have not been able to get my head around ever, is the pairing of machismo with casual sex, or sex at all.

What is locker room talk all about? How many girls one guy has banged, right?

But isn't that same guy in that stereotypical situation the guy who doesn't "feel" anything, or at least not anything feminine, or vulnerable, or that he would describe as feeling good? He's tough, he's physically strong, things roll off his back, people don't get in his way, etc. We don't usually associate him with the sensitive, caring, thoughtful guy, right?

(Tell me if I'm wrong, seriously. This is just my understanding of this stereotype. And I'm a virgin over here and also have never been in the guys locker room to eavesdrop on said locker room talk, so feel free to correct me.)

We talk about feelings in two ways -- emotional and physical.

From what I hear about sex, it seems to be essentially the one place on earth where the ultimate best emotional and physical feelings one can have meet.

So not only are you experiencing physical ecstasy during sex, but ideally, hopefully, you're simultaneously experiencing an emotional, honeymoon-we're-so-in-love-type ecstasy.*

*(I realize that sexual situations run the gamut from the horrific end of rape through honeymoon bliss, including such negative situations as: painful physical first time, one or both people not being ready emotionally for the first time, people who have fallen out of love but are still having sex, one or both persons having sex is cheating on someone else, etc.)

It just seems oxymoronic to me that someone can have the persona of not caring about someone's emotional feelings, including his (or her) own, yet can put him or herself in a situation -- rather, aggressively seeks out being in a situation -- in which the most positive physical feelings of a human body are experienced.

Am I making any sense? Does anyone else see my confusion here?

To me it seems if someone is going for the most tough exterior image possible, then wouldn't he be above sex? Above sexual pleasure? Isn't everything else about the locker room stereotype one of someone who is never vulnerable, who doesn't need to acknowledge his feelings or pain (including physical ones, what with all the weight lifting and tackling on the football field (I realize I am grossly simplifying this stereotype, but go with me on this)), who can be ON HIS OWN and be just fine?

If that is true, then why does he need to make his way to someone's bed?

My theory: because we all need connection, we all need to experience feeling. Whether we'll fess up to it in the locker room or not.

Maybe sex can be casual for some, but I make emotional connection with people really quickly, and I have a hard time not worrying about being hurt by the loss of even a casual crush. So for me, for now (and probably for always), you won't catch me casually sleeping with someone. Because I know I would be hurt. My feelings are too much into everything I do, think, experience.

ALL THAT TO SAY is that even casual sex would affect me. If I care for someone and am cared for by that person and we merely kiss several times, the loss of that relationship would be (and has been) hard for me, so up the ante on the physical and emotional connection (i.e. sex), then the oh-so-much harder it would be for me, and many others out there going through the same thing, I am willing to argue, when that kind of connection has been made and then is broken. That's my point here.

My reasons for abstinence are religious, but then again no:

I grew up attending church, and as a part of that, spent many hours of my adolescence involved in middle and high school youth group activities, ranging from serious conversations about spiritual doubt with my youth counselors to "Jell-O parties," in which my peers and I all threw a bunch of gelatin at each other. (The latter may sound sexual in nature, but I assure you it was not).

At these youth events we were encouraged, yes, several times to not have sex until we were married, or at the very least to not have sex while we were in middle or high school.

There are several arguments for or against this kind of teaching, and I understand several sides. Would I rather a teenager have protected sex and know about birth control, etc. than have him or her have unsafe sex because they were only educated to simply not have sex and were in turn not educated on the physical health topics? Yes.

Would I rather not see anyone, regardless of age, be hurt because he or she was not ready emotionally for such a connection? Yes.

I am not ignorant, and I applaud my now-defunct WB teen dramas (Dawson's Creek, Felicity) for writing into storylines pieces of plot addressing condom usage and HIV testing. Seriously, HIV testing!! When do you see that on TV now?!? And Dawson's Creek and Felicity were aired in the late 90s/early 2000s! That's laudable.

It's hard to imagine if/when I would have lost my virginity, had I not been provided with guidance through a church environment and by religious parents. A large part of me thinks I would have abstained anyway, out of fear, late physical development, and just being interested in other things at the time -- because I was young and frankly was pretty interested in making collages of magazine clippings rather than strutting my stuff in front of the boys (get me involved in a game of football at that age, however, and you bet I was flexing my muscles and doing touchdown dances, hoping to turn some heads. But that was more of a desire for attention in general, I think).

