Watch out! “Me” Time Can Be A Problem….

I’m an HR Manager by day…a mom/domestic at night.  In reality, the two jobs actually utilize a lot of the same skill sets and mental muscle.  Unfortunately, I pretty much use up all my emotional intelligence (not to mention tolerance for the human race) during the day.  By night, I’m a conflict-hating introvert.  I avoid interaction.  Shamefully, that avoidance often includes my husband and children, and always includes any extracurricular interaction with friends or family.

Early on in my midlife crisis, I realized my crafting could be an unwitting accomplice to my extreme after-hours introversion. I have to be very careful to temper my selfish desire to pursue what can be a therapeutic and calming hobby. If I don’t, I ignore my kids, the house stays dirty, groceries go unpurchased, takeout reigns…This can be ok on occasion, but obviously, wouldn’t be tenable for the long haul.  I’ll be honest, finding balance between what I want to do and what I need to do remains an opportunity for me.  I know it’s a potential obstacle, however, so I keep my eyes peeled.

The lesson embedded here is that even with  productive, creative pursuits, there can be pitfalls.  The really cool thing is that the problem can also be the solution.  It takes self-discipline to temper my after-hours metamorphosis into a hermit.  It also takes self-discipline to learn a skill and use that skill to bring an item or project to completion.  In essence, both require that I flex the same muscle.  Now obviously, it’s easier to flex that muscle with the more selfishly pleasing task.  That’s ok.  At least I’m using the self-discipline muscle.  The more I use it, the stronger it gets. Ultimately, the act of exerting self-discpline makes me more likely to do it in the future.  Hence, my decision this evening to play angry birds and eat apple instead of beading or working on my afghan.  Hold it…Yes, I know…that doesn’t sound like it required self-discipline does it?…oh well, take that example and you know…such the like.


Why Crochet?

So I think we’ll begin at the beginning-my beginning anyway. Let’s begin with Crochet.

Crochet proved to be a great first craft for me and it might for you as well.  Here are my top four reasons why I think crochet is awesome!

1. Comparatively, crochet moves fast. Once proficiency is gained, you can knock out a hat or scarf in an hour or two. For someone like me (I have tremendous issues with patience) this is especially important! I need the gratification of completion. When I’m learning, it helps keep me focused.

2. It’s cheap to get started. You can buy a crochet hook for a couple of bucks. Yarn can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find a good soft skein of yarn for as little as 2.50. A lot of serious crafters belittle those acrylics generally available at stores like Walmart, but I think Caron Simply Soft feels good and is fairly easy to work with. Throw in a pack of those big plastic darning needles (less than 2 bucks) and maybe some stitch markers just to have on hand (3 bucks) and you’re done!

3. It’s portable. You can stash your yarn and hook in a small bag, and if your purse is as big as mine, you can just throw them in it!

4. You can make beautiful things. There is a staggering array of patterns available-many of them free- online.  You can keep your practice of crochet as simple or as complex as you please. If you decide to move into the realm of garment construction, you’ll be pleased to know that many couture designers have brought crochet garments to the runways of Paris and New York. You’ll be able to enhance your personal style in a way that’s contemporary and individualized to your personal taste.

Crochet · General

Domesticity or Midlife Crisis?

