Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thing Thirty: To infinity and beyond

Today is my birthday. This is Thing Thirty, and it's the most important one.

In reality, it's just a generalization of all the other Things that I've enumerated: eat new things, learn new languages, go new places. Create. Learn. Push.

And that's Thing Thirty: to just keep pushing. Keep trying. Don't get complacent, don't get in a rut. Try new things. That's how to stay young.

Thing Twenty-Nine: Far Afield

I want to make something that isn't my usual thing. I make a lot of fabric stuff - knitting, sewn dresses, needlefelted stuff.

But I think I want to make something different. I want to make something wooden or metal or ceramic. I want to solder or weld or saw or hammer or...whatever. Make a nice piece of furniture, maybe. Or a tiara.

Thing Twenty-Eight: Food, Glorious Food

So this one is actually me taking my life into my hands, to a certain extent.

I mean...taking my life into my hands in the most innocuous, boring way possible.

I find myself falling into the same food ruts. I eat a lot of pasta. I eat a lot of fish, and salad, and sharp cheese. I need to diversify. I especially want to try to eat more fruits.

The only problem with that, though, is that I am allergic to a lot of fruits. Bananas can actually kill me. Coconut, mangos, papayas, and melons all make me break out in hives. Kiwis make my lips blow up like I'm Angelina Jolie. So I'm going to have to be very, very careful.

But I think it's both possible and reasonable to try one dish or type of food that I have never tried before per week. I mean...I've never had dragonfruit, or gooseberries, or sardines. And as long as I have my epipen with me (and don't try plantains, which I have ALSO never had, but which are much too close to bananas to chance), I think I should be fine.

Thing Twenty-Seven: Comes Back Threefold

Most of these have been about doing something to improve myself. Learning things, going places, that kind of thing.

But there are other people in the world, too. People who need help.

I have, for a long time, donated money to impoverished classrooms at http://www.donorschoose.org/. I like the way I am able to choose projects that I personally think are important (often the arts, but sometimes math or science or whatever if I think the actual project is cool), and then funnel the (very small) amount of money I am able to spare toward them.

But I have something other than money. I have time. I have compassion. I have skills. I can make things. And I think it's time to find a place to donate some of my self and not just some of my wallet.

Thing Twenty-Six: On the Road

So I said that I would take more advantage of the city that I'm near (Philadelphia, presently), and, even though I missed the Van Gogh exhibit (it was sold out!), I will.

But I also think it's important to keep broadening my horizons. And I worry that I'm getting...repetitive. I've been to Chicago dozens of times, and also lived there. I go to Boston and New York essentially monthly. I've been to London four times, including a several-month stint as a nanny. I'm considering going to Zurich for the second time.

But there are so many OTHER places out there. I haven't been to Sweden, or Spain, or Greece. I haven't been to Hawaii, or Alaska (or Nebraska or South Dakota, but...they are also not very high on the list of places I WANT to go).

It's just so EASY to go to the places I've already been. I have friends in Chicago and Boston and DC and Zurich. London is so natural to me, it feels like a cruel trick that I am not a native Londoner. But then, theoretically, I could feel that way somewhere else, but because I haven't been there yet, I don't know it.

So I'm going to try to go to one big new place this year. Just to try it out.

Thing Twenty-Five: Mighty Casey Has Struck Out

I want to go to batting cages and hit a baseball successfully. I don't want to do this for any particular reason, I have absolutely no intention of ever playing baseball or softball or even whiffle ball at a barbecue. I don't even particularly like watching baseball. I mean, I like watching Chase Utley run around in those little pants, and if I have tickets to an actual game, I go and have a good time, but I'm not tuning in on TV or anything. I just...want to have done it, I think.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thing Twenty-Four: It's a Rich Man's World

This one's another boring one, but I am definitely not going to fall off in my posting, because I still have to get five more of these up before tomorrow.

I need to figure out some kind of budget, and then stick to it. This is fairly hard, because my financial situation is very much a feast-or-famine situation, where I either have, like, $2000 dollars in my bank account, or $50, which makes dealing with discretionary spending really difficult.

So what I think I'm going to have to do, at least until I have a steadier source of income, is figure out my minimum monthly expenses (car insurance, student loans, etc), add in a couple of hundred bucks for things like gas and toothpaste and the occasional movie or bottle of wine, and then just make sure I make at least THAT much every month. Then if I make MORE, I can spend it on things like shoes or nights out or even, if I'm feeling really responsible, put it into savings! Like a grown up!

Thing Twenty-Three: She Blinded Me With Science

I've been thinking for a while that I might like to learn restoration and conservation. Fabric is so ephemeral - cotton and linen are made from plants, wool is animal hair, silk is an animal protein, and with time all of them disintegrate. Sweat and oils from bodies accelerate that process. (Polyester lasts basically forever, but most really fine objects are made from natural fibers.) There are a few schools where they teach conservation. There's one in Glasgow that I would love to go to. I have the perfect background fabric-wise, and my Harvard degree should help quite a bit in getting me in, but I need to up my chemistry abilities to have a really solid application.

