From Blog Challenge to Quilt-Along

The Blog Challenge

As I approach the end of October, I will be finishing up the 31-day blog challenge sponsored by Lesa Townsend at http://conversation2sales.com/.  A final report will be forthcoming when the month officially ends, but what you’re reading now is my 25th post for the month. One of the most important things about this challenge for me is that it helped me focus my intention of taking time for myself. In the past, I would have told myself that I have too many obligations, too many reasons why this challenge is an extravagance of time that I can’t afford. And yet, I did it. Regardless of the final count, I am thrilled with the results. And I’ve learned that nothing needs to keep me away from blogging, as long as I’m clear that it’s what I want to be doing.

An interesting element is that signing up for the blog challenge was a fluke. I saw an invitation in an email, and I thought, “Why not!” And so when I had the opportunity to join a quilt-along, I had a similar response. Sure, it’s the same old problem. Where will I find the time? But if I don’t try, I’ll never know. And I intend to quilt in the next couple of months, so why not have some support along the way. Let’s lay the groundwork with two quilting stories that converge in this quilt-along.

My Role Model for Fabric Play

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

Not too long ago, I wrote about my fabric play role model. (Click on the heading above the quilt to see that post.) Rachel had used a photo she had taken to match up fabric with those colors and created a palate for the quilt you see at the left. I was enchanted by the idea of using photos to create such creative palates for quilts. In fact, I love seeing what comes up in Rachel’s blog. I often save some of her ideas so I can find them later. Looking at her creative work makes me happy and ready to tackle quilting again.

I had selected a project, chosen fabric, and set a quilting date when Rachel put out feelers for a quilt-along. That idea would have intrigued me on its own, but two things sweetened the deal. First, the timing was good. The real work would take place in November and December after the blogging challenge was over. Second–and more important for me, the pattern Rachel chose for the quilt along is the very one I fell in love with when she did the fabric play–the quilt shown above. How could I say no? I couldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t try very hard.

BONUS: Once she posted the actual schedule, it turned out that the biggest push for sewing comes during the week of mid-term exams. I have to grade exams, but I have no classes to teach that week. I can focus on my other to-dos, in order to smuggle a day or two for quilting.

Like the blogging challenge, I look forward to what the quilt-along will bring in terms of quilting progress and the things I learn about myself. I suspect that this blog will feature a few updates on quilting projects in the next couple of months.

Related articles

Time for Me

time flies

time flies (Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker)

Everyone is familiar with the feeling that time is just flying by, that there isn’t enough of it, that if we just had a little more of it, or if we could somehow manage it better, life would be less hectic. I mean, I hope it’s not just me. But for me, I must admit, I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to time.

If you know me very well at all, you know that I tend to be very busy most of the time. You would probably also know that no matter how much stuff I get done, I always have more waiting around every corner. In fact, if I wanted to never have a moment to/for myself, my to-do list would gladly oblige such insanity.

Ironically, this post about time for me has taken far too long to write, because other things keep getting in the way. Now, I know that I am my own worst enemy in this regard, and that I am the only one who can change it. Which is why I have made some really big steps toward that goal. I’ve made progress, even beyond the simple fact of recognizing it’s a problem. I know that I don’t want life to rush me by, leaving me wondering what was all of that rushing around about. I do have plans in place, and I have begun to follow through. But in the meantime, I still have to dig out of the current situation.

Bookshelf clutter

(Photo credit: HomeSchoolingHoarder)

It’s a lot like the clutter in my apartment. I know it has to go. I have already set up little appointments of time for myself to do the work of sorting things out and getting the non-essentials out. But the piles of clutter, and the endless to-do lists didn’t happen overnight. Therefore, the most important thing for me to remember as I work toward the life I envision for myself is to remember that finding my way clear is not going to happen overnight, or even in a week (or month) or two.

So when I thought about this post I almost called in “Making Time for Me.” Then I thought about crossing that out and replacing it as shown below:

Making Taking Time for Me!

What do you think? For example, can anyone really “make” time. No, it’s pre-made, or at least pre-allocated, and try as we might, we can’t somehow manufacture more of it. Of course, when people talk about making time, they’re really talking about managing it in a different way. Changing the way they use the available time they have. I may get up an hour early in order to have more time to read (or whatever else I choose to do), but I’m still not really making any “new” time. Taking time seems more proactive, and while I can’t take any time that doesn’t already exist, this concept does seem more about actively managing how I spend my time.

I used to think the answer was in discovering some new time management secret. I have gotten myself tangled up in trying lots of time management systems and tricks. I even have a few favorites when I need a little boost, but the real challenge of making my life better is to change my thinking about what I do and don’t say “yes” to. For my New Year’s “resolution” for this year, I incorporated a moratorium on taking on new projects and responsibilities. It worked well for several months, so maybe I need to dust if off and put it back in place.