After a lifetime of avoiding all things domestic,  my late thirties saw me plunging  headlong into the realm of craft.  My mother tried to teach me how to do things.  She had skill and experience in all things domestic.   At her urging, I took a stab at sewing.  It was miserable. My mom finished every garment I ever started. Cooking worked out a little better for me.  I even considered being a chef.  Keep in mind I was ten at the time.  It quickly passed and my 20’s and 30’s saw me avoiding the kitchen and any other domestic pursuit like the plague.  Before children, I focused on all things me.  I read a lot. I hung out with friends a lot.  Domesticity played no role.  In my thirties, I worked.  It was all about meeting my obligations. I focused on a demanding job in human resources and the activities of my children.  The point is, I never had the time or the desire for domesticity.  I didn’t have the patience. And I think that may actually be the key to what kicked it all off.  Patience.  Six or seven years into motherhood, the absence of patience was becoming a real problem.  I craved patience.  I prayed for patience.  I prayed for peace and peace of mind and deliverance from the pressures of parenthood and my job.  I prayed for some way to decompress just enough to be able to be a better wife and mother. (Don’t get excited, my prayers may have been answered, but if they have I don’t know it yet!)  Simultaneously, I had realized that my daughter, my oldest, my heart, was destined to be a “crafter”.  She loved everything about it.  She delighted in spending time with her grandmother because during those trips to her “Meemaw’s”, she would get to craft.  I found myself constantly telling her no when she would ask to do something crafty.  Mostly because I didn’t know how to do anything she expressed an interest in.  Not to mention the whole stressed, pressured, impatient thing I talked about previously.  So I have to believe that somewhere between the quest for patience and my undying  love for my daughter, the idea took root.  I wanted to learn something. Something that had nothing to do with business or  any of the other things I’d isolated myself to over the previous decade.  I wanted to learn to do something new.

It was Thanksgiving 2008, and we were visiting my in-laws for the holiday.  My mother-in-law (an angel on earth) is extremely crafty.  Crafts, cooking, all the domestic arts…right there at my fingertips.  I have no idea why on that trip, my fevered imagination landed on crochet as an objective.  But at some point that weekend, I trecked to WalMart, bought an H hook and a skein of Simply Soft Eco in Turquoise (my daughter picked it), and plopped on the couch next to my mother-in-law ready to learn.  She went to a trunk where she keeps materials, and brought out what looked to be a 1970-ish “learn to crochet” book.  With her coaching I taught myself to single, double and triple crochet that weekend.  By Christmas, I was making my first scarf.  By New Years, I finished it, and it was awesome!  And somewhere in there, I tapped a long hidden, long repressed desire to create.  And it began.  The most ridiculous, atypical “midlife crisis” ever.

And so here I am.  February 2012.  Three years after the fateful decision to pick up the crochet hook.  In those three years, I’ve crocheted, embroidered, painted, beaded and made a valiant attempt to teach myself to sew.  I’ve stockpiled yarn, fabric, equipment and every craft material you can imagine.  True to my history, I’ve discovered that I’m a great “generalist”.  I love to plan, but I’m slow to carry out those plans. Although I’ve made some cute things, I’ve mastered nothing.  I have not reduced my stress.  I don’t really think I increased my patience.  I haven’t taught my daughter anything substantive.  But I have learned some things about myself.  I learned that I can finish what I start.  In fact, I’m driven to finish.  This sometimes undermines the enjoyment of the process, but it’s good to know that at 41, I have the persistence and self-discipline to actually finish a project now.  I’ve learned that I love to learn.  And I’m good at it!  I may not be a “master” crafter.  But I’m definitely a “crafter”.  Some of my greatest pleasure has been immersing myself in the online world of Makers and learning about the ideas and subjects at the periphery.  I’ve dabbled in thrifting, resale, DIY, gardening and frugality over the last three years.  I’ve adopted some practices and activities that I think will enrich my life for years to come….and honestly, I feel pretty good about it.

So where does that leave me today?  It leaves me convinced that there are a lot of people like me.  People who just want to create or do…something.  To tap that right brain in a way that’s completely removed from the reality of your day-to-day life.  So I’m creating a place for us.  There’s so much information out there.  So much specialization.  In the three years I’ve immersed myself in this online world of Makers and Crafters, I’ve devoted hours and hours of time to reading and synthesizing information I will never, ever use. I can spare you that.  We’ll explore topics together in a way that gives you the essentials. If you want to know more, go farther, specialize, you’ll get links to help you begin your journey.  Let’s be Generalists.  Let’s explore and learn together.  Let’s take a look at cooking, crafting, thrifting, gardening, and…such the like.