Organic Chemistry is my bĂȘte noire - I have, thus far, been simply unable to wrap my head around the shapes, the names, the tiny hydrocarbons that are so important for understanding how natural fibers interact with human secretions. I thought, many years ago, that I might be a doctor. Until I couldn't hack the orgo.

But the thing is - I was only eighteen, and I was ill, and dealing with my other classes, and I really wasn't giving it the attention that it really probably deserved.

And now, I have loads of time. Loads of time, and friends who are chemists. I think, with effort, I can make it happen. And if I do, I'll have a banging application to the University of Glasgow. And then I can devote my life to preserving the work of the seamstresses of the past.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thing Twenty-Two: Parle, Parlo, Spreche, Hablo

I am what I like to call "tourist good" in several languages: French, Italian, German, and Spanish. By "tourist good," I mean that I can order from a menu, buy things in shops, get directions, and figure out most signs, train/bus/subway fare machines, and explanatory plaques. I can even figure out non-commerce-related speech pretty often, provided the speaker doesn't go too fast.

What I am TERRIBLE at is speaking myself. In fact, one of the few things I can say in each of those languages is "I'm very sorry. My [language] is very poor. I speak like a baby." And that really is the problem! I speak like a baby - my pronunciation is a little bit off, I use only very simple words, and my conjugation is totally random.

I think it's time to get at least one of my languages up to the point where I could theoretically say I was fluent. Probably Spanish, as that's the one most likely to actually come up.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thing Twenty-One: Once Upon a Time

I was a Folklore major in college. Technically, I was a "Folklore and Mythology" concentrator, because we are Harvard, and goddamnit, we will be different from everyone else if we damn well please. I, personally, chose Folklore because I wanted to study folk art and traditional textiles, but I did and do genuinely also love folktales, fairy tales, and yes, mythology.

When it came time to do my thesis, I decided I wanted the subject to be stories in which weaving, spinning, sewing, and other textile work was a feature. Coming up with examples was easy. Spinning has Rumpelstiltskin, who spins straw into gold, Sleeping Beauty, who pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, Frigga, who spins the clouds, and the Fates, who spin the thread of man's life. Weavers have Arachne's contest with Athena, Penelope, and the Lady of Shalott. There's also the princess from the Six Swans, the con-men from The Emperor's New Clothes, Ariadne and the thread through the labyrinth, and Circe and Calypso. I thought of those off the top of my head, without doing a lick of research.

What took me longer was finding examples from cultures other than those of Europe. Not because they don't exist. They do. There are stories of spiders who weave the world in Native American culture, of Crane Wives who weave their feathers into cloth and Cow-herds who fall in love with Weaver star girls in China. But I couldn't come up with those as readily, because I simply am not as versed in the folktales of those cultures.

I think I can do better.

There are fifty-two weeks in a year. There are hundreds upon hundreds of cultures on our globe. I think it's reasonable for me to commit to finding and learning one folktale from a culture I am unfamiliar with each week. They don't have to be about textiles, like the ones I found for my thesis. They can be anything. But each week needs to be from somewhere new. I can make that effort, to be better connected with the world around me.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thing Twenty: Nothing to Wear

I bought this awesome fabric in October. It's got these enormous Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls printed on it, each one the size of a dinner plate. And I told myself I was going to make myself a dress out of it, and I washed and dried and ironed it (because you have to do that before you make clothes, or they hang funny once they're made), and then I folded it up and it sat there. And Dia de los Muertos passed, and it sat there some more. And then I told myself that I'd make it into a dress for Cinco de Mayo, because, while obviously it's not the same thing at all, it was sort of close?

But today is Cinco de Mayo, and I am not wearing an awesome sugar-skulls dress, I am wearing a tee shirt and a skirt, because even though I had six months to do something about it, I did not.

This is not a new phenomenon for me. I have fabric I bought for skirts two years ago that I never made. I have a skirt that I did make, which is awesome and which I have not worn, because I never hemmed it.

My unfinished objects are out of control. And it's time to stop it. I am officially not allowed to buy any more fabric (including for my Halloween and/or Comic Con costumes) until I've dealt with the clothes I've already got the supplies for. I mean, I have Liberty fabric in my stash! Liberty! I could have been wearing a Liberty-print dress for the last year, and I have not because I haven't been arsed to make it! So unacceptable!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thing Nineteen: Brotherly Love

Whew! Okay, I think this will finally catch me up after my "Oh god, why did I choose 'fix iTunes tags' as a goal?" lapse.

Lately, I have been feeling the urge to wander.

I think it's the weather - it's been really warm and sunny, but not oppressively hot, and there is nothing I like more during on a day like that than getting in my car and going on a nice, long road trip.

But the thing is...I live near a really great city. Like, walking-distance close. (Clarification: One COULD walk there. One would not, because one would more than likely be horribly murdered, but one could.) And I really don't take advantage of it. I haven't been to the Art Museum in...man, at least five years, probably since the Schiaparelli show. There's a Van Gogh exhibit there right now, that closes on Sunday, and I have not gone, even though I deeply love Van Gogh (now more than ever: Tony Curran was brilliant in that episode of Doctor Who). There's an exhibit opening tomorrow that's about crafts. And that's just the art museum!  That's not even the Bell, or the Franklin Institute, or Elfreth's Alley, or the Constitution Center, or Headhouse Square, or LOVE Park, or, or, or...