The great thing about facing this process of digging out is that I realize that my thinking about things has changed a lot. So that even though I do have to dig out, I don’t feel as discouraged by the whole thing. Partly because I have decided to take time for me. In the past, I often put off quilting or pleasure reading or blogging if there was work to be done (and there was ALWAYS work to be done). As part of the process of reimagining my life, I make sure to put me first at least some of the time. Quilting and blogging are finding their way back onto my schedule. Today, you see evidence of the blogging. Soon, there will be quilting news.

594 days to 60.

My Recent Adventures with The Cat in the Hat

The Disappearing Blog Posts

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in more than two weeks. A few people asked me what was going on. I asked myself what was going on. How could something that I wanted and enjoyed disappear from my calendar? Unfortunately, it seemed to have devolved into just one more thing that showed up on my to-do list twice a week. And increasingly, it became one of the things that kept getting put aside.

Interestingly, the subtitle of this blog is TIME, SPACE, MONEY, THINGS.. This post is all about focusing on the THINGS part of it. And who better to start this literary journey than those endearing creatures from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat—Thing 1 and Thing 2. Aren’t they just so cute? Wouldn’t it be fun to have around?

images

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book or having it read to you, you’ve missed out. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it and then read it as I was growing up and then with my own children after that. I think this summer, I may have to introduce Mr. Logan to The Cat

Story Time

Sally and her brother (who serves as the narrator) are left alone while their mother goes out for the afternoon, entrusting them to follow the rules. Because it is raining, they are indoors. They are bored as they sit in front of the window just looking outside at the rain.

That’s when the Cat in the Hat shows up. A rather insistent fellow, he’s not put off by our narrator’s recitation of his mother’s rules. He keeps insisting that they need to have fun and that there is lots of fun to be had even when it’s raining outside. Over the course of the next undetermined length of time, the CitH shows them a variety of activities that they can do, all of them threatening to mess up the house and get the the two children in trouble. Even the talking pet fish tries to get them to make the Cat go away, but the Cat isn’t budging.

images (1)As if the Cat in the Hat weren’t causing enough trouble on his own, he went outside to retrieve a box. When he opens it, out bound Thing 1 and Thing 2. These two appear to be on an unmitigated mission to create total mayhem. Their success can be measured by the increasing dismay you see on the two youngsters’ faces as they become increasingly worried about how their mother will respond to the mess upon her return.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll stop there. The Wikipedia link above has the rest of the story if you can’t stand the suspense. If you have a child in your life (or maybe even if you don’t), you might want to invest in the book. If you like this story, you might want to pick up The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, too. I might have to pick up another copy. I’ll use Mr. Logan as an excuse.  <wink, wink!>

My Own Thing 1 and Thing 2

If you’re a follower of my blog, you may recall (Come on, it hasn’t been THAT long!) my struggle with an overwhelming series of projects and responsibilities. While I’ve made some minor progress in my attempts at clearing away the list of tasks, it takes a lot longer to get out from under the pile than it ever took to create it. I sometimes am not very productive. Or at least, not very productive in MY opinion.

images (1)The problem is that I tend to get overwhelmed, so that even when I have time to work on things, I don’t always take full advantage of it. I realized that there is a separate organization issue involved in making progress on these projects. It’s not about just time management, but thing management–the physical organization of stuff. If I motivate myself to work on a particular project but can’t find the pieces of paper and other paraphernalia I need, I am soon at a dead end. Reaching that point reminds me of how I would if the Cat in the Hat brought Thing 1 and Thing 2 to visit me. Except that in my case, I also have Thing 48, Thing 79, and Thing 6,350, and all of the Things in between (too numerous to mention by name). And while 2 of them look really cute, they lose their appeal long before 6,350.

images (1)Duh! It turns out that once there are that many things, it doesn’t matter if they’re ones I want to spend time with or I feel obligated to spend time with. There are just plain too many of them. I am overwhelmed by ALL of them, pleasurable or otherwise. It’s like stress and eustress. Good stress, bad stress: to our bodies, it’s all the same, and too much is too much. My containers in were overflowing in multiple categories.

Return of the Blog

images (1)Which brings me back to my blog. Every time I thought about getting back to it, there were so many loose ends, so many THINGS that I needed to resolve. How many two-part (or more) ideas had been left undone? I know that the blog benefits are that you can do things in any order you want. It’s MY blog. But I started feeling that my blog was being overrun by those hyperactive little Things threatening my sanity and my blog. I became immobilized. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities.

So I sort of lost sight of the clearing that I was working on through the winter season. But now, I’m back. In this moment of clarity, I can focus on eliminating the unnecessary clutter, and make room for what’s important. I will have access to what I need to work to on when a time slot is available. I can plot a course back to the clearing and begin to expand it. And meanwhile, I will be blogging again. I can also order those Dr. Seuss books for my summer visit with Mr. Logan.

