Which five items would summon you?

In the local mom group I am a part of there is a fun fact Friday post to our Facebook group and it is always a post I look forward to. Instead of the typical posts and questions, it is a chance for us to be silly together and in that I always feel stronger ties to the community. This week the question had me laughing out loud. In light of the Halloween holiday the question asked: if a salt circle seance was drawn to call out and draw in your spirit which five items would they use to encircle you?

I burst out laughing because the concept of this is just for some reason hilarious to me. But then, it was hard to name five and it dawned on me that while this question is by its nature super silly, it also reveals so easily the identity crisis that I and so so so so many mommies I know express. Outside of my family, who am I right now? What five items would “define” me? Not me as a mom, or me as a teacher, but just me. It was a lot harder then to think of, but of course we cannot compartmentalize the many layers of our identities. Mommyhood and being a teacher are a part of my identity so I breathed a sigh of relief and let myself off the hook a little for being a “totally original and perfectly unique human being.” And then my five items came to me:

  1. A ball of clay
  2. An order of Pad Thai
  3. A cup of coffee
  4. A bottle of method cleaning spray
  5. A pair of yoga pants

What would your five items be?

P is for Potter!

It might only be about two weeks into my new craft, but I am completely smitten by it all. Less than two miles from my home is this tiny white antique home whose first floor is entirely dedicated to pottery making. I ran by this little quaint home so many times when I was training for my half-marathon this summer and always wondered what exactly went on in the Center of Arts. When researched, it became clear that this little home was the cultural center of our town where kids and teens and adults flexed their creative muscles in classes from watercolors and acting to wheel-throwing. Immediately, I was intrigued! Could I take a class here? Could I make it work within the busy schedule of a full-time working mom? While the idea flirted about in my mind for months, it never felt like it would really work out. Between grading and little ones and wanting to connect with my hubs, when would I hone a hobby? Then on my 33rd birthday tucked into my birthday card, David smiled as I opened the piece of paper that said, “Surprise! For the next 3 months Tuesday nights are YOUR night to get creative, meet new people, and make new things.” It was awesome!

David is the king of hobbies and interests. He always has something cool cooking in his head from bread baking to the guitar to programming arduinos and chess, he is never short on ideas on how to hone his mind and entertain his spirit. I on the other hand have major struggles in this department. When we were dating, we googled “What are people’s hobbies” to help me look through an extensive list of what people get into in case there was something for me to get behind. I chose knitting and while that was fun, I suffered from narcolepsy whenever I settled into an afternoon of knitting and purling. Maybe it was too relaxing? Maybe I was not really ready for hobby and my body was like, “What are we doing something for ourselves…shut systems down!” It only lasted a season. Then my free time was mostly being a teacher. There is so much to bring home when you are a teacher that nights can easily be consumed by lesson planning, curriculum development, and grading. Oh, the dreaded pile of grading! Then came the babies and I was doomed to lose sight of creative exploits that I had yet to even really grasp.

Now that Owen is closing in on that two year birthday and Henry is 3.5, things just feel really different. We are all sleeping, they are eating well, and are so easy these days too. They play and pick up and go and life just feels lighter. My mind is so much clearer as it no longer is consumed with baby-logistics like: When will I breastfeed next? What do I need in my diaper bag? What toys and gear should we have? Where will the boys nap? How do we get home in time for naps? Do we just do a car nap? When will I cook dinner? How will I fold laundry or take a shower? Our routine these days is so simple and easy and I just love so much this stage of life. It literally feels like a light has switched on and I am able to look up out of the trench of early motherhood and look around a bit.