It's silly that the only reason I go is to buy art supplies and then come right back home. It's preposterous that I've been to New York probably...ten times so far this year? and I've been to Philly once. It takes two hours and forty dollars to go to New York, and ten minutes and four dollars to go to Philly, and once you get there, everything's cheaper! (AND there are decent cheesesteaks, which, sorry, NY, but: no.)

And this hasn't just been a problem for me while I've lived here, near Philly. At Harvard, I rarely left the bubble of Cambridge to venture into Boston, and when I lived in Chicago, I almost never went into the Loop. So, starting this year, I'm going to start taking advantage of the stuff right nearby me, instead of venturing around the world. Philly deserves better.

(And I'm going to start this one ASAP. No waiting for my birthday this time, or I'll miss the Van Gogh, and that'll just be a sin.)

Thing Eighteen: The Etsy Betsy Spider...

So since I'm apparently committing to doing all this making of things, I feel like it's probably also a good time to really figure out what the heck I'm doing with my Etsy store.

I have one, of course. I've actually had two, over the last several years, but I never really committed to them, and it was too hard during my thesis, and it was a whole thing. But when I was doing them, I sold a BUNCH of stuff (most often, silk-screened Hogwarts House undies), at a really awesome profit, so it's probably something I should get back to? I mean, I could use the money, and it's way easier to bang out a pair of knickers at $15 a pair than to work for an hour for the same $15 (yes, there are costs to the knickers, but there are also taxes, so the net works out about the same), and it's something artsy-craftsy to be doing, and that's really what I want more, right?

I'm not saying I think I'm going to be paying my rent with fangirl lingerie, but I feel like I could maybe pay for the wine I drink with it.

Thing Seventeen: Celebrity Skin

I don't wear makeup. I mean, I can, of course, I do know how to get it together and put on some eyeshadow and lipstick if I'm going somewhere special, but on a typical day? No.

I do wash my face in the mornings, and I have worn sunscreen every single day, winter and summer, rain and shine, since I was fourteen, but other than that, I have the lowest-impact beauty routine that has ever existed in the world. Because there is no routine.

Part of it is because I really just enjoy sleeping. I mean, if my options are to put on some lipstick or sleep an extra minute and a half, I am totally going to sleep the extra minute and a half.

And part of it is because I am lucky, and I have high-contrast features (dark eyebrows and hair, naturally quite pink lips and cheeks), so I don't look washed out or sick.

But my skin has been freaking out, and I think I look slightly more professional with a little bit of makeup on, so maybe it's time to get at least a very basic routine down? Little bit of shadow, little bit of lipgloss? I can figure out something that doesn't take more than a few minutes, but makes me look normal, right?

Thing Sixteen: Sock It To Me

So, last Thing, I was saying that I don't like actually wearing things that I knit. That's true. But I do have someone who DOES like to wear some of those things.

A few years ago (my knitting portfolio informs me it was three years ago, and yes, I have a knitting portfolio), I made some knee-high socks for one of my very closest friends. She loved them, she wore them, it was great.

Then she moved to Switzerland.

I don't know if y'all know this, but the washing machines in Switzerland are not like the washing machines here in the US. And, even though I made the socks out of superwash wool (that means they shouldn't felt or shrink in a washing machine), and even though she was really careful and never put them in the dryer anyway, one day they got tangled in some sheets and went in the dryer, and now they're too small for her five-year-old nephew, and there was crying.

And I said I'd make her some new ones, and I just never have. I was too involved with the thesis, and then, as I've said, my knitting mojo left me abruptly.

But I've got a new idea for some socks now, and there's some yarn that has sparkles in it, and also she lives in a place that has a slightly less alarming washing machine. I think the new socks' time may have come.

Thing Fifteen: A Stitch in Time

Oh my god, that last one was so boring that even I lost interest.

This next one is going to sound ridiculous, because it's something that I did all the time, so how can it be something that I "meant" to do, but...

I haven't knit in nearly a year.

I just...lost interest, after my thesis. I spent so much time on that tapestry (worth it! totally worth it!), and then I made a garter for a friend who was getting married, and then I did no knitting at all.

It's not that I don't like it - I do. I think I was just...burned out? And I didn't have anything I particularly wanted to make? It's difficult, because what I like to make are complex, lacy shawls, and they just do not fit into my wardrobe at all, so I make them, and I devote all this time (and money! the yarn usually costs $20-$30!) to them, and then...nothing. They sit. Which feels like a waste.

So now I can't decide what to do. Do I make things that I will wear (like, um...), or do I make things that I like to knit which then sit around? Or do I totally change my style so that girly, lacy shawls work (this one feels unlikely)?

So I guess this one isn't so much "Knit again" as it is "Find a way to integrate the results of the knitting into my actual life, so that I am at least getting something out of it."