13 October 2014

Inspiration from a 20-year-old Confession

OK. I admit it. This post isn't going to be nearly as exciting as the title would indicate. I'm just having a bit of fun over-dramatizing this little project.

A year or so ago, my friend Tiffany reminded me that back in the day, 19-ish years ago, I used to point the Big Dipper out to her. I don't remember doing this, but it does sound like something I would do. She then admitted that all those times (I really hope it was, like, 3, otherwise I was a bigger dork back then than I thought), she only said she saw it, when really she didn't.

So, for her birthday this year, I whipped up this Big Dipper cross-stitch using some navy Aida and glow-in-the-dark thread. This way, she can't miss it.

I free-handed this project, something I have very little confidence in doing. Luckily, the Big Dipper isn't too complicated, and I guess I've been picking it out of the sky for years. I did pull up a clip art version of the stars online to reference while I was stitching.

Using the Aida was a bit frustrating, since I've been sticking mostly to linen lately (I forgot how stiff Aida could be), and the thread gave me troubles as well. I used all 6 strands on the big stars, but only 3 on the small stars and lines. The 3 lost its twist the second I separated it, so up close it's not as pretty as I would've liked. All in all though, it turned out pretty good (and, yes, it really does glow in the dark!).

This project reminded me why I craft. Making something meaningful for Tiffany, that has no meaning to anyone else, is an amazing feeling.

10 October 2014

I'm a Crafting and Creating Fool!

Just like with everything else - reading, crafting, work - sometimes I get behind on this blog. Usually that's a good thing because it means I'm reading, crafting, or, well, working. On the flip side, it means I'm not writing, which is truly one of my first loves. Today, though, I found some time to blog - and the best part is that I'm going to write about the crafts and creations I've been working on!

First up, an invitation for my friend Lynn's daughter's birthday party. Lynn "commissions" me to make invitations for her son and her daughter's birthdays every year, a job I love. Lynn is the world's best and worst client in that she is usually "happy with whatever" I want to do. That gives me creative freedom, but it also means I'm starting with a blank slate. Blank slates can be intimidating.

After multiple, multiple options, Lynn and Emily settled on this cute card, perfect for an 11-year-old:

Next up, my very first T-shirt design! It was really exciting to see a design of mine on fabric, instead of paper:

My favorite thing about this project is that amazing Nature font. Up close, it looks like grass on the bottom and a starry sky on top. Beautiful.

I've also been continuing my re-found love of cross-stitching, completing 3 projects last month!

The first gave me a little trouble, but was well worth it in the end. My coworker asked me to make her something with the phrase "But first, coffee." on it. The medium was up to me. I immediately knew I wanted to cross-stitch or embroider something, but I also wanted to keep her aesthetic, which is a little different than mine, in mind.

I got inspired by this adorable burlap fabric and got started:

It wasn't long before I hit my first snag: this fabric unraveled faster than I could figure out how to stop it! The orange border helped, but I still wasn't confident that it was going to hold together. The next snag came when my free-handed letters didn't line up. Luckily, a quick free-handed coffee mug fixed that right up! The last snag came when I couldn't figure out how to finish it. I tried a bunch of options, but none seemed right, until I remembered that I had some coffee bean fabric leftover from a previous project! I tore that into strips, wrapped a paper mache frame and viola:

The last project I can share today was for Wendy, a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan, made following a free pattern from Capes & Crafts:

According to Wendy, I did OK! :-)

I have one more project to share, but the recipient doesn't get it until tomorrow, so I'll update then!

Happy crafting!

08 October 2014

So I'm a Straddler, Eh?

Every so often I read a book or hear a song or watch a show that makes me stop and think. In the case of Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, it made me freak out a bit.

Never in my years as an avid reader have I come across a book that spoke to me so much. I'm afraid that in my effort to emphasis this point, I'll repeat myself, a lot. But I'm not kidding, this book spoke to me.

I read the book because it was a book club selection. Only the second non-fiction book we've ever read. Nothing I would've picked up on my own. I didn't even read the back before starting it. All I knew was the title, which I didn't think anything about.

