Another Part of My World

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A photo from my last trip to the Yingge Ceramic Museum, just because.

Since many of you seem to enjoy finding out “more about me,” I am joining in Cee’s weekly SHARE YOUR WORLD challenge. 

Here are this week’s questions along with my answers.

Do you prefer ketchup or mustard?

I don’t use much of either. I use ketchup on the rare occasions that I have a hot dog. Ketchup and dill pickles. On occasion, I might have ketchup on a hamburger, but I’m more likely to use mayonnaise with lettuce and tomato.

I like a little mustard on a ham sandwich and as a condiment in potato salad.

If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?

Most likely a romantic-comedy, but it would be more likely a musical with several dance numbers.  🙂

If you could be given any gift what would it be?

A year-long stay at a quilting/art colony with a fully stocked studio and access to fabric, as well as a couple other artists to brainstorm and collaborate with. But I could still be ecstatic with a month or two.  🙂

For potlucks or parties do you cook it yourself, buy from a grocery store, or pay for catering?

At this point in time, my husband is the one who makes things when we go somewhere. But my favorite potluck story is from the mid-80s, when I rode a bus to my job at the University of Washington in Seattle. Potlucks were a bit of a challenge because I didn’t want to haul a lot of stuff with me, and keeping things hot or cold, depending on what they were could be an issue. So I came up with my bus-friendly go to dish that I took to every potluck we had while I worked there. It was easy, and it was a hit. It involved the grocery store and assembling it after I was at work.

Peas and peanut salad.

1. From home I brought an unbreakable serving bowl, some plastic wrap,  and a serving/mixing spoon.

2. I left about 15 minutes early for my walk to the bus stop, so I could stop at the grocery store (1 block from grocery store).

3. Pick up three ingredients at the grocery store: a bag of spanish peanuts, a bag of frozen peas, a container of sour cream.

4. Catch the bus to work as usual.

5. The peas thaw while keeping the sour cream cool.

6. About 10:30, combine all three ingredients in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

7. When it’s time to set food up, remove plastic wrap, stir to mix one more time, and serve.

Bonus: since this salad was a big hit, it would all get eaten. I would just rinse out the bowl and spoon, and bring them home. Easy!  🙂

 

Thanks to Cee for another interesting set of questions. If you want to join in, here is the link: http://ceenphotography.com/2014/08/11/share-your-world-2014-week-32/

 

Keyword: Fun (Compliments of my daughter, Kate)

The Non-Quilting Retreat

study time

(Photo credit: calebcherry)

Instead of a quilting retreat last Thursday and Friday, I reframed it into a textbook retreat, which took place Sunday and yesterday. You can read about what led to that decision in the posts listed below, but as a result of that shift, I rediscovered that it wasn’t actually quilting that was missing from my life as much as the experiences of play and fun, regardless of the forms they take. My life has become so crowded with tasks that I forgot to just enjoy the small moments of life. In fact, I didn’t seem to recognize small moments anymore.

Luckily, January was the beginning of my intention to set aside ten small moments a day to work with the exercises of Farther to Go! One day, in my writing, I remembered how I used to make “play” a daily practice, and even kept a journal to track the fun things I did. This memory helped me let go of the need to quilt “no matter what” and just open myself to the experience of quilting as an enjoyable hobby. If Farther to Go! can make a difference in ten minutes a day, so can ten minutes of opening myself to even small pockets of fun. But I didn’t make that connection until I packed away the sewing machine and let the small moments just be. I needed to stop planning everything.

Pinwheel Quilt

Pinwheel Quilt (Photo credit: jenniferworthen)

By letting go of the need to quilt no matter what, I reopened myself to experience the fun and exploration that intrigued me when I first became interested in the craft. So when I needed a little break on the second day of my textbook retreat, I knew instinctively what I wanted to do. I sent my daughter a Facebook message with a few quilt designs to get her opinion of them. She and I are halfway around the world from each other, but we have conversations on Facebook. Sometimes, the conversations aren’t continuous. One or the other of us puts something out there, and then the other answers the next time she is online.

For those of you who don’t know, my daughter, Kate is the youngest of my four children and she is the mother of Mr. Logan, the “not so little” guy you see at the top of the blog. When I gave Logan his quilt last summer, Kate asked me when she would be getting hers. Funny story!

