Getting Shit Done

And so I have. I know we still have Covid-19 but it feels like it is has been pushed away somehow. So no more plague diaries. Time to talk about what I’ve been doing. And that’s getting shit done.

bookcaseFirstly, my bookcase. It took a six hour trip to Miami (most of it was waiting for the email to come to tell me my order was ready at IKEA) and then a quick assembly. (I’ve put this particular bookcase together four times now.) I should get some sort of medal, I believe. I’m fast. And then I had the pleasure of putting out all my books and stuff and things.

 

It’s a little crowded, and please don’t look at the ratty old carpet. But my stuff is right at my bedside where I can see it every day now.

Between that and the mosaic studio (which I’m going to get to in a minute) I reorganized my closet. I got new shoe racks, new shelf dividers, and everything is so damn neat and tidy I get a zing of pleasure just opening the doors.

But the mosaic studio. I set it up last weekend. It took about a minute and a half:

mosaic studio

See? It isn’t much, but it is a place for me to work with glass and not get shards all over our floor. I’ve got that project you see there, plus two new ones I am working on. I sit and listen to podcasts while I work. My favorite right now is the Moth Radio Hour. I could listen to people tell stories all day.

So now I have a new outlet for creativity and get to reacquaint myself with some old skills.

I’ve bought some new glass and have a few new ideas in mind. I’d love to do a really big project someday. My ex-sister-in-law mosaicked a toilet. It was pretty charming. She put plants in the bowl, but the neighborhood association was less thrilled with her artistic endeavors and made her move it to her back yard.

dolphin socksWhen I was cleaning out my closet I found a canvas bag that had knitting in it. Inside was an almost completed pair of socks for my husband. It took me two hours to finish them. We call them his Miami Dolphin socks. Again, please ignore the ratty carpeting. We’ll be remodeling within a year or so and getting laminate floors. Please.

That pattern on those socks is the bomb, though, don’t you think?

And finally, the BIG NEWS. I am getting ready to query a novel. I have been waiting for one agent to get back to me for over six months and I’m done with the agonizing. I am sending it out TONIGHT! I’m going to be 46 in August. It’s time my writing career as a published novelist was started.

That’s right. I’m getting shit done. And it feels damn good.

Plague Diaries #12

It isn’t really a tale of the plague, this entry. This story goes back much farther than that. A year, in fact.

In March of 2019 we moved from a 1400 square foot duplex into a 900 square foot condo. We did A LOT of downsizing. We had to practically get all new furniture. I spent weeks assembling flat pack tables, dressers, night stands and bookcases. (A weird side note: I adore assembling furniture. It’s like a really neat puzzle that you put together and then you end up with something useful. My husband thinks I’m bonkers.)

Before we moved I had a lot of space of my own. I had my own office with all my own books in my own cases and odds and ends littered about. In the garage I had my mosaic studio where I would spend Saturdays piecing together glass treasures. I had candles, and pictures, and figurines, lots and lots of rocks (been collecting them since I was a kid) and for over a  year now, they have sat packed away in boxes. Because there was no place to put them out. My mosaic tools are trapped in our outdoor storage space. My knitting supplies are crammed in under-bed boxes.

We have two bedrooms in our tiny new place. One of them is obviously the bedroom. The other is the library where most of my husband’s books and things are. (Greek helmets, a bust of Brahms and one of Homer, Greek vases and all of his fountain pens.) He has his computer on the desk in there, and the blue recliner where he reads and does crossword puzzles.

Since he’s retired and I have the car all day it seems only fitting that he should have the space as his own. He spends more time in the condo than anyone else. Over the past year, when I’ve wanted to relax, I’ve mostly spent the time in bed watching stuff on my iPad or reading.

These past two weeks off have been a breakthrough. One of the things I did as a therapeutic act for myself was dig out my knitting. I hadn’t really done any knitting since my Mom died, since that was ALL I did in the hospital. I got rid of a lot of my yarn stash when I moved, but still have all my grandmother’s knitting needles and quite a bit of yarn. I told my dear friend who is treating me with acupuncture that I would knit her a pair of socks and she was delighted. And then I came up with a brilliant idea: Frankensocks.

In all my years knitting (and it’s been over fifteen) I’ve knitted dozens of pairs of socks. It is a truth universally known that Floridians don’t need scarves, hats or mittens, but there are a few months out of the year when a pair of hand-knit socks are a most supreme pleasure. With every pair I’ve knit I’ve had leftover yarn which I have put in its own separate Ziplock (to keep them from mating like Christmas lights) and shoved in a canvas bag that I keep in my closet.

As I was considering what color socks to knit my friend, I came across that canvas bag of remnants and the idea hit me: what if I knit ALL THE COLORS? What if I knit an inch or two off each little ball I had remaining, switching them up and sort of patch them together? And the Frankensocks were born.

Frankensocks

I had real joy in knitting them. Each stripe represents a pair previously made socks and I remember each pair and who they were for. You might think that a little bonkers but knitting a pair of socks is an investment of time and they don’t just fall off the needles in a couple of hours. You get intimate with the yarn and think a lot about the person you are knitting them for as you are creating them.

As I was knitting these socks I was also looking around our apartment. The walls are still bare because we haven’t hung any pictures. Most of them are sitting in the bathtub in the second bathroom. And I decided that it was damn time we did something about it. So we hung pictures, we hung a clock, we hung mosaics I had made. We’re not done yet, but every day we do something more around here that makes the condo seem more like home.