My focus as a young'n was also very much centered around simply making friends and doing my schoolwork, as I will explore further down in this post (hats off to those of you still reading, by the way. Get yourself some popcorn. You deserve it).

Another part of me fears that I would have had sex too early, and that it could have been a frightening, potentially devastating thing. If no one had told me that I had the right to wait (to be fair, it was more often presented not as a right but as an ultimate decision to make), I might not have known that.

I am beyond blessed to have parents (including a father who doesn't give a f*** (my words, not his) about what people think of his dancing in the streets or other general silliness) who encouraged me and my siblings to be ourselves, always. So it's likely I would have taken a stance of, "I am Bailey, here me roar! I will have sex when I am good and ready!" and continued on making my magazine collages in peace. But who's to say that's the case? Who knows who I would be or how I would have acted had I not been given the education I received, as I received it?

I don't think that schools should teach abstinence only. My fear is that the messages of safe sex that are being dished out these days may perhaps (and I am ignorant on this, as I do not work in a school, so I don't know what the reality is) be responding in enough defiance against archaic abstinence-only stances, that abstinence may be put in an unfair light. Again, I really don't know the reality of how these messages are delivered, but I hope the message given in schools right now is not: "Here is three hours of education on the pill, condoms, etc., and finally five quick minutes to brush over this thing called 'abstinence.'"

I say this not to defend the youth groups of America but to protect the emotional well being of the youth of America, several of whom may not be ready to have sex, even if their bodies are old enough to participate in the activity.

[Section here about what the Bible says about sex (or no sex) before marriage; removed for the time being because I'm not fully read up on the subject, and to curb the length of this post. But we can discuss this matter in "Part Two" of this post, should there ever be a Part Two.]

Finally, per the sexual education that occurred in my (religious) home growing up: if I had to peruse the issue, I would guess that my parents didn't talk to us too much about abstaining from sex because a) they probably knew what our youth counselors were telling us, and b) from knowing their kids, they probably could guess that their kids weren't having sex and weren't planning to for a long while, probably not until marriage (I'm sure we iterated this to them, too, in conversation every once in a while).

The message I did receive at home was focused on love, and the importance of love in long term relationships. We discussed this specifically and pointedly, and also watched a video from which we garnered the all important term, "pizza love."

What is pizza love, you ask?

Pizza love is that kind of love you feel for pizza. You love pizza (and I do love pizza), but you don't LOVE pizza in the sense that you would commit to it. We should, in turn, approach potential life partners with the pizza love question in mind. Do I pizza love this person, or do I LOVE this person? And does he or she pizza love me back, or LOVE me back?

So my parents did talk to us about sex, but their message -- interestingly enough -- is one that I have carried with me, and that is that sex and love go hand in hand.

Why it's not that weird (that I don't have sex):

To me, it's just not. It's the norm for me. I do think about it, more so now that I'm older, but I legitimately don't have regrets about being this age and being a virgin.

Why it's a little weird:

Sometimes it seems weird. Sometimes I wonder if I'm too late in the game to learn the game. But I learned to kiss at 25. I'll catch up. I'll be fine.

Where it creates the biggest struggle, perhaps, is in dating. Sometimes I want to walk into a bar wearing a sign that says, "Wants to marry a Christian, not having sex until marriage" (don't worry, I won't wear this sign), so that it is out of the way, and so I don't find myself in an awkward situation of having to explain to someone why, actually, we're just going to make out tonight.

But we can make out all you want.

Am I scared of sex?:

Helllllll yes! I won't lie, sometimes it's nice to have this little waiting plan I have, because it means I don't have to be that vulnerable with someone today.

Will I date someone who has had sex?

Yes.

And finally, Why it hasn't been that hard for me, Bailey Brewer, to wait, due to the very specific details of my specific life: 

For those of you who don't know, my father switched careers in his middle adulthood, and this resulted in more than one move -- due to his schooling and, later, placement for his job -- across state lines. I moved three times before graduating high school.

Some girls whose families move during their adolescent years somehow manage to have regular friend groups and be involved with a myriad of clubs and also have these foreign things called boyfriends in their lives, but I was absolutely not one of those girls. Some of them even become Prom or Homecoming Queen, and this is something to discuss in my therapy sessions: all my rage and jealousy and whatnot.