The Little Quilt that Could

Several years ago, Kate showed some interest in having me make her a quilt. She had colors in mind, and I began collecting fabrics in pinks, greens, blues, and purples. Occasionally, I would see a possible pattern. But then, as now, I never had much time for quilting. In fact, when I was making Logan’s quilt two years ago, I actually found myself wondering whether Kate was still interested in having me make her a quilt. If so, would she even want the fabrics I had started collecting.

Well, last night happened to be one of those times when Kate and I were able to carry on a conversation for a bit. It was–dare I say it–FUN! She didn’t really care for the first images I sent her, but she gave me some good clues. For example, while I knew she didn’t want a pattern that was as “random” as the one I used for Logan’s quilt, one of the images I sent her was “too” traditional. That helped narrow the field.

Something with structure, but not too traditional. And something that when I get to it, I would enjoy making it. I’ve been wanting to play around with log cabin blocks. Maybe that would work. So I sent her some in pink blocks–not exactly like the ones shown here. Actually, I didn’t ask her about the “wonky” aspect, but my sense is she would like the straight line kind. Here is some of the conversation that followed:

wonky log cabin

wonky log cabin (Photo credit: MissMessie)

ME: ok, here’s another. If I did this log cabin pattern, I would incorporate purple, green, and blue as well, unless you want just pinks.

K: If you want to roll with that you can. And if you do, you should do each block a separate color.

ME: ok 🙂

K: or whatever you want 😛

ME: When I start playing with some blocks, I’ll send you pictures and you can tell me which you like best 🙂  It will be a while, but I like to at least think about quilting, and yours is the next big project I want to do

K: Do an all blue one, and one that includes all four colors.

ME: ok 🙂 that will be fun:

K: keyword: fun. don’t make it a job! if it’s a present for my 30th birthday so be it.

ME: 30th birthday present! Crap! I only have 4 years! LOL

Full Circle

Kate’s quilt won’t happen soon, but now when I do have some time for quilting, I have a pattern and a motivation. Even though I have to wait to cut and sew, I’m excited about it. Obviously, the colors are still a go. Best of all, I’m already having fun: the chat with my daughter, thinking about variations on the log cabin theme, and looking at the colors in my fabric stash. It feels so much better than those days when I was planning to quilt no matter what. And she’s got me focusing on the right keywords.

Thanks, Kate! And maybe you won’t have to wait until your 30th birthday for the quilt. But no promises. The keyword is fun!

Reframe, Retreat, Renew

A Change of Plans

Packing away the sewing machine into its prote...

Packing away the sewing machine (Photo credit: Miia Ranta)

It’s Friday and no quilting took place yesterday or today. No quilting will take place next week either. In fact, I packed up my sewing machine and cutting boards. They are tucked away in a corner of my closet. I know I kept saying I needed a break. I know that I need some time for me.

Unfortunately, as a couple people pointed out in my last post, I had unintentionally attached too many expectations to this retreat. Worse, I had–dare I say it–turned it into one more job with its own set of pressures. I didn’t want to admit it at first, but thinking back on Logan’s quilt made it pretty clear. Two years ago, I had the fabric for his quilt, I found the pattern I wanted to adapt, and I had motivation. With those things in place, it worked. This time, although I was motivated, it wasn’t for the right reason. And I had no pattern in mind, no fabrics calling to me. I ended up trying to create an agenda for the retreat, a sure sign that I had lost sight of the purpose of the retreat. In fact, I had lost sight of my keyword for winter–clearing. 

Frames

Frames

Frames (Photo credit: Editor B)

Frames can contain many different items: pictures, mementos, diplomas, and other markers of significant events. Not everything that is framed is tangible. We also capture ideas, expectations, plans, and hopes for the future in frames that can’t be seen, but that can be quite powerful. I think that’s what happened to me with my quilting retreat. I got an idea in my head about how I could get back to quilting and give myself a break from the stress, and that frame was pretty set in my mind. It wasn’t until after I made the decision to NOT quilt, that I began to reframe my thoughts about what was really going on.

I began by reframing my week. After accepting the fact I wasn’t going to do the quilting retreat, trickles (read floods) from my current commitments went up. Four new ones on Thursday, what would have been the first day of the quilting retreat. A real verification that I made the right decision. However, my stress level still went up. It took me a couple hours to wrap my head around what was happening with the projects, but then I did make some progress toward regaining control of the day. I spent the rest of Thursday patching things together, just nothing that involved bright colors and fabric.