I was exactly 24 words into the book when I had my first "what the?!" moment.

I am two people. I now live a middle-class life, working at a white-collar newspaperman's job, but I was born blue collar.


A couple pages into the book and I was literally shaking my head.

Many Straddlers surprised themselves with their own tears when I interviewed them. They never thought about their lives in terms of class before, and our conversations helped explain a lot - their inability to fit in at work among middle-class colleagues and bosses, for example, as well as the difficulty they've had talking with their parents about topics other than how Uncle Bob is doing since the operation.

Seriously? Had author Alfred Lubrano been stalking me?

Technically, my story begins in April 1977, but I'm going to start in March 2003. After 4 years of being a newspaper reporter, I got a job at a marketing communications firm on the 15th floor of a building in the downtown city we avoided growing up. I knew right away that something wasn't right. I didn't wear the right clothes. Or watch the right shows. Or listen to the right music. I didn't have the right hobbies. I didn't eat the right cheese. I didn't fit in. At all.

I believe I was, and still am, good at my job. I had the same education and similar work history as every one else. But on a personal level, I didn't belong.

For years, I didn't know what the problem was. I assumed it was because I was from the country. Or because I didn't go to a private high school. Or because I wasn't related to anyone important. I was partially right.

After reading Limbo, I completely believe it's because I'm a Straddler, someone who jumped a class (which has nothing to do with income or race).

Backing up a bit, I never felt like I fit in growing up either. I think I faked it OK, but I always felt like an outsider. It might have been because I wasn't related to anyone. Or because I didn't know everyone. Or because I liked to read (an interest shared by almost every Straddler interviewed for Limbo). Maybe it was all in my head. Whatever the reason, I knew I had to get away, at least for a bit. Maybe find somewhere where I did fit in.

So I went away to college. But I didn't live on campus. I went home most weekends. I didn't make a lot of new friends. I didn't find a lot of new interests. I never stopped listening to country music. I didn't try very hard. I guess I didn't see the point, since after a few years I'd be moving back home.

This, I should point out, happened to several people in the book. They didn't cut ties with home because they were either still there, commuting to college, or planning to go back. As a result, they, and I, didn't fully experience college, which in some ways made the transition to a white-collar job even harder.

Over time, I realized that my new life wasn't going to take me back home. So I had to adjust. I had to try hummus (which I actually like). I had to dress it up a bit (although I sometimes can get away with wearing my cowboy boots with a cute dress at work). I had to learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say (something that would drive my dad batty). I had to learn that when people ask your opinion, they usually are doing so because it's polite, not because they actually want your opinion. I'm still learning. And trying to fit in. Only now I don't care so much if I don't know all the rules or fit in all the way.

I still call the place I grew up home. I still call the meal you eat in the evening supper. I still hate goat cheese. I still get ridiculously nostalgic when certain songs come on the radio or I spend a day back home. But I also don't think I completely fit in there either.

I wanted the people Lubrano interviewed for his book to have some sort of magic words of wisdom for Straddlers like myself. Some way to fit in in both worlds - back home where they don't understand my job and in my new home where they have no idea what an ATV poker run is. Unfortunately, there's no miracle cure for this situation. Some people still express discomfort with their situation. Others adjusted to the white-collar world smoothly. Others found a way to live in both worlds. I'm slowly joining this last group. Mostly because I'm caring less about impressing my coworkers and bosses. Mostly because despite my job, I see no reason to change who I am at the core.

I could comment on just about every point Lubrano made in his book. I have stories matching many of those the people he interviewed shared in his book. But this post is already getting pretty long. And you don't want to read about my adventures navigating a parking garage (something we didn't have back home) or trying to explain public relations to my dad. (Unless you're a Straddler, in which case you probably have similar stories.)

If you are from a blue-collar background and are working in a white-collar field, I strongly recommend you read this book. I promise you'll learn a lot about yourself in the process.

20 August 2014

Teacher Gift Jars

How do you even begin to say thank you to the people who have guided, taught and loved your child since he was a baby? A cute pack of Sharpies at the end of the year hardly seems like enough. Maybe a million packs of Sharpies? AND a bottle of hand lotion?