As these two things sort of came together I started to realize something. All of my things (my candles and pictures and figurines and rocks) were still packed away in boxes and I was staggered all at once with how much I missed them. A wise friend said that when you are home and don’t see yourself reflected in it, it isn’t really home. There are things my husband and I have together, but my things, MY THINGS, were missing.

So I made a plan. We have an empty corner of our bedroom and I am getting (Lord, help me) one more IKEA bookcase (which will make seven). It will house the books I use for writing and research, and it will hold my bowl of rocks, my statue of Kuan Yin, picture frames and candles. It will be my space reflected back at me. I will truly be home.

And I wonder if this whole meltdown I had didn’t have something to do with these things. I am sure they were a part of it.  Yes, the pandemic has scared the bejesus out of me, but I have to go one with life. I will take all the precautions I can and let it be. But I will no longer be a stranger in my own house. I am going to set up my mosaic station on our lanai. I am going to arrange my precious items and see them when I walk in the room.

Maybe, as I begin to carve out the creative life I used to have (piecing glass together in mosaics and knitting and journalling), things will shift back to where they used to be. I’m already on the way.

This wasn’t something I did in a punitive manner. I did not go about to make myself miserable by packing away my life and leaving it in a closet. But getting it back is like getting out of jail. The air is a little sweeter, the sun a little brighter.

And as I move forward I know that writing mojo is going to return. I just have to find a new space to do that. Before, I was going to a coffee shop in the evenings and writing. But now, maybe now with my stuff back out I will feel more comfortable writing at home.

It’s taken a year, and it shouldn’t have. But what are we as human beings if not constantly learning lessons?

Excuse me, I have to go knit something.

Plague Diaries #10

How long has this been going on? Six weeks or so? It seems so long ago and yet like it was just yesterday that my job shut its doors to the public.

You know I’ve been dealing with anxiety. But I’ve been taking steps to take care of myself. Herbal tea instead of coffee, guided meditation at least once a day, I stopped looking at the numbers and most of the news. And above all, I’ve been receiving the acupuncture treatments. I don’t feel great, like my old self, but I do feel a marked improvement. I have more concentration at work, and I ordered some yarn to start knitting again.

The one thing I wish I could get my head space wrapped around was writing. I stopped my novel (which I am 90% finished with the first draft) on March 8. And I’m just too wound up, too unsure of myself to get back into it again. I can feel my breathing ratcheting into the bad place even as I write about it now. It scares me for some reason.

But we have to remember that this self-quarantine is not “time we have been given” to do something great. A horrible thing is happening to our world and we can’t be expected to just shrug it off and write the Great American Novel. There’s a legend that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was locked up during a plague quarantine. It may or may not be true, but if it is, his name was Willpower, not William Shakespeare.

I want to finish with a quote from one of my favorite guys. Most people know (I hope?) that Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States from 1923-1929. He was taciturn, maybe a little grumpy, but had some interesting things to say. He was rational, he spoke carefully, he took the measure of things before jumping into the fray.

He had this to say about persistence:

Calvin-Coolidge-1920“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

Right on.

 

He also said, “Four-fifths of all of our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still.”

Perhaps our current president could take some advice there.

KNIT ALL THE SOCKS

I am a rabid knitter. I learned from a fellow librarian when I lived in New Hamsphire over eleven years ago. I started with a scarf (as does pretty much everyone), and tried making many things: a couple of baby sweaters, hats, scarves, even a sweater for myself, but then I knit a pair of socks and I caught the sickness. The sock sickness. The sockness.

I now live in Florida where hand knitted goods are not highly sought-after goods. We wear flip-flops all year here. I usually wear shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas. We do get some cooler weather in the months of January and February, and that is when we (meaning my husband, parents and I) break out our beautiful, hand-knit socks and wear them every chance we get.

There are many reasons why I must knit all the socks.


 

Reason #1:

2016-03-07 11.14.49My knitting bag says it all for you.

Knitting keeps me sane. It is meditative and soothing. Mostly.


 

Reason #2:

As a project, they are totally portable, small enough to fit in a purse. I knit a lot in the car, especially on long road trips where I can see lots of progress. I even knit on airplanes. It’s quite wonderful to plug into an audiobook, get the knitting out, and ignore the fact that I have four square inches of alloted space next to a mouthbreather.last-project-completed-in-2010_5316405819_o

 


Reason #3

The colors! Oh there are so many beautiful colors of sock yarn from which to choose. 2016-01-05 16.40.25



Reason #4:

Comfort. You have never felt anything so wonderful as the first time you pull on a pair of hand knit socks. And they keep your tootsies toasty.fashion-plate_8211282972_o



Reason #5: Everyone needs socks

While I live in Florida, most people in the word don’t (although every tourist season that becomes harder and harder to believe). Everyone wears socks pretty much every day, and what is a better, more thoughtful gift than a pair of hand-knit socks? Totallly usable, usually bright and beautiful, and massively comfortable.

2016-03-07 10.56.55

KNIT ALL THE SOCKS.

 

My rainbow girl

imageThis is my friend Tammy. She is a total nut and I love her dearly. I recently knit her a pair of socks. You can see them on her hands here. The reason I chose to make rainbow socks was because Tammy reminds me of a rainbow: bright, beautiful, positive, and something I am always glad to see.

I think she likes them. She was also presented with a matching rainbow sweater vest from our friends Ingrid and Tara.

You go, Rainbow Girl.