See you next time!images

The One that Won’t Let Go

Party hats at dawn 1

Party hats at dawn (Photo credit: Derek John Lee)

Today I publish the 20th post for Container Chronicles. That means I have been blogging for ten weeks, just over two months. People suggested for a long time that I start a blog, but I kept dragging my feet. Partly, I couldn’t decide what to write about. I had lots of requests for stories about my time here in Taiwan, but that wasn’t a topic that pulled me to the keyboard. Maybe someday I’ll do a small series as part of this blog, but my own struggle with sorting out my life and becoming more intentional about what I want to do is a bigger draw than a travelogue–at least for now.

I decided on Container Chronicles about three months before I launched it. During that time, I thought about the blog, I talked about the blog, but I did very little to actually start blogging. It wasn’t exactly perfectionism that kept me from it, but I did have a fear of sorts that it wouldn’t turn out like I imagined it. Which is crazy in many ways, because if I had stayed with that line of thinking, I’d still be thinking about it and I wouldn’t be publishing this 20th post. Sometimes, it helps me to make an external commitment, so I’m not just accountable to myself. So I came up with a gimmick. I gave the “promise” of a launch as a birthday gift to a long-time friend who had been pushing me to blog. On October 9, her birthday, I sent her an email that announced my intention to launch the blog in honor of her birthday. The announcement gave October 31 as the launch date. I missed by a couple of days, but it didn’t matter because my blog was real! I felt such a sense of accomplishment! Seeing the actual blog post as others saw it was amazing. I got excited updating my stats and seeing how many people visited my blog. I wanted that feeling to keep going.

CSS Bar Charts

CSS Bar Charts (Photo credit: alykat)

Once I launched, I was determined to maintain a schedule. Twice a week seemed like a good starting point. Not too often, but often enough that it wouldn’t drift too far from my consciousness. I made a list of potential topics along with a schedule for posting them. I could start writing, schedule them to post, and move on to the next ones, keeping ahead of the schedule a bit. It was a good plan on paper, but in reality I struggle to meet the midnight posting deadline almost every time. It felt a little stressful, but I knew it was something I wanted to do, but every Tuesday and Friday, I found myself racing the clock to get it done. But seeing my “body of work” grow each week made it all worthwhile. Tuesdays and Fridays became “blog nights” in my world. I liked this new part of my world.

Then something strange happened.  People tried to help me. Not just the expected comments, like “Kudos for getting started.” Or,  “Wow, you’ve done this for how long? It looks great!” But a lot of unexpected ones as well. “Why are you adding something else to your schedule?” Or, “You do know that it’s OK if you skip a post or two, don’t you?” Or, “Maybe you shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself.” I felt like I had to defend my blog and my decision to spend time on it. Sure, maybe I needed to figure out a way to not be up against the deadline as often, but even that didn’t bother me that much. But it was bothering a lot of other people on my behalf.

To be honest, I was baffled by that response. After all, when I was struggling with how to make time for quilting, no one tried to talk me out of it. I had a lot of support to keep at it, even though I was stressed by my inability to quilt regularly. Luckily, my friend Joycelyn* heard me when I was pushing too hard to make quilting fit into a life already overflowing with responsibility. Even though I resisted at first, she helped me see clear to changing my attitude toward quilting (and therefore helping me to have SOME rather than no quilting in my life). Joycelyn also understood the satisfaction I was getting from blogging and commitment to continue it. But my puzzlement over the concerns of others was still baffling.

my new table and computer

my new table and computer (Photo credit: slackware)

Then it dawned on me. If someone watches (or imagines watching) me while I’m working on my blog, it looks no different than when I’m grading papers online, or when I’m doing an editing job, or when I’m working on the textbook project, or when I’m answering student emails, or working on any of the other multitude of tasks that I do at my computer. In fact, if someone took a picture of me doing each of those activities, and then put those pictures side by side in a row, it might be difficult to see any difference, particularly if they are taken from the back. I like to think if the pictures were taken from the front, there would be more a glint in my eye as I worked on the blog. From the back, however. these four pictures would likely look the same. On the other hand, if someone saw me at the cutting table or at my sewing machine, they could clearly see the difference. The quilting activities would appear to be creative and relaxing, even fulfilling, maybe just because they aren’t happening at the computer.

What I know now is that twice a week, I accomplish something tangible. I add two posts to a blog that didn’t exist three months ago. I find that I want to do more. While I will still spend my focused quilting retreats a few times a year, the blog gives me something that quilting isn’t satisfying right now. I am learning as much about process, both in terms of blogging itself as well as what helps me find meaning in the rest of my life. Blogging has become a tool that helps me de-stress, that helps me clear away a lot of mental clutter. In the end, it pushes me to reexamine my life  In the end, it may even open up more quilting time. It can certainly help me decide the purpose on which I want to spend my time. It can help me focus. But for now, it pushes me to finish this post so I can publish by midnight.

*Joycelyn knows well the satisfactions of blogging. Check out one or all.

Nine Paths

Farther to Go!

give me a daisy