Retreats

3186629203_bfcf404f50_mThe next thing I needed to reframe was my idea about retreats. This part is kind of crazy since I have lots of experience with retreats. A retreat is a good container, a dedicated time and place to explore art, personal growth, creativity, spirituality, journaling, or quilting. I’ve had good experiences with retreats, but something wasn’t right this time. Maybe it was just the timing, but I was beginning to think I had the wrong focus for what is going on in my life right now.

I reviewed the purpose of retreat for me:

  1. To get away from everything and focus on what’s important; a time to renew, explore, refresh.
  2. Get away from stress; a break from routine and habits; a chance to look inward and reassess; to rediscover my path..
  3. Get away from distractions; a chance to focus and move forward on what is important. Set a course for the next steps.

A quilting retreat, in my current circumstances, would not have satisfied any of these for me. The results would have been a different kind of stress because I wasn’t focusing on what was important, and had made “relaxation” a job. Further, what I really need to focus on–away from distractions–is my my largest work project: the textbooks.

The Textbook Project

Disclaimer: Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you’d like. It would take away from the point of this post. However, I thought that since I keep mentioning it, I should give a little basic information about it for those who are curious.

One of the projects that moved up the list of priorities on Thursday involved the textbook project. I haven’t given many specifics here, so let me give you just a brief picture of what’s going on. I helped with a proposal to revamp our curriculum, which also meant producing 8 new textbooks (1 per semester for four years). The proposal also had other components, but the textbooks are the most demanding in terms of time and ongoing effort. I proposed a three-year timeline for implementation. The powers that be liked the ideas of the curriculum reform, but not the timeline. They want to implement this coming fall. So four books need to be to the printer at the beginning of the summer to be used in Fall 2013 and the others have to be done by December to be used in Spring 2014. I am the coordinator of this project which involves many things, including developing budgets and timelines.

I’ve completed two textbooks in the past, but only working on one at a time. Juggling the production schedule for the first four has been challenging, to say the least. It has taken a lot of adjustment and rethinking and revising to finally get the production timeline figured out. In the past, I only worked on one book at a time, so juggling the production schedule for 4 books at first and now 8 books has been challenging and stressful. I had to re-do the timeline for the first four books, to make some adjustments. Then I had to do another timeline for the second semester books. Suddenly, the project became more manageable. I could see that once I work through a few of the remaining snags for the first set, the second set will be much easier. All the set-up and planning activities will already be done. Having the layout and the basic plans set up frees up a lot of time

Reframing – Part II

So I will have a retreat next week, but it will be a retreat that focuses on the textbook project. This time I have the materials, I have the tasks, I have the motivation. Not quite a quilt, but a project that will benefit from the dedicated time and place to work on it. The textbook retreat idea finally takes away a lot of the stress and focuses my energy on moving forward rather than putting it off while I quilt without passion. Because my passion is tied up in moving these books forward. If I spend two days with the books as my focus, I can really make some significant progress, and move more toward the clearing that is really what my intention is.

Renewing the Moratorium

My 30 day moratorium on new work responsibilities ended on the 28th of January. Today is February 1, and I am renewing the moratorium for the rest of the month. I hope to make it a monthly commitment, but I will do it one month at a time. I have to say that I was surprised how full my days and weeks have been in spite of the moratorium. Even though I added nothing new, the obligations already in place continue to fill up my time. I am making some progress toward finishing a few things, and that will continue. The textbook retreat will also help..

Although I’m renewing the moratorium in terms of new responsibilities, I am instituting a daily “play” requirement. Before you think that I’m turning play into another responsibility, let me assure you that this is merely a mindfulness technique. In the past I had a play journal to remind myself to do something fun, something playful, even if it was just for five or ten minutes a day. I think part of the mistake of the quilting retreat was that I was forgetting that I don’t need a huge chunk of time to feel renewed. I can incorporate smaller quilting activities until a project actually grabs me.A regular infusion of playfulness, even small ones, can go a long way.

For me, play can be as simple as looking at quilting patterns, looking at pictures of quilts others have made, taking a puzzle book to a coffee shop, watching something on TV, or doing pleasure reading. Sad as it is to say, most of these things have vanished from my life lately. Rather than try to grab a two-day chunk of time, I will make a habit of noticing the small moments that bring me joy and kindle the sparks that could lead to a creative project that will tell me when it’s time to make a retreat.

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