So getting that gift certificate to become a potter was the most exciting thing! On Tuesday nights, I kiss the littles and hold tight to David for a moment longer before putting on some cozy clothes and a pair of clogs (for some reason, I feel like as a potter I should wear clogs), and head to class. What I have learned so far is that I have a deep, deep need to be teacher’s pet. I also have false expectations about how easy it should be. When I made my first misshapen pot and beamed with pride, I turned to the woman beside me and saw her perfect Roman vase and thought, “damn this is hard stuff.” But I find that while I am not a prodigy of pottery, I am loving to learn and learning a lot from being a student, from being vulnerable, and from taking this risk on my own and going way out of my comfort zone. I have never been a maker but have secretly always wanted to make. I am hoping this journey teaches me how to make mugs, plates, and bowls but also how to have fun, learn a craft, believe in myself, learn a new discipline and a new patience, and build a long commitment to being a potter. I have this fantasy too to replace all the mugs in my house with ones I have made. So, if you would like me to make you something drop a line below because I am planning on going through all the clay in the studio and would love to share my misshapen (maybe one day shapely) creations with you too!

sewing 101

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A few months ago I blogged about a book I read called the Creative Family. Its discussion on creativity and the importance of crafting made quite the impression. Her message of steering clear of focusing on one’s mistakes resonated with the perfectionist in me. When knitting, I am quickly discouraged by my project as soon as I make one mistake (which inevitably occurs as I am new to the hobby). Instead of harping on the snag and wanting to throw the item away before it is completed, she suggested understanding the beauty and character of those mistakes. She writes, “ The work of homemade is never perfect, and that’s the beauty of it.” As a DINK (double income no kids), I have a lot of free time in the summer.  This is not to make anyone jealous. I so very much want to have children but David and I have some financial goals we would like to reach before we expand our little family. So with this free time, I tend to be bored. As David can attest, I am not good at “relaxing.”  Relaxing is not in my vocabulary.  Yes, you can definitely find me lounging and nursing my post-school year hangover for the first two weeks of summer vacation.  But by week three, I am typically stranded in a sea of free time.  I want to try to avoid burning through money but I don’t want to be locked up in my house watching endless movies, so I find summer vacation to be bittersweet at times.  I love to read but after so many hours of this in a single day, I need something else.

That’s where crafting comes in. I was invited to a friend’s place on Tuesday to learn how to sew. Heather was beyond patient with me as she went over the Singer sewing machine set before us. I now know how to thread the needle, prepare the bobbin, and sew a “straight” line.  We practiced on a little draw-string purse made from some “scrap” materials. After this thirty minute entry into the world of sewing, Heather helped me pick out some beautiful material from JP Knit & Stitch and we started to plan out a fabulous tote bag project for the afternoon.  We paused for lunch at the new Clover in Brookline and by the time David was out of work, I had completed what I think is a pretty impressive tote bag.  I cannot sing Heather’s praises enough. She helped me get started, she encouraged me, and she and I joked the whole time about the bag being “perfect” and how we both struggle with the perfectionist’s curse/blessing.  Yet, the sad part of this is that while I left her house with the sewing machine and tote, she will be leaving on Sunday for Germany.  I am going to miss her and her husband, Robin, so very much.  In four years, they have become such dear friends. I am just so glad to have spent such a fun, challenging, and hilarious day with the two of them right before their departure. And, that tote will always been a great reminder of our lesson, friendship, and how I need to get my bum out to Germany to visit them ASAP!

embroidery

Waking up at 5:45AM was worth it.  After driving David to work, I drove into Boston to pick up my beloved friend, Skye. The plan?  To delight in a full day together and to learn some new crafts.  Starting at our favorite coffee shop, Tatte, we caught up over lattes and cinnamon roses. With sticky fingers, we fogged up the frosty window with warm dialogue. Before long, almost two hours had passed and slightly chilly in the window seat, we bid the barrista adieu and sauntered out into the cold Boston air. Moments later we were ushered into Skye’s cozy attic apartment and settled into our usual affection having broken through any hesitation that might have formed in the absence of seeing the other for some time. Totally free and content, we opened up to one another, challenged each other, and dreamed together of future travels to faraway places. The rest of the city was busy at work, and we had stolen away together in the attic to appreciate each other, to laugh together, and to craft together.  By the end of our full day together, we had tackled an embroidery project.  Ever the encouraging and idealistic teacher, Skye instructed my hands on the embroidery hoops and helped me to feel comfortable with my creativity. At first, I was anxious to draw the design, anxious to thread the needles, and anxious to begin the stitches.  Yet, Skye is not judgmental and taking a deep breath, I began to embroider with a bit more confidence.  Together at her drafting table we hacked our way through pattern cutting and I left this delightful day of reminiscing, creating, and growing with my first homemade project of 2013…a “coaster”!