Today is my son's last day at preschool. His last day with friends he's had since he was 12-weeks-old. His last day with teachers he's has since he was 20-months-old. Sad business. There are no words, no gift I could make or buy that could express my gratitude for these women. They've taught my son his colors and letters and shapes; they've taught him how to share, take turns and count. They've taught him how to "use his words" and stand up for himself when he wasn't being heard. They've had a significant role in making him the amazing, smart, thoughtful, funny boy he is today. It truly does take a village.

While gifts and sentimental blog posts don't come close to conveying the appreciation I have for his teachers, it's something. I hope they know how much they mean to me, my husband and, of course, our son. (End sentimental portion of this post, moving onto the craft portion of this post.)

The jars. I've been on a cross-stitching kick lately, so I grabbed my trusty needle and thread and got to work making these adorable little apples modeled after something I saw on Pinterest. Add a trendy chalkboard sticker to the front of a square little Mason jar filled with treats and gift cards and you're in business! But the best part? The very best part? My son wrote every teacher's name on the stickers. Yeah, they taught him how to do that. :-)

The second-best thing about these gifts is that I had most of the supplies on hand. And they're somewhat unique. And they're handmade. (I have the hot glue-burned fingertips as proof!)

At the end of the day (I can't believe I just typed that; I hate that phrase), the most important thing about gifts, whether they are for friends or family or amazing teachers, is that you put thought into them. They don't have to be trendy (although aren't those chalkboard stickers a.dorable?!). They don't have to be expensive. They don't even have to be handmade. They just have to be heartfelt. And these definitely are.

19 August 2014

The Saga of My Sunglasses

I’ve never been one to value things. I’ve always been more of an experiences kind of girl. But that philosophy flies out the window when it comes to sunglasses.

I have certain preferences – my husband would say I’m as picky as all get out – when it comes to my eyewear. They have to be brown. They can’t have wire arms. They can’t have bling. And they can’t be round or twice as big as my face. Oh, and they can’t cost more than $15.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find sunglasses that fit this description? Im.Possible. Seriously.

A few years ago I found the perfect pair of sunglasses. Aside from some diamond bling on the side, that is. They fit my face. They were brown. They weren’t wire. And, bonus, they were $6.

I knew the second I stepped foot outside the store that I should’ve bought 2 pairs, no 3, no every single pair they had. But did I? Well, if I did I wouldn’t’ve been in the predicament I found myself in this winter.

I had gone back home to sled with some friends and accidentally left my sunglasses at their house. No worries, I thought. I’ll get them next time I’m home. Fast forward through the storm of the century, literally, and you’ll find me 4 months later nearly blinded by that big yellow ball in the sky.

I finally broke down and decided to replace my sweet, sweet sunglasses. You can guess how well that went. In a last ditch effort before filing for divorce, my husband convinced me to just-buy-a-pair-of-damn-sunglasses-already. I settled for a pair that met most of my requirements. I even tried to pretend I liked them. But you and I both know round frames are not me. So not me. I looked like a fool. People never came right out and said anything, but I know what they were thinking.

A couple months passed and finally, finally!, I was in possession of my old sunglasses. For about 2 minutes. They, along with jeans my husband left while sledding, long story, were waiting for me in a bag by the front door of my friend’s house. All I had to do was pick it up on my way out and – yahoo! – my sunglasses and I would be reunited.

But did I pick the bag up on my way out? Of course not.

More months passed and I officially gave up all hope of being reunited with my sunglasses. My son, who lost an arm of his sunglasses down an elevator shaft in Florida earlier this year, still has hope that he’ll be reunited with his sunglasses. But I knew my ending wouldn’t, um, end like I wanted.

Then, one day it did. I was once again at my friend’s house, once again in possession of the bag with my sunglasses and my husband’s pants (you’re just dying to know, aren’t you?). Only this time, my husband proved why I love him so much. He walked the bag to our truck and plopped it down on the back seat. There was no way I was leaving without them this time!

So here I sit, at my computer, inside, typing this little story, wearing my sunglasses. They are never leaving my sight again.