I managed to participate in a variety of things -- but I did so with varying levels of confidence -- and I managed to make friends -- but to this day have not, since the 8th grade, felt as if I've been part of a friend group -- and, boyfriend, wait, what? What's a boyfriend?

Would you like to know the age I was when I had my first, tried and true, real boyfriend? 25.

Maybe my libido isn't as raging as certain others. Maybe that's why I'm a virgin.

I mean I'm a human. I have desire. I have a body. I'm not dead inside.

But I just have to say that very few things in my life have followed a conventional or chronological pattern ("pattern" isn't even an appropriate word to use, as it is so far from the norm in my life). During adolescence, while my classmates were playing Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven, I certainly wasn't making out with handfuls of boys and meanwhile trying to talk my hormones off some "let's have sex now" cliff, reminding my body that I was a "good girl" who wasn't going to have sex until I was married.

Guys weren't asking me out, and I was spending a lot of my time just trying not to feel self conscious. Ironically I was a pretty self confident person, but that's a whole other ball of wax that we can tear apart some other time.

Some boys confessed to having crushes on me, but beyond that I don't recall (unless I totally missed it) anyone leaning in for a kiss. I believe the first time that happened was when I was 22. Not only out of high school but, by then, out of college.

I took my brother to a high school dance, for crying out loud. I just reached a point in my senior year of high school where I thought, "It's my last year of school, I love to dance, and I want to go to a school dance!" I was tired of missing out; in fact sometimes I think that was the framework that I placed my life in -- thinking I was situated in a manner to perpetually miss out. My brother Patrick was coming home from college for his spring break, so I took him to the dance. We actually had a fun time, and used the slow songs as time to take breaks to visit the refreshment table -- efficient.

This is not me asking for pity, this is just the reality of what my life was. I'm grateful that I was able to make the best of things; instead of skipping the dance, I found a way to go. But I skipped a lot of dances as a freshman and sophomore; it took me several years of missing out before I learned to dig my heels in and realize that I better make things happen or things weren't going to happen. Since then I like to think I've only become better at practicing that mentality. But I still struggle in feeling like I am outside of others' groups, and am only allowed in with an obvious invite -- possibly the same reason why I rarely date. Without a clearly worded, "Bailey I like you, I want to be your boyfriend," from a man, I will probably assume the guy just likes to watch football with me. If he tells me I'm pretty that helps, too; then again I just like to hear that someone thinks I'm pretty.**

**This can be dangerous, for women of all ages. Again, another conversation. Maybe for Part Two.

Anyway. I'm getting off track here.

So I went to college, and while making friends was a snap because I was so disgustingly used to introducing myself to strangers, maybe I just carried my head too high (after years of becoming "too" strong and growing up too fast) and the guys in the dorms found that intimidating?

Friends, I don't know. But I haven't walked through life this far just thinking, "Seeeeeeexxxxxxx. When am I going to have sex?!"

I suppose I've just had in my head for so long an answer to that question that goes something like: "Well, Bailey, you'll have sex when you're married. Meanwhile focus on finding someone who you really like who you wouldn't mind having sex with for years to come."

(OK the thinking hasn't gone quite like that. Generally I walk through each day thinking about what I'm doing at work and the book I'm reading and the next time I'll be hanging out with a friend and what I can blog about and my current crush(es) and....)

So in sum, we are all very unique creatures with very unique, specific lives of our own, and so our own sex and virginity stories are all going to be very different. Thank you for reading to the bottom of this post, if you did. I hope that this sheds light on some of my thinking on the subject. And again, I can only speak for myself.

I am happy to continue this conversation. There is plenty more I can say about all this. I really consider this a scratching of the surface. So if you want more thoughts on the matter, clarification, etc., let me know. I am aware that there is a gross number of topics related to this overarching topic that I didn't touch upon here. Trust me, I've probably thought about most of the things you might be thinking I missed here.

And finally, I will close this with this bit of information: Boys, if you're interested in dating me, that's fine, and we can make out with each other plenty, but we're not doing the deed until there's a ring on my finger...and on yours. ;)

Over and out,
The Virgin

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
 
*And apparently in other situations, too.

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